A Tory grassroots campaign group has hit out after its demand for members to be given a vote on the next party chairman was ignored. Rishi Sunak today appointed Greg Hands as the new Conservative chair as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Nadhim Zahawi who was sacked in a row over his tax affairs.
The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), which was set up by allies of Boris Johnson following his ousting to campaign for the party faithful to be given more say, had called for members to choose who would take on the role.
In a statement, the CDO said: “CDO expresses our disappointment that the opportunity for members of the Conservative Party to directly elect the Chairman was ignored.
“We cannot continue to ignore the voice of our hardworking party members.
“The idea of giving voluntary members a voice in key decisions is a cornerstone of our values.”
Tory peer Lord Cruddas, who is president of the CDO, added: “Since 1987 when Norman Tebbitt was Conservative Party chairman, we have had 29 different chairmen.
“The average tenure in post is 15 months! It’s ridiculous and not enough time to make changes and deal with constitutional and real party issues.
“The role of chairman has become a symbolic role and effectively the stooge of No 10.
“Let the chairman be elected by the members with a three to five-year tenure.
“That way changes can be implemented and members can have a real say in the running of our party.”
Mr Hands’ immediate challenge is the local elections in May – Mr Sunak’s first electoral test since entering No 10.
He also has the mammoth task of getting the divided Conservatives ready for the next general election.
It comes as the latest Techne tracker poll for the Express gave Labour a 21-point lead over the Conservatives.
Widely seen as a safe choice, Mr Hands was promoted from trade minister to take on the party chairmanship.
He has served in a raft of ministerial roles since becoming the Tory MP for Hammersmith and Fulham 18 years ago, including as deputy chief whip and as then-chancellor George Osborne’s chief secretary to the Treasury.
Following his appointment, Mr Hands said he was “excited” to get started in his new role,
He tweeted: “I joined the Party in 1986 – a ward chairman in 1992, a councillor in 1998, a Group Leader in 1999, an MP in 2005, a Minister in 2011 – an honour to chair it in 2023! The work starts right away.”
Meanwhile, outspoken Red Wall MP Lee Anderson has been appointed deputy Tory chair.
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