Tag Archives: conservative right

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.

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