Conservative MP: Cabinet are posh, white and running out of time’
West Country MPs launched a series of attacks on the Conservative leadership yesterday, as it reeled from an onslaught of dire opinion poll ratings and a whispering campaign of leadership bids and subterfuge.
An Opinion poll for the Observer poll put the party on just 27 per cent – one of its lowest ratings of recent years, with Ukip just ten points behind on 17 per cent, after luring voters away from the Tories and Labour.
A poll on Saturday of marginal constituencies suggested Labour would take 93 seats and No 10 from the Conservatives if a general election was held tomorrow.
In Brighton, at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference, it was left to former Yeovil MP Lord Ashdown to defend party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg from claims that party president Tim Farron was ready to step up to the top job.
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Lord Ashdown, who is now in charge of electoral strategy, was critical of Mr Farron on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, labelling him a “jolly guy” over comments that the party had “screwed up” in its handling of claims that Lord Rennard sexually harassed women activists, allegations the former chief executive strongly denies.
And as David Cameron – who saw his own popularity drop eight percentage points to 18 per cent, fought off an apparent leadership challenge from the right of the party, he was put in the firing line by Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston.
Taking to Twitter, the backbencher insisted she was loyal to the leader but suggested his closest allies were yes men. She wrote: “Inner circle still look far too posh, male & white & Cameron is running out of time to fix it.
“I consider myself a Cameron loyalist; he is the best person for the job but should listen to critical friends.
“I am a Cameron loyalist but he needs to change his inner circle which just seems to be telling him what he wants to hear.”
Former defence secretary Liam Fox, the MP for North Somerset, criticised “multiple taxation of the same money”, describing it as an “iniquity that creates the wrong pattern of behaviour”.
He told The Sunday Times: “We pay tax on our income. Then if we save we pay tax again. If we invest in businesses or property and try to move our money, we will be hit by capital gains tax or stamp duty. Finally, if we have the audacity to die, we get the indignity of inheritance tax.”
Theresa May fuelled speculation that she holds leadership ambitions yesterday with a speech to Tory grassroots that ranged across industrial policy, banking and the economy as well her usual turf of home affairs.
She also reached out to the right out the party with a promise that a Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act and could go further by pulling out of its European obligations on rights altogether.
At the conservativehome website’s Victory 2015 conference, the Home Secretary said the party must “consider very carefully our relationship” with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), suggesting it was restricting Britain’s ability to act in the national interest.
“We need to stop human rights legislation interfering with our ability to fight crime and control immigration.
“That’s why, as our last manifesto promised, the next Conservative government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and it’s why we should also consider very carefully our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights and the convention it enforces.”
Mrs May said she expects the Conservative’s public sector reform agenda to “become even more radical” and could include allowing companies to make a profit delivering frontline public services.
More private companies and charities should be brought in to run public services to improve quality and end the “monopoly” of the state, which is too often a “poor provider”, Ms May said.
“A future Conservative government should therefore go further in increasing the number of charities, companies and co-operatives that deliver frontline services.
“And if allowing those organisations to make a profit means we have a more diverse supply side and better outcomes, then that is something we should consider with an open mind.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This is a blatant political pitch to the right of the Tory party who are so cross with David Cameron.
“This is political manoeuvring while the Tories offer nothing to the millions struggling with a cost of living crisis.”
Speaking to Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Lord Blair said cases such as Abu Qatada, the radical preacher the Government wants to deport to Jordan, should not mean scrapping the Human Rights Act or leaving the European Court of Human Rights.
He said: “One or two of these really difficult cases doesn’t mean that we should withdraw from a treaty which British lawyers drew up in the 1940s. Where do we go next? Do we withdraw from the UN?”