To find a satisfactory answer we must bury deep into the Conservative Party’s constitutionby George Peretz / May 1, 2019 / Leave a comment
A few days ago, Tim Montgomerie—a prominent Conservative commentator—tweeted that he would be voting for the Brexit Party and its lead candidate in his area, the former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe, “with enthusiasm.” And a poll of party members on Conservative Home found that three in five of them planned to vote for the Brexit Party in the forthcoming European Parliament elections. By doing so, are they putting their membership—and their ability to vote for the leader in any future Conservative leadership election—at risk?
Article 3 of the Conservative Party Constitution states that “membership of the Conservative Party is not compatible with membership of or association with any other registered political party.” So any Conservative who joins the Brexit Party (which is a registered political party) is excluded from membership. Further, paragraph 13 of Schedule 6 to the constitution states that standing for election as a candidate of another party is a ground for expulsion. So the position is clear for those Conservatives who join or, like Widdecombe, become candidates for the Brexit Party—they are not entitled to remain.
What about those who campaign for, say that they will vote for, or say positive things about, the Brexit Party? Public campaigning for the Brexit Party—to take an example, by canvassing as part of a Brexit Party group and wearing its rosette—would, in my view, amount to “association with” that party under article 3, and therefore be a ground for expulsion. But there may be room for argument, especially at the margins (delivering leaflets is less likely to be “association” than canvassing, for example).
What about those who just say that they will vote for the Brexit Party, but without campaigning for it? That seems to me to be a more difficult case under these rules. It would be hard to say that anyone who says only that they are voting for the Brexit Party is thereby “associating” with it. But there is a potentially fine line between publicly stating that you will be voting for a party and campaigning for it (and therefore, possibly, associating with it), especially if you start giving reasons for your choice. On the other hand, merely saying positive things about the Brexit Party would in my view be far from associating with it (after all, many Conservatives praised the…