David Gauke: Sue Gray’s report. Yes, the Met should have been more robust earlier. But there’s no evidence of a stitch-up.

31 Jan

David Gauke is a former Justice Secretary, and was an independent candidate in South-West Hertfordshire at the recent general election.

The decision of the Metropolitan Police to request that Sue Gray make only minimal reference to those events that may result in a criminal prosecution has provoked great anger. Frustrating though the intervention is for all who want to see this matter resolved one way or the other (well, one way in particular, for many of us) and inept though the Met’s communications have been, a lot of the criticism is over the top.

There is no evidence of a ‘stitch-up’, as Ed Davey has suggested, between the Government and Number 10. Could the Met have taken a more robust approach earlier in this process? Yes, but their experience of investigating politicians and then getting drawn into political controversy (see Tony Blair and cash for peerages or the arrest of Damien Green) has made them cautious.

Could their communications have been much clearer in the last few days? Absolutely. Cressida Dick set out the criteria by which it was decided to launch an investigation, which was very helpful, but the Met appears to have been all over the place as to whether it wanted to limit what Sue Gray should say.

Is it clear why the police have now requested ‘minimal’ references? Not from what the police have said, and their reference to ‘prejudicing’ investigations is curious given that these matters are not going to end up in front of a jury.

But none of this suggests that the police are doing the bidding of Number 10. And there is an explanation for why the police would not want Sue Gray to set out all the facts she has uncovered, best set out by the Secret Barrister.

If the police are undertaking an investigation, they do not want all the evidence known to them to be available to a suspect who can then alter their story to take into account any inconvenient facts. When put this way, if this is the explanation, one can see why the police are not being explicit as to their reasons.

Does any of this matter for the fate of the Prime Minister?

He must have a hope that the longer this goes on, the public gets bored, new stories and issues emerge (Russia and Ukraine being the obvious example), momentum for a change is lost and he survives.

At the moment, this appears to be the predominant view and the intervention by the police appears to have helped him in that sense. But, to step back from this for a moment, the fact that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has concluded that there is evidence of a “flagrant and serious breach” of the lockdown restrictions by people who knew or should have known that this was the case is not encouraging for the Prime Minister. So no, the Met Police have not saved him. His fate is still in the balance.

– – – – – – – – – – –

There was always something odd about the evacuation of animals cared for by the Nowzad charity in Kabul. A great deal of political pressure was placed on the Government to intervene and, no doubt, MPs were receiving plenty of representations from the public on the matter.

At the time, I got the impression that Ben Wallace was resisting prioritising Nowzad (much to his credit, in my view) but was overruled. I tweeted accordingly. (It has to be said that Wallace (who has impressed as Defence Secretary), has recently denied that this is what happened.)

In December, Raphael Marshal, the whistleblowing former Foreign Office official, alleged that resources that could have been used to assist deserving cases were diverted towards the Nowzad staff and animals.

At this point the Prime Minister denied any involvement, even though there was evidence that Trudy Harrison, Johnson’s Parliamentary Private Secretary was heavily involved in communicating with Nowzad, and Dominic Dyer, a colleague of Pen Farthing, had said that that the Prime Minister intervened. Since then, we have had evidence of numerous Foreign Office e-mails stating that the Prime Minister had made the decision.

What is going on? There is the obvious answer – but maybe the Prime Minister is telling the truth, and he did not issue an instruction. What is beyond dispute is that plenty of people in Whitehall thought that he had.

I am not sure what is more concerning – that the Prime Minister made a terrible decision and then lied about it, or that Johnson is telling the truth, someone else made the terrible decision, and persuaded Whitehall that it was the Prime Minister who had done so.

As Alex Thomas of the Institute of Government has pointed out, neither explanation is reassuring. Of course, if it is the latter, the one person who should be most furious and most determined to get to the bottom of this is Boris Johnson. He, after all, is the one who has had his authority usurped. What is he doing to find out?

– – – – – – – – – –

As with any issue, there will always be some people who will link it to Brexit – and “Partygate” is no exception. On one side of the debate there is Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis suggesting that the removal of Johnson will mean it is possible to reverse Brexit.

On the other side, there are those who argue that those calling for Johnson to go are unrepentant remainers seeking revenge. Speaking as an unrepentant remainer who thinks that Johnson should go, I do not think either position is true.

If Johnson goes, his successor will spend the leadership election campaign convincing the electorate of their Brexit credentials – the Conservative Party is too far gone in its espousal of Brexit to reverse course for a long time. Nor is the option of rejoining on the table until there is a seismic shift in public opinion, which has not happened yet. As for the campaign to unseat him being a Remainer affair, that is not the impression I get listening to David Davis, William Wragg or Steve Baker.

Nonetheless, those saying that being anti-Johnsom constitutes being anti-Brexit should keep up the argument. This might help in the short term but the longer that Johnson is linked to Brexit – that to be fully onside with Team Brexit you also have to be part of Team Johnson – the easier the task becomes for those of us who think that the 2016 result was a mistake and that the current distant relationship with the EU needs to be changed.

Go on. Make it all about being a Brexit loyalty test.

Viva the vaccine passport rebellion

10 Dec

What a week it’s been for the Government. With the furore around whether or not Downing Street had a party – or three – the Electoral Commission’s verdict on Boris Johnson’s wallpaper and the arrival of his and Carrie Johnson’s baby daughter, the media has had no end of things to write about.

Unfortunately for the Government, much more negative attention is on its way, due to a growing Conservative rebellion around Coronavirus vaccine passports, which, on Wednesday, Johnson announced would be implemented in England (in what some have called a “diversionary tactic”). 

Although Conservative MPs have been generally supportive of measures to combat Coronavirus, from the Emergency Powers Bill to curfews, something about the passports has pushed them to their limits.

Tens of Conservatives, including Dehenna Davison, Andrew Bridgen and Johnny Mercer have tweeted their disapproval of vaccine passports (which have been introduced in Scotland and Wales), with William Wragg, a member of the Covid Recovery Group, being so brazen as to call for Sajid Javid to “resign” over the latest measures. Expect a mega rebellion on passports on Tuesday, when they’ll be voted on, with talks of up to 100 MPs rejecting the plans.

The Government’s justification for passports has been the quickly-spreading Omicron variant, which has prompted it to unleash its “Plan B” set of restrictions. This includes asking people to work from home when they can from next Monday, as well as making masks compulsory in many indoor settings; two requirements that have received much less, albeit some, criticism compared to passports.

Part of the reason why MPs may have become more concerned about these is the events elsewhere in Europe, which have brought into sharp focus how illiberal restrictions can become. Austria’s decision to make vaccines mandatory has been a wake up call – to say the least. The more cynical will say that some MPs are simply using passports as an opportunity to kick Johnson when he’s down, having disapproved of his policies for a while.

My own view, in regards to the introduction of vaccine passports, is one of mild disbelief that the Government ever contemplated them in the first place, never mind that Johnson said there should be a “national conversation” on mandatory jabs. 

There seem to be far more arguments against passports than those in favour (many of which are based on emotional reasoning – “well I like the idea” – and a desire to conform – “well France has done it”). They are divisive, literally separating society into two; don’t completely stop transmission; no one knows where the cut off point for such passports should be (flu?) and will make life complicated and miserable, with large economic consequences. The Night Time Industries Association has already said passes have caused a 30 and 26 per cent trade drop-off in Scotland and Wales, respectively.

Perhaps the most worrying thing, though, is we simply don’t know the long-term impact. Passports are one giant experiment, which we have discussed with all the seriousness of whether someone should change bank accounts.

In general, vaccine passports seem to symbolise a wider issue with the Government, in the Covid wars, which is that it hasn’t completely decided how to be “Global Britain” yet. Post-Brexit it has the opportunity to show the world a different approach to the pandemic; one that respects civil liberties, and isn’t so far away from Sweden’s more relaxed strategy. Instead, we seem to be “Herd Britain”, constantly keeping an eye on what France and Germany are up to, with a view to emulating them.

Either way, something has changed in the equation. The crucial question next week is how the Government groups the votes on “Plan B”. If MPs can vote on vaccine passports as a lone category, it makes it far easier for the idea to be shot down. On the other hand, if vaccine passports, masks and working from home are placed into a single “Plan B” vote, the Government might find all of its plans in disarray; as Bridgen warned “I will vote against any legislation that sees [passports’] introduction“. That, or it’ll be easier to sell to Labour, which is pro restrictions. Whatever the case, we need a cut off point as to how far measures can go; viva the vaccine passport rebels, I say.

Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: A chastened and humiliated Johnson has to eat humble pie

8 Dec

We saw today a chastened and humiliated Prime Minister. Boris Johnson is generally strong enough, at these encounters, to dictate the terms of debate, by indicating that he finds his opponents ridiculous.

Today, he knew it would be fatal to give any impression he was trying to laugh off the video clip which emerged last night.

Instead he set out to show that “I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing Number Ten’s staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures”.

Those words came in his opening statement: he would eat the gargantuan slice of humble pie which had appeared on his plate before Sir Keir Starmer could instruct him to swallow it down.

The House learned that the video clip was as repugnant to the PM as to anyone else: “Mr Speaker, I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.”

That is not, of course, an admission of guilt. Johnson went on to say he had been “repeatedly assured” there had been no Christmas party and no Covid rules were broken.

But he has asked the Cabinet Secretary “to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible”, and if the rules were broken “there will be disciplinary action for all those involved”.

Here was a major concession of power to the official machine, even if the implication was that the disciplinary action will fall on officials, not on politicians.

Sir Keir Starmer went into prosecutorial mode. Last week he had asked the Prime Minister whether there was “a Christmas party in Downing Street for dozens of people” on 18th December last year.

The Prime Minister, and the Government, had spent the week telling the public there was no such party: “Millions of people will now think the Prime Minister was taking them for fools – that they were lied to. They’re right, aren’t they?”

How Johnson would enjoy, on a normal Wednesday, making fun of his pious, prosy opponent. But today he had to say that he too was “sickened” by and “furious” about the video, and to promise that the “requisite” disciplinary action would be taken.

The Prosecutor demanded: “Will the Prime Minister support the police and support the CPS by handing over everything the Government knows about parties in Downing Street to the Metropolitan Police?”

The Accused made another concession: “Of course we will do that.”

Towards the end of the exchanges, he said Sir Keir had muddied the waters and was playing politics, but this counter-attack was launched without any of Johnson’s usual brio.

He knew that to sound frivolous would be disastrous, when so many members of the public agree with Sir Keir that this is no laughing matter.

Ian Blackford, for the SNP, called at length for the PM to resign, and Johnson replied, with brevity, that Blackford too was playing politics.

A more pointed and painful jab came from his own backbenches. William Wragg (Hazel Grove) referred to media reports that Covid Plan B was about to be implemented, and said “very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic”.

The PM replied that “no decisions will be taken without consulting the Cabinet”.

So perhaps, like the Cabinet Secretary, the Cabinet will acquire greater power to restrain the PM.

Johnson can never have endured a more gruelling PMQs. In adversity, he was forced to strike a note of high moral seriousness, and penitence, which in prosperous days he would regard as an intolerable concession to his critics.

McVey, Walker and Wragg. The most rebellious Conservative MPs in our survey of major votes.

22 Jun

Last week, ConservativeHome published a list of the 49 Conservative MPs who voted against the Coronavirus Regulations. As we said at the time, it was the biggest Covid rebellion since December 2, and a reminder that even if a Government has a huge majority, it can easily be rocked about by unprecedented events (a pandemic).

From 2020 and 2021, we have been keeping track of rebellions. It’s worth adding that rebellions can take various forms – Chris Green resigning as a ministerial aide, for instance – and that there have been many minor ones, so there may be one MP who is technically the most rebellious on less prominent issues. However, for the purpose of one article we’ve focused on major voting events. So who exactly has pushed back the most?

First of all, here is a list of the rebellions we tracked – with a nickname and link to recap on what each was about:

And without further ado, we can reveal that Esther McVey, Charles Walker and William Wragg are joint first in our “most rebellious MP” league table – with nine rebellions to their names. Here’s how they rebelled.

Esther McVey:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Curfew
  5. Lockdown
  6. Tiers
  7. Third lockdown
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus regulations

Charles Walker:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Genocide Amendment
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus regulations

William Wragg:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Curfew
  5. Lockdown
  6. Tiers
  7. Genocide Amendment
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus Regulations

MPs who have rebelled on eight occasions:

Graham Brady:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Philip Davies:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Richard Drax:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Andrew Rosindell:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Genocide Amendment
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Desmond Swayne:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

MPs who have rebelled on seven occasions:

Philip Hollobone:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Tiers
  5. Genocide Amendment
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus Regulations

Tim Loughton:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Genocide Amendment
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Anne Marie Morris:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Henry Smith:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Robert Syms:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. 10pm curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

MPs who have rebelled on six occasions:

Peter Bone:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

Christopher Chope:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Coronavirus Act 1
  6. Coronavirus regulations

David Davis:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Tiers
  4. Genocide Amendment
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

Stephen McPartland:

  1. Huawei
  2. Lockdown
  3. Tiers
  4. Third lockdown
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

John Redwood:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

David Warburton:

  1. Huawei
  2. Tiers
  3. Third lockdown
  4. Genocide Amendment
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations
Some more notes:
  • We have stopped with MPs who have rebelled a maximum of six times during this period (out of 10 in total).
  • It’s interesting to note that some “familiar faces” when one thinks of a Tory rebel aren’t included in our league – Mark Harper, for instance, who leads the Covid Recovery Group.
  • Lastly, there are some new faces to our rebellion list: Siobhan Baillie, Karen Bradley and Miriam Cates were some of the MPs to recently vote against Coronavirus regulations.

Cummings Reborn – as the champion of Parliament. He has given MPs more power, so leaving the inquiry with less.

26 May

Dominic Cummings’ marathon evidence session was bad for Ministers, bad for the civil service, bad for government – and, not least, bad for Cummings, as he turned his gun on himself, so to speak, in the wake of his drive-by shooting.

That’s to say, it was bad for all of these if the public take any notice, rather than following Clark Gable: “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.  Should they?

Some will make snap judgements about what Cummings’ evidence said about how we’re governed, whether voters care or not.  Or sigh world-wearily instead, and say that it was ever thus.

Others will try to work out which politicians are damaged most.  Or which civil servants and government departments are.  Or whether Cummings was angling for a job under a Rishi Sunak or Michael Gove-led administration.

Others still will say that the Labour manifesto of 1983 can no longer claim the title of the longest suicide note in history.  Because Cummings’ evidence has overhauled it.

Whatever your view, the very length and density of the evidence defies an instant take.  Except that its core message was Martin Amis’ definition of entropy: Everything Fucks Up.

However, one point hits home immediately.  Yesterday, Cummings bent the passage of time.  That’s to say, he brought politics forward from the Covid inquiry – and dumped it on the floor of the Commons.

Did Boris Johnson so dismiss the virus’ threat as to suggest injecting himself with it on live TV?  Did Carrie Symonds act illegally in relation to an appointment?  Did Matt Hancock lie “on multiple occasions”?

Did Mark Sedwill, then Cabinet Secretary, propose “chicken pox parties” in order that as many people as possible catch the virus?  Did the Prime Minister “not want a proper border policy”?

Was there never a plan to shield care homes or test those entering – contrary to assurances from the Health Secretary? Aren’t the dead and their families owed so much better?  And is the key problem that haunts the British people or systems?

For on the one hand, Cummings said that the crisis required “a kind of dictator” with “close to kingly authority”.  On the other, he claimed that even Bill Gates or “the most competent people in the world…would have had an absolute nightmare”.

For better or worse, Cummings’ evidence will give MPs opportunities to put all these questions soon rather than later (i.e: after the next election, in all probability, when the inquiry at last reports – by which time some of them will no longer be in the Commons).

And not just in the chamber.  Whatever else can be said of today’s session, it was a triumph for the Select Committee system.  Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt – an old double act that once wrote a pamphlet together – were sober, prepared and measured.

Pan the camera out a bit, and you can see how Select Committees are enjoying a revival.  Major inquiries have not usually been undertaken in Parliament during recent years.

Bloody Sunday, child abuse, the Iraq War: all the main ones in the last few decades, stretching all way back to the Franks Report on the Falklands War and beyond, have been farmed out by the Executive to judges (or lay experts).

But where Hunt and Clark walked today, they will continue tomorrow.  The Health Secretary faces an evidence session.  Parliamentary questions will be asked of him in the Commons today.  Johnson is to make a statement.

Other committees may get in on the act – just as they have over the Greensill collapse, over which a Treasury Select Committee inquiry is up and running.  The Business Committee has one coming.  The Public Administration Committee has already got one going.

Now have a think about who some of those committee chairmen are.  Hunt, Health Select Committee: Johnson’s leadership rival (and the man in charge of pandemic prep under previous governments).  Clark, Science Select Committee, who Johnson sacked from the Cabinet.

Mel Stride, Treasury Select Committee Chair, ditto.  (Well, almost: as Commons Leader under Theresa May, he had the right to attend.)  William Wragg, Public Administration: a persistent critic of the Government over lockdown.

What an irony it is that Cummings, who once refused to attend a Select Committee, and was threatened with a summons to the bar of the Commons, has been falling over himself in his eagerness to give evidence.

And that he, the razer of institutions – not least Parliament – has helped to restore it.  Or at least given it a chance to revive itself, and get ahead of an inquiry before its members have even been appointed.

The 33 Conservative MPs who rebelled over the Genocide Amendment

19 Jan
  • Ahmad Khan, Imran
  • Amess, David
  • Blackman, Bob
  • Blunt, Crispin
  • Bridgen, Andrew

 

  • Crouch, Tracey
  • Davis, David
  • Djanogly, Jonathan
  • Duncan Smith, Iain
  • Ellwood, Tobias

 

  • Francois, Mark
  • Ghani, Nusrat
  • Gillan, Cheryl
  • Gray, James
  • Green, Damian

 

  • Hart, Sally-Anne (pictured)
  • Hoare, Simon
  • Hollobone, Philip
  • Jenkin, Bernard
  • Latham, Pauline

 

  • Lewer, Andrew
  • Lewis, Julian
  • Loughton, Tim
  • Mackinlay, Craig
  • Nokes, Caroline

 

  • Richards, Nicola
  • Rossindell, Andrew
  • Seely, Bob
  • Tugendhat, Tom
  • Wakeford, Christian

 

  • Walker, Charles
  • Warburton, David
  • Wragg, William

Today’s genocide amendment had no relation whatsoever to recent votes on Covid – or other major rebellions that this site has been chronicling.

But there is considerable overlap between the rebels on those lists and on this one.  And even newcomers to our records such as Sally-Ann Hart and Nicola Richards have voted against the Government previously (though rarely).

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the amendment, lists of those defying the whips now have a certain predictability.

“Huge concerns”…”I cannot support this policy”…levelling over green fields with concrete”. Tory backbenchers on the Goverment’s housing plans.

9 Oct

“This is not levelling up. It is concreting out,” Bob Seely wrote yesterday morning on this site about the Government’s White Paper on planning reform, and his Commons debate on the subject later in the day.

His article criticised the algorithm that sets out how many houses are needed in which places – which was originally brought to public notice by our columnist Neil O’Brien.

Would Seely’s colleagues agree with him?  Here are some snap extracts from speeches by Conservative backbenchers who spoke yesterday.

  • Theresa May: “We need to reform the planning system….But we will not do that by removing local democracy, cutting the number of affordable homes that are built and building over rural areas. Yet that is exactly what these reforms will lead to.”
  • Philip Hollobone: “The Government are being sent a clear message by Back Benchers today that they have got this wrong and they need to think again.”
  • Jason McCartney: “I have huge concerns about the supposed new housing formula or algorithm. I think we have all had enough of algorithms this year.”
  • Neil O’Brien: “Ministers should fundamentally rethink this formula so that it actually hits the target. Yes, we should build more houses, but we should do it in the right places.”
  • Chris Grayling: “I regret to say that, even as a loyal supporter of the Government, I cannot support this policy in its current form.”
  • Jeremy Hunt: “In short, I am concerned that these proposals do not recognise serious risks…The Government must think again.”
  • Damian Green: “This will not be levelling-up; it will be levelling over green fields with concrete.”
  • Damian Hinds: “I encourage [the Minister] and the Government to think again about some of these important matters.”
  • Caroline Nokes: “The Housing Minister and I were first elected in 2010 on a manifesto that committed to no more top-down housing targets, and this algorithm looks suspiciously like a top-down target.”
  • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: “The real flaw in the White Paper is that all it does is concentrate building in the south-east and central south of England”.
  • Clare Coutino: “I seriously worry about centrally designed housing numbers which do not take into account a local area’s capacity to deliver.”
  • Luke Evans: “I am also concerned that the formula does not take into account infrastructure, as has been mentioned, or future plans for generations.”
  • Karen Bradley: “How can it be the case that the Government are now considering any form of central target, because that is exactly what the algorithm looks like?”
  • Laurence Robertson: “As things stand, I think that the housing numbers will take precedence. That is wrong and it goes against what we stand for as a party.”
  • Crispin Blunt: “The presentation that the Government have made is potentially catastrophic for delivering the wider objectives of Government policy.”
  • Harriet Baldwin: “Let us move away from the Gordon Brown approach and the top-down imposition of Stalinist housing targets.”
  • Gareth Bacon: “I urge the Government to heed the words of hon. Members in this debate and to revisit the proposals.”
  • Kieran Mullen: “Why are we going down a route that is likely to cause upset and tear up some local decision making when we could tackle the issue through that existing route?”
  • Laura Trott: The White Paper…says that the green belt will be protected, and that is right, but we see no evidence that this is being taken into account in the algorithm.”

That’s 19 backbenchers critical of important aspects of the proposals.

Furthermore, Scott Mann referred diplomatically to “some challenges within the White Paper”; Gareth Johnson said “it is essential that we bring local authorities with us in proposing these targets”; William Wragg wants to ” abandon the notion that planning is something that is done to communities”, and Richard Fuller, while saying that the Government “is on to something”, also said the targets for his local area are unmanageable.

Only James Grundy spoke from the Tory benches without any criticism of the plans.

No wonder that Andy Slaughter, from the Labour benches, gleefully pointed out that “there are 55 Conservative Back Benchers hoping to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker”.

Chris Pincher, the Housing Minister, pointed out that the proposals are out for consultation, and reiterated (as in his recent ConservativeHome article) that “over the past two months my Department has actively engaged with the sector and is listening to feedback. Many right hon. and hon. Members will know that I too have been listening and discussing carefully”.

In short, he was distancing himself and the Government from the algorithm numbers.  But we think it worth grabbing some highlights from yesterday’s speeches because, on this showing, opposition on the Tory benches is not confined to the algorithm.  Ministers will find a central feature of their plans, top-down housing targets for local authorities, very difficult to get through the Commons, at least as presently constituted.

The twelve Conservative MPs who voted yesterday evening against the rule of six

7 Oct

They were –

  • Peter Bone.
  • Graham Brady.
  • Philip Davies.
  • Richard Drax.
  • Philip Hollobone.

 

  • Esther McVey.
  • Merriman, Huw.
  • Henry Smith.
  • Desmond Swayne.
  • Robert Syms.

 

  • Charles Walker.
  • William Wragg.

That’s the seven who voted against renewing the Coronavirus Act – Bone, Davies, Hollobone, McVey, Swayne, Walker and Wragg – plus five newcomers, including the Chairman of the 1922 Executive Committee.

The Daily Telegraph reports that a vote on the 10pm closing time in pubs or restaurants has been delayed until next week, “after dozens of Conservatives threatened to rebel and Labour refused to publicly back the measure”.

These are early shots in the developing Tory backbench campaign against the restrictions, which will carry on gaining volume and verocity if these and the Government’s test and track system fail to deliver.

The seven Conservative MPs who voted against renewing the Coronavirus Act

1 Oct

They were

  • Peter Bone.
  • Philip Davies.
  • Philip Hollobone.
  • Esther McVey.
  • Desmond Swayne.
  • Charles Walker.
  • William Wragg.

These MPs were presumably not satisfied with the compromise reached between the Government and Graham Brady over future votes on any changes to Act’s provisions.

They include some of the most committed Brexiteers in the Parliamentary, some of whom operate at a certain distance from the European Research Group: Bone and Hollobone especially.

Swayne told the Commons earlier this week that “I certainly hold up the Swedish model as an alternative”, and clearly he is not alone in thinking so among this band of backbenchers.