It’s ironic then that a great many members are becoming disillusioned with the Tory apparatus precisely because it is so centralised. One prominent campaigner, John Strafford, has highlighted how the party lost members hand over fist since local associations were deprived off power, in a document called 'Where is the party going?'.
It’s a startling figure, but it is claimed that there are 105,000 fewer paid up Conservatives since David Cameron became leader. Strafford ascribes the exodus to the lack of input afforded to members and the marginalisation of the ’volunteer party’.
It’s a thesis that will chime rather resonantly with many Northern Ireland Tories. Although Tim Lewis argues in yesterday’s News Letter that rumours of its demise are grossly exaggerated, the local party has effectively been wound up by a dictat of central office.
That’s a rather poor display of faith in the judgement of people on the ground. Indeed, if the rumours are true, Andrew Feldman capitulated in the face of a threat to withdraw Jim Nicholson from the Conservative group in the European Parliament.
As I understand it, Irwin Armstrong remains as chairman of the party in Northern Ireland, until the exact nature of the arrangement with the UUP is resolved.
For the record, here are Strafford’s proposals to reinvigorate democracy within the Tory party.
The Conservative Party constitution should be capable of being altered by the members of the Party on the basis of one member, one vote, if 66%+ vote in favour of change.
There should be an Annual General Meeting of the Party to which all members are invited.
The Chairman of the Party should be responsible for the Party Organisation.
The Chairman and Treasurer of the Party should be elected by the members of the Party.
The Chairman of the Party should present an Annual Report on the Party organisation at the Annual General Meeting of the Party for adoption by the members.
The Treasurer of the Party should present the Annual Accounts of the Party to the Annual General Meeting for adoption by the members.
The Chairman of the Committee on Candidates should be elected by the members of the Party and should present a report on candidate selection at the Annual General Meeting of the Party.
The Chairman of the Council of the Conservative Policy Forum should be elected by the members of the Party and should present a report on the workings of the Forum at the Annual General Meeting of the Party.
Regional meetings of the Party, to which all members of the Party in the Region are invited, should be resurrected and meetings should be held at least twice a year.
Regional Chairmen should be elected by all members in their Region.
As part of the formal structure of the Party the Areas should be scrapped, although some Regions may wish to keep their Areas and can do so.
Motions for debate on policy should be allowed at the Party Conference.
Clause 17 of the current Party Constitution should be abolished.
The infamous clause 17 of the constitution states: “The Board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party”