The Selection of the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London

December 1, 1999

The Selection of the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.
In the 1945 General Election 85 of the Conservative MPs elected were Old Etonians.   
Many bought their selection as candidates by promising substantial sums of money to their local Association.   When Lord Woolton became Chairman of the Party he was determined to make the Conservative Party more representative of the people.   He was also determined to prevent wealthy people "buying" the Conservative Party.   In the Maxwell-Fyfe reforms of 1948 a rule was brought in that limited the amount that a candidate could donate to his Association to £50.   This rule was enforced throughout the Party for over 40 Years.   Lord Woolton said in his Memoirs that "The change was revolutionary, 
and in my view did more than any other single factor to save the Conservative Party"

In the early 1990s as the financial situation of the Party deteriorated and many Associations faced financial difficulty the expense allowances of Members of Parliament were substantially increased.   MPs came under pressure to provide financial help to their constituencies out of their expense allowance.    Questions were asked at candidate selection meetings as to how much the candidate would contribute.   As Constituency Associations became more dependant on their MP financially the MPs found that they had more power over their Constituency Association.   The threat of withdrawing finance worked wonders for the MPs to get their own way.   Once again MPs were buying their selection although this time they were using taxpayers money to do so.   Conservative Central Office first of all turned a blind eye to what was happening, then unofficially encouraged it.    Now we understand that the sum that an MP can donate is limited to £5,000 per annum as a contribution to "parliamentary" costs.

In the selection of the candidate for Mayor of London a limit of £80,000 was allowed to each candidate to spend on fighting for their selection.    There are very few candidates that can afford to spend that amount of money.    Once again only the wealthy can participate.   The Conservative Party has reverted back over 50 years.   It is time the Party brought into being detailed rules for internal elections.

London has 38,000 members of the Conservative Party.   If similar rules applied to the selection process as to a candidate fighting a General Election each candidate would be allowed approx. 15p per elector plus a free mailing.    In the case of the selection of Mayoral candidate this would mean that each candidate would have been limited to £5,700 - a much more reasonable amount than the £80,000 that they could have spent.   One can only speculate as to whether the present candidate for London's Mayor would be there if there ad been such a limit.

If the Conservative Party is to be "saved" again it must not allow itself to become the plaything of the wealthy.   Where is Lord Woolton today?   We hope he is not turning in his grave. 

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