Coffee House

Cameron keeps his friends close, but now he’s drawing his MPs closer

24 April 2013

David Cameron and the Tory party appear to be emerging from a period of marriage counselling that has gone particularly well. The leader is making more of an effort with his backbenchers generally (James examines this in his column tomorrow), and tomorrow’s papers bring yet more news of reconciliation.

The Prime Minister is beefing up his political policy operation by appointing a panel of bright and impressive MPs to help him, and promoting Jo Johnson to be his head of policy and a Cabinet Office minister. Those MPs aren’t just impressive, though: some of them, including Jesse Norman and George Eustice, are also rebels. This is a big gesture to say that the troubles of the past year and a bit should go behind the party now as it gets in shape for 2015.


Getting more MPs into Downing Street to have their say is a good thing in itself, of course. It weakens the impression that the Prime Minister rules by Inner Circle, showing that he is keen to hear from others across the party. Some of the panel members are former ministers such as Nick Gibb, while others, such as Jake Berry, have shown their abilities since joining Parliament without any of the hype of the A-list around their election. And it means that policies aren’t being mulled over by officials without the focus that losing your seat in 2015 can provide, or by those already close to the Prime Minister who may share his outlook and his blind spots. He might be a man who likes to keep his friends close, but he’s also being wise by drawing his MPs closer.

These appointments also make it much more difficult for those determined malcontents to complain that the Prime Minister doesn’t care about his party or listen to MPs when they do have bright ideas. There are some MPs who, believing they have something to offer, have felt ignored in the past few months. This will reassure them. There are others who have used this sense of neglect to their advantage. Adam Afriyie, for example, has been inviting MPs for dinner or coffee (there’s a joke in the party that you’ve already failed to make his fantasy cabinet if you get only a coffee invite). But this is another win for the backbenches, and, Cameron will be hoping, another part of the strong foundations on which he can weather the next few months (including, perhaps, tomorrow’s GDP figures) with his party, rather than standing apart from them.

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  • ArchiePonsonby

    Anyone else noticed the increasing number of “thumbs down” to contrarian posts, i.e. those NOT fawning over pro-Cameroonery on here lately? Just have a look at those on James’ puff-piece on Cameron and his MPs earlier.

  • Dogsnob

    Any of these newbies grow up on a council estate? Visited one? Know what one is?
    Ever borrowed money to pay this month’s rent?
    Ever talked to anyone who HAS done any of the above?

    Diversity indeed.

    • Tom Tom

      No these are Trust Fund Boys

    • Russell

      Growing up on a council estate and borrowing money to pay rent is not I think a qualification for a government minister.
      A well educated person who has managed his income, not needing to borrow money for his day to day expenses and running your own business, employing people is I think a much better background for a government minister. Which type of property a child was brought up in is irrelevant.

      • Dogsnob

        Well how very correct Russell and well done on missing my point altogether.

        It might make for a better nation were we to have at least a semblance of variation in the make-up of those in power. Don’t you agree? Or is power best kept an oik-free zone?

        Our direction at the moment seems to be toward a very narrow and narrowly experienced legislature, capable of only a tightly constrained perspective on what is needed to put the country back on course.

        • Russell

          An ‘oik free zone’ (your words) is definitely preferred for a place which makes decisions about how they are going to spend my money.
          Similarly I don’t want ‘oiks’ in the hospital operating theatre simply to have a semblance of balance.

          • Dogsnob

            So you are perfectly happy with an administrative stratum, stripped entirely of people from anything other than upper middle class background and above?
            No former miners, trawlermen, tradesmen, scrap dealers etc?

            • Russell

              That is what makes it clear you are a labour type socialist, unlike yourself, I do not regard former miners, trawlermen, tradesmen or scrap dealers as oiks!
              I don’t care what peoples backgrounds are or from what house they were brought up in or what school they attended.

              It is yourself that seems to have a ‘class’ problem regarding people as oinks!

              • Dogsnob

                Perhaps it is you who has the class problem. You clearly assumed from the start of our exchange, that a person ‘from a council estate…’ and a person who was well educated, cannot be the same person.

                Nor could anyone – according to your logic – who has ever had to borrow money to pay rent, have eventually brought things round to become a succesful business leader? So much is revealed in your assumptions.

                You repeatedly choose to avoid my central point which is that we are not best served by the extremely narrow range of persons serving as representatives in our Parliament.

                Go on. Argue honestly that my assertion is flawed.

                • Russell

                  Your assertion is totally flawed, as I did not assume a person from a council estate cannot be well educated, in fact I said that I did not think growing up on a council estate is a qualification for a government Minister (A world of difference).

                  I also did not say that someone who has had to borrow money should not be a minister.
                  I said that people who borrow money to to pay rent does not qualify them to be a minister!

                  Your reading skills are either totally lacking or you are doing the usual labour trick of misrepresenting what people say.

                • Dogsnob

                  You are now backtracking. You imply things, hoping your prejudices will not be noticed and then hold up your hands when you are spotted.

                  And you are gravely mistaken in yet another of your repeated assumptions that I am ‘a labour type socialist’ (here again, so much revealed).

                  Anyhow, are you going to get round to offering a worthwhile response to my central point or not?

                • Russell

                  At it again assuming I imply things and assuming I hope things. Nothing in my comments suggested I was prejudiced, I was simply pointing out the ridiculousness of your claim that government would be better if it had people who grew up in council houses and had been in debt to pay their rent, absolute Socialist hogwash.

                  As you do not have any point, in fact your entire post was pointless, there is nothing to respond to.

                • Dogsnob

                  My point.

                  We have a political class now which has been denuded of social depth. There is no trace of any experience outside of a very narrow band. That band consists of people who, so overwhelmingly – because they have not had to encounter life as it is lived by those outside their sphere – are poorly equipped to make the decisions which are vital if we are to once again, build a nation which is competitive globally and which is at the same time, a good place to live.

                  To me, this is brass tack common sense.

  • tele_machus

    Like your analogy but Cameron is no Michael Corleone
    More a Freddie

  • Fat Bloke on Tour


    Sorry to hijack your little Tory love in but…

    What is Trevor saying about tomorrow’s GDP figures?

    The smart money is on 0.1% growth.
    Trundling along the bottom.

    The joke will be huge if Sniffy’s strokes / game playing that he used to massage the deficit figures turn out to be the difference between growth and contraction.

    £10bill of spending deferred will generate a huge hole in the GDP figures.

    Just a thought!

    • Fergus Pickering

      Good God man, do you call that a thought?

      • Barakzai

        Not only FBOT but that other Labour sage, Blinky Balls, has spoken too:
        ”. . . We pause cannot pause go pause on pause like pause this . . . ”
        We should, of course, simply spend more of the conjured Brown-Balls revenue streams instead. That’ll see us right.

    • HookesLaw

      The poor performance of the Eurozone is what we should be worrying about. Eurozone’s private sector is shrinking faster, its PMI is 46.5 last month, from 47.9 in Feb.
      Manufacturing PMI in Germany is falling.
      The service sector in France is 41.9, that’s the lowest level since February 2009
      Analysts say the Eurozone GDP is contracting by 0.3% a quarter.

      In the UK retail sales increased by 2.1% last month compared to February. Retail sales should be higher in Q1 ’13 than Q4 ’12.

      • Tom Tom

        Why should we worry about the EuroZone,. we can do nothing about it. We elect only MPs to deal with Britain. You clearly want EU-wide elections for a Euro-President and centralised economic policy in Brussels but until you get that wet dream fulfilled we are left with Osborne dealing with his mess inside Britain

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          A think a GCSE in economics might be a good starting point for you. You clearly have no idea of the effects of a European and worldwide downturn in economic activity.

          • Tom Tom

            Oh but I do and i know far more than Little Lord Fauntleroy or Dubious Dave but then again I know MUCH more Economics than they do. GCSE might be the acme of your academic capacity but we did not even have debased Conservative GCSE (CSE + GCE fusion) it was only for dimshits after Keith Joseph had debased Education. I have much more idea of Economics than anyone in the UK Treasury and they know it

            • dmitri the impostor

              You really like yourself quite a lot, don’t you, Mr Tom Tom?

              Hayek famously said that if you prefix a word with ‘social’ you might just as well prefix it with ‘not’. Economics is social science. Go figure.

              • Tom Tom

                Well I have a far better education than Dubious Dave or Little Lord Fauntleroy from the same university and I think you should show more respect sunshine

                • dmitri the impostor

                  You have tacitly conceded that economics is not science and thereby destroyed your already flimsy claim to respect. Therefore: Stop digging. Get over yourself. And do not presume to know my background. ‘Sunshine’.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              Oh I think I will just leave you to your delusions and inadequacies old boy. Some of us really did go to Oxford.

            • GUBU

              ‘I have much more idea of Economics than anyone in the UK Treasury and they know it’

              No doubt because you have told them, repeatedly, in capital letters, in green ink.

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