Wither party conference?

 

            Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home has pointed out that not many party members go to conference any more.  The main parties now stage big annual events for the corporate guests, lobbyists and media. They provide a platform for Ministers and Shadow Ministers to make their announcements. Leaders heave a sigh of relief if they get through the week without major rows or embarrassments.

           Tim thinks the main problem is the high cost of attending, travel, acccommodation, food and drink. He is considering setting up an alternative cheaper conference which more members might want to go to.

            I think there is another issue apart from cost. The issue is can anything useful be debated and sorted out at a conference?  I suspect people are not merely reacting badly to the expense. I think it is also a reaction to the lack of debate, passion, disagreement. Activists join political parties because they are democrats who are interested in political ideas, in practical solutions, in what government local and national does. They want to able to talk about it, learn more about it, and sometimes disagree about it.  They used to come to be convinced by leaders that they are doing the right things, or to explain to leaders what else they would rather they did.

           The Conservative conference used to have some great debates. The organisers let difficult rebels speak from the floor, to test out Ministers or Shadow Ministers. The platform had to face votes they might lose, arguments they might find uncomfortable, truths they might not recognise. It was good for them, and good for the party. We used to have a balloted motion, so the audience could choose something they wanted to talk about. I remember having to reply to one of them, and was pleased to do so.  I don’t remember the wheels coming off as a result! The platform usually won in the end, and often did persuade people they were right. The possibility that they might not win, that they had to woo their audiences, made it much more exciting and newsworthy.

          Today party conferences are organised by media experts. They want to control the message, stop dissent, control the camera angles and the story. They think that by stopping major arguments within the party from appearing in  the main conference hall they can disguise disagreements from the media and secure a good press.

            As a result the media spend most of their time trying to find disagreements in fringe meetings, in asides, in unscripted comments by the unwary, or scripted comments by the few public rebels. Sometimes the media is fed a disagreement by the spin doctors, on the grounds they would rather have one they control or suits their purpose than one they do not.  Yet if a party is split – as Labour was between Blairites and Brownites – we will be told all about it, however sanitised the main hall and “debates”.  The high spin does not ultimately work. It just adds to the distrust of politics and politicians.

             Let’s take the last Conservative conference. Mr Osborne announced an important change of policy. He said that in future the UK would not go faster than the rest of the EU in raising energy and carbon dioxide charges. He accepted that it was  neither green nor compatible with a UK industrial led recovery to price our manufacturers out of making things here.

             Why didn’t they stage a debate on the whole  question of  global warming? There are members within the party who disagree that the world is warming. There are people who think it maybe, but doubt it is brought about by man made CO2. There are those who accept the theory, but think taxing ourselves too much to stop it here merely exports industry  to competitor economies who take advantage. There are then Lawsonites, who think that even if it is all true, it is cheaper to tackle the symptoms as they arise.

              Wouldn’t we have done the nation a service to have a big debate on this, and to hear the Ministers put their case and seek to convince their party that the revised government approach is the right one? Wouldn’t that have given Mr Osborne more media interest for his important change of stance? Wouldn’t it have shown that argument within the party is worthwhile, as the government has changed its position? Would many want the government to change it more?

               It would also have been a good idea to have an open  discussion of the  Euro crisis. That was always going to be the main news story during conference week come what may. As the UK government is semi detached from the Euro problems it could have been a good opportunity to hear a wide range of views from the floor on how Euroland might fix itself, and what the UK should if anything do and say about it. Isn’t it time to nail the old Labour  lie that the Conservatives are too split on the EU to dare talk about it?  Mightn’t such a debate not have shown great interest, expertise and positive proposals for Euroland, as well as pointing the way to a new and better relationship for the UK with the emerging single economy.

             To esnure balance and to remind people that the Conservative party is a broad church, a general debate on freedom, and what more the government should to to promote it, from civil liberties to a stronger democracy would have rounded it off well. The new nature of the conference would have reinforced the point. This would be the conference of   a thoroughly modern party that thinks the old centralised top down solutions are failing.

            I suspect more would come to such a conference, especially if it took place over a week-end and offered lower prices for attending if you are a working member.

 

 

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86 Comments

  1. Single Acts
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Sir, perhaps you yourself provide an answer as to why so few people bother.

    We have a vastly experienced former minister with real world experience and a track record of being right on a number of major issues, and the portfolio you hold is……

    The influence you can bring to bear on often dotty policy is……

    So if a respected long time MP is ignored, what hope for a party member from the provinces?

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Never mind that, Single Acts. What hope for a voter ?

      • Single Acts
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        None, I fear.

        We can change the personnel, but the substantive policy issues are agreed upon. We are no more than bonded serfs who can from time to time, swap their masters. Nothing more.

    • Morvan
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      The Conservative Party is no more; it has been filleted, all opposition has been crushed, and any MP – or even member – who raises their head above the parapet kisses goodbye to their career and/or membership. All it requires is a decent burial, as the organisation is not what it used to say on the tin, (etc ed)

      Reply: It does not feel like that to me.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t we have done the nation a service to have a big debate

    Yes, but to the vast majority of the population the Partys themselves are irrelevant. We see the conference as a few days of political advertising that we don’t believe and are not overly interested in. The trade fair around the conference looks more like an opportunity for the organsiers to swell the coffers, not to give any advantage to the Country at large.

    Today party conferences are organised by media experts

    From the outside it looks as though the the whole of Parliament is organised by media experts. They tell us what they think we want to hear, then go off and do their own thing regardless. To the party machine, the electorate only matter once every five years – for their vote.

    There are a few in the system (such as our patient host) who buck the trend, but they are in the minority.

  3. John Page
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    That’s the last thing your hierarchy wants, because the media will write it up as ‘splits’ and the Opposition will cherry pick from members’ speeches and cry ‘nasty old Tories’.

    Political debate is so inconvenient. These events are about selling the party package.

    That’s why only an ‘alternative’ conference will work – until Steve Hilton puts an arm round the organiser’s shoulder and explains why it’s not an awfully good idea.

  4. Boudicca
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    It’s not surprising Conservative Party membership is plummeting. Members have almost no opportunity to influence policy: they are marginalised, ignored and only wanted as footsoldiers to deliver leaflets come election time.

    The Party serves the EU and big business which fund it. It is more interested in lobbyists and quango-charities than ordinary British people.

    Prior to the Conference a YouGov Poll was held which found that 75% of Conservative Party members want a Referendum on the EU and 65% want OUT. When you take into account non-members, the figures rise to 85% wanting a Referendum. Yet Cameron had the gall to announce from the platform that the British people don’t care whether a Referendum is held or not.

    The Party Leadership is arrogant, obtuse and out of touch with ordinary people. So it’s not surprising that Conference reflects that. They are only interested in the opinions of the EU, big business and quango-charities.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Pretty much spot on. Cameron’s attitude is “You can have a referendum on the transferable vote instead (no we won’t put any other far more important questions on the EU on the paper – even though it would have cost nothing so to do – because we know we will loose. We only ask voters questions when they will give the answer that we have decided is best for you. That is democracy Cameron style.)

      Hence so few vote at all.

      • Bob
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        It doesn’t matter whether you get 51% of a million votes or 51% of 10,000 votes, you are still the winner. That is why it’s important to vote.

        The prospectus of each party should be irrevocable in the event that they are elected. In other words, they should not be allowed to campaign to keep Air Traffic Control from privatisation and then privatise it as soon as they gain office!

        The BBC Trust should be held to account over it’s failure to prevent the obvious socialist bias at the BBC. It’s almost as if the Trust are part of the Fabian plan.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:01 am | Permalink

          Indeed but the system encourages and rewards politicians who say one thing and do another. Not only that but if they think they are likely to loose at the election they have an incentive to leave as big a mess as possible so the next government gets the blame and they get back in more quickly as a result.

          As “save the world” Brown did. True Cameron has not done much to start to sort it out as yet.

    • Barry Sheridan
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Excellent summary.

    • lola
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. The phrase ‘democratic deficit’ keeps ringing in my head.

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      In contrast Cameron allowed a vote on AV that only 58 Lib Dem MPs wanted and cost the British taxpayer £80 million pounds- times of austerity eh?

    • Derek Buxton
      Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      You have certainly got the last paragraph correct, all so very true and bad for us all.

  5. Gary
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    More proof that the corporate lobbyists rule the country. No matter who you vote for, you get the lobbyists. And we all know what Mussolini called govt by a state and corporate partnership.

    This is where public underwriting of market risk is born, and that is the death of the market and the birth of Too Big To Fail. So much risk has been transferred to the taxpayer that he is buckling.

    The people don’t bother to vote for this abomination anymore. The political class are disgusting.

  6. Robert K
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I’m not a member of a political party, but the sort of conference you describe sounds much better than the soundbite parade that gets dished up at the moment.
    I’m not so sure about the ineffectiveness of the spin doctoring, however. It’s true that journalists do try to dig up interesting stories, but the main thrust of the TV news is slavish reportage. The party conferences are always given top billing on the days they run, irrespective of the actual newsworthiness. If I were a spin doctor (I’m not) I suspect I would be pretty pleased.

  7. norman
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Kudos to yourself and the few MPs from all parties who actually interact with the public in an open forum (such as this) but you have to think that the vast majority, and especially Ministers, don’t want to be bothered by the little people and our worries and concerns or to share the inner thinking. For example, this £75bn of new money, just sprung on us (and I accept MPs may be in the same boat) with no real reasoning why or debate about it, just a fait accompli.

    When I was a member of the Conservatives I got the odd begging letter and that was about it. Even for leadership elections or selecting list MPs up here in Scotland no one seemed to use the new media or interact but instead rely on 19th century technology (a pamphlet, at best, telling you in a couple of paragraphs why you should vote for them).

    You (the Conservative Party) shouldn’t be looking at how to make the Conference relevant again, that’s a forlorn hope, but how to make governing relevant again as a 365 days a year type of thing.

    No easy answer to that I’m afraid.

  8. lifelogic
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    As you say:- “The high spin does not ultimately work. It just adds to the distrust of politics and politicians.” Indeed the conference is an absurd and pointless pathetic pantomime that turns people off politics completely.

    On global warming – clearly CO2 is one of thousands of factors that affect the climate and most projections are a huge exaggeration (or just basically just a guess). Many of the solutions proposed (and absurdly subsidised with tax receipts by Huhne) do not work even, even if you accept these CO2 exaggerations.

    Lawson is broadly right. What is the point of killing our growth for a religion – CO2 is not even saved anyway as the industry just goes abroad anyway.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Huhne must go – he has attached himself to an insane policy, one that cannot work – without the laws of physics being changed.

      He cannot credibly change his views now – without looking yet more absurd still.

      • Derek Buxton
        Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately, too many of his colleagues, in both parties, agree with him. They all show a total ignorance of science, in any one of it’s forms and of engineering. I have just had a letter in response to my query on energy, from a lib-dim MP which contains no solution just a number of sound bites picked from various nonentities. ” Low carbon” indeed the stupid little man doesn’t even know what it is, and he is in “government”!

    • uanime5
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      If most climate change projections are huge exaggerations or a guess then why haven’t other scientists noticed this? With all the scientists throughout the worlds and all the scientific journals you’d think that someone would have reported it.

      Could it be that the scientists are right about climate change and all the investigations have confirmed this?

      • Tom
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        They have, hundreds of eminent ones including Nobel prize winners. Just do a bit of research . “Watts up with that” is a good starting point.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        Most sensible scientists know only too well that it is a total scam.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          They also know the the solutions proposed – PV cells & wind clearly do not work economically with current technology and that even if we had to cool the earth doing so by controlling Co2 levels would be far far less efficient than many other methods.

          Also that a little hotter is probably better than colder and that far more good could be done with the vast sums of money than wasting it on PV systems and wind nonsense.

  9. Chris Lyon
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I attended a two seasonal ‘Conservative Policy Forums’ in Llandudno in much expectation of interesting debate: WRONG!
    They were sterile platforms for various MP’s and AM’s to tell us ‘how it is’. Talk about a ‘top-down’ approach!
    ‘Forum’, at least within my meagre grasp of semantics, implies a free exchange of ideas and opinions. The Party either needs to change the name, to avoid an accusation of mis-selling, or following your own prescription, which would at least put the top of the party back in touch with grassroots opinion.

    • David in Kent
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I go regularly to CPF meetings and am always impressed by the breadth of opinion people bring to the discussion. Certainly people are not told what to say and wouldn’t listen if they were.
      That’s not to say that CPFs could not be improved; better briefing papers aimed at non-experts, better chosen topics which tap into the depth of knowledge present, better questions which do not lead. All these would be improvements but even without them we have fun and hope to have some small influence on the party.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I doubt if the party leadership want more party members to attend. These events seem to have become more like a commercial trade show. The party leadership is only interested in the opinions of those inside their inner circle and their donors who keep them in existence. Not that surprising really when you consider that the same inner core is wedded to membership of an anti-democratic organisation called the EU from where the vast majority of legislation will emanate.

  11. alan jutson
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Would agree with many of your points John, but Party Conferences of all of the Party’s are now no more than a well rehursed media show, devoid of any public debate, where the ministers (shadow ministers) in question, attempt to preen themselves before the worlds media in order to make it look like they have all the answers.

    Perhaps it is the Public who are partly to blame for their obsession with 24 hour news, along with the media, who seem almighty powerful, and who can destroy a career or perhaps even a government, with the constant drip. drip, of biased/selective reporting.

    Perhaps the problem is too much big government. Decades ago, we I am sure never used to have so many changes in policy, policy initiatives, new laws, new regulations, new taxation and benefit changes on the scale that we do now.

    The fact that in order to understand the taxation system properly you need to read more than 10,000 pages of explanation, shows how stupid attempting to micro manage everything has become, and how crazy it all is.

    A well run Government/Country, should surely operate like a well run business, or houshold, once you have a good working business model, it only should ever require minor tweeks to keep it on track.

    Perhaps it is the fault of the electoral system that almost requires politicians to make promises in exchange for votes, so self centred have most people become.

    Perhaps it is the, I want it now, I can’t wait attitude, that is part of the cause.

  12. Malcolm Edward
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    You are quite correct. I didn’t go to the conference this year for the reasons you describe, and I didn’t want to pay money to listen to the wrong policies adopted by the current Conservative leadership.
    Coupled with the high cost of accommodation and the oppressive busy traffic in venues like Manchester and Birmingham, makes going to conference less attractive still. Bring back Blackpool.
    (I didn’t go because I don’t want to be told we need to be in the EU – I want a referendum on in/out, they can find money for the EU but not to keep Ark Royal in commission and our service personnel in a job. I don’t want to hear about their schemes to inflict untold economic damage on us in the name of the false gods of climate change – what ever happened to due diligence and evidence based decision making? Etc.
    I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear about Cameron’s thoughts on gay marriage – marriage which can be traced back thousands of years is not something that is Cameron’s to meddle with. Cameron is undermining the conservative core vote. If I had wanted to support New Labour style policies that are destructive of our country and of society I would have joined the Labour party).

    • uanime5
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Gay marriage can also be traced back thousands of years. Gay marriage occurred in ancients Rome until it was outlawed in 342AD due to the rise of Christianity. Also both the Roman Emperors Nero and Elagabalus married male slaves.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Just checked on this. I can find no evidence Nero married a male slave from reliable sites. He was rumoured to have beaten his pregnant wife to death, but that could have been a malicious misinterpretation of death resulting from childbirth complications. Elagabalus officially married 5 times (to women). His gay relationships were based on rumours and then recently inflated and distorted by politically and socially motivated historical revisionists. Similar to Nero, he may have been subject to malicious gossip because he maintained a loyal slave. Also, how does marrying a slave (albeit a myth) support Marxist equality dogma? Think about it. Slave?

  13. English Pensioner
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I attended my Trade Union Conference on a number of occasions as a Branch Delegate before I retired. Our Branch had put up a motion for discussion, and although it was grouped with others having broadly the same intent, delegates from all the Branches concerned were able to speak on the subject, after which it was thrown open to discussion. Yes, discussion was limited due to time considerations, but surprisingly, I found the whole procedure quite democratic, and the conference broadly decided the policy for the next year rather than the Union’s officials.
    What is the point of an ordinary person belonging to the Tory Party (or any other political party) unless their local branch can do something similar. It is the members who should decide the policy to be followed by the party, not a few activists working in CCHQ.
    Looking back, it seems that my Trade Union was more democratic than the present political parties.

  14. Iain Gill
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    its wider than that surely?

    people not only dont go to conferences, they dont join parties

    you are right real debate and passion is missing, too much politcal correctness and spin doctoring directs topics away from the directions the people want to hear

    the same happened at the other party conferences

    we need open discussions on lots of things

    we need a whole lot more input from a broader set of people

    actually this site is one of the few ways i see politics improving, a decent MP prepared to be challenged and engage

    as the Brown/bigot epispode demonstrated there is a massive gap between the poltical and journalistic cloud and the real people

  15. Mactheknife
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The party conferences are becoming more like the American stage-managed events we see during their elections. Politics is about debate and if debate is stiffled then the participation of the membership becomes irrelevant. Which is why the membership are not attending. Politicians then ask why the public are not engaged with the political process? It doesn’t take a genius to work this one out.

    I was interested in your comment on climate change policy. I welcome the change announced by the Chancellor, although for me it does not go far enough, but I was interested by the comments from Huhne on the TV on Sunday, where he basically said when asked about it that it was business as usual and seemed to disregard the statement made by the Chancellor?

  16. NickW
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The political parties are social machines which have been hijacked by professional politicians in order to put a small clique of buddies and “Best friends” into power.

    They have no relevance to ordinary people.

  17. Caterpillar
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    (1) Given that the media and other parties will seek one point on which to report/focus it is difficult to avoid choreography, otherewise the message that comes out may not be the one of pray/govt/majority.
    (2) If the media, particularly television, believes there is a topical area for debate it will turn it into edutainment/docudrama/documentary with possibly a favoured presenter up front. Political parties are not simply in competition with each other anymore, any interesting debate will not be allowed to reside with politicians.

    May I suggest the way forward might be several, differently biased ‘news’ channels, with party loyalities and closeness? Aligning the business of media and the business of politics may just get the debates out there (or what that be too USA?)

    • forthurst
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Are you that naive that you have not realised that the major political parties are controlled by the money from corporate interests and others even more malign and that the news media are simply an extension of those interests?

      I suggest any news channel intent on truth would eschew party loyalties altogether, or at any rate until such time as they manifested any interest in promoting the common good.

  18. Ferdinand
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    How right you are. My wife and I used to go to the Annual Conference where strong opinions could be expressed and Ministers were occasionally seen to be most uncomfortable at the applause some of these groundfloor comments recieved. The party is no longer challenged by members so there is no point in attending. One can write to one’s MP or even to the Prime Minister – at least someone reads it. I trust you won’t tell me that these epistles from loyal party members are thrown in the bin.

    • nemesis
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Of course they are not just thrown in the bin. They go straight into the ‘Spam box’

  19. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I think online mass discussion (discussion forums and blogs with discussion) will be the most effective form of consultation in the future. It’s natural that if people are engaged through this medium they will then want to meet the people they’ve been talking to if they are given the chance.

    I think the party which relaunches itself first with this in mind will speed ahead.

    I am happy to provide free advice and support to any interested party regarding issues such as the practicalities of managing behaviour on discussion forums and the mapping of emerging conversations and insights. Interested parties are invited to contact me through the contact details provided in this article:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/55142332/Exploring-Discussion-Forums

    For an inspirational insight into the rapidity with which insights and intelligence can develop through discussion forums please do consider looking at linkedin.com > TED : Ideas Worth Spreading (group) > Why would/ should Palestine not request to be permenant member for UNO? discussion which is taking place in a US based forum with over 130,000 members where you can see me using the skills I recommend in practice to make an impossible discussion function. Anyone interested in asking me for free advice on managing forums is welcome to contact me through the PM system on that discussion. Or you can contact me by requesting to join Math, Math Education, Math Culture which I manage on linkedin.

    • APL
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      Rebecca Hanson: “I think online mass discussion .. ”

      I can think of one probably insurmountable obstacle to your proposals.

      1. By and large the politician don’t want to be accountable to the electorate.

      Politicians like the boondoggles, spending other peoples money, whilst being insured against the impact of their policies, they like the option to be utterly reckless whilst in government and then getting shunted off to the Lords, and finally being retired on a very comfortable index linked tax funded pension.

      For that reason, regardless of the merit of your proposals, it hasn’t a cats chance in hell of being adopted.

      On a technical level, you would need to authenticate folk, how would you go about doing that?

      And finally, John Redwood’s blog seems to lead a charmed internet life – long may it be so, I have over the years seen many many IRC, web discussions, newsgroups etc., degenerate into something worse than pub brawl.

      How would you deal with that, without the accusation of censorship?

      Best of luck with your proposals.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Thanks for your comments APL.

        I understand your first concern but still think that the first party which does it effectively will steal a huge march on the others. I think it’s most compatible with the current LibDem culture than the other parties but their ICT infrastructure if pretty dire and you need that to be robustly in place to make this work. That could be rapidly corrected now with appropriate investment.

        Clearly parties would need to select candidates who are personally credible and want to be accountable and would have to have active and effective internal communication systems within which emerging insights are valued and welcomed.

        I think the electorate would respond very positively to this. You have this culture in the SNP already and look what’s happened there.

        Re: authenticating folk, far and away the most important thing is to clearly establish the culture that you are required to be authentic – to be telling the truth to the best of your ability and to be the person you say you are in your details. As discussions develop it quickly becomes clear if key players in those discussions are not who they say they are. It really doesn’t matter too much if the bit part players or observers are not authentic as people will challenge anyone contributing insights to reference and justify them if they are not obviously valid points in their own right. It’s a fairly naturalistic things – people check each other out as conversations progress.

        Re: severe abuse – I’ve investigated that in a lot of detail and have found it is generally related to the moderation practices of the forum management.

        Online mass discussions are naturally emotionally tense places as people chat on them as if they are in their own kitchens with people who understand them, but of course they aren’t. If the moderation is light, fully explained and fair these tensions usually resolve themselves, especially if people are guided towards challenging the points under discussion rather than the person making them (play the ball not the man).

        Good moderation practice involves always notifying the person who is moderated as to precisely why their comment has been moderated and advising them on how to restate it in an acceptable way.

        Reports I’ve had from people who’ve been involved in highly abusive forums indicate that these cultures have been established for two reasons I am aware of.
        Firstly: The forum has a commercial sales agenda and nurtures participants who are ‘easily led’ and will buy what they are told to buy. More open-minded participants are subject to lies being spread about them through the personal messaging system and the resulting cyber-bullying by the ‘easily led’ resident participants, selective deletions by the moderators and random bannings so they can’t defend themselves against the lies.
        Secondly: The forum has a commercial advertising agenda with revenue that depends on numbers of users. In this case ‘trolling’ is very common where some participants are deliberately offensive and provocative to try and get people to participate.
        These issues, combined with anonymity, are highly toxic.

        It’s also seems to be the case that the higher the intelligence level of the blogger and or the moderator, the higher the quality of the discussion. It sets a standard.

        If you want to see lots of high quality discussion forums it’s worth looking on linkedin.com, where people generally are who they say they are and groups are usually moderated by intelligent individuals with the purpose of allowing free discussion.

  20. scottspeig
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Wow, that sounds good.

    I agree John, you should go back to those days, but then we’d have a conservative party again and the wet liberals (Dave & co) certainly don’t want that!

  21. A.Sedgwick
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    The decline in the significance of the three party conferences is a further example of the decline in our democracy – i.e. government does not reflect the wishes of the people sufficiently and even the diehards are disappearing, disallusioned or dying. I think it was in the same article that Conservative Party membership was stated to be 177,000 or two full football stadia and my guess is that most are located in Southern England and close to retirement, if not retired. A petition of 100,000 + signatories has been presented to the Government for an EU referendum – anyone spot the inbalance? As party membership declines further the clamour for petition led referenda on the Swiss model will increase and the hyprocisy of the current party system with MPs being lobby fodder will become unsustainable.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      According to epetitions the EU referendum petition only has 35,000 votes, not 100,000.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        Your using typical socialist logic. ‘3+3 is not 6, as 3×3 = 9’

        Hence, you can deny there is no 100k petition because you have found another one that only has 35k.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14834871

      • DaveK
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        That is because the petition referred to was the one publicised by the Express which I believe totalled over 360,000 signatures (double the membership), which reinforces the point above.

  22. Neil Craig
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    The lack of real debate at conferences, of all parties, is one with the hollowing out of these parties and end of mass membership, & democracy in Britain being reduced to a facade. Why would anybody want to go to a conference where nothing will be decided? Why would anybody want to be a member of a party when they have can have zero influence on what it tells them they must believe.

    When Cameron broke his “cast iron pledge”, thereby completely reversing Tory policy on a referenmdum he did not have to ask the members, or conference, or the MPs or anybody. We all know how any real debate on that would go, whichj is why any debate is censored.

    I am pretty sure how a debate on alleged “catastrophic warming” would go which is why the BBC don’t allow it and not coincidentally, why the parties don’t allow it.

    Cost opf going to conference, as a proportion of pay, was far higher in the 1950s when parties truly were mass movements.

    The Con/Lab/Lib parties used to be political parties, then they became rallies, to hear the beloved leader, now they are no more than a small group of cronies with access to the media.

  23. Robert
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    John , a very sensible post and goes along way to explaining why there has been a continual disengagement by the populace from the political process. In fact there is a very high r2 ( correlation) between the growth of spin and stage management by parties and the fall in members of those parties when adjusted for the brief flurries in opposition ahead of a possible turn in fortunes ahead of an election. There is simply no real engagement, political debate anymore hence the disillusionment with the political class. The issue of how little real control our MPs really have versus EU in the more en-lightened also is a contributing actor!

  24. Peter Stroud
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree. A real debate on climate change should take place within the party. But unfortunately the PM, most of the cabinet and the entire LibDem part of the coalition are completely convinced by the arguments of the AGW alarmists.

    As a retired scientist, albeit not a climatologist, I know that the science is most certainly not settled. And it is largely based on unverified computer models using often assumed (guessed) parameters. Furthermore, the number of climate scientists now sceptical of the accepted dogma is increasing.

    I have written to my Conservative MP on the subject and he has passed my letters on to the last two Energy and Climate Change Secretaries. Frankly, the answers I have received have been so useless as to be unworthy of consideration. In fact there have been no answers to my questions. Just restatements of the hackneyed mantras of the UN IPCC. I am afraid that the current holder of the post, Chris Huhne is an utter fanatic and is completely obsessed with wind generators, even though these have been proved to be grossly inefficient and wildlyexpensive.

    I know there are a number of Conservative back benchers who are sceptical of catastrophic AGW. Only they can form a coherent group and push for debate on the subject, within the party. Climate sceptics are being treated as were sceptics of the single currency, ten years ago. But they have now been proved right. I am convinced the same will happen in the case of climate change.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Judging by your post you’re not a scientist.

      If you’re not a climatologist then you’re not in a good position to judge whether the science is settled.

      A real scientist would know the names of the computer models and be able to explain any problems with them, rather than write a vague statement that explains nothing. This is supposed to be a central part of your argument.

      “Furthermore, the number of climate scientists now sceptical of the accepted dogma is increasing.”

      This sentence makes it clear you’re a climate change denier and have no understanding of how science works. Real scientists do research to demonstrate errors, not whine that the existing science is a dogma.

      “Just restatements of the hackneyed mantras of the UN IPCC.”

      So you’re saying that you know more about climate changes than the scientists studying it even though you admitted you’re not a climatologist. Care to explain how you know so much.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        Uanime5 – I am not a climate change denier.

        I don’t think our country should embark unilaterally on a zero carbon policy. This would be not only economic suicide but, above all else, futile.

        I believe that this is what should be discussed openly at conference. Not whether or not ‘the science is settled.’

        For your information I’m also for gay marriage, though I do not think it should be forced on religious groups – or at the very least not on Christianity without being forced on Islam too.

        • APL
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

          Uanime5: “The science is settled ..”

          The science is never settled. That is the difference between science and dogma.

      • forthurst
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        “A real scientist would know the names of the computer models and be able to explain any problems with them”

        How about the Met Office has abandoned publishing long range forecasts because they had the effect of bringing themselves and their computer models into disrepute? Why would they have names though? There could be only one model which predictably defined the Earth’s climate accurately.

        The reason many scientists who are not Climatologists doubt the science of AGW is that scientists know firstly that the Earth’s climate is an open system and secondly that consequently it is extremely unlikely that Climatologists have identified all the variables that govern climate and, even less likely, allocated them the correct weighting. In particular, proposing that (low) CO2 concentrations have an overriding influence over that of the Sun is absurd.

      • APL
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

        Peter Stroud: “As a retired scientist, albeit not a climatologist … ”

        uanime5: “Judging by your post you’re not a scientist.”

        Here we see how a global warming fanatic defines a scientist. Someone who agrees with him!

      • RB
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

        “If you’re not a climatologist then you’re not in a good position to judge whether the science is settled.”

        Couldn’t disagree more. It is those who are not climatologists that are unravelling the poor science, appalling statistical techniques, FOI avoidance, repeated failure of model predictions or projections to match empirical reality, and other shenanigans of the very small core of climatologists responsible for the alleged “consensus” and the IPCC position. Eminent physicists, nobel laureates, and other scientists, engineers and statisticians are increasingly voicing serious concerns about the science and the modelling. In addition it is for policy makers to interpret the science and make policy decisions. Others in that field are increasingly expressing concern about the policy direction being taken and indeed George Osborne is now (at last) realising that the policy direction so far taken is highly damaging to this country’s economy. Chris Huhne has amply demonstrated that he has little interest in a proper analysis of the science and the policy alternatives. His own remarks, (sadly as with most politicians) have shown that he is remarkably ignorant of the science and the growing body of scientific research and opinion that is increasingly demonstrating that the so called “consensus” is a house built on sand. Huhne is still in the “science is settled” mode and is about 10 years behind the curve. Most scientists would classify climatology as a social science in any event. In a true science sense where the scientific method is paramount, Hansen, Schmidt, Trenberth, Mann, Jones, et al are not scientists.

        Interesting that you slap down Peter Stroud for not providing reams of detailed information (as if he could in a small blog post where he makes a general and relevant point). Yet in your own earlier post you make rather naieve remarks about the science which clearly demonstrate that all you have is argument from authority and quite likely very little personal knowledge of the state of the science:

        “If most climate change projections are huge exaggerations or a guess then why haven’t other scientists noticed this?”

        They have – read the lliterature and blogs like Climate Audit and Watts Up With That, Climate Etc. or Bishop Hill. Then go back to Realclimate and see it with fresh eyes.

        “With all the scientists throughout the worlds and all the scientific journals you’d think that someone would have reported it.”

        Many scientists have and have been doing so for many years – go and do some reading. Maybe start with the Hockey Stick Illusion.

        “Could it be that the scientists are right about climate change and all the investigations have confirmed this?”

        No, and they haven’t.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Peter Stroud you say:

      Chris Huhne is an utter fanatic and is completely obsessed with wind generators, even though these have been proved to be grossly inefficient and wildly expensive.

      This “green” house “bling” also do not even work in C02, or in practical or economic terms – all things considered. Huhne must surely know this (it is after all very simple to work out).

      So it seems to me that either he is really too incompetent and ignorant of these facts (which is unlikely) alternatively he does understand this has a personal agenda for some electoral or unexplained reason and simply does not care about the waste or the C02 produced by his daft feeding tariffs.

      Either way his position is absurd and he must go. I can not see any other reasonable explanation.

    • Mactheknife
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I too have witten on the subject and received replies from Gregory Barker at DECC, which do not answer any questions raised and are scientifically laughable. But when will this madness end ? Probably when we have destroyed our economy and all jobs have gone to China, Brazil, India etc who have no silly legislation to slow them down.

  25. Alan Wheatley
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    While it is possible for the public to watch and listen to the debates unedited on BBC Parliament, I guess most have neither the time nor the inclination. I managed to see a small sample. Perhaps it is not generally realised that this is possible, for the BBC are particularly unforthcoming about this opportunity. Nor is information readily available as to what is on when so as to be able to choose that of probable interest.

    So the public relies on the media to learn of what has happened, mostly news bulletins, and perhaps current affairs, and press coverage. But in all cases this is the party as filtered by media editors rather than in the raw.

    A major failing of broadcasters is that they are not up to the job. Thus they are more interested in splits on issues rather than reporting a debate of the issues because they do not understand the issues: if A says one thing and B says something else then any fool can see there is a “split”, but it takes knowledge of the subject to know the merits and failing of the A and B arguments. This shows up most clearly when a generalist presenter is controlling a debate between experts on a specialist subject – e.g. international banking. Much is said but all that is learnt is there is disagreement: the merits of the case are not explored because the presenter does not have the knowledge to know what questions to ask so as to test the credibility of what the guests are saying. So the whole exercise is pointless, and as a viewer I often find myself wondering why I bothered to watch yet another waste of my time.

    If political debate is to return to its rightful place at the centre of politics, then politicians need direct access to the public; not selectively presented by inept media. They should then feel less inclined to resort to spin.

    If the BBC is not a source of enlightenment, perhaps parties, or politicians, should stage their own debates and make them available on the web. Obviously these need to be credible debates as nobody is going to bother to watch what is nor more than opposition bashing dressed up as debate. But if done well – who knows, it could go viral!

    The media will, of course, continue to have their say, but they will need to sharpen up their act as audiences learn that the pronouncement of the superficially plausible political editor is not the be all and end all of the matter.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Given that MPs often avoid debates because it would lead to them being shown as being wrong on an issue don’t expect a debate any time soon.

      Also the BBC often gets experts in to explain the issues regarding some debates. Perhaps the BBC needs a debate channel to help inform people of the various problems regarding various issues.

  26. pipesmoker
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    JR your time will come, I have no doubt about that, when it does you have to do your duty to your country and in doing that you will serve your party well!

    Political suicide maybe but someone of your calibre has to put their head above the parapet, Enoch Powell, Peter Shore and others did and failed, the time is now ripe?

  27. Mark
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Should it be reported by Sarah Vine?

  28. sm
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Democracy has been broken, by executive party control.
    More binding referenda like the Swiss. I dream on.

  29. Damien
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    JR: My preference would be for a week’s conference based on a derivative of the general and local elections coverage. It’s is already happening with the the median coverage of boring speeches relieved by interview and comment sessions hosted by celebrity journalists like Paxman and Andrew Neil. Rather than party members having the expense of travel and accommodation they should organise meaningful debates in their local areas. This would generate some competition so that only the most interesting topics such as those that you suggest might get media coverage.

    Currently the media is having a hard time attracting audiences based on the format in use however if they could persuade the parties to be more imaginative they might aspire to the audiences that the general and local elections generate. That would be good for the members, media and democracy.

    Off topic : I read a review of Professor Steve Keen’s new edition of ‘Debunking economics’. He reckons that the link between recessions and money supply (M0) is tenuous and that there is a much stronger correlation between recessions and debt. Having accurately predicted the current recession he also seems to say that QE will not make much difference and that we should instead engage in debt forgiveness ( a jubilee or unilateral write off). Off course this will never happen so we may be facing an orderly down payment of debt over the next ten years instead and rising bankruptcies and deeper longer recession according to his theory.

  30. Ralph McHendry
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood is ten years ahead of his time. Just like Martin Peters.
    I’m twenty years ahead – no-one listens to me…yet!

  31. Kathy
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Tim Montgomerie is either arrogant, stupid or delusional. I’ll let you pick which one.

    He wants to organise Tory Conference Mk2 and fully expects that to achieve or change anything? All it will consist of is a bunch of Westminster spivs struggling to get jobs in the real world circling around Montgomerie like he’s some sort of political oracle (which he isn’t).

    The irony of him criticising the main Tory conference when we all know his one will just be full of individuals and organisations self promoting is just unreal.

    People keep forgetting who Montgomerie is being paid by. It is in their best interest to stem any dissent within the right wing ranks as much as possible, Montgomerie is doing his paid job by pretending to care and organising an event where people pretend to be doing something about it.

    If people want to make a change I suggest they look towards the smaller groups and organisations putting together conservative and libertarian minded conferences to promote the traditional conservative cause. It is those ones that have the power to effect change in mainstream politics.

    Not a sycophantic spivvy conference full of political wannabes circling the oracle of politics in hope of a smile!

  32. uanime5
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    The way a conference works seems to mirror the way political parties now work. The front benchers decide everything and the back benchers are expected to support it without being allowed any input. Maybe if whips were abolished back benchers might start voicing their own opinions again.

    • RB
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      “Maybe if whips were abolished back benchers might start voicing their own opinions again.”

      That’s a great idea and a good start.

      In my view things have got to such a sorry state that we should abandon party politics. MPs should be elected from within their constituencies as independents based on their stated positions on various issues relevant to those constituents.

      Party politics has crushed democracy. Prospective MPs are parachuted in to constituencies with which they have absolutely no connection as a reward for their previous service as Spads, speech writers, door openers and boot lickers. As a result we now have career MPs who have never run a business, had any relevant employment, or experience save for school, uni, intern, Spad, and then parliament. And then as backbenchers they are whipped to the party line and their future careers depend on compliance. I want independent, experienced men and women in the HoC who have informed opinions and the balls to argue their case and who act without fail in the interests of this country.

  33. Bernard Otway
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I see from today’s mail that Lord Hesketh has crossed over to UKIP to join Stuart Wheeler to fundraise,looking at his reasons why they mirror some of the above.I predict many more such defections in the next months, when party members and MP’s as well see the game is up,what for instance will the Culled Mp’s do when 50 go at the next election some of whom are bound to be Tory if I was running Ukip I would be targeting them right now,and selecting seats to push the UKIP message very hard,after all Lord Hesketh says they are a very conservative type party and are more so than the current crop at the top of the Tory party especially Dc and crew.We need parties to do what their members INSTRUCT them to and if they don’t FIRE THEM,only then will we support them.Our vote is something precious and NOT to be trifled with by US or THEM.Someone else on this site said something about putting heads above parapets lets urge more to do so.

  34. LibertarianLou
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Nail on the head John.

    I think Mr Montgomerie is partially correct; people might pay the costs to join in with a real debate, and they might come to an advert for the party for the benefit of outsiders if it was free/cheap. But quite why people should pay to hear what is essentially a load of govt press releases, I’m not sure.

    On the other hand, there was the book signing for the Future of Conservatism which prompted interesting discussion. I did not agree with lots of what was said, I did agree with some, and as you say, I was actually able to learn new things, hear new arguments, and see a particular issue from a different perspective.

    I’m not a Tory incidentally, I was there for work purposes though at the signing in a personal capacity. But I do think people are grown up enough to handle debate, discussion, and questioning. At least you would hope the people in government are able to!

  35. Disaffected
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Your point of view is sound. Your views could equally explain why people are disaffected with politics and politicians.

    Bodiccia (?) brilliantly summed it up on your blog last week: The UK’s contribution to the EU shouldn’t be reduced, it should be cut completely. The British people have never voted to be a member of this anti-democratic political monstrosity and yesterday, our Prime Minister-without-a-mandate announced once again that only HIS and other politicans’ opinions count. Our opinion is not wanted, not needed and will be ignored, anyway.

    Some ‘Democracy’ we live in. We have an elected dictatorship, which in turn is governed by an unelected dictatorship in Brussels. And like all dictatorships it is corrupt, riddled with fraud and does not act in the interests of the people – only itself.

    Reply: The UK electorate voted Yes to the EEC in 1975, and have voted in a majority of federalist Labour/lib Dem/Nationalist MPs soldily from 1997 to 2010,

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Mr Redwood.

      The EEC in 1975 is nothing like the entity that it is today. If the major parties keep putting forward federalist candidates then of course it’s going to look like we’re voting for federalism. We have little option other than to vote UKIP or BNP if we can bear to put aside parochial issues.

      The British people should be commended for not voting BNP or UKIP. Instead we’re disparaged as xenophobic nut jobs. The quantifiable facts show that we’re nothing of the sort. For this we get utterly shafted.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

        Vote BNP or UKIP … or abstain as many of us have been doing.

        Disappointing about the referendum poll.

        Should it take a poll to make politicians discuss such an important issue ?

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      In relation to your first point, the public voted for something different from what they actually got. In relation to the second point, I doubt most voters took into account whether they were federalists and voted for the party they stood for rather than individual EU preference of the MP.

      A bit like the elementary question asked of students: who does an MP represent- party, interest group, constituent etc. Most naively think it the constituency (even though party favourites are parachuted into safe seats without knowledge or loyalty of the area they represent).

    • RB
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

      Yes but the game has changed.

      We are now in a situation where votes for the main three are wasted. In reality we only choose a new mangement consultancy to run the country in the same way as before, generally, as most of us now perceive, in their own interests or in the interests of their corporate or rich backers and contacts.

      It shouldn’t be ignored that we are also in a period where recent history is replete with politicans who make promises before elections, secure votes based on those promises, and then break them when in office. Add to this the expenses scandal, the fact that theiving MPs are out of jail in a few months but someone taking a bottle of water in the recent riots gets four years……the never ending bailouts of rich private bankers, socialising their losses but not their profits…….the EU’s history of lying, corruption, and lack of democratic accountability coupled with its ever growing influence over us…………the basic corruption that is the bailout mechanism currently being used by the EU in which it is hanging on for dear life pumping money into private banks until they have enough to cover their losses on a greek default, thus again socialising private bank losses, as intended……………successive governments that have spent and spent so that our children and grandchildren will be born into debt slavery………the collapse of the private pension industry coupled with the burgeoning public sector pension liability which will never be met and which will result in the government reneging on its contractual obligations to those workers by unilaterally reducing their pension payments despite their lifetime contributions…………..the breakdown of the relationship between the police and the public……………the consistent and repeated government promises to consult with the people and then they ignore what they say…………the never ending nannying and state interference in our every day lives – no smoking, no eating salt, no being fat, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, if you don’t live a state sanctioned lifestyle the NHS will not treat you even though you have paid the ponzi NI contributions all your life, no saying anything that anyone (even someone you have never met or to whom any remark was not directed) might find offensive…………there are so many things I could write here – the list is almost endless.

      I agree with Disaffected – our democracy is broken.

    • APL
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      JR: “The UK electorate voted Yes to the EEC in 1975, and have voted in a majority of federalist Labour/lib Dem/Nationalist MPs soldily from 1997 to 2010,”

      You keep reciting this invocation, but the spell has no magic.

      Party (doesn’t matter if it is Tory, Liberal or Labour) field EUrophillic candidates, they do this by means of their selection criteria for candidates*.

      The Euro / European Union is not discussed at a national level in UK General Elections. It’s always the NHS, and that discussion is conducted in terms such as to be a calculated insult by politicians to the electorate.

      “My party will spend more on the NHS than your party, Na Na Na!”

      Then we are enticed before the election and the blandishments denied after the election. Cast iron promises, a referendum on substantial changes to the European Union treaties … except where there are substantial changes, then we will lie and dodge our way out of our previous commitments.

      All in all, politicians taken as a class are the lowest of the low, you cannot even take a politicians word as his bond.

      What is sad Mr Redwood is that by repeating your mantra you condone the behaviour.

      *As exposed by a former Tory candidate now member of the UKIP.

  36. John
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    #Alan Wheatley – excellent post.

    It seems to me that at Party Conferences the parties are running scared of the media, especially the BBC which is always looking for division and disagreement. I don’t think the public share that agenda, and the party conference’s should be principally for the parties themselves.

    I think the present furore over Osbourne is also largely media led – I don’t think the public are concerned about it.

  37. James Barr
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I think the degree of stage management is the problem. If you look elsewhere, festivals of speech (which is effectively what a party conference is) are flourishing. Indeed you often find politicians talking at book festivals flying kites. In an increasingly virtual world people prize real and authentic experiences, debate and tension. Until party conferences start delivering these again few people will want to waste days off work attending them.

  38. Winston Smith
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I spent two years as an activist for two constituencies. There are some decent people around the Party, but most of them are elderly. The younger members are generally in it for themselves, hoping for a career in politics. Then there are those who joined because they are either unhappy with the Labour Govt/Council or they are want to join a Party that espouses their value and beliefs. The Party needs the last group. However, I saw so many of these come and go. They quickly realise the Party is a social club and offers nothing to them, bar unpaid donkey work and the occasional patronising words from a councillor if they are deemed worthy, an MP.

    The centralisation of power and New Labouresque micro-management after Cameron was elected leader made stalwarts disillusioned. The utter shambles of the 2010 election strategy and the inefficiency of the party machine was the last straw for me. Now I will not vote Conservative whilst this regime are running the show, with their quasi-socialist rhetoric and policies. I will vote UKIP, but I am hoping a new populist party will emerge, from the ashes of the Conservative party

    • Winston Smith
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      That should read “10 years as an activist”.

  39. Sue
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Redwood tries but seems to miss the point.

    “That the Member of Parliament for Wokingham would appear to be suffering from failing eyesight and/or a loss in his power of reasoning is indeed sad. Media experts may organise conferences, may actually control message, stop dissent etc, but they are only carrying out the wishes of the cabal that controls the Tory Party. That there is a lack of debate is obvious, as is the reason why there is no longer a balloted motion. Why on earth would the Dear Leader want a discussion on a subject he does not wish to discuss – such as Europe and Global Warming/Energy Provision. On the point of global warming and energy provision, where is the logic of holding a debate on a subject over which his party has no actual control as that control lies in Brussels?”

  40. Mike Stallard
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    We had a primary to elect our local MP here in Cambridgeshire. It was really good. Lots of questions asked of the six candidates, lots of views expressed and I think I can say for sure that the right man was elected from a very strong bunch.
    Local democracy really does work.
    But the Party Conferences are, frankly, boring and irrelevant. I did not even bother to turn on the TV.

  41. peter wood
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree completely with John Redwood that we need to breathe new life in to the party conference. Just letting associations/groups submit motions would be a good measure of the issues activists are concerned about. Debate should be the lifeblood of a political party.
    The cost of going to conference also concerns me. The big cities are much more expensive than the Blackpools. The cost of a pass (especially when applied for “late”) can be prohibitive. It would be interesting to know how much profit the party made from this year’s conference!

  42. Mike Fowle
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    As usual, I agree with your views, JR. I wonder which came first – was it the media whose level of political reportage is so abysmal (“Catgate” sic Daily Mail, or that silly woman in The Independent saying now we can hate the Tories again, doesn’t it feel great), or was it political parties adopting to and using the media? No doubt the spin of the Blair era has a lot to do with it, but that is not the whole story. It is immensely depressing, whichever. It is only blogs like this which keep me going.

  43. Kenneth
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood

    Surely the Conservative Party pioneered the ‘managed’ conference way before the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party and surely this was due to the media exploiting the very elements that you are now calling to be reinstated.

    Although I agree with you in principle I can only see a more open style of conference backfiring badly.

    I get the impression that some Conservatives feel the BBC is treating them less unfairly than they have in the past. I think that also. However, I feel it is more to do with the fact the government is nearer to the BBC position than previous Conservative administrations and NOT because of any significant BBC reform: most of the same types of people are at the BBC now as were there 30 years ago, the time when BBC staff had a ‘massive Left wing bias’ according to Mark Thompson.

    I fear you may have a false sense of security as the BBC is dealing with a coalition and not a Conservative government.

    As such, my fear is, unless the BBC reforms itself, the type of conference you so wish to see will end up with the BBC trawling for splits and negative comments at the Conservative conference (much more than at a Labour or Lib-Dem conference) and this could damage the Conservative Party, and causes that you support, more than it helps it.

    I think this especially true of any climate change debate. The BBC is so obsessed with this that it will have you and the party for dinner. Climate change is BBC territory and it will not allow you or any politician anywhere near it without a fight.

  44. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I assume that ‘wither’ rather than ‘whither’ is a genuine mistake rather than a Freudian slip. The word actually used might be right. Enoch used to call Party Conferences silly jamborees.

    Reply: I meant Wither…..

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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