Membership snubs ballot on manifesto

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Indy Politics

Only 16 per cent of Conservative Party members took part in a ballot to approve William Hague's draft general election manifesto.

Only 16 per cent of Conservative Party members took part in a ballot to approve William Hague's draft general election manifesto.

Tory officials admitted the low turnout was disappointing but insisted it was a sign that party members were content with Mr Hague's policy document Believing in Britain. They said the feeling the result was a foregone conclusion also deterred people from taking part.

Only 576 Tory members voted against approving the draft manifesto, which was backed by 49,932 members - 98.8 per cent of those who took part.

Michael Ancram, the Tory chairman, said: "This fulfils our pledge to give the members of our party the opportunity to vote on the main elements of our manifesto if they should wish to do so. The result not only endorses the policies outlined in Believing in Britain but also has provided the party with over 50,000 suggestions as to our future priorities in terms of legislation and taxation and spending."

Tory members were given a simple choice on whether they endorsed or rejected the entire document, rather than having the opportunity to express their opinions on individual issues.

The ballot was attacked yesterday by the Charter Movement, which campaigns for greater democracy inside the party. It said: "The role of party members in the making of policy should be more than a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, awarding life or death to an all-embracing document. Members have a right to own a significant part of the process itself, not just brought in as a grand gesture at the end."

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