21 OCTOBER 1972, Page 9

Conservative Party Conference—the Spectator poll analysed

"There is no doubt whatsoever that the Conservative Party is very deeply and angrily divided... The Conference was a triumph for Robert Carr"

This year, as in previous years, The Spectator conducted a poll of the delegates at the Conservative Party conference. We received approximately 400 completed forms and the results given below are based entirely on these forms. We were swiftly made aware that the Monday Club was attempting to influence certain results by organising a kind of Monday Club ticket, or slate; the Young Conservatives also realised this, and they promptly organised a counter-move. Statistically the two groups seem to have balanced each other out, and have not affected, other than marginally, the general picture. We have made no attempt to eliminate the effects of such efforts, which are, after all, small exercises in politics anyway.

Delegates were asked to make comments also, if they felt like it, and before looking at the result of the poll here is a sample of the remarks delegates made: "What is the Conservative Party? Has it become the Labour Party?" "We have smashed Powell and the Monday Club and have regained the Middle Ground." "Enoch Powell had one third of the votes on the immigration issue, extremely encouraging." "The party leadership does not reflect the make-up of political philosophy within the ranks . . . The Monday Club's importance should not be underestimated." "The conference has irritated rather than inspired me." "This is no longer the Tory Party." "In every debate moderation prevailed. The rightwing was silenced most effectively by the moderates, ably led by the Young Conservatives."

Leftand right-wingers are agreed that the left won the day; and thus the anger comes chiefly from the right, who feel betrayed, cheated, let down. Both wings agree in regarding Mr Heath as having become the leader of the left wing of the Party: "All this Conference has achieved is to pat Mr Heath on the back. All in all, totally ineffectual politically, and left-wing dominated." This general attitude cut across the position adopted on the Common Market: surprisingly, there seemed no correlation between Market views and 'spews on Mr Heath. A constantly recurring !clea was, rather, the distinction between Conservatives" and "Tories," the demand of the right-wingers being for more Toryism" and less "Conservatism." Party managers would do well to brood more than a little on this aspect: there is no doubt whatsoever that the Conservative Party at the moment is very deeply and angrily divided.

„ Thus, a well-pleased delegate notes: We have seen the party as one of toleration and moderation which will appeal to the vast majority of the people of this country"; but there were plenty of Others who bewailed, "If it had not been for the ticket on my lapel, I would have thought I was at a Liberal Party conference," and "Politicians have never been held in such low regard ,and have been devalued as a result of this Conference," and even, "Unless we do better we shall be a liability for Europe." This last was typical of much right-wing, pro-Market, anti-Heath opinion. And Robert Carr, although to many the best hope of the right who are disillusioned with the Prime Minister, earned this rebuke: "When Robert Carr left out the sentence "There will be no further largescale immigration for permanent settlement' from his reading of the Party's manifesto on immigration, he destroyed the honour of the platform."

1. Was the conference very successful sucessful disappointing 131 138 92 2. What is your principal complaint?

There were too many answers to tabulate, but well over two-thirds thought the conference to have been rigged, stagemanaged or otherwise too much controlled.

3. Who dominated the conference?

Here, in descending order, with the votes cast, we got Young Conservatives (81), Robert Carr (65), Enoch Powell (50), the platform (29), Edward Heath (18), and a handful of votes for PEST, the Monday Club, Mr Barber and others.

4. Which was (a) the best debate and (b) the best speech?

Overwhelmingly, the immigration debate was favoured (186) (It is interesting that chief complaint last year was that immigration and race relations was not debated). The Ulster debate (47) came next. All other debates were nowhere.

In the best speech Robert Carr (98) emerged as clear winner, followed by Enoch Powell (50), Young Conservative chairman David Hunt (40), John Selwyn Gummer (36), Willie Whitelaw (28) and Chancellor Barber (16); the rest nowhere.

5. What was most important point made by Conference?

Here we had a host of answers, but, as indicated already, "move to the left" emerged as the principal answer, both from those who welcomed it and those who regarded it as disastrous.

6. What should have been, but was not, debated?

Rhodesia, overwhelmingly, followed by BBC bias and broadcasting.

7. On what issue to fight the next election? Here, almost as many answers as forms: but inflation occured a lot, as did kept promises, broken promises, Europe, economic growth, the social services and (again, oddly, cropping up) "Toryism."

8. Do you find the Leader very satisfactory satisfactory 146 122 unsatisfactory very unsatisfactory 32 53 9. Who would be your alternative choice? Many either did not answer or wrote None. Those who specified an alternative voted for Robert Carr (82), Enoch Powell (50), Anthony Barber (50), Lord Carrington (20), Sir Geoffrey Howe (7), Willie Whitelaw (5), Sir Keith Joseph (4). No one else received more than one vote.

10. Is Heath a better leader of the Tory Parth than is Mr Wilson of the Labour Party?

Yes No 166 66 11. Are you in favour of joining the Common Market?

Yes No 263 77 12. Do you think EEC membership could benefit Britain?

Yes No 278 68 The very powerful showing of Robert Carr is to be noted: Blackpool 1972 was clearly his personal triumph.