Leading Article: Vote of no-confidence

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The Independent Online
THE STRANGE Death of Conservative England: the story continues. Of all the shocking news from Harrogate at the weekend, perhaps the most compelling was the fact that only 115,000 Tory members voted in the ballot on party reforms. It is easy to mock. This was the party that long-boasted a million members. That long proclaimed itself the most successful election- winning machine in the democratic world. Now it has a smaller membership than Mr Blair's new-fangled party, which was only invented the other day, and only one member in three bothers to vote in a ballot on historic changes unthinkable 12 months ago - a turnout that would disgrace an inner-city council by-election.

But that is internal democracy for you: it reveals all kinds of unpleasant truths. Mr Hague's drive to create a one-member-one-vote party is absolutely right. But it has exposed the hollowness at the heart of modern Toryism: there is no vision to enthuse the members and potential members. Perhaps it is too early for that, but until Mr Hague gives us something worth joining a party for, the Tories are condemned to irrelevance.

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