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The coalition at half term: what the Dorset MPs think
Richard Drax (South Dorset) Aged 54. Elected 2010
Former Coldstream Guards officer and BBC journalist, from an aristocratic Conservative-leaning family.
One member of the 2010 intake who lost no time in criticising government policy on issues such as cuts to the Armed Forces and the planned loss of the Portland rescue helicopter.
NEVER an enthusiast for the coalition, Mr Drax is scathing of many Liberal Democrats, including business secretary Vince Cable, who he sees as an old-fashioned tax-and-spend Labourite.
“I believe the coalition has had its day. I believe it’s being held together for political expediency, not for the good of our nation,” he said.
He believes the coalition has given too much attention to issues such as House of Lords reform which he says do not interest the electorate.
He criticises David Cameron for not setting out a more distinctly Conservative vision at the last election.
“We had a lot of waffle and hot air and the public are fed up with that. We got waffle and hot air as a consequence,” he added.
As for the future of David Cameron’s leadership, he points to the words he used in his political blog:
“I can only suggest that Mr Cameron takes a leaf out of Baroness Thatcher’s book and starts selling solid, Tory, common-sense values and principles in order to turn the ship around. That way, he can remain at the helm.”
Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) Aged 46. Elected 2005
FORMER Army Captain and Stock Exchange business manager, who was a shadow minister for tourism before the 2010 election and has been a loyal supporter of David Cameron.
“YOU wouldn’t judge the outcome of a football match at half-time, therefore it would be misleading to do the same with a parliament,” Mr Ellwood said.
“We’ve got another two years of government to run and two years of policy to develop.
“But there’s no doubt that people are experiencing one of the most difficult recessions in memory and the government is extremely conscious of that.
“It would be wrong to suddenly turn and change course as Labour would have us do when that could set us back even further.”
Of David Cameron’s leadership, he said: “When weren’t there mutterings about the leader of any party at any time? You will always find some people disenfranchised or outside the tent calling for something different.
Considering the crisis that we’ve inherited, I think the prime minister is doing a very difficult job very well indeed.”
With some calling for more hard-line Conservative policies to please the faithful, Mr Ellwood says: “The call for more robust Conservative policies will come in due course. At the moment the focus must be on righting this terrible economy.”
Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) Aged 56. Elected 1997
A FORMER banker and economics teacher, who took time off from Westminster to serve in Iraq with the Territorial Army, Desmond Swayne is one of the colourful figures of his party.
Despite hard-line views on issues such as Europe and capital punishment, he became a Cameron loyalist, serving as the PM’s parliamentary private secretary before becoming Lord Commissioner of the Treasury last month.
TORY MPs are seriously angry that plans to redraw Britain’s parliamentary boundaries were scuppered by Nick Clegg this summer, said Mr Swayne.
But he urged them to see the bigger picture.
“I think the overwhelming majority take the view that this coalition wasn’t about boundary changes. This coalition was about sorting the public finances and the economy and if we were to up sticks and end the coalition or behave like a spoilt child, take our cricket ball home, there would be no understanding from the voters at all,” he said.
“I think we’re doing a reasonably good job. We’ve just got to stick with it.”
He insisted he was “absolutely content” with Mr Cameron’s leadership
"I don’t think there’s any prospect of him being replaced.
“If you look at the last set of polls, there’s a substantial lead to Labour – but ask people who they want to be Prime Minister, there’s a substantial lead to David Cameron.”
Christopher Chope (Christchurch) Aged 65. Elected 1997
KNOWN for pioneering the sale of council housing in Wandsworth before he entered parliament, the member for Christchurch has been a keen Thatcherite and, as MP for Southampton Itchen, was a minister in the Thatcher and Major governments. He opposed the coalition from the outset.
“MY view is that we shouldn’t be carrying on like this because it’s clear that the coalition is an agreement which has I think outrun its usefulness,” Mr Chope said.
He claims the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference showed they were “no longer committed to restoring the economy.
“I think it would be better for the Conservatives to strike out with a distinctly Conserv-ative programme,” he said.
“I think in a sense the coalition has broken up and we’re papering over the cracks.
“The majority party in the coalition is the Conservative side. The Liberal Democrats have got eight per cent of the votes in parliament and they’re behaving as though they can hold the government to ransom.”
He wants the party to promote a distinct message including a hard-line attitude to the EU budget, tougher immigration policy and bringing ‘common sense to bear on human rights’.”
He said of Mr Cameron: “I’m not against him as the leader of the party.
“I haven’t called for a change of leadership.
“He’s got a lot of potential but I think if we were going to win the next General Election outright he’s going to have to listen a lot more to people who are at the moment disillusioned.”
Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) Aged 40. Elected 2010
FORMERLY employed in the finance and communications sectors, he counts Lady Thatcher as a personal friend.
Earlier this year, he resigned as an aide to the Northern Ireland secretary over his opposition to the government’s plans for Lords reform, which were later dropped.
CONOR Burns says the economy and rising bills are the issues that matter to his constituents and the government needs to remember that.
“The coalition needs to focus on delivering rather than focusing on managing the coalition. I think always in coalition politics there’s a danger that we end up talking to each other rather than talking to the country,” he said.
“Governments that successfully manage the economy and create a climate in which free enterprise can thrive and businesses can expand and take people on and reduce unemployment, those are governments that get re-elected.
“I think the prime minister’s got a really big task in his speech at conference this year, to remind people why the coalition was formed and to persuade them that he’s the best person to lead us through this very difficult time.”
Mr Burns said the Tories need to set out a distinct message including abolition of the Human Rights Act, renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership, and more jail sentences.
“We’re 10 points behind in the polls.
“This is a time for very clear communication of purpose and direction and a vision.”