Lord Howard of Lympne

24 Jan 2013 08:29:38

What is the Bruges Group?

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 21.54.21My series profiling the groups of Tory MPs continues with a look at a pioneering Eurosceptic group which helped backbenchers cause significant headaches for Prime Minister John Major during the early 1990s. The Bruges Group is a well-established forum for advocating looser ties with Brussels, and it has gone from a relatively small collection of Tories to one of the groups that best represents mainstream Conservative thinking on its particular policy area.

Origins of the group

The Bruges Group was founded in February 1989 to promote and uphold the ideas Margaret Thatcher expressed in her famous Bruges Speech in late 1988. Mrs Thatcher argued that the tide of opinion on the continent was towards centralising the structure of the European institutions - and this would be unsuitable for Britain's national identity and democracy. In the most famous passage of the speech, Mrs Thatcher said:

"I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world. But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy. ... We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels."

The group was set up by Patrick Robertson and Lord Harris of High Cross, ie Ralph Harris, the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs from 1957 to 1988. Lord Harris' work promoting free-market economics at the IEA was instrumental in the creation of Thatcherism.

Continue reading "What is the Bruges Group?" »

26 Oct 2012 06:22:26

Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Conservative Friends of IsraelConservative Friends of Israel is an influential affiliate group of the Conservative Party which contains perhaps the largest number of Conservative MPs of any group in Parliament. It exists to promote understanding of and support for the State of Israel in the Conservative Party, and its membership reaches the highest echelons of power, including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In this profile, I examine its origins, membership, role, and activities.

Origins of the group

Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) is the oldest group of Conservative MPs I have profiled so far: it was founded by Michael Fidler, who was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bury and Radcliffe between 1970 and the October 1974 election. After losing his seat, he decided to focus on building a pro-Israel group within the Conservative Party - there had been a Labour Friends of Israel group since 1957 - so Fidler launched CFoI in 1974, and served as its National Director. 

Sir Hugh Fraser served as the first Chairman of CFoI, from 1974. Sir Hugh was a Conservative MP of the old school: after a distinguished military intelligence career in the Second World War, he entered Parliament in 1945, and he missed out on being Father of the House to James Callaghan in 1983 by only a few days. Sir Hugh had an interest in oil and the Middle East and served a number of positions in the War and Colonial Offices, before entering Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Air in 1962. He might be best known to some readers as the outsider candidate who came third in the 1975 party leadership contest, behind Mrs Thatcher and Edward Heath, gaining only 16 votes.

Continue reading "Who are Conservative Friends of Israel? A profile of the Conservative Party's most populous grouping" »

13 Apr 2012 17:19:36

What are the toughest questions you'd like me to ask Michael Howard about Britain's aid budget?

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter


Later this month I'll be interviewing Michael Howard at an event for Conservatives for International Development. Lord Howard has been a prominent supporter of the Conservative commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on international development. It was under his leadership that the party first made a commitment to hit the UN aid target by 2013.

I want to put the toughest questions to him and I know many ConHome readers are sceptical about the aid budget. Please help me, therefore, pose the most searching questions and if you cannot attend the central London event yourself I promise to report back with his answers...

12 Nov 2010 07:00:00

Michael Howard praises hospice movement in his maiden House of Lords speech

By Jonathan Isaby

I have not been as assiduous in following maiden speeches in the House of Lords as I have with new MPs this year.

However, a former party leader making his debut in the Lords certainly deserves a mention.

Picture 6 Yesterday, Michael Howard - now Lord Howard of Lympne - made his maiden speech in the Upper House during a debate on cancer treatment. Here's what he told their Lordships in his debut on the red benches:

My Lords, I rise with some trepidation to make my maiden speech in your Lordships' House. It is, after all, more than 27 years since I last made a maiden speech, so I am certainly out of practice. I am also cognisant of the many warnings I have been given about the differences between your Lordships' House and the House in which I was privileged to serve for those 27 years. It may take me a little time to adjust, but I assure your Lordships that I shall do my best.

I am most grateful for the welcome I have received in your Lordships' House, to the staff for their unfailing helpfulness and, particularly, to those in the information technology department who laboured so long to ensure that I was properly connected.

Before I turn to the subject of this debate, perhaps I could be forgiven for saying a word or two about the place from which I take my title. The spelling of the name, of course, bears only a passing relationship to its pronunciation, which is a frequent cause of confusion, but I suspect that it shares that distinction with many other places from which your Lordships’ titles are taken.

Lympne is a village in my former constituency where my wife and I have the pleasure and privilege of living. It dates back to Roman times when Portus Lemanis was built to protect the Roman ships in the harbour, which then existed below where the current village is situated. It also features frequently in books by HG Wells, who lived nearby. It is mentioned in both “The First Men in the Moon” and “War of the Worlds”, which may have something to do with the fact that, more recently, several observers have claimed to see unidentified flying objects in the vicinity of my house. I am afraid that I have never seen them or been in any way aware of their existence, so I cannot confirm, but nor of course can I deny, the veracity of those accounts.

It is a privilege to be able to take part in today's debate. I do so for two reasons. The first is the kind of personal reason that I know touches so many of your Lordships. My father died of breast cancer 44 years ago at the young age of 49. This coming Saturday would have been his birthday. He died at home and was wonderfully cared for in his last days by a dedicated group of nuns whose selflessness far exceeded any praise I could bestow on them.

Continue reading "Michael Howard praises hospice movement in his maiden House of Lords speech" »