David Cameron at the Conservative conference in Manchester in 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why the drain of 2010 Tory MPs spells trouble for Cameron

The decision of nine Conservative MPs elected in 2010 to stand down suggests many fear defeat - and makes it more likely. 

The announcement by Dudley South MP Chris Kelly that he will stand down at the general election makes him the ninth Conservative MP elected in 2010 to choose not to recontest his seat. 

This strikingly high number spells trouble for the Tories in two ways. First, it suggests that a significant number are not confident of retaining their seats. All of the nine (Louise Mensch, who resigned hers in 2012, Jessica Lee, Aidan Burley, Mike Weatherley, Chris Kelly, Laurs Sandys, Lorraine Fullbrook, Dan Byles, Jonathan Evans) represent marginals targeted by Labour, with six in the top 42 of the party's hit list. Detailed polling by Lord Ashcroft and others has shown Labour performing disproportionately well in its target seats.

Second, the decision of so many from the 2010 intake to stand down will make it harder for the Tories to defend their marginals. First-time MPs traditionally benefit from a disproportionate incumbency bonus as they build their constituency profile and as they face less well-known opposition candidates, rather than sitting MPs (who enjoyed their own local profile). 

Combined with the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip, which both reflects and reinforces the Farageiste threat, the drain of 2010ers is further evidence of why many are finding it ever harder to see how the Tories win the next election. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Theresa May missed an easy opportunity on EU citizens' rights

If the UK had made a big, open and generous offer, the diplomatic picture would be very different.

It's been seven hours and 365 days...and nothing compares to EU, at least as far as negotiations go.

First David Davis abandoned "the row of the summer" by agreeing to the EU's preferred negotiating timetable. Has Theresa May done the same in guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living here indefinitely?

Well, sort of. Although the PM has said that there have to be reciprocal arrangements for British citizens abroad, the difficulty is that because we don't have ID cards and most of our public services are paid for not out of an insurance system but out of general taxation, the issues around guaranteeing access to health, education, social security and residence are easier.

Our ability to enforce a "cut-off date" for new migrants from the European Union is also illusory, unless the government thinks it has the support in parliament and the logistical ability to roll out an ID card system by March 2019. (It doesn't.)

If you want to understand how badly the PM has managed Britain's Brexit negotiations, then the rights of the three million EU nationals living in Britain is the best place to start. The overwhelming support in the country at large for guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, coupled with the deep unease among Conservative MPs about not doing so, meant that it was never a plausible bargaining chip. (That's before you remember that the bulk of the British diaspora in Europe lives in countries with small numbers of EU citizens living in the UK. You can't secure a good deal from Spain by upsetting the Polish government.) It just made three million people, their friends and their families nervous for a year and irritated our European partners, that's all.

If the United Kingdom had made a big, open and generous offer on citizens' rights a year ago, as Vote Leave recommended in the referendum, the diplomatic picture would be very different. (It would be better still if, again, as Vote Leave argued, we hadn't triggered Article 50, an exit mechanism designed to punish an emergent dictatorship that puts all the leverage on the EU27's side.)

As it happens, May's unforced errors in negotiations, the worsening economic picture and the tricky balancing act in the House of Commons means that Remainers can hope both for a softer exit and that they might yet convince voters that nothing compares to EU after all. (That a YouGov poll shows the number of people willing to accept EU rules in order to keep the economy going stretching to 58 per cent will only further embolden the soft Brexiteers.)

For Brexiteers, that means that if Brexit doesn't go well, they have a readymade scapegoat in the government. It means Remainers can credibly hope for a soft Brexit – or no Brexit at all. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

0800 7318496