Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Conservative Divorce - Groundhog Day?

This story is from 22 May 2005 - although some names have changed, Francis Maude 's name crops up again. I wonder how close Francis Maude is to David Cameron? Found this in Independent following Cameron's election as new leader:


Party chairman. Former shadow chancellor and shadow foreign secretary, who became an arch-moderniser, managing Michael Portillo's bid to win the Conservative leadership. He will be central to Mr Cameron's hopes to make the party look and think differently and is charged with driving through the new leader's plans to shake up candidate selection to encourage more women to become candidates and MPs.

Also found that at recent Scottish Conservative Party Conference Francis Maude had to urge the delegates to accept the reality of the Scottish Parliament :

Internal critics claim the fundamental problem is a lack of direction in the party. Even accepting the reality of devolution remains a problem for many: last Friday, party chairman Francis Maude felt it necessary to urge party delegates to accept the reality of the Scottish Parliament. This is a little like the Pope telling his Catholic flock that they really had better start getting used to the Reformation. The referendum on devolution was 10 long years ago, but still - it seems - the Conservatives are torn over whether or not to live with it. It is a measure of their lack of progress.

Scottish Tories split over calls for break from UK party

Sunday Herald 22 May 2005

Paul Hutcheon Scottish Political Editor

THE Scottish Tories were immersed in a bitter cross-border row last night after one of their leading MSPs said they should declare their independence from the UK party and its leader Michael Howard.

Murdo Fraser believes the creation of a "separate party, separately funded, with separate responsibility for policy" is one way of changing the perception that his colleagues belong to a branch of an English-based organisation.

The idea was immediately dismissed by Scottish leader David McLetchie and frontbencher Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, who said it was against the principles of the party.

But in another twist, Francis Maude, the newly installed Conservative chairman and key party moderniser, backed Fraser and insisted that his plan ought to be "considered".

Fraser's controversial idea was a response to the resignation last week of shadow Scottish secretary James Gray, who was forced to quit on Thursday after suggesting that MSPs should be abolished.

The North Wiltshire MP's eight-day spell as shadow Scottish secretary proved hugely embarrassing for McLetchie because the Pentlands MSP has spent the past six years turning the Scottish Tories into a prodevolution force.

Fraser, who is widely tipped to be the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the episode demonstrated that a discussion on the party's relationship with Howard and his colleagues was long overdue.

"The events of last week show that a debate on the links between the Scottish Tories and the UK party is required, " he said. "We don't have anything to fear from looking at ways that would give us greater autonomy from central office." The Tory MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife said cutting the link would allow McLetchie's party to reassert their Scottish credentials and distance themselves from the excesses of the UK Conservatives.

"I think there is a problem with perception, in that we are seen as a party that are not sufficiently Scottish. Greater autonomy would be one way of changing that perception, " he said.

The Tory enterprise spokesman wants to import the "German conservative model", in which Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) co-exists with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which fights elections throughout the rest of the country.

While the parties are ideologically similar, the CSU are a distinct organisation with their own symbols, policies and constitution, an arrangement Fraser backs.

"It is a model that is sometimes suggested and I think it is worthy of consideration. It would entail a separate party, separately funded, with separate responsibility for policy.

There would be two parties united by conservatism, " he said.

"It seems to work in Germany and I would be relaxed about a similar structure over here." But an angry Rifkind, recently appointed by Howard as shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, hit out at the idea.

"Murdo and anyone who feels like him should remember that we are not only Conservative, but also a unionist party. Any ideas should be framed around that principle, " he said.

Rifkind was backed up by a spokesman for McLetchie, who reiterated the leader's total opposition.

"I think David's thoughts on that have been stated a few times. As he said, we are the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. That is what we are, " he said.

McLetchie and Rifkind were contradicted, however, by Maude, who told the Sunday Herald he was relaxed about the Scottish Tories becoming an independent party: "Things have changed since devolution, " he said. "We want a revival in Scotland, and if that means making the Scottish party more independent, then it is something we are going to have to talk about." Unprompted, the chairman of the Conservative Party said the German model promoted by Fraser should be considered. "There is the idea of the Scottish Tories becoming completely independent, similar to the relationship the CSU has with the CDU. It's not an absurd idea, " he said.

Asked about Maude's view, McLetchie's spokesman said: "Well, there you go. I am not going to sit and argue about what Francis Maude has said." The "independence" question is a touchy subject for the Scottish Tories, because it would involve an embarrassing public divorce from the UK Conservatives.

Although the party in Scotland have operational autonomy and control devolved policy-making, the UK central office provides funds and has much influence in appointing the Scottish chairman.

Fraser believes there is a "strong case" for his colleagues appointing their own chairman, as does fellow Tory MSP Brian Monteith. McLetchie, however, has said: "It defies belief that a party that regards itself as the prime unionist party would sue for divorce from its partner."



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