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The angry mob and the good MPs

Midday: Iain Martin at the Wall Street Journal has agreed with the thrust of this post.

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Paul Goodman was good enough to confide in me before he announced his decision to stand down at the next General Election. Another MP who I greatly respect has just told me that they are seriously considering retiring. At a constituency event on the day that Gordon Brown had been ordered to repay £12,000, hostility was not directed to the PM and the others making paybacks but to all MPs. This MP was given a clean bill of health by Legg but the “hatred was overwhelming and becoming exhausting”.

“Hatred” is about right. The BNP website and Guido Fawkes tell us that it's us against all of them. All of them. They're not MPs but dehumanised “troughers”. The Daily Telegraph uses tabloid-sized headlines for Expenses-gate that are more appropriate for the declaration of war.  Tories who would normally oppose retrospective lawmaking or rule-by-quangocracy are silent when Sir Thomas Legg requires repayments that none of us would accept. Little if any distinction is being made between grades of offence - between mortgage fraud and claiming for lots of light bulbs - let alone between MPs who have offended and those who have not.  Very good MPs like Frank Field are being caught in the net. Now it seems that existing MPs are to be forced to end their employment of spouses even though those arrangements have become entirely transparent.

I think ConHome has been tough on those MPs who have overstepped the mark - Derek Conway, Andrew MacKay, Julie Kirkbride and Alan Duncan can all testify to that - but we're now in lynch mob territory.

I'm not sure what can be done about it. David Cameron's handling of the whole row has been very good although I see signs of him beginning to drag his feet on future reforms like recall powers (Thank God for Douglas Carswell on that score). The Conservative leader needs to recover the momentum of the early summer. He remains the best hope we have of giving politics a fresh start.

LILLEY Peter In the meantime we can all do more to stand up for those MPs who are worth defending. My nomination is Peter Lilley.

Peter was a hugely successful Secretary of State for Social Security during the Major years - overseeing major savings. He was sacked by William Hague in 1999, when Deputy Tory Leader, for arguing for the kind of settlement with the public sector that David Cameron is now advocating. That wasn't the only area of policy in which he was ahead of his time. As early as October 1997 he gave a comprehensive speech to the Conservative Christian Fellowship in which he argued for a much more compassionate conservatism.  He has served David Cameron as Chairman of the 2006 Policy Group on Globalisation and Poverty. He has argued that MPs should be paid more if they can win powers back from Brussels. He has disagreed with the Cameron line on global warming.

Experienced, compassionate, strategic and independent-minded, Peter Lilley is a special MP but not unique... John Hayes has developed a policy on vocational skills that will revolutionise the lives of tens of thousands if he gets the chance to implement it. Owen Paterson has made the Tory existence in Northern Ireland meaningful. Andrew Rosindell has made animal welfare a key part of Tory policy. Andrew Tyrie has campaigned across the world against torture. Graham Brady has become a champion of grammar schools. Mark Field an advocate for home schooling. Mark Pritchard has campaigned against anti-Christian fundamentalists. Nadine Dorries has single-handedly highlighted the issue of late-term abortion. Tony Baldry is setting up Conservative Friends of Iraq to remind us all of our responsibilities to that nation. David Cairns is keeping a sympathy for Israel alive in the Labour Party. Tom Harris' message of social renewal is reminding his party of its Methodist roots...

There are many, many other good MPs. The mob needs to know that.

Tim Montgomerie

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