Screen shot 2015-09-08 at 07.09.10ConservativeHome undertook a reader special survey last month on Party Reform and the Feldman Review.  Today, we begin publishing the results.

My starting-point in assessing them is that any proposal backed by, say, 70 per cent of Party Member respondents should be taken up by CCHQ – not that it necessarily will be.  And if the plan in question gets the mirror image of such a result – that’s to say, opposition from 70 per cent or so of these repliers – CCHQ should obviously go nowhere near it (not that we can guarantee it won’t).

Indeed, if a plan doesn’t get at plurality of votes at the very least, or if there is a majority against it at all, CCHQ should go back to the drawing board.  Which brings us to Association Federations, backed on this site by Andrew Kennedy and our new columnist, Paul Abbott.

The nub of the federation idea is that Associations band together in county or city-wide groups – Kennedy suggested that they should consist of two counties in each case – and pool their resources.  He is one of the driving forces behind the West Kent group, which consists of five Associations.  There is another in Bristol & South Gloucetershire, consisting of six.

It is very unlikely that the Feldman Review will propose the compulsory banding-together of Associations in groups far larger than those in West Kent and Bristol & South Gloucetershire.  But it is worth noting that almost 30 per cent of party member respondents backed the idea in our poll.

None the less, a solid 58 per cent are opposed: 29 per cent were in favour.  In short, our survey suggests that there is no basis for creating big federations by compulsion (not, we repeat, that the Feldman Review is at all likely to seek to force such a plan through).  Indeed, a separate question finds over a third of respondents to be against Associations working in smaller groups altogether.

This second question asked whether repliers agreed that “Associations should not be required to band together in city or county federations, but should band together in smaller groups, with each Association retaining full control of its own funds.”

51 per cent said Yes and 34 per cent No.  A few of these Nos may be people who want full-on federations.  But the overwhelming majority will surely be enthusiasts for Association autonomy.

Indeed, one of the themes that shone out from the responses overall is that Party members are protective of the powers of Associations and suspicious of moving any to CCHQ. ‘Twas ever thus.