John Redwood: Why are we fighting our own leader?

The vote is bad for politics as a whole, representing all that people most hate about politicians

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Another day, another ballot on the Conservative party leadership. The Conservative Party's decision to have a vote on whether Iain Duncan Smith should continue in office is unhelpful for the Opposition. It is not good for the nation, desperate to have a strong alternative to this government. It is bad for politics as a whole, representing all that people most hate about politicians.

Another day, another ballot on the Conservative party leadership. The Conservative Party's decision to have a vote on whether Iain Duncan Smith should continue in office is unhelpful for the Opposition. It is not good for the nation, desperate to have a strong alternative to this government. It is bad for politics as a whole, representing all that people most hate about politicians.

People do not like anonymous brief- ings, backstabbings and a party being self-obsessed. They want serious debate of the issues that affect their daily lives. They want a proper choice between the main parties.

For a whole month the press has been convulsed by stories that Iain will be pushed out of his job. The stories came from anonymous briefers - a handful of MPs and one time party officials who did not give up until they had cajoled 25 MPs into sending anonymous letters to the chairman of the 1922 Committee. As a result news of the policies the Conservatives launched at the party conference was overshadowed and driven off the front pages. Another month has passed when the Opposition has been unable to get across its central messages.

I urge all my colleagues today to use their vote to back the incumbent leader. Iain earned his right to lead us when he won the first democratic leadership vote of the whole party just two years ago. Since then the opinion poll gap with Labour has narrowed from 20 per cent to nothing, and the party has started to put together a strong policy platform for the next election. The mood in the country wants us to get on with the job we are paid to do - offering resolute and principled opposition to a government which has let us all down.

We are not short of targets for our anger, our motions, our speeches and our campaigns. Labour is wrecking the country with high taxes and wasteful public spending. We pay the bills, but we do not get the service we need. Sky-high taxes have undermined the telecoms industry. They have destabilised our pension funds and sentenced many to a far less prosperous retirement. They now threaten our homes, with the promise of higher Council tax levies and Stamp duties. They seem to want to do to housing what they have done to pensions - undermine it through deliberate government action.

Labour is certainly spending far more than the previous Conservative government, but it is not hiring the extra teachers, nurses, doctors and policemen that might make the difference. Rather it is spending our money on an ever-growing army of bureaucrats, in Whitehall, in regional quangos and in town halls. It has gone quango mad, establishing many new ones and recruiting more people for old ones. It regulates like there is no tomorrow, requiring an ever bigger army of regulators, auditors and thought police. In the feather beds are the new range of networkers, coordinators and regional bosses. And on the bed of nails is our manufacturing industry which has to pay the bills.

Worse still, Labour sees that politics and politicians are very unpopular. So what is its answer? Let's have more of them! Now the public has to pay for extra politicians in County Hall, in the Welsh Assembly, in the Scottish Parliament, and coming soon in regional Assemblies. It is particularly crazy to force people to buy more of something they do not like. It is all part of the process of undermining our democracy.

More and more politicians have less and less power over the important decisions that affect our lives. Many of our laws are made in Brussels, behind closed doors by unelected Commissioners and their officials. Many decisions are now taken by bodies like the Bank of England, the Food Standards Agency and the Environment Agency, beyond ministerial control and parliamentary accountability. Far from strengthening our democracy they are undermining it. Soon they will go the whole hog and give away large powers to Brussels in the proposed EU constitution, whilst daring to tell us it is all "a tidying-up exercise"!

We need a healthy dose of freedom and democracy. Only the Conservative Party can advance that cause and win power to put it into practice. Labour busily bans or over-regulates food supplements and vitamins, forces through GM crops against many local wishes, and puts motorists through ever more difficult hoops as they try to go about their business.

That is why I am unhappy about the current position in my party. We need to oppose all these wrongs vigorously. We need to unite. So I say to my party - unite to fight with Iain against this undemocratic, over-bureaucratic, spendthrift government - do not fight your own leader.

The writer is a former Conservative cabinet minister and MP for Wokingham

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