By Paul Goodman
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I would be suprised by Fleet Street's unanimous hostility to the Queen's Speech were it not, first, for Leveson (which the papers will never forgive) and, second, for the impasse between the Coalition partners on growth measures. The situation is too urgent to afford Vince Cable's lack of oomph.
Conservative backbenchers were always likely to be more measured in their contributions to the debate on yesterday's first day of the Queen's Speech. But I was struck reading Hansard this morning by the way in which the debate which Tim reported at yesterday's meeting of the 1922 Committee also spilled out on to the floor of the Commons.
It naturally did so more discreetly and decorously, and below are some extracts that may give you the flavour of the moment. Charlie Elphicke (on the economy and childcare), Priti Patel (on families, criminal justice and small business) and Chris Skidmore (on social care and health) stuck entirely to the contents of the Speech, and were none the worse for it.
The other five Tory contributions all contributed, either directly or indirectly, to the debate about what the Conservative Party should do next:
David Davis: "Let me say to the Prime Minister that it is also a pleasure to talk about the real Queen’s Speech as against the one that I and others proposed last week. This Queen’s Speech has enormous merits to it, particularly in the context of growth. This Queen’s Speech has enormous merits to it, particularly in the context of growth. I am particularly supportive, as he will be unsurprised to hear, of his proposals on bank reforms, competition law, and joint enterprise law reform, including labour law reform. [David Cameron] will be happy to hear me mention those, but I am afraid that it goes downhill from here on in. [Hon. Members: “That was less than a minute!”]…Beyond that, however, I have three concerns: one about a constitutional issue, one about state power, and one about justice."
Stephen Dorrell: "Some members of my party have, in the past few weeks, and particularly in the past few days, sought opportunities to strengthen the Conservative flavour, as they see it, in the coalition. I want to offer one or two responses to that, based on the Queen’s Speech, and comment on one or two specific proposals. As a lifelong Conservative, I have no problem in arguing the case for Conservative ideas. However, I have a problem with those who seek to reinterpret the Conservative case excessively narrowly. There is nothing in the Queen’s Speech that cannot be argued full heartedly as a mainstream Conservative proposal. All the measures can be traced to proper Conservative roots and, indeed, to roots in the Liberal Democrat tradition."
Tony Baldry: "In reflecting on the Queen’s Speech, it is probably sensible to consider where we are and where we have been. In recalling where we are, it is important to remember that the Prime Minister’s party does not have a parliamentary majority. After the general election, it was clearly in the nation’s interest to form a coalition. A coalition, however, requires compromise every day. To govern, the Prime Minister has to agree policy initiatives with a political party very different from his own. In practice, the coalition is working a lot better than many would have imagined. The fact is that the Conservative party did not win enough seats or votes to enable us to deliver all our manifesto pledges. The solution is not to blame the coalition, but to seek to win more votes next time."
David Amess: "Last Monday, some Conservative Members got together and had a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the election of a Conservative Government on 9 April 1992. At that party, which the Prime Minister attended, we were delighted to launch a pamphlet called “Basildon—Against all Odds”. The Prime Minister generously referred to the victory in Basildon, and I was delighted that he visited my old constituency yesterday and talked broadly about policies because I think we need to reflect on the things that took us back to government in 1992. There in Basildon, 20 years ago, voters locally wanted to support what were then the Conservative party’s policies. What were those policies? Giving every woman, man and child the opportunity to make the most of their God-given talents. I know that 20 years later our country and the world have changed but I say to my Conservative colleagues that we should reflect on the policies that brought us back to government in 1992 and I recommend that they read “Basildon—Against all Odds”, which is a very good pamphlet."
Andrew Percy: "Like most Members, I came to the House to do good—not as a do-gooder, but to do good for my constituents. I came here as a Conservative in the belief that I would be able to rebalance how hard-working folk in Brigg and Goole, and beyond, are treated. In some respects, the Government have made progress; some of the changes to the benefit system have made work pay, and I support those wholeheartedly, as do my constituents…However, there have also been things that I have not felt comfortable with and which I do not think have in any way rebalanced fairness or rewarded those who try hard and want to do the best for themselves and their families. That is why I have voted against a number of measures, although I have voted with the Government on the vast majority of occasions—about 90% of the time. In any other job, I would be a slavish loyalist out for promotion, but in this place if a Government Member votes a couple of per cent. of the time against the Government, they are a serial rebel."