One said grassroots members had been left “angry, disillusioned and deeply puzzled” over the “sudden” introduction of the proposals, as another said life-long supporters no longer felt “at home” in the Conservative Party.
This post isn't about gay marriage but about the general dysfunctional relationship those in Westminster have with their grassroots "supporters".
Might I suggest to those grassroots Tories that Cameron and his ilk could not give a toss about your angry letter. One only has to visit, my blogging friend over at Witterings from Witney to note how disinterested they are in viewpoints from their constituents and constituencies. A letter is something they can simply ignore. If they genuinely want a change in that relationship they have to deliver a message that cannot be ignored, one with real consequences. What those grassroots conservatives might not have realised though is that they do have their fingers on a number of pressure points with regards to the MPs they have supported.
It all rests in the fact that local constituency is the place where the power shifts from the MP to the electorate and that the MP needs to crawl to the local voters in however a disingenuous fashion they do it in order to be returned to the trough.
I would say that rather than deliver a letter which will be filed under B1N, the local grassroots conservatives could consider delivering a metaphorical kick in the nuts to the party, their MP and his or her agent if they wanted to put on a show of power.
They could if they chose, write to the MPs PA and their agent and inform them, that because of their consistent failure to fulfil their election promises, their standpoint on a number of issues that run counter to grassroots Conservatives and their wilful refusal to take on board those who have supported them, they will refuse to support all promotional activity within the local constituency, until such time that as MPs they recognise the MPs responsibility to the local party and the electorate. Personally I would prefer the electorate only but it's a start.
They could offer the MP one final opportunity to fulfil the promises they made or face the consequences of such a refusal.
In coming up with these suggestions I'm minded of how an absent friend of mine who was once a prospective Labour candidate was not supported by the national party because the seat he was campaigning for was not a target seat. I'm also minded of his tales of how they also tried to cut the sitting MP in another constituency off at the knees because he wouldn't submit to the party line on a number of issues by starving him of support activity at election time. The approach is to effectively starve them of support activity. Any MP who makes it to Parliament only really does so with an army of volunteers, publicity and money which turns into promotional activity within the constituency. Those that get little or no support, effectively have no voice, and those that have no voice, get no votes
Suggestions could include:
- A letter campaign to the local newspaper informing the public of their opposition to the local MPs position that includes their credentials as a grass roots conservative. This could also include other PR activity. I can imagine that a mainstream media looking to stick it to the Tories are more likely to cover such a rebellion than not.
- All support activity for the local MP surgery will cease. This could even be as petty as refusing to unlock the office on the day in question and turning the heating or the lighting on. No printing will be done, no photocopying will be done, no lists of who who the MP is due will be printed and no one from the local team will man reception. In fact - sod it - let it be a free for all. let the PA in Westminster sort it or the agent.
- Refusing to photocopy or deliver any leaflets within the local constituency and a promise that come the election campaign the MP will find no support whatsoever for campaign activity. There will be no leaflets delivered, no doors will be knocked on, no leaflets or posted printed or displayed to say the least.
- Writing to all known funders of the MP confirming all of the above and ask said funders to consider their funding position given that there will be no local support from the local party returning the MP to Parliament whilst they hold the positions they do.
- Confirmation that they will turn up to local hustings for those that still engage in this and ask the MP uncomfortable questions in full public view letting the audience know of their connections to the local Tory party.
- Confirmation that where an opposition candidate declares a willingness to support key policies that they agree with, they will write in support of those and declaring their previous party affiliations.
A concerted effort of such a nature would likely hit the national news which would have its own effects. Funders back winners and also avoid negative publicity. If they felt their money was likely to head down the drain, I suspect they would give serious consideration to keeping their money tucked away elsewhere.
Of course such a strategy is risky because those activists will have to face up to some real questions of what matters the most - the principles of democracy or outdated tribal loyalty. Many I suspect will stick to tribal loyalty because the consequences to them are too painful. This is notwithstanding the fact that their loyalty exists in something that has parallels with abusive relationships where one party does all the giving and the other party repeatedly betrays their partner.
It might or it might not have the desired effect, but I suspect some MPs would come to heel when they work out the potential risk to their place at the trough, especially those whose majority at the last election was, shall we say, less than robust. Some might fall because of their intransigence.
Better still it might give an independent promising to be a genuine representative of the electorate more of a level playing field.
As David would say - "just asking"