Saturday, May 18, 2013

UK politics: party activists are "loons"

000Telegraph 017-loo.jpg

Grassroots Conservative activists are "mad swivel-eyed loons" who are forcing Tory MPs to take extremist positions opposing gay marriage and Europe, one of David Cameron's closest allies has said.

That was according to the Telegraph Media Group Ltd,which is now asking who the Tory is behind the "slur". Sources close to the centre, however, are suggesting that the perpetrator is Andrew Feldman, Chairman of the Conservative Party & Chairman of the Party Board. 

If it is him, of course, he is toast. But the intervention raises serious questions as to the relationship between the Tory leadership and the constituency parties. Up to press, it has only been UKIP which has been on the receiving end of the Tory lash, but if the hierarchy is going to war against its own members, this represents a development of some significance. 

The broader issue is that it signifies an authoritarian streak emerging in the party management, where the duty of the members is seen to be to fall into line with the dictates of the party leaders. Gone is any idea that the wishes of the members should be taken into account. 

To that extent, one can see why Mr Cameron is very much in tune with the EU ethos, where top-down management is the preferred style and democracy takes a back seat. If that it is attitude, though, party leaders would have been better advised to spend more effort on keeping their view secret. 

The much put-upon party activists are not going to take kindly to being told what their leadership really thinks of them.