Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative Party Chairman, has today appointed two new senior officials to the CCHQ top team, ConservativeHome can exclusively reveal.
Sir Mick Davis (pictured), who was appointed Party Treasurer last September, will now also serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Party, with “a wide-ranging brief to undertake improvements to CCHQ, its personnel, campaigning techniques and systems”.
Alongside this appointment comes David Brownlow, the entrepreneur and Conservative donor (who was also a leading funder of the Stronger In campaign) as the new Vice Chairman for Campaigning. In addition to Davis’s work, “he will work with MPs across the parliamentary party to further improve our campaigning techniques including increasing support for the Conservative Party in some of our major cities.”
The third change comes in the person of Edward Argar MP, who is the new PPS to the Party Chairman. The three appointments were agreed by the Party Board yesterday.
As I wrote shortly after the election, it’s all too clear that the misfiring machine – including, but not limited to, CCHQ – must be closely examined and drastically reformed. Evidently senior levels of the Conservative Party agree that there is a problem: the words “further improve our campaigning” are a diplomatic way of saying so.
Notably, the announcement also comes with a comment from the Prime Minister:
“I am delighted that Sir Mick has agreed to take on this important role. The Party will benefit from his entrepreneurial and leadership skills as he works with the team at CCHQ to make the improvements that we need, now and for the future.”
That’s obviously a pretty bland statement, but its presence in news of internal Party changes is significant. We understand that the need for a clear-eyed review of what went wrong in the campaign operation was discussed and debated at some length in the first Political Cabinet after the election, with a variety of views at the top table on exactly how it ought to be conducted.
As with any review, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but we can consider some starting principles. After years of problems in a variety of areas, for any review to succeed it must combine insight with independence. The people involved must know about and properly understand campaigning in practice, but they also must not allow personal relationships, close contact with the officials they are scrutinising or special pleading to blur the clarity of their vision. That could be a difficult balance to strike – hiring some outside accountancy firm might provide independence, but it won’t bring expertise, while those too close to the CCHQ operation might be reluctant to deliver uncomfortable home truths.
It’s also essential to ensure that Davis and Brownlow’s work covers the full extent of the Party’s operations – for example, it’s notable that there’s no mention in today’s news of future work with regard to young activists and voters.
From ConservativeHome’s point of view, we will observe and report on this process with interest. We will, of course, continue to report here on the issues and failings that our investigation reveals.