“CCHQ should be split in two, with one half dealing with short-term campaigning (i.e: advertising, telephone canvassing, online activity, Facebook, Twitter, action days, by-elections, rapid response, opposition attack, propagating the message) and the other half dealing with long-term campaigning (i.e: building up support among ethnic minority voters, students, business, the professions, universities, trade union members, etc).”
That’s 51 per cent Yes, 29 per cent No and the rest Don’t Knows. The idea was lifted from an article I wrote on this site last year, which for the purposes of this one is worth quoting at length:
“Indeed, the logic of this thinking points to splitting up the Party organisation altogether. CCHQ would deal with everything short-term – in other words, elections. It would become what its newish name already suggests it is: a campaigning organisation concentrated solely on winning target seats and delivering a Tory majority. It would deal with advertising, telephone canvassing, online activity, Facebook, Twitter, action days, by-elections, rapid response, opposition attack, propagating the message. The leader would continue to appoint the Chairman. CCHQ would deal with everything short-term.
Something else would have responsibility for the long-term: ethnic minority voters, students, membership (and supplements to it), candidate selection, building up support in business and among the professions, in universities and the institutions of civil society – charities, campaign groups, unions. It would have its own research and outreach capacity. What would this something be? One possibility would be an organisation along the lines of the Conservative Foundation. This declares its mission to be protecting “the long-term finances of the Conservative Party.” The new equivalent’s mission would be to protect the long-term electability of the Conservative Party.
Like CCHQ, it would raise its own money, which the latter would be unable to touch: this is crucial. Under such an arrangement, the Party Chairman would be unable to divert strategic resources to meet temporary need. So for example, 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. Donors unwilling to stump up for the election campaign of today might none the less be willing to do so for the revitalised party of tomorrow. The director of this new Foundation might be elected by Party members, or perhaps simply be appointed by the Board.”
I thought at the time and since that this proposal would seen as too drastic and perhaps eccentric – and was thus surprised to see it gain much support at all in our survey, let alone a bare majority.
We also asked a variant on the question in the poll which didn’t float splitting CCHQ, but did back ring-fencing money, as follows:
Money raised by CCHQ for long-term campaigning purposes (for example, building support in non-target seats) should be ring-fenced, so that it can’t be used for short-term campaigning purposes (for example, building support in target seats).
57 per cent said Yes to this, 28 per cent No, and the remainder were Don’t Knows – a response in much the same ball part to those received for the “Split CCHQ” plan.
These responses show a resistance to the philosophy of throwing everything the Party has at target seats and letting everything else go hang. This has increasingly become the practice during recent General Elections, and was pushed further than ever during last May’s.
David Cameron, George Osborne, Lord Feldman and Lynton Crosby would presumably say that the strategy worked: that, for once, what CCHQ briefs out before every General Election turned out to be true – we really did do better in our target seats than in others elsewhere.
But our survey suggests that many Party activists believe that this omelette can be made without breaking quite so many eggs – for example, candidates in non-target marginals being required to campaign in target seats rather than their own, and even divert money that they have raised to these.
Our columnist, Rebecca Coulson, who was the candidate in the City of Durham in May, claimed on this site during the election’s aftermath that this short-term-trumps-all approach was implemented with “bullying, rudeness and coercion”.
Whether one agrees with her or not, there is clearly a hunger among many Party workers for campaigning for the long-term as well as the short – and protecting money raised to that end. These results send a message to the Feldman Review.