James Forsyth

Cameron’s move is tactically smart but strategically foolish

Cameron's move is tactically smart but strategically foolish
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David Cameron’s move to neuter the 1922 has been pulled off with great tactical skill. He sprung the move on the party and then called an instant ballot, denying any rebellion time to gather strength. But however tactically smart this move might have been I can’t shake the feeling that it is strategically foolish. Tory backbenchers are talking about their leader in a way they never have before. As one senior MP told me, ‘resentment has turned to hate.’

Even those backing the measure expect a quarter of the parliamentary party to vote against it. Once these MPs have rebelled once, even in a secret ballot, they will find it easier to do it again. Richard Ottaway, one of the two candidates for the chairmanship of the '22, spoke in favour of the move at the meeting of the parliamentary party and there are dark mutterings that the whole move is designed to boost his chances against Graham Brady, who is seen as the candidate who will stand up far more firmly for backbenchers' rights. Indeed, in the meeting Brady expressed his reservations about this proposal.

The nature of coalition means that there are going to be times when the Conservative party is frustrated by the governent. There are after all things that all Conservative MPs campaigned for but that will now not happen. The leadership would have been well advised to leave in place a pressure valve for this frustration. It is surely better for Cameron to have to endure the odd heated meeting of the ’22 then to have the disaffected head off to plot in private.

Tory backbenchers’ moods have not been improved by how their Lib Dem colleagues are being consulted regularly by their leadership.At the moment that the Tory whips were instructing new Tory MPs to go and vote away their power to hold Tory ministers to account, Lib Dem MPs were being talked through the coalition agreement that will be unveilled tomorrow.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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