There is a legend that anti-Chequers type activists are joining – or re-joining – the Conservative Party in order to vote in any forthcoming leadership election. Is it true?
ConservativeHome has spoken to Tory MPs during the past few weeks about the matter. One of them originally contacted us to report that “about 20” new members had joined his Association during the aftermath of Chequers. Most of them, he said, were “UKIP-flavoured”.
Our enquiries elsewhere have yielded the following findings. “About ten,” five, three, two, one, nought, nought and nought.
Now it may be that some of the MPs reporting no new anti-Chequers members at all have been inattentive, and don’t really know what is going on in their Associations. It could be that the handful of MPs we’ve found to date is too small a sample to draw on, or that the range of seats they sit for is unrepresentative.
For what it’s worth, most of those we spoke to sit in constituencies that are in, roughly, what one might call the greater South-East (and voted Remain in the referendum).
Perhaps the number of UKIP-type people signing up in the North and Midlands is larger, although the bulk of Party membership is certainly in seats of the type whose MP we’ve spoken to. And there has also of course been a flow the other way: some members have left over Chequers (though again, there is no proof of large numbers).
All in all, there’s no evidence that we have yet found of mass applications, let alone infiltration – though these are early days, and new members have of course the option of joining the Party centrally. One experienced agent in the South-East backs our estimate up, reporting “a small trickle” in his area, with no sign whatsoever of an organised push.
Furthermore, one must watch for former UKIP donors and a very few left-of-Party-centre MPs propping each other up, like drunks at the end of a pub crawl. It suits the former to claim the power to organise a programme of mass infiltration. It suits the latter to react by complaining about extremist entryism. The rest of us should keep a cool head.