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
Cornerstone 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.
Friday, May 04, 2012 in Adam Holloway MP, Alan Duncan MP, Andrew Rosindell MP, Andrew Selous MP, Andrew Turner MP, Angela Watkinson MP, Baroness Thatcher, Bill Cash MP, Bob Spink MP, Brian Binley MP, Charles Walker MP, Charlie Elphicke MP, Christopher Chope MP, Christopher Fraser MP, Daniel Kawczynski MP, David Amess MP, David Burrowes MP, David Cameron MP, David Davies, David Davies MP, David Davis MP, David Jones MP, David Mundell MP, David Nuttall MP, David T C Davies MP, Desmond Swayne MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Edward Leigh MP, Fiona Bruce MP, George Osborne MP, Gerald Howarth MP, Graham Stuart MP, Greg Hands MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, John Hayes MP, John Redwood MP, John Whittingdale MP, Julian Brazier MP, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Laurence Robertson MP, Lee Scott MP, Liam Fox MP, Mark Harper MP, Martin Vickers MP, Matthew Hancock MP, Mel Stride MP, Michael Howard MP, Nadine Dorries MP, Neil Carmichael MP, Nicola Blackwood MP, Nigel Adams MP, Owen Paterson MP, Peter Bone MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Priti Patel MP, Robert Goodwill MP, Robert Halfon MP, Sajid Javid MP, Sheryll Murray MP, Stephen Crabb, Steve Baker MP, Stewart Jackson MP, Thérèse Coffey MP, Tory MPs Groups | Permalink | Comments
Oral questions on Women and Equality also took place in the Commons yesterday.
Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes stuck up for the rights of Christians:
"Does the Minister share my concern that equality legislation is in danger of being brought into disrepute by cases such as that of nurse Caroline Petrie, who was disciplined for offering to pray for her patients. Do we not need to tackle the concern of many with religious beliefs, and of Christians in particular, who themselves say that they are facing increased discrimination?
The Solicitor-General: I do not think that that question was about the equality legislation that we are bringing into force. Clearly, everybody has to behave in a balanced and sensible way, and the whole point of the legislation is to promote good cultural relations and good relations among people of all kinds and all faiths. We will drive on with that purpose."
(The Solicitor-General is Vera Baird.)
Worthing West MP Peter Bottomley also had a question about Christian matters:
"As well as doing what the law requires, will the Minister use her good offices to interview any Church of England bishop who says that he will not appoint a suffragan who is prepared to ordain women?
Maria Eagle: I have to be careful about getting too involved in the internal affairs of the established Church, but I will pass on the hon. Gentleman’s remarks to the appropriate people. He will no doubt be aware that the Second Church Estates Commissioner has questions on 19 March."
Norfolk South West MP Christopher Fraser made a very good point about the funding structure for rape crisis centres, which is an ongoing problem:
"What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of funding arrangements for rape crisis centres. 
The Minister for Women and Equality (Ms Harriet Harman): This financial year—in addition to local authority funding and £1.25 million from the victims fund—the Government have paid out £900,000 from a £1.1 million special fund for rape crisis centres. Since the special fund was announced in March 2008, no rape crisis centre has closed. My officials have been working closely with Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Survivors Trust to shape how this year’s special fund will work. We will announce details of the fund shortly.
Christopher Fraser: Many local authorities do not receive the funding that they need to establish rape crisis centres. Will the Minister commit to instituting a three-year funding cycle for rape crisis centres in all local authorities?
Ms Harman: As I have said, we have increased the funding to local authorities and through special funds. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that it is important that he and all hon. Members look at what their own local authorities are doing and whether they are providing the services for which they have been financed. I would also say that the money and the investment in those much-needed services come from the Department for Communities and Local Government budget and the Home Office budget. Those are two budgets on which his party has not offered to match the funding that we are promising to put in. We want more funds to go in, but Opposition Members express concerns while not even being prepared to match our spending. I think that that lacks conviction."
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