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" »
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" »
20 Apr 2012 06:33:09
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.
Continue reading "Who are the 301? The Tory MPs who want to refresh the 1922 Committee" »
17 Apr 2012 07:59:19
By Matthew Barrett
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I recently profiled the 2020 and Free Enterprise groups of Tory MPs. Those two groups are formed by ideology: MPs are attracted to the groups because, in the case of the Free Enterprise Group, members wish to open up markets and make Britain business-friendly enough to compete with other world class economies. The 2020's members want to renew and refresh Project Cameron, while considering how the country should look after a majority Conservative government.
The 40 is rather different as it is a group of MPs brought together solely by necessity - the members are those MPs who were elected in 2010 with the narrowest majorities in the Party.
Origins of the group and key members
The group was founded early last year by Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), and David Mowat (Warrington South). There is no rigid structure to the group as such, given its non-ideological purpose, but when it meets, the convener is usually David Mowat. Other key "executive" members of the group include Evans and Ollerenshaw, as well as Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye), James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) and Ben Gummer (Ipswich).
Continue reading "What is the 40 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the MPs trying to keep hold of the most marginal Tory seats" »
31 Jan 2012 18:15:43
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.
Continue reading "Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money." »
14 Sep 2010 07:00:00
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
James Morris was elected MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis with a majority of 2,023.
1. What is your earliest political memory? The vote of no confidence that led to the fall of the Callaghan government in 1979.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe in freedom, enterprise, a strong nation and one in which more power is in the hands of individuals and communities rather than the state..”
3. Who is your political hero and why? Disraeli - a genuine Conservative radical!
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? I don’t think there was a single moment when I decided that I wanted to become an MP. I spent most of the last fifteen years in small business after doing an MBA at Cranfield School of Management in the mid-1990s. I then set up the campaign group Mind the Gap in 2003 and then spent time running the think tank Localis. I felt I had reached the right point in life to give it a go and had the right blend of policy and business experience to make a difference.
5. What is your reading material of choice? History, autobiography, American Fiction (Updike, Roth).
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Andrew Neil.
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? Foreign Office or Defence. There are profound forces at work globally with a decisive shift in power from west to east. We need to take a creative and innovative approach to protecting our national interests.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Frank Field - a genuinely radical thinker.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? I try not to use them in the interests of my fitness!
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? Spending time with my children Solomon (7) and Evie (3) who keep my feet firmly on the ground and on the rare occasions it is possible, spending a day at the cricket.
12. What is your favourite book? Ian McEwan’s Atonement.
13. What is your favourite film? Lord of the Rings.
14. What is your favourite music? New Order.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? My wife Anna’s fish pie at the table at home.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? France.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? To work hard for my constituents and to push forward the government’s agenda on decentralisation and localism.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. I have a first class batting average.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. Halesowen has a monastery – the Halesowen Abbey – which was founded in 1218. The remains of the Abbey can still be viewed today.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. My agent’s car got so cluttered with campaign stuff that he contemplated placing David Cameron next to a large washing basket full of leaflets on the back seat of his car while he gave him a lift back to the station after a Cameron Direct Event at Windsor High School in Halesowen. Another driver with a clean car and superior driving skills was found!
> Previously: Gavin Barwell MP
27 May 2010 06:28:05
Yesterday was day two of the new Parliament and three more Conservative MPs delivered their maiden speeches.
Bob Stewart, the new MP for Beckenham who has spent most of his life in the military, described being elected to the Commons as "the best thing that has ever happened to me."
He spoke fondly of his constituency, highlighting its links with both Pitts, Wilberforce (not to mention Enid Blyton) and shared this anecdote about another former Prime Minister:
"There is a rumour that the greatest Englishman of them all, Sir Winston Churchill, used to stop off in my constituency for a tipple on the way to Chartwell. I have investigated all the public houses in Keston, Bromley Common, West Wickham and Hayes in my attempt to check whether that is correct. So far, I have failed, but I promise that I will keep up the endeavour."
He went on to speak about military casualties in conflicts and the treatment of veterans:
"Since this day last year, we have lost 125 soldiers in Afghanistan. If we use the ratio of one person killed to about three to five wounded, which the military often does, we have casualty losses of something like 625 people since this time last year. That is horrific. It is not all the 9,000-plus military people in Afghanistan whom I am talking about, but more particularly what the Army calls the Bayonets—some 2,000 to 3,000 people who do the business of closing with the enemy, going out of their camps each day to do what they have been trained to do. They know what the casualty rate is, and so do their families, but they nevertheless continue to go out for us each day. Their courage is tremendous, and we all know that courage is not the absence of fear but its mastery. Our soldiers do that for us every day.
"Looking into things further, we also need to consider how many more of these people are going to suffer mentally—something we do not yet see. Let us think back to last week, when Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, perhaps the bravest of the brave, admitted that his own demons drove him to consider suicide, which he actually tried. How many more men and some women are going to get the same feeling? We currently have a fabulous casualty evacuation system in place between the point of wounding and all the way through to the time people leave the armed forces. I am very happy with that and I am particularly pleased that we sometimes have a consultant flown in by a helicopter for casualty evacuation. I am nevertheless concerned about veterans once they leave the Colours, as I have been involved with them... I am delighted that the coalition programme refers to better mental health facilities for veterans. We must get this as good as we can; we owe our veterans through-life care until the end of their time."
James Morris, who gained Halesowen and Rowley Regis from Labour at the election, told the Commons that there was an urgency about "reviving the House and reconnecting it with the people who sent us here":
"At this moment in history, political leaders and those of us, like me, who are humbled to have been elected to this place need to use our imaginations to revive this place and how it operates, and how people perceive politics; forge new alliances at home and abroad; create innovation in our politics and economy; and forge new partnerships in the House for the good of the nation. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve things for this country, decentralise power from central Government to local government and communities, strengthen democratic institutions and restore trust, and, by doing that, to build a stronger nation that is able to continue to play a positive role in world affairs."
Stafford's new MP, Jeremy Lefroy, gave the Commons a detailed tour of his constituency pointing out that it is, among other things, home to the annual V music festival ("a constituency event that I have not yet had the pleasure to attend; I am probably unlikely to do so, but I receive reports on it from my teenage daughter") as well as being the seat that David Cameron himself contested in 1997:
"He is well remembered in the constituency. Indeed, I have had the pleasure of visiting one constituent who pointed out a rock in front of her house that she called the Cameron rock, because he had transported it to that place himself. That shows that manual work is not unknown to those on the Front Bench."
He went to underline his belief in seeking greater links with the Commonwealth:
"The Gracious Speech referred to pursuing 'an enhanced partnership in India', which I welcome. India is, of course, the largest country in the Commonwealth. My experience of living and working in Tanzania, which is a stalwart member, for 11 years, shows that the bonds are strong—indeed, far stronger than many in this country believe. There are great opportunities for us to trade with the Commonwealth. At the moment, it accounts only for 8% of our exports and imports, so there is the potential for far more. If we do not do that, other nations such as China will—and they already are. Economic growth depends on exports, and I am sure that the Government will be looking at every possible avenue to improve this country’s export growth. Political, educational and cultural ties are also important. As a previous speaker mentioned, soft power and strong relationships with Commonwealth countries need to be nurtured."
And he ended his well-crafted speech by quoting one of Stafford's most famous sons, Izaak Walton:
“The person that loses their conscience has nothing left worth keeping.”