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The Crucial Importance Of Graham Brady

Last Updated: Friday, April 4th, 2014

Four days after the 2010 general election of that year, the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs met in the Commons.  David Cameron persuaded it to support in principle the formation of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, arguing that the alternative was a Labour-LibDem Government that would force electoral reform through the Commons without a referendum.  There was no vote – no show of hands, let alone a secret ballot.

Imagine for a moment that the election of 2015 turns out a similar result to that of 2010.  Were Cameron to seek to re-form the coalition with Nick Clegg’s party – or indeed to establish one with a minor one, such as Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists – it is most unlikely that history would repeat itself.  Tory MPs would be more exacting second time round, especially since Cameron’s 2010 assurance turned out to be mistaken: Labour had not offered the Lib Dems electoral reform without a national poll.

The man who would chair the ’22’s Executive, assuming that he remains in place, is Graham Brady.  The Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture which the MP for Altrincham and Sale East delivered earlier this week is therefore well worth looking at.  The name of the politician the lecture honoured and the identity of the institution that hosted the event say something about Brady in themselves.  Sir Keith Joseph was one of Margaret Thatcher’s main political allies.  The Centre for Policy Studies was jointly founded by them.

Yes, Brady is essentially a Thatcherite – a man of the centre-right of the Conservative Party.  That in itself is not remarkable: many Tory MPs are too.  But what marks him out from most of his predecessors as Chairman is his tense relationship with his Party’s leadership – and, especially, a willingness to speak his mind and vote as he wishes.  Brady resigned from Cameron’s front bench in 2007 over a speech by David Willetts, then the Conservatives’ education spokesman, that was seen to be hostile to grammar schools.  (Brady is an ex-grammar school boy himself, and his local area retains selective education.)

Indeed, such was the mutual suspicion between Leader and Chairman that, only a few days after the ’22 approved the Coalition talks, the former sought to allow members of his front bench team to vote in the ’22’s internal elections – a right previously restricted to backbenchers.  Part of the purpose of the move was to prevent Brady’s re-election.  There was an uproar, and Cameron had to back down: Brady was duly returned as the ’22’s Chairman.  Neither man will have forgotten the incident.

Cameron would thus do well to have a careful look at Brady’s lecture last week – not so much, perhaps, at the economic and social policy sections of the address as at the constitutional and Parliamentary ones. The ’22 Chairman cited Cameron’s promises in opposition to give MPs free votes during the consideration of bills at committee stage; empower them timetable bills, and allow them to choose the chairs and members of Commons select committees.

The point of his doing so was to remind his audience how little of that programme has been implemented. “Control of our own agenda and timetable; more powers for select committees and more free votes might be the next stage of reform,” he said. “We will know that progress has been made when MPs will no longer give up an elected place on a select committee in order to take up an offer to serve as Parliamentary Private Secretary to a junior minister.”

In other words, Brady was lauding the independence of backbenchers and the role of the legislature – and his words had a double purpose.  By reminding them that the executive should ultimately be accountable to Parliament he was also reminding them that the Conservative leadership is ultimately accountable to Tory MPs – and thus to the ’22.  He has already made it clear that Cameron would not get as easy a ride in 2015 as he did in 2010 were he to try to reassemble the Coalition.

In such a circumstance, there would have to be what he has called “a definitive consultation with a vote”.  A protocol will apparently be established to that end.  Brady and his committee are going into the next election better prepared than they went into the last one.  Cameron should also study what the ’22 Chairman said about an EU referendum with particular care.

“What was perceived as the breach of a copper-bottomed guarantee to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty certainly contributed to the failure of my party to win the election outright in 2010,” Brady said.  “That is why David Cameron’s absolute commitment to legislate for a referendum on the EU is so important.”  Or, in plain English: “Don’t even think of junking that commitment to a 2017 In-Out referendum, David, in the event of any post-election discussions with the Liberal Democrats.”

By Paul Goodman



You are invited to ConservativeHome’s spring conference on May 24  Towards the end of last month we wrote that this year’s ConservativeHome spring conference, on the theme of “Securing a Majority,” will take place in London on Saturday May 24.  That’s two days after the local and European elections, and the day before the count of the latter. We can now announce that it will include the following speakers: George Osborne MP, Lord Ashcroft, Douglas Carswell MP, Lottie Dexter, Robert Halfon MP, Nusrat Ghani, Dominic Raab MP, Mark Littlewood, Mark Reckless MP, Isabel Hardman, Andrew Rossindell MP and Matthew Elliott.  This isn’t a complete list – but it gives the flavour. Read more:

Iain Dale: Vince Cable – the worst Business Secretary since Stephen Byers   “It’s not just Vince Cable who has some serious questions to answer. It is some of the institutions who took advantage of their privileged position to make a fast buck. But therein lies the quandary for supporters of the Business Secretary. He has talked a lot about the evils of bankers over the last few years, rather ignoring the fact that he is responsible for banking regulation and could easily have done something about it. Instead he has just talked. And talked. And talked some more. Rather than ‘action this day’ he has been the very personification of ‘delay, delay, delay’. And with only a year to go before the LibDems are turfed out of office, hopefully for a very long time, he finds himself running out of time. Read more:

Paul Goodman: Almost half of Party members want Boris to stand for the Commons at the next election   “It’s relatively easy to identify those who don’t support his possible candidacy.  That 13 per cent look set against it.  And that 16 per cent does, too – at least for the foreseeable future.  Essentially, well over a quarter of Party members seem to be out of sympathy with the Mayor’s leadership ambitions. It takes longer to identify those who do support them.  Some of that 48 per cent will do; other parts of it will want Boris in a Conservative Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet; other bits of it still will simply want him back in the Commons.  There is no way of knowing – at least, not without further questions. However, it’s reasonable to assume that most of that 23 per cent will back Boris’s leadership aspirations.” Read more:

Martin Sewell: The Cinderella Law that doesn’t come with a happy ending  “Before introducing a new offence it might be worth considering who might be swept up in it. Will we see the middle class custody battlers prosecuted for tearing their children apart? Will the child denied contact with a much loved grandma see her vindictive mother in Court? Will the career couple with a succession of nannies, dinner parties and extra curricular activities, find themselves under scrutiny? Not all child emotional neglect occurs on Benefit Street – though the social services rarely pick on those equipped to fight back.

Nobody excuses child abuse. I have been instrumental in the removal of hundreds of children from their parents, and did so with a clear enough conscience – though not a total confidence that we always got it right. The legal landscape has changed, however, and the protections against injustice against vulnerable parents are weaker through legislative policy and financial changes.” Read more:

Mark Hoban MP: Pensions tax relief should reward those on lower incomes who do the right thing by saving   “The structure of tax relief on pension contributions is currently biased towards people on high incomes who not only pay tax at a higher rate but also have higher pension contribution rates. The structure does not help those on lower incomes whose pension contributions are a bigger sacrifice. We should redesign the structure of pensions tax relief to reward those on low incomes who do the right thing by saving for their retirement. For example, should we equalise the rate of pensions tax relief at 30 per cent rather than 20, 40 or 45 per cent depending on income? We should be exploring different ways of encouraging those on low incomes to increase their pension contributions to provide them with greater security in old age.” Read more:

By Paul Goodman

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