Tory policy announcements a nod to 'emboldened' backbenchers

A slew of policy announcements after the Eastleigh by-election shows David Cameron acknowledging 'emboldened' right-wing feeling among backbenchers, it has been claimed.

David Cameron: Said he would not 'lurch to the right'
David Cameron: Said he would not 'lurch to the right'

This weekend the Prime Minister promised not to ‘lurch to the right’ following the Conservatives' defeat in the Eastleigh by-election.

However, PLMR founder Kevin Craig saw announcements on issues like human rights as belying this.

‘Despite what has been said around not moving to the right we’re seeing a short-term, almost knee-jerk reaction to events,’ he said.

Over the weekend, The Sunday Times reported a crackdown on the availability of NHS treatment to migrants and The Mail on Sunday announced plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Craig said that the party’s repositioning came as an acknowledgement that Cameron was not strong enough to position himself against his party.

'This disconnect between the senior ranks and backbenchers had led to widespread dissatisfaction.

'Over the last six months there have been high levels of alienation and disenchantment with large chunks of the Conservative Party in terms of a lack of engagement with the top ranks,' he said.

'The Eastleigh result has brought that into focus, with the right-wing faction becoming more emboldened, and now Cameron will have to articulate a message more pleasing to his backbenches – the announcements are a sign of this starting.’

The Liberal Democrats won last week's by-election, with UKIP pushing the Conservatives into third place.

On Saturday, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond warned David Cameron to cut the welfare budget, not defence spending.

Nick Faith, director of communications for The Policy Exchange, said he would be ‘very surprised’ if Hammond’s words and other announcements had not been given the go-ahead by Number 10.

‘This has given the backbenchers and party something to get their teeth into,’ he said, adding the announcements this weekend were about ‘internal party management’.

Faith did not see the announcements as a lurch to the right but warned that the range of policy announcements risked appearing ‘disjointed’.

‘You risk diluting your own message,’ he added.

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