There is no deal at the EU Summit and talks resume later this morning. But whatever the outcome may be in Brussels, many Party members are set on Brexit: over two-thirds, according to the monthly surveys conducted by this site.
The relationship between Downing Street and CCHQ on the one hand, and local Associations and Party activists on the other, will therefore need a bit of tender loving care during the months ahead. Instead, the Feldman Review proposals for Party Reform, as being briefed out to senior Party activists, are a slap in the face.
We wrote recently that it would be fair for the review to balance give and take. Proposals that move more power to the centre, such as centralised record-keeping, should be balanced by lower costs and more debate at Party Conferences, and a credible plan for the medium and long-term future of the Party.
The headline points of the proposals, according to sources who have briefed about the Review, are as follows:
- Mandatory centralised membership record-keeping.
- A recommended minimum membership fee cost of £25 per member – with CCHQ taking £15 of each payment – an increase of £5 – and Associations keeping £10.
- Revised membership levels: £25 standard, Silver at £50 and Gold at £100. Silver and Gold would have additional benefits including Conference enhancements.
- Maximum five year Association Chairmanships.
- Association Annual General Meetings to be moved to June, after the May elections.
- More federations.
Absent in the briefings so far are any plans that propose -
- Electing more members of the Party Board.
- Ring-fencing money for the medium and long-term – among ethnic minority voters, students, business, the professions, universities, charities, campaign groups, unions and so on, as well as building up backing in “development” seats?
- Informing Association members the prospect of knowing who potential Parliamentary candidates are before they turn up to the final round of selection.
- Bursaries for less well-off candidates and finding more with experience of working in the public sector.
The briefings are only partial, and the bursaries idea may yet see the light of day. Some of the suggestions are sensible enough. But the thrust of the review is clear: it is all take from the centre and no give to local activists.
The generals are treating the troops as cannon fodder. Many of the latter have already deserted – Party membership has halved since David Cameron became leader – and more will doubtless follow. Tim Montgomerie is already off.
It is flammable timing given the crossover with the EU referendum, but the view in Downing Street and CCHQ seems to be that Associations are now so emasculated as to be rolled over without resistance.