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" »
4 Sep 2012 16:03:59
By Matthew Barrett
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Since details of the reshuffle have emerged, Tory MPs, especially on the right of the party, have been reacting positively to David Cameron's appointments.
Lord Lawson was pleased with the reshuffle:
"I am on the whole very pleased with what has been done. There's another purpose why you need reshuffles. There is always a need to curb public spending and ministers become attached to their departmental budgets and therefore the Treasury needs to have new ministers who will look at their departmental budgets with fresh eyes and find ways of further savings and that is particularly necessary at the present time."
He had specific praise for Owen Paterson's promotion:
"I am very pleased to see in this reshuffle the promotion of Owen Paterson. Owen Paterson is little known to the British public because he has been Northern Ireland Secretary, so he is well known there, but really little known elsewhere. He is in fact one of the most able and promising young men or women around the Cabinet and therefore his promotion to Environment is extremely welcome….he is a man of reason and sense."
Andrew Bridgen said the reshuffle was more wide-ranging than many Tories had expected:
"I think the reaction from the backbenches is that this reshuffle is quite a lot more extensive than we actually predicted. So it is far more radical. But at the end of the day, these reshuffles are of great interest for those of us in the Westminster bubble and the media out there, but I think the people, your viewers, are really interested in policy, not necessarily personality, and it’s about reinvigorating the Government and pushing those policies forward to deliver economic growth that’s going to get the country out of recession."
Continue reading "Conservative MPs react positively to the reshuffle" »
11 Jul 2012 06:46:24
By Tim Montgomerie
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On the margins of last night's Lords vote there were a couple of unpleasant incidents and stories are doing the rounds that aren't 100% accurate.
One allegation is that four junior whips confronted Jesse Norman in a very aggressive manner and told him to leave the parliamentary estate. Norman, the 'Captain Sensible' leader of yesterday's rebels, was having a drink with colleagues and was told his presence was provocative and unwelcome. In truth the four junior whips weren't the aggressive ones. They were warning Norman and another of the lead rebels - Nadhim Zahawi - that John Randall was on the warpath. Mr Randall, the normally smooth and popular Deputy Chief Whip, had - it was said - had a few drinks and there was a theatrical suggestion he 'might do an Eric Joyce'. In reality Mr Randall had "blown his top" but was not under any influence*. Norman and Zahawi took the advice, downed their pints and went home.
The second incident is that the PM had one of his Flashman moments and angrily confronted Jesse Norman earlier in the day. My understanding from a secondary source is that Mr Cameron was "testy" but not intimidatory. The PM had objected to a communication that Norman had made to rebel and wavering Tory MPs in which it had been suggested that a rebel vote would be helping the PM (this was Paul Goodman's argument yesterday morning). This had got back to Number 10 and Mr Cameron took his opportunity to make it clear that a rebel vote was absolutely NOT what he wanted. Jesse Norman then wrote another email to colleagues affirming this fact.
That's the truth of things. Not as bad as reported but not a party of happy bunnies either.
* His dark mood should be noted by Mr Clegg. The whips really had tried to quell the rebellion.
6 Jul 2012 15:05:03
By Matthew Barrett
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Since the interview with a recently-departed senior Nick Clegg aide, Richard Reeves, in this morning's newspapers, which intimated there would be consequences for the Government's boundary review if backbench Tories vote against stopping debate on Lords reform, a number of Tory MPs have appeared in the media to express their thoughts - from frustration to amusement - at the Lib Dems' threats.
Firstly, Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) on BBC Five Live, expressed his disappointment that the vote next week will be whipped:
"The idea that a fundamental and irreversible constitutional change should be pushed through with the usual whipping and guillotining that happens on more routine bills is just unthinkable. Coalition policy was to seek a consensus on House of Lords reform and I think it’s pretty clear to anyone watching this debate that they failed to achieve a consensus."
Secondly, Peter Bone (Wellingborough), appearing on the Daily Politics show, was asked how he felt being threatened by the Lib Dems. He replied:
"Quaking in my boots. ... They just can’t be trusted. I mean, the deal was they got this wretched AV vote in return for the boundary review. They all voted for that bill, I actually voted against the bill, and now because they didn’t get what they wanted in the AV they’re now saying ‘well it’s all about House of Lords reform.’ ... House of Lords reforms were bringing forward proposals, seeking agreement, but nothing about legislation. The Prime Minister said it was a third term priority. A consensus is a consensus, and we’re still seeking it. We haven’t quite made it yet."
Continue reading "Backbench Tories irked by Lib Dem threats over Lords reform" »
11 May 2012 11:57:13
By Matthew Barrett
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When I first reported on David Cameron's contribution to the Queen's Speech debate on Wednesday, I noted the funny and well delivered Loyal Address given by Nadhim Zahawi, the Member of Parliament for Stratford upon Avon and thought I should cover it more fully today. Of particular note was Zahawi's assertion that William Shakespeare "was in his soul and actions a natural Tory".
Zahawi started off, as is traditional, with humour:
"In this year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, I am deeply honoured to move the Loyal Address. For six decades, Her Majesty has provided us with a peerless example of duty, dignity and service to the nation. And it was the subject of “peerlessness” that was immediately on my mind when I was called into the Chief Whip’s office last week. I really thought that he wanted to have a full and frank discussion with me on the reform of the other place. I ran to No. 9 Downing street, in the pouring rain, clutching my folder of briefing notes, while continuously repeating, “More effective, but not elected. More effective, but not elected.” I can announce to this House that having a small glass of water, without the biscuits, with the Chief Whip has allowed us to reach agreement; as our manifesto demanded, a consensus on this thorny issue has been reached.
It was only later that I remembered something important: the accepted convention is that this Address is usually delivered by an hon. Member of this House just as their illustrious career is starting to approach its expiry date—perhaps my right. hon. Friend the Prime Minister was gently hinting that I had a great future behind me. Equally, the Loyal Address is usually seconded by a young, ambitious, thrusting Back Bencher who is hungry for promotion, and it is in that spirit that I warmly congratulate the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), who has that happy role today.
Although I have rarely seen the Chamber this full, this will probably not be my most watched speech. Not many Back-Bench MPs can boast more than 130,000 downloads on YouTube, for a few lines uttered during an Opposition day debate. To any colleagues in the House seeking a wider audience for their speeches, my advice is: spend less time thinking about what you are going to say and more time thinking about what you are going to wear. I recommend a loud tie—preferably one with a soundtrack.
The last person to move this motion was my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), and I seem to recall that he informed this House that he was able to trace his lineage back to the village of Lilley, which has existed in his constituency since Anglo-Saxon times. With a name like mine, I was never going to convince the voters of Stratford-on-Avon that my ancestors fought the Normans at the battle of Hastings. In fact, Stratford-on-Avon is a constituency in the heart of England, in the county of Warwickshire, that is 90% white. If I may say so, Mr Speaker, this is not a kaleidoscope county. But it is testament to the values of that constituency, and of this country, that it chose me as its representative, and it is on its behalf that I deliver this address."
Continue reading "Shakespeare "was in his soul and actions a natural Tory". Nadhim Zahawi MP's Loyal Address" »
22 Apr 2012 08:31:29
By Tim Montgomerie
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Since entering Parliament Nadhim Zahawi has been one of the Government's most loyal supporters. To the best of my knowledge he has not rebelled even once. He has been regarded by Number 10 as one of its Praetorian Guardsmen. This does not mean he doesn't know his own mind. As a member of the BIS Select Committee Nadhim was a lead critic of the decision to appoint Les Ebdon as access tsar. Nonetheless, he's always been ready to go on TV and radio to defend the Government's line. I sometimes watch Prime Minister's Question Time from the press gallery and Nadhim sits directly opposite Ed Miliband and deploys every trick in the book to try and knock the Labour leader off course. It's fascinating to watch.
So when this MP for Stratford-upon-Avon criticises the Tory leadership's priorities as he did at Thursday's special 1922 meeting on Lords reform - it's noteworthy. In today's Observer he has set out his case in more detail. He warns that an elected Lords would challenge the Commons and that deadlock might result:
"The idea that deadlock between two chambers is a good thing is complete madness. You only have to look at the US public's exasperation with the paralysis that sometimes takes hold of its legislature to see that this won't work. And not only that it won't work, but that the public, many of them already feeling disenchanted by politics, won't thank us for it."
Continue reading "Nadhim Zahawi MP notes that "exactly 0% of people" say Lords reform should be Coalition's priority" »
3 Apr 2012 08:02:14
By Matthew Barrett
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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".
Continue reading "What is the 2020 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the Tory MPs trying to renew the Cameron project" »
21 Mar 2012 05:57:45
By Matthew Barrett
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The Forty. The 301. The 2020. These are some of the groups formed by Conservative MPs after the last general election. Most are largely made up of, or driven by, 2010-intake MPs. Over the next few weeks, I'll be profiling some of these groups.
Today, we kick off with the Free Enterprise Group (FEG). The FEG is considered influential by sources at the Treasury, and George Osborne is said to think very highly of it, regarding it as the most important of the new groups to emerge.
Origins of the Group: The group initially formed out of concern at the anti-free market atmosphere that has developed in the last few years. The behaviour of the last government, in cosying up to big business cartels and corporatist interests, often gave people a mistakenly bad impression of the free market that didn't necessarily exist twenty years ago. Polling suggests 21st-century Britons are less receptive towards free enterprise than the Chinese, Americans and Germans. There is also a wider cause - making Britain globally competitive again. The FEG's website highlights startling statistics about our place in the world: the fact that we are now 83rd in the world for regulation, 94th for taxation, and so on. This concern derives not just from the fact that we are being overtaken by emerging markets like Brazil, but also established Western economies, like Germany, have become more free market than Britain.
Continue reading "What is the Free Enterprise Group? Matthew Barrett profiles the most influential new gathering of Tory MPs" »
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." »
5 Apr 2011 07:14:19
by Paul Goodman
This morning's reports of Andrew Lansley's Commons statement yesterday haven't missed that he was unsupported in the Chamber by the presence of senior Cabinet colleagues. (The Prime Minister was en route to Pakistan.)
What some may have missed is the strong support given to the Health Secretary by Conservative backbenchers. Some it, clearly, had been organised in an operation by the Whips - but not all. By my count, Lansley received ten questions specifically supportive of his plans -
"Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): As the Secretary of State may know, I still have a faint link with the NHS and medicine in general. The GPs I have met in my constituency and elsewhere are very much in favour of the proposals. In contrast, the complaints are circular letters that have been well organised. Does the Secretary of State agree that GPs will be devastated if there is any reversal and backtracking?
Continue reading "Lansley under supported on front bench, but strongly supported from backbenches" »
20 Jan 2011 21:31:01
by Paul Goodman
An eventful day, Thursday February 20: Sayeeda Warsi at the start of it, Alan Johnson at the end of it.
And somewhere in between, that clip of Nadhim Zahawi's tie. Speaking of which, we have a statement from the MP for Stratford-on-Avon -
“I had been asked to wear the tie for a photo and knew I would be speaking in the chamber afterwards so decided to keep it on to help raise awareness. They hadn’t warned me that it was musical and as I buttoned my jacket I must have activated it.”
“Although it’s gained a lot of attention for the incident itself, as a side effect I hope that it will help the campaign and raise awareness of our abysmal track record on cancer survival rates in this country.”
“Every year some 250,000 people in England are diagnosed with cancer and every year 130,000 people die from the disease. Our cancer survival rates are far below those in Europe, which is why the government has announced a £750m cancer strategy which amongst other things will fund an extra 1,200 additional specialists by 2012 and provide £60m to roll out new Bowel Cancer screening technology. On top of this we also have the £200m a year cancer drugs fund to ensure that people get the drugs they need.”
“There has been so much interest in this tie that I have decided that the only correct thing to do is to auction it off, with the proceeds obviously going to Beating Bowel Cancer.”
Beating Bowel Cancer is a national charity for bowel cancer patients, working to raise awareness of symptoms, promote early diagnosis and encourage open access to treatment choice for those affected by bowel cancer. Through their work they aim to save lives from this common cancer. For more information visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org."
4 Sep 2010 07:00:00
Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...
Nadhim Zahawi was elected MP for Stratford-on-Avon with a majority of 11,346.
1. What is your earliest political memory? Being accosted by a member of the Socialist Workers Party at university. He was handing out magazines and couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to take one and decided to get physical. It was that confrontation that made me decide to see what the other side thought.
2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I was lucky enough to be given British freedom and opportunity when my family fled persecution in Iraq and came to the UK, and it is that freedom of choice and opportunity to achieve that I believe that the Conservative Party stands for.”
3. Who is your political hero and why? Is it too obvious to say Thatcher? Also Iain Macleod for his fantastic oratory and powers of description. He is credited with having come up with the term 'nanny state' in 1965 and also the term 'stagflation'.
4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? When I joined the party in Putney in the 1980s, it was something I thought I would be interested in doing at some point in the future.
5. What is your reading material of choice? Obviously my local paper the Stratford Herald on a weekly basis, and I read the Sun, Telegraph, the Economist and Mail online as well as ConHome every day.
6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? On radio, John Humphrys; on television, I have been really impressed with Gavin Esler lately, he has been very good on Newsnight, and seems to be particularly balanced.
7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? Business, Innovation and Skills: business is my background so it seems an obvious choice. I’ve had the entire business experience from being two men in a shed that no bank would lend to, right up to running a multinational company listed on the stock exchange - having that kind of real experience in the department is a good thing. The recovery will be driven by us making more things and selling them to the world. We breed the best engineers in the world, you only have to look at Formula 1 to believe that, yet sadly we tend to lose too many to overseas companies. They also struggle to get backing in the UK for their ideas and inventions.
8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Senator Bill Bradley, who stood as a Democratic presidential nominee in 2000. He was a Hall of Fame Basketball player and credited with always knowing where on the court his team mates and opposition were and he carried that over to his political career as well. That sense of position is crucial in politics.
9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? Anyone who thinks the size of Government is about right.
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 family, we just had a great holiday together visiting Disneyland.
12. What is your favourite book? Perfume by Patrick Suskind
13. What is your favourite film? The Godfather: Part II
14. What is your favourite music? I don’t really collect music, but I do enjoy listening to the radio and music in general. My tastes are quite eclectic: I think the new Eminem album is fantastic, but I also enjoy listening to work by Benjamin Britten.
15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? In London, Japanese food at Zuma; in the constituency anything from the Barasset Barn.
16. What is your favourite holiday destination? The medieval village of Monterchi near Arezzo.
17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? To have tackled some of the pressing issues in the constituency which I promised to deliver on during the campaign and to do a decent job on the BIS Select Committee.
18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. Considering my size you wouldn’t believe that I’m quite useful on a horse.
19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. Everyone obviously knows that the great Bard is from Stratford on Avon, but few people know that Kissing Tree House, in Alveston, was the home of another great writer, J. B. Priestley.
20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail.
I had been invited to visit The Cottage of Content, a local village pub in Barton, by a member of the public who had warned me in advance that the locals there weren’t too keen on me. I arrived late in the evening after a long day campaigning and as I opened the door and walked in it felt like the entire place went silent and everyone turned to look at me. It may not have been that way but it certainly felt like it. It’s that bloke with the funny name and the tan from London who thinks he can be our MP, I imagined them all thinking. Quite a few beers had already been had by all and the opposition to me as the candidate was very strong, that was until we all started talking. By the end of the night the stony reception had gone and the pub was certainly living up to its name.
> Previously: Zac Goldsmith MP
9 Jun 2010 17:39:18
There were a large number of maiden speeches during yesterday's final day of debate on the Queen's Speech.
Sajid Javid, who is the new MP for Bromsgrove, used his real world experience to put the case for "sound public finances, low taxation and light regulation":
"To the dismay of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), I have to tell him that for 19 years I have been an investment banker. In my case, this is one brain that was sucked up by the City and has now come to serve the people in this Parliament. I worked in London, Singapore and New York. I readily admit that being seen as an investment banker was not the most useful thing on the campaign trail, but it helped prepare me for a profession not well liked by the general public. Let us hope that all of us, on both sides of the House, can work together over the coming years to help restore the nation’s respect for our great Parliament.
"In view of my background in finance, I am particularly pleased to give my maiden speech during this debate on economic affairs. There are many global economic uncertainties at the moment, and they have potentially grave consequences for our economy. First, the euro is only just beginning to have problems. It was always a political contrivance that had virtually nothing to do with economics. Secondly, the world’s largest emerging market economies, which have buttressed global demand since the onset of the credit crisis, are about to go through a period of monetary tightening, and we can no longer rely on them for global growth.
"Thirdly, industrialised nations, including our own, that have issued vast amounts of sovereign debt over the past three years in particular can no longer go on that way. We have to make sure that when we look at these issues, we never forget the traditional disciplines that have stood Britain in good stead—sound public finances, low and simple taxation, and light and flexible regulation. It is when we forget these disciplines that we put our future prosperity at risk."
Another new MP with serious business experience, Nadhim Zahawi who was elected MP for Stratford-on-Avon, put the case against increasing capital gains tax:
"I am someone with first-hand experience of a start-up. We must be careful what we do on capital gains tax. Of course I understand the need to raise some taxes and to help to create a fairer tax system. It must be right to relieve the lowest earners of the tax burden. I would go as far as labelling it a moral tax cut. However, it is important to remember the job creators, those who back them and those who join them and work for them. It would be counter-productive to penalise people who invest in start-ups—in itself a high-risk thing—by increasing CGT on their investment. It would also be wrong to penalise employees who join a risky start-up from possibly a safer occupation and, of course, to penalise entrepreneurs themselves.
"In the Gracious Speech there was a strong focus on freedom, fairness and responsibility. It would be unfair and wrong to penalise people who have acted and saved responsibly with a further tax at a time when we are introducing incentives to act responsibly in marriage and partnership. Penalising responsible investment would be to send a contradictory and unhealthy message to the country."