The Conservative party today is run a bit like HMV, I argue in the Mail on Sunday. It has falling market share and costly overheads. The thing that it retails – politics – can better be sold a different way.
No matter who the CEO, or what other changes they bring, unless the Tory party addresses this central, thudding fact, it will go the way of HMV.
Some pundits almost seem to blame the voters. The public, they argue, are simply not interested in politics and political parties any more.
Nonsense. In the age of the internet it has never been easier to build mass membership movements. Ask Beppe Grillo.
Claiming the public are no longer interested in politics would be as ridiculous as HMV suggesting that the public were no longer buying music. They are – but just not the way that we are selling it.
The Conservative movement must, I suggest, become more like the online music service, Spotify. What do I mean by that?
Spotify is all about self-selection. I can select almost any song ever written, when I want. Unlike buying a CD, I don't have to pay for the songs I have no intention of listening to.
Spotify lets you dip in and out. The membership boundaries are, in a sense, blurred. If I want the full service, I have to pay. But if I don't pay for a while, I still get to be part of it.
Spotify caters to niche, distinctive and particular tastes. It offers us each a far greater range than the largest music shop in the world could provide – all on our own terms.
How might you Spotify the Tory party? Here are some initial ideas:
1. Let anyone register online as a supporter (name, email, postcode) – in return for which they get supporter status.
2. Let anyone join as an "online member" for two or three quid. If they are only joining you online, why should they be billed for the off line overheads?
3. Allow registered supporters and online members to vote online to help select candidates standing for election where they live (for shortlists, if holding open primaries, final round choice, if not).
4. Use open primaries - not caucuses or A lists.
5. Allow online members to vote online to determine aspects of party policy.
6. Have half the members of the Party Board, and the area boards, elected directly online by the online members.
7. Don't allow dissent - encourage it. "Don't get mad – get change" should be the ethos. If you want change in your community or country, or feel strongly about an issue, join us – and use the party as a platform for change.
8. Don't dismiss "single issue" politics. Invite those animated by some of the big issues of the day to deliberately use the party as a vehicle to change things. It's what parties ought to be for.
9. Hold a one day annual conference, priced to suit supporters and members – not lobbyists. Use it to spark ideas about campaigning, membership – and all of the above.
I am sure I have missed some other ideas. But in the spirit of Spotify, the comment thread is your's ....
"A revolutionary text ... right up there with the Communist manifesto" - Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
Printed by Douglas Carswell of 61 Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex