Has there been a CCHQ candidates stitch up?

14 min listen

Conservative grassroots are up in arms over the installment of Tory party chairman, Richard Holden, as the candidate for Basildon and Billericay, a safe seat. The local association was given a shortlist of one by CCHQ. Katy Balls talks to James Heale and commentator and Conservative peer, Paul Goodman. Produced by Cindy Yu.

CCHQ’s unfortunate Jimmy Savile link

Oh dear. Just last week, on the day that Boris Johnson raised National Insurance, it was pointed out to the bright young things at Tory high command that they might want to remove from their website his, er, manifesto pledge to not hike the tax. It’s still proudly displayed there online as part of six manifesto commitments, adorned by Johnson’s own prominent signature.  More pressing still might be the replacement of their current slogan: ‘You started it, now be part of it,’ urging internet browsers to sign up and join the Conservative party. For, as Times columnist Matt Chorley noted in one of his recent shows, the words have an unfortunate echo with the theme tune to

Boris Johnson’s email faux pas

When it comes to Boris Johnson’s skills as a politician, his particular communication style is regularly cited as a talent that makes him stand out as a leader. He was, after all, an accomplished journalist before stepping into the world of politics. So Mr S was a little surprised by the email that landed in his inbox this morning purporting to be from the Prime Minister. In it, recipients were invited to join the Prime Minister and Chancellor for an online chat — and encouraged to donate large sums in return for hearing ‘never before shared stories from that campaign as well as the unprecedented year that followed, from getting

Why the Tories remain optimistic despite a shaky campaign start

The first official week of the Conservatives’ election campaign did not go as many inside CCHQ had hoped. A cabinet minister resigned, a row erupted over insensitive Tory comments on the Grenfell fire and a candidate stepped down over previous comments on rape. Despite this, the Conservatives end the week with a sense of cautious optimism about the next month. Tory MPs believe that Johnson steadied the ship on Wednesday evening with the party’s official launch event in the Midlands. ‘That calmed nerves,’ says a member of government. ‘Boris on form cheers up activists and candidates.’ The Tories continue to hold a comfortable lead in the polls – and with

How the Conservatives plan to revive their youth wing

There are many things the Conservative party needs to do before it is election fit – whether local or national. There’s securing a good Brexit deal, building more homes and repairing the damage done in the snap election – to name a few. As I write in today’s i paper, one of the big things brains at CCHQ are currently working on is firing up the party’s campaign machine. While the Tories don’t have a problem attracting party donors, they do have a problem getting people out door-knocking. One of the many missteps Theresa May made last year was catching her own party’s campaign machine off guard with her decision to

CCHQ vs the Moggster

Last week Theresa May came under fire from grassroots activists not over her weak and wobbly leadership but over reported proposals to limit the say local party members have when it comes to selecting candidates. So, it’s rather unfortunate for the Prime Minister that the man currently favoured by the membership as her successor is with the grassroots on this one. Speaking on the ConservativeHome Moggcast, Jacob Rees-Mogg criticised plans to centralise power on candidate selection as ‘undemocratic’. He offered a cautionary tale of his own – had central office had their way the Moggster would not be in Parliament today. Rees-Mogg says CCHQ were at pains to prevent his

It’s now the Tories who don’t get the digital age

With Theresa May’s reshuffle now complete, a consensus is forming that it’s been a rather underwhelming rearranging of the deck chairs. All the big beasts remain in place and some junior ministers appear to have been moved from their briefs just for the sake of moving them. Matters weren’t helped by a shambolic roll out which saw Chris Grayling falsely announced on Twitter as the new party chairman – and reports of disarray with ministers refusing to budge thanks to hacks tweeting the time each had spent in Downing Street. It’s clear that no-one in No 10 has mastered the art of completing a reshuffle in the digital age. As

CCHQ social media fail over new party chairman

Oh dear. The new Conservative party chairman has a job on their hands transforming CCHQ into a digitally-savvy campaign machine. So, it’s safe to say, that things haven’t got off to the best start for the new chairman. The CCHQ Twitter feed announced Chris Grayling as the new chairman: However, just moments later the tweet was deleted. The reason? It’s not clear that Grayling is the man for the job – his rival Brandon Lewis has just walked into No 10!

Where we went wrong

Nobody inside CCHQ was prepared for election night’s 10 p.m. exit poll. Lynton Crosby’s last text to me predicted that we were going to ‘do well’, which according to our expectations would mean a Conservative majority of more than 60. A late projection, based on data from the ground and Jim Messina’s modelling, suggested we would win 371 seats, giving us a majority of 92. In the end, the Conservatives got their highest share of the vote since 1983, and more votes than Tony Blair managed in any of his elections, yet still we ended up with a hung parliament. Skilful leadership may deliver stability, but the absence of an

What went wrong for the Tories?

Inside CCHQ there is a sense that three things cost them their majority in this election. First, the public were fed up with austerity. With the Tories taking the deficit off the table as an issue, they had no plan to balance the books in the next five years, and they had no response to Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to spend more on pretty much everything. Second, there was a Brexit backlash. Those who had voted Remain turned up in great numbers at this election and voted against the Tory candidate. Third, Theresa May turned out not to be who the voters thought she was. Voters liked her because they thought

Revealed: Conservatives revise down their internal election projections

The news that the Tory lead has dropped to just five points, according to a Times/YouGov poll yesterday, has been dismissed in some quarters as an exception to the polls, rather than the rule. However, even if you don’t buy that the Tory lead over Labour is now at its lowest since Theresa May came to power, it can’t be denied that the Conservative campaign has hit a wobble. I understand projections for the election result have shifted dramatically. The internal ‘ceiling’ (the best case scenario) has gone from a majority of near 200 in week one, to a majority around the 80 mark. The ‘floor’ is now a hung Parliament — which

CCHQ announces independent inquiry into Elliott Johnson

The board of the Conservative party met this afternoon and finally agreed to hold a fully independent investigation into circumstances around the death of RoadTrip activist Elliott Johnson and the allegations of bullying by Mark Clarke. CCHQ has said the investigation will be ‘timely, objective, and comprehensive and independent from the Chairman, CCHQ staff and Party volunteers’. In a statement, the Conservative party said: From tomorrow (1 December), the investigation will be conducted in its entirety by the law firm Clifford Chance LLP. This will include taking witness statements and the collation and review of all written evidence. Clifford Chance LLP will review all interviews already conducted and give those

Can Lord Feldman survive as Tory chairman?

The murky story of Mark Clarke, Elliott Johnson and allegations of bullying in the ranks of Conservative Future is pointing towards another scalp: Lord Feldman. Following the resignation of Grant Shapps this weekend, MPs are now calling for the Conservative party’s current chairman to resign — given that he was at the top of Conservative HQ when Clarke was kicked off the candidates list and later brought back in. He was also chairman when Johnson died too. Shapps has been described as the ‘fall guy’ for this situation — he had already left CCHQ after May’s general election and has been serving as the international development minister. But he tweeted

The Tories aren’t leaving Jeremy Corbyn’s destruction to chance

Jeremy Corbyn has been Labour leader for less than 48 hours and the Conservative party is already managing to set the tone of the debate. In a piece for POLITICO Europe today, I look at how the Tories are feeling about Corbyn’s victory over the weekend and their plans to deal with it. Some MPs feel sad that Labour is no longer a serious party. ‘Saturday was a sad day for our country and the Labour Party — I am not laughing,’ says one influential Tory MP. ‘The party of Ramsay Macdonald, Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair has now been reduced to Jeremy Corbyn’. But any sorrow however is overwhelmed by jubilation that the next

Ivan Massow: Was Section 28 the reason the Tories did not pick me for mayor?

Over the weekend, CCHQ selected the four Tory candidates for London mayor who will proceed to an open primary in September. Playing it safe they opted for experience over celebrity, with Andrew Boff, Zac Goldsmith, Syed Kamall and Stephen Greenhalgh all chosen. This means both Sol Campbell and Ivan Massow have not been selected. While the footballer has been notably quiet since the news, Massow appears to be taking it less well. The businessman — who is openly gay — has issued a statement on his Facebook page in which he speaks of his disappointment. In this, Massow — who once accompanied Margaret Thatcher to Tory conference — asks if his history

Exclusive: David Cameron tells CCHQ staffers ‘this is the sweetest victory of them all’

After a very good night of results, David Cameron addressed party staffers at Conservative HQ in Westminster this morning. A clip of the Prime Minister’s victory speech has made its way to Coffee House. You can watch what Cameron said below: Exclusive: David Cameron’s victory speech to CCHQ staffers this morning #ge2015 #conservative — Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) May 8, 2015 Here is the text of part of what Cameron told the gathered party staffers, all of whom appear to be a very jubilant mood: ‘ be with you guys and say thank you, you are an amazing team. I’m not an old man but I remember casting a vote in ’87

Were the Tories’ dodgy figures designed to provoke Labour into making a statement?

Why are the Tories peddling what the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has described as ‘at best unhelpful’, which is the claim that households would be hit with a £3,000 tax bombshell if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister? The IFS’ analysis came out earlier today, but this evening George Osborne repeated the claim, saying: ‘Well it’s based on what the Labour party has voted for and what Ed Miliband has said he will do… I am confident that that is based on what the Labour party has voted for in Parliament.’ listen to ‘George Osborne stands by £3,000 Labour tax rise claim’ on audioBoom

CCHQ chaos as meeting invites go to Labour

Yesterday Mr S reported how Labour have enlisted the help of people with identical names to Tory leaders for their latest email campaign. Lame as it may be, they have at least managed to send their emails to the right people. Alas, the same cannot be said for the brains at CCHQ this week. Word reaches Steerpike that invitations meant for Conservatives have been winging their way to members of the opposition. First, a Labour MP’s assistant received a call from CCHQ inviting her to help campaign for a Tory MP’s marginal seat. When the Labour employee asked who they thought they were speaking to, the reply was Nick de Bois’s office: ‘It was very odd. They didn’t

Tories ‘have fixed’ beleaguered campaign database

The Conservatives believe they have fixed their beleaguered campaign database, VoteSource, after increasing complaints from MPs. Coffee House understands that a number of MPs in marginal seats complained to party co-chair Lord Feldman after they started to tire both of finding that their data wasn’t being saved properly and of being told that everything was fine. MPs have been told that the party made repairs to VoteSource over the weekend and it is now supposed to be fully functioning. Those checking their data in the past few weeks had been growing increasingly agitated about the way the database was working, with at least one association threatening to start using old-fashioned

Team Tory unite (but refuse to answer any questions about their own leadership bids)

The Tories’ front of house team turned up today to try and stoke up a row about Labour’s spending plans. The Tory aim was twofold. First, to try and cement in voters’ minds the idea that Labour would spend too much, pushing up taxes and second to claim that Labour is in chaos when it tries to distance itself from previous spending commitments. The latter is why the Tories are so relaxed about people pointing out that various commitments in their own dossier do not appear in Labour’s official policy prospectus, the one issued after the party’s National Policy Forum. Osborne, Hague, May, Morgan and Javid all came carrying the same