Alex Singleton: A Fisking
Mr. Alex Singleton of MailOnline has written an interesting blogpost which deserves examination. He makes a case that Conservative Future has failed, and needs reinvigorating by a candidate whom Mr. Singleton happens to have in mind. It is therefore worth quoting most of the post paragraph by paragraph:
Anyone who has followed the internal workings of Conservative Future will tell you that its central body has become a failed institution. While an estimated 18,000 young people are nominally members of CF, the central organisation acts as a clique of a few hundred men. Amazingly, its current chairman, Ben Howlett, was elected in 2010 with 113 votes.
I’m not sure “anyone” would tell you that. I’ve had eight years in C.F. and for the last two have had a reasonable working knowledge of what goes on at the highest level. I would want to see a detailed, itemised list of alleged failings, backed up by people willing to be named, before I accepted that it is widely accepted to be a “failed institution.”
With regards to the 2010 election, yes, the numbers involved aren’t very creditable. Ben received 113 to Craig Cox’s 60, for a grand total of 173. But in 2011 he obtained 369 votes out of 629 cast for the position of National Chairman. Only the most cynical would deny that that is an improvement, and it is somewhat disingenuous of Mr. Singleton to omit it when discussing mandates.
I have tried to get to the bottom of why a supposedly 18,000-strong membership organisation can elect a chairman on 113 votes, but alas the current chairman did not respond to my requests for comment. Weirdly, it appears that only 2,621 ballot papers were sent out at the latest leadership election. I put it to the current chairman that something was amiss, considering the supposed 18,000 members, but he has not responded.
As far as I am aware there is no minimum of votes which has to be reached before one can be elected Chairman. So that’s why a Chairman can be elected on 113 votes. I agree that it is somewhat weird that only 2,621 ballots (2010 or 2011?) were sent out, but that is not in of and in itself an unimpressive figure. It doesn’t help that one can only vote if one has been a member of C.F. for three months, which would presumably rule out a great number of Freshers who join in September/October time. I would contend that what is amiss is that such a small proportion of those with ballots actually voted in the election.
In reality, Conservative Future has become a clique of about 200 wanabee MPs who hang around Westminster sucking up to any Parliamentarian they can find.
Presumably this is Mr. Singleton’s “central organisation,” which he referred to in his opening paragraph. Does he actually believe that Conservative Future is just a few careerists sequestered in London? That might be his “reality.” It’s certainly not mine. He should head down to the regional, area and branch level and see the work which is done by those members, careerist or otherwise, every day of every week.
It never used to be this way. When Conservative Future works, it is an effective force that empowers young people to campaign for the Conservative Party and which builds the membership numbers of the Tories. There have been some unifying, effective CF chairmen, such as Nick Vaughan, Mark Clarke and Donal Blaney.
I wasn’t interested in the “central body” of C.F. when these men were around for the simple reason that I thought that they were a bunch of careerist wannabees. I just got on with campaigning in West Yorkshire.
Currently, CF is blighted by infighting. Student societies are not getting the support they need to build the party, and some local CF branches are being provoked by the idiotic behaviour of the central CF organisation. The UK Independence Party describes CF as being in “meltdown”, and they are not far from the truth. In April, the Guido Fawkes blog reported that “No less than 40% of Leeds Conservative Future committee walked out of the Conservative Party this weekend and joined Farage’s growing bandwagon.”
They were members of a former Leeds Conservative Future Committee. So 0% defected. Don’t believe everything you read.
This fiasco is part of an unprecidented move by young Tories away from Conservative Future to other centre-Right organisations. Emily Burditt, former Vice-President of Nottingham University Conservative Association, says that Conservative Future is ”alienating people from what should be a strong youth movement where every young person with Tory sympathies feels welcome”.
She says that: “If anything is more worrying than how few people voted, it is the amount of anecdotal evidence one hears that they were not even given the chance to vote, whilst others who were not entitled to vote, were given ballots. I have often heard people say that only those who could be relied upon to vote in a certain way received their ballots. Even if this is not true, the fact that the rumour is so widespread warrants serious investigation and an improvement in transparency.”
She says that: “I do not feel comfortable at CF events. I tend to feel far more at home, and more welcome, by other right-minded, yet non-partisan, organisations that encourage youth participation such as the Liberty League, ASI and YBF, among others. Luckily such brilliant organisations reach out to the disaffected Tory youth (along with members of UKIP), yet these organisations should be ‘as well as’ not ‘instead of’.”
Whilst Miss Burditt makes good points, hers is just one point of view, and it is odd that Mr. Singleton should lend it so much credence. Of course, it helps that it backs up his “failed state” depiction of Conservative Future. With regards to right-leaning organisations, I have always gotten the impression that they are where the more careerist C.F.ers have congregated, and have consequently steered clear.
With regards to Mr. Singleton’s exhortations regarding Oliver Cooper I pass no comment, other than to remark on his penultimate sentence:
One man who will bring the 18,000 members of the youth wing of the party together – not just the clique of 200 insiders.
I wish Mr. Cooper the best of luck if he does stand, but is there any need for this sort of “Obamamania” hyperbole? That’s just silly. What next, a walkaround where Mr. Cooper enters the Temple and overturns the money-lenders’ tables? And I’m sorry, noone can possibly unite 18,000 young Conservatives. A good chairman can represent us to the best of their ability, but we are not a bunch of non-thinking sheep who can be herded at will.
To conclude: Yes, there are clearly problems when the number of ballots going out is so very much smaller than the number of members, eligible to vote or otherwise. It is also a matter of concern that such a small proportion of those with the ballot fail to use it.
I am concerned that Mr. Singleton has such a warped view of Conservative Future. I hope that others reading this (or his blogpost) aren’t as jaded as he is, and are as determined as I am to prove him wrong.
But if, Mr. Singleton, you truly care about C.F., don’t piss and moan that the system is broken; don’t just sit around with your hands under your arse until the next election. It’s months away. If things are as dire as you think they are, then you need to act now. If you have constructive criticism or suggestions to offer then send them to the National Executive, C.C.H.Q., or the Party Board, rather than writing pointless, inflammatory, and quite inaccurate articles.