Boris Johnson allies step up bid to ‘take back control’ of Tory party

Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg - Andrew Parsons/Number 10 Downing Street
Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg - Andrew Parsons/Number 10 Downing Street

Backers of Boris Johnson aiming to “take back control” and “save” the Tory party will hold an inaugural conference in May.

The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), a pressure group created after Mr Johnson and then Liz Truss were ousted from Downing Street, will hold its first gathering for grassroots activists in Bournemouth on May 13.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries, two of Mr Johnson’s staunchest supporters, will give speeches alongside Priti Patel, the former home secretary.

The event is scheduled to take place the week after the local elections, when some projections suggest the Tories will lose more than 1,000 seats after a year of infighting and instability.

Advertising the event on its website, the group wrote: “Are you ready to take back control? We certainly are, and we look forward to welcoming you to the CDO Conference… where you’ll join like-minded patriots who, like you, want to save our party and our country.”

Mr Rees-Mogg told The Telegraph: “I am looking forward to addressing the voluntary party, which I have long thought is the backbone of Conservatism.”

The CDO, founded by Lord Cruddas, David Campbell Bannerman, a former MEP, and journalist Claire Bullivant, aims to overhaul the workings of the party by putting more power into the hands of the membership.

It is campaigning for reforms including a directly elected party chairman, a general meeting of the party to replace its National Convention, and local associations to be able to deselect their MPs “if necessary”.

The Telegraph understands that the CDO leadership is planning to meet Greg Hands, the Conservative chairman, to present him with the first draft of a “grassroots manifesto”.

It is understood from a source close to Mr Johnson that he has no plans to attend the conference, and the manifesto it will submit is not anything to do with the former prime minister.

Ms Bullivant, the CDO chief executive, told The Telegraph: “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 on board.

“The CDO will make the Conservative Party the most democratic and in-touch party in British politics. Democracy will prevail.”

Lord Jackson, a former Tory MP and the CDO’s eastern regional chairman, said: “At the heart of our endeavour is respecting the commitment of volunteers and giving them a real stake in the party rather than top down diktat.”