The battle of the Backbench Business Committee

One the best things this government has done so far was to allow the establishment of a Backbench Business Committee in the Commons. This Committee can choose the business roughly one day a week. This new freedom for backbenchers has brought us some crucial debates. Readers of this site in particular were pleased that this Committee gave us the time for a debate and a vote on an EU referendum when neither Labour nor the Coalition would give us time to discuss this crucial matter.

The reform was one of the results of the soul searching in the last Parliament about how the stature of Parliament could be enhanced. Many of us saw Parliament needed to be more relevant and more in touch with the concerns of electors and with their news agenda, even when this was inconvenient to Ministers and to Shadow Ministers who otherwise choose the business. Several of the Backbench debates have highlighted important issues that would otherwise have been ignored or played down – the European Court of Human Rights, the Hillsborough disaster and the plight of circus animals were other examples.

Yesterday the government rushed proposals through to change the way the Committee is elected in future, against the wishes of the current Committee. It was a sad and strange decision. Everyone speaking claimed the current Committee has done a good job. They were all elected by the whole House. They have not operated in a party political way. Now the government wants them to be elected by party, with Conservatives voting for Conservative members and Labour voting for Labour members. Backbenchers fear the front bench aim is to exert more influence over who gets these jobs.

I spoke against the government’s proposals. I urged them to leave it alone. Colleagues who also spoke wanted to wait for the Report of the Select Committee looking into it all before making any changes. The government used its payroll voters to push through its wishes. I will post my speech on this site. The main point I made was that Ministers should not see scrutiny and accountability to Parliament as a limit on their power. The true limits on their power are the EU, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the many independent quangos that have been set up. It this we need to address, not the power of Parliament to cross examine government.

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  1. lifelogic
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    As you say: “The true limits on their power are the EU, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the many independent quangos that have been set up. It this we need to address, not the power of Parliament to cross examine government.”

    We have all these Human Rights structures in place but still we extradite people to places where they are kept in prison 23 hours a day for months on end pending trial (or being “persuaded” to plead guilty) all done without the need for any evidence to be produced it seems.

    • Timaction
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      We actually no longer have a democracy. We have a gang of four (Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander), plus the EU who decide policy and then regardless of debate in Parliament do as they choose.
      After two years where are we with the priorities of this nation? Public spending up, taxes up, EU regulation and costs up, no reform of the CAP or fisheries policies, no repatriation of EU powers or regulations rescinded, immigration up and being kicked into the long grass, particularly student visa scams, foreign aid up, no reform of the Human Rights Act or the EUHR Courts e.g Quatada, unemployment up especially youing people as their starter jobs are taken by Eastern Europeans or other immigrants on minimum wage e.g any fast food shop or hotels anywhere.
      So the Lib Dem led Coalition has everything it wants and it leaves us Tory voters thinking what to do at the next election if Cameron is still the leader.

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink


      Any coincidence that Mr Cameron is in the US as it is reported his friend and wife were arrested by the Met today?

      • Disaffected
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        Are you saying Mr Cameron is preventing accountability by suppressing the press via the Levison Inquiry, unhealthy appointment of BBC chair in receipt of EU pension, silencing parliament by deciding who will sit on select committees and choosing wet pro European Tory MPs for the cabinet while asking former Labour ministers to report on topics for reform?

        If one adds pro European advisors such as Mr Heseltine, Major to his team and Mr Patten to steer the bias BBC in the correct direction we must convince Tory backbenchers to get rid of Mr Cameron ASAP. Of course, there might be some foolish people who still believe Mr Cameron when he says he is a Eurosceptic.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Off topic: I see that the BBC is going into overdrive on the “women in board rooms and oil rigs” EU/Cameron agenda and how Lehman Sisters would never have got into such difficulties.

      Could the BBC and Woman’s Hour for once not make up their mind? Are women and men the same, on average (so any difference is due to discrimination) or are they different (so Lehman Sisters would indeed have been different?). What is the BBC position?

      Clearly anyone setting up a business by using all these vastly underpaid, under utilised women will wipe the floor with the competition. If that is what Cameron/BBC says is actually true. Strange no one tries this.

      Is he really going to add this yet further tax/inconvenience to industry to all the others like the “drunk too much on holiday” tax and the equality insurance nonsense?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        It now it seems that Prudential are about to be driven off by the EU rules too The share price shooting up as a result. HSBC next perhaps. It is perhaps time to buy shares in these enlightened companies and sell those in Cameron’s UK.

      • Disaffected
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        Why is Mr Osborne in the US when the EU finance ministers are discussing the Financial transaction tax?? Is it not important for him to be there to defend the national interest or has he quietly given up on that issue??

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      I see Cameron is to board Air Force One with Obama, the £200 million Boeing VC-25A to make a 70 minute trip to catch a college basketball match in Dayton, Ohio.

      Good to see he is sticking fully to his green principals. I wonder how many thousands of years it might take his wind turbine in non windy Notting Hill to generate enough energy to cover that trip?

      Still PR is all – who want substance?

  2. Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    I posted your speech on my blog last evening as soon as it appeared in Hansard – Hear, hear!

    As you suggested, the problem goes much deeper, backbenchers are now part of a structure of government and control that is in the process of installing fascism in Greece, as I also posted this time yesterday as well as on the blog Orphans of Liberty.

    What are our back bench parliamentarians doing about that?

  3. matthu
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Government must be aware that they intend to force through a lot more anti-populist measures intended to favour the elite at the expense of the electorate, or alternatively, that they intend to ignore many more populist causes in order to retain favour with their EU masters.

    (Can’t have swelling anti-Green sentiment or government’s total failure to get to grips with the human rights act or the rising price of fuel or the unfair pensions of the great and the good or whether we should continue bailing out Europe or whether it is right for MPs still to be awarded a large payoff when they resign in disgrace deflect government from the more worthy debate on how the House of Lords should be reformed.)

  4. norman
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    We readers should all note which MPs caved in and pushed this through so we can target them in the new primary process, the ones the Lib Dems and Conservatives both promised to introduce. No doubt this Bill is being held back as a 2014 pre-election stonker. Might be shoe-horned into either the localism or great repeal bill. Or maybe tacked on to the bonfire of the quangos.

    I wouldn’t get too worked up about the curtailment of democracy, we’ve had a decent run but nothing lasts forever.

  5. Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I saw most of the debate yesterday and agreed with [almost] every contribution against this crazy, corrupt decision by the Government. To give away and take back power in such an obvious, cunning and devious manner runs counter to everything I assumed the Government was trying to promote.

    If there is any chance that the decisions can be reversed, you have my support.

  6. Alan
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    You should have supported AV. That would have made MPs more receptive to their voters’ views and hence less dependent on their parties. Instead you argued for a system which ensures there will be two large parties, which centralises power and puts the parties in a position to tell their MPs what to do.

    Having said that, I hope very much you will continue your work to give backbench MPs more influence in the Parliament.

    Reply : AV and PR systems deliver more power to party hierarchies.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Indeed – AV and PR systems deliver far more power to party hierarchies. Surely this is very clear.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      JR, wr.t. your reply to Alan. I agree that AV and simple PR are poor, but I’ll just pointlessly wave the flag for two vote MMP again.

      Having half the members elected as first past the post constituency allows independents a chance. Topping up to proportional levels based on a party vote does admittedly give the party hierarchies additional power by the party list (though this only tops up after the constituency MPs) but would also allow smaller parties, which by necessity will have limited hierarchy to be represented.

      [Whether as your diary admirably expalins today, whether as Lords’ NHS behaviour, whether by not holding the MPC/BoE to mandate, whether making sector deals – banking or construction, whether forlock tugging to EU, it seems to me there is a democratic failure considerably contributed to by the 3 main parties. I hope I am alone and wrong in my perception.]

      • forthurst
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        “I hope I am alone and wrong in my perception.”


      • Caterpillar
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        I would take my square bracketed comment further. When opposition strongly held government to account and then the electorate essentially voted for a leader-policy-behaviour package on judgement day then the Schumpeter defence of FPTP was viable. Given the apparent shared drift to third way/caring-capitalism/Peronism/clientelism of govt and opposition then the FPTP argument does not hold, there is little choice between the leader-policy-behaviour package of either elite minority. At best it is described as a choice between bad and worse.

        Can some disruptive holding to account mechanisms come into being? LibDem party conference votes, back bench business committee … they do, but they seem to be silenced.

        What remains at a FPTP election, merely to vote for any candidate that is not of one of the three major parties, irrespective of policy, purely on the hope of a different behaviour, but really knowing few if any can make it, unscathed, through the system.

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      25+ UKIP MPs (4% of the vote 2010) gives more more power to the real Conservative Party – I agree.

  7. Paul Blacklock
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    A real real shame. I had hoped this Government would welcome scrutiny and debate. Instead they want to manage the agenda and only hear the usual voices. Makes politics very very very boring. No wonder people are losing interest.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      A government welcoming scrutiny and debate!

  8. david trimble
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Hear Hear

  9. Robert K
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Sad. It’s all a bit Animal Farm.

  10. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    A fish rots from the head down.
    The “limits” you talk about are already rotten…….

  11. Graham Swift
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    John Redwood is the most honest, straight Conservative MP in the Commons. He is in touch with reality and knows the feelings of the electorate at large and the matters that count. That explains why Cameron will not give him a ministerial position.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Honest & straight are not first (or even last) characteristics that come to mind when considering top politicians with their cast iron guarantees and pledges on student fees, £1M inheritance tax thresholds and referenda promises and switches of word labels from “constitution” to “treaty”.

    • John Fitzgerald
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      He is also far to conservative for Liberal Dave!

    • Paul H
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Don’t overdo it. During the summer riots he did restrict honest debate by taking the a priori position that criticism of the police would be defamatory.

      • forthurst
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        “he did restrict honest debate”

        Unfortunately, there is no longer a distiction in this country between honest debate and the common law offence of incitement; it’s all classified as thoughtcrime.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          This is alas often true. Would we be allowed to have an honest debate on when, pushing irrational belief systems at young impressionable children, becomes child abuse for example. Or even whether men and women (on average) have rather different interests and motivations.

          Certainly not on the BBC that is for sure.

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Hear hear.

      Cameron is trying to become a dictator by changing parliamentary rules. The first was to have a 5yr mandatory parliament. That should not be, any government should be able to be kicked out.

  12. Kevin Ronald Lohse
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    “The European Court of Hunman Rights” Being that Germany is preeminent in the EU, your typo may contain more truth than the corrected version.

  13. Bob
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Well you speech would have be a powerful one but for the fact that you were addressing it to a bunch of EU puppets.

    The EU are pulling the strings now, and if you and your like minded colleagues want to make a difference then you will need to migrate to UKIP en masse.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      If they did migrate to UKIP they would have even less influence.

      • Bob
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        If we resign ourselves to that belief then we are indeed doomed to a socialist future, and emigration becomes an ever more attractive option.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

          I certain think this there is no way that enough voters (including many very elderly who have perhaps voted Tory all their life) will shift to UKIP to achieve anything much.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    This has the whiff of the EU all over it – nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of the dictats from the ruling “elite”. When the front bench of the three main parties agree on something it is almost certain to be against the interests of the voters.The whole party system has become tiresome and MPs are once again clearly demonstrated as being purely “lobby fodder” by all three party leaders. The irony is that there is far more talent absent from the two front benches than present on them – perhaps that is why they want to exercise even more control over you.

  15. backofanenvelope
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    This government is like a car stuck in reverse gear.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      But you can have any car so long as it’s red.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        And is electric with a range of no more that 20 miles and cannot go up hills.

        • APL
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          lifelogic: “And is electric …

          And when it runs out of fuel, you have to interrupt your journey for eight hours, perhaps find accommodation overnight, while your batteries are being recharged.

          a six hour journey will take fourteen hours instead.

      • Bob
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        “…you can have any car so long as it’s red…”

        That describes the current state of our so called democracy to a tee.

  16. Bill
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    All this is going to make it very difficult for those whose instincts are conservative to vote Conservative next time round. But if we vote UKIP or Green, what’s the point? We end up with another dose of Labour or, perhaps worse, Labour in coalition with the Lib Dems. Come back Margaret Thatcher all is forgiven!

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      (i) Fear of losing voters to minor parties would hopefully limit Con behaviour. (Vote minor / indept to act against drift).
      (ii) You get a third-way party whether voting Con, Lib or Lab. There is nothing to lose (even if Lab came back in and were suddenly truely socialist not third-way then that could create room for the return of an economically liberal party).
      (iii) Breakthroughs can happen as the Green’s showed in Brighton – it won’t happen by ignoring the minor parties.
      (iv) Appropriate electoral reform, or permitting scrutiny & debate will apparently not occur by voting Con, Lib or Lab.

      Sadly change won’t happen with just one more GE, and given the 5 year term it will take a while. But I think the only option that appears to exist is simply to vote differently and to stick with it. I suspect most people are robust enough to cope with whatever a resulting Con/Lib/Lab govt does, but on the day it is bound to be emotionally challenging to simply vote differently and to keep doing it at local, national, European opportunities.

    • Bob
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.
      Henry Ford

      You really don’t have much to lose by voting against the established parties.
      What’s the worst that can happen?, we kick the current bunch of socialists and get another bunch of socialists.

      The upside possibilities are worth the risk. Even a decent percentage swing of voters to UKIP would send a powerful message to the prevaricators in the Tory Party, some UKIP MPs even more so.

      The next EU election would be a good time to test the water because if UKIP beat the Tories it would stiffen the spines of true conservatives at the GE.

  17. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    After yesterday’s happiness discussing the monarchy today we have the gloom of creeping dictatorial government.

  18. stred
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    The forthright conduct of the parliamentary committees has done a lot to raise the popularity of MPs following the expenses scandal. MPs of all parties have highlighted the incompetence and dishonesty of the executive. It is as if there is another genuine parliament sometimes, much more interesting than the boring process in the House.

    No wonder they marched the stooges in. They should be listed for de-selection.

  19. APL
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    JR: “One the best things this government has done so far was to allow the establishment of a Backbench Business Committee in the Commons.”

    There is the problem in one word, allow.

    Illustrating the perversion and inversion of the power structure in the Commons.

    The executive should be asking, not dictating.

  20. Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I think it is improper of the government to use its payroll vote/whips to push through something which effects not the governance of the country but the running of the Commons. Perhaps the Speaker could consider whether this is stepping on the Commons constitutional privileges.

  21. Winston Smith
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    At what point will you relinquish your ‘clutching at straws’ rhetoric about change from within the Conservative Party and that the present regime is the ‘best worst option’? You must realise –with your head , if not your heart – that the Cameroons will continue to centralise power, force out detractors and gerrymander their supporters into all areas of decision making. When will you make a principled move to break the abusive marriage of principled Conservatives with the corporate socialists controlling the Party? Time is running out.

  22. oldtimer
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    This change smells, and it is not a nice smell. It reminds me of Cameron`s earlier attempt to stitch up the 1922 Committee by using his payroll vote. According to some, he is at it again so they he can suppress/silence opposition.

    Alistair Heath draws attention to one of the issues you mention, Europe, in his editorial today:
    In it he comments on the widening gulf in opinion between the UK and continental Europe on the future of the EU. It is clear that you and your colleagues have public opinion firmly on your side on the issue of Europe.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      When the Italians or others want more EU, is it simply because they want less of their politicians?

  23. outsider
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    There were some good speeches by those who cared, including your own distinctive argument. The voting is always interesting when all speakers (except front benches) are one way and the vote goes the other. This was the usual corrupt, depressing story. Those desperately hoping for office (often with little chance of success) vote with the whips. The more experienced members who have either left office or have no wish/hope of office vote with their consciences. As usual they are in a minority.

    My own MP ( a newcomer with hope of office) with could not be bothered to turn up and vote on backbenchers’ rights and independence, so I shall not bother to vote for her.

    Interesting though that Vince Cable broke ranks and voted for democracy. Good for him (assuming he did not stray into the wrong lobby by mistake).

  24. A Different Simon
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    This sucks wet armadillo fur .

    It is bad enough that over half the MP’s in parliament are nothing more than lobby fodder , making up the numbers and never , ever , even once espousing an original thought or voting against the party line .

    It looks like the executive wants a clean sweep and doesn’t think that it should be held to account by parliament .

    John , how long ago was it that the leadership of parliamentary political parties stopped being good parliamentarians ?

    I certainly noticed it with Blair , does it go back further than that ?

  25. Peter Stroud
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I watched most of the debate yesterday and was most impressed by all contributions against the government’s shabby little motion. Thank you for your excellent contribution, Mr Redwood. We, in the Tory rank and file, hoped for a real change in attitude regarding the administration and parliament, post May 2010. And the back bench business committee was a breath of fresh air. But obviously the fact that it spawned a debate about an EU referendum was a step too far for our leaders. Perhaps they think that their new voting procedure will give the administration more influence. But I hope our wily back benchers will be a match for them in this case.

  26. sm
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    To the point.

    The true limits on their power are the EU, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Hunman Rights and the many independent quangos that have been set up. It this we need to address, not the power of Parliament to cross examine government.

    Some greeks might say the (Germans-ed) have too many rights, but humour aside.

    Do the guards of democracy now question and mistrust their fellow executive guardians? Well its about time parliament woke up,you are not being paid enough for treachery,this can come at an awful price later on.

  27. lola
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    ….Hunman Rights…” You’re right there. Probably unintentionally. However I wouldn’t let Merkosy see your post, if I were you…

  28. Iain
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Should we be surprised after Cameron attempted to get control of the 1922 Committee?

  29. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    With the exception of some of the work IDS is doing & possibly Michael Gove I find myself in complete disagreement with Cameron on every issue. How did this odious man become leader of the Conservative Party? I just want to cry.

    • Graham
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Me too!

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Cameron and his supporters used their mates in the media to propogate the line “only Cameron can win an election”. They denigrated David Davis and promoted Cameron as the young, media savvy modernist. Many Tory MPs, not least our esteemed host, and Party members were fell for it hook, line and sinker, such was their desire for power and their niavety. So, we end up with the “heir to Blair”, just as Blair becomes the detested snake oil salesman.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      I’ve believe he was voted in using AV, so everyone got the leader everyone hated the least.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        No, members voted in a ‘straight first past the post’ election. You are eluding to the candidate selection by MPs, which is a variation of av.

        • uanime5
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

          The Conservatives don’t use ‘first past the post’ when they choose their leader. If they did then whoever got the highest number of votes in the first round would have been leader.

  30. javelin
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I also think the Goverment has missed a trick by getting the senior civil servants to create “boards” and act like “boards” to explain their spending and implementation of ministers decisions.

    I understand decisions are made by Ministers – but they can’t decide everything and civil servants need to justify spending the huge amounts that they do by publishing full budgets and being made accountable to backbenchers.

    I also think junior back benchers should get more involved with managing civil servants – lower down the food chain (for no extra pay). This will provide experience for junior back benchers and more transparency into senior civil servants.

  31. forthurst
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    We now have confirmation that Parliament is not about democracy, but about the deliberate abuse of democracy in order to enact laws and fight wars which are deeply abhorent to the English people.

    The EU Referendum debate was obviously the wake up call for those who do not believe the English people can be trusted to engage in free debate about their futures without severely rocking the boat being piloted by a malignant alien minority.

  32. Barbara Stevens
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    It seems we won the war but Germany won the peace even though its taken them 70 odd years to do it. So, why did they all die then up to 1945? It appears Germany rules the EU. We still don’t have the euro but just imagine if we had taken that road, our freedoms would be mocked by those in Germany, we still remain a thorn in their side, long may it prick. As for our MPs they have been found to be a spineless lot and show no guts when it comes to saying NO to the EU, for thats what the country wants, and won’t let go of. They can pass as many laws as they like, punish countries for not obeying, like Hungry this very day. Where is their backbone? Where as it gone? Are they so subserveant now they are afraid to speak? It seems so. We have the odd one or two who speak out in favour of what the country wants but their fellow MPs sit in silence and take the easy road. I’m all for free open parliament where party lines are ignored and free decisions are made with an open free mind. If only MPs could find the courage to speak up for this country, what a breath of fresh air it would be. The first party who does this will gain popularitly in such a rush they won’t know what’s hit them. Yet the ones we have appear to lack the guts to do just that, I wonder why?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      Given that Hungarian Government is trying to impose censorship on the media and deny people the right to a fair trail they deserve to be punished.

  33. Derek Emery
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t the backbench committee debating things such as the EU? The leadership of all three major parties are madly, deeply in love with the EU – it’s only the public that are less than enthralled. Hence you were being very naughty boys and girls and the prefects have had to be sent in to restore order.

  34. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    At a quick glance it’s difficult to be sure that the payroll vote swung these divisions, because so many backbenchers across the parties also voted the wrong way.

    However for me it’s another small proof that maybe three quarters of MPs are not fit persons to occupy their positions and should be replaced by people who are actually committed to our national democracy.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Eurosceptic MPs are a majority of the Conservative Party and there is a Eurosceptic majority in the country. So at what point are these MPs going to say to the Prime Minister ‘On European matters, we intend to prevail. And if you don’t like it, you go.’?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      “Eurosceptic MPs are a majority of the Conservative Party”.

      How do you work that out? Everything I see says that there’s a small minority of Tory MPs who could be described as genuinely “eurosceptic”; and even in that minority there are only a few who’ll take their thinking to the natural conclusion by openly declaring that the only solution is to withdraw from the EU; the great majority are either pro-EU or prepared to follow the pro-EU leadership.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        They seem to be able to muster in excess of 100 MPs whenever they choose to, even when in revolt against their government. And you can be sure that many more would want to but see keeping their heads down as the best way of attaining office.

        Anyway, there is no point in you and I quarreling. There is a man who could tell you how many Conservatives are Eurosceptic and to what degree they are Eurosceptic. His name is John Redwood.

        • uanime5
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          The problem is they never choose to. I believe that less than 80 voted for a referendum on the EU.

          • APL
            Posted March 16, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

            uanime5: “The problem is they never choose to. .. ”


            The Tory party is irredeemably pro the EU, has been since before the rotten Edward Heath the exception was Margaret Thatcher and look what the Tory party did with an enormously capable and successful but nominally skeptical (on matters of the European Union) Tory prime minister.

            The Tory party isn’t the instrument that is going to extricate the UK from the embrace of the EU.

  36. uanime5
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m not surprised that the frontbenchers are trying to hinder anything that may threaten their power as whipping MPs isn’t enough anymore to control them. I suspect changing the law on circus animals against Mr Cameron’s wishes might be why he’s involved in reforming the Backbench Business Committee.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry yourself too much, they won’t be banning clowns.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        From Parliament or the circus?

  37. REPay
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    We, the people, hate the party machines! The Lib Dems claim to be pro refrom yet they did not stand up to this gerrymandering by party bosses. I live in the USA where debate is almost impossible except along party lines…we have taken a further step in this direction.

  38. Mark
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, but I note that Chinese credit ageny Dagong now considers Greece to be in default:

    Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Dagong”) decides to downgrade the local and foreign currency sovereign credit rating of the Hellenic Republic (hereinafter referred to as “Greece”) from C to D. The Greek government bond exchange action in March 2012 violates the will of the holders of the Greek law governed bonds, and inflicts substantial losses to them. Accordingly, Dagong determines that the Greek government has defaulted.

  39. Steven Whitfield
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    David Cameron really wasn’t kidding when he said that ‘I am the heir to Blair’.

    What a sad day for democracy . I’m convinced that the motivation driving this action is fear, revenge (for the EU referendum debate that left the Coalition leadership looking so out of touch) and spite.

    It’s just the same old control freakery we got under New labour. . I thought David Cameron was supposed to be concerned about growing cynicism about politics.
    Could this be the last straw – the tipping point when the last few principled Mp’s say enough and kick up enough of a stink to show the leadership that they cannot be taken for granted?. I hope so.

    You can just imagine Nick Clegg’s hand grabbing the PM’s shoulder….

    NICK : We really must do something about the Backbench Business’s turned into a bit of a loose cannon.. some of the members like Redwood are not ‘on message’ if you get my meaning ….all that populist stuff about giving the little people an EU referendum ,letting the cat out of the bag about the non cuts. Why can’t these people accept that our destiny is being a member of a European Superstate..
    DAVE : I know…but I think it’s important Parliament’s authori…
    NICK: We agreed I… I mean we agreed that we would call all the shots from here so get on with it”.
    DAVE:Okay Nick, but my side aren’t going to like it..
    NICK: Good lad

    Mr Redwood, what can we do to protest about this outrage ?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Why do you blame Clegg?

  40. backofanenvelope
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    If Mr Cameron succeeds in reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600, the payroll vote will become even more of a factor.

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  • […] • John Redwood on his blog says he is saddened by the way the government used the payroll vote to … It was a sad and strange decision. Everyone speaking claimed the current Committee has done a good job. They were all elected by the whole House. They have not operated in a party political way. Now the government wants them to be elected by party, with Conservatives voting for Conservative members and Labour voting for Labour members. Backbenchers fear the front bench aim is to exert more influence over who gets these jobs. […]

  • 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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