Thursday, October 04, 2012
The health of the Conservative Party
Last week I attended the Executive Council of my local Conservative Association and along, I suspect, with most Local Conservative Associations we discussed the state of our membership and the number of "lapsed members" who had failed to renew. One member had not sent his subscription in after 40 years membership apparently over the Prime Minister’s support of Gay marriage. Sadly this is symptomatic of the state of the Conservative Party on the ground. The ever loyal membership and activists many of whom have not recovered from the removal of Mrs T 20 years ago are passionately anti Europe , pro a crackdown on Immigration, think benefits should be cut quicker and deeper than IDS is proposing and would cut Overseas Aid . Oh and they hate Liberals with a large or a small "L".
Many Councillors (increasingly the backbone of Conservative Associations) are dismayed by the lack of the promised freedoms of the Localism Act and the constant snipping at them from the DCLG and the Taxpayers Alliance. The proposed changes on planning rules around extensions has for many Councillors, ever mindful of the views of their local residents and amenities Associations led to despair.
The members do not feel any “ownership” of the current Government. Whilst Cameron’s popularity declines amongst the middle aged and older activists, they feel nobody is listening and they do not know what to do. Often their entire social lives revolve around the Conservative party and they therefore have no intention of defecting to UKIP (even if their cross goes there in the next Euro election). They love Boris, especially in London , although unlike say Jeffrey Archer or Norman Tebbit whom they also adored in their heyday, Boris refuses virtually all speaking requests from Associations and indeed often suggests his Father!
Most activists had no idea who Baroness Warsi was when serving as Party Chairman and long for the return of a Cecil Parkinson type figure with charm and charisma.
What is to be done? The Prime Minister needs the membership and the middle classes to fall in love with him as they did with Lady Thatcher 30 years ago. It can be done, just concentrate on those issues which every Tory MP hears month after month raised at their Executive.
As published in House Magazine – Conservative Party Conference supplement