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 Matthew Barrett
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Last night an adjournment debate was held on SAS soldier Sergeant Danny Nightingale's court martial and imprisonment after illegally bringing home a pistol given to him by grateful Iraqis. Julian Brazier, himself a former Captain in the SAS, led the debate.
"Military justice was consciously modelled on civilian criminal justice. Originally, 12 officers echoed the 12 householders of repute on a jury, although the number became more commonly five 100 years ago. In the past 20 years, under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, the system has been turned on its head and today a judge advocate chairs the court with up to five regimental officers who are no longer allowed to ask direct questions."
Mr Brazier outlined the main complaint against the judgement against Sgt Nightingale:
"Danny Nightingale has compelling medical evidence to show that his memory was severely impaired. Do we really believe that the second half of the offence—the transfer of the kit, en masse, to military digs after he had suffered the memory damage and when he was under huge service pressures—passes the service interest test? Is this what the military covenant is about? Does this amount to paying fair regard to the particular pressures of life in special forces and their effect on a man whose memory had been impaired and who had made his way back into action?"
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 Tim Montgomerie
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Last night at least 32 Tory MPs (listed below) voted with Labour against an 88% hike in Britain's contribution to the IMF. The hike is to partly fund the IMF's ability to fund bailouts. I write "at least" because I've only quickly scanned the voting list. Please email email@example.com if I've missed anyone off the list.
The Government won the vote to increase Britain's contribution from £10.7 billion to £20.15 billion by 274 votes to 246. This is the first time that the Labour frontbench has voted with Tory Eurosceptics. Labour was voting against an increase in the IMF subscription that was largely agreed during Gordon brown's time in office.
On his blog John Redwood suggests that the 29 rebels are only one sign of Tory discontent. Given that there are more than 300 Tory MPs he calculates that AT LEAST 80 Conservatives were unavailable, abstained or voted against the government. He writes:
"Some of us want the UK government to use the influence it says it has at the IMF to halt the futile bail outs of Eurozone members. The debt markets show the markets do not believe that Greece can repay all its debts in full and on time. Yesterday was a day when market worries spread beyond Greece, Ireland and Portugal to Italy. Those in charge of the Euro scheme need to get a grip. It is doing a great deal of financial and economic damage, and they no longer seem to be in control of their project. The IMF should decline to bail out rich countries that have shackled themselves to a currency scheme that was badly put together and needs a thorough re think."
"The decision to raise our IMF subscriptions by 88 percent was first mooted when Gordon Brown was in charge – but was okayed by the current government last October. While Canada, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium all managed to keep the increase in their subs low, whoever negotiated the deal on our behalf seems to have preferred to have UK taxpayers assume greater debt liabilities so that they could sit on a bigger chair at the various international summits they attend on our behalf. Alongside fiscal policy and monetary policy, our approach towards the bailouts and the IMF shows that there has been remarkably little change in economic policy at the Treasury since Gordon Brown was in charge."
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.”