Thought for the day. June 26. Tories need more open and frank debate over policy. By Peter Bone MP

It’s fascinating as a new Member of Parliament to watch Tony Blair in action.  Having sat in the chamber in the House of Commons, or more correctly, bobbing up and down for an hour to catch the Speaker’s eye during yesterday’s European Union statement, you can only marvel at Blair’s ability not to answer the question he’s asked. 

 Member after member from both sides of the House asked the Prime Minister why he had refused to call a referendum on the new European constitutional treaty, when he promised faithfully to have a referendum on the European Constitution.  And every time he side-stepped the question and instead made a statement on something entirely different.  If the EU constitution was a “dead parrot”, it’s certainly one that’s been resuscitated and given life by the Prime Minister and the political elite of Europe.

The crux of the Prime Minister’s argument seemed to be that though this was a significant change, as we live in a parliamentary democracy, it should be decided by Parliament.  With a new Prime Minster waiting in the wings, the only conclusion we can draw is that there should be a general election.  Perhaps when the Prime Minister goes to see Her Majesty on Wednesday, he won’t only resign, he will also ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament?

Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party,  John Cruddas, finishing third in the poll, and Labour forging ahead in the opinion polls; so much for pundits’ predictions.  When we had our long leadership campaign, the established view was that it would be disaster.  Senior Conservatives putting different views and opinions to the public would cause disunity and we would sink in the opinion polls. 

 Instead open debate and new ideas caused us to surge ahead.  The commentators predicted a long Labour deputy leadership campaign would be even more disastrous for the Government with senior Labour ministers slagging off their own Government’s record and criticising the Iraq policy and the Trident decision.  However, open debate and discussion of ideas did no harm at all.  And indeed Labour has moved ahead in the opinion polls.

How right David Cameron was to set up the policy review groups, giving opportunities to all Conservatives to discuss future policy.  Now these policy groups are about to report.  That should give another opportunity for the Conservative party constructively  to debate the direction of future policy.  Open and frank debate about the future will enhance our position with the British public, not harm it.

Politics is not about saying yes to the status quo.  It is about new ideas and policies to improve the quality of life for the British people.

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