Bernard Jenkin MP

26 Apr 2012 16:52:24

What is the No Turning Back group? Matthew Barrett profiles the keepers of the Thatcherite flame

By Matthew Barrett
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In my series profiling groups of Tory MPs, most groups I've looked at have been mostly or wholly composed of 2010 intake MPs. The next group is bit different, as it was founded more than 25 years ago. The No Turning Back group has a proud history of celebrating and promoting Thatcherism. How is the group doing now? In this profile, I'll be examining what No Turning Back, the backbench group for Thatcherites in Parliament, is doing now. 

Origins of the group

Thatcher1No Turning Back was founded in 1985 to defend Mrs Thatcher's free-market policies. The 25 founding members included, amongst others, now-Deputy Chairman Michael Fallon, now-Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, and the late, great Eric Forth.

The name of the group comes from Mrs Thatcher's famous conference speech given in October 1980:

"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning.” I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas and also to those who are not our friends."

Key members

There are about 100 members of the group, which is chaired by John Redwood, including "quite a lot" from the 2010 intake. Members include such big beasts as John Redwood, David Davis, Bernard Jenkin, Peter Lilley, Lord Forsyth, and Liam Fox. Current Conservative officeholders who are members of the group include the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith; David Cameron's PPS, Desmond Swayne; Nick Clegg's Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mark Harper; the Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers; a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jonathan Djanogly; three government whips, Angela Watkinson, Mark Francois and Greg Hands; the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, Greg Knight; and the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale, who was Mrs Thatcher's Political Secretary in the late 1980s.

Continue reading "What is the No Turning Back group? Matthew Barrett profiles the keepers of the Thatcherite flame" »

13 Mar 2012 15:58:04

Tory MPs condemn Government interference over Backbench Business Committee

By Matthew Barrett
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The Government's decision to change the rules of the Backbench Business Committee - the substance of which I wrote about yesterday morning - was debated and voted upon in the House yesterday. John Redwood has written on his blog about the debate:

"Yesterday the government rushed proposals through to change the way the Committee is elected in future, against the wishes of the current Committee. It was a sad and strange decision. Everyone speaking claimed the current Committee has done a good job. They were all elected by the whole House. They have not operated in a party political way. Now the government wants them to be elected by party, with Conservatives voting for Conservative members and Labour voting for Labour members. Backbenchers fear the front bench aim is to exert more influence over who gets these jobs."

This perfectly sums up the spirit of contributions from Conservative backbenchers, the highlights of which I have selected below.

Bone PeterPeter Bone criticised the Government for u-turning on the Wright reforms, which it had supported "vigorously" in Opposition:

"The Government’s actions fly in the face of the House of Commons Reform Committee report, “Rebuilding the House”, which proposed what are known throughout the House as the Wright reforms. Those reforms were designed to restore trust in Parliament and to reduce the power of the Executive. They were the very reforms that the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House supported so vigorously when they were in opposition. I am sad to say that it has taken less than two years for the Government to do a U-turn and go back to the bad old days of the Executive trying to tell Parliament what to do. There have been several signs over the past few months that the Government are adopting the policy of always knowing right and of assuming that Parliament is there only to rubber-stamp their decisions. This motion is the clearest and most obvious breach of their commitment to put Parliament first."

Continue reading "Tory MPs condemn Government interference over Backbench Business Committee" »

31 Jan 2012 18:15:43

Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money.

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." »

8 Nov 2011 17:33:57

Eurosceptic Tory MPs grill Cameron following G20 statement

By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday afternoon, David Cameron made a statement to the House on his recent G20 meetings. Given that the Prime Minister described the main topic of debate as "instability in the eurozone", one could have predicted Eurosceptic members would turn up in force - as indeed they did. Douglas Carswell, Bill Cash, and Peter Bone were amongst the MPs asking questions. 

Bill Cash posed the first challenging question of the session:

CASH WILLIAM"Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): Given that the single market, including the City of London, is governed by qualified majority voting, how does the Prime Minister propose to achieve a majority to protect our interests in the context of the fiscal union that he advocates?

The Prime Minister: First, we need to disconnect the issues that my hon. Friend raises. The issue of the single market and the threat to the City of London and Britain’s financial services is a real threat. We have to work extremely hard to build alliances in the single market and in the European Council to stop directives that would damage our interests. I think it is extremely important that we do that work. Financial services matter hugely to this country, and this is one of the areas that I want to ensure we can better safeguard in future."

Continue reading "Eurosceptic Tory MPs grill Cameron following G20 statement" »

3 Nov 2011 13:57:58

Tory MPs welcome Danny Alexander's public sector pensions statement to the Commons

By Joseph Willits 
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AlexanderIn a statement to the Commons yesterday, immediately after PMQs, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander talked of a "generous offer" being made by the Government to reform public service pensions. Alexander said he had "decided to revise the government's offer after negotiations with the TUC, since early October, and with recommendations from the Secretaries of State for Education and Health.

Alexander described the offer as "conditional upon reaching agreement" but believed it "should be more than sufficient to allow agreement to be reached with the unions". It was Alexander's hope, he said that "on the basis of this offer, the Trade Unions will devote their energy to reaching agreement not on unnecessary and damaging strike action".

Alexander announced an increase to the cost ceiling of pensions:

"Future schemes will now be based on a pension to the value of 1/60th of average salary, accruing for each year worked. That is an 8% increase on the previous offer ... A teacher with a lifetime in public service with a salary at retirement of £37,800 would receive £25,200 each year under these proposals, rather than the £19,100 they would currently earn in the final salary Teachers' Pension Scheme. A nurse with a lifetime in public service and a salary at retirement of £34,200 would receive £22,800 of pension each year if these reforms were introduced, whereas under the current 1995 NHS Pension Scheme arrangements they would only get £17,300."

Continue reading "Tory MPs welcome Danny Alexander's public sector pensions statement to the Commons" »

24 Oct 2011 13:24:39

Ahead of this evening's debate, Tory MPs rehearse the arguments for and against a referendum

By Matthew Barrett
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COMMONS-sittingThis evening's backbench debate and vote on the possibility of a referendum on the European Union has dominated today's political news. 

Conservative MPs, from both sides of the referendum argument, have been appearing in the media, and their words provide an insight into the possible themes of this evening's debate. 

Arguing against a referendum as described in tonight's debate motion:

  • Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe): "I believe that relationship has to change, and I believe Europe has to change. But we simply don’t know enough yet about what powers we could repatriate to this country, how the crisis in the eurozone would play. So it would be impossible to have a referendum, debate, and campaign until we understood those things."
  • GyimahSam Gyimah (East Surrey): "I think the big thing is, on an issue like this, how do you think about rebelling – I’m a relatively new MP, I got elected in 2010 – and what I look at is, is it a manifesto commitment, is it in the Coalition agreement, and where do your constituents stand. ... it’s very easy to rebel, saying that you’re speaking on behalf of your constituents, when maybe you’ve got 50 or so letters, and you’ve got to be careful you’re not speaking for the vocal minority, as opposed to the silent majority."
  • Richard Harrington (Watford): "I think it is really absurd that people should be spending their time now, when the Government hasn’t even entered into the negotiations that it intends to do, where there has been no movement towards the pulling back of powers and getting benefits out of Europe, whilst reducing the things that people quite legitimately don’t like. .. The reason I’m opposing this motion is nothing to do with what any whips have said, or what David Cameron has said. It’s because I firmly believe it’s a ludicrous motion and it needs voting down."

Continue reading "Ahead of this evening's debate, Tory MPs rehearse the arguments for and against a referendum" »

21 Oct 2011 12:10:40

In open letter, Bernard Jenkin MP rejects George Eustice's EU compromise motion

Jenkin Bernard Sep 2011Yesterday George Eustice proposed a compromise amendment on the EU debate scheduled for Monday. Bernard Jenkin MP has sent a public reply to him, rejecting his amendment:

"Dear George,

I think we all appreciate your and others’ efforts to build bridges here, but I feel I must make it clear to colleagues why I (and probably most colleagues) cannot support the amendment as drafted.  I am copying this to backbench colleagues.

Firstly, David Nuttall’s motion sums up the EU question which faces the nation: do we carry on with EU integration on present terms of membership; or get out altogether; or renegotiate revised terms of membership?  Your amendment seeks to narrow the terms of the debate by removing reference to one option which is clearly available to this country, which is to leave the EU.  I personally don’t agree with an in-out referendum, but I recognise that that it is a legitimate option to be debated.  The argument that this was not in our manifesto is irrelevant.

Second, you advance your amendment on the basis that it is consistent with the coalition agreement, but this is not relevant either.  Both the coalition agreement and our manifesto have both been overtaken by events.  Support for fiscal union in the Euro area was not in either – and would have never have been entertained if it had been proposed for either document.  It is fiscal union which is leading to a fundamental change in the character of the EU, and which has given rise to the demand for this debate.

Third, as a supporter of renegotiation, why am I not tempted by your amendment?  Because any remit for renegotiation must set out the objective of establishing a new relationship with our EU partners.  For such a new relationship to be meaningful, there must be a fundamental change in that relationship. It must restore the basic democratic principle that the authority to pass laws should be democratically accountable to those who are affected by them.  The powers delegated to the EU (or withdrawn) must in future be determined by Parliament, and not by the EU institutions acting autonomously.  Without this, nothing much will change.  The difficulty we now face is that the EU Treaties are now so all encompassing, and the institutions so assertive, that the exercise of merely nibbling back powers and competences here and there would not reverse the effect of the Lisbon Treaty on the UK, or Nice, or Amsterdam, or Maastricht, or the Single European Act, or address the fundamental problems which actually arise from the Treaty of Rome.

Finally, there is a great danger that Parliament will emerge from this looking very out of touch if the House is not to debate the original motion or at least something which reflects its spirit.  The BBBC [Backbench Business Committee] adopted this motion in response to the e-petitions which demand an in-out EU referendum.  Had the authors of the amendment approached the BBBC with their motion, it would not have been entertained by the BBBC, since there are no e-petitions behind it.  If this amendment were to be selected, the debate and the vote which followed would be on the amendment, and not on the main motion – hardly an example of e-petitions working as they were intended!"

Meanwhile the original EU referendum motion has attracted its 66th signature from a Tory MP.

5 Jul 2011 08:30:46

Conservative MPs rebelling more against Cameron than Major

By Tim Montgomerie
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Over on the NottsPolitics blog Professor Philip Cowley underlines the rebelliousness of backbench Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs since the formation of the Coalition. This graph confirms that this is the most rebellious intake since the second world war:

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 08.20.20

Cowley notes:

  • "Backbench dissent amongst government MPs is running at a historically high level – with a rebellion in almost one in every two votes in the Commons...
  • This is especially striking once you remember that this is a first session (normally relatively quiet) and even more so once you realise that this is a first session after a change of government (normally extremely quiet)...
  • The rate [of rebellion] for Conservative MPs alone is higher than in any first session since the war, including that of John Major in 1992, when he faced all the Maastricht rebellions...
  • The rates of rebellion are themselves very high: Philip Hollobone in particular is rebelling at a rate of roughly one rebellion in every four votes.  This is much higher than, say, Jeremy Corbyn under Blair or Brown..."

Jonathan Isaby has produced his own list of top rebels. Professor Cowley has done the same:

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 08.20.37

Read Cowley's full blog.

5 Apr 2011 07:14:19

Lansley under supported on front bench, but strongly supported from backbenches

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" »

19 Mar 2011 07:43:37

Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya - but he's probed about the arms embargo

by Paul Goodman

I list below every question asked by a Conservative MP yesterday in response to the Prime Minister's Commons statement about Libya.  For better or worse, I haven't cited his replies in every case, but his answers on regime change, the arms embargo and the International Criminal Court are of special interest, and are therefore quoted in full.

"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As one of the doubting Thomases of the past few weeks, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his success and leadership and offer him my full support. I also join him in paying tribute to Sir Mark Lyall Grant and his team at the UN for what is a remarkable diplomatic success, which hopefully will mark a turning point in the development of these issues at the UN.  I am sure the Prime Minister agrees that difficult questions remain. At this moment, however, it is incumbent on all of us to stand behind the armed forces, particularly our airmen, who have to implement the resolution.

Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con): Yet again, my right hon. Friend has shown a breathtaking degree of courage and leadership. I support what he has said and what he has done. Does he agree that, while regime change is not the aim of these resolutions, in practice there is little realistic chance of achieving their aims without regime change?"

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I join others in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and all the others who have been involved in securing this very tough resolution, and indeed the building of a broad-based coalition to deal with Gaddafi. Does the Prime Minister agree, however, that in the weeks to come it will be important for the country to know that at the same time as trying to deal with Gaddafi, the Government are also intent on forging ahead, with our European partners, in keeping the middle east peace process revitalised and going, so that we can draw the poison from the well?

Continue reading "Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya - but he's probed about the arms embargo" »

11 Mar 2011 06:19:44

Bernard Jenkin explains why he wants to see a reduction in the size of the Government and the number of PPSs

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin secured a short snatch of parliamentary time allotted by the backbench business committee to speak to the new report published yesterday by the Select Committee on Public Administration, which he chairs.

Picture 6 You can read Smaller Government: What do Ministers do? in full here, but here's a taste of what Bernard Jenkin told the Commons:

"Our Committee decided to inquire into the role of Ministers following the Government's decision to reduce the number of right hon. and hon. Members by 50 without a corresponding reduction in the number of Ministers. The Prime Minister made it clear before the election that the public wanted us to "cut the cost of politics. Everyone is having to do more for less". He therefore asked if it was not time that "politicians and ministers did a bit more for a bit less". He was absolutely clear that he intended that statement to apply to Ministers as well as to MPs."

"So, to echo the title of our report, what should Ministers do? The consensus is that they should set policy priorities, provide leadership to their Departments, represent their Departments across Government and outside, and answer to Parliament. They should focus on their core job and less on what one might call "announceables". Lord Rooker pointed out how they had to operate in this way in the old Northern Ireland Office before devolution, where there were only four Ministers covering a broad range of portfolios. He added that officials were forced to "fillet out the key strategic decisions that as a minister you really had to do. So you didn't get all the minutiae that you get in Westminster Red Boxes." This strongly suggests that having fewer Ministers would itself bring about new ways of working. It is also obvious that if Ministers were reshuffled less often and specialists were more encouraged, they would be more effective as Ministers."

"We must acknowledge that Ministers are busier than ever in Parliament, with more Select Committees, Westminster Hall and other new procedures that bring them before us. However, we believe that Parliament must stop holding Ministers accountable for matters which no longer fall within the remit of Whitehall Departments or, indeed, have never fallen within their remit. The habit of grilling Ministers on every local detail militates against devolution, decentralisation and localism."

"By how much could the number of Ministers be cut? Numbers are currently limited by two statutes: the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, which limits to 95 the number of Ministers who can sit and vote in the House of Commons; and the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975, which constrains to 109 the number of ministerial salaries that can be paid."

"Currently, a total of 141 MPs are on the payroll vote as Ministers or Parliamentary Private Secretaries. If this number remains static at the same time as the number of MPs is cut by 8%, the payroll vote as a proportion of MPs will increase from an already staggering 22% to 23.5%... The Government say that they want to see Parliament strengthened, but this increase in the percentage of the payroll vote as a proportion of the House of Commons would further strengthen the Executive at the expense of Parliament; that seems to be unanswerable.

"PASC urges three steps on the Government to reduce this power of patronage. First, the current legal cap on the number of paid Ministers should be the absolute limit on the number of Ministers. The increasing number of unpaid Ministers has been described as an abuse by one of our witnesses, the right hon. Peter Riddell. Secondly, the legal limit on the number of Ministers in the Commons should be cut by eight, at the very least, in line with the reduction in the number of MPs just enacted. This is, in fact, a very modest reduction.

"Thirdly, the number of PPSs should be limited to one per Department. When he gave evidence to the PASC in the last Parliament, Sir John Major described the size of the payroll vote as a "constitutional outrage". His view was that only Cabinet Ministers should be entitled to PPSs. That suggestion was endorsed by Lord Norton and others, who argued that doing so would make the post more meaningful. This would lead to 26 fewer Members being on the payroll vote."

15 Feb 2011 07:17:39

Sceptical questions about political strategy for Liam Fox as he makes quarterly Afghanistan statement to the Commons

by Paul Goodman

So much happens in the Commons that isn't picked up by the media.  If you want the core of the Government's view of the present position in Afghanistan, here it is - as presented to the House yesterday by Liam Fox, in the latest of the regular and very welcome quarter reports.

"In central Helmand, as General Petraeus has said, we have not yet seen success or victory, but we are seeing progress. It is fragile and not irreversible, but it is progress. The increase in Afghan and ISAF forces has enabled us to take the fight to the insurgency and, understandably, this has led to an overall increase in the number of violent incidents. But over the past three months, although the number is still higher than in previous years, we are seeing a trend of falling security incidents. For example, in the Marjah district of Helmand province, security incidents have fallen from a high of around 25 a day at the height of summer to just three or four a day at present. There is a seasonal pattern, as many insurgents, especially those fighting for financial rather than ideological reasons, return to their homes for the winter. This year, however, with the unusually mild weather and with winter arriving late, and the increased activity by ISAF and the Afghan national security forces, the fall in the number of incidents is more likely than in previous years to be an indicator of progress. However, I have to say to the House that casualty numbers are once again likely to rise in spring this year as insurgent activity increases.

This year will be just as difficult as 2010, but there will be distinct differences. The increased number of ANSF and ISAF forces allows us to arrest the momentum of the insurgency in more areas. Afghan forces will also begin to take the lead for security as the first districts and provinces begin the process of transition. There are now over 152,000 Afghan national army and 117,000 Afghan national police. This is on schedule to meet the October 2011 growth target to deliver 305,600 Afghan national security forces. But as the quantity increases, quality must not be neglected. One example is improving literacy to ensure that orders can be communicated in writing as well as orally, so that there is less scope for misinterpretation. Currently, around 85% of ANSF recruits are illiterate on entry. Literacy training is now mandatory for all recruits. The training is to be conducted by Afghan teachers, creating employment and boosting the economy, and significant progress is being made."

I wrote recently about the difficulty of trying to create a strong central state in Afghanistan, and asked whether an effective Afghan army would be in place by 2015.  Adam Holloway, who I cited in my article, returned to these points, as did others.  It's well worth noting the tone of the questions -

Mr Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): There are many Afghans outside the ruling clique who believe not only that the exit strategy will not work in the long term, but that it is fatally flawed and in fact cannot work. General Petraeus's strategy has been described as "Fight, then talk". Does the Secretary of State think that we ought to be fighting and talking, and that this should include talking to all modes of the insurgency?

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, and particularly for his last few words on involving the international players around Afghanistan in a final settlement. Can he say more about who will lead the political settlement around which we hope stability will be maintained as British and American troops withdraw later in this decade? May I point out that cautious optimism represents painfully slow progress 10 years after this war started, and that a lasting settlement is possible only if there is a political settlement that involves talking to our enemies?

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): I also recently visited Afghanistan and can testify to the excellent job that our armed forces are doing in carrying out their duties. I do not believe that the same can be said of President Karzai or Members of the Afghan Parliament, and this is not just a capacity or knowledge issue: there is also too little focus on human rights and the quality of life of the Afghan people. Does the Secretary of State agree that we must address the political deficit, to ensure that in the long term the blood and treasure that this country is spending for the benefit of both our countries will not be in vain?

Not a single questioner expressed confidence in the political (as opposed to the military) strategy.

26 Jul 2010 19:07:25

44 Tory MPs sign Early Day Motion opposing Coalition's timetable for AV vote

By Tim Montgomerie

Benedict Brogan has just blogged the details of Bernard Jenkin's Early Day Motion calling for the vote on AV to be decoupled from next year's Scottish and Welsh etc elections. Despite efforts of the Government Whips, 44 have signed at the time of blogging. It's an interesting list:

  1. David Amess
  2. Richard Bacon
  3. Brian Binley
  4. Peter Bone
  5. Andrew Bridgen
  6. Douglas Carswell
  7. James Clappison
  8. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
  9. Therese Coffey
  10. Tracey Crouch
  11. Glyn Davies
  12. David Davis
  13. Nadine Dorries
  14. Michael Fallon
  15. Mark Field
  16. James Gray
  17. Adam Holloway
  18. Bernard Jenkin
  19. Daniel Kawczynski
  20. Greg Knight
  21. Eleanor Laing
  22. Edward Leigh
  23. Julian Lewis
  24. Peter Lilley
  25. Ian Liddell-Grainger
  26. Jack Lopresti
  27. Stephen McPartland
  28. Mark Menzies
  29. Patrick Mercer
  30. Stephen Mosley
  31. David Nuttall
  32. Richard Ottaway
  33. Andrew Percy
  34. Mark Reckless
  35. John Redwood
  36. Jacob Rees-Mogg
  37. Sir Malcolm Rifkind
  38. Laurence Robertson
  39. Andrew Rosindell
  40. Richard Shepherd
  41. Bob Stewart
  42. Graham Stuart
  43. Robin Walker
  44. John Whittingdale

Given that Labour and nationalist MPs are also ready to oppose the Cabinet's preferred date there is a real possibility of defeat for the Coalition when the Bill is presented to the Commons in September.

The full text of Bernard Jenkin's EDM is below:


That this House notes that in 2002 the Electoral Commission, following consultations on the holding of a possible referendum on the Euro on the same day as other elections on 1 May 2003, issued a statement making clear that referendums on fundamental issues of national importance should be considered in isolation and that they should not be held at the same time as devolved assembly or local government elections; further notes that in a recent report the House of Lords Constitution Committee recommended that there should be a presumption against holding referendums on the same day as elections;  recognises that this advice is in accordance with best constitutional practice in countries such as Switzerland, where referendums are more regularly held; believes that this constitutional practice should be observed unless there are very exceptional reasons for it to be set aside; is concerned at the  proposal to hold the referendum on whether to change the voting system on 5 May 2011, which is the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and to local authorities in Northern Ireland, but only in parts of England; further believes that this proposal would allow other issues to cloud the referendum debate before the vote, would artificially inflate turnout in some parts of the country but not others, and that it may accordingly advantage one campaign at the expense of the other; proposes that any referendum on this issue should therefore be held on a different date; and looks forward to advice from the Electoral Commission on this matter which is consistent with its previous statements.

23 Jul 2010 04:58:32

Bernard Jenkin tries to gather MPs' signatures on AV. The Whips try to stop him.

By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-07-22 at 21.41.06 Bernard Jenkin, the 1922 Committee's point-man on the AV referendum, is collecting signatures for an Early Day Motion.  The EDM apparently questions the proposed timing of the poll.  Jenkin's not been backward in coming forward on the matter: he recently explained why, in his view, there should be a turnout threshold when the vote's held, and why holding it on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh elections would distort the result.

So far, so unexceptional: EDMs are the lowest form of Parliamentary life, and one more doesn't usually make much difference to anything (even when it's right, as this one seems to be).  But I gather from a furious member of the new intake that this one has seriously disturbed the Whips - who are trying to get MPs who've signed the EDM to remove their signature before it's tabled.

Continue reading "Bernard Jenkin tries to gather MPs' signatures on AV. The Whips try to stop him." »

10 Jun 2010 12:19:35

Select Committee election results: Labour and Liberal MPs line up behind the Conservative establishment

I wondered earlier this week here whether Labour MPs would use the Select Committee elections to make life difficult for David Cameron.

They didn't.  Instead, they lined up behind the Conservative establishment candidates. Andrew Tyrie took the Treasury Select Committee; Richard Ottaway, Foreign Affairs (a big, big consolation prize, after his defeat in the 1922 Committee Chairmanship election); James Arbuthnot, Defence; Stephen Dorrell, Health; Tim Yeo, Climate Change. Anne McIntosh, who won the Environment Committee, leans towards the left of the Party.

I didn't, of course, see anyone cast a ballot paper.  But unless Conservative MPs turned out en masse to vote against the Party's right - an unlikely course of action, given the '22 Executive results - Liberal and Labour support for less spiky candidates provides the only comprehensible explanation of the results.

It would be unfair to view the victors as patsies.  Tyrie, in particular, has a track record of independent-mindedness.  But ask yourself whether Cameron Towers would prefer the winners to, say, Patrick Mercer at Defence or Peter Bone at Health (let alone Nadine) or Philip Hollobone at Climate Change, and there's only one answer.

Bernard Jenkin and Chris Chope are both seen as men of the right.  But Chope's used the Chamber to launch independent-minded assaults on establishment causes, and it's noticeable that he lost out in the tussle for the Public Administration Committee Chairmanship.

John Whittingdale at Culture and Greg Knight at Procedure, both No Turning Back Group stalwarts, are in unopposed. Graham Stuart won what should have been, even if it wasn't, a close-fought battle for the Education Committee.

Full list of victors.

Paul Goodman