By Matthew Barrett
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Conservative Friends of Israel is an influential affiliate group of the Conservative Party which contains perhaps the largest number of Conservative MPs of any group in Parliament. It exists to promote understanding of and support for the State of Israel in the Conservative Party, and its membership reaches the highest echelons of power, including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In this profile, I examine its origins, membership, role, and activities.
Origins of the group
Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) is the oldest group of Conservative MPs I have profiled so far: it was founded by Michael Fidler, who was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bury and Radcliffe between 1970 and the October 1974 election. After losing his seat, he decided to focus on building a pro-Israel group within the Conservative Party - there had been a Labour Friends of Israel group since 1957 - so Fidler launched CFoI in 1974, and served as its National Director.
Sir Hugh Fraser served as the first Chairman of CFoI, from 1974. Sir Hugh was a Conservative MP of the old school: after a distinguished military intelligence career in the Second World War, he entered Parliament in 1945, and he missed out on being Father of the House to James Callaghan in 1983 by only a few days. Sir Hugh had an interest in oil and the Middle East and served a number of positions in the War and Colonial Offices, before entering Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Air in 1962. He might be best known to some readers as the outsider candidate who came third in the 1975 party leadership contest, behind Mrs Thatcher and Edward Heath, gaining only 16 votes.
By Paul Goodman
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8.45pm Update by Matthew Barrett: I have now learned which candidates are being backed by the traditional organisations on the right of the Conservative Party, such as the No Turning Back group. I have highlighted these in purple.
The following have been returned unopposed:-
Posts for which elections will take place (I have marked those previously identified by Tim as members of the 301 slate in blue):
1) Secretary - the following nominations have been received for TWO posts:
NICK DE BOIS
2) Executive members - the following nominations have been received for TWELVE posts.
PRITI PATEL - Priti Patel is being backed by both the 301 group, and the right of the Party.
Finally and separately, the following nominations have been received for Conservative members of the Backbench Business Committee - four posts:
By Matthew Barrett
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It's the London Marathon tomorrow, and five Conservative MPs have decided to take on the great task of completing it for charity. Last year, Edward Timpson and Stephen Crabb ran the Marathon, and this year, Timpson is competing again - with four other MPs who will join more than 35,000 other runners on the 26-mile course through the capital. The runners - and their charity causes - are listed below:
“Running a marathon is both a physical and mental challenge but it is well worth undertaking when you weigh up the benefits you can bring to people through the funds you raise. This year I am running my eighth marathon for Climb (Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases) with my wife Julia who is also the charity’s patron. Climb does some truly excellent work in helping those living with metabolic diseases and is the only charity to do so nationally. Marathons are a great way for MPs to help raise the profiles of some great causes and I am glad to see so many of my Conservative colleagues taking part this year.”
You can sponsor Edward and his wife here.
Lopresti, who is currently serving as an Army Reservist, and has previously run the Camp Bastion Half Marathon, said:
“I’m not really built for running so have undertaken a fairly gruelling training schedule since before Christmas. But it will all be worth it, I’m really looking forward to taking part in my first full marathon with 35,000 other runners and I want to raise as much money as I can for my chosen charity. I’m running for Action for Children, a charity that works with the most disadvantaged youngsters and provides them with the foundations and support to build their lives and prosper. I don’t really have a target but around 5 hours would be fantastic. Of course I am nervous, but I am also excited. Nerves are a good thing.”
Jack's sponsorship page is here.
By Matthew Barrett
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The 301 group is perhaps the most active and important group of backbench Tory MPs. Tim Montgomerie reported last week that three MPs - Charlie Elphicke, George Hollingbery and Priti Patel - want to organise a candidate to be elected to the 1922 Committee's executive who will give the '22 a focus on policy and campaigning. The Spectator's James Forsyth blogged that "The vote for their candidate, and his opponent, will give us the best idea yet of where the backbenches are at the moment politically. Indeed, I expect that the machinery of the 301 group, the most pro-Cameron of all the backbench groups, will be thrown behind the Elphicke-Hollingbery-Patel slate."
To organise or endorse candidates for the '22 is certainly the most power a backbench group has yet wielded in this Parliament. In this profile, I'll be looking at the origins, members, aims and plans of the group to get a sense of what the group wants to campaign for.
Origins of the group
The 301 was first organised by Kris Hopkins (Keighley), a former soldier and leader of Bradford Council, and Jessica Lee (Erewash), a former barrister, and now Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. The group began with small meetings of a handful of MPs who were "concerned that the narrative in Parliament was not representative of the conversation" that MPs had had with the electorate while campaigning during the 2010 general election, and also dissatisfied with the fact that the mechanisms of debate amongst backbenchers, and between the back and front benches, were not conducive to trying to correct that narrative. Each of those attending brought a friend, and so on, until after three meetings the group reached 60 members.
By Joseph Willits
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Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Brokenshire MP, has answered questions from four Tory MPs about the Government's plans to combat metal theft. Brokenshire said that "the Home Office is discussing with other Departments what legislative changes are necessary to assist enforcement agencies and deter offenders". Some of the measures to do so, he said, would include "introducing a new licence regime for scrap metal dealers and prohibiting cash payments" and establishing a "metal theft taskforce" together with the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Responding to a question from Gravesham MP Adam Holloway about the financial implications of metal theft, Brokenshire said the cost could be "anywhere between £220 million and £777 million per annum". Holloway asked whether there was "any argument for seizing the entire inventories of metal dealers found to be purchasing what are effectively stolen goods". Brokenshire confirmed that this was one of the reasons for a new taskforce, "to inform intelligence and ensure that those responsible for such crimes are brought to justice".
By Tim Montgomerie
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Last night at least 32 Tory MPs (listed below) voted with Labour against an 88% hike in Britain's contribution to the IMF. The hike is to partly fund the IMF's ability to fund bailouts. I write "at least" because I've only quickly scanned the voting list. Please email email@example.com if I've missed anyone off the list.
The Government won the vote to increase Britain's contribution from £10.7 billion to £20.15 billion by 274 votes to 246. This is the first time that the Labour frontbench has voted with Tory Eurosceptics. Labour was voting against an increase in the IMF subscription that was largely agreed during Gordon brown's time in office.
On his blog John Redwood suggests that the 29 rebels are only one sign of Tory discontent. Given that there are more than 300 Tory MPs he calculates that AT LEAST 80 Conservatives were unavailable, abstained or voted against the government. He writes:
"Some of us want the UK government to use the influence it says it has at the IMF to halt the futile bail outs of Eurozone members. The debt markets show the markets do not believe that Greece can repay all its debts in full and on time. Yesterday was a day when market worries spread beyond Greece, Ireland and Portugal to Italy. Those in charge of the Euro scheme need to get a grip. It is doing a great deal of financial and economic damage, and they no longer seem to be in control of their project. The IMF should decline to bail out rich countries that have shackled themselves to a currency scheme that was badly put together and needs a thorough re think."
"The decision to raise our IMF subscriptions by 88 percent was first mooted when Gordon Brown was in charge – but was okayed by the current government last October. While Canada, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium all managed to keep the increase in their subs low, whoever negotiated the deal on our behalf seems to have preferred to have UK taxpayers assume greater debt liabilities so that they could sit on a bigger chair at the various international summits they attend on our behalf. Alongside fiscal policy and monetary policy, our approach towards the bailouts and the IMF shows that there has been remarkably little change in economic policy at the Treasury since Gordon Brown was in charge."
By Matthew Barrett
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The company Key Business Insight's "Commons Performance Cockpit" ranks MPs by their total cost - that is, staffing costs, travel expenses, office costs, salary, and so on. The majority of the 50 "most efficient" MPs, in terms of total cost, are Conservatives.
The top 50 "most efficient" MPs between 1st April, 2010 and 31st March, 2011 are listed below:
*Took his seat on 3rd March, 2011
**Took her seat on 13th January, 2011
***Resigned his seat on 8th February, 2011
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
1. What is your earliest political memory? The return of our victorious expeditionary forces from the Falklands War.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe passionately in nationhood, freedom, democracy, security, community, capitalism, choice, enterprise and deregulation."
3. Who is your political hero and why? Margaret Thatcher, because she saved our country from socialism.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? In late 2005 as I finished working for Michael Howard, who was about to pass the baton of the leadership onto David Cameron..
5. What is your reading material of choice? ConservativeHome every day, naturally. Centre right newspapers, namely the Telegraph and the Mail. The Express & Star website and newspaper.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Jeremy Paxman.
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The new Government's commerce centred approach to international relations is absolutely essential -- I would be very happy to be involved further down the line.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? My friend Frank Field, one of the most courteous and friendly people in British politics.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? Let's not go there...!
10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? Republican.
11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax? Swimming lengths followed by the sauna. Running. Playing tennis or squash.
12. What is your favourite book? The Road to Serfdom by Hayek.
13. What is your favourite film? Anything with Robert Pattinson.
14. What is your favourite music? Simple - The Beatles. I could take a degree in Beatles trivia.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? Fresh fish in a Mediterranean costal resort.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? The ski slopes in the Alps.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? I want to provide the residents of Dudley South with an excellent service as their Member of Parliament and continue to be as open and accessible as I was during my three years as the PPC. I want to achieve fairer funding from Whitehall for my residents in the Dudley Borough, particularly in comparison to neighbouring Black Country metropolitan boroughs.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. Both of my grandfathers were immigrants into this country (one from Ireland, one from Cyprus).
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. Dudley South has an extremely high concentration of SMEs and, in The Pensnett Estate, has the largest secure industrial/trading estate in Europe. We need to trade our way out of recession and I'm confident that, with the supportive policies of the new Government, the existing (and yet to be formed) businesses of Dudley South will do their bit.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. Realising that three years of hard work had paid off on the evening of the general election when, whilst knocking up pledges, I didn't have chance to introduce myself - residents were introducing themselves to me and reciting my name back to me along with assurances that they had already been out and voted Conservative.
> Previously: Dan Byles MP
Two maiden speeches were delivered in the Commons yesterday by new West Midlands Conservative MPs.
“Not only am I proud of my constituency and my area, I am proud of my country. I am fortunate to have travelled extensively, but no matter how exotic or cosmopolitan the destination I have always yearned for England. Part of that is the people. The people of my borough are decent people who strive to do the right thing by society and, most importantly, by their families. As they told me during the general election, they get frustrated when they see others ahead of them who have not “done the right thing”. Their sense of fairness was seriously challenged by the last Government. I am pleased to see this coalition Government restoring that sense of fairness and balance while addressing the scale of the deficit and debts bequeathed to us. That sense of fairness has been severely tested over the last 13 years as we have seen neighbouring Sandwell metropolitan borough council receiving far more per head from Whitehall than Dudley metropolitan borough council. That massive disparity cannot be fair, and my constituents have also expressed their unhappiness in large numbers about many of the local government funded quangos with questionable track records of productivity and efficiency, and a democratic deficit, when my constituents struggle to make ends meet and pay their council and personal tax bills.”
He also took time to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher:
“I was born in 1978 under James Callaghan, but I am a child of Thatcher. I was honoured to receive letters from the former Prime Minister both during and after the election, and they now hang proudly on my wall. Baroness Thatcher truly is a guiding inspiration. She comprehensively proved that one person can make a positive difference."
He made the connection with one of his predecessors as Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West):
“I have not traditionally been an individual who has subscribed to a fatalistic view of life, but I have found my scepticism tested by the fact that my majority of 691 that has bought me to this great House is exactly the same as that of another young Conservative Member of Parliament who won the seat of Wolverhampton South West for the first time in 1950—one Enoch Powell. I make that statement with my tongue firmly pressed against the inside of my cheek and an ironic smile on my face. I also appeal to all Members of the House to take me to one side and proofread any of my speeches should I feel compelled in 18 years’ time to make a controversial speech at the Midland hotel. That is unlikely to happen, primarily because the hotel is no longer there, but I have lived enough of a life to know that one should never say never—I ask the Hansard reporters to note that my tongue is now firmly affixed to the other side of my cheek.”
He went on to raise the issue of postal voting fraud:
“Forgive me if I have strayed on to controversial ground, but as I suggested earlier, straight talking and a no-nonsense approach is the Wolverhampton way. In that vein, I would make a plea for all Members to revisit the issue of postal voting fraud, which, I am sad to say, appears to be alive and well in many of our metropolitan areas. Since I was elected, I have been approached by numerous individuals in my own constituency who have spoken to me about the issue. In my case, it worked against me; I would say to Opposition Members that there might be cases where it will have worked against them. In any event, we are all very much at a crossroads. I can envisage a time soon when very easily and quickly we will all face an escalation of a fraudulent race here, as either side endeavours to outdo the other. I hope that Opposition Members will trust my motives for wading into this area, as it damages us all in this House and damages our reputation as a country.’