Bob Spink MP

4 May 2012 06:14:38

What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group

By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs has so far mainly featured groups founded or mostly composed of 2010 intake MPs. Last time, I looked at the Thatcherite No Turning Back group, founded in the 1980s. This week's group is somewhere between the two. The Cornerstone Group is the main group whose defining mission is to represent socially conservative Members of Parliament. The group was formed in 2005, and presented some challenges for David Cameron's leadership. In this profile, I'll see how the group is doing now.

Origins of the group

HayesLeighCornerstone was founded by Edward Leigh and John Hayes, who still chair the group. Leigh has been the MP for Gainsborough since 1983, and is a former Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, who was sacked for his opposition to Maastricht, and John Hayes, who has been the MP for South Holland and the Deepings since 1997, and the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning since 2010.

Cornerstone admired the work done during Iain Duncan Smith's time as leader to promote a more communitarian, Burkean conservatism, and wanted to ensure IDS' work on this front was carried on.

When the group launched formally in July 2005, it released a pamphlet, which criticised Michael Howard's election campaign for being too quiet about tax cuts, public service reform and family values. Strongly condemning the personality politics and liberalism of New Labour, Leigh wrote:

"We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition, nation, family, religious ethics, free enterprise ... Emulating New Labour both lacks authenticity and is unlikely to make us popular. We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based."

The group first exerted its influence during the 2005 leadership contest. A group of about twenty Cornerstone supporters interviewed David Cameron, David Davis and Liam Fox. Fox apparently put in the best performance, while David Davis was, reportedly, not able to take criticism well. This meeting, combined with David Davis' alienating stint as the Minister for Europe under Major, and Davis' reluctance to support Iain Duncan Smith's compassionate conservatism programme wholeheartedly, is thought to be why many Cornerstone supporters first voted for Fox, and then switched to Cameron.

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13 Mar 2008 08:08:14

Bob Spink tells the Commons that he's no longer a Conservative MP

Bob Spink MP: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could advise me on how I can inform the House that I have, as of today, resigned the Conservative Whip because the party has failed to deal with serious criminal and other irregularities in my constituency.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has done enough to inform the House on that point. It is certainly not a point of order for the Chair.

Peter Lilley MP: Well, not only is the world financial system brittle and on a knife edge, but so is the future of my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink).


2 Feb 2008 06:48:19

Bob Spink MP urges restrictions on MPs' outside interests and independent evaluation of whether relatives are appropriately qualified for jobs in MPs' offices

Conservative Bob Spink MP has initiated this EDM:

"That this House should undertake root and branch modernisation of the way hon. Members organise, staff and pay for their offices and how they are remunerated for carrying out their various duties; believes that hon. Members should get no expenses at all, excepting essential job travel at cost; further believes that hon. Members are paid for a full-time job and should be prevented from having substantial additional employment but should be paid an appropriate salary to fund approved working practices, including keeping accommodation in London where necessary; further believes that hon. Members in the future should have no say whatsoever on the level of their own salaries, that staffing, communications and office costs should be met entirely and directly by the Fees Office which should be the employer of all hon. Members' staff, and that, in consultation with hon. Members, the Fees Office must be allowed to employ the best person for the job, and must only employ people who are appropriately qualified; further believes that it would deliver greater visibility and accessibility for the public, for there to be a single register rather than the separate Parliamentary and Electoral Commission registers; and further believes that this overarching modernisation should be considered as soon as possible, so the House can get on with its job of defending the country and democracy and assisting people who need help."

No signatures yet!


16 Oct 2007 10:13:13

Bob Spink MP uses EDM to pay tribute to Special Constables

"That this House congratulates and thanks special constables on the work they do serving communities across Britain with dedication and professionalism; believes that the personal sacrifices made by individuals who serve as special constables deserve greater acknowledgement; therefore warmly welcomes the National Specials Weekend on 27th and 28th October; and calls on the Government and police forces to redouble their efforts to recruit more special constables and to ensure that the conditions of work for special constables are both as safe and as generous as possible."

More here.