Code of


Membership of the Conservative Party is open to all members of the public over the age of 15. Party members come from a variety of backgrounds throughout the United Kingdom, and this diversity strengthens our communities, our country, and our Party.

The Party expects basic standards of behaviour from its members. The Party can fairly expect these standards, equally, from all its members no matter who they are or what position they hold in the Party.

How does this Code of Conduct work?

This Code of Conduct is in two parts.

  • Part 1 Section 1 sets out the minimum standards of behaviour the Party expects from all its members. Part 1 Section 2 sets out the minimum standards of behaviour the Party expects from its representatives. After Part 1 are some Guidance Notes to explain Part 1 in more detail.

  • Part 2 sets out the complaints procedures.

Quick Guide to the Party’s Complaints Procedures

The Party has three complaints procedures, depending on what is being complained about.

PART 1 – Minimum Standards of Behaviour

Part 1. Section 1. This section applies to all Members of the Party

General Terms and Conditions

Every Party member must comply with their General Terms and Conditions of membership that apply from time to time.

The Party Constitution

Every Party member:

  • is bound by the Party Constitution.

  • agrees to sustain and promote the objects and values of the Conservative Party within the United Kingdom.

  • must not have engaged or engage in any conduct which brings or is likely to bring the Party into disrepute.

  • must obey the Rules of every Association or Federation they belong to.


Every Party member must not discriminate against, bully, harass or victimise any other person because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. These are called the “protected characteristics” and are found in the Equality Act 2010.

Anti-bullying and harassment

Every Party member must not bully or harass anyone for any reason.

Tolerance and Respect of other Individuals

Political discourse can be very robust and adversarial. People are entitled to hold and express opinions, views and outlooks that others may strongly disagree with.  

However, whatever they might think about those opinions, views and outlooks, Party members are expected to have basic, common respect for, and tolerate, those individuals who may offer them and have the right to express them.


Every Party member must comply with the Party’s Safeguarding Policy when it applies to them.

Behaviour on Social Media

Every Party member must not misuse social media.

A Party member may have misused social media when the use:

a.commits a crime
b.commits an unlawful act and/or engages in prohibited conduct under either or both Equality Acts 2006 and 2010
c.publishes or republishes data in breach of Data Protection Act 2018
d.breaches the Code of Conduct (including bullying, etc)
e.breaches the Party’s Safeguarding Policy any way that, intentionally or not, breaches any part of the Party Constitution, including in particular in any way that brings the Party into disrepute
g.breaches the Party’s Opposition Candidacy and Agency Complaints Rules
h.breaches the confidentiality of any disciplinary process “like” or “share” or “repost” or otherwise republish or endorse posts made by others that (had they been Party members) would breach any of these criteria

Use” for these purposes means posting or endorsing information on social media. It is immaterial whether the social media account belongs to the member or is in the name of the member.  This includes social media accounts belonging to, for example, Associations or Federations, Conservative Council Groups, Branches, Campaign Groups and Affiliate Groups.

Use” covers situations where Party members allow others access to social media accounts over which they have control.

The Rules which apply to breaches of this obligation not to misuse social media are the Social Media Complaints Rules.

Helping Political Opponents

Every Party member must not:

  • be a member of any other registered political party

  • be associated with any other registered political party

If they do, it is an automatic disciplinary offence and if proved is likely to result in their expulsion from the Party.

The Rules which apply to breaches of these obligations are the Rules of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee.

Every Party member must not:

  • oppose any Conservative candidate in any election and/or

  • act as the agent for anyone who does

If they do, it is an automatic disciplinary offence and if proved is likely to result in their expulsion from the Party.

The Rules which apply to breaches of these obligations are the Opposition Candidacy and Agency Complaints Rules.

Compliance with Disciplinary Sanctions

Every Party member must comply with all disciplinary sanctions made against them. Failure to do so may result in further disciplinary action.

Part 1. Section 2. This section applies to Party Representatives only

The standards of behaviour set out in Part 1 Section 1 apply to Party Representatives. There are additional standards as well set out below.

Party Representatives mean anyone who represents the Party to others (particularly members of the public) in an elected, appointed or other way. This includes but is not limited to Members of Parliament, Peers, Members of the Scottish Parliament, Members of the Senedd, Members of the London Assembly, Police & Crime Commissioners, Mayors, Councillors of whatever kind, and Association/Federation, area, regional, and national Party, officers. It also includes candidates for these roles.

Party Representatives who hold Public Office

Public Office holders are expected to adhere to what are traditionally called the Seven Principles of Public Life established by Lord Nolan and the Committee on Standards in Public Life (“the Nolan Principles”). Party Representatives who are Public Office holders are expected to know what they are and how to do that. Their conduct whilst acting in the capacity of or carrying out the duties of their public office will be governed by the public body’s own Code of Conduct and/or regulator. The Party’s Code of Conduct may also apply.

The Nolan Principles are set out below:

  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

  • Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

  • Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

  • Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

  • Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful.

  • Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Party Representatives who do not hold Public Office

Party Representatives who do not hold Public Office are expected to be guided by the Nolan Principles.

The Party therefore expects all Party Representatives to:

  • be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever they are aware of it;

  • actively promote diversity and inclusion of others within their spheres of influence as best they reasonably can;

  • lead by example to encourage and foster tolerance and respect of other individuals;

  • treat others in a professional and straightforward manner;

  • not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others or allow others to do so;

  • take reasonable steps to ensure that people who wish to raise concerns about bullying, discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation by others are able to do so.

Guidance Notes

What the Code of Conduct does and does not do

The Code of Conduct simply regulates the way individual members of the Party are expected to behave as members of the Party towards each other and non-Party members by setting out basic minimum standards that apply to everyone regardless of their background.

The Code of Conduct does not regulate the conduct of politics or political debate. It does not regulate political decision making or the making of public policy. For that reason, it cannot be used directly or indirectly to affect the conduct of politics or political decision making, including the making or influencing of policy.  It should not therefore be used for political purposes.

The Code of Conduct must not be used in a way that interferes improperly with a person’s private life. For Party Representatives, the Code of Conduct must not be used in a way that interferes with how they exercise their judgment about their work.

“Objects and Values” of the Conservative Party

These are set out in the Party Constitution. The test we use to identify an object and value is objective based on relevant evidence. That evidence may be common or historical knowledge, or common sense, Conservative Party manifestos past and present, guidance notes from the Party Board, Government policy and speeches from senior Party spokesmen including the Party leader, and so on.

Bringing the Party into “Disrepute”

In this context, disrepute means causing the Party to be held in low or negative esteem as a result of a member’s behaviour or actions.  What is often disreputable conduct can be worked out from common knowledge or common sense. We use an objective test to identify disreputable conduct on a case-by-case basis.

Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Bullying

Discrimination means, according to the Equality Act 2010, treating a person less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic and includes victimising or harassing any other person because of race (including colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship), sex, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status (in employment contexts), disability, age, religion or belief and pregnancy and maternity status.

The Party has since 2016 fully adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. This is relevant on the question of discrimination on the grounds of race and religion or belief.

Harassment means any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive situation or environment for them. A single incident can amount to harassment. Harassment may involve conduct of a sexual nature, or it may be related to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status (in employment contexts), pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

Harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of those categories.

Victimisation provisions protect certain individuals who do (or might do) acts such as bringing discrimination claims, complaining about harassment, or getting involved in some way with another complaint (such as giving evidence). It may therefore occur where a person subjects another person to a detriment because either that person has acted in such a way and/or is believed to have acted in such a way or may act in such a way.

Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving the misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority, but can include both personal strength, influence and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation. Bullying can be physical, verbal or non-verbal. A bully can be a person who deliberately allows or encourages another to bully someone else.

PART 2 – The Party’s Complaints Procedures

As explained above, there are three procedures. Each procedure has a right of appeal.

Complaints about the misuse of social media use the Social Media Complaints Rules.

Complaints about Opposition Candidacy and Agency use the Opposition Candidacy and Agency Complaints Rules.

For everything else, use the Disciplinary Sub-Committee Rules.

Guidance Notes

Why are there three separate procedures?

Speed and efficiency. By default, all complaints are decided by an independent Panel of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee. However, complaints about social media and opposition candidacy can be dealt with more quickly because of their specific subject matter, and a much quicker process is often possible without compromising the fairness of the process.

Very occasionally, a complaint made under the Social Media Complaints Rules turns out to be more complicated than it seemed. In that case, it may be referred to the Disciplinary Sub-Committee and dealt with by those rules.

What can be complained about?

The Party will only decide complaints about breaches of the Code of Conduct. It will not, for example, decide complaints about political decisions, government or opposition policy or the position taken on any matter of political interest.

The Code must not be used for political purposes, including attempts to bring political pressure to bear or secure political outcomes, either directly or indirectly.  That would be improper and likely be unlawful. The Code must also not be used with the intention to bully, intimidate, or harass people, which includes, if done in bad faith, trying to damage people’s reputations. To do so would be an abuse of process and would result in the complaint being rejected.


The entire complaints process is confidential. That means confidential between the complainant, the respondent, and the Party. The reason is to ensure that the process is fair and to protect the identities of everyone concerned, including witnesses. If any party breaches confidentiality, it may mean the process is compromised to their detriment and the detriment of the process.

If the confidentiality of the process is breached by any party, the Party reserves the right to take such action as it thinks fit, including to no longer regard itself as bound by a duty of confidence.

The Party's 'Complaints under the Code of Conduct for Members – Transparency and Reporting Policy' (as amended from time to time) applies to all complaints handled under the Code and sets out the circumstances in which confidentiality may be overridden by the Party. In addition, the policy sets the circumstances and manner in which the Party will publish statistics and data about complaints under this Code.

Evidence, the burden of proof and the standard of proof

The Conservative Party adopts an “evidence-based approach” when deciding a complaint. That means the decision makers who decide whether a complaint is upheld or not will require evidence that proves what is being alleged.

A person who makes a complaint must prove it.

The complainant is responsible for producing the evidence to support their complaint. The Presenting Officers do not act on behalf of members of the public or the people being complained about. They do not collect evidence on behalf of the complainant.

Complaints must be proved on the “balance of probabilities”, which means showing that something happened was more likely than not.

The respondent does not have to prove their innocence, but they do have to prove anything they allege in response to the complaint to the same standard as the complainant.

Natural Justice

This means that a person who is complained about has the right to know what the complaint is against them (including the evidence on which it is based), the right to a reasonable opportunity to defend themselves, and the right to have the case decided by an independent and impartial panel.

Each of the three procedures used by the Party is slightly different from the other. There are common features which are designed to make sure there is natural justice in each one:

  1. Someone makes a complaint (“a complainant”).

  2. The complaint is sifted. It is either accepted or rejected by a Presenting Officer.

  3. If a complaint is rejected, the complainant is told with reasons.

  4. If a complaint is accepted, it is communicated to the person complained about (“the respondent”) for a response.

  5. When the parties have been afforded a reasonable opportunity to make representations, the case is handed to and/or heard by an independent decision-maker who will decide whether to uphold or dismiss the complaint.

  6. If the complaint is upheld, the decision maker may impose a sanction.

  7. The parties are told of the outcome.

  8. The Respondent has the right to appeal.

How are complaints investigated?

Complaints are handled by Conservative Party staff called Presenting Officers. They are impartial and independent of the parties to the complaint.  They do not favour one side or the other, including helping one side against the other. Their primary role is to formulate a case for presentation to the independent decision-making panel.

From time to time, the Party itself may bring a complaint against a member. The Presenting Officer has the power to do this on the Party’s behalf. In such situations, the respondent will be told in writing that the Party is bringing the complaint and the Presenting Officer is acting on the Party’s behalf.

In other cases, a complainant makes a complaint. The case is assigned to a Presenting Officer who will apply a sift based on what the complainant has provided. If the case passes the sift, it will be investigated. If it fails the sift, it will be rejected. An example of a complaint failing the sift is if it cannot be fairly investigated because too much time has passed since the events in question. Another example is if the case is on first glance so weak because of insufficient evidence that means it is unlikely to succeed.

The Presenting Officer will assess the evidence the complainant has provided and may ask for more evidence or make further inquiries. Third party witness evidence may be collected at this stage by the complainant.

If the Presenting Officer is satisfied that the complaint has a greater than evens chance of succeeding, they will formulate a charge and present it to the respondent who will have the opportunity to answer it. The Presenting Officer may ask for more evidence or make further inquiries at that stage.

The Respondent’s case will be shown to the complainant. In exceptional circumstances, the complainant may be given the right to reply to the respondent’s case. If that happens, the respondent will have a further opportunity to comment because they must be entitled to the last word.

At any time during this process, the Presenting Officer has the power to suggest Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to the parties using the Party’s ADR facilities. Senior members of the Party are qualified mediators, and they may be asked to help resolve a dispute. ADR must be consensual. No one can be forced to do it.

When each side has had the opportunity to present their cases, the Presenting Officer will present the case to a panel for a decision.

Who decides the complaints?

The panels that decide the complaints are independent of the complainant and the respondent. They comprise either three or five individuals. They are drawn from a pool of possible panel members, depending on their suitability and qualification to decide a case and their availability. The parties will be told the names of who will be on a panel as soon as possible after it is known.

The general rule is that all complaints are decided using documents alone. The decision makers have the power to hold an oral hearing at their discretion.


Respondents who receive an adverse decision have the right to appeal to the Individual Member Review Committee. The Rules and Procedures of that Committee follow in the Rules of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee.  There is no right of appeal after the Individual Member Review Committee.

Adopted by the Board of the Conservative Party – May 2022

Updated March 2023

You can see the Code of Conduct in full here:

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