NTB lunch with the Prime Minister

I chair the NTB group of about 100 Conservative MPs. Formed in the 1980s to support  Margaret Thatcher and her  famous statement “The Lady’s not for turning”, the Group has evolved over the decades to offer frank advice to Ministers and Shadow Ministers in private, and to work together from time to time in public with campaigns that matter to us. The Group today as with Margaret Thatcher is there to support Conservative Ministers trying to do difficult but sensible things that can improve our country and its government, and to be candid friends in private where things are not working as we would wish.

We hold either a  working sandwich lunch, or a  working  buffet dinner once a month. We usually invite a Minister as guest, and raise matters about  their departmental policies and activities with them. Sometimes we invite an interesting non Ministerial speaker. Nigel Lawson came, for example, to tell us of the work of his Global Warming Policy Foundation,which most of us support. Occasionally one of us leads a discussion of what needs to  be done next.

We do not inform the media of these events, as we wish to have good private conversations with Ministers. They need to know they will not read about it next day in the papers so we can have more wide ranging and honest discussions. I was therefore surprised to learn that on Wednesday the NTB had been invited to lunch at Downing Street for immediate topical reasons. This is simply untrue. I had invited the Prime Minister some time ago to be our guest in the Commons for a working sandwich lunch and he had agreed. The invitation was before recent by elections were in the air and was not about them.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for the time he gave us  and for his attention to a number of issues where we wish to see changes and improvements in policy as we move from Coalition government to Conservative manifesto. I intend to keep silent over what was said and how the meeting went, as I remain strongly of the view that it is better if these exchanges between colleagues are done in private.In this hectic media world any critical comment or disagreement is blown up out of all proportion, as there is the absurd idea that members of a party always have to agree with one another.

I note that the UKIP supporters who write into this site who have in the past picked up on a very misleading account of a private meeting I attended with the Chairman of the Conservative party, have not come forward with comments on the selective reports of the NTB lunch with the Prime Minister as they clearly see no party advantage in quoting what it is alleged some of my colleagues said at this latest meeting.


  1. Lifelogic
    October 17, 2014

    Well is Cameron finally being dragged to face the reality or the electoral arithmetic, the absurdity of the fake green energy agenda, the value of lower taxes, keeping promises and less government and EU?

    Or is he more concerned about the very slightly clumsy words of someone who was clearly just doing his best think of ways to help to get some disabled people back into work? It was good to see the the Question Time audience could see through the deeply unpleasant Angel Eagle on this issue.

    That is after all what a legal minimum wage does it destroys jobs for many.

    1. JoeSoap
      October 17, 2014

      Not even clumsy, really, just honest and in the interests of all rather than the cosy clique.

      But of course Cameron being in gear on the Political PR machine has to declare his disagreement with the words and the sentiment. Then the QT audience disagrees with Labour and his goodself, so where does that leave Cameron and his spinners???

      In a small nutshell, a day in the life of the difference between UKIP and PR-ised Cameron and pals.

      1. David Price
        October 18, 2014

        But you only know the context and sentiment in hindsight. These were not presented as simply clumsy words but an ambush in PMQ and on BBC programmes carefully staged by Labour to elicit a particular response based on Cameron’s family background. The context was established by the time of QT and explained there but likely not available at PMQ.

        Cameron was reacting to a perceived misrepresentation of government policy but despite the benefit of extensive hindsight you UKIP supporters chose to also exploit Labour’s dispicable tactic to make meagre capital. Is this really the brave new politics UKIP claims to be championing?

    2. William Gruff
      October 18, 2014

      You are, presumably, not one of the many millions who must subsist on the minimum wage, or less, the payment of which is an explicit statement by the employer that he does not value the employee and would pay less if he could. Can you explain why it is so important to have a job, any job, even when it pays considerably less than a ‘living wage’ (it is not unreasonable to point out that the principal purpose in working is to obtain a living so a job that does not provide one is not worth doing, except when one has no alternative)? It is also reasonable to remark that people do not start businesses simply to provide jobs and do not employ others from philanthropic motives; people employ others in the interests of personal profit (don’t assume that I am a ‘socialist’, whatever that chimaera may be) and those who make that profit for them are entitled to rather more than a token payment in return for what is actually wage slavery. No one gives anyone else a job: employees finance their jobs by earning more than they are paid for doing them, at least in the private sector, which is what I assume you are alluding to.

      The minimum wage, and one which is increased at least with inflation, is a more effective way to provide a fairer distribution of resources, and is more efficient, than ostensibly ‘redistributive’ tax and welfare regimes, which act as far more of a deterrent to economic success than a legal obligation to pay people fairly for their time, skill and labour.

      I could write very much more on the many social and economic issues your comment raises but our host has not unreasonably asked us to keep our comments brief so I wont.

      1. Lifelogic
        October 21, 2014

        The minimum wage condemns those people (whose work is worth less than the minimum) to be unemployed. It prevent them selling their labour for less even when they want too.

        It is a restriction on these workers forcing them out of work. The employer just continues to employ the workers worth more than the minimum.

  2. alan jutson
    October 17, 2014

    Thank you for sharing some of the working arrangements of your Party with us.

    Certainly agree that not all discussions should be made public, and Members who attend should not be afraid to be candid in their views and exchanges with each other.

    No point at all in surrounding yourself with yes men and women in any walk of life, as it is usually a sign that your EGO is simply far too big.

    I hope that these meetings are productive, and help lead to rather more sensible policy ideas and actions, that also chime with sensible public opinion.

    I guess we will see what is in the next manifesto, but actions always speak very much louder than words.

  3. Ian wragg
    October 17, 2014

    Another day another policy. Now we are going to restrict tax credits. Probably illegal but never mind. Sounds good. 5 years and still talk talk. Must be an election due always jam tomorrow. Not good enough John. Action not words please.

    1. Timaction
      October 17, 2014

      I’m sure the internal wrangling of the Conservative party is interesting to you and your colleagues Mr Redwood but to the rest of us out here in the real world we want to see real action. Not talk, spin and inaction which is the hallmark of all the legacy parties.
      Yesterday we had your leader talking again about the possible renegotiation of the freedom of movement rules within the EU and hinting that this may be on the table at some point in the future. No clue as to whether this is existing members or future members or if this was a redline. The EU spokeswoman quickly dismissed this.
      People have had enough of political spin and misinformation from the legacy parties. That was the politics of the 20th Century copied from the Blair years. In the internet age we want real people saying real things that effect real people out here. We’re the one’s witnessing the adverse consequences of your policies on mass migration, climate lunacy, taxes, human rights farces.

  4. agricola
    October 17, 2014

    I imagine the Westminster bubble is full of acronyms, usually used as insider talk to keep the people who put you there, in the mushroom shed. Perhaps you could enlighten us, delete as appropriate.

    Nothing too big
    Nothing too banal
    No turning back
    Nuclear toxic biological

    If I used many that have been part of my life I imagine you would be equally in the dark.

  5. zorro
    October 17, 2014

    Gosh, comments I have seen ‘Cameron makes immigration his red line’…… Tory/UKIP or is that Tory UKIP MPs disgruntled over EAW’….. Which blunder leaked these details….. Cui Bono?….. Those rabid Tory ‘bite your legs’ right wingers’ or our very own Cast Iron and highly trustable, ‘my word is my bond, and don’t lecture me about disabled people’ First Lord of the Treassury, Mr David Cameron showing how he’s batting for the British public with a toothpick…….. Or more pertinently who really cares…..?


    1. JoeSoap
      October 17, 2014

      Think the Rt Hon Anthony Blair, 1996-7. It worked for him, I guess, but whether it works again….

  6. Alan Wheatley
    October 17, 2014

    How about inviting that non-ministerial, Margaret Thatcher enthusiast, Nigel Farage?

    Reply Because he would announce it to the media and seek to exploit any such meeting for party advantage.

    1. zorro
      October 17, 2014

      Unlike Mr Cameron who would never disclose the details of such a meeting with the NTB group for mere political advantage and make himself look tough in the light of recent UKIP gains…. God forbid such a thought!!


  7. Bert Young
    October 17, 2014

    I am not sure what you mean when you say that UKIP supporters have not forwarded their views concerning your NTB sessions ; from what I read of your responses most voices are loud and clear and don’t hesitate to say what they have in mind . I think it is very sound policy of those in decision forming roles to consult with others outside and I am certain you make full use of these opportunities to get the Eurosceptic opinions across ; I attend those meetings at All Souls you address for much the same input reason . I have always found when coming to a conclusion that it is reassuring to bounce it around before going public ; most decision makers I have known and advised in the past acted in the same way.

  8. Richard1
    October 17, 2014

    Interesting that you say most members of the NTB group support Lord Lawson’s work at the GWPF. Let’s remember that this body is a pariah for the climate change establishment / green blob; its essential conclusion is that current EU and UK energy policy is completely wrongheaded. Do all Conservative cabinet ministers really still support the official green religion? May we expect to see more MPs follow Owen Paterson’s lead and question green policies?

    As expected the BBC has just given airtime to an ‘expert’ in wind to rubbish Mr Paterson’s arguments. Asked how much energy comes from wind the expert said ‘well yesterday it was 7%’. He said it was ‘as cheap as coal’ once you remove the hidden subsidies. None of this selective nonsense was of course questioned by the BBC interviewer.

    This issue is fertile ground for a change, the public can see we are being led to poverty, de industrialization and ruin of the countryside by current energy and environmental policies.

    1. fedupsouthener
      October 17, 2014

      Yes, fully endorse your comments Richard1. Chris Heaton Harris was singing loud and clear about the folly of wind and our self defeating energy policy but we haven’t hear much from him lately. And what about all the ministers who signed a document saying they were against the current renewables policy? Wasn’t it nearly a hundred or over???? Where are they? I don’t like the way the BBC reported Owen Paterson’s speech at the GWPF saying that he was a sacked minister. They made it sound as though he would not be listened to as he has a few issues with the Tory party now. Nothing but bias but the BBC don’t tell us that a recent graph shows wind, solar and renewables produce nothing compared to gas, oil and coal and yet have received the most in subsidies. Nothing but a scandal and at least UKIP can see this. Just for once in their sheltered, pampered lives could ministers please listen to the experts who have been telling government that our current energy policy is not fit for purpose. We know it but the governments of today seem hell bent on destroying UKplc.

    2. Lifelogic
      October 17, 2014

      Well everyone who know anything about energy production/science/physics knows the government’s and EU’s energy policy is completely bonkers.

  9. Javelin
    October 17, 2014

    Simple point.

    Voters are not happy.

    Cameron is letting too many people into the country who take/steal our taxes. Who push house prices up and who take our jobs or commit crimes.

    Sort it out or you will be consigned to the dust bin.

    The English are very tolerant but their patience has snapped.

    1. Javelin
      October 17, 2014

      I think this could be put simpler

      The English are landmines not doormats.

    2. zorro
      October 17, 2014

      This point is very true. I observe very middle of the road people being hacked off with foreign nationals extracting the Michael more and more……

      (Individual example about an individual removed as I have not heard the other side of the story ed)

  10. M Davis
    October 17, 2014

    Very wise, not to invite the deceitful media.

    I wonder if you will print a portion of a comment about the European Arrest Warrant opt out, made my Anonymous at 8:46 AM, on the Raedwald blog:

    “In the end, like with most of it, on behalf of the British authorities but never in OUR NAME it is a surrender, an abnegation of responsibility.

    They [our political elite] have given up our rights and the spirit of the law in the form of the ECJ-ECHR and now with the EAW has been outsourced to a bunch of power crazed loonies and EUropean lawyers who [seek to] ARE – running our affairs over there in the centre of Empire, in Brussels.

    What did we fight for?

    From Blenheim, Trafalgar and Waterloo through to the fall of Berlin in 1945 – it was all for nothing.”

    Reply I am glad this government has opted out of the European Arrest Warrant. I will vote against any attempt to opt back in,and am seeking to persuade the government not to attempt to.

    1. Denis Cooper
      October 17, 2014

      Are you sure that you will be allowed to vote on any attempt to opt back in?

      If so, would that be a single vote on the whole package, or would you be allowed separate votes on the different measures including the EU Arrest Warrant?

      I see nothing at all about this in Hague’s famous European Union Act 2011, at least nothing which is direct and explicit, so legally speaking would it even be necessary to pass an Act to approve it, let alone put it to a referendum?

      Open Europe say:


      “So why are we not going to see a referendum? Well as this decision was already in the pipeline, it was excluded when the Government drafted its legislation.”

      I’m inclined to believe that they are correct about the legal position.

      Reply There will have to be an opt in vote in Parliament. I oppose powers going to the EU.

      1. Denis Cooper
        October 17, 2014

        Would that be a single Commons vote on the whole package, or a series of votes on different items in the package?

        As you know I’m always interested in the legal details, so is there some Act other than the European Union Act 2011 which compels the government to gain approval through a vote in the Commons, maybe also in the Lords as well, or is this a voluntary concession by the government?

        Why would it be enough to have a single vote, presumably on a resolution, rather than a full Act being required to approve the decision?

    2. Kenneth R Moore
      October 17, 2014

      Any rational or sensible person looking at the case of Andrew Symeou would conclude that the European arrest warrant is a menace to the freedom of citizens. But we are dealing with the government’s leadership here. The leadership of your party are unfit to hold office.


      1. Denis Cooper
        October 18, 2014

        Well, I already had no intention of voting for the Tory candidate here at the next general election; but the fact that she is perfectly happy for me or any other of her constituents to be exposed to the risk of arbitrary arrest and summary deportation to potentially spend many months rotting in a foreign prison without any specific charges being brought, and is insisting that she will opt us back into that system when we could get out of it and stay out of it, would itself ensure that I didn’t vote for her. Not that this will particularly concern her, given her 16,769 majority in 2010.

        Reply Is she? I read in the press that there is a rethink going on about opting back in, as many of us Conservative MPs have said we will vote against any such move.

        1. Denis Cooper
          October 18, 2014

          Yes, she is perfectly happy with it and if she doesn’t opt back into it then that will only be out of fear of the political consequences, not because she understands and accepts how wrong it is.

  11. Denis Cooper
    October 17, 2014

    On the EU policy of “combatting climate change”, as required by the additional words added to Article 191 TFEU through the amending Lisbon Treaty agreed by Brown and pushed through without a referendum, and then accepted in its entirety by Cameron, it is reported that there is disagreement among EU member state governments about this, but only about just how stupidly destructive this EU policy should be in the future:


    “Leaked papers show EU disagreement on climate goals”

    You wouldn’t think that the eurozone is heading back into recession and the state debt crisis is about to reignite, starting with Greece, when EU governments have the time and effort to waste on working out how to do further damage to their economies on the basis of a flawed and increasingly dubious climatological theory.

  12. acorn
    October 17, 2014

    I forgot you are still running the “Ordoliberal” wing of the Conservative party, I haven’t seen any pamphlets for years. Some may be aware that it was the Ordoliberals in Germany that dictated the structure of the EMU.

    Maastricht’s neo-liberal designers, never allowed a fully-fledged federal fiscal capacity to be created, (a proper EU Treasury with tax; spend and transfer powers). Oh no, the EU got the “Stability and Growth Pact” (Austerity) as a very poor substitute. A proper federal Treasury would have allowed the EMU to effectively apply “fiscal stimulus” selectively and in aggregate, to get a grip on the 2008 crisis and the subsequent spending power collapse in the Eurozone. The results of which we are witnessing, for the third time, today. All caused by the financial equivalent of ISIL, the IMF.

    PS. having just returned from the Emirates, I was advised there not to use ISIL. The locals use “Daesh”.

  13. oldtimer
    October 17, 2014

    I am pleased to see there is NTB by you on the need to preserve confidentiality about such meetings.

  14. Denis Cooper
    October 17, 2014

    Just set my Sky box to record the Second Reading of the Wharton/Neill European Union (Kicking Referendum into Long Grass) Bill.

    Reply The guarantee you will have a referendum Bill – unless you vote for a Labour government which will repeal it.

    1. Denis Cooper
      October 17, 2014

      As there is no attempt at entrenching it against normal repeal it could easily be repealed by any future government of whatever political complexion. You are asking us to trust that Cameron would not do that, when he has built up a long track record of going back on his promises on one excuse of another. And as the next general election will not have any immediate effect on the composition of the Lords it’s very unlikely that they would try to block a Bill to repeal it.

      1. acorn
        October 17, 2014

        Denis, perhaps you should concentrate on the “Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15”. That is, the Clegg (official) version, not Zac’s version. This one will get diluted and “kicked into the long grass”, even more than the referendum Bill.

        1. Denis Cooper
          October 18, 2014

          What a strange suggestion.

          Yesterday MPs spent 4 hours debating the Wharton/Neill Bill:


          But you think I should have ignored that and instead concentrated on another Bill which was not being debated yesterday.

          Oddly enough, the Tory supporting media seem to agree with you; I was expecting that they would try to make a lot of this, but I can find hardly anything at all. One of the Spectator journalists wrote just in passing that it was a “momentous” day, but apparently not so “momentous” that it merited any more than that aside in an article on a different subject.

          Bob Neill put on a good performance introducing the Bill, but it was only a performance; it’s totally hypocritical for a Tory to argue that we should have a referendum because it’s four decades since the last one and a lot has changed since then, without admitting that the most radical changes started with the Single European Act and continued with the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, and those leading the Tory party did not agree to hold a referendum on either of those treaties.

          And in Mr Neill we have somebody like Mrs Thatcher, who as a trained lawyer should have understood the implications of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and especially the solemn commitment to “ever closer union” in its very first line, but who not only voted for us to remain subject to it but actively campaigned to persuade others to vote the same way.

          1. acorn
            October 18, 2014

            Denis, the Recall bill is an opportunity for a constituency to grab their MP by the short and curlies. It is a chance for the constituency to overrule the party Whips. It is a chance to convert an MP from “lobby fodder” to a “delegate”” of the constituency. Not a (f*** you, the voter, till the next election) “representative”.

            The only thing that can guarantee an MP’s attention to his electors, is the threat of redundancy. Remember that at least 450 of the buggers are in safe seats that would need three sigma plus swings from the normal distribution, to unseat them.

          2. Denis Cooper
            October 19, 2014

            I’m fully in favour of a proper recall law, one through which constituents can force the resignation of their MP without any other body being able to stop them doing that whenever they want for whatever reasons they may see fit, just with some restrictions on timing such as having to wait for at least a year, say, since the last time he was elected.

            But that was not being debated on Friday.

    2. Hope
      October 17, 2014

      And a Tory party that will not act upon it.

    3. JoeSoap
      October 17, 2014

      Perhaps we would rather have an honest decision rather than a referendum “a l’Ecosse”….. if we can wait until 2017 we can also wait until 2020, or perhaps earlier, when a Miliband Government blows up in its own face…

    4. Denis Cooper
      October 17, 2014

      Is there any particular reason why the Tory support for this Bill at this Second Reading was significantly weaker than on the previous occasion it had a Second Reading, back in July 2013?

      Then it was 304 votes to zero, but this time it’s only 283 votes to zero … that’s a 10% reduction in the level of support for the same Bill …

      Only joking.

      1. Margaret Brandreth-J
        October 18, 2014

        Sounds dismal to me :who do we trust to allow us real choice? The second reading was introduced well ;full stop.

  15. Bryan
    October 17, 2014

    Wise words and advice indeed.

  16. Roy Grainger
    October 17, 2014

    ” ….the absurd idea that members of a party always have to agree with one another”.

    Well that “absurd” idea is currently being splashed across the media by members of your own party, including government ministers, who are pointing out that apparently Mr Carswell and Mr Farage don’t agree on all issues and that this is a bad thing.

  17. Atlas
    October 17, 2014

    I just hope that the point was made to Cameron that his recent speeches have smacked of panic – and so are not credible.

  18. BobE
    October 17, 2014

    A 25 year old badly mentally disabled but gentle man was given work on a farm in Kent. A charity had asked the farmer who found work for the lad. He was really incapable of doing useful paid work but tried very hard and loved working with the other ordinary workers. The job made him happy and you could see the improvement in him because of the feeling of usefulness. It was impossible to pay him the proper working wage as in reality his work hardly contributed to the farm. Each day he was given one pound (£1) in 10p pieces. He was always very pleased with this and so was everybody else concerned. This is a true story.

    1. Roy Grainger
      October 17, 2014

      That is why organisations such as Mencap and the Labour Party have in the past proposed that the mentally disabled should be exempt from the minimum wage rules. However their desire to get rid of a Tory minister who no-one has ever heard of is clearly more important to them so they have changed their stance.

    October 17, 2014

    You point out politicians can speak openly and honestly without the risk of the media misinterpreting. Good.
    No doubt you were all too late to ask PM Cameron not to condemn a colleague such as Lord Freud. To take time in TV-Parliament to educate the British people about English Usage and contextual modifications of words and idiomatic expressions. Also to follow the example of Andrew Neil who masterfully dissected the whole utterance on a later “This Week “.

    PM Cameron allowed the Rt Hon Leader of the Opposition to “play” politics in Questions and Answers. Actually agreed with the lie; agreed with the accusation. I have heard this bad behaviour of Parliamentarians before. That, and the nod-nod nodding of heads with unruly heckling makes a total mockery of Parliament, openly , for all to see.

  20. BobE
    October 17, 2014

    What does NTB mean?

    Reply No Turning back as described in my article.

  21. Brian Tomkinson
    October 17, 2014

    How very Orwellian of you to accuse people like me of not coming forward with comments whilst at the same time deliberately not publishing them when we do, as I did much earlier today and previously this week. As I have commented to you before, if you don’t want my comments, please publicly advise me and I will save your time and mine.

  22. zorro
    October 17, 2014

    Anyways…. Interest rates anyone?…. Have you any seen a gloomier face in your life than that of Andrew Haldane. His mouth was so downturned it ws heading towards Australia because of the ‘gloomier’ outlook…… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11168724/Andrew-Haldane-interest-rates-could-stay-low-for-longer-in-gloomier-economy.html

    Nevertheless, the result of his very downturned face is continuing ZIRP…. Not surprising really, the junkie is definitely hooked unable to give up its fix….. Any comment on that John, or is that for tomorrow’s blog?


    Reply Yes, a later blog – I have a queue of good topics at the moment.

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