Loyalty and the Coalition

 

               As an MP I have always thought I should be loyal to my constituents, to my country and to my party – in that order. I have always taken seriously what I promised electors at the last Election and done my best to further those aims. When the Conservative party has won an election and formed a majority government, I have felt I should usually   be loyal to the Manifesto of the party. When we lose an election the party itself usually changes or cancels some of  its promises from the previous election, as it seeks a more attractive package for the next one. In Opposition the last Manifesto is a starting point for improving the party’s policies, not a binding contract.

              A Coalition government is clearly different. Its programme contains items which did not form part of the Conservative Manifesto, and leaves out important items that were in that Manifesto. The Lib Dems have just demonstrated that they do not think they owe loyalty to the Coalition Agreement. They have voted down the government’s mutually agreed Health policy, and many of them have expressed their dislike of Dr Cable’s tuition fee policy, despite it being drawn up and proposed by a Lib Dem senior Minister.

             A Coalition government  has to work hard to encourage as wide a base of support as possible, and to reassure and keep on board the MPs and members of the two parties that make it up. I did not myself dream up the Forest proposals, and would not have invented the particular version the government produced. I decided I should not oppose  their approach, and wrote explaining it to my constituents who were worried based on some of the rumours and alarmist fears spread around by its opponents. I sought an assurance from Ministers that they were going to see it through and that being loyal to the policy would be wise as well as helpful. A few days after receiving that assurance they cancelled the policy.

I did not help draw up or lobby for the Health changes. They were in the Conservative Manifesto in some detail, though many people do not seem to have read them until recently. Again I felt I should offer some  support and explain them to constituents, given their origins. My comments on how they could be amended, improved or put across to those charged with implenting them are usually made in private.

Nor did I draw up or lobby for the tuition fee package. The Conservative Manifesto did not contain an answer on tuition fees, though I did warn in the election that I thought any government coming to power was likely to raise the fees that Labour had first imposed. When I  saw them I was concerned about their financial impact on both students and taxpayers. Over the next few years taxpayers will have to borrow more money in order to make the advances to students to pay the Universities, at a time when public finances are very stretched.

Even though the proposals came from a Lib Dem Minister and were not from the Conservative Manifesto, I have done my best to support and explain them to constituents. I have urged the creation of more access funds by a variety of interested parties so more gifted students from low income homes can have the benefit of a grant aided or scholarship supported education.

The issue that I have found most difficult with this government is the issue of the EU. The Conservative  Manifesto said “We will ensure by law no future government can hand over areas of power to the EU or join the Euro without a referendum. We will work to bring back key  powers over legal rights, criminal  justice and social and employment legislation to the UK.”  It concluded by saying  “The steady and unaccountable intrusion of the European Union into  almost every aspect of our lives has gone too far. …. We seek a mandate to negotiate the return of these powers (as above) from the EU to the UK” .

I have sought to be true to the  promises I made about the EU  to my electors , and to the words of the Conservative Manifesto where it covered the issue.  The range and nature of constitutional change that the Coalition has drawn up was not part of my promise in May 2010. I will be opposing AV, and do not believe the 5 Year Parliaments legislation can be binding if a future government does not  want it. I do not support further transfers of power to the EU, and do want powers back.

A government finds it easier to command loyalty if it comes up with sensible proposals to start with, and sticks with them when they are attacked and criticised. It is more difficult for supporters if a government develops a reputation for backing down. Supporters are then reluctant to give public support in the early stages of a new policy, for fear it will be ditched if pressure develops.

If Lib Dem criticisms of the Health policy result in major changes, Conservative party  members will want changes to policies they don’t like.  For example, many of them would like the overseas aid budget increases scaled back, would like the Ark Royal and Harriers reinstated, and Buckinghamshire protected from expensive new train lines.

When it comes to claiming credit for popular policies, Conservatives would say that they too wanted civil liberties restored, Income Tax cut, and the earnings link restored for pensioners. In government there has to be both a sharing of the burden of  less popular measures, and a sharing of the credit for the popular ones. If the budget produces a reduction in fuel tax, that is something MPs of both Coalition parties have been seeking.

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57 Comments

  1. norman
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, and this may be completely untrue but it’s the impression one gets, Cameron now has a reputation for putting Lib Dem interests before Conservative ones, in order to keep the struggling partner happy and him in No.10.

    So you are left being branded as the nasty party of the cuts, and the Lib Dems as the restraining interest fighting for ‘fair’ and ‘progressive’ government.

    With the result that both parties are struggling as you can’t claim credit for any good policies, and Lib Dem voters want to give their MP’s a bloody nose so are defecting to Labour, who, unbelievably given their recent record, now have a 10 point lead in the polls.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      “…defecting to Labour, who, unbelievably given their recent record, now have a 10 point lead in the polls…”

      I agree, quite unreal.

      Until you consider the lack of any substantive difference at all between the three parties ~ cue denial by the blog author ~ ~ ~

      • grahams
        Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Not really surprising at all. Few voted with enthusiasm at the last election (except some naive LibDem students). More and more seemingly sane, non-paranoid people see “the Government” as their enemy, whichever parties are in power. We wanted Labour out. Now we hate the coalition. Labour support is up again solely because my enemy’s enemy is my friend.
        But as negative voters become frustrated by the prospect of a full five year parliament we can expect more to show their anger and opposition outside the ballot box.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    ….loyal to my constituents, to my country and to my party – in that order

    I wish that the ambitious individual assigned by the Party to this safe seat had even half the moral standards of our host.

    • Andy
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Quite, but I would have said ‘loyal to my Country, to my constituents and to my party – in that order’. I’m sure that is what John actually meant.

    • James Matthews
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Putting loyalty to constituents ahead of loyalty to country worries me a bit. It is to be hoped that there would be no serious conflict between the two, but if it did arise I would want all MPs to put country first.

      • Mick Anderson
        Posted March 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        James, I’d put loyalty to constituents first because we are the ones who are being asked to vote for him. Unfortunately this is a very safe seat, so my vote is effectively irrelevant.

        You could argue a case for putting loyalty to Country first for a Minister, but (in my opinion) that only works if the Minister is unelected (such as a member of the House of Lords).

        The assumption might be that the best interests of the Country roughly coincide with the best interests of the people of this (and every other) constituency. However, people and their needs are a tangible thing, while Country is a bit more etherial.

        If you are implying that they should put the Country before the EU, I’m right behind you. I think that would also be in the interests of the voters.

        The MP in question also believes that the Country comes first. When I questioned his preference for living in London (this is commuter-belt), believing it to be to the detrement of the constituents, he told me that he was too busy running the Country to live around here. Might explain why we have the worst record for potholes in England….

        • David Price
          Posted March 15, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

          I agree with all except your last para, that responsibility lies firmly with the local councils and we will have opportunities this year to voice and act on our displeasure, or otherwise.

          Given the government leadership is not always in tune with the concerns and interests of citizens you have to allow objective and questioning support of them by representatives, otherwise you do not have a representative democracy but an autocracy.

          Personally, I would rather a representative who does not give the government blank-cheque support but questions any decision and action which conflicts with his or her beliefs and concerns or impacts his constituents. As long as the representative is clear and consistent in their views then I know where they stand and always have the opportunity to object if necessary.

          JR puts in a lot of effort supporting his constituents as is evident by this blog and his contribution in debates in the house. He makes very clear where he stands.

      • Andy
        Posted March 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Personally I would have used a much more old fashioned form of words by saying that my first loyalty was to our Sovereign. I would then have said my constituents and finally my party.

  3. Stuart Rose
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Agreed, I feel quite let down by the Government on the European Union, and often find myself having to defend my pre-election support for Cameron and Hague.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Do the Liberals have any sensible policies beyond the abolition of identity cards & the odd civil liberty stance. Why do they call themselves LIBDEMs when they are so clearly neither?

    They are pro EU, a pro big state, pro ever more regulation, pro daft expensive green energy, pro the existing poorly functioning NHS and government structures and anti all business and success in general.

    On “U turn if you want to” Cameron it is hard to know what he believes – his actions so directly contradict his words in almost every area. You can only get away with this for so long and it has been far too long already.

    Alas peoples deeds are usually are the best indicator. So we seem destined to have 4 years more of Blair light then a return to even more tax, borrow and waste under Miliband. Hardly an uplifting vision when it could all be so different and positive. A proper sense of direction is desperately needed.

    Cameron can be a good presenter but needs someone hold his reigns, spur his behind and keeps his blinkers in place. He should be kept well away from strategy and direction.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I see Cameron persists in his well being/happiness agenda.

      What would make me happy is not spending money such nonsense and knowing the the government was heading the right way.

      This happiness agenda indicates the contrary to all.

    • J leslie smith
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      A good response…

      Most Politicans seem to think that we as Voters are so passive and thick that we are unable to differentiate between MP’s rhetoric and their actions. Yet trust and credibility are only won over time, by following up “What you say with what you actually do” It seems that many Politicians are frequently a lot thicker than their Voters. MP’s I am sure, still wonder why they are held in such low esteem by the Public. If they asked the Public, then really listened to what such Voters had to say, they might just begin to understand.

      John has a vital point here in his first line – Loyalty to Voters first, then Country second, then Party last..

      Until MP’s of all Parties really get this point, they will be treated with contempt by Voters. Their words will not be believed, nor their articles. Sovereignty starts with me and you, not with MPs. We loan it to them for four years, on the basis that our MP works for us. When they start to honour that contract, I will start to listen to them and show some respect. Up to now in my fairly long life, MP’s have shown scathing contempt for most of us. and have never listened to a word I have said. My vote seems a mechanical waste of time, it changes nothing.

      John Redwood is a rare breed in politics. He seems to be an intelligent “compassionate conservative” and if John was my MP, I would actually enjoy meeting with him and discussing issues. Cameron Lite needs to listen to such men.

  5. Nick
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    In Opposition the last Manifesto is a starting point for improving the party’s policies, not a binding contract.

    Wrong. By saying that you can change your mind from the policies on which you were elected you’re giving carte blanche to politicians to lie to the electorate.

    If you want to change your policies from the manifesto, have a by election.

    If you want to implement what you haven’t told the electorate, have a by election, general election or hold a referenda

  6. Nick
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    defecting to Labour, who, unbelievably given their recent record, now have a 10 point lead in the polls.

    ============

    The reason is that everyone knows governments say one thing in manifestos and do otherwise in power. They didn’t get what they vote for.

    Hence the only strategy is to vote out governments.

    AV does give another alternative. We can vote for reprehensible I(candidates-ed) who won’t be elected in order to protest.

    We can vote Monster Raving Loony, BNP, UKIP, Greens, knowing they won’t be elected, before voting for the best fit. At least protest votes can be registered.

    After all, what’s better than voting once? Voting 10 times.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      My wife asked me what I’d like for dinner.

      When I said “Fish and chips” she replied that I couldn’t have that because we had no fish. So I said “Curry, then” as my second choice, but that was also impossible. Having been denied my first preference and second preference, it ended up with my third choice, a pork chop.

      How many dinners did I eat this evening? One, or three?

      If this kind of system is applied to elections it will be recorded and published how many electors gave a minor party candidate as their first preference, and ranked a main party candidate as only their second choice.

      If electors realised that support for the minor party was actually higher than they had thought, even if not yet high enough to win the seat at that election, that could encourage even more of them to vote for it at the next election.

      Supposing that the name of the minor party began with the letter “U”, then the fear that belittling and suppressing that minor party could become more difficult is just one reason why a main party whose name began with “C” would prefer to stick with a system where the elector was not given the freedom to express his full opinion by saying “I would prefer U, but failing him I would prefer C …”.

      • rose
        Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        I could accept this reform if the subsequent preferences diminished in value according to the order in which they have been placed: why should a sixth preference have equal weight in the final tally with a first preference? How can it possibly be fair or wise that two sixth preference votes can outvote a first preference vote?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted March 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          So after having been denied my first and second preferences, I would have ended up with only a third of a pork chop?

          I don’t like that idea!

          • rose
            Posted March 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

            And some end up with nothing, because their first preference votes are eventually beaten, having been their only ones counted. Others meanwhile have their votes counted over and over again, no matter how frivously they vote, and the final most frivolous vote of all may overturn a serious first preference vote..

  7. Nick
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Cameron can be a good presenter but needs someone hold his reigns, spur his behind and keeps his blinkers in place. He should be kept well away from strategy and direction.

    ===========

    Doomsday book of debt. Where has that gone?

    Debt tax. That’s the killer. Call it a labour tax and put it on payslips.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      A last labour government debt repayment and interest tax would be good on all payslips and all shop bills. Indeed showing all tax, everywhere on bills, would be a good idea so people can see how much is taken and wasted.

  8. Norman Dee
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    A good statement Mr Redwood, I have vented my spleen on you in the past, and more often or not the venting is a safety valve, and not deserved. For that I am sorry, but I think you understand the frustration and rage that some of us feel when we see some of the contrary actions this prime minister has taken. I can’t help but like him but he is becoming a bit like Blair in that he is so totally changeable. we witness his poor response to his own promises and manifesto promises on Europe when it comes to this country, and yet he gets angry in Europe on behalf of Libya, sure he got angry over prisoners votes but that was here for our consumption, has been shouting Brussels on the same subject ?, apparently not. If this government is going to be a write off and ejected at the next election, then some drastic action is not going to create a worse situation.

  9. alan jutson
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The problem John, is that the Lib Dems never expected to have any ACTUAL POWER and ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT, and their manifesto was based on a whole series of wishes, which did not really take account of the financial position of the Country at the time.

    Given the election results, Cameron to his credit, worked for a coalition agreement, which could if possible to achieve, mean an end to Labour involvement for 5 years. The Conservatives could have been bought down at any time without such an agreement.

    The problem was Cameron giving so much influence to the Lib Dems, as well as too many positions of power, given the votes cast for each Party. So one must face facts, Cleggs team played their hand better at the negotiations for their co-operation, the results of which are now shown.

    It is my view, that most Lib Dem supporters do not live in the real world where hard choices have to sometimes be made, but live in some sort of a bubble of utopia, where everything should be possible because it is their wish for better things for all. Hence the reason why Clegg is getting a bit of a bashing of late from his past supporters. He is having to live in the real World which many of his supporters are unaware of.

    The Conservatives for the past 4 years (or more) have manifestly failed to get any sensible message across to the general public with regard to proposed policy and the reasons for their introduction, for failing to acurately describe the real state of the finances, and for failing to nail the Labour party for the feckless spending which preceeded its downfall.

    John you must feel immensly frustrated (I know I would), being so close to what is going on, but seemingly far removed from being able to actually do something about it.

    Thank you for your daily topical posts about your thoughts and solutions, it does at least give an insight for your constituants, most of whom (I guess) are very frustrated at the failure of your Party to get their own message across in any meaningful way, and be able to properly lay blame for the situation we have found ourselves in.

    Cameron may be good at giving speeches, but it is well thought out action that is needed, not words.

    Keep up the good work, never know, you may get that phone call after all. I only hope its sooner rather than later.

  10. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, After a year of a coalition that I think most people will look back on as not such a good idea the conservative party in my opinion has to think now how it will go towards the next election when it is, and will continue to be, tarnished by the lack of proper action to deal with labour’s spending mess, Brussels, defence, health, police, government waste etc. etc. A second term of coalition is not going to work so the party on its own will have to begin nailing flags to masts on all these items at a time when no real inroad will have been made into the debt inflicted on tax payers by labour and inaction by the coalition. I suspect those MP’s that really talk and listen to their constituents will be in the embarrassing position of almost apologising for the coalition’s actions so the sooner this is done and put behind us the better for the party and the country.

  11. Jose
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Cameron’s stance over the EU is the biggest disappointment to me. His utterance last week that it’s in our ‘best interests’ is a perfect example of the politician knowing better than the people who put him into power. If he is so convinced that membership of the EU is essential for our wellbeing, why won’t he explain why? Why doesn’t he explain all the ‘benefits’ we receive by being members of a rather expensive, overbearing, undemocratic club?

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Because he knows, full well, that there are no convincing arguments in favour I have never once heard him put one in favour – only his actions are in favour.

      What does he thing of the nonsense equality pricing of insurance for prostate and breast cancer the same for both genders. Is that in our overwhelming interest too?

  12. Andy
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Looking at events it seems all too often that the LibDems are ‘having their cake and eating it too’. They seem to think they won the election with a massive share of the vote. They didn’t and their share was 23% as opposed to 36+% to the Conservatives. Incidentally Blair won a 60+ seat majority in 2005 with 35% of the vote !

    Seems to me if the LibDems can vote policies down then so can the Conservatives. So lets start with the European policy. The LibDems will have to then offer compromise wont they !!

  13. Alte Fritz
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Soldiers like to say that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Equally, no manifesto can survive contact with the realities of governement and the unforeseen, let alone the unforeseeable.

    For years there has been a feeling in the country in favour of proportional representation, which almost inevitably means coalition. Now we have it, and, lo and behold, the media look for a story in every inconsistency between manifestos and policy.

    For all that, a big burden the Conservatives must bear is the committment made to match Labour spending plans. Had the promise not been made, it is likely that Labour would now be in office. As usual, it comes round to the public wanting the cake and halfpenny.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Is it not the case that Cameron has bent over backwards to keep the LibDems happy and ignored his own party’s wishes? The LibDems have no long lasting loyalty to the present coalition and the majority of them would have much preferred to have been in coalition with Labour. They are no doubt scheming even now as to how that can be achieved after the next general election.

  15. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    We are entering a period of manifesto spaghetti when tortuous connections will be made to what each party pledged and what is being concocted by the dynamic duo. Needless to say party members are furious at the fudges, broken promises and reversal of planned policies.
    The only good news today is an EU referendum campaign with registration by constituency has been announced. Cameron’s answer at PMQs “better off in” confirmed his EU support and makes the logic of the Coalition even clearer.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      There was no doubt about it in my mind because I knew that Cameron had already said it on TV to Andrew Marr BEFORE the election, in November 2009:

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/benedictbrogan/100017498/btw-dave-thinks-the-outers-would-win-an-in-or-out-referendum/

      “As I mentioned the other day, those who hope they might one day get that ‘in or out’ referendum they are so desperate for should keep an ear out for what David Cameron has to say about Europe. On Marr earlier he said: “I don’t want an ‘in or out’ referendum because I don’t think ‘out’ is in Britain’s interests.” An obvious point of course, but it’s useful to have on the record Dave’s belief that if we did have a referendum to, as the euro-sceptic euphemism has it, reassess our relationship with Europe, we would vote for the exit.”

      Unfortunately like a lot of other relevant information this item didn’t get disseminated to a wider public at the time.

  16. Steve Cox
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    All of the main parties, and pretty much every MP as far as I am aware, has been signed up for years to the promise of low and stable inflation, and many of us believed this smoke and mirrors and planned our lives and our retirements accordingly. Yet look at the spiralling inflationary mess we are in now. Wage increases are starting to rise to follow inflation, and still the MPC sits on its well padded derrière and does nothing. The old song may have said that promises are made to be broken, but our current crop of “the Great and the Good” seems to be particularly adept at the practice.

  17. Robert George
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    John, you are a man of integrity. All too many of your parliamentary colleagues are not.

  18. English Pensioner
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    It is clear that the LibDem members don’t like being in a coalition where they have to carry out policies which were not in their manifesto, and give up ones which were. Clearly the members, unlike their leaders are not happy with any “give and take” or compromise which is obviously essential to a coalition.
    So, in view of the attitude of their members, I just wonder why they are so keen on AV or some other form of proportional representation, which as far as I am aware has always resulted in coalition governments wherever it is in use.
    If they get it and we have permanent coalition governments, where do they go then?

  19. lola
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    A well expressed post, setting out the challenges facing an essentially honest and principled man in dealing with a mess not of his own making. One senses the exasperation. But just how are we going to get out of this box where to win an election parties have to promise to spend money on all sorts of interest groups, whilst knowing full well that when in power they won’t or can’t?

  20. Mike Cunningham
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The overwhelming impression of the Coalition is much as ‘norman’ suggests, but the problem that should hold the Conservatives most is the seemingly unstoppable effect of decisions made in Brussels on our domestic law and way of life.

    We cannot get rid of violent criminals because of their ‘right’ to a family life in the UK, and where does this legislation originate? Brussels.

    We cannot deport terrorists, or even supected terrorists, because they might be ‘tortured’ back home! Origination of legislation? Brussels!

    We cannot even use the type of lamps we wish to use, because Brussels has decreed that the ‘low-energy’ path is the way to follow, and if you don’t like it, you are in the dark; The Tory Party is the one which grasped the nettle of the deficit, and Cleggy went along because he couldn’t resist the ‘nearness to the seats of power’ flag being waved by Cameron. He shoukld get his sandal-wearing crowd together and bluntly tell them that if they force a new election, or make the Tories go it alone, they will be banished to the memories of historical footnotes, to the sound of that famous clarion call, “go back, and prepare for power!”

  21. John B
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Commendable loyalties.

    But Mr Redwood are you being loyal to your Party by tolerating and supporting what currently masquerades as the Conservative Party and is in fact a left of centre social democrat clique who have infected the organism somewhat like a retro-virus?

  22. Jo Byrne
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    The leadership clique brushes all internal opposition aside while furthering the aim of a re-engineered liberal-conservative party. The preferred outcome appears to be a typical European centre right coalition committed to ever closer union and the European social model.

    Unfortunately, the government in its attempts to lose the label of “nasty” is fast acquiring a reputation for incompetence. It’s not only the forests – its defence, AV, the NHS, overseas aid, and probably welfare when the going gets tough.

    Cameron’s discovery of liberal interventionism followed the loss of the means to deliver the liberation of North Africa. His new best friend in Europe has even less change than Clegg of surviving when he next faces his electorate. At least Blair recognised where the power was when he decided to change the map of Europe.

    Perhaps the 1922 Committee should bring an end to the nonsense before it is too late.

  23. forthurst
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I would have thought your Oath of Office implied a primary loyalty to this country before your constituents.

    In the last parliament we had Labour members conspiring to buttress their own constituencies by flooding the country with third world immigrants, a fact which was not reported by the the BBC which operates a variant of the Memory Hole suitable for the internet age. We also had two wars which may well have been popular in certain parts of North London but were overwhelmingly rejected by patriotic English people.

    Primary loyalty to some constituents in our now divided country is a recipe for treason, an offence abolished by Labour in order to commit it with impunity.

    The Conservative party needs some populist policies badly and they know perfectly well what they are; unfortunately the Libdems do not support them because they are an even more treasonous bunch than the Labour Party.

  24. Neil Craig
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I think it important that there be an opposition to the coalition, from a free market viewpoint, rather than just from the Labour party.A loyal party representative can speak against policies, even in Parliament, if he votes for all except the worst, making it clear that thje vote is onl;y because of party loyalty.

    The particular issues you mention as important would not, except for the EU, be my choice. I would say that the failure to maintain our power supply, instead spending 10s of billions on windmills and the eco-fascist commitment to destroy up to 80% of such capacity form a real and present danger to the country’s survival.

  25. Yarnesfromhorsham
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I accept that its not easy working in a Coalition but the core policies of the conservatives – like less EU, less Government, strong military improved NHS should not be washed away just because the LibDems get twitchy. DC should remember that at the end of this Parliament it will not be LibDems who will be voting for him but conservative voters – assuming of course that they do not feel that they have been sold down the river.
    Usually, in a run up to an election, Labour throws money at the voters, so if DC does something similar, say by reinforcing previously heralded conservative policies which he had gone soft on then he is a goner – we need true conservative policies now.

  26. Mr Ecks
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Cameron is a leftist (and the EU’s man).

    The Lib Dems are the excuse he uses for pushing Blue Labour tripe on his party and the electorate.

  27. Iain Gill
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Many of the issues you mention highlight for me the difference for the people of England to the regime imposed on the people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. One of the biggest tensions in the system will be the outrage felt by the English getting second class public provision compared to their cousins in the rest of the UK while they are paying more than their fair share into the public coffers. This will blow a big hole in the supposed democracy we have sooner or later.

    Also the Conservatives got votes on an “immigration cap” manifesto but they have left so many holes in the so called cap (uncapped ICT visas and so on especially) that the public are going to react very badly to the lack of care given to this their second biggest concern.

    As for Europe one of the biggest issues for me is that all the European public sector employers in Brussels and elsewhere demand two community languages for their employees, which I take as active discrimination against Brits as many grads leave our education system with only English and every other nation teaches English as a second language all the way from their infant schools. This and the fact most of the Brits with second languages now have second languages from non European countries reflecting our demographics. Given that many if not most of these jobs are conducted entirely in English in Brussels I think its just an artifical barrier to stop Brits gaining access to the jobs.

    The only hope is a better democracy where the public get some say on the candidates selected by the parties, the way candidates are imposed by all parties on the population cannot continue long term.

    etc

  28. aboukir
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    This is an version of a post made eleswhere andd if it breaches some Internet etiquette I apologise .

    The reason for so doing is that I subsequently read and was much struck by your comments above “The Lib Dems have just demonstrated that they do not think they owe loyalty to the Coalition Agreement. ”

    I fear it is even worse than this – note Clegg’s comments at Conference: “On the yes side, we have the Liberal Democrats, Labour party supporters, the Green party, Ukip, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, Friends of the Earth, Colin Firth, Eddie Izzard and Helena Bonham Carter. On the no side are the BNP, the communists, the Conservative party, John Prescott, Norman Tebbit and David Owen.”

    Does Cameron wonder why Clegg is permitted to smear his Coalition partners, why does Clegg bracket, with seeming equal disgust, racists and fascists, communists and Conservatives -does he mean that he thinks they are of equal moral worth ?
    More seriously, if this level of contempt is indeed symptomatic of LibDems, how is a Coalition meant to survive ? And why, if thinks of Conservatives in this manner, does he consort with them?

    It will be argued that this is mere camapaign talk (of which the LibDems have a long, ignoble tradition) but it seems to me that, in a time of Coalition politics, this is a far beyond the line.

    • rose
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      It is called “working hard for your vote”. We saw it in those nauseating television debates during the general election campaign. Remember the look of puzzlement on Mr Cameron’s face when Clegg was in full flow? (DC was criticised by the media for frowning too much at the time.) The trouble is the public seem to fall for the Clegg technique of throwing muck, even when he is in partnership with the target.

  29. David John Wilson
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, and this may be completely untrue but it’s the impression one gets, Clegg now has a reputation for putting Conservative interests before Libdem Conservative ones, in order to keep the PM happy and him as number 2.

    So the Libdems are left being branded as the nasty party of the cuts, and the Conservatives as hiding behind them.

    With the result that both parties are struggling, no-one can claim credit for any good policies, and Lib Dem voters want to give their MP’s a bloody nose so are defecting to Labour, who, unbelievably given their recent record, now have a 10 point lead in the polls.

    [any resemblance to Norman’s post is entirely intentonal]

  30. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    One suspects that Mr Hague has had the stuffing knocked out of him by such disappointments.

    Mr Cameron is very much pro EU. I don’t have to prove this. The fact is he’s not going to give us a choice in the matter.

    As for the rail link. A total, unjustifiable waste of resources which could be used to boost transport elsewhere. It most certainly isn’t just NIMBYs who are against it.

  31. waramess
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    The Party you so dearly hold to however has taken the view that the manifesto is not really important and that come the occasion they might need to, well, change its terms a little. Quite right too because the electorate were not willing to give them a whole hearted endorsement so why should the electorate expect anything else.

    It was quite remarkable that notwithstanding the vitriol Brown engendered Cameron was unable to get past the post without the help of the Liberals, who themselves have never been the sweetheart of the voting public and so the electorate, half heartedly voted for anyone other than Brown.

    Well, it turns out that is what they got, but only just, so why dwell on such things as manifestos.

    The old Conservative Party no longer exists, it is not a question of it having been hijacked by a bunch of socialists it is simply that they have changed the beast and probably forever unless someone is willing to fight for its return.

    Maybe you are not being faithful to what you at first supposed and need to rethink the entire matter lest you get dragged down the same drainhole.

  32. Pat
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The problem with the NHS policy is that is very risky and unnecessary. The more I know about it the more I worry. I am one Conservative that do use the NHS and I don’t like what is being propose as a reform.

  33. Andrew Smith
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    A well argued case, but many of us who have given up on the Conservative Party cannot quite understand how John Redwood can continue to believe that the Conservative Party will ever do the things he appears to want.

    The Conservative Party is certainly a part of the problem not part of the solution.

    I am amazed there was not and is not more comment about the manifesto promises in bothy LibDem and Conservative versions which are NOT in the coalition agreement; I believe recall votes were there.

    I am even more shocked that press and media have ignored actions by the coalition (Conservative led (?) and LibDem supported) which are in contradiction to the coalition agreement. The treatment of women pensioners, for example.

  34. Bryan
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    To say that Mr Cameron is showing all the symptons of the ‘Brown’ backbone is to put it mildly.

    The public did not trust him in sufficient numbers at the election – amazingly perceptive given how it is treated with disdain by the main parties at other times.

    Mr Cameron should now deliver the manifesto in total. If this means the Libdem weirdos bring him down so be it.

    Another 4 or 5 year blast of Milliband and fiscal Balls will kill off Labour and the Green lot forever. Just hope that the UK patient survives

    Power corrupts when it is achieved on the back of false promises.

  35. MG Stobo
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Surprised by order of loyalty.Should country not come before constituents and party?
    Really trenchant analysis of coalition problems and how MPs ought to behave.
    Amazed at your output! You rattle off these articles with obvious ease which reminds me every Wednesday of the pathetic offerings from 2 MPs and 1 MSP in my local paper. And they have a full week to prepare.

  36. JimF
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I think you mean, by saying that you put constituents before Country, that you put the voice of the people of Wokingham, which are the ones voting for you, ahead of a broad cross-Country concensus.

    The reverse would postulate a pro- AV vote next May.

  37. Ross J Warren
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    The NHS reforms were not in our manifesto, and its not just Lib-Dem’s that are unhappy about it. It appears that this coalition feels it can do just what it wants regardless of it promises. It is of course essential that we defeat A.V. or we may be subjected to more governments of this nature. But if we cannot trust our leaders to deliver their manifestos or even stick to their coalition agreements there will be little choice but to vote accordingly. Perhaps UKIP or Labour will offer legislation to bind incoming governments to deliver their manifesto promises

    Reply: As I have set out on this site, the NHS reforms were in the Manifesto.

  38. adams
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    LibLabCon are now the enemy of Britain and the British . Why are you still in it JR ?
    Money and pension I suppose . Your great moment was taking on Major .
    It has been all down hill since then for the EX-Con Party and yourself .
    As for the country . I do not see where that comes into this closeted little tale .

  39. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    We in the Conservative Party cannot implement the EU policy that was in our last manifesto as long as we are in coalition with the LibDems. Still less can we advocate the much more comprehensive decoupling from the embryonic EU Federation that will be required in our next manifesto.

    It is essential that we piut an end to the coalition once the Finance Bill that will follow the 2013 budget is safely onto the statute book. That way, we can recover our own identity and be in a position to react positively when UKIP gain the biggest share of the popular vote in the 2014 MEP elections.

  40. John
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Reviewing the health proposals seems perfectly sensible to me. They are opposed by many health professionals (including the BMA) and will cost £1.8 billion to introduce, at a time when money is short. Steering a steady course is admirable but when you’re heading for the rocks, a change of direction makes very good sense!

  • 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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