The rise of the unwhippable Tories

When the government announced a Commons vote on its decision to cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7 per cent of GNI to 0.5, the expectation was that the vote would be tight. In the end, the government won comfortably: it had a majority of 35. But despite their success, the whips would be wrong to be feeling triumphalist about this, I write in the magazine this week The usual whips’ line — if you keep your nose clean preferment might come your way — is ineffective Twenty-four Tories voted against the government, 14 of which were former ministers. The overwhelming majority of these are either uninterested in returning to

James Forsyth

Can Boris crack the unwhippables?

‘Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won,’ wrote the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo. This sentiment, rather than any form of triumphalism, is what Tory whips should feel after winning the vote on the government’s decision to reduce spending on foreign aid from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5. The vote is a sign of the battles to come in the rest of this parliament. The government put its authority on the line in the Commons debate. The Prime Minister opened it, the Chancellor closed it. The government also offered something of a concession, a pledge to return to

The Tories should ignore the Amersham by-election

Chesham and Amersham has fallen. The once uber-Tory Chilterns citadel has been snatched by the Lib Dems, with local campaigners citing planning reform and HS2 as the main drivers for their success. After the ginormous swing — from a 16,000 majority to an 8,000-vote deficit — fears are growing that the Tories’ planning reforms might become a victim to demographic subsidence. Many of the government’s backbenchers are keen to undermine the party’s house-building efforts. They fear Amersham-style retribution from similar voters, eager to punish them for devaluing their most-prized asset and adding congestion to their quaint country lanes. The Nimbyist revolt has been a major political force for yonks Isle of Wight

Why the Tories mustn’t give in to the Nimbys

A 15-point YouGov poll lead and last week’s election performance suggests that things look good for the Tories in England. But some results are still causing concern in Tory ranks. In Cambridgeshire, the party lost control of the county council; in Oxfordshire, the Tory council leader lost his seat; and the Conservatives had their majority on Surrey County Council slashed. Some Tories are quick to point the finger at proposed developments for these losses, as I say in the Times today. They argue that a radical shake-up of the planning system, such as the one the government is proposing, will make this problem far worse. They fear this could put parliamentary seats across the

A Tory rebellion is brewing against planning reforms

Boris Johnson used the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday to set out the policy reform he plans to do now that the pandemic is easing. This was largely centred on attempting to flesh out the ‘level up’ agenda through a focus on skills, industry and planning reform. It’s the latter bill that poses the greatest risk. Already Tory MPs have come out in opposition to what ministers say will be the biggest shake-up of the planning system in over 70 years. The government hopes the relaxation of the rules will pave the way for a home-building boom that will help it hit its goal of 300,000 new homes per year, ease

Boris the builder mustn’t buckle over planning reform

The government will pass the test it has set itself: schools in England will return next week. Pupils may well have to wear masks at times, but they will be back in the classroom. Yet ministers privately acknowledge this isn’t the real challenge. The bigger question is what effect the return of schools has on the prevalence of the virus and what happens to education in the case of further local outbreaks. The exams grading debacle and the various other summer U-turns have been damaging. As one minister concedes: ‘There’s only a limited amount of time before the “incompetence” label sticks. It hasn’t yet — but we can’t afford many

Why the Tories can’t back down over planning reforms

A rigid and complicated planning system has long been one of the issues holding back the UK economy. The planning reforms announced by Robert Jenrick this week are designed to bring more predictability and speed to the system. Jenrick’s document is very much a case of politics being the art of the possible. The green belt is left alone in its entirety, despite the fact that a more rational planning system would require examining whether all of the green belt is needed, and if it is all in the right place. For example, building houses around train stations in the green belt would seem a sensible move – but these