Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lord Tebbit urges Conservatives to mutiny against CCHQ

There are few blogs which can be as much of a thorn in David Cameron’s side as that of Lord Tebbit. Since he joined the Telegraph Blogs, he has provided the brand with a journalistic credibility and political gravitas which had been somewhat lacking. Norman Tebbit is a titan among political pygmies; a thoroughbred Hyperion amongst a horde of chimeric satyrs and harpies.

And he usually knows what he’s talking about.

But the above quotation comes at the end of a post which is essentially a criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is a curious addendum; almost an afterthought; tangential if not irrelevant to the subject matter of the post. It could almost be missed (indeed, it has been by all but His Grace). It is cannily sneaked in right at the end, so the Conservative-supporting, bishop-bashing blogs will freely link, tweet and re-tweet Lord Tebbit’s essential thesis that the bearded lefty Dr Rowan Williams is a whole mitre short of a bishopric. And yet when the Archbishop refers to the Conservative Party implementing policy without democratic legitimacy, Lord Tebbit exposes an inconvenient truth: the Party has long ceased being democratic, and under David Cameron it is manifesting decidedly anti-democratic tendencies.

And perhaps this is evident nowhere more than in the stranglehold exerted by Conservative Campaign Headquarters over candidate selection. The ‘Approved List’ used to consist of intelligent, discerning, loyal and true Tories with real experience in the world who wanted to bring their expertise into Parliament. So important were these qualities that if an aspiring candidate had dared to stand against the Party, they could not become ‘approved’ for at least the succeeding period of government – up to five years of ‘cooling off’, during which suitability could be assessed. When a seat became vacant, a local association would be sent the CVs of as many who had applied – sometimes hundreds – and it was for the local association to whittle them down to a long-list, then produce a short-list, and then to vote on a winner. The process was very open, democratic and fair.

Over the past decade, the emphasis has been more on gender than intelligence; more on ethnicity than loyalty; more on sexuality than a grasp of philosophy; and more on an appreciation of diversity than political discernment. And if, yesterday, you were dedicated to the Socialist cause (or to that of the LibDems) and stood against the Conservative Party, you can today be positively fast-tracked straight into an accommodating local association, and elected a Tory MP tomorrow - no penance due. To ensure the ‘right sort’ of candidate succeeds, at the last General Election CCHQ embarked on a process of limiting candidate selection in its ‘plum seats’ to just six good men and true, three of which must be women. It was not unheard of for the three men to be black, Asian or gay. There was even candidate selection by religion.

As His Grace wrote at the time, candidates are:
...hand-picked for each Conservative Association by two of the most powerful people in CCHQ – John Maples MP and Baroness Shireen Ritchie, who hold the future of the party and the make-up of the next government in their hands: it is theirs to mould, in accordance with their own professional preferences and political proclivities. Out will go the ‘Right-wing troublemakers’, and in will come ‘a new breed of youthful and inexperienced “Chloë-bots”,’ as the telegenic, smooth-talking, compliant candidates are known, named after the 27-year-old Chloë Smith, who was recently elected MP for Norwich North. David Cameron said she is ‘exactly the sort of MP I want to see in the House of Commons for the Conservative Party’.
It should not be for the Leader to declare, but for the people to decide 'the sort of MP' they wish to elect.

It is telling that in 2009 His Grace pointedly crossed out ‘Baroness’, yet just a year later she had indeed become Baroness Ritchie of Brompton, just as Patricia Morris before her went on to become Baroness Morris of Bolton. Both of their Wikipedia entries refer to their ‘efforts of diversity’, including ‘women2win’ and the formation of ‘Priority List’ (A-List) candidates.

This is a curious centralisation, which effectively exempts the internal workings of the Conservative Party from David Cameron’s commitment to localism, devolution, subsidiarity and democracy. While the Party Leader is preaching the gospel of demos, the party practises kratos. Before the election, he promised to shift power:
From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.
Yet while he preaches parliament, communities, Britain, people and democracy, we still get government, Whitehall, Brussels, judges and bureaucracy. Okay, the Conservative Party didn’t win the election. But there is absolutely nothing preventing the Prime Minister from practising what he preaches within the party he leads. Why talk of shifting power from the state to the citizens and from Whitehall to town halls while centralising your own bureaucracy?

If the intelligent, discerning, loyal and responsible local Conservative associations are not ready for democracy, what makes Mr Cameron believe the town halls are? How can one persuade the electorate that one stands for something out of conviction if one’s instinct is to practise the contrary. Is a man not best judged by what he does in his own home?

It is puzzling in the extreme that the Conservative Party has learnt nothing from the electorate’s reaction to the controlling and centralising tendencies of Labour. When the people of Wales wanted Rhodri Morgan, Labour imposed Alun Michael; when the people of London wanted Ken Livingstone, Labour imposed Frank Dobson; when the people of Blaenau Gwent wanted to select their own candidate, Labour imposed an all-women shortlist. And when Harriet Harman wanted her husband elected to Parliament, the all-women shortlists were conveniently set aside and, lo and behold, Jack Dromey was elected. It is the Socialist way.

Conservative philosophy is quite different. We believe that the State should enable, not control. And in order to fulfil the Conservative aspiration to shrink the State, policies must be introduced to encourage individual responsibility and strengthen the ‘little platoons’. If David Cameron cannot achieve this even amongst his own faithful, it is highly questionable that he is committed at all to ‘decentralisation, transparency and accountability’.

It is worth considering that had the Conservative Party exercised central control over its MPs throughout its history, it would doubtless have removed Churchill, Eden and Macmillan from its approved list. And it is highly likely that they would have become more than a little exasperated by a shrill candidate called Margaret Thatcher who complained numerous times to Central Office of her inability to get selected.

His Grace mused two years ago:
It is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that proud and independently-minded Conservative associations, increasingly exasperated by an autocratic centralised power antithetical to all that is being preached about localism, might eventually stick two fingers up to this ultra-Approved List, which is essentially the resurrected ‘A-List’, and begin to field their own ‘democratic’ or ‘independent’ Conservative candidates.
But he never expected such a distinguished Conservative as Lord Tebbit to foment the rebellion.

This tantalising intervention comes at a time of acute embarrassment for the Candidates’ Department, having just dismissed (‘right-wing’, ‘eurosceptic’) Annunziata Rees-Mogg (along with reportedly 200 other formerly-approved candidates).

Louise Mensch (née Bagshaw) MP called the decision 'hugely unfair'. She accused CCHQ of ‘pushing forward young female candidates such as Ms Rees-Mogg as part of a PR drive to present a fresh image for the party, only to then drop them abruptly after Election day’.

Jacob Rees Mogg MP has gone further. He called the decision ‘contemptible’, adding: ‘The attitude of Central Office is shameful... I think my sister has been treated disgracefully by an unjust procedure that brings the party into disrepute. Traditionally the Candidates’ department was well run by an experienced MP and senior members of the voluntary party. It is now run by arrogant, discourteous apparatchiks.’

Mr Rees-Mogg also condemned the ‘poor manners’ of Baroness (it will happen) Carlyn Chisholm, Chairman of Candidates’ Committee, for not turning up at the debrief, ‘sending her sidekicks instead’. He fumed: ‘This behaviour is simply not good enough.'

Indeed it is not. But Party Co-Chairman Andrew Feldman has responded defiantly, insisting that the Candidates’ Department is ‘determined not to be influenced by the friends of candidates' and that he intends to 'take the small "p" politics out of candidate selection'.

His Grace doesn’t have a clue what Mr Feldman means by taking the small ‘p’ politics out of candidate selection (it is oxymoronic and humanly impossible). But when you consider the number of Shadow Cabinet senior aides and chiefs of staff who went on to be selected for ‘plum seats’, the assertion that the influence of ‘friends’ has been eradicated is laughable.

But back to Lord Tebbit’s solution. It is unfortunate that he does not explain what he means by ‘take over’. If he means ‘assume control’ (OED), he is fomenting a fruitless discord and appears to be alarmingly ignorant of the Conservative Party Constitution which has changed somewhat since he was chairman.

Under the Hague reforms in the wake of the Neil Hamilton affair, the Conservative Party became an unincorporated association. Prior to that it had no official legal status: it was essentially the private office of the Leader, and local associations were autonomous. As far as candidate selection was concerned, they could simply ignore Conservative Central Office (as it was then) by having the candidate run as an independent Conservative. Although there was an ‘Approved List’, CCO had no way of enforcing their preference for an ‘approved’ candidate. In 1997, CCO threatened to remove Neil Hamilton from the list but were told by his Association that he would run anyway without their support. CCO was impotent to do anything about it.

After that general election, the Constitution was codified and previously autonomous associations dutifully signed up to it (some with a little ‘persuasion’). As a result, associations surrendered their sovereignty and became subject to an omnipotent and unaccountable bureaucracy. CCHQ (as it became) acquired the power to appropriate constituency property and cash. If a local constituency association ever again refused to comply with a central directive, they could be put it into ‘support status’ (ie sacked en masse and administered centrally). CCHQ has not only threatened a number of ‘troublesome’ associations with this humiliating treatment, they have done it.

Lord Tebbit appears not to know that an oligarchical CCHQ is now omnipotent over both candidate selection and the internal workings of all local associations: they can appoint and dismiss as they see fit, in accordance with the will of the Party Board. And that Board is empowered by an ‘enabling clause’ which permits it to do whatever is necessary ‘in the interests of the Party’.

If, therefore, local members were to attempt a democratic ‘take over’ of their CCHQ-compliant association, or if they were to ‘decline to support’ the CCHQ-approved candidate, as Lord Tebbit advocates, they could be individually disciplined and expelled from the Party, or the whole association put into ‘support status’. A local association cannot be ‘taken over’ by democratically-minded Conservatives: if an attempt were to be made, it would be ‘taken over’ by the Board. And this could be threatened (and implemented) over a fairly minor dispute or for (undefined) ‘poor performance’. The assessment of the seriousness of a misdeamanour is wholely subjective and carried out by CCHQ (ie the Board). There are no checks and balances; just a series of rigged appeals.

So, Lord Tebbit, would you care to elucidate, as a few of your your own commenters have requested? Are you suggesting that the loyal Conservatives of Somerton and Frome re-adopt Annunziata Rees-Mogg in defiance of CCHQ? Are you proposing that they volunteer for certain ‘support status’? Are you suggesting that they reject the next ‘clone dummy’ candidate CCHQ decides to impose? Having been party chairman, how do you think Baroness Warsi might react to your suggestion? Could you please elucidate either in the thread below or upon your own august blog? Or (if you prefer), you may email His Grace in confidence directly (address top right of his blog). Bless you.


Blogger I am Stan said...

Your Grace,

Is this a new version of the "Tebbit Test"

14 June 2011 at 10:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace

What can we do?

Cameron’s got us by the goolies and the control freaks at CCHQ have stitched up the rules: so every time we try to exercise our sovereignty they apply the Glasgow Kiss.

We are being pushed, by degrees, to UKIP.

14 June 2011 at 11:46  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr D. Singh,

His Grace has posted a comment upon the Noble Lord's blog, and awaits clarification of the instruction.

14 June 2011 at 11:49  
Anonymous MrJ said...

"While the Party Leader is preaching the gospel of demos, the party practises kratos." Well said and argued.

"It should not be for the [party] Leader to declare, but for the people to decide 'the sort of MP' they wish to elect." A carefully crafted sentence open to easy misreading.

It is made in connection with statutory Representation of the People in the House of Commons.

Could it apply (mutatis mutandis) to the selection of bishops in the Church of England? -- other episcopalian churches?

Where is this going? Surely it cannot be supposed that Abp Cranmer could be a crypto-anarchist?

But the Party Leader must be a crypto-....? (something other than Conservative of the Tebbit inclination).

"Under the Hague reforms.... associations surrendered their sovereignty and became subject to an omnipotent and unaccountable bureaucracy. CCHQ.. acquired the power to appropriate constituency property and cash..."

Is Common Purpose in or out just now?

14 June 2011 at 12:03  
Anonymous PJ said...

Your Grace,
I have noticed Lord Tebbit has brought this up at the end of his blog before, and it was quite a surprise to read when I first saw it, however, I saw, or thought nothing more of it until YG eminently discussed it in this post, thank you

14 June 2011 at 12:39  
Blogger Gnostic said...

The only thing Cameron is committed to is himself and his progress up the slippery pole of EU politics. I'd like to tell him where he can stick that pole. And as for the Conservative party...what Conservative party? I don't see any Conservatives in the Cabinet. Not a single one. Expenses troughing, nanocephalic and overweening scumbag traitors, the lot of them. And that goes double for their counterparts.

14 June 2011 at 12:59  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Conservatives cannot win elections. Cameron has proven that point conclusively. He has made it even less likely that Conservatives will win elections.

Louise Bagshawe was a Labour Party member but will not be re-elected. Like Cameron she will leave Parliament after the next election. Cameron is looking for a cushy exit and the Conservative Party will disintegrate

14 June 2011 at 13:12  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...

Goodness me you Conservatives do love fighting amongst yourselves! That's why you've been unelectable for so long.

Why not just stick with the issue of central control of candidate selection which is surely undemocratic and stop being so nasty about your leader. At the same time try to balance this with a Party attempting to gain power.

14 June 2011 at 13:49  
Anonymous John Thomas said...

I'm not a member of the Conservative Party (or any other), but I sympathise with the position of D. Singh, above. I applaud the idea that many Conservatives move to UKIP, the sooner the better, as that is the quickest way of them asserting themselves over the Conservatiove leadership, and taking their party back (perhaps if lots of Labour people did something similar, Labour might return to being a party which represented real, ordinary, working people, not Middle Class "liberals" and "intellectuals").

14 June 2011 at 14:33  
Anonymous Oswin said...

This one has 'legs' Your Grace!

14 June 2011 at 15:09  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Cameron is not my leader and I didn't vote for him or support him in any way. Nor will I ever vote for him because he is no conservative and neither is the party he leads. You see, I don't do tribalism. If I want to call him an incompetent, quisling twunt, I will, because that's exactly what he is. I won't fight over or vote for a party that has been effectively dead to its core values for more than 20 years, longer if you count the disastrous Heath governments.

Nice but dim, touchy-feely, short-termism politics won't cut it. We need someone with vision and iron-willed enough to make the necessary tough, long term economic decisions. There are no politicians of that calibre so we're screwed.

As for the other lot, we've all seen what the "jam today" approach gets us; massively into debt that will take generations to pay off.

With few exceptions, our politicians are collectively insane.

14 June 2011 at 15:23  
Blogger English Viking said...

Is it news that the Cons are institutionally corrupt, full of liars and thieves who are only interested in feathering there own (or their sisters') beds?

Same as the PC filth that is Labour and Liberal too.

UKIP appears to be agent provocatuers, designed to split the right-wing vote; BNP are a organisational joke; Greens tend to be lesbians, vegetarians, save-the-whale eco-loons.

It's over. Get out, while you still can.

14 June 2011 at 16:21  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...

The spirit of Sir Oswald Mosley is alive and strong!

14 June 2011 at 16:22  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The spirit of Sir Oswald Mosley is alive and strong!

Why, because he was a Labour Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster defeated at Conference by the revered Ramsay MacDonald over his proposals to cure unemployment ?

Really now Mr Dodo, you cannot still be carrying a candle for Ramsay MacDonald !

14 June 2011 at 16:37  
Anonymous Oswin said...

English Viking : Tush! Let's have no defeatist talk here! The line WILL stand to the end; I just hope I take a few of the buggers with me, is all.

Keep yon axe keen.

14 June 2011 at 17:52  
Anonymous IanCad said...

So, after putting his finger to the wind, a senior tory now floats a long overdue suggestion that the local constituencies should choose their own candidates. Where's he been for the last three years? The old guard has to go. A more gutless, wretched and servile crew can scarcely be imagained.
The plastic accolytes of Plastic Dave will be the death of the Conservative Party as we know it.
It is time for an independent movement within the party.

14 June 2011 at 18:28  
Anonymous not a machine said...

My first thoughts to your graces post did not flow well , so I return having mulled this one over . I like and read Lord Tebbits ,telegraph pieces , as rather like Sir Peter Tapsell and Ken Clark , they are living memoirs , of the good the bad and the ugly of politics ,offering a connection to major debates spanning the egos and vanities of our countrys history.

lord Tebbits inferance that the conservative party must not become the plaything of the ambitious youth and become somthing of a killer thinktank/beauty pagent for a global elite ,common purpose ,is a difficult observation , because you have to ask yourself , if such new peddlers are the messiah ,so long desired in opposition or somthing waiting to be found as shallow and more trick than treat.

I recall two seperate meetings ,one a lunch with and old school fundraiser , and the other at a selection event with someone who had driven some miles and did not introduce himself ,yet finalised the meeting. The old school man and me did not hit it off as we clearly moved in rather different circles, however he did make a courteous effort to ensure that I was included , even if unsure what we should converse about , he was understanding enough that a party function had a welcome mat and some common factors ,in that sense i couldnt help but feel my presence ,even though not of any importance , was welcome as anyone should be who wants to know about conservative thinking. In my second meeting the young man ,stood with little emotion ensuring he only spoke to those who needed to be spoken to , i couldnt work out wether it was some sort of time mangement or just some sort of desire to only speak who he thought worthy of his time and who passed his first question interrogation rather complex question ,of if you were on his wavelength and ergo the new power groupie.The meeting concluded and he exited in the same style as he arrived . It isinteresting to note that I observed some members of other parties under a similar sort of omni whip in the election run up.

First impressions matter , but so does developement , my old school man was concerned with developement , silently pointing out there are things to learn in politics , my new school man was rather certain all that was needed was mental deficiency pass/fail test.

people with life experience have a reservoir to bring to politics , they do not live for the perfect flawless presentation ,they contribute in a very different way , perhaps some times dull questions or prejudices , but non the less part of the real world body corporate.
The pros and A listers who have honed the right attitude and connections , but have avoided real life , may look and sound good ,but often lack any working beliefs about the broader functions of a political party for its members and you useually find them by your side only when it is sunny , but it is a party and not a church.

If you think CCHQ is sado-machochistic,then one shouldnt forget how a certain nokia throwing PM took his party to new places of control freakery.

The cleansing of traditional conservatives may well be ego desires fullfilled or perhaps prmotion guarentee, but when it changes some long held policy areas ,casting you as irrelevant irritant ,its not just policy its personal !

The right is not always wrong. I do not know where its new home in CCHQs thinking , but it has come awfuly close to separation , things like parlimentary soveingty , throwing money abroad , are not matters of pressured aquiesence in a political party , they are stances against the chancers that have contempt for the publics need for understanding.

There may well come a time when a bust up is arrived at, if that time comes then we can hope it is well enough thought through so as to survive the split, however quiet suffocation and cleanisng has its limits in any circumstance , tolerance is difference to stupidity .

the current efforts dust has to clear to know where we stand.

14 June 2011 at 21:05  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

There is a solution. Ignore party politics altogether - well at least the lib/lab/con trio.

Seriously - just how far will things have to go before these old tribal allegiances are broken?

Vote for an independent, or failing that, one of the smaller fringe parties. Do you really think things will change whilst the lemmings keep voting for them ... feeling forced to do so because of our anachronistic electoral system?

The best way to get a truly conservative government is not to vote for the Conservative party.

Of course, the essential caveat to add is that it is all just a distracting sideshow anyway.

14 June 2011 at 22:47  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...


As if ...

14 June 2011 at 23:01  
Blogger Roger Pearse said...

A useful post -- thank you. Like most people, I didn't feel that the new conservative party represented me. The emphasis on putting candidates in who are NOT like me ensured that.

All this, essentially, is corruption of democracy. In the end, it's about ensuring that ordinary people have no voice, that all the decisions about our lives -- remember 100w lightbulbs? weekly rubbish collections? -- are made over dinner in Chelsea by someone we don't know, never chose, and who rather despises us anyway (remember "turnip taliban"?)

We can say vote BNP, but the same people have made it clear that the BNP will be forced out of existence. We can vote UKIP, but for how long?

It's rather depressing to reflect that perhaps political violence is really the only answer. Beating up candidates used to happen a century ago. And, in a way, wasn't that more healthy than the current situation?

15 June 2011 at 09:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Civil unrest is on the cards, as prices hike up further and it becomes apparent there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The lefties are more organised at the civil unrest game, the right will counteract, as usual, but always face the full weight of the State against them.

That is why the Country needs something beyond left and right.

15 June 2011 at 10:24  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...

Such undemocratic talk and speculation. And so many 'grumpy old men' too.

Isn't Tebbit really urging people to re-engage with the political process? Fewer and fewer people vote; more and more people complain. Recipe for a party of either the far left or far right to walk in - or we could drift into sheer mediocrity.

15 June 2011 at 11:09  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Rebel Saint said...

There is a solution. Ignore party politics altogether - well at least the lib/lab/con trio.

Once again I find myself agreeing with Rebel Saint, at least about politics!

Whilst my instincts are generally small(c) conservative, free market, smaller government etc I have absolutely no tribal party loyalty so I don’t care how the Tories manage their candidates list. However any organisation seeking public approval must be in step with public opinion. Any disinterested observer would have said that the Tories had to shed their mono cultural/ethnic/gender past and look to voters who in general are (like me) not tribal supporters of any party.

This probably does mean that politicians will become increasingly boring, the likes of Tebbit, Skinner, Dyal and even fatties like Prescott and Pickles might not make the cut in future. Does this matter? We don’t expect business leaders to be “characters” or heaven forbid, eccentrics. I place intelligence, honesty and objectivity above most other qualities that a politician should exhibit and not party loyalty or ideological soundness.

PS Heaven, I use the term loosely!

15 June 2011 at 11:14  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Mr Dodo, you think that what we have now is democratic, do you? Well it takes all sorts, I suppose.

And less of the grumpy old men, if you please. I don't possess the required "short arm" and spheroid accoutrements. Nor am I collecting my pension yet. ;0)

15 June 2011 at 11:51  
Anonymous Voyager said...

We don’t expect business leaders to be “characters”

Really ? There are NO business "leaders" then, they are simply bean-counters. Characters are Entrepreneurs like Grundig, Honda, Dyson, Beaverbrook, Mars, McCain, Rogers, Piech, Hewlett, Canion, Jobs, Morita, Matsushita, Rockefeller, Harkness, Vanderbilt, Henkel, Armstrong, Whitworth, Kaiser, Noyce, Quandt, Koc,

15 June 2011 at 15:19  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...


Grumpy old men is a state of mind.

What is democracy? We know what it isn't. A 'representative' democracy requires engagement and interest. People are getting too lazy nowadays is my point and just want to have a moan. That's whats really dangerous.

15 June 2011 at 19:46  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Mr. Dodo - laziness is too simplisitc a word for it. There are also large dollops of ingnorance and worse, long dark tunnel with no light at the end so why bother syndrome.

PS I'm not grumpy, I'm widdle-boiling livid. But not with you, of course. :0)

16 June 2011 at 08:09  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...


No harm being grumpy - I quite enjoy it from time to time.

16 June 2011 at 22:25  

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