That letter: a 10-point response

THE HOWARTH DEFECTION: John Redwood, the right-wing former Cabinet minister defeated by John Major in the Tory leadership battle, challenges Alan Howarth's reasons for defecting
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1 It is one thing to argue for new or Conservative policies from the back benches: quite another to tear up most of what you have stood for over 12 years as a Conservative MP and join our opponents. Stratford Conservatives are bound to be shocked by this decision.

2 This means that during your time as head of the Conservative research department, as MP, and as a minister you were always unhappy with your party's stance. How could you live a lie for so long?

3 You and I always used to agree that a job is the best welfare policy: that everyone should have the chance of a good education and the opportunity to own a stake in the country. You never used to argue for Labour policies to replace ours around the No Turning Back Group supper table. The average income of pensioners has gone up by 50 per cent more than prices since 1979.

4 Benefits for the disabled have gone up substantially, and the numbers receiving them have increased. This year over pounds 20,000 million will be spent compared with pounds 8,420 million at the end of the last decade, 1989-90.

5 We need tax cuts, because tax bears too heavily on those who wish to work and to support their families. I will miss being able to debate this with you at Blackpool. Tax cuts are part of a good welfare policy, to help people back to work and to meet the costs of their families.

6 The Government believes individuals and families deserve more choice and more say in public services. You yourself used to be keen on parental choice of school and grant maintained schools. Conservatives have reduced State power over industry and commerce by a huge privatisation programme and have given many the opportunity to own their home. Your new party opposed all these ways of bringing power to the people. You used to support this.

7 Labour's policy proposes a modest increase in Conservative job schemes, whilst threatening hundreds of thousands in low-paid employment by the Social Chapter and the minimum wage. Far from bringing higher living standards, even John Prescott has conceded this will increase unemployment.

8 There is little convincing in Labour's attitude to education. Labour is in power in many education authorities, yet often fails to pass on 90 per cent or more of the education money sent to them by Parliament. Tony Blair says they should do so, but has not succeeded in making them do the decent thing. Labour authorities all too often leave problem schools in their areas without the leadership they need to raise standards.

9 Labour's commitment to constitutional reform means a tartan tax in Scotland and more bureaucracy wherever there is regional government. Do you really think a regional parliament for the Midlands would improve life in Stratford?

10 The people of Stratford, who voted for a Conservative MP by large majority, would probably disagree. Conservative members might think instead of their MP in those lines of Coriolanus:

"Like a dull actor now,

I forgot my part, and I am out, Even to full disgrace!!"