Gareth Baines is the Chairman of Clwyd South Conservative Association.
“Nothing has changed”, to coin a phrase – except everything has. Following a motion at our AGM that members would not accept a delay to Brexit beyond the European Union elections, as Chairman of the Clwyd South Conservative Association I was forced to hold a motion of no confidence in our leader and Prime Minister.
We were the first association anywhere in the country to do so – and the results were decisive: 88.8 per cent of members had no confidence in Theresa May, versus just 3.7 per cent who had confidence. I rather suspect the same is felt in associations across the country.
Theresa May has turned out to be a Prime Minister of record. The largest parliamentary defeat in this country’s history, and the fourth-largest in history. The least popular Conservative minister in history – as revealed by ConservativeHome – and the first Conservative leader in 185 years to face a grassroots vote to oust her.
Association chairmen (myself included) have succeeded in reaching the threshold to trigger a vote of the party’s 800 most senior activists. The vote will be non-binding, but it would be extremely difficult for the Prime Minister to survive losing it.
How has the natural party of government turned into such a laughing stock? How have we gone from boasting Jeremy Corbyn was our greatest electoral asset, to Labour claiming May is their greatest electoral asset? Quite simply, she was never up to the job. This is a timely reminder why the members must always get a say in who is to become our leader, and lends weight to member’s wishes to have an elected Chairman to enure that proper consideration is given to the feelings and wishes of members, not just the Parliamentary Conservative Party.
I’ve never – in all my years of being involved with the Conservative Party – seen the mood so low. The range of emotions in my own members ranges from despondent to apoplectic. However, it’s important to understand why members feel like this. It isn’t just about Brexit – although that’s a large and understandable part. We had the disaster of the 2017 manifesto; we’ve had May’s over-reliance on a small and ill-equipped band of advisers; most recently we’ve had the Huawei debacle.
On Brexit, I believe that amongst my members the lack of trust – rather than Brexit itself – has been her undoing: activists simply don’t believe what she says. Her ‘red lines’ seem to be written in chalk. Her proclamations of ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ turned out to be untrue – when it came down to it, May would not even consider a no deal Brexit. We had ‘Brexit means Brexit’, when in reality the Prime Minister meant it was her Brexit, or no Brexit at all.
It is with all the above taken into consideration that I voted to express no confidence in the Prime Minister. I would urge her, before she does much more damage to the party and the country, to do the right thing for once. Resign now, so the Conservative party can again work for the good of the country. As was expressed in the famous Norway debate:
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”