By Paul Goodman
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I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, "Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!
The words in a speech that move most deeply, more often than not, aren't actually deployed in it. They are: I was there. Lords Jopling, Wakeham, Fowler, Waddington and Tebbit have spoken in the Lords, as has Lady Williams from the Liberal Democrat benches. My old boss Lord King of Bridgwater is there, and has spoken, too; Lord Howe was present, but has apparently left. Lord Heseltine is absent. But in that other sense, he was there.
By Tim Montgomerie
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On Radio 4's World This Weekend four veteran Tory big beasts have been speaking to Shaun Ley about what Cameron should do next.
Two former Tory Chairmen kicked off the discussion.
Lord (Richard) Ryder - John Major's chief whip - agreed with Baker on the need for a Party Chairman. Neither of the two existing Chairmen (Feldman and Warsi) have ever been elected, he said, and neither had access to the Commons. Cameron desperately needed a Party Chairman who was an MP and who could be both a lightning rod for him and also a firefighter. He urged the PM to stop being distracted by the 24 hour news cycle and focus on the horizon. Let junior ministers announce small initiatives, he advised. To this day voters don't know where Cameron really stands, what are his true convictions. As a consequence his government lacks coherence. The Chancellor, George Osborne doesn't understand the difference between tactics and strategy, Ryder continued. He said it was "comical" that the director of strategy in Number 10 was also an opinion pollster (Andrew Cooper).
David Davis also was interviewed for the programme. Previewing the Alternative Queen's Speech that will be published on ConHome tomorrow and which he and other Conservative MPs have contributed individual parts, he said we needed a Government programme that was more focused on growth and social mobility. The Coalition's programme needed, he said, to recognise, that five-sixths of the MPs on the government side were elected as Conservatives.
By Jonathan Isaby
When the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill was going through the House of Commons, Isle of Wight Tory MP Andrew Turner passionately made the case for his island not to be linked to the mainland after the forthcoming boundary redistribution.
With the reduction in seats from 650 to 600 and a deviation of only 5% to be allowed for any electorate (except for the far-flung Scottish seats of Orkney & Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar), the Bill as currently constituted would mean about two thirds of the Isle of Wight's 110,000 electors being in one constituency, with the rest of the island being attached to a seat in mainland Hampshire.
The cross-party One Wight campaign - for which I expressed my support here - has been calling for the island to be allowed keep a single MP, effectively consenting to being slightly under-represented in Parliament.
And there was good news for islanders from the House of Lords this week.
Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Fowler, who has been an Isle of Wight resident for over 25 years, tabled an amendment during the Bill's passage through the House of Lords on Wednesday, saying:
"The consequence of what is being proposed in the Bill is that a new constituency would be formed that would be partly on the mainland and partly on the Isle of Wight, in spite of the fact the two parts would be eight to 10 miles apart, over a stretch of sea and with expensive ferries being the only means of communication. It is claimed that there must be this kind of new constituency because it is essential that all constituencies should have electorates of around 76,000, when the Isle of Wight has 110,000. No exceptions are possible, except the two in the Bill both concerning island constituencies and where the electorates are not abnormally high but abnormally low.
"My amendment would allow there to be one or two constituencies on the Isle of Wight. Most importantly, it follows the amendment put down in the other place by Andrew Turner, the excellent Member of Parliament for the island who was elected on a manifesto that promised opposition to a cross-Solent constituency. You might think that his amendment would have been carefully considered in the other place, but you would be absolutely wrong. Due to the timetabling arrangements in the other place, which perhaps underlines a little the debate that has gone before, he was allowed no time at all in Committee, four minutes on Report and no opportunity to bring the proposition to a vote.
Lord Fowler (a former Secretary of State for Health and Social Security) tabled an amendment to the bill. Currently people with personal, defined contribution pensions must buy an annuity at the age of 75. (An annuity gives a pensioner an agreed level of annual income over a given period of time.)
Lord Fowler's amendment called for a suspension of that rule, in light of the state of the economy.
He explained that the wording of his amendment might have been inelegant, but that its purpose was straightforward - a suspension rather than an abolition of the annuities rule. (Lord Fowler is also in favour of abolition, however.) He added:
"The only half-argument that I have heard against such a change is that the rule affects only a small number of people. I do not regard that as an argument for inaction. Injustice is still injustice, however small the number affected."
The amendment failed, as Labour and Lib Dem peers opposed it. Lord Skelmersdale has issued the following statement:
"This was one of the most shameful Liberal votes in this Parliament. Even if you are in favour of other ideas, there was no case for voting against temporary, urgent help for these elderly people. Their spokesman Lord Oakeshott, was in a jealous huff because the amendment was not his. At a time of crisis, no responsible party would put personal pique and quotes in LibDem newssheets ahead of the interests of tens of thousands of worried families."
"Equally, the pigheaded attitude of the government in saying no to freedom of choice at the time of maximum need for older, prudent people, who have saved but see their savings vanishing before their eyes as a result of government policies, is disgraceful."
"All our amendment asked for was a temporary stay in this rule. To vote against that on a day the London market lost £30 billion demonstrates how utterly out of touch with the real world Labour and the increasingly ludicrous LibDems are."
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