A group of about twenty socially conservative Tory MPs has united to invite the principal leadership contenders to be interviewed by them – one-by-one.
The group, which is coordinated by John Hayes and Edward Leigh, is likely to quiz the candidates about their views on family values, abortion, euthanasia, harm reduction approaches to drug-use and faith-based welfare.
In order to maximize their leverage on the race there is even talk of the group deciding to vote for the ‘best’ candidate en masse. If, however, none of the existing contenders for the Tory crown prove satisfactory the group may even run a candidate of its own.
The group is expected to lean towards David Davis or the pro-life Liam Fox but David Cameron’s pro-marriage intervention earlier in the week will have muddied the waters. The Hayes-Leigh group believes that the rebuilding of the family is essential to child welfare and poverty-reduction.
The in-your-face tactics of this group might encourage others to do something similar. The party’s Euro-sceptics are in a particularly strong position to flex their muscles. Many were unhappy at the way that Michael Howard continued the Conservative Party’s relationship with the federalist European Peoples’ Party, within the European Parliament. They might seek explicit commitments from would-be leaders for a divorce from the EPP.