The country’s oldest conservative think tank has issued a six point plan for reform of the Conservative Party following Theresa May’s poor election performance.
The Bow Group, which has been robust in its criticism of the modern Conservative Party for years now, has urged a return to internal democracy within the Conservative Party, highlighting a decline in party membership and loss in policy direction as reasons for the Tory decline.
The Conservative party has failed to revitalise its grassroots membership and build a genuine movement, the group says.
The Bow Group has been on the receiving end of attacks from the conservative and broader political establishments for years, given its refusal to adhere to the “moderniser” consensus. As a result, the party has struggled to defeat three of the weakest Labour leaders in British history, the group points out.
Highlighting the problems within the movement, the group highlights this morning:
- There has not been a Conservative Party leadership election since 2005;
- Members lack the ability to freely select candidates without central party interference;
- Lack of member engagement in policy making;
- Average age of a party member is currently 68 years old;
- Loss of narrative to to UKIP on key conservative issues;
- Failure to make a formal Brexit electoral pact with UKIP.
As a solution, The Bow Group has recommended “urgent reform party” on the following issues:
- An urgent meeting of conservative activists and organisations to debate the party’s future;
- The election of the party leader by the membership at least every five years;
- The election of a party chairman annually;
- Primary selection process for all candidates;
- The ability for members to vote on policy at Conservative Party conference;
- The restoration of the role of members to speak from the floor at Conservative Party conference.
“The Bow Group has long seen the issue of declining Conservative Party membership and enthusiasm for the Conservative vision as symptom of lacking party democracy and a rigid adherence to centrist values,” said Chairman Ben Harris-Quinney, adding: “What Jeremy Corbyn has achieved in the Labour Party initially looked a folly, however Labour have gone through the necessary and painful transition from centrist politics first, and have emerged stronger”.
“The Conservative Party must urgently follow suit, or risk losing the political narrative and momentum for the foreseeable future.
What is required is nothing short of internal revolution. The only way to regain momentum and achieve majority government is to reinvigorate the party from within with democratic reform, beginning with a leadership election within the year”.
Speaking on Tory policy direction, Senior Research Fellow Dr. Jon Stanley said: “The neglect of essential policy areas such as the NHS and Social Care was disgraceful and needless. We warned the dementia tax would be horrendous to the core vote. The inability to respond to a flashing red light reflects how detached and presidential Number 10 now is. The party must return to manifesto by consensus and conference and not be so suspicious and dismissive of its members. We have not hit the bottom yet and 2022 could level the party without radical surgery now.”