Conservative Central Office accused of stifling debate on AV by prominent party activist

News courtesy of ConservativeHome & also BBC News websites, that long-standing Conservative activist, writer & Chairman of the Conservative Yes to AV campaign, John Strafford has accused his own party’s hierarchy of deliberately trying to squash any debate within it’s ranks about the Alternative Vote  & the case for changing our voting system in the forthcoming national referendum in May. It appears the Conservative party have refused to allow the Tory “Yes” campaign (which broadly comes under the umbrella movement that is “Yes to Fairer Votes”) to hold a fringe meeting or have a stall at their Spring conference in Cardiff.

John Strafford, chairman of the Conservative Yes to AV campaign

As Strafford states in his post on ConservativeHome:

“We have a number of elected conservatives and peers already signed up and were anticipating a healthy turnout (at their proposed meeting), until being informed in no uncertain terms by Conservative Central Office that our presence was not to be allowed at our own forum.

Whatever happened to “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. In the past the Party happily and all too readily accepted money from pro reform organisations such as the Conservative Action for Electoral Reform, to boast party coffers and allowed them to hold meetings.  What has changed? Are CCHQ are so scared of losing the referendum that they won’t let party members hear the other side of the debate?   Do the party hierarchy not trust us enough to make an informed decision and prefer we receive only one side of the argument?

There is an important principle at stake here! Regardless of our views on this issue, surely we all can agree that each side has the right to have their voices heard….David Cameron has said that Conservatives will have a free vote on this issue.   Was this just a hollow promise?”

According to the BBC News article though, a spokeswoman for the Conservatives has denied that the party had received any such request from John Strafford & the pro-reform group he chairs, stating that she was “confused” by his comments.  I hope common sense & freedom of speech prevail in this case though, especially as this also shows that far from all Conservatives are opposed to making this much-needed change, & that regardless of outcome this is a worthwhile debate for the party to be holding at this time.


John Strafford is also one of the speakers at a debate about the referendum on voting reform to be held at the University of Warwick on Tuesday 22nd February, with Labour’s James Plaskitt (formerly the MP for Warwick & Leamington) also speaking in favour of AV. The two speakers putting the case against AV & for keeping the current FPTP system have not been announced yet- hopefully the organisers have more luck than the local Fairer Votes volunteers did in trying to book “No to AV” local MPs (we tried 12 in total- all declined or revealed themselves to be “undecided”!) or official No campaign speakers for the recent, well-attended debate evening in Birmingham…

More details will follow about the debate at Warwick Uni very soon, but it will be starting at 7:30pm, in Lecture room MS.05 in the Zeeman Building (Mathematics Block).  Attendees can use car park 15.

Here’s a link to a map of the relevant part of the campus.

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1 Response to Conservative Central Office accused of stifling debate on AV by prominent party activist

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