London Daily

Focus on the big picture.

The Boris Johnson backers with a plan to save the Tory party

The Boris Johnson backers with a plan to save the Tory party

When a new campaign group for grassroots Conservatives was launched last month, many saw it is a thinly-veiled effort to get Boris Johnson back in Downing Street. Is there more to it than that?

The Conservative Democratic Organization (CDO) was formed out of the ashes of the Boris Ballot - the unsuccessful campaign demanding members get a vote on reinstating Mr Johnson after he resigned.

The new group is campaigning for Tory members to "take back control" of the party. It has been compared to Momentum - the Labour group formed to back Jeremy Corbyn, another grassroots favourite who was unpopular with many of his own party's MPs.

Those behind CDO insist it is not a Trojan Horse for a Boris Johnson comeback, as some have suggested. It is instead about giving Conservative members a bigger role in how their party is run.

But the catalyst for the group's foundation was the anger and disillusionment felt by some Tory members over the ousting of Mr Johnson and Liz Truss. Twice in a matter of months MPs overruled the will of Conservative members, according to the CDO.

'Save the party'

David Campbell Bannerman, a former UKIP MEP, who chairs the CDO, says a backlash from ordinary Conservative members became "inevitable after the way Rishi Sunak was appointed" as Tory leader and prime minister.

Lord Cruddas became one of the most assertive voices in the loose "Bring Back Boris" alliance this autumn

Like the other founders of the group - major Tory donor Lord Cruddas and media entrepreneur Claire Bullivant - he insists it is not about bringing back Mr Johnson right now.

"I'm a huge fan of Rishi. I back him as much as I back Boris," says Ms Bullivant.

"We just want to save the party that we love."

But save it from what?

Former home secretary Priti Patel has publicly backed the campaign

Extinction, according to John Strafford - the CDO's constitutional consultant, who has been campaigning for greater democracy in the Tory Party for decades.

"I have never known disillusionment in the party to be so high," says Mr Stafford.

"We're going to lose the next election by a landslide. If we lose that badly our very existence will come into question."

Like all political parties, the Conservatives rely on a volunteer army of members to go out in all weathers, knocking on doors and handing out leaflets, to fight effective election campaigns.

Truss agenda

With the party trailing Labour by around 20% in the polls, and a general election widely expected next year, they will be vital to Rishi Sunak's hopes of remaining in Number 10.

Political canvassers are the party foot soldiers who volunteer to knock on doors

But party members - who voted for Liz Truss's tax-cutting agenda - increasingly feel out of step with the leadership's policies, according to John Strafford.

They are also far fewer in number than Labour members.

The Conservatives don't release an official membership figure, but it is thought to be about 172,000, compared with 432,000 Labour members.

There are many theories as to why Conservative Party membership has dwindled over the years - from a peak of about 400,000.

Tory members have less influence over party policy than their counterparts in Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

The CDO want to do something about this. It is also aiming to give local party members more control over the selection of Parliamentary candidates.

'Not voting'

Mr Campbell Bannerman says he has emails that prove that the CDO has already convinced people to return to the party from Reform UK - the new name of the Brexit Party founded by Nigel Farage.

"We have given people hope to come back from leaving the party, giving up and not voting," Mr Campbell Bannerman said.

But Reform UK leader Richard Tice - who campaigns for crackdown on legal and illegal migration, lower taxes, and other policies likely to be popular with right wing Tories - is not convinced.

"Fundamentally people join political parties because of their policies, not because of the make up of their democratic choices," he says.

Ms Bullivant said she met with Nadhim Zahawi, the then Conservative Party Chair

Under current rules Conservative Party members get a vote on the leader of the party. But they only decide between the final two candidates left standing after Tory MPs have had their say.

Members also get a say in their choice over parliamentary candidates through local Conservative Associations - who can pick from applicants vetted by Conservative Committee on Candidates.

But the CDO says this power must go further, giving associations complete control over picking who they want to be their MP.

The CDO now has 1,700 activists and "a few thousand more members," according to Mr Campbell Bannerman.

The Johnson effect

Whatever the project's ambitions Boris Johnson is still a central figure in the CDO.

It grew out of the Conservative Post, a news website set up by Ms Bullivant to counter what she saw as overly negative mainstream coverage of the Conservative government under Mr Johnson.

The website is still running a "Bring Back Boris" campaign.

Mr Johnson also recently came out as one of the top names in a poll among members on who should replace Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative Party Chair.

Last month Lord Greenhalgh, vice president of the CDO and former Deputy Mayor of London under Mr Johnson, described his old boss as "electoral gold-dust" who "will be back" for a second term as prime minister.

David Campbell Bannerman served as a Member of the European Parliament for UKIP

Several other developments in the campaign may give Rishi Sunak pause for thought.

The group is focussed on expanding. Organisers say they have received about 1,000 applications to serve on the executive of local branches. These branches will shadow the Conservative Party associations that run operations in the 650 parliamentary constituencies across the country.

The group has also talked about organising a vote at one of the three annual meetings of the National Conservative Convention - the most senior body of the Conservative Party membership.

Forcing any change in the party's constitution looks to be an impossible task. This would need a two-thirds vote of the National Convention and Tory MPs - along with the approval of the party's Constitutional College, made up of MPs, Lords and party officials.

Listening to members

The CDO is hoping to avoid a run-in. There has already been a meeting with Conservative Party headquarters who, according to Ms Bullivant, have "actually being very receptive".

The Conservative Party would not confirm this meeting to the BBC. But it did send a statement, claiming the party leadership "will always listen to our members' feedback on how to improve our party."

"Membership of political parties is a good thing for our democracy," the Conservative Party spokesman added.

The CDO does not lack ambition, with Mr Campbell Bannerman predicting it will be around for "at least 25 years" if not 100.

Its longevity and influence will depend on how successful it proves to be at reforming a political party that has been around, largely unchanged, for far longer that.


Related Articles

London Daily
The gunman who attempted to assassinate Donald Trump Saturday is 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks
Banksy's Influence on Port Talbot's Street Art Scene
Bodies of Two Men Found in Suitcases on Bristol Bridge, 24-Year-Old Arrested
Kate Middleton to Attend Wimbledon Men's Final Amid Cancer Recovery
Russia's Electronic Warfare Neutralizes Western Weapons in Ukraine
Trump Challenges Biden to Debate and Golf Match
Macron Accuses Israeli Minister of Election Interference
US Senator Highlights Weaknesses in Western Military Industry During Ukraine Conflict
George Clooney Urges Biden to Withdraw from Presidential Race
Political Shift in the UK: A Detailed Analysis of Labour's Victory and Future Prospects
Viktor Orbán's Peace Mission: A Diplomatic Controversy in the EU
India Advocates Peace and Prosperity: PM Modi's Speech in Austria
New UK PM Keir Starmer Reaffirms Strong Support for Ukraine at NATO Summit
Spain PM Pedro Sanchez Denounces Double Standards on Gaza at NATO Summit
UK Police Arrest Suspect in Crossbow Attack After Three Women Killed
Sunita Williams Safe on ISS, to Address Earth on July 10
Biden Affirms Commitment To Presidential Race
France Faces Political Turmoil and Airport Strikes Ahead of Paris Olympics 2024
Putin Hosts PM Modi for a Private Meeting
TSMC: The Taiwanese Chip Giant Valued Over $1 Trillion
Boeing Pleads Guilty Over 737 MAX Crashes
2024 Predicted to Be World's Hottest Year
Iran's President-Elect Masoud Pezeshkian Reiterates Support for Hezbollah
White House Denies Biden Being Treated for Parkinson's Disease
Biden to Meet New UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer
Biden Insists on Continuing Presidential Race Amid Criticism
UK Defence Minister Pledges Enhanced Support to Ukraine
French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal Resigns After Election Setback
Macron Faces New Political Challenges Despite Election Relief
France's Far-Right Falls Short in Parliamentary Elections
Key Figures in France's Left-Wing New Popular Front Bloc
England Reaches Euro 2024 Semifinals After Penalty Shootout Win
Rishi Sunak Apologizes After Historic Tory Defeat
Voter Discontent in Recent UK and French Elections
Trump was recorded attacking Biden: "I kicked the old pile of shit"
Understanding the MRP Method in UK Elections
US Officials Resign Over Biden's Gaza Policy
First-Time Immigrant Voters Aim to Influence UK Elections 2024
Reform UK Receives Major Donations from Brexit Campaign Group
Tata Steel Strike Called Off, Paving the Way for Crucial Talks
Sir Keir Starmer's Acceptance of Substantial Gifts from UK Donors
New Zealand Introduces Law to Make Tech Giants Pay for News
NASA Astronauts Stranded in Space Due to Boeing's Starliner Issues
OpenAI and Microsoft Sued for Copyright Infringement
Starmer Vows to Renegotiate Brexit Deal Amid Far-Right Rise in France
Monster Hurricane Beryl Hits Caribbean as Category Five Storm
EU Charges Meta with Breaching Antitrust Rules
Biden's Debate Performance Unites Democrats and Republicans
Prison Officer Faces Court Over Inmate Sex Video
Jude Bellingham's Iconic Euro 2024 Goal: A Historic Moment for England