Conservative Party must not become a narrow sect – Murdo Fraser
I will not be the only Conservative representative who was concerned to see 21 MPs effectively expelled from the parliamentary party, after they could not support the Prime Minister in a vote in the House of Commons last week.
Amongst the number are leading figures such as Nicholas Soames and Rory Stewart, the latter being someone I was happy to support as a future party leader and Prime Minister only a couple of months ago.
The individuals concerned have all been loyal supporters of Government policy over many years, in some cases for decades.
There is something of an irony that those who were serial rebels against a Conservative government and never faced the threat of having the Whip removed, are now those in charge, and are dishing out treatment which they never faced themselves.
In my view, the Conservative Party is not, and should not be, a narrow sect.
It has always been a broad church which incorporates a range of views, on economic, social and constitutional issues.
If we lose that broad representation of opinion which we have always had, then we will risk narrowing our support base and losing the country as a result.
I can understand why action was taken against those who, on a confidence issue, could not support the Government.
Nevertheless, I hope that a way can be found to bring back into the fold the 21 MPs who lost the Whip.
In the long run, the Conservative Party is stronger when it encompasses a broad range of opinions. Margaret Thatcher found space in her Cabinet for the likes of Jim Prior and Ken Clarke; it would be a pity if the current Prime Minister could not be equally accommodating.