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. Also worth noting that Patrick McLoughlin opened conference with a robust, well-received speech yesterday speaking to members’ concerns about the election. There is no vacancy…

Grassroots Plot to “Democratise” Tory Party and “Seize Control” From CCHQ

An insurgent group of grassroots Tories is launching a campaign to “democratise” the party and “seize back control” for Conservative members in Manchester next week. The “Campaign for Conservative Democracy” is aiming to wrest back influence from CCHQ, which it condemns as “autocratic” and “over-centralised” and argues has “undermined, overruled, ignored or destroyed” Conservative associations across the country. The group is demanding CCHQ listens to the policy opinions of Tory members to “help avoid the disastrous manifesto mistakes in the recent General Election”. They are seeking a directly-elected Tory party chairman “who would represent members’ views to the government”. Its founder, Brexiter Tory MEP David Campbell-Bannerman says:

“The Conservative Party has taken its core membership for granted for far too long. Local associations should be made the boss again. There has been a complete centralisation of power away from local associations and the relationship between the two has been shown to be highly unsatisfactory, undemocratic and one sided. You can’t run a party from one London office. CCHQ has often begun to resemble the remote and unaccountable European Union in structure and inclination.”

This sort of criticism of CCHQ will resonate with Tory associations. For years grassroots Tories have felt sidelined by CCHQ in terms of candidate selections, campaigning, policy and the general direction of the party. This new campaign reminds Guido of the Labour left’s similarly-named Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, which Corbyn, McDonnell and Tony Benn used for decades to lobby the Labour leadership on behalf of their left-wing grassroots. Expect Tory MPs on the right to endorse the group and use it to pile pressure on CCHQ and Theresa May…

The group is launching on Monday of conference – details here if you want to go – with a mock election for party chairman. Eyes will be rolling in CCHQ at the thought of Tory members having their say…

Losing Tory MPs Made to Undergo Selection Interviews

Tory MPs who lost their seats at the election have been forced to undergo a selection process in order to stay on the candidates list. Defeated MPs who want to run again have had to face an interview and write a short report demonstrating their efforts during the campaign. Mercifully they are not being given the full Parliamentary Assessment Board treatment. Some ex-MPs are relaxed about it all and say the interviews were good-natured, though others are complaining that it’s a bit rich for CCHQ to cock up the election then submit losing MPs to a grilling as if it were all their fault. Jacob Rees-Mogg says “it’s an appalling way to treat them”. No love lost between some loser MPs and CCHQ at the moment…

Chairman Boris?

Speculation that Theresa May could demote Boris Johnson to party chairman is again doing the rounds, weeks after BoJo’s enemies first punted the idea around. Does it make sense? Sacking Boris would create the highest possible profile enemy at a time when the PM is hardly in a position of overwhelming strength. Giving him the party chairman job would then arguably increase his power. Chairman Boris would be able to reconnect with members and activists, effectively given free reign to tour associations and win the membership’s support. He could actually be political, which is what he does best and would only help his popularity in the party. Rather than being sent around the world and restricted to 20 second pooled clips he could do all the broadcast and press he liked. If May really were to do something with Boris in a future reshuffle, making him party chairman would be a particularly brave move…

Major CCHQ Revamp: Full Details

A major restructuring of CCHQ is underway. There was a feeling among senior Tories that they needed to improve coordination between the party’s research, press and digital operations, and make sure that going forwards they are all on the same page. CCHQ has been revamped accordingly, those three branches will now work much more closely together.

Iain Carter, who most recently worked with Lynton Crosby at CTF, has been hired as the Tories’ Political Director. Carter is a Conservative Research Department veteran and former SpAd who has fought two elections at CCHQ. Tory sources describe him as a “very effective operator“. PFL?

Guido hears Richard N Jackson will be Co-Head of Operations and Head of Regional Media, in charge of all visits and regional press. “N“, as he is known by colleagues, is one of the good guys, a former Tory Head of Press and CCHQ veteran who has been there a decade. Carter, Jackson and Carrie Symonds, who yesterday Guido revealed is the new Director of Comms, worked together in CCHQ before the 2015 election.

CCHQ has taken a kicking from Tory colleagues since the election. ConservativeHome recently accused it of “resting on laurels”, describing it as a “weaker machine than needed” and arguing “there must be a reckoning”. Tory MPs will hope this restructuring and these senior hires are that reckoning, and will turn CCHQ back into a powerhouse in time for the next election…

CCHQ Hiring Campaign Managers

You might think that after electing a “strong and stable” government, a party headquarters would be reducing the headcount. As of yesterday CCHQ put up new adverts for campaign managersSomebody clearly thinks there could there be another election in the offing…

CCHQ Diverted Resources Away from ‘Safe’ Seats Tories Lost

There is a lot about the Tory campaign that has caused huge anger among MPs. Though little provoked more fury than the decision by CCHQ to divert resources away from supposedly ‘safe’ seats that the Tories then went on to lose. Guido has heard from several defeated MPs who were continually assured by HQ that their seats were safe. The decision was taken centrally to pull resources out of these constituencies and divert them to target seats like Ealing Central. Some MPs themselves were even sent to knock up in others seats on polling day. This complacency was fatal for several MPs. They ended up losing their seats by small margins, while in Ealing Rupa Huq increased her majority from 274 to 13,807.

MPs repeatedly warned CCHQ that large numbers of Labour and Momentum activists were flooding their perceived safe seats, while their local Tory campaigners had been relocated elsewhere. They were told not to worry. Then they lost their seats. What an extraordinary clusterf**k.

CCHQ Already Preparing For Next Election

Tory HQ was caught on the hop by the snap election, initially struggling to find enough candidates to fill seats having culled their list of approved prospective MPs. They are determined not to make the same mistake in the event of another early election – Guido hears preparations have already begun. CCHQ Head of Candidates Gareth Fox emailed the old candidates list yesterday inviting them to apply be considered for the new list. This would not normally happen for several months after an election, instead the process has been accelerated and is already underway less than a week after polling day. Applications from candidates are wanted “as soon as you can”, and by no later than 10 July. CCHQ wasn’t ready when Theresa May called the June 8 election, they want to make sure they are all set to go if they have to in the autumn…

Tory and Labour Candidates All Believe May Heading For Comfortable Win

There is a complete consensus among every Tory and Labour candidate Guido has spoken to over the last week. They are not seeing on the doorstep the alleged Labour surge seen in the polls. Not a single Tory candidate Guido has spoken to has noticed a significant problem in their constituency – there is grumbling over the manifesto, dementia tax and the May campaign’s general inadequacy, but nothing to suggest there is some unprecedented groundswell of people seriously considering voting for Corbyn. Guido has spoken to Tory candidates in seats with 8,000 Labour majorities who still believe they will win. As Politico reports, everyone in CCHQ is giving off an air of calm. That is the mood Guido gauges too. Not one Tory candidate has indicated to Guido they believe there is a problem in their seat. 

Labour candidates (with the exception of Corbyn and McDonnell) agree. As the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot says, there is unanimity among Labour that they are not seeing what the polls suggest. More than one Labour veteran has told Guido that several high-profile Labour MPs are still likely to lose their seats. A senior former Labour official reckons the Tories will still win an 80+ majority. As Joan Ryan, the Labour incumbent in the Tory-Labour marginal of Enfield North says, “Realistically no one thinks Theresa May will not be Prime Minister”. Everyone on the ground on all sides does not believe the YouGov hung parliament projection, they are all expecting to see a Tory majority of 50 plus at the very least…

UPDATE: A well-timed new model from Lord Ashcroft projects a Tory majority between 40 and 78. Sounds much more like it…

CCHQ Faces Revolt in Don Valley and Walsall

Two more Tory associations are fighting with CCHQ over centrally-imposed shortlists freezing out local candidates. Up in Don Valley the locals are upset that the 2015 candidate Carl Jackson has not been included on the three man shortlist. The local Tory chairman and all the local councillors have written to CCHQ Head of Candidates Gareth Fox to express their “dismay“:

“We would like to express our absolute dismay that Carl Jackson who previously stood in Don Valley in 2015 has not been offered a place on our short list for the parliamentary seat. Carl was an excellent candidate who has since been back to Doncaster to help campaign in our target wards for the Local Election prior to the General Election being called.”

Big battle ahead of the selection meeting tonight. 

There is further trouble in Walsall South, where ConHome reports the association is so unhappy it has voted not to even hold a selection meeting to consider the two candidates proposed to them.

These are two seats worth targeting for the Tories – Caroline Flint has a majority of 8,800 in Don Valley and Valerie Vaz has a majority of just 6,000 in Walsall, both in the danger zone for Labour. Busy day for Gareth Fox…

CCHQ Rows With Associations Over Female Candidates

CCHQ is embroiled in a number of nasty spats with Tory associations after imposing female candidates on seats across Wales. The Tories do not have a single female Welsh MP, something party chairman Patrick McLoughlin and Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns are determined to change. In Bridgend, CCHQ has imposed Karen Robson on the association against its will. Robson is not from the local area (she moved to Wales after university and last ran for the Tories 20 miles away in Cardiff). This has infuriated local members, who passed a vote to reject the carpetbagger and choose a local candidate instead. One member says:

“The majority of members are up in arms as this is an outrage and tearing our Association apart in a target seat. It is hardly an example of strong and stable leadership in the national interest. This is immoral and treats all of us hard working volunteers who have been here through thick and thin with contempt.”

CCHQ has ignored them and pressed ahead with Robson as the candidate, in response some Bridgend Tory councillors are threatening to go independent…

The Tories have also imposed female candidates on associations in both Newport West and East. In Newport West, European Parliament bag-carrier Angela Jones-Evans has been imposed at the expense of the 2015 candidate and long-serving local member Nic Webb. In Newport East, CCHQ wants Natasha Asghar, the daughter of the local Tory assembly member. These associations are upset with Cairns, McLoughlin and CCHQ. Behind closed doors Cairns has insisted there has to be at least one female MP returned in Wales this election and imposing female candidates is the only way to guarantee that. As Guido’s (male) Welsh mole says: “We do need to have a female MP, but CCHQ has gone about this in an awful fashion…”

Tories Accidentally Send Conference Call Details to Labour and LibDems

Yesterday afternoon a Google Calendar invite pinged into Tory inboxes from CCHQ’s Stephen Gilbert, outlining details of their election campaign conference calls so staff can dial in and be briefed on the plan for the day. One problem. The email arrived in the inboxes of Gilbert’s old referendum contacts book, rather than his Tory HQ contacts book. Which means the private dial in details were received by top LibDems James McGrory, James Holt, Harriet Shone, Sam Barratt and Ryan Coetzee, and Labour’s Joe Carberry, Will Straw, David Chaplin, Brian Duggan and Amy Richards. Ooooops…

From: Stephen Gilbert
Sent: 21 April 2017 14:33
To: Ameet Gill; James McGrory; Ameetpal Gill; Brian Duggan; James Holt; Craig Oliver; Harriet Shone; Craig Oliver; Stuart Hand; Olivia Jensen; Charlotte Todman; Lucy Thomas; Guillaume Amigues; Iain Gill; Joe Carberry; Charlotte Vere; Will Straw; Kamala Mackinnon; Amy Richards; Tom Edmonds; David Chaplin; Sam Barratt; Ryan Coetzee
When: Occurs every day effective 20/04/2017 from 06:00 to 06:45

Morning Campaign meeting

Hi All, please note that the daily Morning Campaign meetings will now take place at 09.30 am every weekday…

HQ conference line

Dial-in: 020 XXXX XXXX

Participant pin: XXXXXX

The calendar invite was then cancelled. Loose lips (and email cock-ups) sink ships…

UPDATE: A Tory source gets in touch to clarify that the pin revealed in the email was an old Stronger In pin, so the CCHQ conference calls were not compromised.

CCHQ Caught on Hop: Not Enough Candidates to Fill Seats

The Tories were quick out of the blocks with their rules for candidate selections yesterday, though CCHQ has been caught on the hop in terms of the actual candidates. The word is the Tories still do not currently have enough names on their candidates list to fill every opposition-held seat.[…] Read the rest

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