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.