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Divided parties are "entirely healthy", says John Redwood

By Matthew Barrett
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On Wednesday, Tim Montgomerie reported the 1922 Committee's difficult meeting, in which pro-leadership backbenchers clashed with those some might characterise as too ready to attack the leadership. Clearly this infighting is causing some problems, and can't make backbench life easy. One complaint, usually made by modernising MPs, is that the very fact we know some of the details of the heated meeting is evidence of the 1922 being an ineffective and anti-leadership force. Many MPs feel the 1922 should be a place to talk privately, and find it disappointing that details of notable meetings invariably find their way into the press. 

Redwood on NewsnightHowever, on the subject of division in general, one senior backbencher has taken a different angle. John Redwood blogged earlier today:

"I feel one of the old myths reappearing in the political debate. Some are out and about saying that the Conservative party has to be more united to stay elected. They clearly remember no political history. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were both very successful Prime Ministers when it came to winning elections. Both won three in a row with large majorities. Both led divided parties, with very visible splits."

He does add one important caveat:

"None of this is to say that divisions and mega personality rows at the top are a good thing, but it is a reminder that unity is not the main thing that electors look for. They look for a strong economy, for their own rising living standards, and for other policy changes that go in a direction they like."

But his main point - a rebuke to pro-leadership MPs seen to be shutting up oppositon - is clear:

"There are voices today within the Conservative party urging differing policies and choices on the leadership. That surely is entirely healthy... If there were no arguments going on about what the government could do next, and how to improve the lot of voters, some would ask is the party dead or merely sleeping? A lively political party has internal debate, and strives to improve through discussion and argument. Please do not go back to the odd idea that everyone in a party thinks the same, and therefore has to say the same thing. If that happened government would struggle more, and the public would then have a good reason to demand a change."


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