‘Democracy in the Conservative Party WILL be back’ says Lord Greenhalgh

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Lord Greenhalgh, a close ally of Boris Johnson has joined the Conservative Post’s grassroots campaign, the CDO to overhaul Conservative Party democracy.

The movement – Conservative Democratic Organisation – is being presided over by former Conservative Treasurer Lord Peter Cruddas and chaired by former MEP David Campbell Bannerman.

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, a former Deputy Mayor and minister in the Lords under Boris Johnson has been appointed as the organisation’s Vice-President. The movement is also being endorsed by former Home Secretary Priti Patel.

On his new appointment as Vice-President of the CDO Lord Greenhalgh said:

“2023 will be the year when democracy will be back in a way it was when I joined the party as an 18 year old in 1986.”

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh is a close ally of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo credit Twitter.

Lord Greenhalgh continued:

“It’s vital that membership of the Conservatives grows again. In London the membership numbers are a fraction of Labour. We need a truly democratic Conservative Party where the members TAKE BACK CONTROL. This is a 21st century Primrose League moment!”

The CDO was born after Conservative MPs ousted grassroots favourite Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. The MPs then overthrew his successor Liz Truss, voted in by members, and installed her defeated rival Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister – this time without bothering with a ballot of party members.

Both Lord Cruddas and David Campbell Bannerman put their names to the Conservative Post’s campaign last summer to put Boris Johnson on the ballot paper for the Conservative leadership contest which attracted a great deal of grassroots support.

However, the pair insist the new CDO organisation is not about returning former PM Boris Johnson to Downing Street. They say the CDO just want a “true balance of power between members and politicians so that no future sitting Prime Minister can be forced out by conflicted and self interested MPs.”

Lord Peter Cruddas is the President of the new CDO. Photo credit CMC Markets.

A CDO strategy document says that the ‘coronation’ of Rishi Sunak just a month after he was rejected by party members “has finally ended members faith in any party democracy.”

Lord Cruddas stated: “Internal democracy in the Conservative Party is dying on its feet. The leadership pays scant attention to the views of the membership – regarding them as little more than mindless drones who only matter at election time.

“The result is a widening gulf between the parliamentary party and the grassroots. But as the Conservative Government pushes taxes to a 70 year high and rising, there is also an electorally fatal gulf opening up between the leadership and voters. No wonder our poll ratings are dire.

“It is time to restore the democratic rights of Tory members, not least the right to choose parliamentary candidates without being hectored and bullied by party headquarters.”

Chairman David Campbell Bannerman added:

“If MPs are better aligned with members views, the party will be in a much healthier and more stable place for well into the future.”

The group are also keen to dispel rumours they are at loggerheads with the party. CDO CEO Claire Bullivant explains: “Some of the media are trying to paint this picture that we’re at odds with CCHQ. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re all on the same side and just want what’s best for the party… and country.

“We’ve already had talks with CCHQ and they’re listening to what we have to say. They certainly recognise the importance of the membership and they’re being very receptive. Together we are hoping to make positive changes.”

The group also say there has so far been a very positive response from many Conservative parliamentarians who are sympathetic to the frustration felt by many grassroots members. 

Chairman David Bannerman continued:

“CDO has had its gestation over decades; not just years or months. Members have been feeling increasingly marginalised and overruled such as over choosing MPs. The imposition of Sunak without a member’s vote was the last straw. This is far bigger than just about one person or one policy. It is about a democratic revolution to put the members back in charge.”

Former MEP David Campbell Bannerman is the CDO’s Chairman. Photo credit: DCB Twitter.

As far as the CDO’s policies are concerned the group insists “policies will be up to the members.” However, the group do propose an overhaul of party conferences, the role of CCHQ, party chairs and the selection and removal of MPs.

The group are also suggesting senior figures in the party, including party chairman and the chair of its policy forum should be democratically elected. It also says constituency associations should have the right “to select, and if necessary, deselect their MP”.

They said:

“Reforming candidate selections to put associations back in charge would reduce or eliminate the current dangerously unstable gulf between members’ views and those of their MP representatives, such as the variance over Brexit, and low taxes.”

Some of the senior leadership team involved with CDO. Left to Right: Claire Bullivant, Paul Diamond, Mike Rouse, Lord Peter Cruddas, Priti Patel, David Campbell Bannerman, Stephen James, Steven Barrett.

The group also proposes reducing the role of CCHQ to grading candidates on their ability and core beliefs. “The centralising and controlling direction of Central Office would be ended; which has led to many MPs being selected who are not genuine Conservatives, do not have the necessary skills or commitment, and have insufficient loyalty to the party,” the group said.

“This has manifested itself in the appalling behaviour of some current Conservative MPs, and previous ones who were stripped of the whip, and who are the root cause of political instability at present.”

Another key proposal will be changing the voting system for party leaders, including setting a threshold of 15% of MPs in order to stand as a candidate.

Former Olympian and Political Commentator Alex Story is on the senior leadership team of the CDO. Photo credit: Alex Story Twitter.

The group say: “All true Conservatives with ability, merit, and application should have the right to be considered as a Parliamentary or local candidate.”

It will also campaign for a bigger role for party conferences “with the membership back in control” and to allow member debates after ministerial speeches.

They say they also want to change the way a Conservative – or any – Government operates. They say: “We want to end what is called ‘Chumocracy’: the excessive influence of friends, contacts, family, and spouses over the government.”

In a statement endorsing the campaign, which is expected to hold it’s first conference this Spring, Priti Patel said:

“Our grassroots are the heart and soul of our party. They are our greatest assets and advocates and they should never be taken for granted.

“Party members are committed to our values of freedom, enterprise and opportunity and we need to empower them to have more say over our policies and candidates. That will make us stronger, more successful in government, and boost our membership numbers.”

The group are looking for volunteers to be local CDO Association Chairmen, and Regional and some Area ones. Sign up at www.conservativedems.co.uk.

Join the thousands of Conservatives fighting every day to promote a democratic party here:

Photo credit: Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street – licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

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