Proposals to 'stifle democracy' rebuffed

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE Conservative high command was rebuffed twice in secret session yesterday when it failed to secure the required backing for two rule changes which its critics said would stifle democracy in the party.

Two rule amendments which would, party reformers argued, have further curbed the rights of activists to elect officers of the party's National Union and to call special meetings were carried - but not by the two thirds majority needed under the party constitution.

But the reformers - who remain a minority among the constituency activists who make up the central council - were heavily defeated when they tried to promote their own rule change reducing from 50 to 25 the number of constituencies needed to call an emergency meeting of the central council.

They were also defeated in their efforts to secure the right to elect half the members of the management board. Party officials said that opposition to the reform platform was overwhelming and that they reflected an 'unrepresentative minority' within the party.

Sir Basil Feldman, the chairman of the National Union, said after the debate that he hoped the party could put constitutional change behind it.

The motion seeking limited elections to the management board, from the Chislehurst constituency association, welcomed the creation of the management board by Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman but argued that it should itself be accountable to the wider party.

The board, personally appointed by the chairman, contains senior party officers; Sir Marcus Fox, the chairman of the 1922 committee; Sir Christopher Prout, leader of the Tory MEPs and Sir Allen Sheppard, chairman of Grand Metropolitan Hotels.