By Tim Montgomerie
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News has reached me of yet another new group of Tory MPs that have begun meeting (Matthew Barrett has done a good job of recently profiling the proliferation of parliamentary groups). This group is of somewhat higher status, involving most Ministers of State from all government departments on a voluntary basis – the level just below Cabinet. Convened by Grant Shapps, Chris Grayling and one or two others this group has met together over dinner and in smaller gatherings to discuss how to (1) ensure better delivery of existing Coalition policies, (2) what does the Coalition need to have achieved before 2015 to ensure Tory MPs are re-elected and (3) what the Conservative Party might look like after 2015.
The Cabinet meets weekly and then Conservative Cabinet ministers also meet regularly as a sub-group. Up until now Ministers of State haven't gathered together. One member of this unnamed group said to me that while Cabinet ministers tend to lean towards high end policy they focus on implementation and that's why they've spent a good dollop of time thinking about reforms to the Whitehall machine and to civil service remuneration that might ensure better delivery of policy. Ideas include shorter consultations so the gap between policy announcement and delivery is shorter and more direct scope for ministers to honour effective members of their departments.
The second theme involves looking at the kind of policies and positions that the party and Coalition needs to take if David Cameron is to remain Prime Minister and lead a majority Tory government. The group is setting out the scale and timing of the positions that are necessary for the Government to recreate a series of what Chris Grayling has already called EU veto moments. Human rights reform has been recognised as central in this respect.
Finally the group has been looking at what the party might look like after 2015 in terms of party structure and messaging and what, hopefully, a majority Conservative government would do.
The group is unofficial. It's not a creature of the leadership but neither is it hostile. One member described it as a safe forum for fresh thinking and sharing experiences – "Cabinet ministers have that forum and now, so do we".