By Tim Montgomerie
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A couple of Sundays ago I noted the irritation of certain loyalist Tory MPs against their rebellious colleagues. The Mail on Sunday reported that Claire Perry told Douglas Carswell to "f**k off and join UKIP".
Well another round of blue-on-blue attacks have broken out today. The Spectator's James Forsyth blogs that Charlie Elphicke MP wants the PM's backbench critics to "get a grip". Another Tory backbencher, Kris Hopkins (pictured) says some of the anti-Cameron Tory MPs have ego problems. He expresses annoyance at "the same group of people who keep standing up and claiming to speak for the parliamentary party when they do not".
Kris has a point. There are only a handful of very public and persistent critics of the PM from the parliamentary party. They include Peter Bone, David Davis, Nadine Dorries and Mark Pritchard. Discontent is more widespread than Mr Hopkins might like to suggest, however. It's hard to set foot in Parliament without meeting a grumbling Tory MP. Most of them, however, don't go public and for the vast majority of them it's much closer to low level grumbling than high level plotting.
In tonight's London Evening Standard I suggest there are at least four overlapping groups of Tory MPs who are worried about the party leadership:
- WRONG PRIORITIES – Some Conservative backbenchers worry about the decision to emphasise cutting the deficit rather than measures to enhance economic competitiveness. This has raised concerns that growth and job creation will be inadequate by the time of the next election.
- WRONG IDEOLOGY – The fact that Cameron and Osborne travel light ideologically means they lack support from the party’s Thatcherites and Eurosceptics.
- WRONG POLITICS – The failure to win an election against the hapless Gordon Brown has worried Tory MPs in marginal constituencies.
- WRONG TEAM – The stubborn clinging to unpopular projects like the NHS Bill and the Big Society — long after they’ve proven to be political handicaps. This has reinforced the sense that the Conservative leadership doesn’t listen to advice.