Mathew Parris has written an interesting article in today's Times. Interesting to me anyway. Its based on telephone interviews he conducted last week with 30 Conservative MPs in marginal seats. He promised that none of what he'd write would be attributable. I wasn't bothered about that. I can't see the point of being an MP unless you can say what you think - within limits. After all, I did before being elected so why stop now. All the whips really care about is that you don't vote against the Gov't. So I thought I'd share with you what I said to Mathew about the 10 issues he raised when we had our little chat.
Q1 - Immigration. The Coalition Gov't has it about right. I dislike the anti-immigration rhetoric that is rife at the moment. But I do think we need more control. We promised to bring levels of immigration down and its reasonable to expect delivery on the promise. Immigrants in the UK illegally should be sent home. But we need to welcome able students and workers from developing nations - India/China in particular.
Q2 - Euro referendum. I support the 2017 date for an In/out referendum. Its what the Prime Minister has promised. He should stick to it.
Q3 - I am not willing to sign up to voting for withdrawal from the EU at present - though I do not rule it out come the referendum in 2017. I may well vote for 'Out' when the time comes. What on earth is the point of entering into any sort of negotiation if a decision has already been made.
Q4 - Human Rights. I am not yet signed up to withdrawal from the European Convention, and not yet in favour of scrapping the Human Rights Act either. But I am heartily sick of the way some judges are interpreting (and undermining) the human rights legislation. Before withdrawal from Human Rights act, we should try simply ignoring the most outrageous decisions. Wouldn't rule out withdrawing altogether though.
Q5 - Taxation. I do not support significant tax cuts before the next election. Would look and be irresponsible. However I do support tax cuts that do not cost the Treasury much - which is why I fully supported the top rate decrease. Personally would have favoured returning to 40p, the rate Labour held top rate at for the 13 yrs they were in power. If there is any scope for cuts, I'd like to see us take all on minimum wage earners out of tax altogether.
Q6 - Welfare. I accept there must be a continued focus on controlling the welfare budget, but it is unrealistic to speak of significant cuts in welfare budget. Its just not going to happen, and we shouldn't pretend it is.
Q7 - NHS Reform. I sense that we have seen enough structural reform until next election - and maybe the one after that. I don't much care about whether providers are public sector or private sector, as long as focus in on care of the patient. No way can we cut the NHS budget but we do need to bring social care and healthcare closer together.
Q8 - I support the UK Gov't standing by our international obligations on foreign aid.
Q9 - Gay Marriage. I was and remain implacably opposed to changing the meaning of the word, 'Marriage'. I thought it was a seriously bad proposal. But it would not be sensible for the Prime Minister to change his position. It would just not be credible - much as I would like it. I would very much like to see the legislation defeated in the House of Lords though.
Q10 - David Cameron. Mathew asked whether 'on balance' ...etc. I was the MP who said "Not just 'On balance' but David Cameron is by far and away our strongest card". I know there are some who cannot take his privileged background, but this comprehensive school educated hill sheep farmer could not care less about background. I know a 'class act' when I see one. And DC is a class act.
For the record, Mathew did not ask about onshore wind, which in my view is Ukip's strongest card by a mile,and will do the Conservative Party real damage in rural constituencies come the next election.