You will know that ConservativeHome successfully helped to lead opposition to Michael Howard’s attempts to scrap party members’ right to elect his successor. Given how members voted in the last leadership election I’m sure you will agree that members are wiser than many of their critics suggest!
I am writing to ask you to protect members’ democratic rights in the selection of our next slate of European Parliamentary candidates. I understand that the Party Board is about to consider a paper from the National European Forum. The NEF has, I am told, recommended that a college of Association Chairmen, Area officers and other selected high-ups form new regional electoral colleges. These colleges will then assess whether sitting MEPs have done enough to retain their top-of-the-list rankings. These electoral colleges may even have the power to re-order MEPs – overturning the democratic ranking that all party members gave to MEP candidates before the last European elections.
I do not know if members will have any say in choosing and ranking candidates who are not incumbents but I hope that you will publicly intervene in defence of the principle of party democracy. 78% of party members want to keep their say in ranking MEP candidates. As a candidate in the last leadership election you understandably felt it improper to state a position on the nature of the process although I was grateful that some of your key lieutenants – including Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey – felt able to support party democracy. I would encourage you to publicly recommend to the Party Board that there is no dilution of party democracy in the selection of European candidates. It may be right that some changes are made to the process but the franchise should not be restricted.
On a practical level, although there might be political difficulties if certain unpopular candidates react badly to being ranked less highly there may be greater dangers, in this internet age, if Conservative candidates at the next European Parliamentary Elections are out-of-touch with the grassroots’ Euroscepticism.
With very best wishes,
Editor of ConservativeHome.com"
Related link: Francis Maude wants your views on European candidate selection