Coffee House

Another headache for the Tory whips

14 November 2012

12:07 PM

14 November 2012

12:07 PM

Today brings yet another set of reminders for Numbers 9, 10 and 11 Downing Street about how difficult maintaining party discipline is going to be. First, there’s The Guardian story about Chris Heaton-Harris trying to use James Delingpole and the threat of him running as an anti-wind farm candidate in Corby as leverage to toughen up the party’s position on the issue.

Then, there’s the letter signed by 15 Tory MPs calling on Cameron to make a transferable tax allowance for married couples part of the 2013 Budget. In a sign of where a lot of the trouble will come from in the coming months, the lead signatory to the letter is a minister who was sacked in the reshuffle, Tim Loughton.

Part of the problems for the whips is that they now only have one tool in their tool box, ministerial preferment. By contrast the last time the Tories were in power, the whips had all sorts of tools at their disposal: select committee membership, foreign trips and the like. Working out how to whip the party without these inducements is one of the major challenges facing the leadership.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • David Lindsay

    “So my deputy chairman, political, resigned from my local party and is running his campaign as his agent. So it’s all professionally done. The whole point of that is to actually just put it on the agenda.”

    Thus speaks Chris Heaton-Harris MP.

    In other words, this whole business is now the Conservative Party’s definition, not only of behaviour compatible with party membership, but of a professionally executed by-election campaign.

  • David Lindsay

    Whether or not that Independent (or other party) candidate ever entered the race, setting up the website of such a putative rival, acting as his agent, or what have you, would secure expulsion from any serious political party. The Conservative Party, manifestly, is no longer serious.

    Furthermore, and no less manifestly, it now harbours a separate party, extending all the way up to the office, not to say the person, of George Osborne. That separate party, like any other, has its own membership, its own policy programme, its own underlying philosophy, and, no doubt, its own structures, its own discipline and its own funding.

    Against a Conservative candidate other than one of its own, it might organise an Independent, or it might, as it now does at Corby, actively support UKIP. None of this is deemed incompatible with Conservative Party membership at the very highest levels. The formal coup might have been expected after the next General Election. But if the Corby result is quite as bad as is now expected, then might that coup happen even within the present calendar year? If not, why not?

    Speaking of by-elections, half of the General Committee of Rotherham Constituency Labour Party walked out last night, after the National Executive Committee had failed to shortlist any local candidate, including the hugely popular Councillor Mahroof Hussain MBE, Nick Clegg’s opponent at Sheffield Hallam in 2010. As a Muslim of South Asian extraction, the NEC considers Councillor Hussain suspect following a recent grooming scandal. Which NEC members, exactly, are responsible for this? Blairism lives, it seems. Although not, one trusts, after the next round of NEC elections.

    There is talk of an Independent candidacy there, too, if only to keep the seat in the hands of a mainstream Labour figure rather than either a member of Respect or, even worse, an imposed apparatchik sharing the views of Denis MacShane, except perhaps on the sex industry and on indecency in the media.

    Both of these stories have important implications for tomorrow’s elections of Police and Crime Commissioners. As an Independent, let me assure you that there is not, nor ought there to be, nor ever could there be, anything “non-political” about being an Independent. If a position is political, then it is political. Being a Parish Councillor is political. Being a Member of Parliament is political. Being a Police and Crime Commissioner is political. It just is.

  • Heartless etc.,

    “Tories” . . . “Leadership” . . . ?

    You would have to look very hard to find any Tories, – and Leadership is there none.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Forsyth reflects the stinking, corrupt culture of the Establishment.
    Any whip who attempts to bribe or otherwise to improperly to coerce an MP should go to prison. The Common Law offence of malfeasance still applies.


      He’s in bed with it.

      • ScaryBiscuits

        Then we should string him up along with the rest of the common criminals.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Be fair. This particular Speccie teenager may want to be in bed with it, but hasn’t quite advanced beyond sniffing.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Given that being part of this awful government seems less desirable than catching a venereal disease, I suspect that for many on the backbenches the whips actually have zero measures of coercion. Quite frankly COnservative MPs will have greater credibility if they are in fact a rebel given it is clear that on of the biggest roadblocks to progress and a return to economic stability is the Quad……

  • toco10

    The loss making Guardian is desperate for scoops but now excepts the Greenpeace conspiracy story is simply inaccurate and wrong.The Guardian and its sister the equally biased BBC are running amok.Only yesterday Guido reported a BBC North Africa employee said he hates the Tories and called them vermin-biased or what from the disgraced BBC.

  • itdoesntaddup

    No-one reads the Grauniad. Perhaps you should read Guido:

    Now, if the BBC wishes to promote yet more Greenpeace propaganda, they might choose to run with their report and follow their agenda of not reporting the other side of the story as it’s a “climate change” issue, where the science has been decided by a load of left wing campaigners.


    Carrot and Stick are the two traditional methods of coercion, but if the carrots have all been given out (and in doing so exposed Cameron’s true politics) and the whips don’t have any dirt on the likely rebels, then you’re left with one professional tool, but one which our political elite can’t use. Argument.

    Wind farms have been exposed not just because they don’t and can never do what it’s claimed for them, but slowly people are realising that their chief purpose is to despoil the countryside and wrack the souls of those who love our country and what it stands for (read Roger Scruton).
    It is a manifestation of the statist whip.
    And let’s hope that all the other apparatus of imbedded, three-party socialism is exposed more and more. Fat chance that it’ll ever happen in this magazine.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I think we are experiencing England’s second revolution. The first was the Industrial from a primarily agrarian society to a partly industrialised one. They co-existed with industry gradually declining after WWII. Now we are experiencing urbanisation promoted by a largely urban elite, with various imperatives including over-population and “climate change”. There are rural MPs but I can’t see much evidence of their influence on politics which seem to be largely for urban and by urban at the expense of everything else. Many rural communities are in effect dormitories anyway, with much housing owned as second or holiday homes by the urban rich.

    • telemachus

      My dear Irish I thought you folks used semtex for coertion

      • IRISHBOY

        Can anyone advise here – is this racism? Is this the sort of comment that got Frank P, James 102, ToryOAP banned from this site?

        • telemachus

          Sorry but you do have a history
          Is that contrite enough

          • IRISHBOY

            Irishboy has a history of denouncing those who use semtex murder and mayhem, and the process that freed those guilty and imprisoned because of use of such methods, and which then put some of them in Government.

            • telemachus

              I quite like Martin

              • IRISHBOY

                Mind yer kneecaps!

    • 2trueblue

      Wind farms have been exposed as a disaster but like the EU and other issues, you will not get the government to give any of our opinions airtime to disrupt their agenda. That is their problem. They are coming across as disconnected to what everyday and local issues are. Wind farms do not deliver, will not deliver, and there is no other long term provision for our fuel security.

      It was totally ignored by Liebore and we are no further down the path in assessing what can be done to ensure that we can provide fuel to keep industry and homes provided. The carbon emissions targets are unrealistic and yet we carry on as if we can meet them and retain our economic viability.

      We are totally reliant on other countries for fuel and we do have natural resources that we must engage in developing.

  • John_Page

    Local primaries, giving MPs’ constituents power to choose a different Conservative candidate for the next election if they want to.

  • Douglas Carter

    I would suggest it’s a somewhat more complex issue than ‘leadership’?

    This article seems to rule out whether Cameron should actually be looking at the wind-farm debate (…it’s not as if he has a personal stake or interest in wind-farms, now, is it…?…), rule out whether his troublesome MPs have simply decided they are in Parliament to represent their own constituents, not ‘the quad’, and it also seems to rule out that there is a ‘second’ tool in the Whip’s box.

    That of communicating to the Prime Minister that he may actually be wrong.

    • telemachus

      The PM should make all these issues confidence votes and call the ‘bastards’ bluff

      • Vulture

        What and expose himself for the weakling he is every week? Even Dave is’nt that stupid…is he?

      • Martin Keegan

        Fixed Term Parliaments Act makes that an empty threat

      • ScaryBiscuits

        For once, telemachus I agree with you. Cameron has, in effect, already lost two confidence votes. He could easily lose another and be gone – which is why he won’t take your advice.
        John Major, who had at least won an election in far more challenging circumstances that Cameron, had deep wells of support in the Tory shires. Cameron by contrast has made upsetting ordinary members his key test of a good policy; he may yet come to rue his arrogance. MPs who opposed Major were criticised by their associations: no such restraint applies to the new ‘bastards’ who are cheered to the rafters.

        • telemachus

          Glad you agree
          But in fact he would win the confidence votes as confidence votes and tame the reckless bastards