POLITICS

Conservative Members Vent At 'Blithering Idiots' Who Ran Tory Election Campaign

'Why would anybody want to become a member of the Conservative Party?'

01/10/2017 18:53
PA Wire/PA Images
Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the BBC studios at Media City in Salford to appear on the Andrew Marr show ahead of the Conservative Party conference.

Conservative members gathered in Manchester for the party’s annual conference have complained about being “kicked in the teeth” by party bosses.

Theresa May would have hoped this year’s meeting of party grassroots would be a celebration of an election landslide.

However her disastrous election result which saw the Conservative Party lose its Commons majority sees her position as prime minister under threat.

At a event on the fringes of the conference organised by Conservative Home on Sunday afternoon, party members vented their frustration at the campaign.

There will be no members left and that will be the end. Goodbye. Tory activist John Strafford

John Strafford, the chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy and a former Tory councillor in Kensington and Chelsea, said the party needed to address its loss of membership since 1992.

“Under every party chairman since then there a decline in membership and done nothing about it and it is an utter total disgrace,” he told Sir Eric Pickles, who served as Tory chairman 2009-2010 and was sitting on the event panel.

“I’ve heard over the years how important the members are to the party and yet time and time again they are kicked in the teeth by the hierarchy.

“Until we get an elected party chairman who is elected by the party membership all this froth will continue until eventually there will be no members left and that will be the end. Goodbye.”

Carl Court via Getty Images
Former Conservative minister, Edwina Currie, attends the first day of the annual Conservative Party conference

Edwina Currie, the former Conservative health minister, said she was beginning to “lose the will to live” over how the party organised itself.

She said during the election party headquarters had ordered Conservative activists in her local area to target voters simply based on how rich they were.

″Every door I knocked on had a Labour poster. What happened was the lists had been drawn up on family income. And what some blithering idiot in central office had forgotten is in a constituency like ours those with the highest family incomes were public sector workers,” she said. “We wasted our time and we lost the seat.”

Chris Howell, a former Conservative City Councillor in Cambridge, said the Tories needed look to Momentum, the grassroots pro-Jeremy Corbyn Labour group as an example of how party members could be more involved.

“Why would anybody, in particular a normal person, want to become a member of the Conservative Party?” he asked. “Over the last few months we haven’t had a say in the party leader. We had a manifesto with little or no input.” 

The event was organised to examine Sir Eric’s investigation into what happened at the election.

In his post-mortem of the election campaign published today, Sir Eric warned the Tories now face a “united left”.

He said the Conservative Party needed “a fundamental re-evaluation of the way we organise and conduct our election campaigns” to win more seats.

Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful Conservative Party 1922 committee of backbench MPs, agreed the membership was “ignored too often”.

Speaking from the panel alongside Sir Eric, Brady said: “The Conservative Party is and should be its members. We are the people who choose to join the Conservative Party, who believe in the same principles, who want to go our and fight for them.

“For too many years it’s sometimes felt like the Conservative Party didn’t much like having members.”

While Labour has surged to almost 600,000 members since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, the Conservative Party has around 100,00 members

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