by Henry Hill
Wednesday, 31
August 2022
Debate
15:45

Donors are undermining the Conservative Party

Lord Cruddas' bid to change party rules is harmful and unedifying
by Henry Hill
Lord Peter Cruddas

The toppling of Boris Johnson is probably not going to leave the sort of deep psychic scars on the Conservative Party that the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher did. But as Dominic Sandbrook has catalogued, there is already a toxic backlash.

Most of it is harmless, if unedifying. But Peter Cruddas’ bid to change the Conservative Party’s rules to prevent MPs ousting a prime minister — backed by the threat of withdrawing his substantial financial support — is more serious.

The supremacy of the House of Commons is a cornerstone of our constitution. No prime minister serves except by commanding its confidence.

MPs may choose to delegate part of their responsibilities, as Conservative MPs have done by introducing a membership vote in the selection of a new leader. But it is democratically essential that they remain in command.

Cruddas seems to completely misunderstand this. In his telling, having MPs choose the leader is “the tail wagging the dog”, and is “no way to run a business”. Yet a political party is not a business — and it is the membership, not the MPs, who are the tail in that relationship.

Were his campaign to succeed, it would open up the prospect of a prime minister clinging on even if, as Boris Johnson came close to doing, they start running out of enough parliamentary supporters to staff a full government. This is all on the basis of a supposed personal mandate which our system doesn’t actually bestow upon anyone.

Tellingly, the last time British politics saw a sustained campaign of this sort was in the 1980s. Then, it was the Labour Left that was on the attack, trying to suborn MPs to resolutions passed at party conference and threatening them with deselection if they refused.

This was opposed not just by the Conservatives but also by the Labour leadership; even Michael Foot, nobody’s idea of a Right-winger, championed the parliamentary principle against Tony Benn and his dogmatic supporters.

Happily, the Tory Party offers fewer opportunities than Labour for organised factions to cause mischief. The scope for Johnson or his outriders to subvert the structures of the National Convention is small.

But it is still important that Conservatives who support a larger role for the membership acknowledge its proper constitutional limits and speak out against attempts to overstep them.

Meanwhile Cruddas and another big-money donors should be mindful that throwing their financial weight around in public like this could well be counter-productive. If they are seen to strong-arm a party on something this important, it would strengthen not their cause but that of state funding for political parties.

Johnson is apparently spending this week tending to his legacy. If he wanted to reassure the nation that he respects Parliament and our democratic system, he should stand down his partisans and explicitly affirm that he could only ever have served with the confidence of his colleagues.

If he can’t or won’t do that, it will just be a fresh reminder of how right they were to be rid of him.

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polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

I’m sure that you are right in what you say. Unfortunately I don’t give a pair of dingo’s kidneys about the Tory Party.

David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Well, you ought to.
You may not be very sympathetic to Conservative personalities or policies, but the fact remains that the party is a significant part of the British political landscape. Its internal debates have ramifications far beyond the Conservative Party as an organisation. It explains Brexit, for example.
If you want to know why things happen in Britain they way they do, and you want to know what is likely to happen next, then it pays dividends to observe what is going on inside the major political parties.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago
Reply to  David McKee

There are no internal debates. There are no debates. There is no political landscape. There is just an establishment blob. Some members call themselves Tory, some call themselves Liberals, some call themselves Blairites. It matters not, as they are interchangeable. When you find one of these “debates”, let me know.

David Giles
David Giles
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes, that’s right. And all those hustings and the evident disagreement between the two candidates for prime minister, that’s not happening either.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago
Reply to  David Giles

No it isn’t happening. They are two inconsequential people engaged in mock debates. Neither of them offer any serious plan to deal with the problems that they helped create. They don’t even realise that there are any real problems, just a few inconveniences that can be dealt with when they have finally saved the planet from tiresome people like us: The Titanic sails on as the band plays Nearer My God To Thee.

Last edited 1 month ago by polidori redux
Andy White
Andy White
1 month ago

Yes the position of the PM depends on retaining the support of their parliamentary party. Without your MPs you’re stuffed, unless you leave them behind and cross the aisle, otherwise known as “doing a Ramsay MacDonald”..

The more interesting question is were the Tory MPs right to give up on Boris? Right for themselves maybe, frustration levels were clearly off the scale, but were they right for their party‘s fortunes and keeping the possibility of winning the next GE alive? Probably not.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andy White
Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
1 month ago

The fact our constitution relies on the commons is a sham. Bring back the days of crown and parliament where the crown actuallt ruled.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

90% scum. Swamp creatures – their destroying the nation by covid responce, then putting in the final nail with the Insane War, one worse then Tony Blair’s by Far; they are criminals. How great it would be if Boris could be Impeached – as Biden will be, deservedly so, as him and Boris are two corrupt peas in a pod.

Blair was just feeding the Neo-Con military Industrial Complex because the money under the table was too good for the ‘Uniparty’ Politicos to refues. But they was a pointless war in a far off land and did not matter – this one is the complete oppisite. It is in the back yard. It is shooting at someone who holds your well being in their hands.

The war in Ukraine was not only pointless to interfere in, but suicidal. Boris has been 10X worse for Britain than Blair could manage. Same open immigration of the special kinds, sane Neo-Con War, but Boris likely Killed the UK economy, destroyed the Pensions, the £, destroyed the middle class, and dropped the working class down to the serf class.

Maybe one of the Plantagenets or Stuarts were as destructive to England as Boris – but I doubt it.