Built to Last

Today the Conservatives announced the results of their ballot on David Cameron’s “statement of values” Built to Last.

The timing was peculiar – in the middle of Lib Dem conference, when the start of the Tories’ own conference would have been the obvious time. The Cameron-sceptics at ConservativeHome suggest it was a good day to bury bad news, with a poor turnout and questions raised over an apparent decline in membership based on ballots issued.

It is worth comparing this with the results of the similar OMOV ballot of Labour Party members on New Labour, New Life for Britain – the Blairite pre-manifesto in 1996.

Like so many of Cameron’s re-heated Blairite wheezes, Built to Last seems to be modelled on this exercise. But turnout was 61% for the Labour ballot, with over 230,000 Party members voting. Cameron has clearly yet to muster a similar level of enthusiasm to Blair in 1996.

But Labour have not undertaken any similar exercises since, despite polls finding a demand for it from the membership. Instead, we get madcap schemes like opening internal elections to the public – a proposal backed by less than one in ten actual members.

This is hardly the way to heal divisions between the leadership and the membership, the front bench and the back benches or the Labour Party and the labour movement.

Unless we see some fresh thinking then there will be little cause to feel smug about Cameron’s problems with his own party.

UPDATE: Today’s Times runs the Tory membership story, clearly stolen from ConservativeHome but not attributed. Hat-tip to Freemania.

5 Responses to Built to Last

  1. Benjamin says:

    Hewitt’s suggestion – and I’ve heard it propopsed by others in the higher echelons of the party – would actually damage democracy in the party (already occluded in recent years), whilst appearing populist. It also neatly sidesteps an important issue – declining membership, whilst not addressing it.

  2. As we said, Hewitt’s proposal is backed by less than one in ten party members. If you can vote in internal elections without even being a member then really what’s the point of paying your subs?

    Also, a very wide pool of people – through the affiliated trade unions – can actually participate in the leadership elections already.

  3. Nick says:

    You’d have thought that Pat Hewitt would be busy trying to correct the hash she’s made of the NHS over the past couple of years.

    Actually, on second thoughts, perhaps I’d prefer her to be busy flying kites about primary elections than causing any more chaos in her day job…

  4. Yes, enthusiasts of American style primaries might want to take a look at… er… America.

    Of course, Hewitt’s comments have nothing to do with her support or otherwise for this mechanism, it was just a way of saying that the public wouldn’t vote for Gordon Brown.

  5. Nick says:

    I feel confident that the public certainly wouldn’t vote for Pat Hewitt…

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