By Matthew Barrett
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The Daily Mail this morning reports on the 118 Conservative MPs who have written to constituents indicating their opposition to gay marriage proposals. The Mail says "Their opposition has been expressed in letters and emails sent to constituents who have contacted them with their own concerns", and points out that if these MPs voted against proposals, it would constitute the biggest Tory rebellion in modern times. However, Equalities Minister (and Secretary of State for Culture) Maria Miller pointed out on Twitter that since any vote on the issue would be a free vote, it would not technically be counted as a rebellion.
I have listed the MPs from the Mail's story below.
By Paul Goodman
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As a former broadsheet Comment editor, I over-estimate the importance of comment pages, both on paper and online. Since the blogs, such as this one, now compete with them, fewer people read them - especially since the rise of the paywall. Then there's TV. Then there's Twitter. Then there's the rest of the new media...
So I declare an interest and a bias. But despite both, I think Fleet Street comment pages, broadsheet or tabloid, help to set the terms of political debate.
By Paul Goodman
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Last year, the Prime Minister flew to Brussels amidst rumour of a leadership challenge if he didn't achieve at least a token repatriation of power.
Today, he faced the Commons not only with no such repatriation realised but with his veto - so rapturously greeted at the time by Conservative MPs - arguably valueless, since it's now clear that he won't challenge the principle of the EU institutions being used to enforce the F.U agreement.
Yet there was no mass revolt from his backbenches, and no revival to date of the leadership challenge rumours. What explains this change in the Tory atmosphere? I hope to explore the question in detail soon, but will for the moment rest with an answer I've cited before.
By Paul Goodman
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Grovelling? Yes, let's face it: it happens. But not yesterday when the Prime Minister was questioned after his statement on Libya. Read Patrick Mercer on Islamism, Andrew Tyrie on torture, Peter Lilley on getting Libya to pay, Baron on intervention, Chisti on Syria. Plenty of pertinent questions
Also follow David Cameron being polite to Mark Pritchard, telling Rory Stewart that he shouldn't have gone to Libya recently, and being thrown for a moment by a very sharp question from Andrew Bridgen. Here are the exchanges in full from Hansard.
"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As someone who had reservations about the principle of intervention, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on a successful outcome in Libya? It was largely achieved by two aspects: first, it was legal; and secondly, it had the support of the Libyan people. Further to the previous question, however, will my right hon. Friend now use it as an illustration to persuade permanent members of the Security Council, such as Russia and China, that a well conducted intervention can be successfully used to restrain autocrats in countries such as Syria?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he says. Everyone should have misgivings about such operations, and one should never have the naive belief that they are easy or that everything is going to go to plan. That very rarely happens, and we should always be hard-headed and careful about such things. We should also respect the fact that this is not done—this is not completed yet.
Also, I think that we should be very cautious about trying to draw up a new doctrine, because it seems to me that as soon as a new doctrine is established, a case comes up that flies completely in its face, but I do hope that other members of the Security Council will see that there has been success in removing a dictator, and in giving that country a chance of peaceful and democratic progress, which will be good for the world.
by Paul Goodman
This morning's reports of Andrew Lansley's Commons statement yesterday haven't missed that he was unsupported in the Chamber by the presence of senior Cabinet colleagues. (The Prime Minister was en route to Pakistan.)
What some may have missed is the strong support given to the Health Secretary by Conservative backbenchers. Some it, clearly, had been organised in an operation by the Whips - but not all. By my count, Lansley received ten questions specifically supportive of his plans -
"Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): As the Secretary of State may know, I still have a faint link with the NHS and medicine in general. The GPs I have met in my constituency and elsewhere are very much in favour of the proposals. In contrast, the complaints are circular letters that have been well organised. Does the Secretary of State agree that GPs will be devastated if there is any reversal and backtracking?
During Tuesday's debate concentrating on the economy, two of the new Conservative MPs making maiden speeches hgihglighted the needs to get to grips with the deficit.
"We have to get this economy working again, which means that we must focus on reducing the deficit. When I had the honour of being a special adviser in the Treasury, working with “canny Ken” as the Chancellor, I learnt a lesson: we cannot spend what we do not have. That lesson has not been lost on the Government side of the House.
"Having worked in the real world of commerce and industry for more than 20 years in companies such as Asda and PepsiCo, it is clear to me that growth is not determined by state diktat, but based on the decisions of thousands of brave businesses. Growth is developed only in a truly competitive private sector. That is what we need to create jobs, provide valued public services and support those in genuine need. That task will always motivate me as long as I serve the people of Macclesfield in this House."
"The priority now is to achieve an accelerated reduction of the £156 billion deficit and it is one that I wholeheartedly support, as I support the creative and compassionate ways that I know the Government will use to go about that difficult task. The £6 billion of cuts already announced is barely a start in the process. I look forward to the emergency Budget on 22 June and the public consultations on the role of the state, which will follow."
He also emphasised that he is no carbon copy of his brother, Boris:
"At the outset, I should make a declaration, as we do a lot of that at the start of Parliaments. Anyone hoping that I will enliven proceedings in the manner of one of my elder brothers, the former Member for Henley, is likely to be disappointed. Private Eye, in the issue on newsstands at the moment, has helped me to set expectations appropriately low. It quotes an unnamed Oxford contemporary, in the first of a series that it is doing on new Members, and that friendly Oxford contemporary of mine says:
“He could not be more different to Boris. It’s as though the humour gene by-passed Jo altogether and he inherited only the ambition gene.”
"It is an absolutely fair comment, but I do not really apologise for the humour-ectomy, nor, indeed, for any hint of ambition that the House might detect, because these are serious times and politicians need to be ambitious when the country is in such a mess. History will not forgive us if we flannel around in the House over the next five years and fail to pick the economy up off the floor, where it is at present."