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The fundamental flaw in Matthew Parris' argument

I've just caught up with Matthew Parris' Saturday column. In it, Mr Parris takes Fraser Nelson to task for his excellent Keith Joseph lecture to the CPS but my main quarrel is with his recommendation that David Cameron should avoid a hard-edged manifesto ("hard-edged" is his preferred term, mine would be "specific"). He writes: "If (like me) you are sure that David Cameron does not lack valour, and if you’re confident his heart and head are in a good Tory place, then give him that discretion."

The trouble with this allowance of "discretion" is that any incoming Tory government may control the Commons but it won't control the Lords. Margaret Thatcher didn't have that problem. Neither did Heath, nor MacMillan, nor Churchill. Labour's abolition of all but less-than-a-hundred hereditary peers and a massive appointment of Labour peers since 1997, mean that the Lords is now a hostile chamber.

There is only one way that Cameron can be confident that the Lords (controlled by Labour, LibDem and Crossbench* peers) will pass his agenda and that will be to include reasonably specific policy pledges in the manifesto. By convention the Lords is then required to pass them. If not specificied in the manifesto, the Lords can block them. Mr Parris may be willing to trust Mr Cameron (as am I). The Lords will be less accepting of any post-election commitments.

Tim Montgomerie

* Senior Tories tell me that the Crossbenches are full of left-wing sympathisers like Lord (John) Birt.


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