After the 2019 election, we suggested five ways that Boris Johnson could help to secure the Party’s electoral position as part of our Majority series. This was the fifth. Eight months on, how are they doing?
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Securing the Majority? 5) Building on this successful campaign at CCHQ
Five years ago Lord Lexden, the Conservative Party’s official historian, wrote for us about the lost election-winning machine of Sir Anthony Garner, the formidable Tory organiser who became the Party’s Director of Organisation under Margaret Thatcher.
One sentence stands out: “Little now remains of the once impressive nationwide Party organisation that Tony Garner served so well. Few constituencies have qualified agents and without them membership, which reached over three million in Garner’s early career, continues its downward spiral.”
If confirmation of this were needed, just put ‘CCHQ’ into the search bar at the top of this site. Mark Wallace’s three-part series, ‘The Rusty Machine‘, stands out but there are no shortage of other pieces covering its mishandling of everything from digital campaigning to candidates, as well as efforts to plug perceived gaps through abortive third-party groups such as ‘Reignite‘ and ‘Activate‘.
Following last year’s handsome general election win, we called on the Party to build on that success in various ways. One of the most important, in Mark’s words, was to end “feast and famine approach to staffing”, turn CCHQ into “a place where careers can develop”, and hire “permanent local agents or campaign managers wherever possible”.
Unfortunately, it looks as if the Party has instead fallen back into old habits. With a comfortable majority, this year’s local elections postponed and apparently little danger of another snap election, the FT reported that CCHQ was in line for “massive downsizing”, with campaign staff being made redundant, due to fundraising pressures. Nor is there any sign of a ‘Team2024’, or any other effort to revive the mechanisms for efficiently mobilising activists in target seats which David Cameron’s operation used to such good effect in 2015.
Some campaigners fear that the old guard at Matthew Parker Street have used the 2019 result, delivered against an especially feeble opposition, to paint an excessively rosy picture of CCHQ’s effectiveness and stave off deeper reform. Perhaps proposals to move it out of London will provide an opportunity for a real shake-up.