Leading article: The wrongs of the Conservative right

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The right wing of the Conservative Party is flexing its muscles. David Cameron was forced to retreat this week on his plan for Tory frontbenchers to be allowed to vote in the leadership election of the backbench 1922 Committee.

The subsequent election of Graham Brady, who resigned from the shadow Cabinet in 2007 over the party's refusal to embrace grammar schools, is a clear signal from backbench MPs that the Prime Minister cannot expect an easy ride in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, John Redwood has been heading a campaign against the Government's plans to equalise capital gains tax and income tax rates, which was one of the deals that underpinned the coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats. Further problems for the coalition are likely to come from a group of Conservative MPs who are already gearing up to fight any form of electoral reform.

Mr Cameron's meddling in the 1922 Committee was probably unwise. The pain of antagonising his backbenchers was always likely to be greater than the gain of diluting the oppositionism of the committee. Yet that is not to say that the Tory party's internal oppositionists are behaving sensibly. The right-wing of the Conservative party needs to recognise two things. First, that the general election showed there was no mandate for a radical right-wing Conservative government. Second, the coalition is regarded as legitimate in the country. Opinion surveys since the general election have shown that the coalition has the majority approval of the public. Yesterday's result of the Thirsk and Malton election – with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates both increasing their share of the vote – confirms this.

These are still early days for the coalition. And we can be sure there will be severe pressures ahead. But Conservative right-wingers would be foolish to try to bring the Government down from the inside. The country has decided to give this new arrangement a chance. Tory backbenchers need to respect that judgement.

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