I knew he was unhappy with Project Cameron. He has felt shabbily treated by the leadership. A lifelong Europhile he wrote for ConservativeHome only two weeks ago – disagreeing with the party’s alleged politicking on Iraq. I bumped into him during the grammar schools row and he told me that he was unhappy with the leadership’s line. But he was in favour of grammar schools! Why is he joining a party that hates selection? Mr Davies has opposed ID cards and the Government’s anti-terror measures. He has opposed the ban on foxhunting. He opposed Labour on tuition fees. He opposes state funding of political parties. Mr Davies cannot easily accuse David Cameron of having no bedrock and then defect to a party with a worldview that stands in contradiction to his own twenty year parliamentary record.
Labour are clever in the way they spun Mr Davies’ defection. The
subheadline on the BBC website is: Tory MP Quentin Davies defects to
Labour, saying David Cameron does not "stand for anything".
The long letter he sent to Mr Cameron mentioned a number of areas of difference – including over nuclear power. But at the heart of his defection is Europe and the EPP row. CCHQ will now be frightened that other Europhile MPs and MEPs, in particular, might defect if the party campaigns strongly against the draft Treaty. Mr Cameron must not retreat from his Euroscepticism. The party must not be held to ransom by a small number of MPs who are out of touch with the rest of the country. Cameron must not look like he can be bullied into changing his position. Labour are already determined to present him as weak.
In his letter he makes a big deal about Mr Cameron supposedly breaking his pledge on the EPP. What about Mr Davies’ pledge to the voters of Grantham and Stamford? They thought they were electing a loyal Tory. I feel sorry for his activists in Lincolnshire. I spoke at their
political supper club at the start of the year. They were loyal to him
despite his enthusiasm for Europe. He has betrayed that loyalty. At least they’ll soon be able to choose a new candidate who will be closer to their views.
I wonder if Mr Davies will be on Mr Brown’s frontbench by the end of the week? In fact I wonder if this defection is rooted in Mr Brown making an Ashdown-style approach to Mr Davies to serve in his Government?
And all of us? We must not over-react. A few weeks ago the newspapers thought that Brown was unlikely to save Labour. They’ll all be singing his praises in the next few days but it probably won’t last. There does need to be more breadth and depth to Project Cameron but it will be hard to say that there is nothing to it after this summer’s schedule of policy announcements. I am also confident that the new communications guru, Andy Coulson, will help the party to develop stronger messages for our core voters and strivers. Labour’s failure on tax, crime, immigration and fighting poverty will also become clearer and clearer. Keep those belts fastened everyone.