Tory App R.I.P.

This afternoon an error message popped up on the screens of many delegates who downloaded the Tory conference app to their phones.

After the data leak many will say “goodbye and good riddance”…

Security Blunder Leaks Conference Delegates Data

The Tory Conference app has been hacked and people have got hold of Boris Johnson’s mobile number, prank called the Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson, changed Michael Gove’s profile pic to Rupert Murdoch… well you get the idea.  When Guido says “hacked” he actually means you just had to enter Boris’s email address and you were logged in as him. Which is exactly what Guardian columnist Dawn Foster did when she logged on as Boris Johnson. She then – illegally in a breach of data protection laws – tweeted out the exploit to all and sundry leading to a massive data breach being opened for almost an hour before CCHQ managed to shut down all the personalisation functions. The app store says the app was heavily downloaded today…

Guido is a bit late to reporting this because for the last 3 hours he has being trying to discover what personal data of his is out in the public domain. Under the GDPR law it is an obligation for organisations to inform individuals without undue delay. They must also

  • ensure you have robust breach detection, investigation and internal reporting procedures in place. This will facilitate decision-making about whether or not you need to notify the relevant supervisory authority and the affected individuals.
  • keep a record of any personal data breaches, regardless of whether you are required to notify.

Guido contacted the CCHQ press office trying to find out what was going on after he saw his conference pass photo was out there on the internet and he got a prank text message. At the time of going to pixel attendees have not even been informed of the data breach unless they logged in before the personalisation functionality was removed. If like Guido you had no idea about the existence of the app never mind that your data was on it, you will not have been informed. Journalists, MPs, ministers, diplomats and regular delegates who have been compromised will not know unless they are told by CCHQ – as required by law. So that warning needs to go out, now.

Only 15,316 Tories in London

A somewhat indiscreet press release from CCHQ has revealed that there are just 15,316 Tory members in London who were eligible to vote in the Mayoral candidate selection.  That isn’t even enough to fill QPR’s Loftus Road Stadium…

A total of just 7,321 voted in the mayoral primary, which CCHQ revealed was a turnout of 47.8%. All Tory members in London who joined the party more than three months ago were eligible to vote. Tories have some work to do if Shaun is going to seriously challenge Sadiq…

Tories Introduce Equality & Diversity ‘Re-Education’ Programme


Tory Party Chairman Brandon Lewis has emailed local party associations to promote new ‘equality and diversity training’ provided by the party. The service is open to all association chairmen, officers, and members. It has been immediately dubbed a “re-education programme”.

Whilst the programme is voluntary, the promotional email encourages members to take part, stating that “I hope you will find this service useful.” Guido can remember when Conservatives were opposed to equality*…

*More specifically, egalitarianism.

CCHQ Encouraging Associations to Reject New Membership Applications

In a confidential memo from Natalie Crosby-Jones, head of membership, circulated by CCHQ to local Tory organisers, they are encouraged to refuse membership to people joining “whose declared opinions or conduct shall, in their judgement, be inconsistent with the objects or financial well-being of the Association, or likely to bring the party into disrepute.”

A nervous CCHQ appears to be encouraging scepticism from associations towards new members. Arronophobia?

UPDATE: Arron Banks has just tweeted “I was a Tory member & donor up until 2013, I left over the referendum. For the party chairman Brandon Lewis to pick and choose the members they like seems a dangerous path. Many might think I’m more conservative than Anna Soubry.”

CCHQ Confirm Lord Sheikh Under Investigation

Stephen Phillips, Secretary to the Board of the Conservative Party, has written to complainants to confirm that Lord Sheikh is “under investigation pursuant to the Code of Conduct for Party Representatives”. Complaints were made after Guido first reported his attendance at the conference which party chairman Brandon Lewis described as making Jeremy Corbyn “unfit for senior public office”. Awkward.

CCHQ Exodus Continues

The CCHQ walkout continues, as Guido can reveal yet more departures. Congratulations to Charlotte Ivers, one of the brightest talents at the Conservative Research Department who has been poached by Number 10. She is very popular among colleagues and will be missed. Jess Prestidge has been snapped up by the Bright Blue think tank, she will be a big loss to the CCHQ briefing team. Thomas Dee is also off, leaving the Media Monitoring Unit severely depleted following the departure of its boss Gareth Milner. Meanwhile, Will Holloway is leaving CRD to become a SpAd for Greg Clark at BEIS. CCHQ is really haemorrhaging staff at the moment. The atmopshere is toxic and others are looking to leave. It does have a rats leaving a sinking ship feel…

Yet More CCHQ Departures

Guido can reveal yet more departures from CCHQ. Head of Media Monitoring Gareth Milner has become a bit of a legend at Matthew Parker Street after surviving two deployments to Afghanistan and the 2017 general election campaign. Milner is much-loved by colleagues – not just for the sizeable amount of Lego he has installed around the office – he is one of the good guys in Westminster, has a great nose for a story and a thug life meme, and will be extremely tough to replace. Milner has been poached as the new Head of Digital at the Centre for Policy Studies starting in October, a great hire for them. Congratulations… 

The CCHQ digital team has been hit by heavy losses. Head of Online Marketing Tony Hinds and Head of Film and Video Jonny Piper have left. Hinds and Piper are the last links to the Craig Elder 2015 digital team and leave the current operation with just three people and no election experience. Which hardly bodes well when the Tory digital output is already outclassed by Labour and Momentum on a daily basis. Starting to resemble the Marie Celeste over there…

CCHQ Receives Lord Sheikh Tunis Conference Complaint

CCHQ is under pressure to launch an investigation into Lord Sheikh after receiving a formal complaint about his attendance at Jeremy Corbyn’s 2014 Tunis conference, also attended by Hamas and other extremists. Yesterday Guido published photos of the Tory peer speaking at the scandal-hit event, and Sheikh confirmed to us on the phone that he was present. And involved…

Last night Zac Goldsmith demanded Lord Sheikh was booted out of the Tory party, tweeting:

“If this man is not immediately expelled from the Conservative Party, the Party hierarchy’s complaints about Corbyn will look entirely cynical.”

The complaint also calls for investigations into Brandon Lewis, Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry. CCHQ announced that they were automatically investigating Boris after they received a complaint – will they be pursuing these with such public vigour as well?

The complaint in full:

Tories: It’s Wrong to Say Burka is Oppressive

The Tories appear to be having a total mental breakdown about the burka / niqab. The new line, delivered by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright this morning, is that it is wrong to describe it as “oppressive”. This is a very strange position for the Tory party to be taking – you have to wonder what on earth is going on. Guido is assured that Wright’s words are not the CCHQ line to take…

Prominent Muslim and feminist politicians on the left have long criticised face coverings. In 2016, Sadiq Khan said he believed the niqab could be “insidious” and asked “what is going on in those homes” where it is worn:

“When I was younger you didn’t see people in hijabs and niqabs, not even in Pakistan when I visited my family. In London we got on. People dressed the same. What you see now are people born and raised here who are choosing to wear the jilbab or niqab. There is a question to be asked about what is going on in those homes. What’s insidious is if people are starting to think it is appropriate to treat women differently or that it has been forced on them. What worries me is children being forced to adopt a lifestyle. Should women be permitted to cover their faces in London? It’s not for me to tell women what to wear. But I do think that in public service we should be able to see each other’s faces. Eye contact matters. You should be able to see the face.”

And this was Harriet Harman speaking in 2013, outlining her principled feminist opposition to the face veil as discriminatory towards women:

Yet senior Tories are now pushing the line that you can’t say the burka is oppressive. What do Tory MPs think about that? 

Brandon Taps Remainer Ally For CCHQ Comms Role

This morning Politico Playbook had this on the Tory party’s search for a new Director of Communications, after the CCHQ press office was left severely depleted by a raft of departures:

“Party Chairman Brandon Lewis has already tried to lure one prominent female lobby hack with the promise of a whopping salary and a deputy of her choice … but the offer was turned down. The hunt goes on.”

Guido hears attention has now turned to the PR world to find a new Tory spin chief. Brandon Lewis wants Caroline Preston from comms agency Stonehaven to take over as he seeks to install key allies ahead of a coming leadership contest. Preston was a former head of broadcasting for David Cameron at Number 10, who then worked at the heart of the Remain campaign. Preston features regularly in Craig Oliver’s book, where Sir Craig talks about working with her to keep Theresa May off the screens on referendum night, and gives her a special acknowledgement at the end alongside other prominent Stronger In staff. Guido hears the Tories are keen to ensure the job is taken by a woman as they do not have many in key roles at the CCHQ boys’ club.

Brandon is trying to build a power base at Matthew Parker Street – the word is he genuinely considers himself a leadership contender and wants to stuff CCHQ with his allies in time for any contest. Party chairman is theoretically a formidable platform for a leadership candidate thanks to the face time you get with members, and it seems Brandon seriously sees himself as the Remain candidate. Good luck to Caroline if she gets the gig, Brandon certainly needs all the spin help he can get after pair-gate…

UPDATE: Re that Politico gossip above, Guido is told Preston is the only person to which CCHQ has given a formal offer.

Tories Jump On Love Island Bandwagon

The Tories are taking data collection lessons from Labour and Momentum – angling for Love Island fans’ contact details in return for a chance to win some snazzy water bottles. Their new casually written splash page informs fans that some of the Love Island water bottles will have a political twist, such as the message “Don’t let Corbyn mug you off”, but, if you’re lucky, others won’t. The application form is rounded off by three cringe hashtags: “#FreeMerch #FinalCountdown #DontBeAMelt”. Not sure how these are “Love Island water bottles” in any way other than they use some slightly similar looking water bottles on Love Island. Possibly a clever way of getting under 30s’ voter data. Definitely a better strategy than their old Insta page

CCHQ Begs Association Chairmen to Publicly Support Chequers

CCHQ has emailed Tory association chairmen begging them to publicly support Theresa May’s Chequers deal if journalists come asking. The email, sent over the weekend by CCHQ Director General Alan Mabbutt, even suggested a form of words for local party chairmen to use, saying Chequers “delivers fully on the referendum result”. One of those who received the email says it is unprecedented for CCHQ to be issuing verbatim lines to association chairmen like this. Guido has not seen any association chairmen use the line…

Statement to Newspapers and Journalists

We are aware that newspapers and others will try to portray the Party in a bad light. Any responses will almost certainly be filtered to suit their agenda. However, if you do decide that you should respond may we suggest the following? “I support our plan for Brexit as set out by the Prime Minister. It delivers fully on the referendum result, taking back control of our borders, money and laws.”

Good luck with that…

Meanwhile, Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis has also emailed association chairmen offering them a briefing in person with Gavin Barwell in Downing Street, or a conference call with the PM herself.

We would like to offer you, as Chairmen of Conservative Associations across the UK, the chance to hear more about the details of the Government’s plan for Brexit and to ask any questions you might have about it, both for yourselves and on behalf of members in your Associations.

We therefore invite you to sign up to one of the options below:

Briefings in person at 10 Downing Street

Gavin Barwell, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, will be holding two briefing sessions at No. 10 for Association Chairmen on the Brexit plan. If you would like to attend one of these, please email xxxxx specifying which one of the dates below you would like to attend.

1. Tuesday 17th July – 15:45-16:45

2. Wednesday 18th July – 09:30-10:30

Conference call with the Prime Minister

We recognise that not all Association Chairmen will find it practical to attend a briefing in person, so we also invite you to join a conference call with the Prime Minister on Tuesday 17th July at 18:45.

Best wishes,

Brandon

Guido’s sense is that this tweet from Bosworth Conservatives is representative of Tory associations across the country:

But perhaps Gavin and Theresa will be able to charm them round…

CCHQ Defaced With Anti-Heathrow Graffiti

Anyone seen Zac today?

SpAd Moves: Amy Fisher Director of External Affairs at CCHQ

Guido can bring you another SpAd move: Amy Fisher is going back to CCHQ as their new director of external affairs, outreach and special projects. Amy was most recently SpAd to Amber Rudd at the Home Office. Congratulations… 

Last time round we forgot to mention that former MP Lee Scott is going to work for James Brokenshire. Full list:

Let Guido know any updates

Tories Hiring New Head of Candidates

The Tories are advertising for one of the most powerful jobs in the country: a new CCHQ Head of Candidates. It is hard to overstate the significance of the vacancy – whoever gets the job will effectively choose the next generation of Tory MPs, control the Candidates List and run the Parliamentary Assessment Boards at which the fates of fledgling political careers are decided. It is an opportunity for CCHQ to end the culture of fixing the candidates process in favour of identikit politicians and against those who might actually think for themselves or represent their local associations. Potential Tory candidates will be hoping the role is given to someone fair-minded, who won’t bend and break the rules, and could actually improve a deeply flawed system. One to watch closely…

Dave On Hot Mic: “Has The Former Chancellor Been Helpful Tonight?”

Dave was on a morale-boosting visit to CCHQ ahead of the locals last night – while browsing the Evening Standard he was caught on a hot mic by young Tory Robert Langley. The former Prime Minister wondered aloud:

“Has the Chancellor, the former Chancellor, been helpful tonight… oh no, not particularly [laughter]… ah, no way…”

He seemed to enjoy it a little too much…

CCHQ Drops Centralisation Plans After Member Outcry

Last week Guido told how the Tories were moving to centralise the candidate selection process and break the 150 year-old constituency association link. The story was followed up in the weekend papers and caused considerable consternation among members. CCHQ has responded by assuring members their new complaints are being heard and delaying any vote on proposed changes to the party constitution. Rob Semple, chairman of the National Conservative Convention, has written to members:

“I am also very grateful to all those who have fed in further thoughts since the meeting. We have reflected those comments, along with the decisions made in November, in our latest proposals to the Party’s Constitutional Committee. I am aiming for the revised draft proposals to be completed and available for your consideration by the Spring. There will then be a meeting of the National Convention during May, in London, to discuss the proposals. I would like to stress, the meeting is to discuss the revised proposals and is not a vote of the Party’s Electoral College.”

That should reassure members somewhat…

UPDATE: David Campbell Bannerman comments:

“We are delighted to hear the party has dropped plans to push through a range of undemocratic and centralising proposals this March and is now to fully consult in May. This is excellent news for grassroots members of the Conservative Party against CCHQ plans to seize power from them. It looks like the ill-thought out proposals have been kicked into the long grass. We urge the Party to abandon them completely.”

Tories Move to Impose Candidates Centrally and Break Constituency Association Link

Guido hears Tory MPs and members are grumbling about proposed changes to the Conservative Party constitution which they fear will lead to further centralised control. Later this year the National Convention is meeting to discuss a series of draft changes, including deleting entirely the section of the constitution which spells out the way candidates are selected. Instead selections could be determined by the Committee on Candidates, which could also decide the procedures for selecting candidates. This has sparked grassroots fears that they will have even less influence on selections, and that the power to determine who can be a Tory MP will be concentrated among a small group of centrally appointed officials. Separately, Guido understands the Tories have been holding Party Assessment Boards in the last couple of weeks to approve new wannabe MPs to the candidates list. Early prep for 2022…

The second change causing concern is the proposed abolition of Constituency Associations. For 150 years the link between Constituency Associations and their candidate has been a crucial, it is now in danger of going. Previous groupings of constituencies have not been popular to say the least. Backbenchers Guido has spoken to complain that these changes show direction of travel towards a further centralised organisation which risks alienating its already dwindling membership. Expect MPs to resist the reforms…

UPDATE: David Campbell Bannerman comments:

These proposed changes would further undermine reasons for joining the Party, reducing membership yet further, and break the critical link between MPs and their associations – indeed constituency associations may be destroyed all together. This is all about the centre taking total control in a negative way, and there is a very strong reaction building amongst activists.”

Mogg Wins Mock Election

The mischievous Campaign for Conservative Democracy launched in Manchester this morning with a more than slightly cheeky mock election for party chairman. The results are in, obviously the Mogg is the winner:

  1. Jacob Rees-Mogg: 28.6%
  2. Lord Ashcroft: 20%
  3. Ruth Davidson: 11.4%
  4. Boris Johnson: 10%
  5. Anna Soubry: 1.4%

A perhaps more realistic long-term ambition for Jacob after he once again ruled out the leadership at the ConHome fringe last night.[…] Read the rest

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Dame Laura Cox report into Pestminster slams Bercow and his team…

“I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration.”

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