ConservativeHome may have been resting for most of the last 72 hours but today’s listing of newslinks shows that the Conservative frontbench was far from inactive:

  • There’s Jeremy Hunt proposing a UK schools ‘Olympics’…
  • Edward Garnier proposing a tribunal to govern foxhunting once the Hunting With Dogs Act has been repealed…
  • Nick Herbert attacking Labour’s soft record on foreign prisoners…
  • [Eric Pickles warning of a council take hike for ‘nice neighbourhoods’ (added 11.45am)…]
  • David Cameron spending Christmas in Yorkshire and ensuing good coverage in regional media…
  • And, just before Christmas, Grant Shapps’ homelessness initiative.

The best story was, I thought, the thoroughly sensible suggestion by Shadow Transport Minister Stephen Hammond that rail services should be provided on Boxing Day (see good related blog from Alex Singleton).  This is Mr Hammond quoted in The Independent:

"Boxing Day is a traditional sporting fixture across the country for many sports, not just football. Huge numbers of fans will be heading to games, enjoying the day out with their families. From just the Premier League and Championship (the top two football divisions) there are an expected 45,000 away fans travelling to games. While engineering work should be carried out in quiet periods for travel, Boxing Day can hardly be seen as a quiet period. Families and football fans will be given no choice but to get into their cars, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere and put up with potentially eye-watering levels of congestion because the railways remain shut."

There’s been a lot of criticism of Theresa Villiers – including on these threads – but she leads a team that is beginning to make headlines.  I’m personally in favour of a third runway at Heathrow but I recognise that the position adopted by Ms Villiers is now the Conservative Party’s flagship green policy (and, not coincidentally, is crucial in the battle to win many seats under Heathrow’s flightpath).  It won’t be a policy that changes if Ms Villiers is moved on.  I also welcome her support for the ending of the BAA monopoly, her scepticism about Boris’ Thames Estuary airport plan and her plan for a new hi-speed rail link (although it’s too slow in starting).

To be thrown into the shadow cabinet before any other member of the 2005 intake when she had been an MP for less than six months was a huge test for Ms Villiers.  Most observers agree that she struggled in her first role as Shadow Chief Secretary but she is now making her mark and deserves more time to complete the work she has begun.

Tim Montgomerie

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