By Tim Montgomerie
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One thing that David Cameron has lacked is a large number of big party beasts who have regularly gone into the press to defend (a) his alliance with Nick Clegg and (b) the decisions that his coalition government has taken.
Former Health Secretary and 1997 Tory leadership candidate Stephen Dorrell MP does that today in a speech to be delivered to the Tory Reform Group. Mr Dorrell, now Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health, argues that the Coalition is performing beyond expectations:
"The Coalition has so far confounded the sceptics on virtually every count. They expected it to be a weak government which was unable to confront the key issues facing our country. In the event it is proving to be an effective government which is carrying through necessary but uncomfortable changes across the full range of government activity – and retaining remarkable levels of public support as it does so.
Mid term opinion polls can usually be relied upon to produce lurid headlines for governing parties – and voter support for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has certainly fallen since the General Election. It is however worth noting that despite these mid-term doldrums, Labour has been unable to establish even a minimal lead in public opinion over the combined votes of the coalition parties...
The fact that Britain has retained its triple A rating and, more importantly, is able to borrow at roughly German interest rates despite running a government deficit comparable with Greece, is due to the fact that the Coalition has demonstrated that it is willing to take the steps necessary to put our public finances back on to a sustainable basis.
The broad basis of its support is key to its political success. Some elements in the Coalition would have preferred sharper spending reductions (for example on overseas aid spending, or possibly on health); others would have attached a lower priority to holding down the tax burden. But none of them would have been able to carry their policy either in the House of Commons or, more importantly, with the public because they did not command sufficient public support."
By Matthew Barrett
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After last week's reshuffle of the Secretaries and Ministers of State, and this week's reshuffle of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, it's possible to investigate the state of a dying breed: the backbenchers who've always been loyal. The list below features the Conservative MPs who meet the following criteria:
By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday's debate on the Lords Reform Bill was heated, yet relatively polite. I noticed far more speakers against reform of the Lords than for - perhaps because pro-reform Tories knew, the programme motion having been withdrawn, that they would win the Second Reading vote easily (thanks to Labour votes).
Many Tories early in the debate - the initial stages took the form of Sir George Young, the Leader of the House, and his Shadow, Angela Eagle, giving statements on behalf of their leaderships - gave answers which followed the format of "Of course the current Lords is indefensible, but so is this Bill". Gareth Johnson (Dartford) did not take that line. He was proud to be in favour of the Lords' position as an unelected house:
"I have never defied the party line before, and it is something I hope not to do throughout my time in Parliament, but the Bill is fundamentally wrong. I have been a loyal supporter of both the Government and my party, but I am proud to be British, proud of our constitution and proud of our Parliament. The other place forms an essential part of our constitution, our heritage, history and culture, and once it is gone, it is gone. Seven hundred years of history will be undone if we support the Bill. I want to be able to look my children in the eye and say, “I did not forsake the British constitution. I said no.”"
"I may be in a small minority, but I am one of those people who do not become infected by the view that we must have a democratic House of Lords. I do not want a democratic House of Lords, and that is precisely why I shall vote against the Bill. I want objectivity, expertise, experience and wisdom, all the qualities that we are told so often that we do not have in this House. I do not want Members of the House of Lords to be subject to the electoral and party pressures to which we may be subject here."
By Paul Goodman
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I would be suprised by Fleet Street's unanimous hostility to the Queen's Speech were it not, first, for Leveson (which the papers will never forgive) and, second, for the impasse between the Coalition partners on growth measures. The situation is too urgent to afford Vince Cable's lack of oomph.
Conservative backbenchers were always likely to be more measured in their contributions to the debate on yesterday's first day of the Queen's Speech. But I was struck reading Hansard this morning by the way in which the debate which Tim reported at yesterday's meeting of the 1922 Committee also spilled out on to the floor of the Commons.
It naturally did so more discreetly and decorously, and below are some extracts that may give you the flavour of the moment. Charlie Elphicke (on the economy and childcare), Priti Patel (on families, criminal justice and small business) and Chris Skidmore (on social care and health) stuck entirely to the contents of the Speech, and were none the worse for it.
By Jonathan Isaby
Last month Andrew Lansley wrote exclusively for ConHome here about the Government's Health and Social Care Bill.
The Bill had its Second Reading in the Commons yesterday, during which new Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams gave her maiden speech and David Miliband gave his first full speech as a backbencher since losing the Labour leadership.
But here a snapshot of the contributions from the Conservative backbenches.
"During the lifetime of this Parliament the national health service faces a genuinely unprecedented challenge, first articulated not by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the present Government, but by the chief executive of the health service before the general election in May 2009, when he drew attention to the fact that demand for health care should be expected to continue to rise at roughly 4% per annum, as it has done throughout the recent history of the national health service. However, because of the budget deficit situation, we will not see the health budget continue to rise to absorb that rise in demand, in the way it has done over the past decade.
"Therefore, during the lifetime of this Parliament, we will have to see, in the national health service, a 4% efficiency gain four years running-something that not merely our health care system, but no other health care system in the world, has ever delivered. The Select Committee has referred to that as the Nicholson challenge, reflecting the fact that it was first articulated by the chief executive and endorsed by the previous Government. Again, this is a case of a shared agenda across the House of Commons.
"Given the Budget deficit, the only way we can continue to meet the demand for high-quality health care, which we all want to see, is by delivering an unprecedented efficiency gain in the NHS for four years running. That is why I support the Bill. I support it because to my mind it is inconceivable that we can deliver such an efficiency gain without delivering more effectively than we have done yet on the ideas, which have been endorsed over the past 20 years, about greater clinical engagement in NHS commissioning, which I have been talking about. Commissioning cannot be successful if it is something that is done to doctors by managers; it must engage the whole clinical community. We must address the democratic deficit, because we cannot bring change on the scale that we need to deliver the efficiency gain without engaging local communities."