Robert Halfon MP

5 Jun 2012 17:57:54

More photographs of Tory MPs celebrating the Jubilee (featuring a lot of cake and rain)

By Tim Montgomerie
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I published some photographs of Tory MPs - including the Prime Minister - enjoying the Jubilee celebrations on Sunday. Here are some more. They involve a lot of cake and quite a bit of rain.

First up is Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt. No doubt enjoying the break from the responsibilities he has for Middle Eastern policy he's judging a Jubilee cake competition at Wyboston, Chawston and Colesden Village Party.

Diamond jubilee june 2012  Cakes at Wyboston

Continue reading "More photographs of Tory MPs celebrating the Jubilee (featuring a lot of cake and rain)" »

3 Jun 2012 18:18:41

Photographs of David Cameron and various Tory MPs celebrating the Jubilee

By Tim Montgomerie
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David Cameron dispensing ice creams in Downing Street and with girl guides:


Robert Halfon at a Royal Legion Jubilee Party:

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Stuart Andrew and friend waiting on the Commons Terrace for the pageant to pass by:

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Rob Wilson with Sir John Madejski, Chairman of newly promoted Reading FC:


Matt Hancock and his predecessor Lord Risby (Richard Spring) planting a Jubilee Oak at Haverhill:


Steve Baker MP:


Welsh Minister David Jones:


Send any more photographs to [email protected].

15 May 2012 15:45:08

Tomorrow's 1922 Committee Elections - nominations in full

By Paul Goodman
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8.45pm Update by Matthew Barrett: I have now learned which candidates are being backed by the traditional organisations on the right of the Conservative Party, such as the No Turning Back group. I have highlighted these in purple.


The following have been returned unopposed:-




Posts for which elections will take place (I have marked those previously identified by Tim as members of the 301 slate in blue):

1) Secretary - the following nominations have been received for TWO posts:


2) Executive members - the following nominations have been received for TWELVE posts.

PRITI PATEL - Priti Patel is being backed by both the 301 group, and the right of the Party.

Finally and separately, the following nominations have been received for Conservative members of the Backbench Business Committee - four posts:


4 May 2012 12:05:47

Record of how Conservative MPs are reacting to the local election results

A variety of reactions are pasted in this blog. The names of those calling for some change of message, priority or operational changes are emboldened. We have also included the contributions of MPs who have not advocated substantial changes.

5.45pm A little round-up of what Tory MPs have said during the day:

David Ruffley MP advocated radical economic measures - and a withdrawal from the Coalition if Lib Dems won't back them:

"I think now with the position now where there was a Coalition Agreement two years ago but quite a few senior colleagues think that was then, this is now. We didn't think two years ago that the economy would still be flat on its back and everything now has to be directed towards getting the British economy going. And yes it does mean looking at tax again but also, a freer labour market, the hiring and firing proposals to make sure that young people aren't turned away from jobs because of the very onerous social employment protection legislation in this country, so we should say to the Liberals on things like that which they are blocking, 'Listen we are in a real hole now. We need some radical economic polices put in place and you go with it and if you don't, we how would you like a general election?'"

Peter Bone MP urged the Government to drop any "wishy-washy" policies in the Queen's Speech:

"You can see what happens when there is a Conservative Government, because there was a Conservative Government run in London by Boris and he got re-elected. He put forward Conservative policies and he got re-elected and he bucked the national trend, and that really should be a message for the Coalition. Be more conservative and be less liberal wishy-washy and I think that’s what the voters would like to see in the Queen’s speech.” 

Continue reading "Record of how Conservative MPs are reacting to the local election results " »

4 May 2012 06:14:38

What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group

By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs has so far mainly featured groups founded or mostly composed of 2010 intake MPs. Last time, I looked at the Thatcherite No Turning Back group, founded in the 1980s. This week's group is somewhere between the two. The Cornerstone Group is the main group whose defining mission is to represent socially conservative Members of Parliament. The group was formed in 2005, and presented some challenges for David Cameron's leadership. In this profile, I'll see how the group is doing now.

Origins of the group

HayesLeighCornerstone was founded by Edward Leigh and John Hayes, who still chair the group. Leigh has been the MP for Gainsborough since 1983, and is a former Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, who was sacked for his opposition to Maastricht, and John Hayes, who has been the MP for South Holland and the Deepings since 1997, and the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning since 2010.

Cornerstone admired the work done during Iain Duncan Smith's time as leader to promote a more communitarian, Burkean conservatism, and wanted to ensure IDS' work on this front was carried on.

When the group launched formally in July 2005, it released a pamphlet, which criticised Michael Howard's election campaign for being too quiet about tax cuts, public service reform and family values. Strongly condemning the personality politics and liberalism of New Labour, Leigh wrote:

"We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition, nation, family, religious ethics, free enterprise ... Emulating New Labour both lacks authenticity and is unlikely to make us popular. We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based."

The group first exerted its influence during the 2005 leadership contest. A group of about twenty Cornerstone supporters interviewed David Cameron, David Davis and Liam Fox. Fox apparently put in the best performance, while David Davis was, reportedly, not able to take criticism well. This meeting, combined with David Davis' alienating stint as the Minister for Europe under Major, and Davis' reluctance to support Iain Duncan Smith's compassionate conservatism programme wholeheartedly, is thought to be why many Cornerstone supporters first voted for Fox, and then switched to Cameron.

Continue reading "What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group" »

1 May 2012 18:30:23

Only three Tory MPs rebel against move to relax Sunday trading laws for the Olympics

By Matthew Barrett
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In the Commons yesterday, a debate was held on whether to suspend Sunday trading restrictions for the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. The Bill passed through the House, with only extremely minor rebellion from the Tory benches. This was surprising because there was some consternation felt by some sections of the backbenches about the proposals, with the suspicion that the period was simply softening the public up for a full scrapping of Sunday trading laws. 

Halfon RobertMinisters were very clear in assuring the House that the proposals are temporary:

"Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Will my hon. Friend reassure a significant number of Harlow residents who have written to me that the Bill is just a temporary Bill for the Olympics, and that there are no plans to extend Sunday trading per se?

Mr Prisk: I am happy to give that assurance. I do not want to test the patience of the Deputy Speaker. The motion is about the proceedings of the House, but I want to make it crystal clear that the Bill will come off the statute book immediately after 9 September."

The first vote, which was merely a procedural vote concerning the passage of the BIll, was agreed to with 281 ayes, and 112 noes. The only two Tory noes on that vote were Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone, who voted with the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party and many Labour MPs. 

Andrew Selous MPIn the second period of debate, which was more substantive and longer, several Tory MPs sought assurances about elements of the Bill:

"Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. He is being extremely generous very early on in his remarks. Will he give me some reassurance? What protection will be in place for, say, volunteer sports coaches or church workers with commitments on Sundays, if their volunteer commitments are threatened by having to work extra hours?

Vince Cable: Of course, they could opt out of the commitments, as is already provided for under existing legislation, which means that they will receive all the protections subject to unfair dismissal legislation."

Continue reading "Only three Tory MPs rebel against move to relax Sunday trading laws for the Olympics" »

20 Apr 2012 06:33:09

Who are the 301? The Tory MPs who want to refresh the 1922 Committee

By Matthew Barrett
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The 301 group is perhaps the most active and important group of backbench Tory MPs. Tim Montgomerie reported last week that three MPs - Charlie Elphicke, George Hollingbery and Priti Patel - want to organise a candidate to be elected to the 1922 Committee's executive who will give the '22 a focus on policy and campaigning. The Spectator's James Forsyth blogged that "The vote for their candidate, and his opponent, will give us the best idea yet of where the backbenches are at the moment politically. Indeed, I expect that the machinery of the 301 group, the most pro-Cameron of all the backbench groups, will be thrown behind the Elphicke-Hollingbery-Patel slate."

To organise or endorse candidates for the '22 is certainly the most power a backbench group has yet wielded in this Parliament. In this profile, I'll be looking at the origins, members, aims and plans of the group to get a sense of what the group wants to campaign for.

Origins of the group

HopkinsLeeThe 301 was first organised by Kris Hopkins (Keighley), a former soldier and leader of Bradford Council, and Jessica Lee (Erewash), a former barrister, and now Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. The group began with small meetings of a handful of MPs who were "concerned that the narrative in Parliament was not representative of the conversation" that MPs had had with the electorate while campaigning during the 2010 general election, and also dissatisfied with the fact that the mechanisms of debate amongst backbenchers, and between the back and front benches, were not conducive to trying to correct that narrative. Each of those attending brought a friend, and so on, until after three meetings the group reached 60 members.

Continue reading "Who are the 301? The Tory MPs who want to refresh the 1922 Committee" »

19 Mar 2012 06:43:33

The Tory backbenches are bubbling away with new thinkers and new thinking

By Tim Montgomerie
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One of the most encouraging things about today's Conservative Party is the liveliness of the Class of 2010. Starting tomorrow Matthew Barrett will be looking at the work of different backbench groups but here's a summary of some of the more interesting projects and thoughts launched by some of our newest MPs in recent days. I've arranged the list alphabetically...

George_freeman_portraitFirst I direct you to a piece in yesterday's Observer by George Freeman. George is at the heart of a Tory interest in developing a new industrial strategy - not a return to a 1960s/70s policy of picking winners (or picking losers as invariably happened) but, in his slightly jargonistic words, the need to "focus on the technologies and sectors of the British innovation and knowledge economy which can best compete in the new markets of the developing world". He suggested five themes for his strategy including a focus on building deep relationships with emerging markets; development of innovation cities, corridors and neighbourhoods; and the identification and exploitation of technologies where we have a competitive advantage. Read more

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In yesterday's Sunday Times (£) Sam Gyimah called for new ways of graduates helping their universities to educate more young people, especially from less privileged backgrounds. Noting that barely 1% of UK alumni make gifts to their institutions compared to 10% in the USA he recommends mechanisms whereby graduates can keep paying into the student financing system even after they've repaid their own loans.

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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." »

1 Dec 2011 14:59:41

Tory backbenchers line up to support the Chancellor's Autumn Statement

By Matthew Barrett
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Osborne autumn statementWe reported on the policy content of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on Tuesday. As well as the content of the Statement, it's worth noting the contributions from Conservative backbenchers in the Commons session that followed it. The Chancellor answered 96 questions in total, so it allowed a large window of opportunity for backbenchers to raise questions or points sceptical of the government's economic agenda - backbenchers could have urged the Chancellor to pursue fiscal consolidation more vigorously, or pressed for a more pro-growth direction, and so on. 

However, backbench contributions were overwhelmingly positive. There were, generally, two kinds of question from Tory backbenchers. The first would be positive about measures announced in the Autumn Statement. For example:

"Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome opportunity for private pension funds to invest in infrastructure will also give a good return for those pension funds by unlocking the growth that can come from such infrastructure, particularly in rural areas such as East Anglia?"

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20 Nov 2011 07:23:55

Is Robert Halfon MP David Cameron's passport to Essex Man?

By Tim Montgomerie
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HALFON-robertIn the Mail on Sunday James Forsyth reflects (scroll down) on Robert Halfon MP's successful use of the ePetitions system to put petrol prices at the top of the political agenda. James suggest Robert is exactly the kind of Conservative who connects with 'Essex Man':

"Conservative Election victories are won off the back of votes from the hard-working, lower middle class. If Cameron had done as well among these people as John Major did in 1992, he’d have a majority. But in Robert Halfon, the Prime Minister might have found someone who can help him connect with them. Halfon is the Tory MP for Harlow, which is real White Van Man territory. He has a grasp of what makes these voters tick, built up through a decade of campaigning there. Halfon is fast emerging as the Tory leadership’s ambassador to Essex Man. Osborne called him before the Commons vote on an EU referendum, and Cameron asked to see him after it. I understand that he and the Prime Minister discussed how best to get across what the Tories are doing for the striving classes."

Rob is one of the best examples of the campaigning knowledge and desire for a more balanced conservatism that the Class of 2010 has brought to Westminster. Rob fought Harlow twice before winning the seat from Labour last year. Over years of campaigning he overturned a big Labour majority and, in the process, learnt how to win the votes of blue collar Britain. His petrol campaign is a manifestation of this. He believes that, like the Group of Forty, issues of Europe and crime are important but so is a commitment to the NHS and a concern for the poor. One of the most important articles ConHome has recently hosted was his piece challenging the Conservative Party on its tax priorities.

James Forsyth is absolutely right about Rob's value to the party. I hope, one day, he'll be the Tory Chairman.

16 Nov 2011 12:37:57

"Fuel duty is not just about economics, it's an issue of social justice" says Robert Halfon

By Joseph Willits 
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HalfonYesterday Robert Halfon's motion urging the Government to consider scrapping any further increases in fuel duty passed without a division. The debate was forced by an e-petition, which attracted over 100,000 signatures.  Halfon had the backing of The Sun's Keep It Down campaign and FairFuelUK group led by Quentin Wilson.

The Government's abolition of the fuel escalator was welcomed by Halfon, as was the introduction of a semi-stabiliser so "that duty will rise quicker than inflation only if oil prices are low for a sustained period". This had meant that motorists were already making savings of £274 a year on average, in this parliament compared to a different outcome of a Labour re-election. However, Halfon said, Britain's petrol prices "are still the most expensive in Europe. Even bankrupt socialist nations such as Spain now have lower rates of fuel tax than Britain".

Continue reading ""Fuel duty is not just about economics, it's an issue of social justice" says Robert Halfon" »

16 Nov 2011 08:07:21

Robert Halfon's debate on fuel prices highlights a growing problem in the Chamber

By Paul Goodman
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It takes only a few seconds to make a point.  Five minutes or so will suffice to set out the skeleton of a case.  But to make a proper argument - one that cites figures, illustrates points, explores detail, attempts to deal with objections - no less than ten minutes or so, at a bare minimum, will do.  Not so long ago, the Commons was blighted by speeches which went to the other extreme: some speakers would ramble for up to 40 minutes.  But Robert Halfon's debate on fuel prices yesterday - an important one, being a response to an e-petition - demonstrated the degree to which the opposite problem no grips the Commons.

The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of brevity.  We aim to write later about the debate as a whole, which Halfon introduced with a fine speech.  He was on his feet for 20 minutes,  and was therefore able to make a proper case.  The speaker who followed him, Labour's Dave Watts, was called at 3.22.  He was cut short by the Deputy Speaker at 3.26, and Mark Garnier was called.  He resumed his seat at 3.30.  Labour's Albert Owen then spoke and stopped at 3.37.  Alan Reid from the Liberal Democrats replaced him and sat down at 3.44.  Russell Brown came and went before the clock had reached 3.51.  And so on.

Continue reading "Robert Halfon's debate on fuel prices highlights a growing problem in the Chamber" »

15 Nov 2011 11:15:15

Tories claim motorists will save £274 on fuel duty compared to Labour's plans

By Tim Montgomerie
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Robert Halfon MP wins front page attention in today's Mail and Times (£) for his campaign to lower fuel prices. More than 100 MPs (including 81 Tories) have signed his ePetition which will be debated today. My guess is that this debate and the issues it raises will be of more relevance at Number 22 Acacia Avenue than the recent ePetition on the EU (although I make no comment on the public's priorities).

The Sun - which has been the campaign's most consistent backer - notes how high fuel prices hit the poorest most:

"The poorest fifth of households spend 3.5% of their disposable income on fuel duty, while the richest spend 1.8%."

Continue reading "Tories claim motorists will save £274 on fuel duty compared to Labour's plans" »

9 Nov 2011 13:12:31

The ePetition on fuel prices is softened but wins support of 81 Tory MPs

By Tim Montgomerie
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81 is not David Cameron's favourite number and there'll be a few raised eyebrows that 81 backbench Tories have signed up to Robert Halfon MP's motion which calls for the Government to bring more relief to motorists who are paying such high fuel prices. The motion is worded in a very mild way and this has helped it to attract normally very on message Conservatives such as Andrew Griffiths, Paul Uppal and Nadhim Zahawi. More than 100 MPs have signed in total, from all parties.

Interestingly the motion that the Commons will debate is not the motion that nearly 110,000 people signed. For example the original petition's plea to "scrap the planned 4p fuel duty increases" is replaced with the much softer "call on the Government to consider the effect that increased taxes on fuel will have on the economy". The ePetition's desire to "set up a Commission to look at market competitiveness, and radical ways of cutting fuel taxes in the longer term" has completely vanished. I understand, however, that this change in wording has been agreed by FairFuelUK in order to maximise support.

Continue reading "The ePetition on fuel prices is softened but wins support of 81 Tory MPs" »