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  • Under successive leaders and Chairmen, CCHQ has become increasingly focused on the short-term goal of winning the next general election – and doing well in the local, national and European elections that lead up to it.
  • Its change of name from Central Office to Campaign Headquarters symbolised the change – made by Lynton Crosby when he came to help lead Michael Howard’s election campaign in 2005.
  • Crosby is back and CCHQ is in as good a campaigning shape as it has been since the Thatcher era.  The Party is solvent, thanks largely to Lord Feldman.  Online and social media campaigning is improved, thanks partly to Grant Shapps. CCHQ has a campaigning script that it sticks to. Team 2015 is helping to make a difference.  Only Merlin casts a cloud over this sunny scene.
  • However, focusing on the next election means focusing on a minority of seats – this time round, the 40/40 ones that are believed to determine whether or not David Cameron will return to Downing Street. That’s 80 out of about 600 constituencies.
  • So though the short-term picture is good, the long-term one is not.  Some Associations in the non-40/40 seats complain that they are left to sink or swim – deprived of speakers and resources as these are remorselessly channeled in to the key marginals.
  • These tend to be located so-called “safe seats”.  But in too many non-safe seats (and a few “safe” ones too) there is no real Association at all.  The problem gets worse the more northern and urban you go.  Think Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Hull, Sheffield.
  • If things carry on as they are, CCHQ will in effect become Team 2015 – that’s to say, a campaigning organisation that’s good at making its presence felt in key marginals but bad at making it felt elsewhere.
  • And the Conservative outreach needs to be felt elsewhere.  The commanding heights of the culture – the universities, the arts, the judiciary, the national broadcaster, the public services, the quangocracy – lean to the left.
  • It thus makes sense to split CCHQ into two working parts – one to deal with everything short-term, the other to tackle everything long.  Whether a formal separation is necessary can be argued either way.
  • What can’t be is that the money for the long-term needs to be ring-fenced from the first – or it will be swallowed up in advertising and campaigning for the election of 2020 or whenever the next one post-2015 takes place.  A possible model is the Conservative Foundation.
  • Under this division, CCHQ would deal with everything short-term – that’s to say, elections and the advertising, telephone canvassing, online activity, Facebook, Twitter, action days, by-elections, rapid response, opposition attack, and messaging that goes with them.
  • In the meanwhile, the Foundation would have responsibility for the long-term: ethnic minority voters, students, membership (and supplements to it), candidate selection, building up support in business and the professions, in universities and the institutions of civil society – charities, campaign groups, unions.  As Tim Montgomerie has suggested, it could run an equivalent of Battleground Texas.
  • Under such a division, staff and press officers dedicated to building up the Party’s long-term relations with the ethnic minority media, or the churches, could not be sacked or redeployed to meet short-term demand.
  • A question remains: who’s in charge?  Should the Party Chairman be elected?  Or should the leader continue to make the appointment, but the Chairman of the Foundation be elected – and the Foundation itself have a big presence on the Board, which would oversee the two?

32 comments for: Party Reform 3) CCHQ should be split up after the election

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