I make it Dominic Grieve, Eric Pickles, Nicholas Soames, Oliver Heald, Damian Green, Nick Herbert, Nadhim Zahawi, Neil Carmichael, Ben Howlett, Flick Drummond, Bob Neill, Alberto Costa, Richard Graham, Kevin Foster, Mark Pawsey and James Cartlidge either implicitly, broadly or very supportive from the Conservative benches…
….and Bill Cash, John Redwood, Liam Fox, Peter Lilley, Phillip Davies, Edward Leigh, Gerald Howarth, Bernard Jenkin, Steve Baker, Ann Main, Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Baron, Peter Bone, Tom Pursglove, David Nuttall, Sarah Wollaston, Richard Drax, Chris Philp, Paul Scully, Andrew Bridgen, Craig Mackinlay, Mike Wood and Martin Vickers either implicitly, broadly or very critical.
That’s 23 on the critical end of the spectrum and 16 on the supportive, although these categorisations necessary conceal some subtleties. For example, Leigh began his question (on the emergency brake) by saying:
“Since no one else has done this so far after nearly an hour, and since my mum always said that I should say thank you, may I thank the Prime Minister for giving us a choice in the first place?”
Were readers to say that many of those who lined up at either end were the usual suspects that would not be entirely unfair. But it’s worth noting the way in which those who spoke differ by age – or, rather, by intake.
Howlett, Drummond, Foster, Cartlidge, Pursglove, Philp, Scully, Mackinlay and Wood are members of the 2015 intake, and they divide up fairly evenly.
Pawsey, Graham, Nokes, Carmichael, Zahawi, Baker, Rees-Mogg, Nuttall, Wollaston, Drax, Bridgen and Vickers are members of the 2010 intake, and the prevelance of critics over supporters is slightly greater in this case.
But of the 2005-or-before vintage, I make it Grieve, Pickles, Soames, Heald, Green, Herbert and Neill, versus Cash, Redwood, Fox, Lilley, Davies, Leigh, Howarth, Jenkin, Baron, Main, and Bone. Again, the prevelance of critics over supporters rises.
So as we travel down (or up) the intakes towards that of 2015, we find increasing support for the Prime Minister. Peter Hoskin was right to suggest last week that the Parliamentary Party is gradually becoming more Cameroon – a fact that Henry Hill and I also pointed out in Cameron’s Children. Since the Prime Minister has been Party leader for ten years or so it would be surprising were this not so.
Mark Spencer, Kevin Hollinrake, Mims Davies, Caroline Nokes and Robin Walker asked questions that were broadly neutral – pursuing a particular interest or enthusiasm – in Walker’s case in relation to the Commonwealth, for instance. Michael Fabricant and Christopher Chope, firm Euro-sceptics both, were also pursuing particular causes, and Boris Johnson asked what appeared to be an agreed question about the Rabbit.
Mims Davies’s question seemed to me an example of how to put a good point without making a commitment either way, and I end with it in order to point out that, for all the generational shift within the Parliamentary Party, many Tory MPs are not yet declaring their hand -
“We on this side of the House want what is best for Britain when it comes to jobs and security. I have one vote, and I believe that there are aspects of the EU that need serious scrutiny and reform. My constituents share those thoughts. This party has provided this opportunity for a much-needed referendum and the reality of reform, and we can look at this and examine what is before us. Does the Prime Minister agree that voters want an open argument on this matter, rather than open warfare?”