Speech to the Greater Britain Committee
James Rackham, Chairman of the GBC, addressed affiliated members of Parliament and non-parliamentary members today in Oxford on proposed GBC reforms to the Conservative Party.
Thank you all for coming tonight to hear an irrelevant backbencher address what the current and soon to be former Prime Minister calls his “boyband fan club”. Our role as an organisation is to establish policy and push for changes within the Conservative Party to create a more electable and democratic force for governance. That process is what i intend to begin pushing for this evening and it is an honour to be addressing the full organisation for the first time, along with many of our new non parliamentary affiliates who i welcome warmly here tonight. Our organisation now stands at approximately 9,000 in national membership, and considering we are not a political party this is an impressive feat. With our £1 membership fee per year this number only stands to grow.
We are an organisation created in order to strengthen our ability as a wing of the party to project influence on Conservative party policy. Our success so far has already been noted. As a grouping we have successfully defended our party’s offer to the British people for an EU referendum where their voice is heard in full over possibly one of the biggest issues of our time. We have defended policy on maintaining a tough but fair immigration policy with the aim to reduce net intake of migrants to this country to the tens of thousands. We have reaffirmed and re enforced party policy on the House of Lords and it’s inevitable need for reform in this Parliamentary term by arguing for a reduction in the size of this vital and historic institution that has been part of our history for generations. These are clear demonstrations that our group yields influence and importance in Conservative party policy for the better both for our party and the country, and it is time for the next step.
As an organisation we firmly encourage democracy and need not pretend to be democratic by putting the word “democracy” in our name as many Socialist ‘republics’ and cross party groupings do these days. In our opening pitch to the British Public and Conservative members we noted that it is time that the Conservative Party reaffirms its commitment to its members by increasing their power over party policy and broadening our base. Only through men and women on the ground can we conduct election campaigns, and with a relatively small party membership it is time to work towards bringing more campaigners, young politicos and activists into our party so we can better represent them and the public in Parliament. That is why today our first policy we will be addressing is Conservative structural democracy.
Membership costs of this party are too damn high, and the cost of attending important party events such as Conference and even small functions like dinners with members of Parliament or former leaders cost a significant amount of money. It is not the members who benefit from being able to meet our MPs, former leaders or attending conference; it is the Conservative Party. We must make more effort to be spoken to, and more importantly to listen. As a result having discussed with party leadership proposals to change the costing of membership i have successfully pushed for the reduction of party membership cost to £15/y for over 23’s. £5/y for under 23’s and £10/y for members of the armed forces. We want the input of the public into party policy, and this is a means of ensuring the spread of opinion in the party is larger and more diverse than previously. Furthermore i shall be pushing with the Chairman of the Conservative Party and the party’s leader to encourage the application of a 50% reduction in cost of party functions over the next four years to get our members and our party’s members the chance to sit down with some of the big-whigs of party leadership or even some former leaders for a discussion about their political careers and the future. Finally, through our new organisational membership scheme the Greater Britain Committee will be, starting next year, offering funding for every Conservative Constituency Association with more than ten members affiliated with the GBC a free ‘ticket’ per association to the annual party conference - paid for by our minuscule membership fee. We as a group want our views to be heard, and delegates to conference will be welcome to GBC affiliated events at conference with open arms as noted in our launch platform.
In line with these reforms i have further discussed changing the nature and structure of Conservative Party conference with the leadership who have tentatively suggested they will back our proposals to give our delegates at conference more to do than listen to speakers and enjoy the bar - as much as i’m sure they and i enjoy that currently. Our party is one of the few on the national stage that gives its delegates virtually no say on policy at conference. This will soon, next conference, change. On the first of four days of our party’s national conference delegates will be provided with the opportunity to suggest motions for the entire conference delegation to vote on. Each delegate will be able to ‘second’ or sign onto one motion per conference on that first day which will be managed through a phone app style system provided for by the party. The top three motions backed by delegates will then be selected to be voted on and debated on each of the remaining three days, each motion being debated in the morning and early afternoon before a late afternoon vote each day. These votes will be indicative of party opinion, however non-binding to allow leadership the right to perceive the results of each vote on a case by case basis. This is a significant step in the right direction for party democracy, and a significant enhancement of both delegate and member powers within it.
I believe however we must go further. If the future of politics is to be decided by the next generation then it is our task as a party and politicians to engage with and equip that next generation with the tools to fight for our continued cause. A rejection of the socialist demand for equality of outcome and instead a message of equality of opportunity. The reaffirmation of the British people’s right to determine their own fate and protection of national sovereignty. The fight for trust in the people both in their vote, but also with their own income and life choices. Finally, the determination to ensure Britain’s place on the world stage and our state’s ability to protect its citizens. These are values that transcend the Conservative Party and, honestly, most of public opinion - but they are the core of what Conservatives believe in. It is time to pass on that knowledge and belief to our children. The organisation we know as Conservative Future is currently failing to deliver on such ideals. It was once the largest national organisation on university campuses, and yet today it struggles on structural basis and with a stagnant membership. This must change if we are to better engage with our nation’s youth and our young members.
The GBC therefore proposes that we re-activate the organisation formerly known as the Young Conservatives. We must give local students ownership of this revived front for youth conservatism by allowing it to become a form of federation within the party, able to send delegates to conference and constitute themselves however each university association feels fit. We ought to establish an online presence by creating a new website or even forum for members to access and discuss policies, the path of the party and issues that matter to them - as well as to create a platform from which students can publish editorials reviewed by a team of Young Conservative members to allow for student engagement with national and internal party politics at a greater level. The Young Conservatives should be a hub of debate, a place to make friends and discuss issues that many in the public quite rightly would find almost a bit boring or uninteresting - yet our dedicated and engaged young members find to be all they think about. We want to challenge our young members, empower them and engage with them by giving them access to our party, it’s leadership and its structures. This will be a key first step.
Our party is more than a force designed to be elected, it is about setting a vision and an example. We must show that we are the true democrats in British politics, that we are the party who listens and engages with its members and the public, the party that cares about our future and our present. It is time we begin that process today, and through the Greater Britain Committee we can say truly that not only this is possible, but it is happening as we speak. These reforms are a huge step forward, and come at the request of the organisation that the left has sought to demonize for our role within our party - i dare them to criticize our faith in our members, the British public and our party's members. We face now following the election up to five years of hard left-liberal governance, five years of financial waste, high taxes and economic harm. This will be a Government of fear - fear of the public they do not trust to handle their own incomes, their own opinions or their decisions. They will deny you a voice on the EU, deny you your hard earned cash and restrict how you speak and act in the name of political correctness or fear of insult. It is our role as a party and as an organisation to fight back and show we do trust the British people. That fight to Make Britain Great Again begins today.
It has been an honour to address you this evening, and i look forward to doing so again.
*Permission Granted by Sinan for speech.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts"
Make Britain Great Again. Yikes.
Full confession, I've found the Greater Britain Committee fascinating, strange, interesting, wtf and curious through the game - for better and for worse, and I imagine the press and public kind of feel the same way. They're a bit of a riddle in a way, they advocate and push for popular (or at least populist) policy, but constantly have Mary Cambel's shadow looming over them. They reflect previous Labour movements in pushing for greater democracy and cheaper politics - but ironically it's their wing of the party who are less likely to embrace that (politics is expensive, and Parliament tends to be more small c conservative than the whims of grassroots movements).
It's not changing anyone's minds - people who are sceptical at the GBC will remain so, those in the grassroots enthused will remain enthused, those who don't care will continue to not care. But it's an interesting mission statement - the press and public, friendly or not, have taken note.