Daily Archives: 22 April 2008

Tories lose 4 MPs in less than a year – will James Gray be number 5?

Quentin Davies – defected
Andrew Pelling – whip withdrawn over allegations of wife-beating
Derek Conway – whip withdrawn over expenses scandal
Bob Spink – whip withdrawn before he could resign. Now a member of UKIP.

My prediction at the start of the year that Cameron would have a bad year has remained unfulfilled, but this has mainly because Labour are having such a God awful year that Cameron’s problems have faded into the background. But losing 4 MPs – 2% of the total Parliamentary Party – in less than a year suggests a shambles whichever way you look at it.

How long before we see Cameron having to sack number 5? One MP who has survived scandal up until now has been James Gray. But for how long? The Mail reports:

Only last month, MPs of all parties were being urged not to hand out jobs to family members because of the scandal over Conway receiving taxpayers’ cash for his sons when they weren’t actually doing any work.

Now Gray, an ex-shadow defence spokesman, appears to have ridden roughshod over Cameron’s demand by putting Mrs Mayo on the payroll.

It is the latest twist in a sorry tale – and another act of bravado by the 53-year-old MP for North Wiltshire.

Last night he confirmed that mother-of-three Mrs Mayo, 45, was on his staff. “It is true, but I am not prepared to go into detail about my private life,” he told me.

In the wake of his split from Sarah, 53, it was disclosed he continued to pay her £2,400 a month from his staff allowance even though she had stopped work as his secretary two years before in order to undergo cancer treatment.

He secured permission to pay her until the terms of their separation were agreed last April. It is not known how much he is now paying Mrs Mayo.

See also: Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, Derek Conway: Shades of Gray?

Would Joseph Rowntree have praised or damned religion?

Reporting a recent piece of research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Times adopts this approach:

A CHARITY set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century – religion.

A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith – not just in its extreme form – was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago.

The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”.

Would it have dismayed him or confirmed his beliefs? After all, as a Quaker, Rowntree was a non-conformist. No other faith group has done more to promote secularism worldwide than the Quakers and as a group which has been at the sharp end of organised religion in the past, they have some considerable experience of religion as a social evil.

Besides, the full report paints a more nuanced picture. Religion is only listed as the ninth “evil”, while a decline in values is listed third. If people are decoupling religion from values that can only be a good thing and I suspect Rowntree would have approved as well.