I have been wondering about why the political parties have their conferences other than to get publicity for the leaders’ speeches, and surprisingly for a pensioner on the right of the political spectrum, I have reached the conclusion that as far as conferences are concerned, the Trade Unions are far more democratic.
Whilst I was working, I belonged to one of the Civil Service Trade Unions, which has since merged with one of the larger unions. At the time, we felt that our Branch was being ignored by the union’s officials as we were not mainstream Civil Service but a Government Authority or Quango. As a result, we put forward a motion which was critical of the executive and I was appointed as one of the Branch delegates to the annual conference.
Somewhat to my surprise, our motion was put on the order paper, to be taken with a number of similar motions from other small branches, and I had my couple of minutes to propose it, as did the delegates from the other branches with their similar motions.
Yes, we lost the motion, but at least we had a few minutes to air our views and it did lead to some changes which were being implemented when I retired.
So with this in mind, I asked a member of the local Conservative Party whether the local constituency party could put motions to their conference that were critical of the leadership, and the answer was a definite “No”.
So what is the point in belonging to the Conservative party if you can have no influence over its policies? It seems the only time they have a say is when they vote for a leader, although once he is elected, there is no mechanism for the party members to fire him. He appoints all the Ministers, and all they do at conference is to give speeches saying how good they are. There is no discussion of their policies, all that members can do to signify their disapproval is to refuse to applaud, as happened in the case of Justine Greening.
If we don’t even have democracy within our political parties, what hope is there for real democracy in this country?