In the Telegraph today, the headline story on the Tory leadership is "a challenge to the Tory leadership to give a commitment to renegotiate membership of the EU and repeal the Human Rights Act".
This is backed by an "Open Letter to Conservative MPs" on the Telegraph website, signed by Michael Ancram, Bill Cash and seven others – including Owen Paterson, setting out the details of that challenge.
The future success of the Conservative Party, the MPs write, depends on principle rather than just personality. At the heart of that principle lies the national interest founded on self-government and the supremacy of the British Parliament duly elected by the British people. "This is no abstract principle," they continue: "It is the only firm base from which we can address the growing crisis facing our country," adding:
We need resolute action, but we have lost control of the means of achieving it. Our system of government has become over centralised, Parliament has lost influence, our civil service politicised and our national powers of decision-making drained by an overweening European political and legal system. These issues cannot continue to be sidestepped by leadership aspirants.Elaborating on their theme, they then say:
It is the inalienable duty of a Conservative government to uphold the national interest. National security and independence; freedom and public safety; economic stability and prosperity, adequately helping those in need; a foreign policy by alliance, not subservience; a constitution which provides for the freedom and sovereignty of Parliament, the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, the decentralisation of power and increased direct democracy;excellence and efficiency in public services delivered and run locally; concern and toleration for others and with the family at the heart of social responsibility.Now comes the crucial piece, where the MPs state their position on the European Union which, while not calling directly, in those exact words, for withdrawal, reassert the principle of the supremacy of Parliament. Thus, they write:
These are the principles to which the new Conservative leader must be unambiguously committed, along with the restoration of the supremacy of Parliament.
The duty of Government to protect people and their rights is fatally damaged when lawmaking is placed in the hands of others than our duly elected Parliament. Respect for the law is crucially undermined when laws are made not by people we elect and can remove but by EU institutions that we do not elect and cannot remove. The supremacy of our Parliament must be enshrined so that our judges must give effect to its legislation irrespective of earlier Treaties or Conventions. This will mean either successfully renegotiating EU Treaties to conform to these principles or seeking a different relationship with Europe, in each case specifically affirmed by referendum.Copies of the letter, which has much more to say, have been sent to all the Tory leadership candidates and they have been given two weeks to respond with some "serious policies", as opposed to "vague soundbites" or face a "right-wing" challenger.
The Telegraph, in its leader argues that the accompanying Cornerstone manifesto resembles the localist agenda that it proposed in June. We are delighted to see many of our ideas being taken up, it says, adding:
The candidate who comes closest to this programme will truly deserve to win; for in diagnosing the malady that ails Britain, he will find that he has cured the Tories along the way.We can only heartily endorse that statement and hope that the issues in the manifesto are given a good airing at next week's Conservative Party conference and that Party members have the sense to realise that they are truly being offered a chance to win.