No Turning Back group steps back into spotlight

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Indy Politics

The right-wing No Turning Back group, set up nearly 20 years ago to keep the flame of Thatcherism alight, is being revived.

The group, which came close to extinction during the 1990s, is taking advantage of Iain Duncan Smith's accession to the Tory leadership to put itself back in the political spotlight.

It took its first step out of obscurity yesterday, publishing proposals to provide more private facilities in NHS hospitals. The group will then turn its attention to other issues, including education and transport.

John Redwood, the group's chairman, said: "We want to go forward, more in the way the group was doing in the 1980s than in the 1990s.

"In the 1980s it published a lot of material and had a lot of influence. In the 1990s it gossiped and did not publish."

No Turning Back was formed in 1983 by a group of young right-wingers, including Peter Lilley, Francis Maude and Neil Hamilton, in honour of Margaret Thatcher's 1981 party conference declaration: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."

It fell into abeyance after Baroness Thatcher was ousted and many of its leading lights became ministers under John Major. During William Hague's leadership it became caught up in the in-fighting affecting much of the party, culminating in the resignations of Michael Portillo and Mr Maude last summer. The group now has 22 members, including three new MPs, Paul Goodman (Wycombe), Angela Watkinson (Upminster) and Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight). Among its new members are the party chairman, David Davis, and shadow Health Secretary, Liam Fox. Mr Duncan Smith was a member until he was elected party leader in September.

In its new proposals for the NHS, the group calls for patients to be able to pay for hotel-style services, such as gourmet meals, beauty treatment, multichannel digital television and hairdressing. It argues they should have a greater choice of hospital and consultant and says the NHS should pay for many more people to go private where waiting lists have become too long.

The group calls for the Government to enable more people to take out private health insurance by offering full tax relief on premiums, and to cut bureaucracy by abolishing regional health authorities and primary care trusts.