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Priti Patel has said the “authentic voice” of British conservatism will be heard in a new challenge to Rishi Sunak after 1,000 angry Conservative members signed up to a conference to take back control from the MPs. The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) conference in Bournemouth will take place on May 13 with keynote speakers including former Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
The CDO was set up by allies of Boris Johnson in the wake of widespread anger over the way Tory MPs first deposed him and then Liz Truss.
It was formally set up when Tory MPs in effect appointed Mr Sunak as Prime Minister when he was the only leadership candidate to get enough nominations.
It meant that for the third time out of seven leadership elections since members were allowed to vote on the new leader in 2001, MPs have simply imposed their choice on the party.
Ms Patel told Express.co.uk that the conference will be about taking back control for the grassroots.
Ms Patel said: “Our members and grassroots activists are the authentic voice of conservatism in Britain.
“They live and breathe our values every day and are the heart, soul and backbone of our Party.
“While the Party leadership speaks to the nation from TV studios and from lecterns, our members and activists face the public on the doorsteps of Britain every day, having important conversations, promoting our values and also bearing the brunt of the criticism that’s sometimes directed towards what’s happening in Westminster.
“The Conservative Party is at its strongest and most effective when our members are fully engaged in all aspects of our national party and the decisions that support their local representation including who leads our party, how candidates are selected and the policies we advocate.”
The conference will also feature prominent ex-members of the Brexit Party who joined the Conservatives including Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata.
Ms Rees-Mogg, who is the East Midlands CDO chairwoman, said: “Democracy begins with the people – for too long voters in this country have been ignored.
“The Conservative Party needs to lead the way again, demonstrating our core belief in trusting the British people by entrusting Party decisions to our own membership.
She went on: “As a Conservative I believe in democracy for both our country and our party.
“It’s time to make sure our own constitution enshrines the power of our supporters at its core.
“That is why we need the Conservative Democratic Organisation to support members’ rights and thereby ensure future electoral successes.”
Former MP and Brexit department special advisor Lord Jackson said that the CDO could provide a renaissance for the party.
He said: “The CDO inaugural conference is the beginning of a renaissance of grassroots Conservative activism of the type which brought me into the party as a teenager in the 1980s.”
Scottish chairmwoman Michelle Ballantyne said: “By empowering our members voters can be sure that when they vote Conservative they will get the Government they expect, putting democracy and integrity back into the heart of politics.”
The conference is being organised by chief executive of the CDO and editor of the Conservative Post, Claire Bullivant who also launched the Bring Back Boris petition over the summer last year.
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Ms Bullivant told Express.co.uk: “There is a real feeling this is the start of something special.
“We know what needs to be done, we have a plan and we’re getting all the right people onboard.
“The grassroots and members are also responding in their thousands. They want to be heard and this is what will ultimately save our party and stop Starmer and his socialists getting the keys to Number 10.”
Another Boris Johnson ally Lord Greenhalgh, now vice president of the CDO, added: “The CDO’s mission is to make the Conservative Party the most democratic party in British politics.
“I can’t wait for our official launch in Bournemouth on May 13th when we bring everyone together in person – with a galaxy of stars and political heavyweights- to start the process of the members taking back control of the party we all love.”
Founder and chairman of the CDO David Campbell Bannerman said: “Bringing together a true national network of CDO members from right across the UK including Northern Ireland – which CDO wants to organise in properly – this represents a Renaissance for Conservative Party democracy, putting the membership back in charge through a new constitution.”
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