Tory members fury as phone votes are ditched for digital – but up to 15% have no online access
Conservative party members must be allowed to vote by telephone, the chairman of a grassroots Conservative group has said, accusing party leaders of treating campaigners with “contempt”.
For the first time in the party’s history, members will choose the next prime minister exclusively in an online ballot, provided more than one candidate is put forward by MPs by Monday.
But between 10 and 15% of party members don’t have a computer or mobile phone, meaning they risk being left out of the vote in the leadership race, according to John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.
“I understand, certainly in the past, that there has been a telephone voting system where you were given a code number and then you can telephone your vote,” he said, adding that he would welcome such an approach this time to ensure no one is deprived of their rights.
Register an email address
Party officials reportedly spent the weekend frantically trying to phone members without email addresses to urge them to register an email address so they could vote in the contest.
If the battle to replace Liz Truss comes down to the final two, voting is set to open Monday evening and will run for four days, ending at 11 a.m. on Friday.
Mr Strafford, who is campaigning for greater representation of rank-and-file Tory members in the party, said he had ‘never experienced such anger among party members as I have experienced in the past few years. last few weeks”.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “The members are bubbling. The parliamentary party is completely and utterly disconnected from party members.
“They treat the members with complete disregard. WhatsApp groups have gone completely mad with anger at the parliamentary party and MPs.
“Ordinary members are convinced that MPs think only of themselves, have no principles and do what suits them. This is a very sad state of affairs.
He claimed the new leadership contest rules – which give MPs an indicative vote on the final two candidates before it is passed to members – amount to “manipulation” of the process by party leaders.
“It is clear that if MPs vote and there is an overwhelming vote for one candidate, then the pressure will be on the second to withdraw. And if you have a significant lead, it puts the pressure on members to vote for this candidate. So it’s manipulation and it’s quite outrageous,” he explained.
The pet turtle was a member of the party
Concerns have previously been raised about the security of online voting to choose the next Tory leader after a pet turtle and Margaret Thatcher were registered as party members.
Over the summer, online publication Tortoise managed to register four fake Tory members to demonstrate how the leadership race is open to potential abuse.
In August, the website signed a Margaret Roberts, Lady Thatcher’s maiden name, a pet turtle named Archie and two foreign nationals.
Tory bosses have insisted online voting will be ‘secure’ even if it were to be scrapped for the final contest over fears the system could be open to hacking.
And there have been warnings from experts that hostile states like Russia could try to hijack the poll and influence who becomes the next prime minister.
Moscow has previously been accused of trying to interfere in key elections, including the US presidential race and the Brexit referendum, both in 2016.
Sir Jake Berry, the Tory speaker, insisted he was “pleased the online voting system is secure”.
The National Cybersecurity Center added that it would “work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities and MPs to provide cybersecurity advice and support”.