'TORY LEADER MUST BE CHOSEN BY GRASSROOTS MEMBERS'

Daily Telegraph – 27 August 2005

Six weeks ago, 10 of our parliamentary colleagues wrote to the Daily Telegraph (letter, July 19). They represented all of the Party's mainstream traditions and two former Party Chairmen, Michael Ancram and Theresa May. The letter acknowledged the case for reforming the Conservative Party's leadership election process but urged a continuing democratic say for grassroots members. In the ballot that followed that letter, 50 Conservative MPs voted against a proposal to centralise the leadership election process.

Members of the Party's National Convention (including association chairmen) have now been sent ballot papers to approve that centralisation. A meeting of MPs to authorise the ballot was convened for yesterday, during a recess when very many MPs were away.

We are writing to encourage every association chairman to stand up for the democratic rights of their members by voting No. Trust of people is a fundamental Conservative belief - we have a history of extending, not narrowing, the franchise. In the 1980s, we brought about the democratisation of the trade union movement. Today, our Party supports the spread of democracy around the world and we advocate decentralisation of power at home.

The next Conservative leader should not be elected by the Parliamentary Party alone. The next leader should have to win the confidence of rank-and-file members in target seats and in the parts of Britain where, currently, there are all too few Conservative MPs.

The Conservative Party is a national party and its leader should enjoy the confidence of the national membership.

WILLIAM CASH MP
OWEN PATERSON MP
ANDREW ROSINDELL MP
RICHARD SHEPHERD MP
BOB SPINK MP
ANGELA WATKINSON MP
DOUGLAS CARSWELL MP
JULIAN LEWIS MP
ANN WIDDECOMBE MP
MIKE PENNING MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA