26 Oct 2012 06:22:26
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.
Continue reading "Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping" »
14 Sep 2012 14:09:34
By Matthew Barrett
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After last week's reshuffle of the Secretaries and Ministers of State, and this week's reshuffle of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, it's possible to investigate the state of a dying breed: the backbenchers who've always been loyal. The list below features the Conservative MPs who meet the following criteria:
- Are not currently on the government payroll (including as PPSs)
- Were not on the government payroll before the reshuffle (including as PPSs)
- Have not rebelled against the Government
I've excluded Nigel Evans, who is a Deputy Speaker, and I've noted their constituencies and years first elected. It's also perhaps worth noting Arbuthnot, Dorrell and Yeo are Select Committee chairmen.
- James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire, 1987)
- Richard Bacon (South Norfolk, 2001)
- Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury, 1983)
- Steve Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire, 2010)
- Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley since 1997, MP since 1992)
- Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase, 2010)
- Neil Carmichael (Stroud, 2010)
- Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham, 2010)
- Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, 2010)
- Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood. 1979)
- Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock, 2010)
- Charlie Elphicke (Dover, 2010)
- Graham Evans (Weaver Vale, 2010)
- Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet, 1983)
- Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest, 2010)
- Rebecca Harris (Castle Point, 2010)
- Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne, 2010)
- Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke, 2010)
- Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock, 2010)
- David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale, 2010)
- Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham, 2010)
- Chris Skidmore (Kingswood, 2010)
- Mark Spencer (Sherwood, 2010)
- Tim Yeo (South Suffolk, 1983)
Continue reading "The 24 Conservative MPs who are still on the backbenches and have never rebelled" »
6 Jul 2012 13:17:19
By Matthew Barrett
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Robert Halfon, the Member of Parliament for Harlow, and one of the most successful campaigning MPs in Parliament, has organised a motion, backed by 60 MPs from all parties, and including 41 Tories, calling for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The full motion is worded as follows:
"That this House urges the OFT to investigate oil firms active in the UK; calls on the Government to consider the emergency actions being taken in other G20 nations to cut fuel prices, for example President Obama strengthening Federal supervision of the U.S. oil market, and increasing penalties for “market manipulation”, and Germany and Austria setting up a new oil regulator, with orders to help stabilise the price of petrol in the country; finally urges the Office of Fair Trading to note that the Federal Cartel Office in Germany is now investigating oil firms active in the UK, after allegations of price-fixing."
Continue reading "41 Tory MPs join call by Robert Halfon MP for OFT to investigate high petrol prices" »
21 Apr 2012 11:32:06
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:
Edward Timpson, PPS to Theresa May and MP for Crewe and Nantwich
“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.
Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke
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.
Continue reading "Five Tory MPs are running the London Marathon tomorrow (and would appreciate your sponsorship!)" »
12 Dec 2010 08:14:35
Thirty-nine pubs are closing each and every week. The all-party save the pub group secured a Westminster Hall debate last week to highlight the problem and discuss solutions. Contributions from MPs are extracted below.
Karen Bradley MP said pubs are socially useful: "The group shares a belief that the British pub is an important part of this country's history and heritage, and that pubs are hugely important to the communities they serve as a focus for community, social, sporting and charitable activity. The traditional public house also provides a sociable and controlled drinking environment, which is important to encourage responsible sociable drinking."
Jack Lopresto MP says the smoking ban should be relaxed: "Overall, the smoking ban has been positive. It has improved the environment of pubs no end, especially for those that rely on serving food as a key part of their business, and it makes for a much more pleasant experience for most people who are non-smokers. It has also made pubs more family friendly. But there needs to be a re-think on having a dedicated smoking area inside buildings, with extractor fans, where no children would be allowed and no food would be served. I realise that this would not be possible in every case, but it would allow many pubs to utilise extra space or even have a smoking bar and non-smoking bar or room/lounge-whatever-and end the practice of smokers being thrown outside in all weathers at any time of day or night, with the problems that can be caused with disturbance to local residents who live close by. That would generate a significant increase in business for pubs that are currently struggling and it could make the difference between a pub staying open or closing."
Thérèse Coffey MP said that pubs should offer diverse services: "We must also encourage other income streams; I think of what is happening with post office essentials. If a pub is open from 11 until 11, there is no reason why one cannot buy stamps and get driving licence forms and so on there. There are also aspects such as the internet hub. We have the digital village pump, and I know that schemes are afoot already to try to ensure that it is near the pub, so that people can use the internet there as well. Of course, we had the endorsement of His Royal Highness Prince Charles in 2001, when he spoke about the pub as the hub. On that note, I raise my glass and toast the future of British pubs. Cheers, everyone."
Continue reading "Tory MPs line up with ideas to save the British pub" »
10 Sep 2010 15:59:01
By Jonathan Isaby and Paul Goodman
8.45 pm update: It's also worth noting the amendment tabled by Julian Lewis, supported by three other Conservative MPs, which sought to add to the motion the following words -
"provided that a more realistic military strategy is adopted designed to fulfil the United Kingdom's long-term interests in the region at lesser cost in life, limb and financial resources".
Lewis argued that -
"...all the Governments are signed up to an unrealistic strategy which ought to be changed. The reality is that General Richards was not really wrong in what he said previously and he is not really wrong when he says that we ought to be talking to the enemy. It is a question of timing. The truth of the matter is that General Petraeus is absolutely right to pursue such a counter-insurgency strategy, provided that we have all the time in the world and that we are prepared to take the casualties that are being inflicted on us by irregular forces. If we are not prepared to take those casualties, we will have to adopt a more realistic strategy, because otherwise we will withdraw arbitrarily and, on our withdrawal, the likelihood of the Afghan Government's being able to sustain themselves is open to doubt."
His speech can be read here. He was supported in the lobbies by Philip Hollobone and Andrew Turner. Conservative MPs seem to have been whipped to vote against the amendment.
Yesterday saw a debate initiated by the Backbench Business Committee on the presence of British troops in Afghanistan.
The motion before the Commons was "That this House supports the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan" and was passed by 310 votes to 14. Only one Conservative opposed the motion - John Baron - and two Lib Dems, Julian Huppert and John Hemming. The remaining opponents were a variety of Labour MPs along with the Green and a Plaid Cymru member.
Below are some of the highlights of the Conservative contributions.
Bob Stewart (Beckenham):
"We have made some fundamental mistakes. I am not blaming anyone, but we made mistakes in 2006 when we dissipated our forces so they were in platoon houses and were not within the envelope. That meant that they could not have protection from artillery, and we had to use air power instead. The air power protecting them knocked out houses around them and killed local people, turning the people against our forces. In 2007 and 2008 we had gone back to counter-insurgency tactics—taking, holding, building—and our gallant troops went in to take, but they could not hold. They had to withdraw. Perhaps Members remember those pictures of helicopters flying with men strapped aboard to try to bring troops back. We could not hold the ground. Also, of course, our enemy came in and put devices on the ground that caused real problems, and they continue to do so to this day.
"We now have a situation in which there is an increase in the number of soldiers on the ground, principally from the United States, and the principles of counter-insurgency are, in fact, beginning to work. They are protecting the people, and the key is whether the Afghan people feel protected and safe and can live a decent life."
Continue reading "MPs vote overwhelmingly in favour of British troops remaining in Afghanistan (with only one Tory MP dissenting)" »
23 Aug 2010 07:00:00
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
Jack Lopresti was elected MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke with a majority of 6,914.
1. What is your earliest political memory? The power cuts at school in the early 1970s during the Heath era strikes.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I am a patriot and I believe in freedom, small but strong government and getting the state off the backs of people."
3. Who is your political hero and why? Winston S Churchill, for courage, determination, leadership and his great humanity.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? November 1990.
5. What is your reading material of choice? Military and political history, The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio?
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? Ministry of Defence. I am a soldier who seen active service as a private in the ranks, so I would have some modest experience to bring to the role. In many ways I think it’s the most important Government department, the first responsibility of any government is the defence of the realm and the security of our people.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Jack Straw.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? I never use the lifts, I try and keep fit as being an MP can be an unhealthy lifestyle.
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? Reading, listening to music, running and hill/mountain walking. Also enjoying good food and wine with friends!
12. What is your favourite book? The Mists of Avalon, which is about Dark age Britain and King Arthur.
13. What is your favourite film? Patton.
14. What is your favourite music? I don’t really have a favourite but I do love all types of music.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? A seafood and pasta dish, at my favourite restaurant in the whole world; La Mamela, Catalan Bay, Gibraltar.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? USA.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? To become an effective backbench MP and to secure a reputation in the Filton and Bradley Stoke constituency as an accessible and very hard working local MP.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. I left school at 15 to work in my family’s small catering and ice cream business in Bristol.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. Filton is where the British Concorde was built. It flew from Filton on its maiden flight. It’s also where the last Concorde to fly landed on its last flight on 24th October 2003 and it sadly resides now in Filton as a museum piece.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail.
What I really remember from the campaign trail is the sense of camaraderie, friendship, fun and above all, a great team achievement. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time and one which I will savour for so many reasons for the rest of my life.
> Previously: Nick de Bois MP
26 Jun 2010 11:16:00
Monday's debate on the Strategic Defence Review saw three more maiden speeches from new Conservative MPs.
Jack Lopresti, who won the newly created Filton and Bradley Stoke constituency on the outskirts of Bristol, was able to draw on his own personal experience:
"My own military experience is as a serving Territorial Army soldier. I am a Gunner with 266 Commando Battery of the Royal Artillery. As a mobilised reservist, I had the huge honour and privilege to spend a year serving with the mighty men of 29 Commando Regiment, five months of it in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 9.
"As a private soldier, Gunner Lopresti, I spent my tour in Helmand, where I saw at first hand what decisions made in the House of Commons can mean for the men and women on the ground. I worked with the Rifles for a bit of my tour of duty as a member of infantry force protection on the Medical Emergency Response Team, who work in the back of a Chinook helicopter. I watched some awe-inspiring young people fly in and out of danger to pick up and treat casualties, sometimes in the very worst of circumstances and sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I learnt exactly what our future decisions could mean. I also worked alongside a remarkably brave and inspirational soldier, a Lance Bombardier from 29 Commando, whose foot and lower leg were blown off by an improvised explosive device while he was driving a Land Rover with no mine protection in 2006 and who, less than two years later, was back doing a second tour of duty with his regiment as part of 3 Commando Brigade. That was just amazing.
"My experience is what will inform my thinking when the debate on the shape of our military future takes place. Our new Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will certainly have the support of this new Member of Parliament if our Government honour their commitment to renew and strengthen the military covenant, but I will also reserve the right to be a critical friend, not only mindful of Britain's place in the world and our international duties and obligations, but conscious above all of our duty properly to equip and care for those who put their lives on the line for our country. This country needs many culture changes; let us ensure that the ongoing welfare of our servicemen is among them."
Steve Brine, who gained Winchester from the Lib Dems, delivered his maiden speech on his wedding anniversary, and told the house that he hoped that it was "just about a good enough reason for not wining and dining Mrs Brine this evening":
"My constituency has a proud military tradition, and I look forward to making my voice heard in the House on defence matters. The city has no fewer than five military museums, including the Royal Hampshire Regiment museum. The Royal Hampshire, now the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, is based in Winchester and counts a Brine, my grandfather, as part of its proud history. The city will be very much focused on the brave men and women of 11 Light Brigade on Wednesday this week, when we host the royal welcome home parade from Afghanistan. I will be there, of course, as will several Front-Bench Members. I assure the House that we will give the brigade the best Hampshire welcome home.
"In my constituency we are proud of our military history, but it is not all about museums, and it must never be. The Army is still firmly in my constituency at Worthy Down camp, which is still-for now, at least-the home of the Adjutant General's Corps. My constituency also includes the Army training regiment, whose future I am keen to secure as contracts are considered and reviewed for initial support and logistics training.
"The strategic defence and security review is a marked opportunity for our nation to re-engage not only this House-we have certainly done that this afternoon-but the wider public in the invaluable work done by our armed forces to secure our national security. While I am in this House, I intend to be a clear and persistent voice in favour of ensuring that the new Government honour their promise, as I know they will, to repair the military covenant for the sake of our men and women in the field, as well as the families back home living in places such as Worthy Down camp in my constituency."
Finally from this debate came the Commons debut of Rebecca Harris, the new MP for Castle Point in Essex. She said how much she was looking forward to seeing members of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglians - better known as the Vikings - joining the Armed Forces Day parade in her constituency today:
"The Vikings recruit in and around my constituency and are just back from a third tour of duty in Afghanistan, where they have fought bravely, helping to provide security to the Afghan people and to us in the UK in turn. They lost five of their number and many more were injured. I had the privilege of receiving last week a briefing at county hall from their senior officers on their achievements during the mission, and was greatly encouraged by the progress they have made on reconstruction and development, on winning over the local community leaders, and on investment in the training of the Afghan national army and police. More than 10,000 Essex people turned out last week to give them a proper Essex welcome, demonstrating their heartfelt support for those who bravely put their lives at risk on our behalf.
"However, that support has not stopped those same people from asking searching questions about the mission and equipment, and about the care we give to the injured and their relatives, both in mind and body. Some ask why we are in those locations, what we realistically hope to achieve, and whether all the money and personnel could be better deployed in protecting our domestic security in a more direct way. Like many others, my constituents have experienced terrorism first hand and its changing character over the years. The IRA sought to detonate an oil storage tank on Canvey in the '70s, and many of my constituents work in London and were affected by 7/7.
"I hope the defence review gives us a proper chance to look hard at our priorities as we consider how best to make our country secure again, with the background of a diverse and rapidly changing security threat, and the realities of our economic circumstances. My briefing from the Vikings showed clearly the principle that security can be won and maintained only through the combination of military and policing action, negotiation and diplomacy, and aid and investment, and that one should not undermine or work against the other. I hope that the strategic defence and security review, while determining the future shape of our defence and armed forces, will also give the British public confidence that when our brave men and women are sent to war on our behalf, it is for this country's security interests."