Martin Hislop is Chairman of Richmond Park & North Kingston Conservative Association and Deputy Chairman Political of the London South area.
My experience as an association chairman and attendee at numerous area and regional meetings of the Conservative Party is that, after death and taxes, the other certainty of life is complaints about the Party’s IT capacity.
The unlamented and long overdue demise of MERLIN has only been to see VoteSource generate a similar degree of disquiet and discontent. Paul Abbott has already voiced his adverse judgement on the new system to readers of ConservativeHome last week
Recently my Association Agent received notification from CCHQ’s HelpDesk that VoteSource will be unable to provide details of the marked registers for some months,, and regular visits to the membership record provide variations of between 20 – 50 during the same day.
Associations in London need to brace themselves for an inevitable barrage of complaints from members when they do not receive notification of how to register for the Mayoral pre-selection ballot.
The notification to my Agent was embellished with an icon “Best Practice”. Well, if VoteSource is “Best Practice”, heaven help us!
The Party’s incapacity to deliver on elementary administrative support is not restricted to VoteSource, son of MERLIN.
Within CCHQ there is an obsession with restricting the flow of information.
Previously on ConHome the lack of transparency over the procedures for the short-listing of the London Mayoral candidates was highlighted. Try, as an Association Chairman or a new Area Officer, to obtain the names and contact details of other Association Chairmen or Area Officers.
You are faced with an invocation of “data protection” that frustrates even elementary communication between individuals who have accepted nomination to Office within the same Party!
Now in the lead up to the London Mayoral and GLA selections, restrictions are placed on the functioning of serving London Assembly Members, MPs and MEPs, which adversely impacts upon associations trying to go about their routine activities.
My association has been told it cannot send out its regular letter to individuals on the roll-over electoral registers, with its welcome from our MP, if we include his Twitter and Facebook link – because such sites make reference to his London Mayoral bid.
This is a mockery of a level-playing field and is bureaucratic excess.
The Party Board rightly now encourages open primary parliamentary selections to give the broadest input from Conservative supporters. The revision of the rules for local councillor selections, with its focus on a threshold for ward selections and the need for proper electoral colleges with designated membership, makes a most welcome reform to the closed shop approach to municipal selections that has operated for decades.
These reforms need to be taken further. It is to be hoped that in the wake of Lord Feldman’s review of party organisation there will be a commitment to genuine democratic “best practice,” and we will see names of participants in selections (both as applicants and selectors) published along with voting figures.
And at the very least elected Party Officers, at all levels, should be able to find who their colleagues are and how to contact them!