Alistair Lexden: The Carlton Club meeting and the fall of the Lloyd George Coalition

How a proud, unbending leader misread his party, brought down a government, and set back the idea of sharing power for a generation.

Lord Lexden is the Conservative Party’s official historian. His website can be found here

These dramatic events were the subject of a lecture  delivered  by Alistair Lexden at the annual meeting of the Lloyd George Society in Llandrindod Wells on 16 February.  

The Place

The famous meeting, which was to alter the course of interwar politics in Britain, took place in a spacious smoking room-cum-library within a very large rectangular building of little architectural distinction in London’s Pall Mall.

(Members of the Carlton Club tended to be much more interested in smoking than reading; after the Second World War, they found it possible to dispense with a library altogether.)

Erected in the mid-1850s to replace premises of the 1830s that had come to seem unduly cramped, the clubhouse was said to have been inspired by the library of St Mark in Venice. The original was poorly reflected in its copy. One critic denounced “ the monstrousness of its proportions, and [its] violation of all orthodoxy and rule.”

Such rudeness had no effect on the Club’s popularity among Tories. In 1922 membership hovered around its maximum number of 1,600, just as it had always done – and over 2,000 more loyal Tories belonged to the Junior Carlton, a much more impressive edifice in the style of an Italian palazzo almost opposite it on the other side of Pall Mall, which had opened in 1864 to provide a political home for those on the Carlton’s waiting list.

The Club stood next to that great bastion of Liberalism, the Reform Club with some 1,400 members, from which it was separated by a narrow road, Carlton Gardens – quite insufficient to prevent members of the two Clubs trying to spy on each other’s political activities. In November 1884, when Tory MPs met to settle their tactics over the redistribution of parliamentary seats, blinds were pulled down at every window in the room after a member noticed two figures across the road in the Reform Club spying with the aid of an opera glass.

Such secrecy was unnecessary in October 1922. The press was given a full account of proceedings as soon as they were over. There was naturally intense public interest in a meeting that determined the fate of a great Prime Minister and his coalition government which had brought the country triumphantly from war to peace – a government once widely admired, but now under widespread attack.

Almost all Conservative MPs (known widely as Unionists in this period) were members of the Carlton in 1922, just as their predecessors had been since the Club’s establishment at the time of the Great Reform Act, ninety years earlier, as the old Tory Party began to evolve into Robert Peel’s dynamic Conservative Party, committed to judicious reform in both Church and State. Wives and families were neglected so that MPs could gossip and plot at the Carlton without interruption from guests, who were not allowed to enter it. Over the years, many meetings had been convened to settle pressing issues, but none so momentous as the one held on 19 October 1922.

The man who convened the meeting – and his colleagues

The meeting was called by the Unionist Party leader, Austen Chamberlain, the elder of the two sons of the great radical Joe, and the repository of all his father’s hopes for the future. So many of Joe’s ambitious plans for the reform of Britain and Ireland had been frustrated by the leaders of both main parties who blocked them in turn – first Gladstone, then Salisbury and Balfour.

Austen was expected to secure the political victories that had eluded his father. He was to be the Chamberlain who reached 10 Downing Street.

In October 1922, Austen Chamberlain had only held the Unionist leadership for some eighteen months, but a long parliamentary career stretching back thirty years, much of it in high office, meant that he was a politician of immense experience. Yet, experienced and battle-hardened as he was, he won no plaudits as Unionist Party leader.

He expected his MPs and the Party in the country to follow him with unquestioning obedience. As his biographer, David Dutton, puts it, he was “incapable of showing the subtlety and compromise which could have secured his position”. When he decided to call his MPs together at the Carlton, it was to deliver an ultimatum to them. He explained to a fellow Unionist Cabinet minister that he would “tell them bluntly they must either follow our advice or do without us”. If the latter, “they must find their own Chief and form a Government at once. They would be in a damned fix.”

This was the imperious folly of a man who had, since the start of the year, presided over growing internal Unionist tensions and divisions, which by the summer had infected the lower ranks of the coalition, and by October had reached the Cabinet itself, bringing two ministers to the point of resignation.

Chamberlain had no understanding of the tactics required to overcome rebellion. Guile needed to be mingled with toughness. But in Dutton’s words, “rather like Asquith in 1916, he seemed out of touch with mainstream thought in his own party and to be seriously over-rating his own strength.” He would be a strong candidate for the title of “ the worst ever Tory leader” but for the overwhelming claim of the current disastrous incumbent.

Chamberlain was encouraged in his utterly misguided dictatorial ways by his closest Unionist Cabinet colleagues, who prided themselves, not unfairly, on their cleverness: Arthur Balfour, charming but cold-hearted intellectual and former prime minister; the imperious, disdainful Foreign Secretary, George Curzon, who worked all the hours that God gave; and F.E. Smith, Lord Birkenhead, who combined a well-publicised venomous wit with a quick, well-stocked mind, enabling him as Lord Chancellor to make long, brilliant speeches on complicated issues in the Lords without a note. In 1922 he delighted above all in insulting fellow Unionists who dared to question the course that Lloyd George was pursuing. In combination with Chamberlain, these people did grave damage to a government which they wanted to remain in existence for ever.

Despite a certain waywardness on Curzon’s part, Chamberlain and his aloof, arrogant colleagues were convinced that their Party must remain in coalition with Lloyd George and his group of Liberal MPs, perhaps with a view to fusion at some future point with Lloyd George becoming head of a new centre party. This, they insisted, was essential in the national interest. Country must be put before Party. They found themselves confronted by an ever more insistent conviction within their own ranks that the country could only be saved if the Unionist Party broke free from Lloyd George and sought a new electoral mandate of its own.

The Coalition in crisis

Arrogance in politics can only be tolerated if it brings success. In 1922 Chamberlain and his supercilious Unionist colleagues stumbled from one crisis to another. The coalition floundered in a sea of troubles which got worse as the months passed.

A highly controversial Treaty, designed to end a vicious two-year campaign of Irish republican violence, failed to accomplish its objectives in the short term, though it would soon come to be seen – rightly in my view – as one of Lloyd George’s greatest achievements. The summer brought the worst ever scandal involving the sale of honours, arising from the Welsh wizard’s brazenness in party fund-raising by means that his predecessors had taken pains to conceal (and as his successors were to do too). In September the country suddenly found itself, bereft of serious allies, on the brink of war in the Middle East in a cause that few believed justified hostilities.

Of these grave problems, the most serious for the Unionist Party was Ireland. Lloyd George’s willingness to compromise with those whom he had consistently denounced as a murder gang who needed to be extirpated cost the coalition the support of some 50 Unionist MPs. They never returned to the fold. The group, who came to known as the Diehards, harried the government with the kind of dedication that intransigent members of the European Research Group were to display nearly a century later.

Political failure had the usual, inevitable consequences. By-elections in 1922 invariably brought comfort, and often joy, to the Labour Party. This was seen as no ordinary setback, purely temporary in character, that a general election would reverse. It was regarded rather as the harbinger of a decisive Labour victory and the creation of a socialist state in Britain.

This terrifying prospect reinforced the determination of the Unionist leadership to remain in coalition with Lloyd George. Chamberlain and his fellow stuffed shirts thought it impossible that their Party could win a parliamentary majority on their own. In a speech on 16 October, Chamberlain said that the coalition must be maintained in the face of the “common foe”, Labour.

No question of principle, he asserted, divided Liberals and Unionists, and it would be “criminal” to allow personal and party prejudices to prevail “at a moment of national danger”. He added that if those who sought to preserve social order were divided, Labour would win, and it would “not be the moderates of the Labour Party who would prevail”. In other words, behind Ramsay MacDonald there lurked a British Lenin.

Could Chamberlain bring his divided and disaffected Party together to fight under Lloyd George’s coalition banner in order to save Britain from a red revolution? That was the question which the famous Carlton Club meeting was called to decide. Chamberlain chose to hold it on 19 October because he expected a by-election in Newport the previous day with Conservative, Labour, Liberal candidates to bring a Labour victory, and so prove that coalition alone could prevent the overthrow of the established order.

The meeting and its aftermath

Chamberlain arrived at the meeting seriously weakened by two overnight developments. First, his predecessor, Bonar Law, now a critic of the coalition, had decided after much agonising to come out of retirement and attend the gathering. Second, the Newport by-election had been won by a Conservative. MPs knew that with their old leader back in business they could safely reject their new one, and that the case for coalition made by Chamberlain was far from overwhelming. A report in The Times noted that “the fact that a Conservative, unaided by the party organisation, relying entirely on local effort, could win a Coalition Liberal seat against the opposition of a Liberal and a Labour candidate put Independent Conservatives in good heart.”

The most vivid account of the Carlton’s historic day was recorded by the Earl of Crawford, a Unionist member of the coalition cabinet, in his brilliant diary, edited and published by Professor John Vincent in 1984. “We assembled at eleven”, he wrote, “a thoroughly good-humoured crowd. We were just about to begin when a waitress advanced with two immense brandies and soda to lubricate Chamberlain and F.E. Much cheering… Austen, who spoke from 11.5 to 11.35… was grave, but very rigid and unbending: needlessly so… Stanley Baldwin followed – gulping and hiccoughing a lot of good sense – no hesitation in denouncing the coalition and Lloyd George in particular – a clear declaration of war”.

Bonar Law’s speech, seen by everyone as crucial, came late in the proceedings. Crawford recorded that he “condemned the coalition. He looked ill, I thought – his knees more groggy than ever, his face more worn with distress. His voice was so weak that people quite close to him had to strain their ears—but his matter was clear and distinctly put. After his speech the issue was unmistakable, and he was hailed as the Leader of the Party. A.J.B[alfour] made a delightful speech, so mellow and genial, full of picturesque touches, but too subtle to count. Then we voted. A few more words of dignified adieu from Austen, and the meeting broke up”.

The motion ,which was passed by 185 to 88 with one abstention, declared that the “Party, whilst willing to cooperate with the Liberals, should fight the election as an independent party, with its own leader and with its own programme.”

As Crawford noted, proceedings were conducted throughout in a good-humoured atmosphere – surprising perhaps in view of what was at stake and the vehemence of several speakers. Baldwin, the first to demand a complete break with Lloyd George, described him famously as “a dynamic force, and it is from that very fact that our troubles, in our opinion, arise… It is owing to that dynamic force, and that remarkable personality, that the Liberal Party, to which he formerly belonged, has been smashed to pieces; and it is my firm conviction that, in time, the same will happen to our party”. At just the right moment, Baldwin emerged from comparative obscurity to capture the predominant mood in the Party. Seven months later he was Prime Minister.

At Number 10, Lloyd George accepted his fate with good grace. He told his close Welsh confidant, the Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Thomas Jones, that “the moment he had learned the result of the Newport election and heard definitely that Bonar was going to the meeting, he had told Stamfordham [the King’s Private Secretary] that he would be resigning in the course of the day”. He did so at 4.15pm. When he got back to Number 10, he found a delegation of miners waiting to see him. He told them cheerily, “ I am very sorry, gentlemen, I cannot receive you. I am no longer Prime Minister.”

In fact he remained in office until 26 October when Bonar Law kissed hands, having been formally re-elected leader of his Party. Jones recorded in his diary “at 4.00 he motored away with his son Gwilym to Churt, smiling to the last.” Frances Stevenson did not remain so composed. Jones “found her burning papers in the fireplace, and looking sadder than I have ever seen her”. Did she perhaps realise that the man she loved would never hold office again?

Austen Chamberlain gave Lloyd George much pleasure by defying his critics in defeat. The Times published a letter from him and thirteen other Unionist coalition ministers in which they paid tribute to the man who retained their admiration. They wrote that after 1916:

“With high courage and resolve he devoted himself to the single object of achieving victory… The problems which have required a solution since the Armistice have hardly been less grave than those which preceded it… [The Prime Minister’s] resource, energy and patriotism have been as strongly exhibited in this period as during the war itself. None the less we have been invited by members of our own party to send to the Prime Minister a message of dismissal.”

The contempt for their Party is palpable. Lloyd George knew how to inspire the most fervent loyalty in able men from a different political tradition.

One question remains: could a coalition of Unionists and Liberals have continued if Lloyd George had been induced to step down? Crawford, former Unionist Chief Whip in the Commons, holder of high offices and an acute observer of the political  scene, thought so. Two days before the Carlton Club meeting he noted in his diary “an undertaking given by Austen that our men shall stand as Conservatives, uncommitted, and that they shall not preclude the idea of a coalition after the polling”. That left just one outstanding demand from disaffected MPs, in Crawford’s view: “ a pledge that never again should Lloyd George be our leader. The controversy really pivots around his mercurial personality, and were he out of the way most of our troubles, and the central force both of our strength and weakness would disappear”.

But Chamberlain, loyal to a fault, would not contemplate enforcing Lloyd George’s removal to save the coalition. The Carlton Club meeting destroyed both Lloyd George and the very idea of coalition as a form of government that Unionists could contemplate. It took another world war, and the arrival in power in 1940 of another great coalitionist, Winston Churchill, to force serious power-sharing on the Tories again.

A few months later the Carlton Club was bombed out of its Pall Mall home, and moved to St James’s Street, where it remains.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. David Dutton, Austen Chamberlain: Gentleman in Politics (1985). Michael Kinnear, The Fall of Lloyd George: The Political Crisis of 1922(1973).Keith Middlemas and John Barnes, Baldwin: A Biography (1969). Keith Middlemas (ed.), Thomas Jones, A Whitehall Diary, Volume 1 1916-1925 (1969). Charles Petrie and Alistair Cooke, The Carlton Club 1832-2007 (2007). John Ramsden, The Age of Balfour and Baldwin 1902-1940 (1978).John Vincent(ed.), The Crawford Papers (1984).

Two pledges to MPs helped May over the line yesterday – but now she must fulfil them

A guarantee of a legally binding change to the backstop, and a more vague promise not to go on and on as leader, both present challenges.

The crucial context for yesterday’s confidence vote was that it came after a day of sustained and intensive effort by the Government to secure as many votes as it could. Emails were sent out to Party members from the Chairman, the Whip was restored to suspended MPs, and, most importantly, two controversial promises were made by the Prime Minister, then reiterated at the meeting of the 1922 Committee.

That those steps were felt necessary was a sign that Downing Street was evidently more concerned about the ballot than was widely assumed – something borne out by the higher than expected number of No Confidence votes.

Particularly telling are the two pledges that Theresa May gave to her MPs, both because they reveal the issues that she and her team implicitly acknowledge to be the most serious weaknesses in her position, and because each immediately raises vexed questions about whether she can actually abide by them and keep her word.

Limiting the backstop

The Prime Minister is reported to have promised MPs and ministers who are concerned about the risk of being trapped eternally in the backstop that she will secure a “legally binding” change which would make it temporary. There are other issues with the Withdrawal Agreement, of course, but such a change would certainly help to address the primary concern cited by many of her colleagues about the aspect of the agreement that they find most objectionable.

It’s notable that Downing Street has evidently realised that anything as unreliable as a mere promise, or as presentationally awkward as “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, would not be sufficient to reassure MPs. The UK has recent experience of a supposedly “black and white” promise made to Cameron and Osborne about us being exempt from Eurozone bailouts being disregarded by the EU a couple of years later. So May knows that at minimum any change on the backstop must be indisputably, immovably, legally binding, or else it would be no use to her at all.

The difficulty is that the EU appears to have no intention of granting such a condition. Indeed, they argue that time-limiting the backstop (or allowing the UK a sovereign right to escape it) would defeat its purpose. Before yesterday, that was essentially Downing Street’s explanation for why it had conceded the full backstop in the first place, too.

May is right to seek such a change, but we’ve yet to hear an explanation of how she intends to fulfil her promise to secure it.

Not leading the Party into the next election

“In my heart, I would love to be able to lead the Conservative Party into the next General Election” are words that may inspire a bit of foreboding among many Tory MPs, candidates and activists after last time. The Prime Minister implicitly conceded that fact when she went on to promise that “…the next general election is in 2022 and I think it’s right another party leader takes us into that general election.”

It’s a peculiar pledge, in that she is promising something her audience already assumed to be the case, but even then it bears a bit of detailed examination. For a start, it is uncomfortably specific about departing before the 2022 election, and allows for the possibility that she might want to stay on right up to the threshold of that campaign. That is not a prospect all of her MPs would find very appealing, given the current state of affairs.

Furthermore, while the reports are headlined “Theresa May confirms she will not lead Tories into next election”, that isn’t quite what she has actually said. The Prime Minister’s promise appears to relate only to the 2022 election, on the assumption that there won’t be an election before then. Except she – and we – cannot reliably make that assumption. May’s 2017 gamble showed that it is possible to hold a snap election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and the hung Parliament which it produced means she does not have the power to promise that there will be no election before 2022. If there is an election before 2022, potentially at short notice and against her will, there seems every prospect she would try to lead her party into it, and the timescale might leave no opportunity for a replacement.

Lastly, this promise obviously isn’t binding. Particularly in the next 12 months, there can now be no further confidence ballot to unseat her. The best questioners get when they ask for more detailed assurance on this front is a sub-promise to underpin it, that the Prime Minister will not call a snap election. Except, of course, her MPs have heard that before – and the decision is not fully in her gift.

Expectations

The outcome of the ballot leaves a tense stand-off, in which those MPs who supported May on the strength of these pledges and those MPs who did not now both expect her to demonstrate that she is both willing and able to fulfil them. The latter is sufficiently amorphous and medium-term that it may be possible to fudge it for a while yet, but the former is clearly testable and urgent, in that she must secure the promised concession from Brussels in the next few weeks. Quite what MPs would – or could – do if she fails to do so remains to be seen.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Never glad confident morning again!

Sir Graham Brady’s announcement of the voting figures came as an icy shock to the Prime Minister’s supporters.

Whoops of triumph greeted greeted Sir Graham Brady’s announcement that the parliamentary party “does have confidence” in Theresa May.

Conservative MPs who had crowded into Committee Room 14 to hear the result of the vote sounded beside themselves with joy. The Tory tribe demonstrated its delight with a great drumming on desks and by rising for a standing ovation.

But it had not yet heard the figures, which Sir Graham now read out: in favour 200, against 117. The second figure fell like icy water on the celebrators and extinguished all feelings of joy.

The scene was watched from the back of the lofty room by almost a hundred journalists. It was clear in an instant that far from winning a triumph, the Prime Minister and her supporters had suffered a humiliating rebuff, with over a third of her own MPs declaring they have no confidence in her, and this after a highly visible effort to swing the vote in her favour.

During the long wait for the announcement, feelings of hilarity often surfaced, and someone even managed to bring a broad smile to Sir Graham’s face as he entered with the 1922 Committee to read out the results. This prior hilarity made the shock of the result all the greater.

Outside in the Committee Corridor, MPs from both sides of the divide started trying to spin the result as favourably as they could. For the Prime Minister’s supporters, the pretence that she can continue with business as normal was extremely difficult to maintain.

The Prime Minister herself soon appeared next to the Christmas tree in Downing Street and spoke of “our renewed mission”, but it is hard to see any renewal in these figures.

“Never glad confident morning again!” During the Profumo scandal,of 1963 that line from Browning’s poem The Lost Leader was quoted from the backbenches against the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, by Nigel Birch, who had  some years earlier resigned from the Treasury along with Peter Thorneycroft and Enoch Powell.

Within a few months Macmillan was gone, and there was a similar mood of valediction at Westminster last night.

158 is not the magic number

A confidence ballot may be declared today, and it may not. But if it is, a simple majority for May might not be enough.

Godot is within sight, the boy is crying “wolf” at the top of his voice – and Wesminster is assuming that a ballot of confidence in Theresa May’s leadership will be declared today.  Graham Brady has reportedly received at least 48 letters demanding one.

Sir Graham being Sir Graham, he is keeping mum, exactly as he should, and it is still possible that the reports are wrong.  This being so, we will simply report that, if they aren’t, the confidence ballot is likely to take place later this week or early next.  If the Prime Minister isn’t successful in it, there is time for the Parliamentary stage of a leadership election to take place next week – indeed, more than enough, since the Commons doesn’t rise until next Thursday, December 20.  The membership stage would take place after Christmas.

We write about May being successful (or not successful) rather than winning (or losing) because of an important point.  It is being claimed that “158 is the magic number” – since 157.7 is what one is left with if one divides the 315 MPs in receipt of the Conservative whip in half.

But imagine for a moment that 159 votes express confidence in her leadership, if a ballot takes place, and 156 do not.  Could she then carry on as Party leader?  We believe not.  The ballot would not have found sufficient consensus for her leadership.  We cite a precedent.  204 votes were cast for Margaret Thatcher during the 1990 Conservative leadership contest, and 168 were not – 152 Tory MPs opted for Michael Heseltine and 16 abstained.  She won a clear majority of those voting.  But she was forced out none the less.

In reply, you may quote the 1995 leadership contest, in which over a third of Conservative MPs didn’t back John Major – a substantial proportion.  But he stayed on.  We would counter-object that there is a difference between a third and, say, just under half.

At which point, others might join the conversation, pointing out that the rules of Tory leadership contests have changed since 1995, let alone 1990.  Which reinforces our point: deciding what does and doesn’t count as success in a Conservative leadership contest is an art, not a science.  As much depends on expectation – not to mention who spins loudest and longest – as figures.  Personality, mood, psyops and that glorious Burkean word, circumstances: all play their part in deciding the drama.  There is no magic number.

Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and other Cabinet members with leadership aspirations will tremble at the possibility of the Prime Minister winning any ballot, but not winning well.  That would set up a conflict between loyalty and ambition from which they might not emerge undamaged.

WATCH: Sir Graham Brady says he has not written a letter to himself

“It’s very likely that the Prime Minister would win a confidence vote. Then there would be a 12 month gap before it could happen again. Which would be a huge relief for me.”

How MPs say they will vote in today’s confidence ballot

We currently have it at 151 declared for May, versus the 29 who publicly filed no confidence letters.

We’re still counting, but this is our running total for how MPs have declared on tonight’s confidence vote. Divide seems to be between public support for the Prime Minister on the one hand, and radio silence on the other.

In order to get a reliable figure we are checking each Conservative MP, and only including those who have tweeted or retweeted their position or had it confirmed by the press.

For:

  • Bim Afolami
  • Adam Afriyie
  • Peter Aldous
  • Heidi Allen
  • Stuart Andrew (5)
  • Victoria Atkins
  • Kemi Badenoch
  • Harriet Baldwin
  • Steve Barclay
  • Henry Bellingham (10)
  • Richard Benyon
  • Jake Berry
  • Nick Boles
  • Peter Bottomley
  • Andrew Bowie
  • Robert Buckland (15)
  • Karen Bradley
  • Jack Brereton
  • Steve Brine
  • James Brokenshire
  • Alex Burghart
  • Alistair Burt (20)
  • Alun Cairns
  • James Cartlidge
  • Alex Chalk
  • Jo Churchill
  • Colin Clark (25)
  • Greg Clark
  • Ken Clarke
  • James Cleverly
  • Thérèse Coffey
  • Alberto Costa (30)
  • Geoffrey Cox
  • Stephen Crabb
  • Glyn Davies
  • Mims Davies
  • Caroline Dinenage
  • Jonathan Djanogly (35)
  • Leo Docherty
  • Michelle Donelan
  • Oliver Dowden
  • Jackie Doyle-Price
  • David Duguid
  • Alan Duncan (40)
  • Michael Ellis
  • Tobias Ellwood
  • Graham Evans
  • Vicky Ford
  • Kevin Foster (45)
  • Liam Fox
  • Lucy Frazer
  • George Freeman
  • Mike Freer
  • Roger Gale
  • David Gauke (50)
  • Nusrat Ghani
  • Nick Gibb
  • John Glen
  • Robert Goodwill
  • Michael Gove (55)
  • Luke Graham
  • Richard Graham
  • Bill Grant
  • Helen Grant
  • Chris Grayling
  • Damian Green
  • Kirstene Hair
  • Rob Halfon (60)
  • Luke Hall
  • Philip Hammond
  • Stephen Hammond
  • Matt Hancock (65)
  • Richard Harrington
  • Trudy Harrison
  • Simon Hart
  • Oliver Heald
  • James Heappey (70)
  • Chris Heaton-Harris
  • Peter Heaton-Jones
  • Gordon Henderson
  • Nick Herbert
  • Damian Hinds (75)
  • Simon Hoare
  • George Hollingberry
  • Kevin Hollinrake
  • John Howell
  • Nigel Huddleston (80)
  • Jeremy Hunt
  • Nick Hurd
  • Alister Jack
  • Margot James
  • Sajid Javid
  • Robert Jenrick (85)
  • Caroline Johnson
  • Gareth Johnson
  • Andrew Jones
  • Marcus Jones
  • Seema Kennedy
  • Stephen Kerr (90)
  • Julian Knight
  • John Lamont
  • Mark Lancaster
  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Phillip Lee
  • Jeremy Lefroy (95)
  • Oliver Letwin
  • Brandon Lewis
  • David Lidington
  • Jack Lopresti
  • Rachel Maclean (100)
  • Kit Malthouse
  • Alan Mak
  • Paul Masterton
  • Patrick McLoughlin
  • Huw Merriman
  • Maria Miller (105)
  • Amanda Milling
  • Penny Mordaunt
  • Wendy Morton
  • David Morris
  • David Mundell
  • Andrew Murrison (110)
  • Bob Neill
  • Sarah Newton
  • Caroline Nokes
  • Jesse Norman
  • Neil O’Brien
  • Guy Opperman (115)
  • Mark Pawsey
  • John Penrose
  • Claire Perry
  • Victoria Prentis
  • Rebecca Pow (120)
  • Amber Rudd
  • Mary Robinson
  • Antoinette Sandbach
  • Paul Scully
  • Bob Seely (125)
  • Alok Sharma
  • Alec Shelbrooke
  • Keith Simpson
  • Chris Skidmore
  • Julian Smith (130)
  • Nicholas Soames
  • Anna Soubry
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Gary Streeter
  • Mark Spencer (135)
  • Andrew Stephenson
  • Rory Stewart
  • Mel Stride
  • Maggie Throup
  • Kelly Tolhurst (140)
  • Justin Tomlinson
  • Liz Truss
  • Tom Tugendhat
  • Ed Vaizey
  • David Warburton (145)
  • Robin Walker
  • Matt Warman
  • Helen Whately
  • Craig Whittaker
  • Gavin Williamson (150)
  • Sarah Wollaston
  • Nadhim Zahawi

Against:

  • Steve Baker
  • Crispin Blunt
  • Peter Bone
  • Ben Bradley
  • Andrew Bridgen (5)
  • Bill Cash
  • Maria Caulfield
  • Simon Clarke
  • Philip Davies
  • Nadine Dorries (10)
  • James Duddridge
  • Mark Francois
  • Marcus Fysh
  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Chris Green (15)
  • Adam Holloway
  • Philip Hollobone
  • Andrea Jenkyns
  • David Jones
  • Andrew Lewer (20)
  • Anne Marie Morris
  • Sheryll Murray
  • Owen Paterson
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • Laurence Robertson (25)
  • Lee Rowley
  • Henry Smith
  • Martin Vickers
  • John Whittingdale (29)

Undeclared:

  • Nigel Adams
  • Lucy Allan
  • David Amess
  • Edward Argar
  • Richard Bacon (5)
  • John Baron
  • Guto Bebb
  • Paul Beresford
  • Bob Blackman
  • Graham Brady (10)
  • Suella Braverman
  • Fiona Bruce
  • Conor Burns
  • Rehman Chishti
  • Christopher Chope (15)
  • Damian Collins
  • Robert Courts
  • Tracey Crouch
  • Chris Davies
  • David TC Davies (20)
  • David Davis
  • Steve Double
  • Richard Drax
  • Ian Duncan Smith
  • Philip Dunne (25)
  • George Eustace
  • Nigel Evans
  • David Evennett
  • Michael Fabricant
  • Michael Fallon (30)
  • Mark Field
  • Mark Garnier
  • Cheryl Gillan
  • James Gray
  • Justine Greening (35)
  • Dominic Grieve
  • Sam Gyimah
  • Greg Hands
  • Mark Harper
  • Rebecca Harris (40)
  • John Hayes
  • Eddie Hughes
  • Ranil Jayawardena
  • Edward Leigh
  • Scott Mann (45)
  • Douglas Ross
  • Derek Thomas
  • Ross Thomson

Robert Halfon: How the patronising metropolitan elites wrinkled up their noses at more money for potholes

Plus: Unsung Conservative heroes. The Centre for Rocket Studies. And: why do we need the traditional, three-year University course?

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Workers Budget

Credit where credit is due, the Budget last week was exactly what was needed. Tax cuts for the lower paid, increases in the Living Wage, a fuel duty freeze, and more money for our NHS.  It was astonishing how the metropolitan classes sniffed at the £420 million for potholes – one journalist argued that it was wrong given the threat to our environment. Given that our town and road infrastructure is riven with potholes, and how small white van businesses and motorists depend on good roads, it was so typical of the anti-car brigade to be so aloof from day-to-day realities.

I welcomed the £200 million for vulnerable youths and the £400 million more for education capital spending – though much more is needed; ideally, a Ten Year Plan, similar to the NHS, if education is not going to become our Achilles heel.  It is vital that the Spending Round next year, sets out the a long term education plan, to ensure our schools and colleges are properly funded and fit for the 21st Century and the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need less initiative-itis on education, with a bit of funding tinkering here and there, and a much more strategic view on what education policy and funding should be.

Unsung Heroes

The Conservative Party is full of unsung heroes and one of those is Nonie Bouverat, who most of this site’s readers will have never heard of.  Mrs Bouverat is Chief Executive Officer of the Conservative Foundation, one of whose primary tasks is to raise funds to provide low income parliamentary candidates with bursaries.

This is something I have fought for a long time, and was delighted when Lord Feldman made an initial announcement about this at the 2015 Party Conference.  The website of the Conservative Foundation does not even mention Bouverat, yet it is she who has done so much to get this bursary scheme off the ground.

If the bursary scheme was developed to include supporting councillors and Party members, we could help ensure that low-income members could get a fair deal when they got involved in the Party, especially when standing for elections or travelling to events. Hats off to Bouverat and the Foundation. I hope it goes from strength to strength.

Centre for Rocket Studies

What has happened to the Centre for Policy Studies?  Under its remarkable new director, Robert Colvile, you rarely read a newspaper without hearing about the latest work of the CPS.  Though big under Margaret Thatcher, the CPS later had a few lean years, but now seems to be having a rocket-boosted resurgence, with policy pamphlets a plenty, alongside the great CapX online newspaper promoting Capitalism.

Their latest report, launched by the Prime Minister earlier this week, proposed a £1,000 a month ‘Universal Income’ to raise wages for the lower paid, and a Work Guarantee to ensure that everyone keeps 51p in every extra £1 they earn, partly bu cutting the Universal Credit Taper rate.  Alongside Tory Workers, the CPS are carving out a Conservative-minded, pro-Workers agenda. All power to the CPS-ers!

Universities and value for money

My Education Select Committee published a report this week in which we noted that 49 per cent of graduates are not in graduate jobs.  We need a rethink of Higher Education – more focused on graduate outcomes, more committed to skills and vocational education, and more devoted to really giving the disadvantaged a chance to climb the Higher Education Ladder of Opportunity.

Re-introducing means-tested maintenance grants would help, as well as more Degree Apprenticeships, as these students earn whilst they learn. The number of part-time students has declined by half over the past few years, so why not introduce flexible learning, by which students can hop on and off courses and build up credits? Why do we need the traditional, rigid three year structure?  Of course, excessive Vice Chancellor pay should be curtailed too. That must be a job for the new Office for Students.

1922 Drama (not)

I read every weekend in the Sunday newspapers that the end of the Tory world is nigh.  A week or so ago, we were told by the media that the 1922 meeting with Theresa May would take on the role of some show-trial court of the Prime Minister, with a ‘noose’ in the offing, and the distinguished Sir Graham Brady acting out the role of Judge Roland Freisler.

So I arrived at the meeting on my electronic Segway Rollerscoot (it is always a long walk otherwise to Committee Room 14) expecting great drama.  Many journalists were outside in Commons Committee Corridor with pens and pads – a bit like the old ladies with their knitting needles waiting around the French Revolution’s guillotines for the next execution.

As it happened, it was a good-natured affair, with Theresa May being quite frank about her views (whether you agreed with them or not). Sir Graham was more Rumpole of the Bailey than Roland, as MPs were called to give their views on the EU.  As I left this most august occasion, journos asked me what I thought. I could only reply, that the Prime Minister was ‘honest’.