"The Board is the ultimate decision making body of the Conservative Party. It is responsible for all operational matters including; fundraising, membership and candidates. It is made up of representatives from each section of the Party – the voluntary, political and professional. It meets once a month and works closely with Conservative Central Office, elected representatives and the voluntary membership. The Board has a number of sub-committees, including membership, candidates and conferences."
That description of the Conservative Party Board appears on conservatives.com but there is nothing on the party’s website about elections that are currently taking place to the Party Board. The Chairman and President’s positions on the National Convention are unopposed but the places for three Vice Presidents are contested. Listed below are thumbnail profiles of the five candidates and, in the middle of the Jeremy Middleton profile, I’ve drawn attention to the fact that John Flack was an unambiguous clear supporter of last year’s campaign to protect members’ voting rights in the leadership election.
John Flack: "I am standing for election as one of the three Vice Presidents of the National Convention because I believe I offer a fresh approach and a fresh voice. I am a Campaigner at heart and want to help our Party Campaign more effectively. If elected my priorities as a member of the Party’s board will be:
- To help equip all Associations with modern I.T ….. and the skills to use it.
- To ensure views from all parts of the Country are heard at board level.
- To promote membership & registered supporters.
- To target resources most effectively to win elections
- To ensure our Candidates at all elections have the best support possible
Please also take a moment to look at my website. If you want to vote for change, if you want to vote for modern ideas with traditional values, if you want to vote to make campaigning a priority please give me one of your three votes."
Jeremy Middleton has not submitted a paragraph but has sent a pdf of his campaign messages. This highlights his support for abolishing the distinction between central and national members, the delivery of the blue chip replacement and the importance of local candidates. Jeremy, as a sitting member of the board, also responded directly to my question about membership participation in last year’s leadership election (and in future leadership elections):
"I supported the board propsals last year. However the election process. turned out to be open, positive and exciting. It worked for us then and I therefore think we should stick with our current system. All methods of electing a leader carry risks but it would now take a lot to convince me to change it."
We also know that John Flack actively opposed last year’s attempt to take the vote away from members and we know that Toby Vincent supported a reversal of the existing process whereby party members would reduce the slate of available leadership candidates to two and then MPs would decide between the two. This was first proposed by William Hague. I have not yet received anything from Simon Mort or Emma Pidding on where they stand on members’ voting rights in the leadership election.
Simon Mort (the second sitting Board member): "You have asked me for a paragraph on why I should be re-elected… In a nutshell I have started, so please let me finish. I was elected by the voluntary party at Harrogate in March 2004. It was a high which exceeded even success in a parliamentary selection. I very much hope that I have never forgotten that the Voluntary Party gave me these responsibilities and they are my constituency. The glorious idiosyncrasies and differences between all parts of the country are reflected in our associations. These have to inform in party organisational structures, choice of candidate and every other respect of our political lives . My slogan for this campaign is Voluntary Party First Among Equals." Simon Mort’s page on conservatives.com.
Emma Pidding: ‘These are important elections at a time of change for our Party and it is vital that we have the strongest grass roots representation on the Board. You and I, the voluntary workers – the bedrock of our Party organisation – must ensure that our voices are heard and heeded. I believe that my experience and sound understanding of the voluntary party equip me to communicate our views with force and clarity. My belief is based on the experience I have gained in 20 years of working at most levels within the voluntary organisation. I am confident that I have the energy and determination to represent you on the Board, and to make our influence count. My objective is clear – not to pursue a Parliamentary career but to contribute with optimal effect at voluntary level. For more details on what I will work to achieve if elected, please take a look at my attached campaign message.’
Toby Vintcent – "founder of Geneva" (the CCHQ call centre) – submitted his campaign CV
and a pdf of endorsements. One endorsement came from Rt Hon Michael Ancram MP: “I am happy to support Toby as I have long admired his contribution to the work of the Party. He has a natural feel for politics and great organisational skills and he would bring valuable campaigning experience to the Board at this crucial time.” Charles Tannock MEP said: "I have known Toby Vintcent for eight years when he skilfully chaired the London Region during my successful campaign for the European Parliament in 1999. He is charming, eloquent and of great integrity and has the required modern vision for our Conservative Party. I believe he will bring great value-added to the Conservative Party Board.”
Ballot papers for this election were mailed out in the last few days. About 900 local association chairmen plus regional and area officers are entitled to vote. You must contact them as soon as possible if you want your voice to be heard in this election.