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 Tim Montgomerie
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At the heart of ConservativeHome's Strong and Compassionate project is the idea that the party cannot just be about the creation of wealth. We must also be clear that the prosperity we will help to create will be a prosperity that everyone enjoys. We need to make it clear that our priority for tax relief is the lower-paid strivers. We also need to make it clear that we will ensure pensioners and others who depend upon the safety-net don't fall dangerously behind as the rest of the nation prospers. We need to address the reality that blue collar wages are stagnant. In America they haven't risen for forty years. The contours of the blue collar vote were revealed in recent polling undertaken by Lord Ashcroft.
A new group is formally launched today that aims to think deeply about our Party's blue collar message. It has three core beliefs:
By Matthew Barrett
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Guido Fawkes has a list of new Conservative members of Select Committees, from Graham Brady's office. Mr Brady explains: "For the following committees I have received the same number of nominations as there are vacancies, the following are therefore elected". The appointments are:
Communities and Local Government
John Stevenson (Carlisle), replacing George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), who became PPS to Theresa May at the reshuffle.
Chris Skidmore (Kingswood), replacing Damian Hinds (East Hampshire), who became PPS to Mark Francois, the Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole), replacing Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich), who was made the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Health Services.
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).
By Jonathan Isaby
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I have already covered Conor Burns' sideswipe at Lord Heseltine from the debate on Lords reform, but what else happened during the debate?
Overall, one got the impression that (with a few exceptions) the Conservative benches were highly sceptical about an elected second chamber - including many who are usually deemed to be supporters of the Government.
Later in his speech, Conor Burns spoke in favour of the status quo - ie a fully appointed chamber - and then considered what parties had promised in their manifestos:
"I wish to deal briefly with the argument that reform was in every party’s manifesto. It was, to some degree, and the Liberal Democrats, who had the most pro-reform manifesto commitment, got 23% of the vote in the general election. Labour, which was slightly more lukewarm, got 29%, and the Conservatives, who were the most lukewarm, got 36%. There is almost an argument that if we want to do things on the basis of what was in the manifestos, we should remember that the most people voted for the party that was most lukewarm on the issue. We have to ask ourselves, as at the time of Maastricht, when all three Front-Bench teams are united on something, how do those who dissent make their view known?
By Tim Montgomerie
Jonathan Isaby is ConHome's student of rebellions but with him away I should record a small rebellion by Tory MPs against the use of the supplementary vote in the election of city mayors. Revolts.co.uk records the fact:
"Not content with pronouncing AV dead for years to come following the decisive 'no' in the AV referendum, some members of the Tory right have made a point of flexing their muscles over their continued support for First-Past-the-Post. On Tuesday, during the Report stage of the Localism Bill, 21 Tory MPs supported an amendment in the name of newbie MP John Stevenson, which aimed to change the electoral system for electing mayors from the supplementary vote to FPTP. Fourteen out of the 21 rebels were drawn from the new intake, while four Conservative MPs were voting against the Government for the first time: Steve Brine, Nadine Dorries, John Stevenson and Craig Whittaker."
"At present, mayors are elected under the supplementary vote system, which is retained in the Bill. Effectively it is a form of the alternative vote. My amendment 2 would change that so that future elections are done under first past the post. That would provide a consistent approach to elections. Varying the voting system creates confusion and a lack of certainty for the average voter. Two weeks ago, this country went to the polling booth for a referendum on whether we wanted AV or first past the post. Had the voters supported AV, I would have withdrawn this amendment. I would have accepted the will of the people. In fact, there was an overwhelming and emphatic vote for first past the post. As one hon. Member said to me, “The people of this country did not say no; they said never.” I accept that judgment, but I believe there has to be consistency. I support the amendment on the basis that we should have a consistent approach to our elections and that elected mayors should therefore be elected under first past the post. I genuinely hope that the House will agree with what the people said two weeks ago and support the amendment."
Boris Johnson was elected under SV. Under SV voters have a first and second preference. Under AV you can use any number of preferences.
Two more maiden speeches to note from this week.
On Tuesday, Simon Reevell – who gained Dewsbury from Labour’s Shahid Malik – gave his maiden speech in the Commons. Representing a particularly multi-ethnic constituency, he spoke about the importance of integration:
“Integration is important—it is not about where someone is from, but the extent to which people are prepared to mix, and ensuring that we respect one another, whatever our cultural differences. It is about asking ourselves if a particular course of action will be helpful or inflammatory; whether something we want to do or even want to wear can be better explained or even changed if it alienates others. It is a central issue in the town of Dewsbury. We are entitled to expect integration and to say to community gatekeepers that their role is to hold the gate open, not force it shut. I pay tribute to all the organisations that do so much already to pursue that course.”
He also said that he wanted people who work hard to be rewarded appropriately:
“Many people in my constituency are fed up with working hard and doing their best, and seeing others who make little or no effort being better off because of the vagaries of the benefits system. The system is unfair and I am delighted that, under the coalition Government, it will change to reward those who strive in the face of adversity, rather than those who sit back and ask, “What can I have for as little effort as possible?”
Meanwhile Wednesday saw a maiden speech from the first Conservative MP for Carlisle since 1959. In that first speech in the Commons, John Stevenson gave his backing to more elected mayors and decentralisation:
“We must decentralise. It is important that we take decision making back to the communities and allow local people to make local decisions for themselves. Whitehall has a role, but that role has become far too big. We now have the opportunity to return power to local people. I genuinely believe that elected mayors offer a way forward, because they bring transparency to local decision making and make people aware of who is in charge of their local community.”
He also proposed that the Government might like to save money by relocating civil servants to Carlisle:
“The public sector is still important—still vital to our economy and our communities—but it has to innovate, think differently and do things differently. Let me make one suggestion to Government Departments. Carlisle has a low cost base, housing is of good quality but relatively cheap and our industrial sites are cheaper than those in many other places. I therefore suggest that the Government should consider moving Departments from the south to the north. Doing so will save them money and help to regenerate parts of Carlisle.”