Last week it was revealed that the Conservative Party’s income from membership has fallen to within £50,000 of UKIP’s, and the average age of a Conservative Party member has risen to 68.
At Conservative Party Conference last year, the Bow Group released a report demonstrating that at current rate UKIP would overtake the Conservative Party in membership terms within 5-7 years, and that UKIP already has a far healthier average membership age.
As a follow up, after consultation the Bow Group, Conservative Grassroots and Conservative Voice produced a list of ten points that the Conservative Party should urgently enact to reverse the arrest in membership and restore freedom and democracy to the Party.
Even following the disastrous result of May’s European Elections, it is disappointing that none of these measures have been implemented, but in light of these latest figures it is increasingly urgent for the future of the Conservative Party that something is done towards this process.
Bringing the right kind of young people into conservative politics to usher a new generation is undoubtedly a great and important challenge, but like most people familiar with it, I have little regard for the Conservative Party’s youth wing: Conservative Future.
Fundamentally, it has clearly not achieved its purpose since its foundation in 1998, to bring new members into the party and integrate them with existing local associations. At best, it has been a magnet for gullible leafleting fodder; at worst, it is an acerbic arena of the worst excesses of student politics.
It has, however, always been an organisation of little relevance, so its failures and indiscretions have been of little day-to-day significance, and it has hitherto passed my serious interest.
This now seems to be changing, but in a way that may mark one of the most dangerous and negative shifts in the Conservative Party’s history and serve to further condemn its future.
Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ)’s latest venture is called “Road Trip 2015”, its design is to bus members of Conservative Future to constituencies up and down the country where local associations are either unable or unwilling to campaign.
Because of the significant drop-off in membership in recent years and the decline in relations between the local and central party, rather than enact measures to restore the local Party structure, CCHQ has clearly plumped to discard local associations and any long-term grassroots movement, centralise the entire operation and go for broke to win the 2015 election.
In my view, even that unlikely prize would not be worth the destruction of the Conservative Party as we know it. However, in a recent conversation with a former Chairman of the Party, Road Trip 2015 and its chances of success were described to me as “utter madness”.
But it would seem CCHQ are so committed to the project they have taken to levelling threats at any legitimate dissenters, and seek to tighten their grip on any independence to think the youth wing of the Party currently have.
I have consistently heard rumours of nefarious activity being handed down from CCHQ to student politicians who have not sided or voted the way senior members would like. I found the reports to be extraordinary, but not unbelievable.
It was therefore a disappointment, if not a surprise, to receive a call from someone on the Conservative Party’s candidates list last night to inform me that unless I ceased to question this move towards a new Party structure I would be expelled from the Conservative Party for being a “racist and ‘homophobe'”.
Surely if I was guilty of being that favourite subject of leftist witch hunts – a racist and “homophobe” – I should have been expelled long ago. However, as I pointed out to the caller, my membership of the Conservative Party lapsed some months ago, nor do I intend to attend the annual conference.
So long as senior members of the Party continue to behave in this particularly nasty manner it is increasingly likely that that will remain my position, it is certainly not the behaviour or attitude that will restore a decimated membership base.
It would appear that these skulduggerous tactics stretch far beyond late-night telephone calls to me, and will therefore become a further source of embarrassment for the Conservative Party. What is of greater concern however, is what it means for our national democracy.
As Peter Hitchens has argued, so long as the major national political parties have a central and unchecked role in deciding who their candidates will be at a local level, true democracy will continue to be in peril.
This latest move to centralise by CCHQ is another step towards the tyranny of the London metropolitan elite, their increasingly manic authoritarian tactics serve another nail in the coffin of British democracy and the Conservative Party.
I am more than confident that in the long run the public will further reject the system imposed on them by the political classes, but it seems likely things will get worse before they get better, and that the Conservative Party may be a tragic casualty in that long and difficult process.