The mood of Parliament

 

           This week has seen important changes of moods within and between the parties at Westminster. A Labour party asleep when it came to the job of opposition has woken up to campaign against the Cable plan for Higher Educaiton. It has united them for a few days and given them purpose, after weeks of bickering, failing to vote against important government measures,and failing to provide enough speakers in main debates

             The Liberal Democrats have decided to air their disagreements in public in a protracted and damaging way, according to them.  Today I heard a Lib Dem MP on the Today programme telling us it has been damaging. I then heard that the Deputy Leader has decided not to support Dr Cable’s policy. They are likely to end up split in such a way that they make no difference to the overall vote, as an equal number are likely to vote Yes and to vote No.

               Which brings me to the Conservatives. There are quite enough Conservatives to defeat Labour and the smaller parties over tuition fees, assuming a happy and willing team. Last week when I made enquiries I was told that David Davis would vote against, and maybe two others. All seemed quiet and under control from the government’s point of view. There was little discussion of the Higher Education issue amongst Conservatives around the Commons.

                The last couple of days have seen a change of mood. MPs including many elected for the first time in 2010 queued up to tell the government its EU Bill does not do what Conservatives want. Many Conservatives are angry about the increase in the EU budget, the expansion of the EU diplomatic service, the surrender of powers in Home affairs, the involvement in the Euro bail outs, the increase in EU City regulation and the forthcoming EU Treaty change on Economic governance.  The unfortunate decision to launch an inadequate EU bill two days before the tuition fees vote has led to more backbench doubts about the HE strategy.

               Many of the new MPs have also found  weaknesses in the new expenses system from both taxpayers’ and MPs’ points of view. The government’s decision to block a backbench bill to seek to resolve the issues about the current scheme, after accepting a Motion requiring change a day earlier, has added to their annoyance.

                Conservative MPs did not want to vote for a referendum on the Alternative Vote, a system they dislike. Many did not want a reduction in the number of MPs and the boundary changes that entails so soon after winning their seats for the first time. They did not want to support the increased External Action Service of the EU or the expanded EU budget. They did not like the 5 year Parliament  bill, the increase in the EU and Overseas Aid budgets nor some of the defence cuts.

                         This week is the week when many of the new MPs on the Conservative side have decided they want change in the way they are treated and in the balance of policies put forward by the government. I think they will give the government its HE Bill, but they are also putting down markers about the problems that worry them.

                         These three developments certainly make Parliament interesting again.

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38 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Clearly its probably better its interesting, but is anyone at the top table listening ?

  2. Rob Hay
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    We are getting exactly what coalition governments always give- the worst of both parties agendas with the good stuff lost. Tuition fees as proposed are unfair not only because of the amount or the way they are administered but because they only apply to English students despite the others being subsidized by English taxpayers, meaning we not only pay for our kids to go to university but also Scots and Welsh kids too. Why is it services like universities, police and legal aid that bear the brunt of cuts when there are at least 3 million useless civil servants that could be sacked thereby saving tens of billions and eliminating masses of red tape?
    This government (and every other for the last 40 years) is way too soft on the EU. Why not simply refuse to go along with the ridiculous and criminal Brussels elite and their money grabbing? What could they do? Expel us? Good. That would save even more.
    Follow the New Zealand example and do away with whole government departments ditch bank guarantees and focus on delivering the basic services well. There is too much government sucking the life out of the real economy.

    • Jose
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely spot on!
      Far too many MPs and far too much legislation thanks to the EU and far too many layers of governement.
      I somehow think if we ‘started’ again we wouldn’t have what we’ve got now!

      • BobE
        Posted December 10, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Well the Lib Dems are finished as a party. That makes us a two party state. With labour a shoe in as it gains the student vote.

  3. michael read
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    On tuition fees. Without the help given to you by the state and charity in your education I doubt if we’d have the pleasure of witnessing your thoughts here.

    A £50,000 debt before you’ve earned a penny. Your mum and dad would be spinning.

    Reply: I went on to a well paid job in the City and had to pay 83% Income Tax on part of my earnings. The loan would have been a cheaper option.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Yes good old Denis Healey 83% (and 15% investment income surcharge to0 so 98% if I recall correctly). What on earth makes an intelligent northern boy (educated at Bradford Grammar School winning an exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, to read Greats) such a twit as to do this to the country which then had to trot off to the International Monetary Fund cap in hand. Needless to say he is still often revered by the BBC as some great sage doubtless the economic sage Gordon Brown will replace him for the next 30 years.

      Perhaps he just wanted everyone to leave?

    • Robert
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      It would be also fair to point out that when John went to Uni (I am guessing here) only c. 15% of the population did (consequently there was a much lower burden on the Exchequer) compared to the ludicrous 40+% now. There is no correlation between spending more on education and outcome nor does more people going to University mean a higher sustainable level of GDP!…. Social mobility through excellance works not social engineering !

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        So much of “education” now is nonsense or propaganda. It is not education in the science and natural laws of physics, not how to make or do useful things but in the man made nonsenses of health and safety, the absurd legal system, the farcical complexities of tax law, the mad world of renewables, planning laws and the fabulously ornate new and parasitic equality industry and the associated legal claims industry.

        Up to 90% of efforts of management in a business is on these pointless distractions to the real activites of the business.

    • michael read
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I’m the product of a generation that thought HP, indeed all debt, was the devil’s work. Hence my conservatism.

      I can’t help an uneasy feeling that the £50k tuition debt offer is something akin to those ninja sub-prime mortgages which lay at the heart of the 2007 banking bust.

      What a legacy for our kids. This will almost certainly kill the Lib-Dems, damage the Conservative party and favour the Labour party ( whose opposition is opportunism rather than principle ).

      I hope you’re wearing an asbestos suit this afternoon, and possibly thereafter, as you take the walk of fire.

    • Andy
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      John,

      If nearly 50% of school leaders go on to be graduates, what percentage of them do you think will end up on a salary similar to the one you were on? This tax rate was for people earning the earning the equivalent of £155,247 per year. Only a very few high flyers can expect to earn that at any point in their careers.

      In any case, graduates will have to pay back the fees + interest AND pay high income tax, who is to say that this won’t ever be 80% again in the 30 year period people will be paying off their education fees?

  4. norman
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Just hold out until May when the AV referendum will be defeated, Lib Dems loss of council seats and poor showing in the Scottish elections. One imagines that there must be a good chance the Lib Dems will implode (maybe with Clegg being deposed) shortly afterwards which will bring this sorry state of affairs to an end.

    Then the right wing can rouse itself from its self-imposed 5 year slumber.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Perhaps but Labour would probably scrape a win in that case perhaps best to leave now.

      • norman
        Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        Let’s face it, the way things are at the moment Labour would win whenever an election is called, or at least be in a position to enter a coalition with the Lib Dems, which the Lib Dem membership will be delighted at – get rid of Clegg and the Nasty Party in one go. And with Labour’s current record, and non-existant opposition that is about as damning critique of the current government as is possible.

        Cameron has so much invested in the Lib Dems, and Clegg, that if they collapse he has to go too. No way can the Party allow Cameron to lead us into an election after the shambles he has made of things. I believe our best hope is for the coalition to collapse mid-2011, Cameron and his band of merry men will have to go, get an actual conservative in as leader.

        My main fear is that Cameron will try and push for a ‘Yes’ vote in the AV election to placate his like minded colleagues and save his skin for another 4 years, at the cost of placing the Conservative Party in opposition in perpetuity.

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

          Quite likely!

  5. startledcod
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Zut alors, MPs doing their jobs holding (or indicating that they might hold) the Executive to account, communicating the views of those that elected them. JR the rumblings that you are picking up are of the concerns that matter to many, many people.

    I agree with Rob Hay in that we have much to learn form New Zealand and the inestimable Roger Douglas who, having transformed NZs economy as a Labour Finance Minister, is still churning it out, day in day out, but almost always bang on the money. Much like yourself!

    As my son starts University in the US in January I have very recent experience of an alternative system with widely varying fee levels. Admittedly as an overseas student he is not eligible for financial assistance but there are a plethora of schemes to ensure that talented locals get in without hardship. Equally we are able to examine different college’s courses and how good they are, the value for money they offer and how their alumni fare. Students are canny spenders when their own money is on the line (hence the success of happy hour promotions) and would learn to the same here in time.

  6. oldtimer
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Thes are, in part, the consequences of coalition and the reason why coalitions are such a lousy idea. We finish up with wishy washy outcomes that solve little and compound problems.

    In time there will be other issues to add to your list, not least the nonsenses imposed on us all by the last government in the name of controlling the climate. The Parliamentary arrogance and groupthink behind these measures will, in time, come back and bite MPs with a vengeance.

  7. startledcod
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Further to my earlier post I believe a non-hysterical battle with the EU could be the Government’s Falklands, taking on the ‘enemy’ in Britain’s national interest. Cue landslide.

    • David Eyles
      Posted December 10, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      I quite agree. This, after all, would be the logical extension of “localism” and would do more for engendering public interest in British politics than anything else.

  8. Oliver Eills
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,

    Can you tell me why, during the HE debate, nobody has seriously proposed having fewer students (and possibly fewer HE establishments) , while at the same time, improving the quality of education and its academic rigour?

    Kind regards,

    Oliver

  9. Cliff.
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    If our elected MPs from all parties start to think for themselves and start actually representing the views of their constituents then, for me, that is a good thing.

    Since Mr Blair’s government, the party leader and the whips have had far to much control and power over our elected representatives, with only those that don’t rely on the benevolence of their party leader for a good job or furthering their fledgling career actually standing up and saying what they feel if their view is contrary to that of their party’s leader.
    I for one would welcome seeing again, the true separation of powers especially regarding the executive and the legislature. Dictator or presidential style party leaders and PMs are not good for our democracy.

    Again John, congratulations for making an honest and forceful speech during the EU Bill and shame on our leadership for giving in to the EUSSR.

    Cliff
    Wokingham.

  10. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    The mood of Tory MPs may be changing, but no matter how disgruntled they become the whips will still be there to bully and bribe them through the correct lobby, and we still be paying the whips extra salary to do that.

    http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/guides/factsheets1/members-elections/m05/

    Additional salaries:

    Government Chief Whip £79,754
    Government Deputy Chief Whip £41,370
    Government Whip £26,624
    Assistant Government Whip £26,624

    I find an extraordinary arrangement that an MP’s constituents should actually be paying for other MPs to force him into ignoring their wishes and interests.

  11. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    While we are in coalition, we will continue to be constrained in our European policy. It might be a good idea to think ahead to the time when Spain – a much bigger economy than Ireland, Greece or Portugal – holds out its begging bowl. This will be in about a year from now when Spain has to refinance.

    We must have a distinctive Conservative European policy in our next manifesto. It must be based on a fundamental renegotiation of our relationship with the EU. The manifesto should also state that if we don’t get such a renegotiation, then we will repeal the Lisbon Treaty and scrap the European Bill of rights with immediate effect.

  12. Cliff
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Regarding the mood of parliament, I wonder whether the current mood is born out of a sense of frustration bought about by members feeling unable to follow their own party’s policies.
    To me, it seems that no party had the necessary support to implement it’s own agenda and therefore, there had to be a compromise which, as someone said earlier, is the worst of each of the party’s manifestos.

    By the way John, how is the great repeal bill going? I wonder if that too has been kicked into touch, given that Ms Harmans so called equality legislation is reported as still going ahead next year.
    How is the reduction in the number of quangos and government agencies going, because it seems to me that Mr Cameron has created a few more since becoming PM?

  13. Derek Buxton
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Sir, I too liked your speech at the “debate” on the Sovereignty Bill and put up a comment on it. I was therefore surprised to read a little later that attendance of MP had been sparse, was it 30 to 40 on the government benches and 15 or so on the opposition side. That was until the Division bell rang, and hundreds were there to vote, no doubt as their party leaders or whips instructed. Seems as if there was no interest or conflict in something that is so important, our Sovereignty. It is certainly important to me and I am sure to many others especially as a coach and horses has been driven through our Constitution in the last few years.

  14. Henry Crun
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps this increase in tuition fees will focus the minds of those who regard a university education as a divine right. It isn’t.

    Rather than bleat about how much they will have to pay on completion of the degree, future students would be better deciding what it is they really want to do with their lives instead of a three year booze-up at tax-payers’ expense. A degree in Wayne Rooney studies isn’t going to be of any merit in the workplace.

    A university degree is an investment in one’s own future and should be valued as such. If you don’t want to pay for it, don’t go.

    For the record, yes I do have a degree and yes I did pay for it myself working part-time jobs to fund my education.

  15. Henry Crun
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    A question for Mr. Redwood.

    Scotland does not have tuition fees and the Welsh Assembly is promising to fund Welsh students regardless of which university they attend. Will Scottish and Welsh MPs excuse themselves from the vote in the HOC later?

    Reply: Of course not, which is why I want English votes on English issues.

    • Henry Crun
      Posted December 10, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your reply Mr. Redwood and I will support you every step of the way.

  16. Deborah
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    You believe “they will give the government its HE Bill,”.
    That is what is wrong with our “democracy”. Politicians think it is their gift .
    Whatever happened to standing up for what you believe in or representing the wishes of the people?
    The whole party system stinks.

  17. Dee, Sussex
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Never mind about tuition fees – the more important issue is the anti EU stance. Mr Cameron appears to have lost his euro sceptism in his love for the Lib/Dems. Does he intend to dessert the millions of voters who do not wish to accept ruling from Brussels? I thought he was a man of integrity, now I have grave doubts. Dee, Sussex

  18. Amanda
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    If this be true, then Allelujah !! It is a start, at last.

  19. Gary
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    The govt has lost touch with the people. There is a sub-text to this demo, and it is not the payment for services in particular. That can be rationally argued, and should be accepted. The deeper resentment is that these charges have been foisted onto people who in turn had a crises foisted upon them by profligate bankers. The only reason these tution fees are now so urgent, is that the bankers crashed the economy and took the bonuses, and continue to do so, making the rest pay first for their bailout and now for sundry fees, including tuition fees. We have a class of people who are responsible for the global credit calamity and who continue to live high on the hog, and the innocent who have had their pockets picked, have to cough up and pay. And what was the politicians response ? “Next time we could use water cannon and other more violent means of control”, to paraphrase Boris Johnson today on Radio 4

    If politicians don’t wake up, they will be staring at a class insurrection that could grow very ugly. This is what revolutions are made of.

  20. Gary
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    What needs to be done, is first put a stop to all bankers bonuses immediately and mark the banks books to market and put the banks into bankruptcy, where applicable. Probably all of them. If the taxpayer did not bail them out they would now be in the gutter and broke, without even a basic salary. If this was a free market that would have been the correct end result of them incompetently running hopelessly overrisked businesses. We now know that ALL the banks took taxpayer bailouts, and the ones who squealed the loudest that they took no taxpayer bailouts, took the most ! That these people can turned around and hold a gun to the head of the govt and the taxpayer has to continue to cough up is beyond Chutzpah. We should call their bluff and when they threaten to leave we should roll out the red carpet and escort them to the aircraft. Within a day , mutuals, post offices, private security companies, pawnshops and others would step into the breach and store savers deposits, make loans and act as clearing houses. They are doing it already.

    The govt needs wake up and to get onto the bankers case with urgency, because if they keep punishing the people, they will reap a firestorm. That is not my opinion, this could be gleaned from watching yesterday’s tution demos.

  21. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Politics is politics and we grumble and live with it.
    However there are some extremely serious things that need addressing:
    1. The growing totally dictatorial power of the EU.
    2. The weakening currency and general lack of productivity.
    3. The two nations: one sleek, well educated, bright future (little Straw for example). The other poor, badly parented, lousy schools, no chance of university etc etc, life on the rock’n’roll, drugs, hopeless despair. And then lots of unwanted children.

    Only the third seems to have been addressed so far.

  22. Geoffrey Harrison
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I have been a faithful Conservative voter since 1979. It was the prospect of Margaret Thatcher ending the horrendous Labour government and my own revulsion at what my votes for Labour had brought about from 1966 until then that turned me to the Conservative cause.

    Frankly, Conseravtive MPs becoming restless now may, finally, drive me to being a non-voter in my declining years.

    It was the selfish and arrogant behaviour of a small core of Conservative MPs who failed to give their full support to John Major (are you hearing me?), their greed and arrant self-aggrandisement that brought to an end the finest continuous 19 years of government this country has ever seen and ushered in the New Labour disaster in economic circumstances, the like of which we’ve never previously enjoyed. That NL blighted this nation for 13 years is also down to this small group of Conservative MPs whose disregard for the voters was unparalleled even by the toe-rags on the Labour benches.

    But it wasn’t those miscreants that cost the Conservatives so much at the ballot box that paid the price but we, loyal voters of all income levels, who paid the price in higher taxes, wasteful spending, nonsense in all policy areas you care to name and now all the pain of having to put the country to rights again.

    The last 13 years made little difference to the cash for questions generation MPs, the questionable personal behaviour and scandal-ridden Tories. Not a jot. But WE paid the price for their weaknesses.

    Now, some of you want to go the same way and bring the house crashing down again by threatening the coalition.

    Do it again, and you’ll have lost me and millions like me for ever.

    • Winston's Black Dog
      Posted December 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Sir

      Do you wish the UK to be an independent country or to be a province of another country called EU?

      That is the stark choice we face and the reason why courageous politicians like Mr Redwood defied the whip in a vain attempt to halt the treasonous, traitorous treachery of John Major and his henchmen.

      Mr Cameron has broken his “cast-iron” guarantee to give us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, decimated the British Navy by mothballing our independent Aircraft harrier whilst simultaneously binding us ultimately to a European Army by the back door with his treaty with the French. He has also decimated the Higher Education budget in order to bail out a currency we are not even part of.

      More power to the elbows of any Conservative MPs who grow some balls and defy the Coalition leadership on EU matters!

      • Geoffrey Harrison
        Posted December 13, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        No doubt you’ll be the first to complain when the posturing you advocate leads to the return of a Labour government.

        • Winston's Black Dog
          Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          As things stand the EU call the shots.

          It makes not a scrap of difference which of Labour, Liberal or Conservative nominally claim to be calling the shots in Westminster all the time we remain within the EU.

          So to answer your point no I won’t.

  23. Ian Michie
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I would like to commend & thank David Cameron for his “sterling” efforts to promote & enhance UKIP.

    Keep up the good work.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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