On Tuesday we reported that Conservative activists across the country are flatly refusing to deliver the CCHQ-supplied stock of leaflets and postcards aimed at encouraging voters to lobby Tory MPs in favour of the Prime Minister’s EU deal.
It appears ConservativeHome is far from alone in being concerned at the harm done by attempts to deploy the Party’s resources on an issue where the majority of members are at odds with the leadership. This morning I can exclusively publish the below letter, signed by 32 senior Conservative activists, which urges an “immediate” end to what it terms “this misuse of Party funds” in support of “what amounts to a propaganda campaign to get MPs to back the proposed deal.”
The letter is addressed to Andrew Sharpe, the Chairman of the National Conservative Convention – the representative body of the voluntary Conservative Party, which will hold its next meeting tomorrow.
Echoing this site’s warning that the current approach threatens to undermine fundraising efforts and harm grassroots morale, the letter reminds Sharpe that:
“We know that you understand how vital party funds are. Every quiz, every lunch, every race night brings precious contributions which members are happy to give to help our Party succeed in elections. These funds should not be used on divisive issues where the majority of members strongly object to a flawed agenda.”
The list of signatories includes 29 Conservative Association chairmen, and features officers elected by grassroots members in constituencies across the country. Among those who have put their names to it are the chairman of the Croydon Federation – encompassing the former constituency of Gavin Barwell, currently the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – and the chairmen of several target and marginal seats, including Carlisle, City of Chester, Peterborough, Halifax and Workington.
It is very unusual for senior activists such as Association chairmen to take such a step, and the presence of these 32 names on the below letter hints at a much wider level of discontent among the rank and file of the voluntary Party. Such concern among those charged with leading the front line effort to defend and gain crucial seats at the next election ought to ring alarm bells at CCHQ.
Here is the full text of the letter:
We are appalled that Associations have recently been receiving promotional literature for distribution to members of the public urging them to lobby MPs to back the Prime Minister’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
You will be well aware how controversial this proposed agreement is. Polls show Conservative MPs, Party members and the British public strongly opposed.
Many people are concerned that the UK will pay £39 billion without any legally binding guarantees that a UK/EU trade deal will be secured. Trade deals with global partners will extremely difficult if not impossible to negotiate.
Under the backstop, the UK will be unable to leave the customs union without EU agreement and will be forced to accept EU laws and regulations over which we will have no say, and which may not be in our best interests. This ‘backstop’ arrangement will be used as leverage to extract a future trade deal that benefits the EU not the UK, with the EU27 able to utilise their vetoes to extract more and more concessions.
These concessions are likely to involve key areas such as access to our coastal waters and fishing quotas, Gibraltar and immigration. We will effectively be held to ransom.
Given these widespread concerns I am sure you understand why it is questionable at best that Party Members’ funds are now being used to front what amounts to a propaganda campaign to get MPs to back the proposed deal.
We know that you understand how vital party funds are. Every quiz, every lunch, every race night brings precious contributions which members are happy to give to help our Party succeed in elections. These funds should not be used on divisive issues where the majority of members strongly object to a flawed agenda.
Whether we voted Leave or Remain, or agree with the Prime Minister’s deal or disagree, never should Party funds or Party-funded CCHQ staff be used to lobby against our duly elected Members of Parliament
We urge you to make representations at the highest level to convey members concern at this misuse of Party funds and to ensure this activity is stopped with immediate effect and that there will be no future repetition.
Rob Bailey – Chairman of City of Chester Conservative Association
Cllr Peter Bedford – Chairman of Bosworth Conservative Association
Harry Bliss – President of Southport Conservative Association
Cllr Susie Charles – Chairman of Lancaster and Fleetwood Conservative Association
Cllr Alexander Curtis – Chairman of Hertford and Stortford Conservative Association
Kevin Daley – Chairman of Salisbury Conservative Association
Patrick Duffy – Chairman of South West Wiltshire Conservative Association
Cllr Gary Etheridge – Chairman of Rochester and Strood Conservative Association
Cllr Mike Fairhurst – Chairman of Havant Conservative Association
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald – Chairman of Peterborough Conservative Association
Dinah Glover – London East Area Chairman and Chairman of Bethnal Green & Bow Conservative Association
Thor Halland – Chairman of Leyton and Wanstead Conservative Association
Ajay Jagota – Chairman of South Shields Conservative Association
Cllr Mark Jenkinson – Chairman of Workington Conservative Association
Andrew Kennedy – Chairman of Chatham Conservative Association
John Kissane – Chairman of Ilford North Conservative Association
Donald MacKenzie – Vice Chairman of Highland Conservative and Unionist Association, and Chairman at Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Constituency Branch.
Cllr Diane Marsh – Chairman of Gravesham Conservative Association
Cllr Tim Mayer – Deputy Chairman Political for Coventry Area
Mary Mears – Chairman of Brighton Kemptown Conservative Association
Geoff Mitchell – Chairman of Carlisle Conservative Association
Alastair Orr – Vice Chairman of Stirling and Clackmannanshire Conservative Association
Cllr Anthony Owen – Chairman of Orpington Conservative Association
Cllr Michael Payne – Chairman of Halifax Conservative Association
Cllr Bob Perry – Chairman of Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Association
Attic Rahman – Chairman of East Ham Conservative Association
Chris Schofield – Chairman of the North Shropshire Conservative Association
Luke Senior – Chairman of Morley and Outwood Conservative Association
Jane Slater – Chairman of Lewes Conservative Association
Alasdair Stewart – Chairman of Croydon Conservative Federation
Andrea Thorpe – Chairman of Maidstone and The Weald Conservative Association
Angus West – Chairman of Haltemprice and Howden Conservative Association