By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.
Eighteen months or so ago, I asked on this site why pro-EU Conservatives are so shy of making that case? That question may now become redundant - at least as far as a new group of Tory MPs is concerned.
Laura Sandys speaks for a newly-formed European Mainstream Group in the film above. "We feel very strongly that our voice hasn't been heard for many years," she says. "New people have come into Parliament who want to ensure that we have much stronger focus."
Ben Wallace, Ken Clarke's PPS, also speaks out. "I think the other lot are very good at getting their message across," he says - clearly intending to play a part in changing the balance. Richard Ottoway claims that a majority of the Parliamentary Party wants to stay in the EU.
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
Expanding upon his earlier remarks, Jesse Norman appeared on The World At One, and described the reform proposals as "a constitutional monstrosity", saying the Bill "should never have reached the House of Commons":
"Unfortunately the Conservative manifesto didn’t contain anything like the commitment that everyone’s pretending it did and it’s a small dishonesty to pretend that it did. What the Conservative manifesto said is that the party made a commitment to ‘seek to build a consensus’ for a mainly elected second chamber. Now it has sought to build a consensus until it is blue in the face and all of that tells us that there’s no possible consensus around the bill. Now, there might have been a consensus around a more intelligently crafted set of reforms but this bill is a total nonsense."
"This bill, which is being drawn up to satisfy the Deputy Prime Minister, is clearly a nonsense. I think that most people would be pretty outraged at the idea that some grubby little deal between the Conservatives and the Liberals that says we will give you permanent controlling vote position in the House of Lords in return for you to agreeing to vote for boundary changes that will give us 20 extra seats. That is not the basis of which to proceed with major constitutional reform."
"Absolutely not. I think this is an extraordinary piece of legislation in many ways. This is legislation brought forward by a government which actually gives Parliament more power over the executive. We will actually end up with a proper, fully-fledged bicameral system, which will ensure that Parliament can hold government more to account, in many ways ensure that we get better legislation, and possibly from a Conservative point of view desirable with less legislation."
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
On yesterday's Today programme, Justin Webb, introducing a section on the Lords, said "MPs are still on holiday but the House of Lords is sitting..."
Although he was later happy to acknowledge MPs are not, in fact, "on holiday", Webb set off a series of tweets from Tory MPs miffed at the fact they were being portrayed as taking too much time off. David Jones (Clwyd West) got the ball rolling
Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) continued:
By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
A number of Tory MPs led by Damian Collins have come together to propose a new industrial strategy for Britain. Mr Collins explains how the approach recommended by him and his colleagues is different from the industrial strategy of the 1970s and also a mythical laissez-faire policy:
"The industrial strategy of the 1970s saw Governments give direct financial aid to failing industries in order to protect jobs. Here people were in effect being paid to build cars that customers didn’t want to buy. That approach was unsustainable and it was in time new ownership, leadership, design, innovation and the commitment of the workforce that ultimately saved businesses like Jaguar and Land Rover from the state run motor industry. 21st century industrial strategy is not just about identifying where direct financial assistance can help accelerate the development of a business or economic region, as we are seeing in the Government’s strategy for enterprise zones and the regional growth fund. This has also been important in the development of new economic clusters, like Tech City, where Government support has acted as a catalyst for private enterprises to bring in much greater levels of investment. In addition to this we have to ensure that our tax and regulatory environment helps UK firms that are competing in a global economy to thrive. This is why, for example, the tax credits announced in the last budget for the production of high end television series, animation and video games were so important. Despite the UK having some of the best practitioners in the world, we were losing business to other countries that could undercut us on price significantly because they offered tax incentives to investors."
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter
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.
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter
Of the Parliamentary groupings founded by MPs after the 2010 general election, the 2020 group is perhaps the least understood. Channel 4's Michael Crick and the FT (£) covered its launch during conference last year. Those two reports implied the 2020 group was a centre-left grouping pre-occupied with "countering the rise of the right". The 2020 is not about bashing the right. It's about upholding the ideas and optimism of the Cameron leadership era, and ensuring they can help inspire a majority Conservative government. In this profile, I will take a closer look at the 2020, its aims, role, and plans for the future.
Origins of the Group:
The 2020 was founded in Autumn 2011 by Greg Barker, the Minister of State for Climate Change, Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-upon-Avon), and George Freeman (Mid Norfolk), with Claire Perry (Devizes) joining soon after. It was launched at conference last year.
Members of the group (see below) are drawn from across the ideological spectrum (one member told me the 2020 tries to "reject the stale orthodoxies and dogmas of the old left versus right split in the Tory Party"), but members are united in wanting to develop conservatism and what the Party might look like in 2020. Founder George Freeman said: "The 2020 was set up as a forum to help the new Conservative generation define a modern progressive Conservatism for our times. What is the DNA that unites this diverse new generation? What are the long term social, economic, and technological changes that will shape our world? By tackling these and related questions we hope to help Conservatives define and dominate the radical centre ground of British politics."
Fellow founder Greg Barker explained another aspect of 2020's mission: "There's a strong strain of optimism that ran through the early Cameron message, and that message of change, hope and optimism, sometimes because of austerity, gets overshadowed, and we see ourselves as the guardians of that message".
By Jonathan Isaby
Follow Jonathan on Twitter
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?
At the start of Carers’ Week, she took the opportunity to highlight the importance of government supporting those who selflessly care for relatives:
“Young, old, frail, healthy — carers are selfless family members whose lives become dominated by the responsibilities they voluntarily take on. Being a carer is not subject to any working time directive; carers are full-time, on call 24 hours. Their lives are dominated by the needs of others. When helping those with chronic illnesses, they often forfeit their own life, and certainly their livelihood. Having watched my mother look after my father for five years before he died, I have seen at first hand the toll that can be taken on the carer.
“We need to ensure that we put carers at the heart of our review of care for the elderly. It is crucial that we look at the role they play. In many ways, they will be one of the front lines in public services in the future. I urge the Government to ensure that we support those who support their loved ones. We need to look again at providing respite for carers. We need to review the cut-off of carer’s allowance when people reach pensionable age — just when they need it most — and we need to place the carer’s role at the heart of our review of care for the elderly.
“When we leave the House — not for many years, we hope — we might all need carers, or we might all need to care for others. I would prefer that to be done by a loving relative — someone who will be there for me in my time of need — and I am certain that many other Members would, too. As the Prime Minister says, we need to reward those who take responsibility, and never can that be better said than about 6 million carers who give up their lives and selflessly give their time to their loved ones.”