Coffee House

Grant Shapps’ peacemaking letter to Tory grassroots

29 May 2013

12:40 PM

29 May 2013

12:40 PM

Largely because of events, the febrile atmosphere in the Tory party has gone as damp as the weather after weeks of bickering. A combination of the Woolwich killing and recess have turned attention elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t still bubbling away under the lid. As any MP will remind you, parliamentary recess isn’t holiday but more time in the constituency. And time in the constituency means time with your party members, who are particularly unhappy at the moment. So MPs aren’t necessarily going to return on Monday with relaxed, sunkissed faces: more furrowed brows after awkward chats with constituency chairs. Which is why the Tory leadership is busying itself with a measure it hopes will cheer backbenchers up when they return from recess.

Party co-chair Grant Shapps has written to constituency chairmen to ask for their support when MPs are drafted in to vote for James Wharton’s Private Member’s Bill for an EU referendum. His letter is a clever one and you can read it in full here. One of the key passages is below:

‘Like all of our MPs, I have a busy constituency diary and I place great importance on meeting constituents every Friday.

‘But this week, I will be asking my Association Chairman, as I am asking you today, to understand the absence of their Member of Parliament on the 5th July while they attend this historic vote in the Commons. We will of course try to keep further Friday disruptions to a minimum, but I suggest that Chairmen are in touch with their Members of Parliament for further information and the passage of this Bill is likely to require further sitting Fridays.

‘I also wanted to let you know that soon we will be launching a campaign to communicate our message to the country, and put pressure on both Labour and the Lib Dems to make this referendum a reality.’


This is clever because it is an attempt to make constituency chairmen feel loved after the row over ‘swivel-eyed loons’, which was as much an opportunity for disgruntled members to say what they’ve been thinking about the party leadership for a while as it was about the alleged comments themselves. Shapps doesn’t just frame this letter as one seeking permission for taking an MP out of their constituency for an unusual Friday vote, but he also appears to confide in the chairmen about his future plans to goad Labour and the Lib Dems on the referendum policy.

Shapps needs to succeed in controlling the narrative on this bill. Up till now, it has been about quarrelling factions of backbenchers when the party should be focusing on making life as awkward for Labour as possible. This will take more than just one letter from the party’s Tiggerish chairman, but it’s a good start, particularly while he has a chance to make his voice heard without the clamour of backbenchers arguing in the Commons.

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Show comments
  • Hexhamgeezer

    Shapps is a fool if he thinks that addressing that audience with phrases like ‘launching a campaign to communicate our message’ and ‘ we believe that the British people have a right to decide on our membership of the European Union’ will carry any weight. It looks like standard fare from his random cliche generator.

    Does that count as clever? It’s the sort of routine offhand cr@p one delivers on some provincial afternoon news slot.

    • telemachus

      You needn’t have gone further than your first four words

      • Abhay

        For once I am in agreement with you!

  • thanksdellingpole

    I remember this guy with his tie off and sleeves rolled up in a pub with a pint in sight during the Council election, he looked like a slimy toad, I don’t trust him now either.

    If he is he really the best the Tories have then they’re sunk already.

    • Abhay

      Warsi was his predecessor…not much to rave about either…

      Looks like these are the best the Tories have….sad…

  • Mynydd

    Let us be clear; Mr Cameron proposed an EU referendum to be held in 2017, Mr Cameron didn’t have the bottle to overrule the Lib/Dems and introduce a bill himself. Mr Cameron has ordered a three line whip on a private members bill to bind a future government to a referendum, knowing full well that this cannot be done. With respect to Mr Cameron/Shapps/Green goading Labour and the Lib Dems, do they not realise that both parties have an open ended referendum policy, therefore can dance to any tune, whereas Mr Cameron/Shapps/Green have only one tune.

  • Abhay

    OK, so GS wrote a letter. We have known all along that he knows how to write letters. What is the point of this article?

  • Pettros

    That photo jsut cracks me up!

  • Smithersjones2013

    Its a good start is it? Tories drifting into the mid twenties in the polls well behind Labour and UKIP still rising and getting to within touching distance of the Tory vote-share.. None of Dave’s cheap Blairite triangulation seems to be working. No wonder his coterie are abusing all and sundry. No one wants to play their silly games of posturing.

    What makes it even more risible is that with this bill which will be voted down by Libdems and Labour, Cameron will have proved everything that UKIP has been saying which is that the referendum will never happen.

    The whole thing is becoming farcicle.

  • Barakzai

    As the letter’s purpose is so transparently obvious it’s hardly ‘clever.’

    Shapps always reminds me of the authoritarian nerd Dwight Schrute in the US version of The Office.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Dear Swivel-Eyed Loons,

    Much as I detest it, I’m forced to pen a letter to you racist nutjobs, in hopes that you’ll come to your senses, assuming you ever had any, and support us.

    I’m also being generous of spirit here, and not enraging you by informing you that we Cameroons have just pushed our EU brethren for a massive new anti-carbon effort. You loons are all too stupid to understand how important this is, but it is. Lots and lots of investment and government subsidy are wrapped up in this effort, and the levers of government are best controlled to ensure that those monies go to the proper pockets, which you nutjobs know nothing about, so shut up and leave it to us.

    Meantime, your recent apostasies are forgiven, but don’t let it happen again.


    Your Forever Betters

    • anneallan

      p.s. must dash – gotta find lots of money to give to all these Johnny foreigners that Brussels has told us to support.
      p.p.s. Do you have a village cricket club with a bit of dosh?

  • kyalami

    Shapps is a fathead. He’s all about talking, not listening. Promote him to the Lords where he can do no harm.

  • HookesLaw

    What is clever is your attempt to keep the pot boiling
    This letter seems routine and sensible
    What we see is journalism at its selfish miserable best

    • Wessex Man

      No hooky, you are wrong on all counts, this letter is just a stunt, given a couple of Tory constituency chairmen here and just over the county border that we know it will more than likely make them walk away to us. The Tory Party would be helped if it had a Tory leader.

    • arnoldo87

      Hooky – seems like you are a lone voice supporting the eminently sensible letter from Shapps.
      Do you sometimes wonder about the company you keep on these blogs? You probably get agreement from an unreconstructed Blairite like me more often than you do your UKIP-leaning co-commenters.
      That must be deeply disturbing for you.

  • foxoles

    What is the point, when Cameron told el Pais that he would not honour an out vote in any such referendum?

    ” ‘In case of a Yes victory in the referendum that will organize on leaving the EU, would you be willing to withdraw from the Union?’

    And Cameron’s response:

    ‘I would not want to. (No me gustaría)’ ”

    and has already said he will fight ‘heart and soul’ to stay in?

    • Dicky14

      What is the point of Grant Shapps? Do any of them realise that people are openly laughing at Cameron’s choice of placemen? Ho hum…

    • HookesLaw

      Cameron has decidedly not said he would not honour a No vote
      saying you would leave anyway is not a sensible negotiating tactic