Coffee House

Reshuffling the whips won’t solve Cameron’s rebel problem

25 August 2012

One of the biggest problems that David Cameron faces at the moment is discipline within his own party. He was astonished by the size of the rebellion on the second reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill, which he had expected to be much smaller.

He is now considering what to do with the many talented Conservative rebels as he approaches the September reshuffle: does he promote some more of those who revolted over Europe, but leave the Lords rebels languishing in career Coventry for a little longer?


The Guardian carries a story by Nick Watt which suggests Cameron isn’t just going to tackle bad behaviour by keeping rebellious spirits on side, though. He’s also being urged to give the whips’ office a good clean-out, replacing many of its current members with talented newcomers and well-respected senior figures. Watt’s piece says:

It is understood that Cameron now agrees that the whips’ office will have a greater chance of asserting authority over troublesome MPs, particularly the 2010 intake, if it combines two sorts of MPs: respected older figures and newcomers destined for the cabinet.

Matt Hancock and Nick Boles are two newcomers that the Guardian understands would do an impressive job of encouraging loyalty. But the Prime Minister needs to consider how his own behaviour can affect rebels, too. He gave the Lords rebellion space to grow by initially suggesting any MP who walked through the ‘no’ lobby would not damage their future career prospects. His consistently inconsistent messaging on the consequences of voting down the programme motion fuelled rebel leader Jesse Norman to encourage colleagues to vote against the second reading, too. When the next crunch vote approaches, the Prime Minister will still struggle to keep his backbenchers in check if his own messaging goes awry again.

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  • lbeagle

    If he is astonished at the rebellion in the Commons, he ought to try talking to grass roots Tories……..

  • Radford_NG

    26 Aug.c.3.30am. BST……Cameron got the active votes of 40% of party members in the leadership election;and membership was down to 136,000:what’s that(?) 54,500?

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Why should any Tory MP give a toss what Cameron thinks when Libdems daily piss all over him? He lost all respect when he was seen to be totally impotent in the face of the the Libdems infantile hysteria. Half of the PCP has rebelled and at one time over half the backbenches have rebelled to gether. The way its going Cameron will be lucky to still be leader in 2015 and any new Tory MP who fancies a real political career would likely be best served keeping well clear of becoming one of Cameron’s powerless whips (wimps). Chances are unless Cameron is the recipient of a minor miracle that the Roons will be out in the cold in 2015

  • ButcombeMan

    Deckchairs & Titanic I fear.
    Discipline stems largely from respect.

    Cameron is not a conservative in the usual way that word is understood. He fiddles while Rome (& Athens) burn. He is preoccupied by things most voters have no interest in, redefining the meaning of marriage & Police Commissioners to name but two.

    He is fixated on preserving Osborne. He relies too much on Osborne a man whose judgement has been suspect for years.

    Cameron ducks and sidesteps the most important issues as if he hopes they will go away. They will not.

    Avoidance is not a problem solving solution.

  • Douglas Carter

    A better idea would be for Cameron to stand up and make a public speech advising the whole UK electorate that any Parliamentary Conservative MP is there to account for his own specific bidding, even at the expense of that MP serving his or her constituents – who should consider themselves to be nothing but irrelevant mediocrities.
    I guarantee that will solve all of Cameron’s problems overnight.

  • Barbara

    If he was ‘astonished’ by the size of the rebellion, that shows that either his political instincts are bad, or that he is badly informed. Or possibly both.

    • David Ossitt


  • In2minds

    Cameron is the problem.

  • alexsandr

    the tories in the cabinet should remember they are there with the consent of the party. If they dont do as the party wishes, they will kick them out.
    same as MP’s they have a day of reckoning in 2015.

    Nadhim Zahawi will….

  • Noa

    “One of the biggest problems that David Cameron faces at the moment is discipline within his own party…”

    You miss the point. It’s not his party. He was appointed as the best candidate to represent the values of the Conservative party, to restore party fortunes and facilitate a Conservative government.

    In these objectives he has failed miserably. He should go before he is thrown out of office, by 2015 if not before.

  • an ex-tory voter

    On the other hand, he could begin anew by actually listening to his back benchers. The truth is that in almost all areas of policy Cameron has moved away form his own party’s core values. The only way to quell the increasingly rebellious back benchers is to change course. As for the rebels, the message to them from the grass roots is increasingly, “correct him or dump him”.

    He might try cutting the bullshit at the same time as cutting government spending and taxes!! That might gain him some respect, although with his record it is far from certain. It is beyond belief that he and George Osborne are spending and borrowing more than Brown and Balls. If he actually generates some growth the rebels might quieten down, if he doesn’t they will continue to agitate until he listens, or is removed. As for threatening them with “damage to their career in government” , it has become an empty threat because they now believe that with him at the helm “they have no future”.

    In the short term he must brought to heel. In the medium term he must be removed and “a leader” installed in his place. The blunt truth is that he failed to win the GE against the worst Prime Minister in living memory and he is failing to stay ahead in the polls when faced with the most insipid and uninspiring leader of the opposition in decades.

    David Cameron is not a leader, he is a loser and unless they dump him soon the Tories are almost certain to spend extended period in opposition. Worse than that, they are suffering a steady loss of long term Conservative voters and party members to UKIP. Every one of these lost to UKIP is a double wammy because it strengthens UKIP by the same amount that it weakens the Conservative Party. Eventually the tipping point will be reached and when it is the “steady loss” will become a “flood”.

    David Cameron could go down in history as the man who destroyed the Tory Party.

    • duyfken

      It is not just the fault of Cameron, a person who saw an opportunity and took it. Rather, it is the fault of the Conservative Party, the sitting MPs who collectively seem to have little gumption despite some individuals being prepared to do battle, and all of the constituency members, those who allowed themselves to be hoodwinked at Conference by a single speech made by Cameron (“isn’t he wonderful, he’s speaking without notes”). The Tories have brought disaster upon themselves and unfortunately we all suffer.

      • an ex-tory voter

        Maybe part of the problem is that Central Office now dictates who will be selected to stand for election and often does so in the face of opposition from local party members.
        Net result, this political pygmy and his accolytes are able to shape the party in his image. No wonder so few of them have the gumption to stand up and no wonder they attract so little respect from their electorate.

        • james102

          A process necessary for a political class to emerge.

          I compared supporters of British political parties to
          football fans in a couple of posts because as there is no real ideological differences
          between then (in reality rather than party political rhetoric)you need to
          consider why someone supports one rather than another. Why did Peter Mandelson
          join the Labour party? Well like a boy being taken to see Arsenal/Manchester
          United/Spurs play by his father so Mandelson followed his family tradition and
          joined Labour.

          The weakness is that this system is alien to what Britons
          and the rest of the Anglosphere consider democratic.

          So far popular alternative movements such as the BNP and the
          NF were marginalised by the establishment using infiltration and suppressive
          methods such as effectively banning members from working in certain areas of
          the public sector but this has not been possible with UKIP.

          The portrayal of them as “Fruitcakes “ and oddballs—rather
          like Robert Maxwell’s old prodigy Alistair Campbell’s attacks on John Major have been hampered by
          the really odd behaviour of the EU itself which seems to have a limitless
          supply of incompetent politicians able to make any situation worse.

          Popular movements will emerge but because of the power of
          modern marketing they will need a perfect storm of events to help them.—–are
          there storm clouds I see?

          • Douglas Carter

            Things are changing. Slowly. So very slowly. But yet, actually.
            I don’t talk politics with friends – I try not to. However, from a point – say – fifteen years ago where politics was about the final thing they’d ever discuss, it is now almost invariably the first. Everyone I know is now thoroughly disgusted, wracked with inviolate cynicism and indignation at the refusal of the main parties to engage with the electorate. Not wishful thinking, just listening. To a one, they intend to divorce their vote from the establishment.
            From my perspective, from my observation, something has changed. In my experience, such change is permanent.

    • Douglas Carter

      …’ the man who destroyed the Tory Party’…
      That accolade goes jointly to Ken Clarke and Heseltine.
      Cameron simply finds himself polishing the floor at the exit.

  • Austin Barry

    Cameron is a weak man without conviction or ideas. He pursues minor issues, such as gay marriage, with all the intensity of George Michael prowling the Hampstead Heath shrubbery, but on the important issues, the economy, the EU, immigration, he is a feeble, semi-comatose weakling.

    • David Ossitt

      Less of the semi, he is a weakling of the first order.

      • Robert Castlereagh

        Yes David.
        And in the Westminster Jungle Darwinian principles hold.
        Does it matter that he shuffles the cards. The game is lost.
        He should call time.
        Forget 2015, now is the time for strong bold leadership.
        ny candidates?

      • Halcyondaze2

        Cameron is a liar and a charlatan. A left-winger masquerading as a Conservative. Utterly contemptuous of traditional Conservative voters. He is finished. Matt Hancock and Nick Boles are the same: light-weight slow-witted left-leaning arse-kissers. The only answer for the Tories is to pull in some of the true Conservatives left in the party (David Davis most obviously) and hope that they can turn things around. One-time Conservative voters like me have now gone over to UKIP.

    • Frank P

      Now, now Austin… Careful! mentioning George Michael may get Nick Boles excited and provoke another scandal.

      • JGS

        Low-grade homophobia of this sort really shouldn’t appear on a Spectator site.

        • tele_machus

          This man has form.
          Like most of the Met he would dearly love to take anyone deviating from heterosexual straight and narrow into the park for a good kicking

          • Noa

            He injects more humour and original thought into a comma than you do in your longest polemic.

            • tele_machus

              But if that humour and original thought are offensive he should post where such is the norm( chw)
              Salazar was a wit and original thinker

              • Austin Barry

                Frank P is sane while you, Telemachus, are clearly bonkers but in a vaguely amusing way, Now and then I feel like a Victorian rubberneck visiting Bedlam when laughing at your silly posts but, for the most part, you are a cartoon troll. I salute you (guess how many fingers).

                • tele_machus

                  Thanks for your interest Mr Barry


                  I actually cut and pasted your patois-elocution post on another site I grace and I thought you might like the reply


                  …….Part of the discussion will inevitably be the need for standard English to ensure clarity in the work place and certain social situation, and in the purpose of speech for clear communication. We will also no doubt discuss the need to protect against the
                  irksome fuddy-duddy scoffing of the older and often more privileged with all its overtones of snobbery and evaluate the legitimacy of Mr Barry’s position.

                  Indeed, and I will contradict myself, (or rather English will -to
                  bastardize Whitman- as it is vast and contains multitudes) the “querulous patois” as Mr Barry would have it is a variation on what we know as standard English and its prevalence in youth culture, admittedly, does have far reaching negative effects. These are most evident in deprived areas with high levels of immigration and a lack of access to standard English outside of that present in
                  the media and therefore can serve to curb social mobility for the most disadvantaged; after all students are examined more or less exclusively, including orally on their mastery of “standard English”. It is furthermore often used as a form of social camouflage to disguise privilege or provincialism. Yet it is also part of natural language evolution and a lot of the idiom and terminology which includes the re-introduction of archaic words like “brethren” to common parlance and the use of the phrase “oh my gosh” to replace expletives used by previous generations simply reflects the diversity and variety of influences that are present in wider society, embracing its lexicon only serves to make English a tool more fit for purpose ie communication in the society it serves. English is big enough to do this and accepts a lot of these development and always has and will. I hope Mr Barry is not advocating a return to that exclusive and divisive medium of social control and class separation, that weird chewing sound once known as received pronunciation as a part of a cultural
                  programme of homogenisation.

                  What I do object to is Mr Barry’s suggestion that we should be teaching elocution discretely, nno doubt alongside good manners, the dangers of gang culture and religious extremism, social responsibility, family planning, family values, time management, financial management, diversity, patriotism and healthy living (all of which have been long embedded in the curriculum) rather than
                  questioning the broader social and cultural responsibilities for language change and observing that there are causes and effects beyond the school walls. This way if we lump it back on schools and teachers, the rest of us can get back to our lives in the big society as socially responsible citizens performing our civic duty of tweeting and blogging spurious, glib and sneering soundbites about the younger generation, who despite being educated far beyond the levels of previous generations, will not have access to the same levels of welfare, housing, working conditions, standards of living and employment and free training and education opportunities enjoyed by those previous generations. You
                  won’t give them a job? As things stand the inheritance we are handing to them, doesn’t leave many jobs for you to give them whether you wanted to or not. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it….blud.

                • Austin Barry

                  What an extraordinary post. It seems to be suggesting that ebonic idiocy is a valid form of English. Of course it isn’t. It’s not like Cockney or Geordie English, an historically interesting form of regional English discourse, it’s ugly and aggressive. It celebrates illiteracy and stupidity. It’s the language of Islamic martyrship tapes, of hooded thugs telling us we should surrender our wallets and mobile phones, the language of pig-ignorant rioters telling us “we is disadvantaged, init bro”. It’s the language of the violent underclass, of the dim, of the stupid, of the whinging, importuning loser looking to others to save him from the mire of his own irredeemable inertia. An idiot’s patois, you use it and you condemn yourself to the scornful pity of just about everyone else.

                • Halcyondaze2

                  Brilliant Austin Barry – couldn’t agree with you more!

                • Coffeehousewall

                  If people enjoy the comments of folk like David Ossitt, Frank P and many other classic Spectator commentators then they can read much more of their wit at www coffeehousewall co uk

        • tele_machus

          And this is not this man’s only repulsive phobia.
          “Confused? It’s one thing addressing the Muslim menace in out cities and on the streets. It’s great to be writing about the barbaric bastards and how we must resist he menace. But I for one don’t want to reminded pictorially every time I log into the blog. What’s confusing about that?
          Shit happens, but is it necessary to have a picture of five turds at the top of the blog to prove that, every time we log in?”
          Watch the vicar knuckle under

        • David Ossitt

          Homophobia whether it be low grade or high grade is not in
          evidence anywhere here, as you probably are well aware the word ‘homophobia’
          actually means fear of homosexuals but you are using the word dishonestly (you
          are not alone).

          You use it to name call or to smear anyone who does not
          accept as a given truth that we must all celebrate the fact that male on male
          sodomy is no longer a crime (in my opinion rightly so) and that we must all
          stop thinking of them as queer.

    • james102

      Cameron got the job of leader of the Conservative party and
      then leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world without any
      previous experience of managing anything.

      In what other area of life would such a situation be

      • Arthur Seeley

        He famously replied to the question of why he wanted to be Prime Minister ” I think I would be quite good at it.” He also told a friend ” How hard can it be?”
        The trouble is Eton taught him he was born to rule but failed to teach him how.

        • Coffeehousewall

          I think it would be very interesting to research entirely how David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party, and then the Prime Minister. It is certainly not due to his own ability, so whose agenda is he serving, wittingly or unwittingly?

          Roosevelt said that nothing happens by accident in politics. So by whose design do we have such an incompetent and anti-patriotic political class at present?

  • Bruce, UK

    “whips’ office will have a greater chance of asserting authority…newcomers destined for the cabinet”

    So, if I do not do as you say I keep my job and you lose your job?

    Which idiot thought that one up, Violet Elizabeth Bott?

  • Russell

    Cameron is totally out of touch. It is not a change-out of whips he needs, it is to listen to his backbenchers and a large % of the electorate who want a referendum to get out of the EU, and some cuts to public sector spending.

    • rosie

      No. He needs a working majority. Until he gets one, you can’t really judge him except as an inter party diplomatist.

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