web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > Sir Winston Churchill

Martin Parsons: What is the point of the Commission for Countering Extremism?

Last year, the Government set up the Commission for Countering Extremism with a remit to “identify and challenge extremism in all its forms and provide the government with advice on the policies needed to tackle it.  And a few days ago, the Commission duly published its first major report: Challenging Hateful Extremism.

‘Extremism’ is a word that was little used in either the UK or USA prior to the 9/11 attacks. Look at political biographies of the post-war era, and you will see it occasionally used to refer to those at one of end of the mainstream political spectrum. In the pre-Thatcher era, it was actually used to describe those with the temerity to challenge the so-called ‘post-war consensus’ of a partly nationalised economy.

After 9/11, first in the USA, and then in the UK under Tony Blair, it primarily came to refer to Islamist extremism, meaning those holding more extreme views than what was sometimes called ‘mainstream Islam’. However, not only did this approach ignore non-Islamist extremism, but there were two more fundamental problems with it.

First, it became clear that Blair’s government had little understanding of the potential points of conflict between the legal and political aspects of what had been historically taught in classical Islam and the values of a free democratic society.

Second, this definition of extremism allowed the then Labour government to engage with a range of Islamist groups who were demanding, for example, a partial implementation of sharia law as a legal system in the UK. Blair’s government simply pointed to other Islamist groups which were even more extreme than those they were working with. Its policy even led to extremists being allowed to join the security services.

That is why during those years a number of us argued, including on ConservativeHome, that if ‘extremism’ was to be a useful term at all – it had to be defined as meaning extreme in relation to historic British values such as parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and one law applying equally to all people.

That paradigm shift was enacted when David Cameron’s Conservative led government came to power in 2010 – and some of the credit for that must go to ConservativeHome’s editor, Paul Goodman, who was shadow Communities minister for the period leading up to that. To some extent, however, determining what those ‘British values’ actually are remains contested territory, not least because of attempts by some social liberals to hijack them as the Casey Review did in 2016 (Casey incidentally is now part of the Commission’s expert group).

It is worth reflecting quite how much progress we have made in understanding and tackling extremism since 9/11. The official report into the 7/7 London bus and tube bombings concluded that we did not understand what motivated the bombers. Politicians and public figures went out of their way to blame various social factors such as deprivation. As someone who had just returned to the UK after several years living as an aid worker in Afghanistan, including under the Taliban, I was astonished at the lack of understanding of Islamist ideology.

That is why I find this first report from the new Commission for Countering Extremism so troubling. In one sense, it ignores the very substantial progress that has been made since 9/11. It provides no significant analytical framework for understanding extremism, contains a whole section on ‘drivers of extremism’ which describes five social factors – but ignores ideology.

Although one cannot adequately summarise a 139 page report in a few words, one of the key thrusts of the report is that it is critical of the Government’s current counter-extremism strategy because, among other reasons, its definition of extremism is too broad and not well understood.  The basis for this claim and for much of the report is a survey of just under 3,000 people undertaken by the Commission. At best, this was a questionable basis on which to base public policy recommendations, risking being little more than a large-scale focus group or simply reflecting the views of lobby groups.

In case you missed it, the Government’s definition of extremism set out at the beginning of the 2015 Counter Extremism Strategy is:

Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values…Life in our country is based on fundamental values that have evolved over centuries, values that are supported and shared by the overwhelming majority of the population and are underpinned by our most important local and national institutions. These values include the rule of law, democracy, individual liberty, and the mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of different faiths and beliefs.

What the Commission found was that just over half of ‘practitioners’ who responded to its survey thought the government’s definition of extremism was helpful, but three quarters of the members of the public who responded did not. That may well mean that the Government needs to do more to promote it, help people to comprehend it – and, crucially, help people to understand the story of how these fundamental British values developed over the centuries.

However, what the Commission proposes is that instead the Government should replace the definition with something that they claim will be clearer and easier to understand: a focus on ‘hate’.

“We currently summarise this hateful extremism as:

Behaviours that can incite and amplify hate, or engage in persistent hatred, or equivocate about and make the moral case for violence;

And that draw on hateful, hostile or supremacist beliefs directed at an out-group who are perceived as a threat to the well-being, survival or success of an in-group;

And that cause, or are likely to cause, harm to individuals, communities or wider society.”

I am probably not alone in thinking that is a good deal less clear than the government’s definition. Not only that, it simply ignores the hugely problematic nature of ‘hate speech’ – particularly in English law, whereby any third party can, however unrelated to the event, claim that something is motivated by hate.

This has affectively allowed hate speech to be weaponised by various groups intent on censoring any public disagreement with their own ideological beliefs, which incidentally includes those intent on imposing an Islamic blasphemy law by the backdoor.

Yes, the Government’s definition of extremism could be tightened up a bit. For example, ‘equal treatment of all by the law’ would be better than ‘the rule of law’: after all, Islamists also believe in the latter – it just happens to be sharia.  However, Ministers have rightly shied away from including certain types of speech in the definition of extremism for fear of creating a sedition law. Free speech is after all one of our historic British values.

What this report admits we need – but fails to provide – is a counter-narrative.

In the eighteenth century, Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, provided a counter narrative to the extremism of the French revolution. In twentieth century, Winston Churchill, who had begun writing his History of the English Speaking Peoples prior to the Second World War, saw the narrative of how our democracy and freedoms had been established over the centuries as a counter narrative to Nazi ideology. During the Cold War those such as Roger Scruton and Margaret Thatcher actively sought to develop a counter narrative to Communist ideology.

That too should be a central role for the Commission for Countering Extremism.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Were the Prime Minister to pull the plug on HS2, would he call time on Heathrow expansion too?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘Why can’t we all just get along’.

I have very mixed feelings about HS2. I am usually all in favour of visionary transport infrastructure projects. I rather liked the idea of the Boris Island Airport, and still regret that he didn’t make it part of his leadership campaign. I also think high speed rail is a good thing.

However, I still don’t think the business case for HS2 has really ever been properly made.  Capacity is clearly an issue on parts of the West Coast main line, but it seems to be the Manchester trains which suffer, rather than the Birmingham ones.

The Prime Minister is clearly minded to cancel the whole project, and hopes that the review announced this week will give him political cover. Quite how he will explain the waste of upwards of £7.2 billion I don’t know, but presumably the saving of a further £80 billion will be used to show how other parts of our transport system could be improved.

Of course, if HS2 is cancelled, one would quite reasonably wonder whether the third runway at Heathrow might be next on the list for a prime ministerial cull.

– – – – – – – – – – –

A new Kantar poll puts the Conservatives on 42 per cent, with Labour trailing on 28 per cent and the Brexit Party on only five per cent. The Liberal Democrats were constant on 15 per cent.

So, a 14 per cent lead for Johnson. Is this a “Boris bounce”? None of the other polls have shown a lead anything like this big, so everyone should treat with a huge degree of scepticism. But since it is widely believed that there will be a general election by the end of November, this is not a bad place to start from.

But as ever, a Conservative election success surely relies on us leaving the EU on October 31st. If we don’t, quite a few of those per centage points will be shaved off by Nigel Farage.

– – – – – – – – – –

Talking of Farage, he has made clear that, if the Prime Minister signs up to any form of deal with the EU, the Brexit Party will stand candidates against every Conservative candidate up and down the country. The only way to avoid that would be for us to leave on 31 October with no deal.

That outcome seems ever more likely as each day and each exchange of letters with Donald Tusk takes place. But as with Farage, I have a feeling in my water that the prospect of a last-minute deal hasn’t entirely disappeared. Yet.

The purists may hate it, but in the end, we have surely to remain of the view that a good deal is better than no deal. The trouble is that few can see what would actually constitute a good deal from the UK viewpoint. We can all see what a bad deal looks like, of course. But how we get from that to a good deal is anyone’s guess. –

– – – – – – – – –

 

The ‘N’ key to my laptop has come ustuck. Makes me thik a ew computer may be i order. I could stick it o agai , I suppose. But where’s the fu i that?

– – – – – – – – – –

This is my first and only week’s holiday of the year. I’m spending it in Norfolk doing nothing at all – apart from writing this, and two other columns.

And watching box sets. I’ve finished Designated Survivor on Netflix and have now started the Korean version. I’m quite used to watching programmes with subtitles, but normally I can pick up a few words of the language. Not Korean. It’s almost impossible to follow.

I’m also reading Andrew Roberts’ brilliant thousand page biography of Winston Churchill. I always find these doorstops of books incredibly intimidating, mainly because I normally only read before I go to sleep, and therefore only manage three pages a night. So I’m pleased I’m already on page 200. Right, time for another chapter…

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Mansfield: Brexit by October 31. Stop using the Left’s language. And stand for skilled workers. Essentials for our next Prime Minister

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

Our next Prime Minister will take office at the most challenging time since the 1970s. Not only is there Brexit – an issue of fundamental national importance, that has destroyed the last two Prime Ministers and poses an existential challenge to the future of the Conservative Party – but the old political assumptions are changing. Across the West, traditional voter coalitions are shifting, as citizens reject centrist compromises. Flatlining productivity, unaffordable houses and millions of voters feeling abandoned, either culturally or economically, are just some of the challenges they will face.

Many of those who voted for David Cameron in 2010 are lost to the party, alienated by Brexit. In Britain today, age and education level are better predictors of a person’s vote than class. To win a general election, our next Prime Minister must forge a new coalition of voters that unites the traditional Tory shires with the left-behind Leave voters in the Midlands and North. Even more importantly, they must deliver authentic right-wing policies that address the causes of ordinary working people’s dissatisfaction. People want change and, if the Conservative Party does not deliver it, they are likely to seek answers in the flawed blandishments of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism.

In that context, there are three essentials that our next Prime Minister must prioritise for the good of the people, the nation and the party:

  • Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed.
  • Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left.
  • Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes.

Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed

Not only is delivering on the outcome of the referendum a democratic imperative, it is vital for the continued existence of the party. Recent polling shows that, if we have not left the EU, the Conservatives are likely to suffer devastating losses in a general election; these figures could be even worse if large numbers of members, councillors or even entire associations defect to the Brexit Party. Many members have held on over the last few months purely out of hope that the next Prime Minister would deliver where May failed: another betrayal in October would see these members permanently lost.

Leaving with a deal is preferable, if some changes to the backstop can be agreed and Parliament will pass it. If not, as I have argued previously on this site, we have nothing to fear from No Deal. Preparations for such should be put into top gear on the first day in office. The Prime Minister must make clear that they will under no circumstances ask for an extension; and that they are, if needed, prepared to systematically veto any measure put forward by the EU on regular business if the UK is for some reason kept in. While every effort should be made to secure a deal, if it cannot be reached, Parliament must be faced with the simple choice of permitting a WTO exit or voting no confidence in the Prime Minister – a gamble, admittedly, but one that is preferable to another disastrous extension.

Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left

In recent years too many Conservative politicians have allowed our opponents to define the playing field. We cannot beat the socialists by adopting the language and assumptions of socialism. Our next Prime Minister must stop feeding the narrative of identity, grievance and division, with its assumption that an individual’s potential is defined by their characteristics, that so-called ‘burning injustices’ are solely the responsibility of the state to address, and that the government always no best.

Changing the narrative will be a long endeavour. The systematic appointment of those with conservative values into key ministerially appointed positions; an authentically right-wing approach to policy making in Whitehall; and the withdrawal of state funding from the network of organisations that maintain the left’s grip on the policy narrative are essential. But over and above this, the Prime Minister must be willing to personally stand up and champion individual liberties and freedoms; to condemn progressive authoritarianism and to be visibly proud of Britain, our culture and the rich global heritage of our citizens.

Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes

Young, metropolitan graduates may once have been natural Conservatives, but no longer. There is little hope of reversing this in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Instead of squandering our effort here, our new Prime Minister should instead make the party the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes, particularly in the midlands and north.

Such voters have a natural affinity to the traditional conservative values of low tax and individual liberty, but also greatly value and rely day-to-day onn strong public services. This places the Conservatives in a difficult position after a decade of austerity: Labour made hay campaigning on cuts to police numbers and falls in per pupil spending in 2017. But how to fund significant increases in core services without raising taxes or alienating core Conservative voters, such as via the disastrous proposals on social care in the 2017 manifesto?

To find the funding the next Prime Minister must be bold enough to slay the progressive sacred cows that soak up billions annually in public funding. Three immediately spring to mind:

With the additional £15 billion plus a year, the Prime Minister could at a stroke increase police funding by 25 per cent (£3 billion), boost school funding per pupil by 20 per cent (£8 billion) and increase spending on social care by 20 per cent (£4 billion). And then split the proceeds of further growth between public services and tax cuts.

As well as this, we should champion the interests of the high street, enterprise and small businesses and oppose crony corporatism. Multinational companies that make use of aggressive tax avoidance, abuse their market position or actively work against UK sovereignty should not enjoy government grants, procurement or time in No. 10. Fundamentally, our next Prime Minister should spend more time listening to the Federation of Small Businesses and less time listening to the CBI.

Conclusion

As members, we have two candidates set before us. Both are able politicians and tested leaders who represent the best the Parliamentary party has to offer. As we assess who should be not just our next leader, but our Prime Minister, we should do so against their ability to deliver these vital elements.

Both have committed to delivering Brexit by October 31 – but which one has the ability, the genuine will and the courage to do so by any means necessary? Both are true-blue Conservatives – but which one will truly champion our values, taking the battle to our adversaries with the eloquence and conviction of a Thatcher or a Churchill? Both recognise the importance of reaching out to new voters – but which one can devise and push through the policies needed to unite the Tory shires with the Leave voters of the north? Consider carefully and cast your vote.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The hustings. From Manchester to Belfast – and on to Nottingham.

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

‘Populist’ has replaced the phrase ‘Alt right’ as the lefty choice of word to insult politicians on the Right. Boris Johnson is often now described as a ‘populist’ politician. It’s meant to put him in the same class as Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orban and, of course, Donald Trump.

He is, of course, nothing like them if you actually look at what he believes. As I put it to him at one of the hustings, he’s actually very much on the liberal side of conservative thinking.

This is the man who once flirted with an amnesty for illegal immigrants. This is the man who has an exemplary record of supporting the adoption of pro-gay rights legislation. On that point, it’s always good to remind Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters that Johnson voted to repeal Section 28 in 2002. Corbyn did not.

Brexit blinkers those who just view Johnson through the ‘populist’ prism. They deliberately ignore the rest of his beliefs in a vain attempt to smear him as some sort of far-right ideologue. My suspicion is that if he goes on to win the leadership, we’ll see a government that is very far from what the Guardian and its ilk likes to imagine.

– – – – – – – – – –

Talking of the hustings, I’ve now compered five of them, with number six coming up tomorrow morning in Nottingham.

One of the challenges is to keep things fresh and to introduce new areas of questioning on each occasion. In Manchester on Saturday, I decided to devote my ten minutes with each candidate to Northern Powerhouse issues. Rather hilariously, just before we went on stage I got a text from Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, with a couple of questions for the candidates – well, five actually.

I rather theatrically waved my phone at the 800 strong audience and asked them if I should ask Johnson a question from Mayor Burnham. “YEEEES”, they cried. So I did. The audience then clapped the question, and he then paid tribute to Burnham and agreed with the thrust of the question. Strange times.

– – – – – – – – – –

At the end of interviews with the candidates, I have taken to asking them a light-hearted question. The answers  often give people a very different insight into the candidates’ characters, and also demonstrate an ability (or lack thereof) to think quickly on their feet.

In Manchester, I had forgotten to prepare such a question, so I just asked something very simple: which place in the North West that they had visited had left the most memorable impression. OK – not very original and not exactly the most challenging question I have ever asked.

Johnson chose the Midland Hotel in Manchester…and I could almost sense the collective mind of the audience start to boggle. He then explained that, in 1906, Winston Churchill had held a very important meeting there, the details of which now escape me.

It then came to Jeremy Hunt’s turn. I’m pretty sure he hadn’t heard Johnson’s answer, but he too gave the Midland Hotel as his choice. He looked rather perplexed when the audience collapsed into fits of laughter. He then went on to explain that it was where Mr Rolls met Mr Royce. Who knew?

– – – – – – – –

On Tuesday morning, I got up at 5.30am to fly to Belfast from Heathrow. Apparently, I wasn’t deserving of a place on the private jet which flew the candidates and their entourages there!

Unusually for me, all the travel plans went smoothly, and I arrived at Belfast City Airport on time. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Northern Ireland politics, so I spent some time getting a briefing from someone who does. Always a good idea when you’re keen to avoid causing some sort of diplomatic incident.

I arrived at the venue quite early, and spent some time talking to audience members as they started trickling into the hall. Hunt varied his standard hustings speech rather more than Johnson did – and we were spared another rendition of the McHuntyface joke.

Praise be. I know it’s difficult when there are 16 different hustings to do a different speech at each, but both candidates would be well advised to shake it up for the final eight. If they don’t the media will lose interest.

I had been told by various people in advance of the Belfast hustings that Northern Ireland Conservatives were just like English Tories but about 20 years behind in terms of their social views. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the questions in Belfast were of a better quality and incisiveness than at any of the other hustings so far. And they were generally quite progressive, and not obsessed with issues which only related to Northern Ireland. It was also good to see so many under-30s in the audience.

– – – – – – – – – –

The styles of the two candidates are clearly very different. Hunt is never going to match Johnson for rhetorical flourish, but his great asset is his unflappability in his response to hostile questioning. And there’s been some pretty tough questions from each of the audiences.

He sits up, back ramrod straight, then leans into the audience and tries to reassure them. It’s part of the reason David Cameron appointed him Health Secretary. He has a nice, reassuring bedside manner and the audiences have liked it.

– – – – – – – – – –

Let me finish by paying tribute to a 16-year-old British Asian lad called Ajay who sent in a question to the Manchester hustings, and which I chose as one of those to ask Johnson.

His question was a challenging one, both to ask and for Johnson to answer. When I called Ajay to ask his question, he stumbled with his words a little. I willed him on.

He explained that he suffered from clinical depression and mental health issues and wanted to know what a Boris Johnson led government would do to help people like him. He used the phrase: “If you are elected…”. Some wag in the audience shouted out: “You mean when…”

That could have easily put Ajay off his stride, but it didn’t – and he completed his question. I really hoped the audience would applaud him, as it must have taken balls of steel to ask that question, especially given his age. The crowd didn’t let me down, and nor did Johnson, who gave a very detailed answer on what he would do to expand mental health services.

– – – – – – – – – –

You’ll have noticed that I’ve been scrupulously balanced in this column, and said positive things about both candidates. I’ll save any negative things for the memoirs! Actually, truth be told, that would be a short paragraph. I’ve actually been impressed by how both of them have done so far. I think the whole process has been handled well by both of them.

In addition, let me conclude (again!) by paying tribute to Brandon Lewis and the CCHQ team who have organised these hustings at very short notice. He leads a highly professional team and I can’t speak highly enough of everyone involved. A job well done, but it’s not finished yet.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sheila Lawlor: Johnson, like Churchill, must seize the chance of his lifetime

Sheila Lawlor is the Director of Politeia, a historian and the author of Churchill and the Politics of War, 1940-41.

In the battle for the Tory leadership there has been one focus for attack: Boris Johnson’s judgement. We’re told he can’t be trusted; he lacks judgement; he is irresponsible, unpredictable. Though politicians and press can be a jealous bunch, the vendetta against Johnson has been in a class of its own. But now, as the contest reaches its close, their attack raises a serious point – which is in Johnson’s favour.

For what Britain needs now is not a safe pair of hands, but a leader who can seize the moment. A leader to bring this country the freedom from the EU for which it voted in 2016, just as in May 1940 Churchill – himself having been written off as a failure and political opportunist – seized his moment. It should be looking for a prime minister who has the head, the heart and the sheer boldness to cast himself in the historic role to rally the nation to win its freedom in the biggest test since that time.

In 1940, Churchill’s CV read like a litany of failures. He had switched parties (twice), causes, allegiances, political tunes. There seemed to be only common thread – opportunism. He had played to the gallery, deployed a language that broke the rules, and time and again misplayed his hand in a bid to move ever closer to the power that eluded him. From being the enfant terrible of his party, Churchill had become a grown-up liability.

Then came the chance of his lifetime.

French and British troops massed in France waited for Hitler’s next move westwards – a stalemate broken only by the disastrous British raid on Narvik. Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister on 10th May, 1940. The same day the ‘real’ war in the west began. Hitler invaded France, Holland and Belgium; German tanks could be at Britain’s doorstep in weeks. Of the two candidates, Lord Halifax, a remote figure in the upper chamber, had the extra disadvantage of being in the Government now under attack. Churchill, in the Commons, could command the support of its critics, Labour MPs and Tory ‘glamour boys’ who had parted with the Government, while also bringing most Conservative MPs, begrudgingly, with him. Besides, he could rally the nation, and what had been the failing of his lifetime, that he loved war, would now play to his strength.

Some things today will be trickier today for the new Tory leader than they were in 1940. The Parliamentary Conservative Party has had little leadership. Out of step with its membership, abandoned by its voters and at odds with the quiet and instinctively conservative sentiment of the nation, the Conservative-led governments and MPs have seemed to sidestep the great issues their party has always stood for – the constitution that protects freedom and order, sound money and a small state – pandering instead to the ragbag of fads and interest groups.

To make matters worse, MPs and ministers waged war on the constitution to defy the authority, derived only from the voters, over Brexit. Not only did the Government fail to honour the country’s Brexit decision, but it made common cause with its opponents.

The question for Party members is whether, as in Churchill’s case, Johnson can move on to shape the future, to be part of the history about which both men have written. Though opponents suspect Johnson, as they did Churchill, of being an opportunist, some nonetheless have turned to him. Is it a leap in the dark? Or is it a choice that in retrospect will appear both inspired and almost inevitable?

Johnson appears to understand what marks out Great Britain, irrespective of politics, irrespective of period: its voters are a quiet, obstinate lot, for whom a certain kind of freedom matters, not that of banners or marches, but the freedom to protect their way of life, their laws, their system of government. The freedom to be left alone. The battle for Brexit is a battle for the country’s, and their own, freedom – the right to determine how they are governed, by whom, whether they can shape the laws that forge and reflect their way of life – something Theresa May’s deal or its variants would not do.

As in 1940, the time has come to finish the job. But, unlike then, people today are angry, and their anger is directed not against the EU, which has only acted in character in seeking to do down a democratic decision, but against their own leaders who wanted to surrender sovereign power to a foreign state.

Had Churchill not become Prime Minister in 1940, the political obituaries would have written him off as too often on the losing side: a failure, in war, a failure in peace, a disreputable politician in coalition, a minister who stoked class hatred in the General Strike, a chancellor who ran down the defences to build houses, not battleships. By contrast, Johnson’s record is more promising, but it is not his record that now matters.

Does he understand that this is a time like no other for this country and its people? Is he, like Churchill, ready to ‘walk with destiny’? The signs are that he is.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

George Freeman: Our new book. In which forty Tory MPs band together to help revive conservatism

George Freeman is the founder of the 2020 Conservatives Group, the Big Tent Ideas Festival and Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum. He is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

The Conservative Party is in a hole. We need to stop digging. And start thinking seriously about the real causes of the EU referendum result, the grievances it spoke to – and set out a plan to honour that referendum result by leaving the European Union and setting out a bold programme of domestic reforms.

The EU referendum was a massive vote to reject the political status quo and embrace radical, small c conservative reform. The 17.4 million Labour, Conservative and unaligned voters who voted Leave were voting for radical change. The genius of the Leave campaign was its call to “take back control”. It spoke powerfully to huge swathes of the country feeling marginalised by a potent mix of globalisation, post-Crash austerity, an influx of low paid labour from Eastern Europe, the decline of traditional market towns and high streets, fear of economic marginalisation from automation and the gig economy and a deepening despair at a sense of injustice at the gap between the “unaccountable elites” and the ordinary citizen.

Brexit spoke to – and has enshrined – the principle divide in Britain which is no longer between Left or Right, or North and South, but between those with comfortable lives and those on the margin.

This is hardly surprising. After eight years in office overseeing painful local public spending cuts, in the wake of the £700billon bank bailout, MPs expenses scandal and Blair’s dishonest Iraq war dossier which have entrenched a sense of Parliament dangerously detached from the people it serves, the Brexit referendum was a roar for reform. A number of us had been warning David Cameron and George Osborne it was coming.

Handled properly it could – and should – have been a catalyst for that most difficult of political challenges: renewal in office. But Cameron misjudged the mood and treated Leavers with contempt. Theresa May misjudged the mood as a mandate for a toxic combination of hardline anti-business UKIP rhetoric and bureaucratic Brexit bungling.

Now we choose a new leader in the teeth of a deepening public anger and pressure – whipped up by Farage and Banks – the Dick Dastardly and Mutley of British politics – to embrace the “kamikaze” approach of an anti-business No Deal Brexit.

Get this wrong, and we risk the destruction of the Conservative Party for a generation: losing our professional, business, metropolitan and liberal supporters to the Liberal Democrats, our Leave supporters to the Brexit Party and those who just want competence in office to stay at home in despair.

If we are to avoid gifting a broken Brexit Britain to Jeremy Corbyn, John Mcdonnell and Len McClusky, the next Conservative leader has to do three things:

  • Deliver an EU Withdrawal which a majority of moderate mainstream British voters in the centre ground can support
  • Embark on some bold domestic reforms to tackle the legitimate grievances which fuelled the Referendum vote
  • Restore some grip, vision, inspiration and unity to a divided country and Party.

The scale of the revolt against the status quo demands bold reform. Not the technocratic tinkering and endless self-congratulatory initiative-launching of Ministers looking busy on Instragram, but real reform.

This is a 1975, 1945, 1905 moment of profound disruption. The old order will be replaced by a new order. The only question is who will shape it? Can the Conservative Party make this a moment of bold and inspiring renewal in the same way that Mrs Thatcher and Keith Joseph did in 1975, Attlee, Churchill, Beveridge and Butler did in 1945, and Churchill and the Liberals did in 1905 to see of socialism by creating pensions and national insurance?

Too often, we forget that the great institutions we cherish as permanent were once mere ideas – whether the NHS, the BBC, the London Docklands, universal suffrage, the Right to Buy or the privatisation of the old state industries. They were bold ideas which reshaped a whole generation and quickly became permanent fixtures.

When was the last time any modern politician had an idea on the scale of any of these? We now face a genuine battle of ideas with a resurgent hard left and we need urgently to rediscover the power of political imagination.

So what would a bold programme of Conservative reform look like today? In our book Britain Beyond Brexit: a New Conservative Vision for a New Generation, published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, I and forty MPs from all sides of the party – Leave and Remain, North and South, left and right, urban and rural – have set out a collection of pieces to frame that programme.

Our book sets out a range of policy proposals across six defining themes we believe must be at the centre of a coherent and compelling narrative for the New Conservatism: identity, opportunity, enterprise, social justice, security and citizenship.

Of course, many may ask: is the Conservative Party capable of that task, amid the seemingly endless and deepening divisions of the Brexit civil war?

The successes and failures of a post-Brexit new conservatism will be based on understanding the profound societal, economic and technological changes coming at us. Not how we return to the old dividing lines of the 1980s or 1950s, but how we address the profound challenges of our age: issues such as globalisation, digitalisation, genetic engineering, sustainable development, religious extremism and the traumatic rupture of the crash and its legacy on our public finances.

We have got to be brave enough to tackle the big issues of the day. Low and fragile growth. A fragmented health and care system. Structural deficit. Intergenerational unfairness. Deepening anxiety, disillusionment and despair. Rising pressure on weary public servants in creaking public services. Stubborn ghettos of low aspiration and deprivation. Housing unaffordability, homelessness and small town decline. Sluggish infrastructure. Bad planning.

For our elderly – and the families and community of carers who look after them, we need a fair system of funding and providing elderly care. For the young, the urgent priority is addressing housing and the wider issue of economic disenfranchisement. Put simply, we’ve built an economy where the principal mechanism for building economic security – owning a home – is getting beyond the reach of all but the most privileged. Is it any wonder that a whole generation of millennial voters – with little or no chance of acquiring a house or any capital – are seduced by the rhetoric of anti-capitalism?

We face a genuinely historic challenge: are we going to make Brexit a moment of catalytic renewal of conservatism and our nation? Or a moment of annihilation by a new alignment of a new generation of voters?

To avoid a decade of decline in a post-Brexit Britain run by Corbyn, we urgently need a new conservatism for a new generation.

I hope our book will help light the way.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Nick Hargrave: How Johnson became Prime Minister, cut a Brexit deal, won an election – and triumphed. For a bit.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

The least becoming habit of the columnist is to be ironclad in one’s convictions. When we do this, we tend to make fools of ourselves.

In recent years there have been many examples of unravelled truisms from the political class. We were told that the Coalition wouldn’t last six months. That Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have any shot of power. That the status-quo always won in referenda. That Theresa May was an unassailable leader.

These assumptions had rational evidence behind them.

But politics is not science. There are structural trends that drive the tide. Being a successful politician has a human layer on top though: a melting pot of charisma, cunning, coincidence, calculation, opportunities taken and moments missed by others.

The latest example of conventional wisdom in this leadership election is that a Boris Johnson premiership is doomed to end in disaster. He faces the same immovable headwinds at home and abroad as May when it comes to getting a Brexit deal over the line – and his failure to rule out No Deal means he will eventually end up succumbing to a chaotic general election before Brexit is implemented. Either that, or he will end up delaying like his predecessor and pay the price.

The logic behind this thesis is compelling. Indeed, I think it is overwhelmingly likely. Not least because the path of a second referendum as a device to Leave – rather than a device to Remain – has been so categorically ruled out.

But we are foolish – and letting our world view colour our thinking – if we do not recognise that there is still a small chance of a successful escape by Johnson and his Teflon qualities.

The account that follows is necessarily abridged. I doubt his team have planned so far ahead and there are a thousand points where the chain breaks down.

But none of it is impossible and, if there is a common thread, it is the self-interest of MPs in avoiding an election at all costs before Brexit, the fact that the DUP and the hardest Brexiteer Tories are not actually aligned on strategic goals – coupled with the capacity of a gambler to surprise.

The choice that Conservative MPs must make is if they can foresee a better political outcome with a statesman rather than a gambler. If they can, then they should vote for the statesman. If they can’t then a five per cent bet is better than a zero per cent bet. Consider at all points what you are gambling with – and remember that there is no perfect ending in any scenario.

1. Johnson is elected Leader of the Conservative Party and becomes Prime Minister in late July.

He speaks behind a desk in Downing Street setting out his intentions. He does not want to leave without a deal and says that renewed energy and respect can find a solution to the backstop. Plans will be escalated for no-deal in case the talks are unsuccessful, but no one wants that outcome. His team keep the press occupied with 48 hours of unifying Cabinet appointments.

2. Moderate Conservative MPs bottle it

The EU say that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for negotiation, they are open to constructive dialogue – but  they too are ready for ‘no deal’ as a sensible precaution. . Labour table a vote of confidence. Nervous Conservative MPs on the brink of voting against the Government meet Johnson privately and are asked to wait until September. The Prime Minister gives a tour-de-force opening the debate in the Commons and gets the benefit of the doubt.

3. The ball gets rolling on legislation and then August happens

The current Withdrawal Agreement Bill is put down on gov.uk in draft form with a steer that the backstop provisions will be amended once a settlement is reached with the European Union. ERG and DUP figures this time give him the benefit of the doubt. Everyone agrees to go on holiday for August because the sun-lounger is more attractive than the stump. Other stories dominate the news.

4. September comes and the Commons returns to paralysis

It’s back to school for a drama filled but unproductive month. MPs panic and predict impending doom – but the fear of the apocalypse election again prevents them from exercising the ultimate sanction. Cooper Letwin Mark 2 passes with the help of the Speaker but a new, pliable Attorney General issues advice that the legislative cannot bind the executive in this way.

5. Johnson gives a rousing speech to the Conservative faithful in Manchester at the beginning of October.

The Prime Minister breaks the habit of a lifetime and engages with his speech early. The delivery surprises by its statesmanlike qualities. He invokes the spirit of Thatcher and Churchill and implores the nation to hold its nerve. He once again plays down the chance of no-deal but he needs it in his back-pocket. As was the case for May’s speech last year, the hall goes away uplifted and wanting to believe. A daily catalogue of parliamentary drama takes place over the next ten days with the same results as before.

6. The EU Council of 17-18 October dawns

The markets go haywire across Europe as analysts predict whether the gambler is bluffing. This drives behaviour. With a fortnight until exit day – and the European Commission a lame duck entity until November – a meeting in the margins of the Berlaymont takes place between Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Johnson and Leo Varadkar. Convention of unanimity is broken and the original proposal of a Northern Ireland only backstop is re-floated. It is heavily sugar-coated by words on a Stormont Lock and the Belfast Agreement where Northern Ireland will never diverge from the rest of the UK without further democratic consent in a restored assembly. Non-legally binding words are issued about the Super-Canada Plus Plus Plus deal that the EU stands ready to get on and discuss with Johnson with every effort made to find new technology.

Johnson thinks about the union differently to Theresa May. With one eye on a post-Brexit election, where he will be less reliant on the DUP, he gambles on gut to go for it without consulting civil servants.

7. The DUP go apoplectic– but tired politicians make deals

Sammy Wilson cuts off his eyelids. But with the door open to a Johnson-led Canada deal it becomes clear that the DUP pact with the ERG is no longer 100 per cent aligned. The backstop is also popular among Northern Irish businesses. Billions to the province are pledged. A frank and long meeting takes place with the Chief Whip where the Stormont Lock is emphasised, and it is agreed that the DUP will abstain rather than vote against the Government in the vote of confidence that will surely follow; the alternative being a Prime Minister Corbyn who avowedly wants a united Ireland. The DUP numbers matter less anyway on the day of the debate, because of the abstentions of self-interested Change UK offshoots for whom an election would be existential.

8. The Withdrawal Agreement legislation is passed with a short technical extension of days

No one quite knows how it came together in the end. But a combination of weariness, momentum in the media, fear of the alternative by Conservative MPs, peerages for elderly northern Labour MPs in Leave constituencies and a slew of abstentions gets the legislation over the line.

9. A triumphant Prime Minister Johnson basks in strong approval ratings and then goes for a general election

He uses the next few months to trail a crowd-pleasing, austerity busting agenda to appeal to both sides of the Brexit values divide – and then goes for a general election in spring 2020 seeking a mandate to unite the country

He wins a modest 15 seat majority after a professional campaign by his long-standing consultants but with Remain-minded younger voters still culturally alienated. A win is a win though.

10. But the honeymoon period doesn’t last long

Twenty-four hours later the ERG submits a letter of demands on priorities for Canada -style trade deal and the reality of the trade-offs begin to dawn. Johnson begins the path to be the fifth Conservative Prime Minister to be consumed by the vexatious issue of our relationship with the European Union.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Chris Penney: A lesson from D-Day – 75 years on. It was textbook exercise in how to succeed against the odds.

Chris Penney is a freelance writer covering aviation and military history, and is a member of Taunton Deane Conservatives.

In one of her last acts as the Conservative Party’s leader, Theresa May will attend the D-Day 75th anniversary commemorations at Southsea in Hampshire next Saturday.  Surrounded by fellow leaders, she will doubtless derive some comfort from the fact that they represent NATO partners rather than EU antagonists.  But as she looks out over the Solent and the English Channel beyond, I wonder what she’ll be thinking?  If only Brexit had proved as successful as D-Day, perhaps?

To the casual observer, D-Day is the story of a mighty multinational force unleashed from southern England successfully landing in Normandy with the result that, less than a year later, the war in Europe had been won.  Yet at almost every stage of the preparations for this assault on occupied Europe, there was disagreement and division.

From before its start, those nations taking part had very differing outlooks on the conduct of the war, and these had to be ironed out before detailed planning could commence.  Other factors at play were command rivalries, clashes of personally and egos, arguments on every level about strategy and goals, conflicting advise from experts and even a breakdown in collective responsibility that needed addressing.  Such was the task facing the wartime allied commanders working up their D-Day plans.

In trying to decide when, where and how to assault Nazi Europe the allies had some experience to call on.  As early as 1940, Britain and France had attempted a landing in Norway.  The debacle lead to the famous Norway Debate in the Commons that sealed Neville Chamberlain’s fate.  The fatally-flawed Dieppe raid in 1942 lead to grievous Canadian losses, and proved that a defended port couldn’t be taken from the sea.  The Sicily landings highlighted problems of friendly fire, and the later Anzio landings exposed the tragic decision not to push inland at the earliest opportunity.  It’s often overlooked that by the time of D-Day on June 6 1944, the Allies were already ashore and fighting their way up the spine of Italy in what many veterans often cite as the forgotten European campaign.

Once it had been decided that the US would take the lead on D-Day, with the appointment of General Eisenhower as overall commander, he had to bang service heads together to achieve his aims of delivering the assault at a time and place of choosing.  Some factors were outside his control.  The weather would dictate suitable conditions for a landing, and the operation was tied to a period of moonlight for the nightime parachute and glider landings and lowest tide level for the dawn beach landings.  This severely restricted the number of nights each month when conditions were right to launch D-Day.

The Dieppe raid had also highlighted that control of the air over the Normandy area was a prerequisite for the landings to take place.  Trying to persuade the strategic bomber arms of both the RAF and US Army Air Force to redirect their heavy air power in support of the operation proved nigh on impossible, and Eisenhower had to threaten to resign to force the issue and get his way.  The bomber barons didn’t like it, but they had no choice: the cause was momentous.  There were then arguments about the bomber target list – oil versus transport.  Air commanders had to be summoned to a council of war meeting in March to be told taking out rail and road links in the assault area would be the most effective way of reducing German fighting capacity in Normandy, even though intelligence staff thought otherwise.

There were also some big personalities involved in the chain of command, all keen to stamp their authority on proceedings.  Churchill, remembering Gallipoli, ensured he had his say on matters that would rebound on him were they not successful.  Montgomery was his own man, and US army commanders viewed him with suspicion, saying that he lacked confidence.  Leigh-Mallory, who was in charge of the ground support air operations, had to be carefully sidestepped, to avoid empire-building ambitions getting in the way of the real military objectives, and always in the background there was the enigma that was de Gaulle.

To ensure D-Day was successful, ingenious ‘out of the box’ ideas were required.  It was recognised that reinforcements had to be landed during the follow-up phases fastr than the Germans could concentrate their reserves to repel the landing force.  This led to the design of the Mulberry floating harbours constructed in England, and towed across the Channel to form an instant port for the unloading of fresh troops and supplies and the evacuation of causalities.  If there was one invention that contributed to D-Day’s overall success then surely this was it.

Behind the scenes, there were the unsung heroes.  The naval planners that had the unenviable task of ensuring that over 5,000 ships were convoyed to deliver a simultaneous landing.  The army logisticians who had to make sure that every soldier and tank was where it was supposed to be when the army demanded it.  The air intelligence analysts who provided the targeting information upon which the supporting air attacks were based.  And in an era without computers, the typists who had to create the orders of the day upon which everything happened.  Years and years of planning and staff work came together to ensure nothing had been left to chance, and Eisenhower didn’t need the speech he had prepared announcing to the world that D-Day had failed.  As a result, Churchill never had to face a Norway-style grilling by parliament.

D-Day was never a guaranteed success, and there is much to admire about the single-mindedness of military purpose that overcame so many obstacles to accomplish it.  A year later, the only fighting still taking place was in the Far East.  It’s a lesson from history that is still relevant today.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

There are too many Tory leadership candidates

We changed the presentation our of monthly Next Tory Leader survey result the last time it was published.  We usually put a bar chart above the written summary and a results table below it.  But last month, we dropped the former, because there are now so many contenders that the chart is too big to fit on the page.

Admittedly, we could have shrunk both by removing some names.  Tom Tugendhat has indicated that he will not stand.  Last week, Philip Hammond said likewise.  Gavin Williamson was unlikely to throw his hat in the ring even then.  It is perhaps unnecessary for us to include David Lidington.  Jacob Rees-Mogg is backing Boris Johnson.

But for every name that we take out, we could put another in.  What about Steve Baker, who is being touted by some of his friends? (And under some circumstances by himself.)  Or Johnny Mercer?  Or, talking of people with a military interest, Tobias Ellwood?  All have been punted within the recent past.  We could quite properly include them – and more.  For example, Andrea Leadsom, who isn’t in our table, declared last week, as well as Esther McVey, who is.

Which raises the question: what is going on?  Admittedly, more Conservative MPs express an interest in the leadership than actually stand for it when the chance comes.  Some scratch around for support, find it wanting, and quietly pull out before it’s known that they were ever in.  Jeremy Hunt pondered standing in 2017.  So did Theresa May in 2005.

Next time round (which could be very soon), it will happen again.  This site has written before of an Andy Warhol leadership contest, in which a mass of potential contenders will be famous for 15 minutes.  Even when the mists clear, there are likely to be more than five runners – the number who stood in the first Parliamentary ballot two years ago.  The Commons Library note on Tory leadership election rules suggests that there’s nothing much to stop any Conservative MP who wishes to do so putting his or her name to their colleagues.

So what account for the increase in the number of hopefuls?  There seem to be three main factors.

First, the calculation by some of the smaller fry that they can push themselves, gather some support, and then strike a deal with one of the bigger fry: I’ll declare for you if you give me a Cabinet job.  Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours (as low down as may be required).

But the law of dimishing returns applies: the more potential candidates there are, the fewer the number of Cabinet places that can be promised – assuming that any of the bigger fish are willing to make such pledges, and assuming again that these can be trusted.

In any case, this gambit explains very little.  It was no less deployable in 2017 than now.  But there were fewer names in circulation before the contest that returned Theresa May.

The second explanation is more telling.  Margaret Thatcher was an MP for more than 15 years before becoming Party leader.  John Major had served for more than ten; William Hague for a bit less long; Iain Duncan Smith for about the same time.

May had to wait for more than 20 years; Michael Howard for roughly the same period.  The big exception to the rule is David Cameron – leader in fewer than five years after entering the Commons.  If he could do it, some MPs think, then so can I.

Which takes us to the third and connected reason.  Life is speeding up.  It was ever thus – but the end of the 24 hour news cycle and the rise of social media has acclerated the pace of change.

Be Liz Truss, Instgram Star, and get on the front of the Mail on Sunday magazine. Or be Matt Hancock, and star in jeans and T-shirt at an arts and culture event.

And so on.  Some will hail these changes as an unmitigated blessing.  Look how many great competitors we have!

ConservativeHome is not so sure.  It suits us to run a list with lots of names.  But it might not suit the Conservative Party.  Indeed, it could be a sign that it now contains more impetus for splintering and faction, policy or personal, than instinct for purpose and unity.  It might be that having a lot of chiefs is the other side of having too few Indians – that’s to say, councillors and activists.  Perhaps the excess of candidates is a symptom of illness; of how years of rows over Europe have weakened the Tory body politic’s immunity.

In medieval times, strong monarchs meant barons kept in check which in turn meant civil peace (up to a point, anyway).  Weak kings meant strong barons which meant bastard feudalism and, in the end, civil war.  You will take your own view of whether Theresa May can usefully be compared to Henry VI.  But there may something in it.  There is a smack of The Hollow Crown about today’s Tory Party.

Dominic Lawson is on to the same point in today’s Sunday Times. He quotes Gilbert and Sullivan: “when everybody’s somebody, then no-one’s anybody”.  Without naming names, there are plenty of somebodies near the bottom of our table, commanding derisory shares of the vote.  Sure, one of them may ambush his or her opponents, as Margaret Thatcher did in 1975.  But one thing’s for sure: not all of them can.  The contest may or may not produce a Snow White.  But statistically, there are bound to be more than seven dwarves.

The next Conservative leader will face challenges unprecedented in the Party’s post-war history – perhaps ever, assuming that the election takes place soon.  Brexit is stuck.  The divisions over it, within the Party and outside it, are divisions over other things, too: culture, age, region,  – even locality: over how well or badly Britain does its politics.

Andrew Roberts’ book on Churchill is called Walking with Destiny.  May’s replacement may or may not have to walk with destiny, but he will need to stroll hand in hand with luck even to survive.  A Tory electoral collapse may be unlikely, but it is possible: the Brexit Party may be changing the rules of the game.  Maybe the new leader will be able to create his own team of rivals.  But we wouldn’t put money on it.

It’s all your fault, we will doubtless be told.  Your blasted website with its tables and surveys.  To which we can only reply that the causes strike us as ranging just a bit wider.  And in any event, no potential contender – none – has ever asked for their name to be removed.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Richard Ritchie: Brexit. Four great Commons debates that show how we got here – and what’s at stake.

Richard Ritchie is the author of The Progress Trust (Without Hindsight: A History of the Progress Trust 1943-2005). He is Enoch Powell’s archivist and is a former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate.

The reading of past debates in Hansard is a salutary exercise. I learnt this in researching my recent history of The Progress Trust where I was constantly impressed by how often political arguments seem to repeat themselves. But no more so than on the question of Europe.

Before joining the European Community, the Commons held three debates on the question of principle – four, if one includes the debate concerning the Labour Government’s refusal to countenance the Schuman plan in June 1950. All of them were considered historic by their participants. The final debate lasted six days (21st – 28th October 1971), sitting often until 2am and on one occasion until 7am.

In passing, it’s impossible to ignore changes in Parliament’s character between then and now. In 1971, speeches were still of unlimited duration, there were far fewer female contributions, and the Speaker (unlike now) was polite and impartial. The only time a Speaker came near to issuing a rebuke in all these debates was when Selwyn Lloyd on October 27 1971 exploded “It is really not tolerable that the Rt. Hon. Member for Leeds East (Denis Healey) should continue to interrupt from a sedentary position.”

But what strikes one most is how, with hindsight, the inevitability of today’s crisis is apparent. The issue of sovereignty was always acknowledged as crucial, and politics took precedence over economics from the start. Moreover, the Commons was always divided on the issue, with a constant sense from opponents of entry that the Government of the day was exceeding its democratic mandate.

– – –

The debate on the Schuman Plan is instructive, because it shows how the Conservatives were as willing as Labour to say one thing in Opposition, and another in Government. Churchill criticised the Labour Government for its refusal to consider a plan which he himself, as Prime Minister, was to judge unacceptable. The kernel of the argument was whether Schuman’s plan necessitated a “supra-national authority” as claimed by Attlee, but denied by Churchill who described it as “an odious phrase.”

And yet, Churchill took Attlee’s view once he regained office. Incidentally, it was during this debate that Edward Heath made his maiden speech, urging the Labour Government to “go into the Schuman Plan to develop Europe and to coordinate it in the way suggested.” Heath, at least, was always consistent. The most striking comment was uttered by the left-wing intellectual, Richard Crossman – “The amount of enthusiasm for federal union in any country is a measure of its defeatism and of its feeling of inability to measure up to its own problems.”

– – –

It was not until Harold Macmillan’s attempt in 1961 to join the ‘Common Market’ that the Commons again fully debated the principles involved – although only in respect of authorising negotiations. The debate contained many interesting statements, including Macmillan’s assurance that “it is quite unreal to suppose we could be compelled suddenly to accept a flood of cheap labour.”

Of special relevance to today was the distinction between applying for membership under Articles 237 and 238 of the Treaty of Rome. The Labour Party preferred the latter because it simply meant joining ‘a customs union’. But as Macmillan pointed out, this amounted to no more than becoming “country members” (it was typical of Macmillan to use a club analogy). He continued: “it would raise all the same problems without giving us any position in which we could share in the decisions of the Community in all its aspects.” In other words, precisely the same objection as is made today of Theresa May’s approach.

On the economic side, the debate was between those who feared economic exclusion from a large market, and those who felt this country was betraying its farmers, and the Commonwealth. On the political side, the argument was over sovereignty. Derek Walker-Smith was the main Conservative opponent of entry, urging the Commons to consider “the direction and destinations” to which membership would lead, and emphasising that “for the Community economic union is a prelude to political union.”

He was not alone in warning of what came to be known as the ratchet effect. The word ‘sovereignty” was discussed frequently during this short two debate in August. It’s a myth to suppose it was of lesser concern in 1961 than in 1971 or indeed today. And from the start, it was divisive. As the Conservative MP Sir Robin Turton warned, “there are hundreds of thousands of Conservatives who hold the views that I hold” on sovereignty, and continued “I fear that the Government will split not only the Commonwealth but the Conservative Party.”

– – –

Because this attempt to join the Common Market was blocked by de Gaulle, the Commons was never required to debate the actual terms of entry. By the time Harold Wilson launched a second attempt to join the Community in 1967, there was a greater appetite to debate in detail the economic dimension.

A three day debate took place between 8th and 10th May, by which time Edward Heath was leader of the Opposition. While resentful of the lack of support offered by Labour to his negotiations in 1961, Heath offered the Government almost unequivocal backing on condition that, as he had stated a few months earlier, Wilson’s application was based on full acceptance of “the Treaty of Rome, the common external tariff, the abolition of the internal tariff, the common agricultural policy and the movement towards economic union.”

Wilson opened the debate with a speech lasting nearly one and a half hours, and most of it was devoted to economic matters relating to agriculture, the movement of capital and the Commonwealth. On the political dimension, Wilson was mostly interested in how membership would affect relations with Russia, and issues of peace and security in general. He was less concerned with ‘sovereignty’ although he did make the extraordinary claim that “by far the greater part of our domestic law would remain unchanged after entry.”

There was also greater concern than in 1961 over the dangers of exclusion. Sir Alec Douglas-Home argued “the country is in danger of being put out of business” although he conceded that “the difficulties of grafting Britain on to a Community which will achieve complete integration by 1970 are much greater than they would have been five years ago.” By 1967, immigration was also a much bigger issue than in 1961, but this did not prevent Wilson from echoing Macmillan in his emphasis that “the Government do not believe that there is likely to be any large net increase in the number of EEC nationals coming here to work.”

Backbenchers of both parties preferred to debate the issues of principle. Duncan Sandys, for example, was the precursor of Michael Heseltine in arguing that “in this age of super-states, Britain by herself is no longer in a position to exercise any really effective influence in international affairs.” Socialists such as Michael Foot feared a capitalist conspiracy (just as Corbyn does today). Internationalists argued that internationalism does not “reside behind tariff walls.” And it was the Ulster MP Captain Lawrence Orr who expressed most succinctly the sovereignty concern: “It is a loss of sovereignty which can never be regained. Once we sign the Treaty and are in, every kind of sanction could be used against us, and would be used against us, if we sought to abrogate it.” The Labour MP Manny Shinwell urged that more attention be paid “to what is being said on the other side, on the Continent”, a warning ignored by the Foreign Secretary, George Brown, who stated “we expect to get in.”

But what distinguished this debate from its equivalent six years earlier was that Conservative opponents of entry tabled their own critical amendment, albeit unsupported by the official Opposition. While only 26 Conservatives supported the ‘rebel’ amendment (although 62 MPs voted against the application itself), it was the first manifestation of divisions to come. Before leaving the 1967 debate, the temptation to quote Percy Grieve, Dominic Grieve’s father, is too great to resist in illuminating the family atmosphere in which his son grew up: “The changes in law resulting from accession to the Community would not affect the ordinary man or woman in this country, who simply would not realise the changes resulting in the laws dealing with commerce and restrictive practices.”

– – –

Everyone was agreed that the final debate of principle, in 1971, was different from its predecessors because here Parliament was asked to approve a final decision to join “the European Communities on the basis of the arrangements which have been negotiated.” Inevitably, therefore, the debate was not just about the principle but also the terms of entry.

The consequence of this was an inordinate amount of time was taken up by a boring quarrel between the two front benches as to whether Harold Wilson and the Labour Party had again changed their minds and could have negotiated something better. Wilson denied the former, and asserted the latter. Heath and the Conservatives in turn accused Wilson of subterfuge and lack of principle. It was a forerunner of what we are seeing today. Wilson had no more chance of winning better terms in 1971 than Corbyn has in 2019. But the farce of pretending otherwise has to be enacted, while the issues of principle are evaded.

However, a six day debate afforded plenty of opportunity to debate every angle, and the arguments expressed on this occasion retain a resonance for us today. Dennis Healey described the debate “as the end of the beginning of an argument which has lasted for more than 15 years.” Peter Shore put it better in saying “I sense that neither here nor in this country are we at the end of this great debate but rather at the beginning.”

When it came to the economic dimension, the quarrel was over familiar ground, although regional policy had assumed greater importance for Labour because of its radically different approach. Also, this debate contained for the first time detailed discussion over Britain’s net contribution to the EEC Budget, which the Government was keen to downplay but where Labour was ultimately vindicated – culminating in Margaret Thatcher’s struggle to reduce this country’s net contribution in 1984. Nevertheless, much of this argument was about statistics, growth rates and forecasts about which, like today, neither side had any justification for certainty. One could almost substitute the numbers cited then for the numbers extrapolated now, and be none the wiser. As in 1967, for Sir Alec Douglas-Home the question was simple: “Where do we find the jobs for our people unless we take advantage of an opportunity like this?”

But the political implications were not to be crowded out by disputes over “the terms” or economic projections. These implications now included to a greater extent than before the issue of defence, as Heath was suspected by an increasingly unilateralist Labour Party of planning an Anglo-French nuclear force. Essentially, the sovereignty argument was still between those who, like Keith Joseph, believed “it will never be requisite upon us once we are in the Community to take any decisions, or to join in any decision, against our national interest”; and those like the Labour MP Michael English who pointed out that “if every member of the Cabinet had a right of veto, there would be no Cabinet decisions.”

A Conservative MP called Peter Trew predicted “The British people could find themselves on a bandwagon travelling in a direction not of their choosing and at a speed which they could not control.” Tony Benn argued that defence and foreign policy “are to be put in for harmonisation with tariffs and taxation.” Derek Walker-Smith referred to “the new fashionable expression” of ‘elitism’ and concluded “If this is the product of elitism – government by community decree, with Parliament a rubber stamp – new elitism is old autocracy writ French. If this is elitism, then give me democracy.”

– – –

So, what are the main lessons of these debates for today’s MPs? It was Benn who said in the debate: “I think that history is unlikely to confirm any of our certainties expressed, and that what the historians will want to know is how deeply we thought about the possibilities.” Events have occurred which were not fully perceived. Perhaps the most important is the unification of Germany and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The second is the enlargement of the EU. It is harder now than then to argue that the EU does not embrace most of Europe. Another development not fully acknowledged was Scottish nationalism, although the Tory MP Lieutenant Colonel Colin Mitchell (known to his contemporaries as “Mad Mitch”) got it right when he argued that “nation states are being eroded, but are being eroded not only from above but from below as well, and with the weakening of nation states there are supra-national groupings and sub-national independence movements.” The Northern Ireland border was hardly discussed, although Stanley McMaster, the Unionist MP for Belfast East, feared the movement of labour from Eire to Ulster.

But just as striking are the similarities. For example, then as now there was concern over Britain’s influence in any alternative grouping. The Labour MP Ronald Brown, who was George Brown’s younger brother, stated “I object to this country joining any grouping (such as EFTA) in which we have a subordinate role. This is the great value of our joining Europe, that we will be on equal terms with our partners.” This is precisely what is argued by today’s critics of ‘Norway-plus’ and its variations. It was also frequently argued that the Government failed to listen to the Community. One can’t help wondering whether it would not have been better for everyone if the advice of “people of some authority” in the Common Market, quoted by George Brown in 1961, had been followed: “If you are coming in believing that this is no more than an economic arrangement, we would much rather that you did not come in.”

Finally, there is the issue of public consent. There were just as many complaints then as now over the Government’s attempts to influence public opinion and the illegitimate use of taxpayers’ money. There were frequent calls for either a general election or a referendum. Benn again put it best when he said “There are such sharp differences of opinion within each party that it would not be possible to decide the issue at a general Election, even if the leadership of the two major parties were taking contrary views.”

That was the dilemma then, as it is today. Parliament and Parties have always been divided on this issue. ‘Sovereignty’ was always the key concern, despite arguments over its meaning. The question now is whether those divisions within the Conservative Party which have been apparent ever since Macmillan made his first application (and before) are finally bringing about its destruction. If so, nobody can say they weren’t warned.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com