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Iain Dale GraphicGavin
Barwell’s article on Tuesday on how to rebuild the Conservative Party machine was a timely reminder of how the
party is failing to keep pace with the electorate. He was right to say that few
people identify with constituency boundaries, and that they think of themselves
as residents of a town or city or wider geographic area. In addition, email and
the internet give opportunities to include a much wider range of people in
party-led activities and fundraisers. Membership must continue to provide
certain privileges, otherwise why bother, but it must no longer be the be all
and end all. The priority of each and every Conservative Association must
surely be to be as inclusive as possible. That’s why opening up candidate
selections is an idea whose time has come. There was initially an
understandable fear that opposition parties would crowd a selection meeting and
vote to select the weakest candidate, but I know of nowhere this has ever
happened. Full postal primaries are probably one step too far, mainly because
of the cost, but ultimately that is what all parties ought to be aiming for. If
David Cameron wants to signal that he is serious about all of this, why not
make Gavin Barwell a Party Vice Chairman in charge or organisational
regeneration?

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Whatever
happened to the notion of Recall? It was in both the Tory and LibDem manifestos
and also the Coalition Agreement, yet for some reason it has been kicked firmly
into the long grass by Nick Clegg, who is in charge of constitutional reform.
There are still twenty months to go until the next election, which leaves
plenty of time to get it on the statute book. What is Mr Clegg afraid of?

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They
seek him, here, they seek him there, the seek him everybloodywhere. Who am I
talking about? None other than the Scarlet Pimpernel of Labour politics, Ed
Balls. Having been omnipresent on our TV screens up until last week, he’s now
gone to ground. I am sure it is just coincidence that he has become invisible,
just as Ed Miliband has a prolonged spat with Unite. It’s something he must
have learned from his erstwhile boss Gordon Brown, who adopted a Macavity- like
persona whenever Tony Blair could have done with some support from his
Chancellor. Same old Brownites.

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If
you have always wanted to virtually stroke an MP’s pussy, you can now do so HERE.  The new Mrs Slocombe of the Tory benches, Catham & Wailsford MP Tracey
Crouch has acquired two muts called Mungo and Basil and has even gone to the
lengths of creating a purrfect Facebook page for them. But her colleague
Nicola Blackwood (Oxford Whiskers & Abingdon) is going one further. She’s
going round showing other MPs her pussy on her iPhone. And it’s blue. The
iPhone, that is. The things MPs in marginal seats do to win the pet vote!

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Can
I just apologise to anyone who is offended by ‘pussy’ jokes? I get them from
John Inverdale.

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Is
the Theresa May bandwagon about to roll? I’ve said in a previous column that
Mrs May’s main weakness as a potential successor to David Cameron is that no
one is very clear on what she stands for. She doesn’t have much of a following
in the Commons. Or at least not until now. I think the Qatada deportation has
transformed her standing as a front rank politician. I was hearing gossip that
Cameron was thinking about moving her from the Home Office in the reshuffle to
be Party Chairman. Inevitably, that would be seen as a demotion, but I doubt
very much whether she would be prepared to go back to a job she first did more
than a decade ago. Her position is now strong enough to she could refuse to
move, and there’s little the Prime Minister could do about it. She is seen,
even by her opponents, as a successful Home Secretary, and you don’t get many
of those to the pound. The only argument she could make to herself for a switch
is that she should get out while the going is good.

Oh,
and if you were wondering who May’s potential successor would be? Step forward
Michael Gove. That would be a crying shame because there is no one else who
could take his education reforms forward. Gove should stay put, right up until
the election.

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Former
German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is a canny old Vogel. The 94 year old chain
smoker is getting round a ban on menthol cigarettes by hoarding them. SPD
Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbruck told an interviewer that his predecessor
had bought 200 packs of his favourite smokies, presumably calculating that they
should see him out. That works out at 38,000 cigarettes. If he smokes one
packet a day he will have enough to last him until his 100th birthday. It seems rampant euroscepticism has overtaken the SPD and Steenbruck
has railed against the “unerträgliche Regelungswut” (intolerable lust for
regulation) of the Brussels Commission. Expect Nigel Farage to immediately
adopt that expression.  Steenbruck himself has admitted to hoarding his
favourite French lightbulbs in case they too might be banned. Welcome to our
world Mr Steenbruck.

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I
much enjoyed Ed Miliband’s ‘landmark’ speech this week on union reform, which
bore all the hallmarks of being cobbled together in five minutes flat. I half
expected him to say ‘And another thing…’ at one point. Tucked away in the small
print was a commitment to hold a primary to choose London’s next Labour mayoral
candidate. Good, good, I thought. He’s learning. And then I read the even
smaller print. It’s not actually a primary at all. It’s a meeting of people who
all vote Labour. I thought the whole point of a primary was to allow anyone to
take part who wants to, but in this case you will have to have registered as a
Labour supporter. That should get the attendance up to thirty, I guess. People
always seem to think that opponents will pack a primary and then vote for the
weakest candidate. There is no evidence for that at all. In the primary I took
part in in Bracknell in 2009 (God, that seems a long time ago) there were
indeed activists presents from the LibDems, but for once they took a principled
decision and watched but didn’t vote. It’s the modern equivalent of Don’t Ask,
Don’t Tell.

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Excuse
the shorter than usual offering this week. Yesterday I finally, after six
months, got the keys to our new house in Norfolk, so on the day I usually pen
this piece I was fretting about mortgage money coming through in time,
wondering if BT would do as they had promised and filling holes in the garden
fence to keep the dogs in. And this time next week I shall probably still be
doing two of those things. Some holiday…

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