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Think Tank: Conservative Members Should Have More Say in Leadership Contest

LONDON - England - In the run-up to the Conservative Party's upcoming leadership election, the Bow Group and Conservative Grassroots have conducted their own polling for what Conservative Party Members consider to be the candidates' ideological credentials and prospects.





  • Poll of Bow Group & Conservative Grassroots members and associates show Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom as the clear favourites among members for the Conservative Party Leadership
  • Conservative Party members have not been able to vote on Party Leadership for 11 years
  • Party membership has halved in that time, with members given fewer powers over decision-making
  • The Bow Group questions the length and process of the schedule of the Conservative Party Leadership election and the final number of candidates to be put before the membership
  • The Bow Group has written to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to express concern that the true wishes of members will be ignored in favour of an internal ‘Westminster bubble’ deal
  • Candidates’ lack of genuine support among the membership risks damaging their mandate to lead the Party and further degrading the role of members

 The results demonstrated that Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox held a +16.65% lead ahead of favourites Boris Johnson & Michael Gove, and a +35.05% lead over Theresa May.

The results indicate a stark disconnect between Party members and the Parliamentary Party.

Following a statement earlier this week, the Bow Group has subsequently written to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, expressing disappointment over how the election has been rushed through and that the limited option for only 2 final candidates represent a lack of internal democratic debate within the Party. This statement can be read below.

Using a sample size of 2,228, participants were asked: ‘Which team or candidate is best placed to uphold conservative values in the Conservative Party Leadership election?’


  • Andrea Leadsom & Liam Fox : 1,086 (48.74%)
  • Stephen Crabb & Sajid Javid: 120 (5.39%)
  • Boris Johnson & Michael Gove: 715 (32.09%)
  • Theresa May: 305 (13.69%)

Statement to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee:


The Bow Group wishes to register our disappointment as to the schedule and form of the Conservative Party Leadership election.

As an organisation which has consistently argued for greater democratic engagement and grassroots involvement within the Conservative Party, we believe that a serious opportunity to address deep-rooted deficiencies has been missed.

Party members have witnessed their traditional roles of Parliamentary candidate selection slowly reduced, while Conference has become a scripted media event without real access for members to set an agenda or policy deliberation.

This has now been exacerbated in the same approach being taken towards the election highest position within the Party: the Leadership.

Whilst we understand there is a view that the nation’s need for new leadership is pressing, we feel that an election should have been scheduled to conclude at the end of Conservative Party conference and that the decision should have been one solely for the membership, with the maximum number of candidates and widest debate possible placed before them.

It has been 11 years since members have been able to have a say on the Party leadership. We believe that the 1922 Committee decision and chosen Party process make it difficult for a candidate, popular with the wider membership but not necessarily as popular in Parliament, to stand a fair chance of being elected.

Ideological preferences are being compressed and ultimately discarded through this narrow process.

During the tenure of David Cameron’s leadership the Conservative Party membership  has halved, with two severe scandals being linked to that decline.

There has been a growing feeling in the grassroots membership of the Party that there is a disconnect between the membership and leadership, and that power is increasingly conducted from the centre rather than the broad membership.

Under the current scheduled process the newly elected leader will lack the mandate of an appropriate and comprehensive election, which is likely to weaken their position before the membership, and the country.

Many members that have been dissatisfied with the direction of the Party in recent years will undoubtedly be watching this election with interest, as will those who have left the Party but would consider returning under the right circumstances.

Recent elections and events have demonstrated quite conclusively that the Conservative Party needs a large and committed membership to win elections and engage effectively with the nation.

We would therefore ask that serious consideration is given to extending the period of the election to include the Conservative Party Conference itself, and that the number of candidates to be placed before the membership is extended to at least four.

We would hope that consideration is also given to significant reform of the Conservative Party to place membership back at its core, and that candidate selection and the election of the Conservative Party Chairman is handed back to the membership.

We hope to work with the Conservative Party towards this end, and beyond the leadership election.

The Bow Group is a leading conservative think tank based in London. Founded in 1951, the Bow Group is the oldest conservative think tank in the UK.


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