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The Economist predicts 'the Tory divisions to come'

Economist The Economist's Bagehot looks at 'future Tory splits' in this week's column:

  • "Europe is one risk: if the EU’s Lisbon treaty is in force when Mr Cameron takes office, and he swallows it, the diehard rejectionists whom his ambiguity on the issue has kept in line may revolt.
  • Meanwhile, depending on external events, the broader disagreement on foreign policy between the Tory realists and neocons—which Mr Cameron has tried to straddle, and which anyway seems somewhat moot in opposition—may become stark.
  • Ditto the private doubts held by some senior Tories about their party’s right-on stance on civil liberties.
  • Then there is Mr Cameron’s wrongheaded determination to promote marriage through the tax system—and, more explosively, the tax-cutting instinct that the party has temporarily suppressed, and which economic necessity may require Mr Cameron to thwart."

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A big factor that will determine the nature of the internal party debate will the new parliamentary party.  I wrote about the nature of the 'Class of 2010' for Tuesday's FT and identified three main reasons why it will be more independent-minded:

  • Only a quarter of the new generation candidates are from the ‘A-list’ – David Cameron’s list of preferred candidates. Most will feel, therefore, that they became MPs through their own efforts rather than because they were the party leadership’s first choice to be candidates.
  • More than fifty of the candidates are fighting their seats for the second or third time. This is another factor that will give new Tory MPs a sense that their own efforts are a big factor in getting themselves on to the green benches.
  • Many existing Tory MPs are unhappy at the way David Cameron forced out veteran members during the expenses controversy (rightly in my view).  They would have preferred him to have defended their interests more robustly.  Feeling that Cameron has not showed them loyalty they are disinclined to believe that they owe him so much loyalty in return.  They’ll be advising new MPs accordingly.

There's a fourth factor I didn't mention in the FT piece.

David Cameron has promised to cut the number of MPs by 10%.  This will necessitate boundary reviews across the country during the next parliament and MPs will have to be readopted by their local members within their redrawn constituency boundaries.  MPs are therefore going to want to be in good standing with their local members and with local constituents more generally.  MPs may not so willingly toe the party line, therefore, if local factors produce tension between local and national party interests.  The looming cuts in public services will produce plenty such tensions.

Tim Montgomerie


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