Coffee House

The party of little tykes

21 December 2012

4:33 PM

21 December 2012

4:33 PM

Whose fault is it that the Tory party is so rebellious? Some think it’s the beastly backbenchers, while others argue it’s the Tory leadership. I was amused to watch a beaming Brian Binley lead David Cameron into the 1922 committee on Wednesday, given the backbencher was only recently penning an angry letter to the press about how the Prime Minister was ruining everything. There will always be people like Binley in every party, and Downing Street has made very clear that it would answer his desire for a move to the right by staying firmly in the centre ground. But are there really are so many other Conservative MPs who started out as thorns in the flesh from their first day in Parliament?

Here are the MPs who have rebelled on the EU referendum vote last year, the House of Lords Reform Bill, and the EU Budget:


Within that group of naughty MPs are some very naughty ones indeed: Philip Hollobone, for instance, has voted out of line with his party in 22 per cent of divisions since May 2010. Others, like Nadine Dorries, are extremely outspoken about the failings of the Tory leadership in the media (Nadine, of course, is an extreme example as she remains suspended from the Conservative party until a further meeting with the chief whip in the new year). Two members of this club – Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway, who resigned as PPSs to rebel in the EU referendum vote – have gone in the space of a year from being ministerial aides to hardcore rebels. Others were considered ministerial material back in 2010: Nick de Bois, Tracey Crouch, Zac Goldsmith and Steve Baker being some of those names.

But that hardcore list doesn’t tell the full story. There’s now a net of rebellion that spreads across the party where certain MPs have rebelled on key issues such as Lords reform, but kept their powder dry on Europe. They aren’t coalescing around one central problem: instead, there are many problems. The gay marriage vote won’t be whipped, but it is creating another group of MPs opposed to government policy.

When I volunteered as a classroom assistant at university, one of the things I quickly learned was that a good primary school teacher isn’t always the sweetest one with the laissez-faire attitude. The best ones were endlessly ticking the children off about little misdemeanours, setting clear boundaries before their behaviour developed into something more challenging. This hasn’t been happening in the Conservative party, and it has created a party of little tykes.

It’s not just about telling people off: as well as repeated grumbles about the government failing to be sufficiently Conservative, one thing that backbenchers often say to me is they are rarely followed up by the whips or the party HQ. One – and not a rebellious one at that – told me he’d had no response to his decision to criticise a government policy in the press. ‘A call from a whip to check I was OK would have been nice,’ he told me. Backbenchers seem to be left to their own devices: another one complained to me that it would be nice to be taken for coffee by a whip once in a while just to check how things were going. It would work both ways: the leadership would know what was coming down the road in terms of issues worrying MPs, and the MPs would feel loved. When a rebellion looms, though, the whips go into overdrive and export would-be rebels straight to Downing Street or the Treasury.

The problem now is that each side is blaming the other: if you’re in Downing Street, it’s because the party is naughty, and if you’re an MP, it’s because the leadership doesn’t care about you. Unless someone blinks first, it doesn’t look like the stand-off between leadership and rebels is going to go away any time soon.

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Show comments
  • ButcombeMan

    There will continue to be unease and internal opposition now while Cameron remains leader, discipline cannot be enforced because many MPs know Cameron’s behaviour and his very ideology will continue to lose them support in the country. It will inevitably now, mean many will lose their seats.

    Cameron has broken the Tory party and lost massive support in the country with core supporters, all through his own carelessness.

    It will not be easy to put back together. Certainly neither he nor Osborne is capable of doing it.

    Remember the question?: “Is he one of us”?

    The problem is, that Cameron isn’t.

  • FrankS

    Just an idea – isn’t it the backbenchers’ duty to hold the leadership to account!

  • andagain

    So… is Camerons fault for not treating his MPs as if they were small children?

  • David Ossitt

    Isabel Hardman heralds this article with the title “The party of little tykes” I am not sure that she fully understands the meaning of the noun ‘tyke’, it can have the meaning of a crude, vulgar, rough-cut, uncouth, ill-bred, lacking in all of the necessary refinement or
    culture person.

    Or it can simply mean a native of Yorkshire.

    Perhaps Isabel should re title her piece.

    One thing is certain, the Conservative party
    is now no longer the party for true Conservatives.

    • ArchiePonsonby

      Eee, ‘ecky thump, tha knoas!

  • Madame Merle

    Does Cameron really believe that he will win votes because the Tories are the party of gay marriage?

    It must be very difficult to remain loyal to a leader whose priority is his own popularity and who will say whatever it takes stay in power.

  • Colonel Mustard

    I like the hectoring, primary school simile. Sums up our infantilised, emasculated society. Sums up nicely a grown woman who can’t see anything wrong with adults being treated like six year olds – like so many other women in politics who want to turn the country into a classroom.

    Please Miss I know a naughty boy who smokes fags in his car!

  • barbie

    The problem is many know at the next election their parlamentry career might be over. The way this government is operating against the unemployed, and thinking they are inline with national thinking on this, they are gravely mistaken. The EU and immigration is still main issues, both on equal terms. Domestic issues like unemployment, is taking a turn for the worse; and with the USA not getting fistical agreement it might be worser than we think. You can demonise one section of society for a time and get away with it, but when the nation sees the damage it will do to families once the new online system kicks in, thinking will change. Tories have always been, naturally, greedy and selfish, wanting the best as long as they have the easiest option of getting it. It used to be called ‘off the sweat of others’, nothing’s changed. They also believe they pay the bulk of taxes, yet we have recently learnt they pay as least as possible if they can get away with it. Workers pay as they earn, there’s no relief for them.
    No this governments policies are now becoming more like Soviet Russia, it now wants to monitor peoples access to jobs online and how they fair, its flawed and won’t work. Many unemployed cannot afford Internet access, even though they may have a computer. For me I’d just say I can’t use a computer, to poor to pay for lessons. Or disable cookies on the one I’ve got. Either way IDS will come out of this as he did as Tory leader all thoughs years ago, a complete fool.

    • Rahul Kamath

      U r correct about Tory MPs needing to start worrying abt retaining their seats. In fact I wonder abt their behaviour, their inability to empathise with their constituents (Alex Massie has written on this). But the real issue is Gideons mad economic policies and possibly IDS’ crazy experimentation. Not the EU and immigration which are just convenient whipping boys for right wingers.

      • barbie

        When you are cutting from your own citizens and they are suffering, everything a government does is relevant. While we pay for immigrants with housing, and benefits they have paid not one penny toward, while we fund the EU without controls on spending, we have the right to protest. When you see the elderly having to sell their homes after being one of the many strivers who have stood on their own two feet all their life, something is wrong. While we continue to spend billions on foreign aid, 55 million per year on foreign health tourists, there is something seriously wrong. When you begin to demonise one section of society, the unemployed something is wrong. Its a governments place to provide stimulus and jobs and growth for the electorate to help themselves. Cameron is not providing nothing but grief.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Please do tell us what Lefties “have always been, naturally…” – I can’t wait. Instead of indulging in stereotyping and demonisation consider for a moment that is precisely what you are complaining about – stereotyping and demonisation! The current Coalition may be Tory-led but it is far from conservative. Identity group politics, especially demonising and victimhood identity group politics, is a tool of the left. It is a very great pity that the Tories have allowed themselves to be pulled into this polarising leftist “central” ground by the legacy of New Labour and to try to force all shapes through a government prescribed, top down hole of one shape only, the results to be determined by box-ticking, bureaucratic bean counters to whom discretion, circumstance, needs and pragmatism are Alien life forms.

      Mr Cameron promised to “sweep away” the nanny state so dear to New Labour. Now he is busy enhancing it and I have to agree that the idea of compulsory online monitoring of a “job seeker’s” enthusiasm and activity is so dire as to be almost beyond belief. As though Big Brother coercion can replace incentive and self-respect.

      • barbie

        Lefties have always spent money they don’t have or someone else’s; the taxpayers money, borrowed without a care who will repay. I’m no lover of the right or the left, in fact the last Labour government were the worst in history, with their social engineering policies which have changed this country for the worse. We now have the raving madness of Cameron and his culture of hating the unemployed, and many may have worked for years and been unfortunate to have lost their job. Demonising one section of society is discrimination, and we can see we are not ‘all in this together’. We now see they intend to make the elderly pay for care to the tune of £75,000 per year per person, in his dreams that will happen. He’s doomed for the next election, my vote will go to UKIP as it has done for all the recent elections.

  • an ex-tory voter

    In my experience the best primary school teachers are not those constantly chiding the pupils, they are those who have the pupil’s respect. David Cameron’s problem is that hedoes not have the respect of the “conservative” section of his party. He will never gain that respect via the whips, he will only gain it by affirmative conservative action.

  • Julian F

    “Whose fault is it that the Tory party is so rebellious?”. Why does it have to be a “fault”? Perhaps it is simply because right-wingers tend to be brighter and more capable of independent thought and actions than left-wingers, who like their views to be presented to them ready-packaged and in absurdly simplistic terms.

    • Rahul Kamath

      You are having a laugh right?

    • barbie

      There’s the led and the leaders, its sorting them out s our problem.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    It is instructive, the Speccie teenager’s vocalization of the Cameroons’ view of government, that MP’s are the equivalent of primary school children.

    Very instructive, indeed.

    Thank you for this post. It’s helpful.

    • David Lindsay

      Yes, I thought that, too.

      • Wessex Man

        Congratulations congratulations-there you see you can get your view over without writing a book and wasting a wood!

  • Robert Castlereagh

    “The best ones were endlessly ticking the children off about little misdemeanours, setting clear boundaries before their behaviour developed into something more challenging”
    We should apply this in reverse from what you implied. If the true Tory backbenchers had taken this approach with Cameron and the Cabinet we would not be in the pickle we are in. They have let the hated Clegg, Cable and Alexander call the tune at every turn.
    With some credible imput from the true Tories we would have won a referendum by now and Cameron would be seeing the EU give away presents on Social Chapter, Banks, fishing and CAP in an effort to stop us leaving. The 1922 needs to wake up from its subservience to the wets.

    • telemachus

      What planet do you inhabit?
      There is no way a referendum would be granted or be likely to produce the Ukip result once our great people thought on it
      I believe in the British people and they know on which side their bread is buttered

      • Wessex Man

        I believe in Angels etc etc etc always on top of your game telemachus.

    • Austin Barry

      I emailed an old Viet vet chum about the problem we’re having with Cameron as our hopeless, cowardly leader. His sardonic response was couched in obscure military slang but the metaphor is apt;

      “He sounds FUBAR (******up beyond all recognition) . Out in the boonies after beans and dicks we’d’ve fragged his ass. Xin Loi.”


  • ben corde

    They should be made to read Simon Miller in today’s Commentator. This lot give new meaning to the word ‘treachery’ … via @TheCommentator

    • Stuart Eels

      No they should hear what’s being said about them wherever people gather, it’s not pleasant and by their very actions, they and I include Labour and Lib/dems here are turning people off in their droves.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Well, there is the theory that my MP is up there to represent me, not do what Cameron says. There is the possibility that various MPs put things in their election leaflets which they want to stand by. There is the fact that the PM has to be able to form a government but nothing in the constitution says any MP has to be loyal to it.

    That is without consideration for the members of the party. What do they think?

    Oh, and we don’t work for Cameron, he works for us.

    • telemachus

      Gord Elp Us if this played through.
      We do not want delegates
      If we took your view we would bring back hanging, make homosexual adoption and gay marriage illegal and leave the EU leading to Economic collapse.

      • telemachus

        And while we are on about these Right Wing Tories

        Brian Binley was ordered to pay back 1,500 after he claimed for the cost of renting a flat from a company which he partially owns.

        Mr Binley was also ordered to apologise in writing after the committee on standards and privileges found he breached parliamentary rules.

        The committee found that the Northampton South MP rented the flat from BCC Marketing Services Ltd – a company in which he, his wife and his son owned a 20 per cent stake.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “Right Wing Tories” – lovely. An open admission that the “Left Wing Tory” does exist!

          telemachus, being part of Labour’s “McBride Black Ops”, understands full well about the plot and the cuckoos.

          • telemachus

            telemachus is about to sign off for a wonderful family Christmas in the certain knowlege that we will overcome


            The resolution for all reasonable people for the New Year will be to drive down the forces of the revanchist right

            This will include a boycott of the Sun and Daily Mail, subscriptions to the Guardian and New Stateman, a boycott of all banks that declare bonuses for staff beyond Treasury advice and finally sign up for regular information on all that is best for the UK


            • Colonel Mustard

              Earth to whatever planet you are spending Christmas on: Your lot have already “overcome”. You are now the establishment, the New Order, the One Nation, the Common Purpose, rolling out the one party system of intimidation and coercion implicit in your resolution

              But “reasonable”? Doubt it.

              The true insurgency and striving for freedom lies elsewhere. It won’t be found in the Labour party or on the left. That way lies groupthink, slavery and a bland, tedious mediocrity that makes North Korea look interesting.

            • Wessex Man

              Oh no now I’m going to have to watch old Two Ronnies and Porridge, how totally selfish of you!

      • saddleback

        Au contraire: I vote for an MP whose prime responsibility is to represent those who voted for her/him, not blindly follow a party-line or give into the first sign of a party-whip.

        • HooksLaw

          An MP does not follow those who voted for him/her. He/she represents his/her entire constituency.

          Its a hackneyed notion to complain about the party whip and then say for instance that Cameron should have gone into a minority govt which would have had to go into back room deals with other parties and would have needed heavy whipping to survive.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        Way to miss the point, idiot.

      • woolfiesmiff

        You obviously missed the fact that owing to Gordon Brown, Ed balls and the labour party we already have economic collapse and currently gay marriage is illegal

    • Rahul Kamath

      Just curious how many of your fellow constituents share your political views?

      • Rhoda Klapp

        How would I know? My MP probably doesn’t. I don’t really expect him to. I was giving theory, not what actually happens in my constituency where the candidate (a tory) sent out virtually nothing that didn’t come from central office and not much of that, this seat being safe. When we had a by-election he concentrated on local issues. I have no idea what he actually thinks about anything, but he is not one of the rebels. I class him as a tory apparatchik. I did not vote for him, based on that impression.

    • barbie

      I agree for far to long many have played to the party line, and forget whom and what they are there to represent. For me the lot are rotten to the bone. I’ve no faith in any of them, give me the fresh thinking N Farage anytime to this old hat lot. Time for change.