Upon arriving at my desk on Monday morning, I undertook my daily routine of glancing through a number of political blog sites including the main stories on ConservativeHome. As an unashamed political anorak, I confess to having been particularly drawn to Jonathan Isaby’s list of the most loyal Conservative MPs.
As I trawled through the list of names followed by some of the comments left by fellow readers, it soon became apparent that this register of loyalty was instead being viewed by many as little more than a roll of shame.
Alas, it appears that a culture of championing the most rebellious MPs as independent-minded whilst dismissing loyalists as career-driven, slavish Cameroons has taken hold in some quarters of the grassroots membership.
This is a worrying trend. As a virtue, loyalty seems to be suffering from a severe lack of popular support at present. Theodore Roosevelt once stated “It is better to be loyal than famous”. Yet, in our modern political arena, sceptics view loyalist MPs as mere subjects of the Whips, often wondering whether the Whips know something about them that we do not. Likewise, allegations thrown at loyalists as being political careerists concerned only with their own promotion and future Cabinet potential are increasingly common.
Escaping any apparent thought, however, is the consideration that perhaps loyalty towards the Conservative leadership is actually an act of selfless sacrifice for the good of both the Party and the country that we serve. Quite simply, a disunited parliamentary party does not bode well for good governance. Rather, the greater the splits, the more inward-looking and irrelevant the Party appears to the general public who become fed up with the constant political spats and frustrated at a lack of decisive leadership.
Indeed, let us not forget how many Labour MPs spent so much of their final year in the tearooms in Parliament deciding whether to back or oppose the then Prime Minister. Such distraction and concern about whether to rebel and the consequences of doing so do not serve the purpose of governing responsibly or in the long-term national interest.
MPs must, of course, have principles and each must have their own red-lines which they will not cross. However, the choice is so often presented as serving the Party leadership versus serving the interests of local constituents. Such a narrow framework is overly simplistic and utterly unrealistic.
Is it truly beyond comprehension that MPs could be genuine in their attempts to serve both the Party and their constituents? Surely it is possible to believe that by doing the former you will achieve the latter. After all, most elected Conservatives will have an exemplary record of hard work and dedication across various levels of the Party stretching over a number of years. They cannot, and should not, be expected to find the art of rebellion either appealing or easy.
A disunited parliamentary party is one of the main threats facing the coalition’s long-term survival and success. Thus, to portray those who have voted against the Government as the flag bearers for the disenfranchised grassroots is a misguided mistake. Encouraging further such rebellion for grassroots adulation alone is even worse.
We are asking the country to stick together in these difficult and sensitive times; we are asking Middle England in particular to accept some tough scarifies in the national interest. We can only ask the country to compromise if, for the time being at least, Conservative supporters and elected MPs are able and willing to accept such compromises too.
So, instead of sneering at those who are willing to support the Government through thick and thin with a long-term vision and commitment, let us raise a glass to them for there is no shame in being loyal. In the murky and backbiting village of Westminster, it is rather unfortunate that such a noble act seems to be a fading and forgotten virtue.