Heather Wheeler MP

5 Dec 2012 11:09:15

70 Tory MPs vote to repeal the Human Rights Act

By Matthew Barrett
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BACON RICHARDYesterday in Parliament, Richard Bacon, a Conservative backbencher, tried to introduce a Bill which would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. One of Mr Bacon's lines of argument was that the legal requirement for Ministers to amend legislation - without a vote in Parliament - in order to comply with European human rights legislation - is "fundamentally undemocratic":

"Under section 10, a Minister of the Crown may make such amendments to primary legislation as are considered necessary to enable the incompatibility to be removed by the simple expedient of making an order. In effect, because the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations, a supranational court can impose its will against ours. In my view this is fundamentally undemocratic."

Mr Bacon also compellingly argued that the controversial social issues that judges often like to get involved in should be decided by "elected representatives and not by unelected judges":

"[T]here is no point in belonging to a club if one is not prepared to obey its rules. The solution is therefore not to defy judgments of the Court, but rather to remove the power of the Court over us. ... Judges do not have access to a tablet of stone not available to the rest of us which enables them to discern what our people need better than we can possibly do as their elected, fallible, corrigible representatives. There is no set of values that are so universally agreed that we can appeal to them as a useful final arbiter. In the end they will always be shown up as either uselessly vague or controversially specific. Questions of major social policy, whether on abortion, capital punishment, the right to bear firearms or workers rights, should ultimately be decided by elected representatives and not by unelected judges."

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26 Oct 2012 06:22:26

Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping

By Matthew Barrett
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Conservative Friends of IsraelConservative 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.

Continue reading "Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping" »

11 Jul 2012 09:43:57

80 Tory backbenchers voted for Lords reform last night. 110 did not.

By Matthew Barrett
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We know that 91 Tories voted against the Lords Reform Bill last night. That's the big, headline grabbing figure - the biggest rebellion in this Parliament. 

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15 May 2012 15:45:08

Tomorrow's 1922 Committee Elections - nominations in full

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:


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:


20 Apr 2012 06:33:09

Who are the 301? The Tory MPs who want to refresh the 1922 Committee

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

HopkinsLeeThe 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.

Continue reading "Who are the 301? The Tory MPs who want to refresh the 1922 Committee" »

12 Sep 2011 06:55:22

Heather Wheeler becomes tenth Tory MP to publicly support leaving the EU

By Joseph Willits 
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Yesterday we published a ConservativeHome poll that found that the ideal scenario for 60% of Tory members is that Britain leaves the EU. Only ten Tory MPs have publicly said the same, however, and the most recent to do so is South Derbyshire's Heather Wheeler.

The other nine are: 

  1. Screen shot 2011-09-11 at 12.37.43 Peter Bone (Wellingborough)
  2. Douglas Carswell (Clacton)
  3. Phillip Davies (Shipley)
  4. Richard Drax (South Dorset)
  5. Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey)
  6. Phillip Hollobone (Kettering)
  7. David Nuttall (Bury North)
  8. Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole)
  9. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury).

Read more about The Freedom Association's Better Off Out campaign.

6 Jun 2010 18:58:38

Charlotte Leslie, Gavin Barwell, Christopher Pincher, Heather Wheeler and Gordon Henderson all deliver maiden speeches on education

Below is a final quintet of excerpts from maiden speeches delivered during Wednesday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech.

Charlotte Leslie Commons Charlotte Leslie, who gained Bristol North West, described education as “the single most effective way of closing that gap between the haves and the have-nots”:

“Breaking down the terrible and invisible barriers that divide the haves from the have-nots will not be easy, but I am delighted that one thing on which the coalition rests is the pupil premium. Quite a long time ago, back in 2005, I was lucky enough to work with my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and James O’Shaughnessy on the pupil premium, and little did we know then that it would be a raft for such a friendly and successful coalition. The financial incentive directed to those most in need is just the beginning of eradicating the educational inequality that exists in my community.”

Gavin Barwell Commons Gavin Barwell, newly elected MP for Croydon Central, agreed that education was the key “if we want to lift people out of poverty and to increase social mobility in our country”. He warmly welcomed the Government’s proposal to allow parents, teachers, charities and local communities to set up new schools:

“Each year, thousands of parents are told that the inn is full. They are told that there are no places at any of the schools where they want to send their children and that they have either to send them to a school they did not choose or educate them at home. The policy that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has championed with such passion will provide another option to those parents, and the knowledge that a new school could open if enough local parents are dissatisfied will put pressure on low-performing schools across the country to raise their game.”

Christopher Pincher Commons Christopher Pincher, who gained Tamworth at the election, explained why education is such an important issue in his constituency:

“We have suffered for many years as one of the poorest-funded local education authorities in the country. That sets children in Tamworth apart; they start at a disadvantage. We need to even up the opportunities for young people there, which is why I welcome my right hon. Friend’s invitation to head teachers to apply for academy status, and his proposal to lift the burden of bureaucracy off the backs of teachers and to give them more power. Only if we give head teachers more power and more money to spend on their schools as they see fit, and only if we give teachers the time and the space to teach, which is what they want to do, will we drive up educational standards and improve the morale of the teaching profession.”

Heather Wheeler Commons Heather Wheeler, who is the first Conservative MP for Derbyshire South since Edwina Currie, also raised the importance of schools provision and apprenticeships in her constituency:

“I have already had a request for the Minister to visit to discuss the setting up of a new free school by parents who run Dame Catherine Harpur school in Ticknall. We also desperately need a new secondary school near Melbourne and that initiative will help with that too. I have held meetings with other colleagues who are in the House tonight who have also met with the unions at Rolls-Royce. We have been working on some innovative ideas for apprenticeships that I hope we will be able to take further. One glaring omission from the services that we have in South Derbyshire is a college. All our residents have to travel for full-time further education, and there is an opportunity for us to do better for my residents.”

Gordon Henderson Commons Finally, there was Gordon Henderson, the new MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who outlined his ambition to be a “true parliamentarian”, explaining that being elected an MP was fulfilling a lifelong dream, having grown up on a council estate, failed the eleven-plus and left school at 16.

He raised the case of a school in his constituency wanting to apply for academy status:

“Two years ago, one of the secondary schools in my constituency, Westlands school, received an outstanding Ofsted report. So good was the report that the head and his senior staff were seconded to help to improve standards in a number of other schools in Kent. More recently, Westlands decided to form a federation with a struggling local primary school so that it could help that school to drive up standards. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that that this is just the kind of initiative that we should welcome. But the staff and governors at Westlands are even more ambitious than that. To make their school even better, they are keen to become an academy. They have already made inquiries about obtaining academy status, but have been told that their bid would not succeed because they are in a federation with a school that was deemed to have been struggling. It seems that a key test for approving academy status is that the applicant school is “outstanding”.

“I have no problem with that criterion, except that it effectively prevents federated schools from gaining academy status unless both schools are “outstanding”. That seems a particularly perverse rule when one considers that one of the objects of the Academies Bill is to give schools “the freedoms and flexibility they need to continue to drive up standards”. I very much hope, when the new Academies Bill is drafted, that that rule can be amended to make an exception for outstanding schools like Westlands which, for the best of intentions, have linked up with a less successful school.”

Jonathan Isaby