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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Johnny Mercer MP"

Rob Sutton: Introducing the top 50 Conservative MPs on Twitter

Westlake Legal Group rob-sutton-introducing-the-top-50-conservative-mps-on-twitter Rob Sutton: Introducing the top 50 Conservative MPs on Twitter twitter Tracey Crouch MP Tom Tugendhat MP Tobias Ellwood MP Theresa May MP Steve Baker MP Social Media Sir John Redwood MP Simon Hoare MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Halfon MP Rob Roberts MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Peter Bone MP Penny Mordaunt MP Parliamentary Conservative Party Nusrat Ghani MP Nadine Dorries MP Nadhim Zahawi MP Michael Gove MP mcbv Matthew Hancock MP Matt Hancock MP Maria Caulfield MP Marcus Fysh MP Lucy Allan MP Liz Truss Liam Fox MP Kemi Badenoch MP Joy Morrissey MP Jonathan Gullis MP Johnny Mercer MP John Penrose MP Jeremy Hunt MP James Cleverly MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Huw Merriman MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Douglas Ross MP Dominic Raab MP Dehenna Davison MP David Davis MP Damian Collins MP Comment Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Bob Seely MP Andrew Bridgen MP Andrea Leadsom MP Andrea Jenkyns MP

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-06-24-at-18.22.49 Rob Sutton: Introducing the top 50 Conservative MPs on Twitter twitter Tracey Crouch MP Tom Tugendhat MP Tobias Ellwood MP Theresa May MP Steve Baker MP Social Media Sir John Redwood MP Simon Hoare MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Halfon MP Rob Roberts MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Peter Bone MP Penny Mordaunt MP Parliamentary Conservative Party Nusrat Ghani MP Nadine Dorries MP Nadhim Zahawi MP Michael Gove MP mcbv Matthew Hancock MP Matt Hancock MP Maria Caulfield MP Marcus Fysh MP Lucy Allan MP Liz Truss Liam Fox MP Kemi Badenoch MP Joy Morrissey MP Jonathan Gullis MP Johnny Mercer MP John Penrose MP Jeremy Hunt MP James Cleverly MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Huw Merriman MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Douglas Ross MP Dominic Raab MP Dehenna Davison MP David Davis MP Damian Collins MP Comment Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Bob Seely MP Andrew Bridgen MP Andrea Leadsom MP Andrea Jenkyns MP

Conservative MP Twitter power rankings: the top 50

Rob Sutton is an incoming junior doctor in Wales and a former Parliamentary staffer. He is a recent graduate of the University of Oxford Medical School.

Amongst the social media giants, Twitter is the primary battleground for political discourse. It’s also one of the key avenues by which MPs convey their message, and has near-universal uptake by members in the current House of Commons.

The effectiveness with which Twitter is utilised varies considerably between MPs, but it is difficult to compare like-for-like. How does one take into account the differences between, for instance, a freshman MP and a veteran Cabinet member? Length of service in Parliament and ministerial rank give a considerable advantage when building a following.

In this article, I have compiled a power ranking of MPs in the current Parliament, with the top 50 shown in the chart above. The MP’s follower count was adjusted by factoring in their previous experience, to better reflect the strength of their following and their success at engagement on the platform.

Being Twitter-savvy is about more than just a high follower count: any Secretary of State can achieve this just by virtue of the media exposure their office brings. Building a Twitter following based on thoughtful commentary and authentic engagement requires skill ,and can be achieved by members across all Parliamentary intakes and ranks of Government.

Though the top 10 is still dominated by MPs holding senior ministerial offices, the composition of the list beyond it is far more variable. A number of prominent backbenchers are in the top 20, and four members from the 2019 intake make the top 50, beating longer-serving and higher-ranked colleagues.

I hope that this list serves as recognition of the skill and contribution by Conservative members to public debate and engagement, beyond ministerial duties which so often dominate any mention in the media.

Building a model of Twitter power rankings

Success is judged by number of followers, with higher follower counts indicating greater influence on Twitter. The follower count was adjusted using three key parameters:

  • The number of years since an MP was first elected to Parliament.
  • The number of years the MP’s Twitter account has been active.
  • Their highest rank within Government achieved since 2010.

Higher values for each of these would be expected to contribute to a higher follower count. I built a model using the open-source Scikit-Learn package, and fitted it to data from the current Parliament.

The model was then used to predict how many followers a given MP might expect to have based on these three factors. The steps taken to produce a final “Twitter power score” were thus as follows:

  • Using these three factors, multiple linear regression was used to calculate the expected number of Twitter followers an MP might have.
  • Their true follower count was divided by the expected follower count to produce a single number which represented the MP’s performance at building a following.
  • Finally, a logarithm was taken of this ratio to make the number more manageable and to produce a final Twitter power score.

The final step of taking a logarithm means it is easier to compare between MPs without those who have very high follower counts (such as Boris Johnson) making the data difficult to compare, but it does not affect the order of the ranking.

Compiling the data

Having decided which factors to correct the model for, I collected the required information. All three factors were easy to find reliable sources for. The Twitter page for each MP displays the date the account was created, and the Parliamentary website provides the date of their first election to Parliament and previous government posts.

Members who are newly returned to the backbenches following governmental duties (such as Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt) are scored at their highest government rank since 2010 to recognise this. I was able to find the Twitter accounts and required information for 319 Conservative MPs who were included in this ranking.

To build a model based on this data required incorporating the highest government rank numerically. To do this, I assigned scores according to their rank. These grades recognised their relative seniority and media exposure associated with the office, with higher scores assigned to more senior positions:

  • Prime Ministers, Secretaries of State, Speakers, Leaders of the House and Chief Whips are scored 3.
  • Ministers of State, Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chief Whips are scored 1.
    Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and Whips are scored 0.5.
  • Backbenchers score 0.

When assigning these values, I considered the typical sizes of follower counts of MPs in each category. When comparing Secretaries of States to Ministers of State, the median follower count is around twice the size, but the mean follower count is around eight times the size, as a handful of very large follower count skews the results upwards.

Deciding on weightings requires a (somewhat arbitrary) decision as to which measures to use when comparing between groups, and the scores I decided on were ultimately chosen as a compromise across these different measures, which produced stable results when used in the model.

It is also worth explaining why Prime Ministers are grouped with Secretaries of State, despite the far higher media exposure and seniority of their post. When deciding on the respective weighting for different levels of government post, a sufficiently large pool of MPs was needed to produce a meaningful comparison. The only data points for comparison of Prime Ministers are Boris Johnson and Theresa May, so it is difficult to give them their own weighting without it being either unreliable or arbitrary.

While grouping them with Secretaries of State and other senior positions might be perceived as giving them an unfair advantage in the weighting, I felt it justified given these challenges in determining the “fair” weight to assign them. With this done, I had three parameters for each MP on which to build a model to calculate the expected number of Twitter followers.

Calculating the number of expected Twitter followers

I built a model to calculate the expected number of Twitter followers using the Scikit-Learn, a popular machine learning package in the Python programming language. The model used multiple linear regression to fit the input parameters to the known follower count.

The input data was prepared by removing extreme high outliers in the data which skewed the fit toward high numbers and away from the vast majority of MPs before fitting. Once fitted, an “expected value” of Twitter followers could be calculated for each MP, based on the year of their first election to parliament, the number of years on Twitter and their highest government rank since 2010.

Including more parameters increases the ability of the model to describe the difference between MPs’ follower counts (the variability). By increasing the number of input variables included in the model, more of the variability is captured:

  • One variable captures between 20.3 per cent and 36.1 per cent of the variability.
  • Two variables capture between 39.1 per cent and 43.1 per cent of the variability.
  • All three variables capture 48.7 per cent of the variability.

These three variables are therefore responsible for almost half of the variation between MPs in their follower counts. The remainder of the variability is likely due to a range of factors which the model does not include, of which the MP’s Twitter-savviness is of particular interest to us. I discuss these factors further below.

Limitations in the model

There are multiple other parameters which could be included in future iterations which I did not include in this model. In particular:

  • Membership or Chairmanship of Select Committees.
  • Previous election to a council, assembly, devolved legislature or the European Parliament.
  • Membership of the Privy Council.
  • Government positions prior to 2010.
  • Prominent positions within the Conservative Party, such as the 1922 Committee or European Research Group.
  • Twitter-savviness and effectiveness of their comms team.

Another limitation was not accounting for the perceived relative importance of various governmental departments: a Great Office of State or Prime Minister is scored the same as any other Secretary of State. The difficulties involved in ranking governmental departments were beyond this first model. The length of service in a given government post was also not considered.

Finally, the choice of model to fit the data may not be the optimal choice. Multiple linear regression assumes, per the name, that the distribution is linear. But the large outliers might be better described by a power law or Pareto distribution, or the non-linearities of a neural network.

During next week, ConservativeHome will produce profiles of six individual MPs who have performed notably well in the power rankings, and who reflect the contributions brought by members beyond their ministerial duties, if they have any.

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

Luke Evans: The virus – and why the litigation nightmare that haunts our servicemen now also threatens our doctors

Dr Luke Evans is a member of the Health Select Committee, and is MP for Bosworth.

One of the great privileges of being a Member of Parliament is that it gives you a platform to campaign for important causes which you believe are otherwise flying under the radar of Government’s attention.

Over the years there have been important examples of backbench MPs taking on issues – none more so than in the shape of Johnny Mercer who has perhaps become the poster child, arguably in more ways than one, of being the embodiment of a campaigning MP.

His work defending servicemen at risk of being prosecuted for historical allegations has been inspirational to many a backbencher.

Of course Johnny was relatively unusual because, being a former army officer, he understood the pressures servicemen were put under in the theatre of battle. He rightly wanted to highlight that there is a different burden of expectation for a soldier following orders in conflict than there is under normal circumstances.

At the height of his campaign he wrote in a letter to then Prime Minister Theresa May “As you know, the historical prosecution of our servicemen and women is a matter that is personally offensive to me. Many are my friends; and I am from their tribe.”

Johnny’s campaign is something that resonates with me right now. My tribe is medics, and whilst I’m more at home with a stethoscope than a rifle, it’s very easy to draw parallels with a scenario that is rapidly unfolding for doctors during this Coronavirus crisis.

Healthcare professions, when it comes down to it mainly manage risk.

You can train a technician how to do bypass surgery; the surgeon earns their worth by knowing when to put the knife to the skin. In GP land, a doctor uses their skills to decide if your headache is caused by stress due to work or family life, or actually down to an underlying brain tumour.

Taking a history or symptoms, doing an examination and possibly ordering tests are all used to help manage that risk.

Of course, just like anyone in any other walk of life, doctors can make mistakes – only when we do these can literally be a matter of life and death. To that end all medical professions have medicolegal insurance. In recent years the bills associated with indemnity have skyrocketed, for GPs often into five figures, and so much so that last year the government introduced state backed indemnity.

Litigation in the medical world was a problem long before Covid.

It’s a problem which has led to doctors practicing “defensive medicine”. The principle that “if I get this wrong I may get struck off” sits firmly at the front of most practitioner’s minds.

So if you present with your stress headache for a third, fourth or fifth time then you ask the question when should you scan? How far are you going to go to prove it isn’t cancer? How far are you going to go to risk your career?

But what about those who make incredibly difficult decisions due to circumstances they find themselves in? Will they fall prey to lawyers looking for their next no win no fee victory?

The Medical Defence Union are concerned – so much so that they are petitioning government to adopt emergency laws and, during recent Health Select Committee proceeedings, I questioned the Chair of the Healthcare Providers, Chris Hopson, and asked him whether those who lead our hospitals and NHS trusts are equally concerned? He confirmed that they are.

Medical claims often take years to surface and with the benefit of hindsight how will they be reviewed? Will a patient whose clot on the lung was missed because he was diagnosed with Covid during a phone consultation be victorious in court? What will the courts’ approach be because he wasn’t diagnosed in ‘normal times’?

Defensive medicine is a concept which may intellectually go against years of training and logic, but it keeps us legally protected. The worry is that defensive medicine just doesn’t work in the wartime setting of the Coronavirus, and doctors could easily find themselves fighting the same battles that Johnny has fought so valiantly on behalf of servicemen.

Right now, doctors can’t behave in the way that we normally would, and if we don’t and the patient just happens to be right, what happens when the medical negligence lawyer comes calling?

Some doctors are already writing on notes that diagnoses are being made under “Covid-19 conditions” in the vague hope it might act as some protection, no one knows if that will mitigate a legal action, yet in the present climate what other choice is there?

No doctor should ever be above the law but there has to be a recognition that, for now, the practice of medicine is not normal. This is not a call to relax current laws. Nor is this a call to say this is one doctor trying to protect his kind. Far from it. It matters to us all; patients, tax payers and society as this legal stuff costs. A lot.

It is the realisation that NHS’s total liabilities for clinical negligence claims, paid from NHS funds before Covid were estimated at £83.4 billion, and will have risen substantially since then.

Doctors need greater clarity and government needs to provide it. What will happen when a medic has been unable to accurately diagnose due to the altogether understandable limitations brought about by coronavirus?

Without that recognition, doctors will be become the medical equivalent of servicemen at risk of prosecution for historic allegations. And in the words of Johnny Mercer that is a matter that is personally offensive to me. Many are my friends; and I am from their tribe.

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

Our survey. Is the Cabinet, which must wrestle with the Coronavirus, fit for purpose?

Westlake Legal Group our-survey-is-the-cabinet-which-must-wrestle-with-the-coronavirus-fit-for-purpose Our survey. Is the Cabinet, which must wrestle with the Coronavirus, fit for purpose? Victoria Atkins MP ToryDiary Tom Tugendhat MP Thérèse Coffey MP The Cabinet Steve Baker MP Sir John Redwood MP Sir Eric Pickles Sajid Javid MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Piers Morgan Penny Mordaunt MP pabel Owen Paterson MP Oliver Dowden MP Matthew Hancock MP Matt Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kenneth Baker (Lord) Johnny Mercer MP Jeremy Hunt MP Iain Duncan Smith MP Highlights George Eustice MP Dominic Raab MP David Davis MP coronavirus ConservativeHome Members' Panel Chris Patten (Lord) Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Ben Elliot Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Andrew Neil Amanda Milling MP Alok Sharma MP

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-05-04-at-16.55.42 Our survey. Is the Cabinet, which must wrestle with the Coronavirus, fit for purpose? Victoria Atkins MP ToryDiary Tom Tugendhat MP Thérèse Coffey MP The Cabinet Steve Baker MP Sir John Redwood MP Sir Eric Pickles Sajid Javid MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Piers Morgan Penny Mordaunt MP pabel Owen Paterson MP Oliver Dowden MP Matthew Hancock MP Matt Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kenneth Baker (Lord) Johnny Mercer MP Jeremy Hunt MP Iain Duncan Smith MP Highlights George Eustice MP Dominic Raab MP David Davis MP coronavirus ConservativeHome Members' Panel Chris Patten (Lord) Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Ben Elliot Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Andrew Neil Amanda Milling MP Alok Sharma MP  An idea is occasionally worth testing with the panel to see where it gets to.  Here’s an example.

Tim Montgomerie recently tweeted that –

  • Ministers are appointed on the basis of compliance, not talent;
  • “An A-team of Brexiteers and Remainers is needed to steer UK away from the rocks” (though not immediately). “Tick-tock, tick-tock! Act soon Boris!”
  • I’ve rarely had so much feedback from Tory MPs to a Tweet but my concern at the >>unnecessary<< weakness of the Government frontbench and of the Number Ten operation seems to be widely shared…

So what’s the take of panel members on the Cabinet?  We asked –

  • Whether they believe that it is of sufficient quality to govern adequately at the least, and is fit for purpose.
  • Which Conservative MPs who aren’t in the Cabinet they’d like to see appointed to it.

So, in order:

  • 81 per cent of respondents, some four in five, think the Cabinet is adequate at least, and basically fit for purpose – not a high bar, you may think.

Which brings us to which Tory MPs panel members would like to see promoted to the top table.

There were two potential ways of asking for names.

  • Presenting a list of our own and asking members to select from it, which would have left us open to the accusation of puffing our favorites.
  • Letting members decide for themselves, which would incur the charge of name recall – i.e: that respondents are simply citing the MPs they remember.

The second route seemed to us to be the lesser of two evils.  At any rate, here are the top ten Conservative MPs favoured in replies as first choice for a Cabinet seat.

  • Jeremy Hunt – 91 votes.
  • Steve Baker – 66.
  • John Redwood – 55.
  • Iain Duncan Smith – 49.
  • Penny Mordaunt – 37.
  • Tom Tugendhat – 30.
  • Johnny Mercer – 25.
  • Sajid Javid – 22.
  • David Davis – 16
  • Owen Paterson – 13.

If we knocked out from the bottom of our last Cabinet League Table, excluding the three territorial Ministers, these would replace:

  • Amanda Milling.
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
  • Oliver Dowden.
  • Mark Spencer.
  • Therese Coffey.
  • Gavin Williamson.
  • Alok Sharma.
  • George Eustice.
  • Ben Wallace.
  • Robert Buckland.

There now follows a disparate series of points, some of which favour Tim’s thesis, and others which don’t.

  • Cards on the table.  Our own take is that Tim is right to argue that compliance was a significant factor in appointments in January’s shuffle.  To take just one example: the real Party Chairman is Ben Elliot, who is the Andrew Feldman tradition of being essentially an extension of the Party leader, rather than a Ken Baker or Chris Patten or Eric Pickles figure, who is of independent standing.
  • But if panel members think this is true, most don’t seem to be bothered.  Perhaps the Union Jack Effect explains the rallying-round represented by that four in five margin of support.  Or maybe they’re simply content – because the after-effects of that near-landslide in December haven’t worn off yet, despite the Coronavirus.
  • We’ll publish our monthly Cabinet League Table later this week, and don’t want to reveal the results now.  But without giving any great secrets away we can say that there’s little evidence of dissatisfaction, particularly with Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
  • And look at the number of votes cast for prospective members.  Jeremy Hunt, who came top of the poll, won 91 votes.  That’s out of 869 replies.  From a total of 1274 survey returns.  Which means 405 respondents didn’t think the question was worth answering.  We think that the Cabinet would be stronger for having Hunt in it, but 91 votes out of 1274 returns isn’t a large share.  Some of the lower ones barely scrape double figures.
  • Were the ten names put up by our panel members appointed to the top table, and the ten people we identify removed, the Cabinet would be greyer, older, more experienced, more male and arguably more right-wing.  The panel has a preference for military men – or at least men associated with the military – and a single military-style woman: Mordaunt.
  • At any rate, either our panel members are unwilling to recognise the merits of female Tory MPs, or those that they might name for promotion simply aren’t up to the job.  Which is it: an unyielding prejudice problem among some party members, or a persistent “pipeline problem” in finding suitable Conservative women? Which just won’t go away – the former or the latter?
  • Tim’s original tweet was sparked by one from Andrew Neil which itself was provoked by Piers Morgan monstering Victoria Atkins on GMTV.  But should the ability of Ministers to cope with showbusiness interviewers be the test of their capacity?  Is thinking so a bit of a Westminster Village Test?  Or is standing up to an aggressive interviewer essential?
  • Crises tend either to kill Ministers or make them stronger.  Matt Hancock began this one as a relatively inexperienced Cabinet member, whose only previous experience round the top table was at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – a relative backwater.  By the time the Coronavirus abates he will have been through a governing experience almost as intense as any in wartime.  The same will apply to less public-facing Ministers, such as Alok Sharma.

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

Sunak is our readers’ ‘One to Watch’ for 2020. Our survey.

Westlake Legal Group Survey-One-to-Watch-2019-1024x847 Sunak is our readers’ ‘One to Watch’ for 2020. Our survey. Victoria Atkins MP ToryDiary Rishi Sunak MP Johnny Mercer MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP

Several of the questions in our end-of-year survey have looked back, asking our readers to pick out the minister or back-bench MP they feel has impressed the most in 2019.

Yet as we welcome 2020 we also asked them to look ahead, and identify the Conservative they think is most likely to be going places in the year ahead.

Of course, the shortlist wasn’t compiled at random and we’re likely to hear from all four of the candidates. But our panellists have backed Rishi Sunak by a decisive margin – perhaps not surprisingly, since he currently holds one of the most senior non-Cabinet positions in the Government and represented the Party in two of last month’s election debates.

The running up, again by a clear margin, is Johnny Mercer, who has been leading the campaign to end the ‘witch hunt’ against British ex-servicemen who served in Northern Ireland.

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James Sutherland: Every Conservative should get behind the Armed Forces Covenant

James Sutherland is a member of Aldershot Conservative Association.

The recent appointment of Johnny Mercer as Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans and the introduction of the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs mark an exciting development in honouring the pledge that we owe to our Armed Forces.

But of course, the need to reset Britain’s relationship with its veterans is nothing new, and a framework already exists for societal change through the Armed Forces Covenant.

Enduring success will therefore depend on a fusion of top down (government-led) and bottom-up (local council-delivered) initiatives that place the Covenant at the forefront of our society and allow the whole country to derive maximum benefit from defence.

It may come as a surprise that there are an estimated 2.3 million ex-servicemen and women in the UK. When this significant figure is combined with family members or so-called ‘dependants’, not to mention those currently in service as either Regular or Reserve forces, here lies an influential body.

It is therefore clear to many that the Conservative Party must re-affirm its support for all serving personnel, veterans and their families, not only as the traditional party of the Armed Forces, but also as the defender of the democratic rights and freedoms that we share.

This is not just because there is so much to be gained from doing so, but also because it is the morally right thing to do. For one single veteran to be sleeping on our streets is one too many – so it is incumbent on us all to ensure that our debt to our Armed Forces is paid, and that we always show our gratitude to those who bear arms.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a brilliant document, and I commend it to anyone reading this article. It is a promise, that society must collectively acknowledge and reinforce, that our military personnel and their families should be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness by virtue of their service and the many sacrifices made. It also seeks to ensure that those who have previously served are never disadvantaged in the provision of public and commercial services compared to other citizens – this is about parity, not preference.

To date, over 4000 organisations have signed the Covenant across the UK, along with every Local Authority. But we should not be complacent, and the Office of Veteran’s Affairs will want to cut its teeth quickly by pursuing this extant agenda with even greater vigour than before. Indeed, it must ensure not only that all of the pledges being agreed are implemented correctly and fairly across society, but that the Covenant reaches new organisations and communities too.

Localism lies at the heart of success and much depends on the energy and initiative of dedicated local councillors. But here lies a potential banana skin. The loss of over 1300 council seats in May proved devastating in itself for the Conservative Party but one of its less well-known effects was the ejection of so many ‘Armed Forces Champions’ from legacy positions of responsibility.

With the Party now needing to re-build this vital influence capability, I would commend any local councillor to become an Armed Forces Champion at the first opportunity. The technical term for this winning formula is ‘no-brainer’ and further information can be found at www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk.

So what of the wider benefits on offer through the Covenant? In 2018 alone, over £23 million of Service Pupil Premium was provided to 76,000 service children in over 10,000 schools; the Covenant Fund Trust awarded 2,600 grants to remembrance activities; over £2.5 million was awarded to 14 welfare projects supporting service families; and the new Veteran’s Support Strategy was launched by the Ministry of Defence. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as generous funding is also available for welfare, sport, housing, healthcare and community projects.

As for the future, efforts are underway to help service spouses find employment, innovative self-build schemes such as Ty Ryan in Wales are being established for ex-Service personnel, and new Civilian-Military Partnership Boards are springing up throughout the UK. New resources are also being allocated to expand our fantastic Cadet Forces. At a time of knife crime and prevalent gang culture in our cities, the Service ethos can make a tangible difference to our young people.

So in addition to reaching out to our more vulnerable veterans, the Covenant is also about social mobility, reinforcing the essential fabric of society, guiding young people, and enhancing wider opportunity – these are principles that will resonate right across the Party.

Today, it is clear that support for our Armed Services is as strong as ever – but it comes at a price. So please do help by becoming an Armed Forces Champion, getting your employer or business to sign up to the Covenant, and throwing your support behind our veterans, cadets, serving personnel, and their families. With so much at stake politically, your efforts will be a worthy investment.

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

Iain Dale: Don’t mention the war, please. Why Johnson was wrong to suggest Hammond and company are collaborators.

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’.

Last week at the Edinburgh Festival, John McDonnell told me that Labour would insist on Jeremy Corbyn leading any interim government of national unity, following any successful vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s administration.

I told him that this idea was delusional, since the Labour leader wouldn’t be able to command a majority in Parliament in such circumstance.  Yesterday, Corbyn confirmed that this is exactly his intention.  But since there are plenty even of his own MPs who don’t have confidence in him, one wonders how he thinks he could persuade those of other parties to row in behind him.

Jo Swinson has made it clear she wouldn’t. Anna Soubry is p**sed off that she wasn’t even cc’d on his letter. I have never thought a national unity government is a runner, and I think it’s even less likely now. Jeremy Corbyn really believes that defeating No Deal is the be all and end all, he wouldn’t be taking such an uncompromising stance. I wonder if his public aversion to it is as deep as he is making out.

– – – – – – – – – –

Corbyn says that he will call a Vote of Confidence when he thinks he can win it. Well, obviously.  But his rhetoric at the moment leads me to believe that he’s in danger of boxing himself in. The more he talks about it, the more pressure there will be on him to deliver it. And if he doesn’t, he’ll be painted as ‘frit’.

– – – – – – – – – –

The defection of Sarah Wollaston to the Liberal Democrats was among the least surprising news of the week. She will surely not be the last of the original Independent Group of MPs to travel that particular journey. I’d have thought there will be at least a couple more before their conference takes place.

And then, of course, there could well be one or two defections directly from the Conservative benches. Guto Bebb and Phillip Lee are the candidates most often mentioned. Both seem to be going through a bit of public agonising. I suspect if either of them, or indeed anyone else does the dirty deed, it will be at a moment of maximum impact. August is probably not that time.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Prime Minister was unwise to use the word ‘collaboration’ on his Facebook Live session earlier this week. He was rightly complaining that the actions and words of some Conservative MPs – and he clearly had Philip Hammond in mind – were persuading the EU to stick by its guns while they wait and see what havoc Parliament can wreak when it returns in early September.

His sentiment was right – but you can’t go throwing around words which have World War Two connotations and effectively accuse some of your Parliamentary colleagues of being quislings (another word with the same suggestion).

To so so debases the debate. I don’t know if it was a deliberate use of the word, or whether it just slipped out. If the latter, fine; but if it was a deliberate attempt to feed into the ‘People v Parliament’ narrative, well, there are better ways of doing it.

– – – – – – – – – –

On Monday, I returned from my two weeks appearing on the Edinburgh Fringe. In 24 shows, I interviewed Sir Nicholas Soames, Brandon Lewis and Eric Pickles (together), and Johnny Mercer, among many others. We’re releasing all the interviews on a new podcast, Iain Dale All Talk, which you can now subscribe to on whichever platform you get your podcasts from.

– – – – – – – – – –

Today is the first day of my first and only holiday of the year. It will last ten days and I intend to spend it in Norfolk doing precisely nothing. Apart from play golf. And binge-watch box sets. And write next week’s ConHome Diary, of course.

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

Which MP is backing which candidate. Our named estimates. Johnson 112, Hunt 44, Gove 34, Javid 21, Stewart 14

The arms race to name supporters has begun, and on balance we’ve decided to join it.

We have been compiling our own list for some time both of declared and undeclared supporters of possible contenders.

Some names will doubtless come off one column and be added to another…only perhaps later to revert to the original.

At any rate, here we go: as we wrote recently, what strikes us so far is how fluid the Parliamentary stage of the contest is presently set to be.

– – –

Boris Johnson – 112

  • Nigel Adams
  • Stuart Andrew
  • Steve Baker
  • Steve Barclay
  • Paul Beresford

 

  • Jake Berry
  • Peter Bone
  • Andrew Bowie NEW
  • Ben Bradley
  • Andrew Bridgen

 

  • James Brokenshire
  • Robert Buckland
  • Conor Burns
  • Alun Cairns
  • Bill Cash

 

  • Rehman Chisti NEW
  • Therese Coffey
  • Damian Collins
  • Colin Clark
  • Simon Clarke

 

  • James Cleverly
  • Geoffrey Cox
  • Tracey Crouch NEW
  • Leo Docherty
  • Nadine Dorries

 

  • Oliver Dowden
  • Richard Drax
  • James Duddridge
  • Iain Duncan Smith
  • Michael Ellis

 

  • Charlie Elphicke
  • Nigel Evans
  • David Evennett
  • Michael Fallon
  • Mark Francois

 

  • Lucy Frazer
  • Marcus Fysh
  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Chris Grayling
  • Andrew Griffiths

 

  • Matt Hancock
  • Simon Hart
  • James Heappey
  • Chris Heaton-Harris
  • Ranil Jayawardena

 

  • Bernard Jenkin
  • Andrea Jenkyns NEW
  • Robert Jenrick
  • Caroline Johnson
  • Jo Johnson

 

  • David Jones
  • Daniel Kawczynski
  • Greg Knight
  • Kwasi Kwarteng
  • Mark Lancaster

 

  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Andrew Lewer
  • Julian Lewis
  • Ian Liddell-Grainger NEW
  • Jack Lopresti

 

  • Craig Mackinlay
  • Stephen McPartland
  • Esther McVey
  • Ann Main
  • Kit Malthouse

 

  • Scott Mann
  • Paul Maynard NEW
  • Johnny Mercer
  • Amanda Milling
  • Andrew Mitchell

 

  • Damian Moore
  • Anne Marie Morris NEW
  • Sheryll Murray
  • Andrew Murrison
  • Matthew Offord

 

  • Priti Patel
  • Owen Paterson
  • Mike Penning
  • Andrew Percy
  • Mark Pritchard

 

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • John Redwood
  • Lawrence Robertson
  • Douglas Ross
  • Andrew Rossindell

 

  • Lee Rowley
  • Bob Seely NEW
  • Grant Shapps
  • Alok Sharma
  • Chloe Smith

 

  • Henry Smith
  • Andrew Stephenson
  • Bob Stewart
  • Graham Stuart
  • Julian Sturdy

 

  • Rishi Sunak
  • Desmond Swayne
  • Ross Thomson
  • Justin Tomlinson
  • Craig Tracey

 

  • David Tredinnick
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan
  • Liz Truss
  • Martin Vickers NEW
  • Theresa Villiers

 

  • Ben Wallace
  • David Warburton
  • Matt Warman
  • Heather Wheeler NEW
  • John Whittingdale

 

  • Gavin Williamson

Jeremy Hunt – 44

  • Harriet Baldwin
  • Peter Bottomley
  • Steve Brine
  • Alistair Burt
  • James Cartlidge

 

  • Jo Churchill
  • Greg Clark
  • Glyn Davies
  • Alan Duncan
  • Caroline Dinenage NEW

 

  • Jonathan Djonogly NEW
  • Philip Dunne
  • Mark Field
  • Vicky Ford
  • Liam Fox

 

  • Mike Freer
  • Mark Garnier
  • Nus Ghani
  • Robert Goodwill
  • Roger Gale

 

  • Richard Graham
  • Greg Hands
  • Oliver Heald
  • Nick Herbert
  • John Howell

 

  • Andrew Jones
  • John Lamont
  • Alan Mak
  • Patrick McLoughlin
  • Huw Merriman

 

  • Penny Mordaunt
  • David Morris
  • James Morris
  • Will Quince
  • Mark Pawsey

 

  • John Penrose
  • Mark Prisk
  • Amber Rudd
  • Royston Smith
  • Alec Shelbrooke

 

  • Keith Simpson
  • Iain Stewart
  • Helen Whateley

Michael Gove – 34

  • Peter Aldous
  • Richard Bacon
  • Kemi Badenoch
  • Karen Bradley
  • Jack Brereton

 

  • Alberto Costa
  • David Duguid
  • George Eustice
  • Michael Fabricant
  • Nick Gibb

 

  • Luke Graham
  • Bill Grant
  • Kirstene Hair
  • John Hayes
  • Trudy Harrison

 

  • Damian Hinds
  • Kevin Hollinrake
  • Stephen Kerr
  • Edward Leigh
  • Oliver Letwin

 

  • Rachel Maclean
  • Mark Menzies
  • Anne Milton
  • Nicky Morgan
  • David Mundell

 

  • Bob Neill
  • Guy Opperman
  • Neil Parish
  • Claire Perry
  • John Stevenson

 

  • Mel Stride
  • Tom Tugendhat
  • Ed Vaizey

Sajid Javid – 22

  • Lucy Allan
  • Edward Argar
  • Victoria Atkins
  • Fiona Bruce
  • Stephen Crabb

 

  • Mims Davies
  • Kevin Foster
  • John Glen
  • Robert Halfon
  • Luke Hall

 

  • Simon Hoare
  • Caroline Nokes
  • Chris Philp
  • Mary Robinson
  • Andrew Selous

 

  • Chris Skidmore
  • Gary Streeter
  • Derek Thomas
  • Robin Walker
  • Mike Wood

 

  • Jeremy Wright

Rory Stewart – 14

  • Richard Benyon
  • Ken Clarke
  • Tobias Ellwood
  • David Gauke
  • Dominic Grieve

 

  • Margot James
  • Gillian Keegan
  • David Lidington
  • Paul Masterton
  • Victoria Prentis

 

  • Antoinette Sandbach
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Nicholas Soames

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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.

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Henry Hill: Davidson rejects calls to split Tories as she sets out campaign vision

Davidson rejects prospect of splitting the Party

Following suggestions (set out on this site by Andy Maciver) that the Scottish Conservatives were contemplating a breakaway, Ruth Davidson appeared to quash the suggestion this week, according to the Times.

She reportedly told Andrew Marr that: “My entire leadership pitch back in 2011 was predicated on the idea that we wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom party but with the autonomy for candidate selection, policy, financing and all of these other things that come under my purview.”

The extent of this autonomy has been stretched in the past, such as on occasions when it appeared that some Scottish Conservatives were trying to claim they had distinct policies on reserved issues.

Sources in the Scottish Tories claim to have private polling which suggests that Boris Johnson is satanically unpopular in Scotland, and some suggest that this would necessitate a breakaway if he became leader of the UK party. Earlier this week it was revealed that the former Foreign Secretary had been barred from the Scottish conference.

However, this hasn’t stopped Johnson from embarking on a ‘leadership tour’ of Scotland to bolster his ‘One Nation’ credentials, the Sun reports. He will headline a fundraiser organised by Ross Thomson, the arch-Brexiteer MP for Aberdeen South, as well as trying to drum up support amongst other associations.

Meanwhile Davidson used the conference to start setting out her pitch for the First Minister’s job at the next Scottish elections. Amongst her headline policies was a proposal to raise the leaving age for mandatory education from 16 to 18 and a new emphasis on vocational education.

She also promised that her administration would mean an end to the “constitutional games” which have so pre-occupied the SNP over the past few years.

Mercer resigns over prosecution of veterans

The News Letter reports on Johnny Mercer’s decision to withdraw his support from the Government until it takes action to prevent the prosecution of ex-servicemen for alleged historical offences in Northern Ireland.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the MP for Plymouth Moor View wrote that he found the repeated investigations “personally offensive”, adding:

“These repeated investigations with no new evidence, the macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland to face those who seek to re-fight that conflict through other means, without any protection from the Government who sent them almost 50 years ago, is too much.”

He has withdrawn his support from all Government legislation “outside of Brexit”.

Although none have yet gone so far as Mercer, the question of protecting veterans of the security forces in Northern Ireland excises a number of Conservative backbenchers. The Northern Irish Office has been criticised for deliberately excluding Ulster cases from the Ministry of Defence’s broader efforts to protect current and former soldiers from so-called ‘tank-chasing’ lawyers.

In other Northern Irish news, a senior figure in the Province’s human rights community has accused Sinn Fein of ‘abusing the concept of human rights’ by using a row over the status of the Irish language to block the restoration of Stormont.

Professor Brice Dickson, former chief commissioner at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, argued that republicans’ decision to use gay marriage and the language question as “bargaining chips” was denying the people of Ulster their right to government, and that in 2008 Sinn Fein supported the NIHRC’s advice on a Bill of Rights which included neither measure.

Meanwhile an academic has written to the News Letter urging the DUP to separate the two issues. Professor John Wilson Foster, a scholar of the Irish language, argued that the DUP’s opposition to gay marriage undermined the Union, and that abandoning it would strengthen their chances of resisting Sinn Fein’s politically-motivated language legislation.

Doubts linger over Welsh Assembly as health minister survives no-confidence vote

Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister and recent contender for the local Labour leadership, has survived an attempt to oust him from his position in the wake of the latest Welsh health scandal, Wales Online reports.

A motion of no confidence was tabled by Plaid Cymru following the revelation that dozens of stillbirths have not been properly reported or investigated at hospitals run by the Cwm Taf NHS Trust. It was supported by the Nationalists and the Tories, but fell 31 votes to 21.

This comes just weeks after news broke that Welsh patients face being turned away at English hospitals because the Welsh Government refuses to match English per-patient funding, which I looked at in this column a few weeks ago.

Perhaps stories like this explain why polling published this week to mark the 20th anniversary of devolution revealed deep ambivalence amongst the public as to whether or not it had been good for Wales, with just a third agreeing and a quarter disagreeing.

Despite this – and likely in part due to the lack of any consistent and effective devo-sceptic campaign – an overall majority (52 per cent) favour either granting the Assembly even more powers (27 per cent) or holding it at the same level (25 per cent). Just under a fifth of Welsh voters want its powers weakened or the Assembly abolished, but at present that view is almost entirely unrepresented in Welsh political life.

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Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: The unbearable spectacle of a tormented Prime Minister pretending things are fine

An intolerable fakeness pervaded PMQs. The tone was set by the Prime Minister, who pretended to be cheerful, while looking in unguarded moments tormented.

She decided to get through the session in part by congratulating any MP who ran the London Marathon. By the time she did this for the third or fourth time, her bogus jollity had become unbearable.

It was like seeing someone with a mortal illness pretend everything is fine. At first one admires their courage, but after a while the evasion of the truth becomes another form of cowardice, and renders any communication impossible.

Nobody mentioned Brexit. That is the fatal condition – fatal at least to Theresa May – which is destroying her prime ministership.

She promised she knew how to deal with it, but she didn’t. Occasional rumours of a miracle cure no longer command credibility. She is doomed, but will not admit it.

Jeremy Corbyn drew a portrait of a nation in decline, afflicted by falling life expectancy, hunger and a violent crime epidemic, all caused by Tory austerity.

In other words, he was in election mode, which is understandable, as there are elections tomorrow. But one had the impression he was trying out these lines for a general election, when he will urge voters to throw out the hard-hearted Tories.

From the Tory benches, Tom Tugendhat attacked her for ignoring American and Australian warnings and allowing Huawei to become a “dragon” in our critical infrastructure, while Johnny Mercer protested at the “abhorrent” prosecutions of aged veterans, charged with committing murder almost half a century ago.

It was during Mercer’s attack that I caught a glimpse of the misery which now afflicts the Prime Minister. She too is being prosecuted, indeed persecuted, in a way which to her must seem deeply unfair.

She benefits from no presumption of innocence. Everything that goes wrong is her fault. This bitter predicament cannot be wished away by pretending everything is all right. No wonder the House was half empty by the end of her performance.

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