Last Friday I wrote one of ConservativeHome’s most controversial posts – ‘Is CCHQ fit for purpose?‘. It did not go down well at CCHQ and I received a couple of angry phone calls (which were relatively easy to deal with) and a handful of ‘I’m hurt’ phone calls (which I never find so easy). On the other side of the debate, however, I cannot remember a post that received quite so many spontaneous emails from ConservativeHome readers agreeing with everything that I had written. Friday morning’s specific ConservativeHome complaint about the discourtesy of not telling the ‘untopped-up’ about their B-list status certainly appeared vindicated by that day’s events:
(1) Four hours after I had posted my complaint CCHQ emailed all candidates telling them that if they hadn’t received a letter they weren’t on the top-up (progress); and
(2) CCHQ told the press of the delay to the primary process before the declared London primary applicants (confirmation of the discourtesy problem).
CCHQ/ CCO has never been loved by grassroots members, of course, and I certainly do not blame the current Chairman and his team for all of the CCHQ’s weaknesses (although the problems of the A-list and the Mayoralty primary process are certainly the current regime’s responsibility – as I said on yesterday’s Newsnight). CCHQ is like a supertanker that has been off course for a long time. It isn’t going to be turned around quickly and last Friday my telephone conversations with members of the CCHQ team revealed a number of important appointments and initiatives that should improve HQ’s effectiveness. Francis Maude has promised to explain those appointments and initiatives to ConservativeHome readers once they are underway.
My bottom line is that CCHQ is – at the time of writing – a weak institution. I know that is the view of the Leader’s office. A senior member of that team has complained that you pull the CCHQ levers but no action results. CCHQ being weak in year one of a parliament is bearable if it is strengthened and made ‘fit for purpose’ by years three and four, in particular.
PS A letter to today’s Daily Mail (click on image below to enlarge) highlighted another CCHQ weakness – a sloppy approach to membership recruitment and retention. Jeremy Middleton is currently spearheading a copmprehensive review of membership policy and so this may be another area which won’t be a problem soon… but, as with all of the other weaknesses I highlighted last week, noone should be under any illusions as to the mountain of hard work that needs to put the CCHQ supertanker on course for victory.