Following the ‘five families’ of the Conservative Right

As the Tories continue to tear themselves apart, have you checked whether any of your local Conservative MPs belong to any of the factions of the Tory Right, scheming and plotting so actively that moderate Tories have dubbed them after the mafia families of southern Italy?

 There’s no point in putting on leaflets that many Tory MPs have lost touch with reality.  But it’s very useful to do some quick research on which groups particular Tories belong to, what they stand for (and against), and what they’ve said about key issues.  Even the right-wing press has concluded that that ‘plenty on the government benches are living in a dream world’, as Harry Cole commented in the Sun.  The Times parliamentary sketch on a December Commons debate Rwanda protested that ‘many of the contributions to the debate were fantastically unhinged.’  Peter Lilley, a member of the ‘Common Sense Group’, insisted in the Lords the other week that Britain is being run, and ruined, by a liberal conspiracy of which our party – together with the BBC, the universities, lefty lawyers and the like – is an active component.  He believes that passionately; he shouted it across the chamber at us.

The European Research Group is the oldest of these factions: the Brexit dinosaurs, still fighting to cut further links to Europe.  Mark Francois is now its chair, Jacob Rees Mogg, Steve Baker and Suella Braverman having gone into (and out of) government. Francois was nicknamed ‘Corporal Francois’ when a junior defence minister; it was not meant kindly.  Since the Referendum the ERG has campaigned for the hardest possible Brexit. Nine of the 40+ MP subscribers to its shared research team were appointed to Liz Truss’s Cabinet. Six were retained in Sunak’s Cabinet, although Braverman has since resigned; Chris Heaton-Harris, who opposed the Northern Ireland Protocol, now struggles as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to reconcile conflicting pressures.  The group condemns ‘foreign courts’, and demands that we leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Northern Research Group – deliberately modelled on the ERG, with funds for research support – is larger, and has the most practical agenda: to strengthen the voice of the large number of northern MPs in the southern-dominated Tory Party, and in particular to support Boris Johnson’s Levelling-Up promises.  Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale, was its chair and driving force until briefly made a minister in Liz Truss’s government, when John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, became chair.  54 MPs signed a letter in support of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in 2021. But its influence has shrunk; Levelling Up was never funded, northern infrastructure continues to deteriorate, the Conservative Government is still run from southern England.

The Common Sense Group is for cultural reactionaries, opposed to ‘cultural Marxist dogma, colloquially known as the woke agenda.’  Launched in 2020, with Sir John Hayes as its chair and Edward Leigh as its president, its Wikipedia entry lists 59 MPs and 7 peers as members. Its 2021 ‘Manifesto ’ listed ‘nationhood, community, migration, the rule of law and public order[as] the defining issues of our time.’

The two most ideological, and most influenced by right-wing American ideologues (and funding) are also the smallest: the New Conservatives and the Conservative Growth Group.  The CRG is the hard core of Trussites. Including Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg (again), Simon Clarke and Janil Jayawardena, its current chair.  I could not find a membership list; it claims to have 60 members in the Commons, though sceptics say 20.  Its priorities are free market and libertarian, cutting taxes and shrinking the state. Liz Truss’s close links with right-wing Washington think tanks and the Institute for Economic Affairs provide intellectual (and financial?) support.  The New Conservatives are the newest group, founded in May 2023 – around 25 MPs led by Danny Kruger (old Etonian and former speechwriter to Ian Duncan Smith and David Cameron) and Miriam Cates.  Both are evangelicals, with close links to right-wing evangelicals in the southern USA and financial links both to right-wing US bodies and wealthy expatriates in Dubai. They hosted the fourth ‘National Conservative’ conference in London last summer, with an impressive line-up of hard-right American speakers, warning against ‘cultural Marxism’ and defending ‘national character’, traditional marriage and a higher birth-rate.  This group is the most dangerous to liberal democracy, the most unhinged from reason and evidence.

Wikipedia lists some of the members of these groups. Some MPs belong to several of them – Lee Anderson for example, Nick Fletcher, Craig Mackinlay, Philip Davies.  Googling will provide more names and detail.  Check out if your local MP is on any of these lists.  Then find some way of telling wavering voters that they are not only undermining their own government, but also wandering into the wilder fringes of the anti-democratic right. 

* William Wallace is Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional issues in the Lords.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Robert Warren 21st Jan '24 - 10:34am

    The Five Families (Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Lucchese and Colombo) are based in New York not Sicily.

  • Mick Taylor 21st Jan '24 - 4:25pm

    I note that the Tory MP in my former parliamentary seat of Calder Valley, Craig Whittaker, is a member of the Northern Research Group. I’m not surprised. He’s a right winger with fairly awful views.

  • Martin Gray 21st Jan '24 - 5:01pm

    It’s seems easy for the progressive left to label many Tory MPs with having ‘dangerous right wing views ‘ …
    We seem to forget they are democratically elected politicians – in Anderson’s case MP for one of the poorest boroughs in Nottinghamshire. Over ten years as a miner down the pit, 10 years at the citizens advice bureau & a further number of years as worker in a hostel for homeless teens that just left care ..
    Danny Kruger was co founder with his wife of a youth crime charity for early intervention working with teens across the justice system…. We should try and stick to winning the arguments with policies that persuade people to vote for us – rather than labelling opponents as dangerous.

  • Peter Watson 21st Jan '24 - 10:43pm

    “the Conservative Government is still run from southern England”
    Sadly, neither Labour nor the Lib Dems would be much of a change there!

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Jan '24 - 8:02am

    “We seem to forget they are democratically elected politicians – in Anderson’s case MP for one of the poorest boroughs in Nottinghamshire. ”
    ‘Democratically’ Elected with 39.3% of the vote. Yeah – right!!!

  • Martin Gray 22nd Jan '24 - 8:17am

    It’s the system we fight under & our MPs are elected under ..Looking at the local election turnouts & the past EU election turnouts – we are always championing our triumphs under abysmal turnouts and percentages ..
    With the EU election turnouts the far the worst of them all…By all means criticise it , but it’s a question of liking it or lumping it …

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Jan '24 - 10:15am

    Come off it Martin – there’s nothing democratic about FPTP – it suits the 2 major parties so 1 or the other can get a majority of seats on a minority of the vote – an elective dictatorship.

    The difficulty is getting turkeys to vote for Christmas.

  • William Wallace 22nd Jan '24 - 10:43am

    Just to add, for amusement: if you look up the Common Sense Group on Wikipedia, you will see a note at the top that reads ‘No connection with Common Sense.’

  • William Wallace 22nd Jan '24 - 10:54am

    Martin: Liberal Democracy is not just about winning election; it’s also about reasoned debate, understanding and challenging opposing arguments, and ensuring that dissenting views are listened to: understanding where ‘National Conservativism’ comes from, for example – which is from Southern (white) Evangelicals in the USA. Following the financial support that flows from US Foundations associated with this ideology also helps to inform us of what we are up against, and what we have to challenge.

  • @ Peter Watson, “the Conservative Government is still run from southern England”.

    Not just the Conservative Party, Peter, it’s a bit closer to home than that.

  • Matt (Bristol) 22nd Jan '24 - 12:16pm

    Nonconformist radical — I take your point about democratic legitimacy, but this means that Lib Dem MPs are as illegitimate as Tory ones, whether or not they aspire to change the situation. All MPs elected under FPTP have feet of clay. Its not rational to assume only those who are ideologically or pragmatically committed to FPTP are those who share in its corrosive impact on our politics.

  • Martin Gray 23rd Jan '24 - 6:23am

    @Nonconform…The average voter doesn’t give a fig about PR and never has. Outside the Westminster bubble & political blogs most voters don’t do politics – but one thing is clear Lee Anderson’s back story makes a refreshing change from the usual – University , to think tank , to MPs assistant – to PPC route we see all too often these days – irrespective of his politics – which let’s be honest does resonate with many voters …

  • Alex Macfie 25th Jan '24 - 7:30pm

    To be fair, most Lib Dem MPs do not follow the trajectory suggested by @Martin Gray. Most of our current MPs come from non-political day jobs or local government. We don’t have safe seats, and we also don’t have a supportive think tank (there used to be Centre for Reform, later Centre Forum, aka “Centre for Um”, but I think it’s dead now), so the career-politician path wouldn’t really work for us. When we did end up with a leader who had followed that sort of path it ended disastrously for us. Nick Clegg was great on paper, but had no experience of the rough and tumble of campaigning politics.

  • I read one article on this site that suggests the EU is in danger of becoming run by dangerous right wing populists and then another that suggests only dangerous right wing populists would be against closer links with the EU?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Nonconformistradical
    @Thelma Davies I don't have a problem with your views on parental responsibility. But what do you think should be done about children whose parents are irr...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Tristan Ward: Each country has its own political party system, which has evolved because of multiple factors of which the electoral system is only one. In some...
  • Thelma Davies
    @Nonconform. I'm stating that it's my responsibility & my husband's that my children were toilet trained & had basic reading and writing skills prior to...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Simon Atkinson - I am so pleased you like our musings on Max's impact within and beyond the party. And please accept my sympathies to the whole family for the ...
  • Chris Moore
    @ExLD Leeds: that's a ludicrous reason not to vote LD. Theakes is in a vanishingly tiny minority regarding the desirability of PR, as you must well know. LDs...