Monday 26 November 2012

Reform of the Conservative Party (1997)

As a long standing member of the Party and one who had an active involvement in the voluntary side of the Party before being elected to Parliament, a background which is not typical of many of my Parliamentary colleagues, I am determined to make my voice heard in all matters affecting Party reform. The Party is intent upon setting a minimum membership fee which it has never had before and at a meeting in CCO on 3rd December I try to interest Vice Chairman, Archie Norman, in the idea that it would be better to create two classes of membership with Full members paying the agreed minimum subscription or more and Associate members paying whatever they can afford, the reality being that many existing members regard their subscription more as a donation to a cause that they wish to support than as a means of obtaining the privileges that go with full membership.
Similarly, I ask Party Chairman, Cecil Parkinson, to consider whether the cause of Party democracy would not be better served by allowing the voluntary side of the Party to elect the Party Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Treasurer and a majority on the proposed Board and to leave the election of Leader in the hands of the duly elected MPs. In reply Cecil tells the meeting that he is absolutely on side with Wm. Hague on these matters and that there would be enormous risks in allowing the voluntary side of the Party to elect the Party Chairman – we shall see!
There is encouragement from Paul Sykes when he telephones on 10th December to say that he has finished meeting all the people that he felt he wanted to see and that in future there is only one person that he will want to meet when he comes to London and that that person is myself!
The last word as far as 1997 is concerned must however be reserved for our erstwhile Leader, the Member of Parliament for Huntingdon. On 17th November, at the Parliamentary Party’s weekly ‘Forward Look Group’ meeting at which the week’s business of the House and other matters are discussed, I raise the question of a replacement for the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA. There is no support forthcoming from those present and the Chief Whip suggests that I leave matters as they are for a while, not least because we don’t know what the Royal family themselves think and in the meantime to talk to Shadow Defence Secretary, George Young (Hampshire NW). The following day I am able to introduce the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Royal Yacht Group, Lord Ashbourne, to George Young as we travel back to Westminster by river ferry after attending an event onboard HMY BRITANNIA laid on by the Royal Navy Presentation Team. George appears to be only moderately interested in the question of a replacement Royal Yacht and seems to be more focussed on settling the fate of the existing one before giving any consideration to the provision of a new one. He says that opinion polls carried out by the last Government demonstrated that the idea was not a sure-fire vote winner, to which I feel bound to point out that had the survey been taken of exclusively Conservative voters it might well have told a very different story.
Be that as it may I am not inclined to let the matter drop and a few weeks later I table an Early Day Motion (EDM) to mark the end of BRITANNIA’s illustrious service. No less than 81 MPs sign my EDM but when I invite John Major to add his signature he dithers and then declines, saying that if it hadn’t been for one or two in the Cabinet “I would have done something about this”!
The EDM read ”That this House, whilst much regretting the decommissioning of HMY BRITANNIA, wishes to place on record its sincere thanks to all past and present members of her ship’s company, several of whom have served aboard the Royal Yacht for very many years; pays tribute on this her final decommissioning date, to all Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel who have served aboard ‘BRITANNIA’ during the past 44 years; and commends them for their service and dedication to a much loved British institution”.

an extract form the faast-paced political memoirs of Christopher Gill, then MP for Ludlow.

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Book Description

12 Oct 2012
Fast-paced political memoir by a former Conservative MP charting the infiltration of the Conservative Party by non-conservative elements and the subversion of a once-great political party. On 1st May 1997 the Conservative Party suffered a most humiliating defeat at the hands of the British electorate and found itself in Opposition for the first time since Margaret Thatcher swept to power in 1979. In this book Christopher Gill follows the path taken by the Conservative Party after that defeat. Many Conservatives, both in Parliament and outside it, hoped that the spell in opposition would be spent analysing the reasons for defeat, replacing those responsible and rejuvenating the party machine for the battle to come. Instead those responsible for failure secured their grip on power and moved ruthlessly to dominate the Party, pushing aside those who objected and destroying all opposition. The author traces the way this was achieved out of sight of the media - all too enraptured with reporting the doings of the shiny new Labour government. He explains how the decisions made then led inexorably to the failure of the Conservative Party to achieve victory in 2010 and to the dithering responses of a hamstrung coalition goverment. At what point in time the Conservative Party ceased to be a truly 'conservative' Party is a matter which might engage the attention of future historians but the author clearly points the finger at those to blame and explains how they achieved a spectacularly successful coup for the 'collectivist' infiltration which has left the Tory Party paralysed.

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