In a newsletter to be published today, the Charter Group, which campaigns for more accountability in the Tory party, blames Sir Norman for the fact that so many Conservative election agents have been dismissed for want of funds.
The newsletter asks: 'Isn't it time that all our MPs concentrated on the job for which they were elected and stopped pretending they know how to run a political party?' It also talks of the party's 'present misery' and blames it on decisions taken by the leadership in a 'remote, generally secretive and almost unaccountable way'. Complaints include the systems for chosing candidates, recruitment, training and payment of agents, and the running of the party conference. 'Control is exercised by a small group within the party who seem to be woefully misinformed about the views of party members,' the newsletter says.
Last night, Sir Norman announced he was setting up a pounds 250,000 fund to help constituencies pay for agents, who might otherwise be threatened with redundancy.
And in a separate move yesterday, the party chairman ordered an investigation into allegations that the party spent more than it admitted on a series of by- elections.
He told a press conference at the annual conference in Blackpool that he was calling for the papers into the allegations, which relate to a period before he became chairman. The allegations concern a series of by-elections which the Tories were anxious to win in the run-up to the 1992 general election.
Sir Norman will be seeking a confidential memorandum which allegedly shows that a total of pounds 305,000 was spent on six by-elections, which were 50 per cent over budget.
The party appears to have complied with electoral law, which limits the amount that may be spent on by-election campaigns. The additional sums may have been allowable expenses.Reuse content