Nicky Morgan: Mainstream Tories must resist the temptation to leave
Although Brexit is important issue it, we should not see it as a soul defining issue.
As the Chair of Conservative Parliamentary Mainstream I am very sorry to see three such talented public servants, including former TRG Patron Anna Soubry, leave the Conservative Party yesterday.
While I understand why they felt they no longer wanted to stay, I hope that like-minded One-Nation TRG supporters and members will not be tempted to follow them. Today’s events should, however, give the Conservative Party pause for thought.
Any mainstream political party has to be a broad church in order to win support from the greatest number of voters in order to enact the policies we believe are right for our country. And a broad church means that members and elected representatives will not always agree on everything. But we do share common values that underpin our actions. The challenge for the Conservative Party currently is that, unlike Labour, most of us agree on almost everything. We don’t have a party leadership determined to root out non-believers or asking supporters to acquiesce in something as shameful as anti-semitism.
On issues such as building a strong economy, education, welfare reform, defence spending and so on we all broadly agree on how they should be addressed. Our one major fault line is on the UK’s relationship with the EU. This is not new but has been brought into sharp relief by the never-ending spotlight of Brexit.
Brexit has consumed Westminster and much of our political news coverage for months and months now. It is divisive, complicated and relentless. Usually when we disagree in the Conservative Party we have other issues we can talk about and campaign on and unite around. This time it is much harder to gather ourselves together and do that. Even the Prime Minister has found it almost impossible to get traction on the ‘Burning Injustices’ she so rightly identified on taking office.
But there will be a Brexit outcome and although it is an important issue it, it is not a soul defining issue. Because the country still needs a functioning and compassionate governing party ready to focus on other challenges. Then it needs activists, MPs, AMs, MSPs, councillors and members from a wide variety of backgrounds to have their say and fight for their beliefs in that party and in our country.
That is why the TRG and Parliamentary Mainstream are such long-standing and essential groups within the Conservative Party. Because we believe that a truly one nation Conservative government is the way to be open-minded and generous in social policy, realistic in economic policy and internationalist in foreign policy. We know that our broad church party is right for our country, and that we should be fighting all the time to be the Party of social justice, political progress and prosperity for all.
That is where the Conservative Party has always won elections, governed and delivered reform. That is where we must continue.
Nicky Morgan is the MP for Loughborough and a Patron of the Tory Reform Group.