David Maddox: Some surprising Tory names oppose Lords reform, but it’s not about that, it’s about hating the Lib Dems
THE elixir of ambition is still the strongest and best means of controlling MPs when it comes to tricky subjects for the leadership of any party.
Whatever the party there is nothing more guaranteed to send the chill of fear down the spine – such as it is – of a bright young thing hoping for ministerial advancement than the threat from a whip: “Your career will be dead if you don’t toe the line.”
So with this in mind the letter signed by about 70 Tory backbenchers opposing reform of the House of Lords, which would bring elections to the Upper House, has startled a few seasoned political observers.
Most of the names on it are the usual suspects whose days of hoping for promotion are long since passed. Critics like Bill Cash, David Davis or even traditionalists like Malcolm Rifkind and Nicholas Soames are hardly a surprise. But included are some of the best of the crop in the 2010 intake.
These include names like Portsmouth North’s Penny Mordaunt, Winchester MP Steve Brine, Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage and Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart. All four of these MPs are ambitious and expected sooner or later to fill ministerial roles and maybe eventually climb through the ranks of the government.
They all also come from the modernising “Cameron” side of the party and are not exactly the types you would expect to see throw their careers away to save the likes of Lords Forsyth and Foulkes, not that the latter even wants saving.
Ms Dinenage was part of a Tory backbench campaign group to stop fox hunting being relegalised. Mr Brine is an outspoken critic of the hang ’em and flog ’em brigade. Ms Mordaunt moved on from a right wing PR agency because of her support for Cameron’s modernisation of the Tories.
If it looks strange then usually it means something is going on behind the scenes. While they may have a principled objection to Lords reform it is hard to believe they feel it so passionately to ruin their careers.
It is possible these ambitious rebels have decided they are fed up with the Lib Dems. Mr Brine was heavily involved with the health reforms and will not have been impressed by what they see as Lib Dem duplicity in trying to scupper them. Most of the rebels hate the Lib Dems and want the coalition finished, and see this as a way of ensuring the coalition will end at the next election and maybe before.
It is also possible that midway through the parliament, with the government U-turning and floundering, they have simply decided Cameron is finished and it’s not worth being loyal any more. This is the least likely.
What appears to be happening is that the Tory whips are giving the nod to let MPs rebel. Lords reform is not in the coalition agreement and maybe they have decided it’s worth humiliating Nick Clegg over something most Tories don’t really want, even though it was in their manifesto.
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