Nick de Bois is the Member of Parliament for Enfield North and a Secretary of the 1922 Committee. Follow Nick on Twitter.
It has on occasion been bruising in the Parliamentary Party,
as it has been for the voluntary party. I imagine the Prime Minister may
even privately admit he, on occasion, has felt much the same.
Nobody in the Conservative party elected in 2010 entered the
Commons to have a ding-dong with their own leadership. I don't
suppose when David Cameron held his first spring day rose garden press
conference, he anticipated doing a few rounds with his own MPs.
But when the dust has settled on the unnecessary and ill-judged redefinition of marriage bill, the perceived EU bust up and allegations
of disrespect to activists, the reality is that back benchers do not emerge as
the "enemy" of Number 10 – and Number.10 does not, in the cold light of the
day, default to playing the antagonist.
Our enemies would like to think so. So would the media who
love that narrative. Indeed at times it was true: I said so in an article for
House magazine myself in October 2012. Yet oddly, but encouragingly, the focus
now returns to a Government with a renewed sense of purpose buoyed up by
encouraging signals that on the big issues, we are right.
On welfare, education, jobs, investment, trade and, yes, even the
EU – the Conservatives look to be on the right side of the argument. Note that I said "look to be on the right side of the
For those still seeking a job, or for businesses still looking
to convert more sales and raise capital to invest, it is not easy by any means.
The implementation of policies across all these areas have to gain more
traction and yield more results, but recent signs are encouraging.
And that's the political point.
On these issues, the only battle is with Labour, which continues to confound even its own supporters as it consistently makes the wrong call.
Whether it's Ed Balls backing the Hollande French economic model already
discredited (a year ago, he declared in France to his left wing colleagues:
"I want to do what you are doing here in France), or Ed Milliband ducking
welfare reform and opposing every reasonable measure, they remain consistently
out of touch with the British people. Not to mention their "we know
best" approach to a referendum – again refusing to trust the British
There is now little left to divide Conservatives, and
considerably more to unite us. Even on the EU the argument was not
"if" Conservatives want a referendum, but "when". So as we
emerge from these recent – albeit serious – skirmishes, the sense wil,l I
believe, be a determination to do more of what we were elected to do. To
press ahead with Government measures focused entirely on the economy – but also
ignite the party's thirst for generating and developing ideas for a future
The policy team at Number 10 are right to engage with (but not
exclusively through) the 1922 policy sub-committees and, through them, the wider
voluntary party. Now the energy of the backbenchers that has been so powerfully
demonstrated to date can be channeled into developing policy initiatives in a
governing party bursting with ideas.
James Callaghan said in 1979 that he knew he had lost the election
because his Government had run out of ideas – and it was always the opposition
making the running. We won't make the same mistake this time round. We've been
right on the big issues so far, and we will continue to advance Conservative
ideas for tackling the next challenges to appear on the policy horizon. Labour
will oppose whatever we do and new political fights will ensue – we need to
unite to win the argument.