Quentin Davies letter

“I have been a member of the Conservative Party for over 30 years, and have served for 20 years in the Parliamentary Party, in a variety of backbench and front bench roles. 

“This has usually been a great pleasure, and always a great privilege.  It is therefore with much sadness that I write you this letter. But you are entitled to know the truth. 

“Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. 

“It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda. 

“For the first 19 years of my time in the House, in common I imagine with the great majority of my colleagues, it never occurred to me to leave the party, whatever its current vicissitudes. 

“Ties of familiarity, of friendship, and above all of commitment to constituency supporters are for all of us very strong and incredibly difficult to break. 

“But they cannot be the basis for living a lie – for continuing in an organisation when one no longer has respect for its leadership or understanding of its aims. 

“I have come to that appreciation slowly and painfully and as a result of many things, some of which are set out below. 

“The first horrible realisation that I might not be able to continue came last year. My initial reaction was to suppress it. 

“You had come to office as leader of the party committed to break a solemn agreement we had with the European People’s Party to sit with them in the EPP-ED Group during the currency of this European Parliament. 

“For seven months you vacillated, and during that time we had several conversations. 

“It was quite clear to me that you had no qualms in principle about tearing up this agreement, and that it was only the balance of prevailing political pressures which led you ultimately to stop short of doing so (though since then you have hardly acted in good faith in continuing with the agreement, for example you never attend the EPP-ED Summits claiming that you are “too busy” – even though half a dozen or more Prime Ministers are always present.) 

“Of course I knew that you had put yourself in a position such that if you did not leave the EPP-ED Group you would be breaking other promises you had given to colleagues, and on which many of them had counted in voting for you at the leadership election. 

“But that I fear only made the position worse. The trouble with trying to face both ways is that you are likely to lose everybody’s confidence. 

“Aside from the rather significant issues of principle involved, you have of course paid a practical price for your easy promises. 

“You are the first leader of the Conservative Party who (for different reasons) will not be received either by the President of the United States, or by the Chancellor of Germany (up to, and very much including, Iain Duncan Smith every one of your predecessors was most welcome both in the White House and in all the chancelleries of Europe). 

“It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of  your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you – and, more seriously, to the country – if you ever came to power. 

“I have never done business with people who deliberately break contracts, and I knew last year that if you left the EPP-ED Group I could no longer remain in a party under your leadership. 

“In fact you held back and I tried to put this ugly incident out of my mind and carry on. 

“But the last year has been a series of shocks and disappointments. You have displayed to the full both the vacuity and the cynicism of your favourite slogan ‘change to win’. 

“One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and George Osborne discovered that Gordon Brown was to make a speech on the environment the following Monday. 

“You wished to pre-empt him. So without any consultation with anyone – experts, think tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet – you announced an airline or flight tax which as you have subsequently heard from me in a long paper (which has never been refuted) and I am sure from many others, is certainly defective and contradictory – and in my view complete nonsense. 

“The PR pressures had overridden any considerations of economic rationality or national interest, or even what would have been to others normal businesslike prudence. 

“Equally it seems that your hasty rejection of nuclear energy as a ‘last resort’ was also driven by your PR imperatives rather than by other considerations. Many colleagues hope that that will be the subject of your next u-turn. 

“You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image. 

“You thus sometimes treat important subjects with the utmost frivolity.  Examples are ‘inequality’ (the ‘Polly Toynbee’ moment – again you had a paper from me!), marriage and the tax system (even your own Party Chairman was unable to explain on the BBC what you really meant) and, most recently, mass consultation of the public on policy decisions. (In view of your complete failure to consult with anyone, within the Party or outside it, on many of the matters I have touched on, or on many others, the latter was perhaps intended as a joke). 

“Of course I could go on – up to three weeks ago when you were prepared to stoop to putting forward a resolution on Iraq (demanding an inquiry while our military involvement continues) which it was admitted at a Party meeting the following Monday (by George Osborne in your presence) was motivated by party political considerations. That was a particularly bad moment.” 

“Believe it or not I have no personal animus against you. You have always been perfectly courteous in our dealings. You are intelligent and charming. 

“As you know, however, I never supported you for the leadership of the Party – even when, after my preferred candidate Ken Clarke had been defeated in the first round, it was blindingly obvious that you were going to win. 

“Nor, for the same reasons, have I ever sought office in your shadow administration. 

“Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve. 

“Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the Party.  I do not intend to leave public life. On the contrary I am looking forward to joining another party with which I have found increasingly I am naturally in agreement and which has just acquired a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share. 

“Because my constituents, to whose interests of course I remain devoted, are entitled to know the full background, I am releasing this letter to the press.” 


15 thoughts on “Quentin Davies letter”

  1. Quality stuff, it won’t have quite the impact of G. Howe’s famous speech I suspect but I’ll treasure away some of his paragraphs to use in my letters to the local papers. Are the Tories generally really as full of bile as the comments on Iain Dale’s blog and Conservative Home suggest do you think? Some of the ones I’ve met seem pretty decent, if rather misguided people but the braying benches behind D Cameron et al are not a pretty sight…

  2. Words cannot express how sweet this defection is, coming as it does on the eve of GB taking over. The comments on Cameron are dynamite. The Tories cannot dismiss him – this is a Tory grandee who is respected – just check out the musings on Conservativehome.org – the fury is directed at Cameron, not Davies. Brilliant.

  3. Powerful stuff. Should be going out to every “switcher” from 97 onwards in target seats…

  4. Wow! Breaking news or what – I must turn on R4. I am sure everyone in the Labour Party welcomes Mr Davies but what a step he has taken, good luck to him.

  5. At the risk of directing anyone towards the killer punches, I’d liked to think that the comment below will be chewed over by media and others for some while…

    “Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership”

    One for our next party political broadcast perhaps?

    And in the mean time, any chance of running a book on the next one to jump? You know you want to.

  6. When does a big tent become a circus?

    This could boomerang in quite an unpleasant fashion. Do we really want to be seen as a scrapheap for bitter old toffs like Davies? Plays right into Cameron’s young and thrusting image. Terribly shortsighted.

  7. Tom it must be catching ! No doubt you have heard about the two defections in Sandwell.

  8. As a sort of Tory (ex party member, but still live under the Tory label) I agree wth what most of Davies has said. I could never really support Blair – felt he was more interested in presentation than policy. I feel that Brown will be different – perhaps giving the impression that he is working FOR us; instead of working for his legacy? Interesting times….

  9. Whilst it would be foolish to deny the value to us of a defection – particularly now, theres something that leaves a bad taste. How you can go from being a life long member and activist within one party and then join another – particularly one in a quite different place on the political spectrum – is beyond me. Also, theres the issue of the constituents. I know we technically vote for the candidate and not the party, but we all know thats not the reality.

    Anyway, at least its given Cameron a nice big set back!!!

  10. I agree with Carl Roper. I can understand one of the ‘new’ Tories (possibly even Cameron himself) defecting, but an MP of 20 years service? So does he not believe in the core Conservative principles that he once believed in? Or did he never believe in them? Or is it that these days, principles and ideology don’t matter anymore, one party is just the same as the other, the only difference being in the character of the leaders?

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