Tory Reform Group
One of the largest groups aligned with the Party,citation needed the TRG sees itself as the voice of moderate, One Nation Conservatism throughout the Party. In 2009, writing for the TRG's journal, Reformer, David Cameron stated that "the TRG has contributed greatly to the Conservative Party over the last 30 years and is central to where we need to be in the future. Not just because of the people involved and the events held. But because your core beliefs in 'freedom, individual responsibility and community' matter now more than ever".2
The TRG has an events programme and publications, which include the journal The Reformer.3 The TRG brings together members and supporters of the Conservative Party who share this approach to Conservative politics. Members include parliamentarians, councillors, association officers and private individuals.
Most pro-Europe Conservative politicians of the last thirty years have at one time or another been associated with the Tory Reform Group, while no TRG member of note has struck a view that is more eurosceptic than the official Conservative Party position. The TRG was a constituent organisation of Conservative Mainstream alongside the Conservative Europe Group and Parliamentary Mainstream, and, at one time, all were run from shared offices in Westminster. TRG members formed the core of the short lived Pro-Euro Conservative Party, which disbanded in favour of the Liberal Democrats just short of its third birthday.
The TRG is commonly seen as being pro-Europe. However, it has no official position on Europe and it includes many Eurosceptics amongst its members and supporters.citation needed
The oldest known branch, which pre-dated the National TRG, was founded in the University of Oxford in 1962, when they split from the Oxford University Conservative Association. This branch disbanded in 2007.4
The Tory Reform Group (TRG) was formally established in June 1975 from the merger of four like-minded groups: PEST (Pressure for Economic and Social Toryism), two separate London dining clubs named the Macleod Group and Social Tory Action Group, and a consortium in Manchester who had already been going by the name the TRG.
The TRG sees itself following the philosophies of Benjamin Disraeli's "One Nation" and Harold Macmillan's "Middle Way". With an interventionist attitude, the TRG was set in the image of historical figures such as Iain Macleod and R.A. Butler.
The key figure in the formation of TRG was Peter Walker MP, a former Minister in Heath's Government from 1970–1974. Once out of government, he was urged by MPs to form a parliamentary group that represented the liberal Conservative view of the Tory Party.
Walker was reluctant to form such a group at first, not least because he was sensitive to the damaging effects the Tribune Group had wrought on Labour and did not like the idea of similarly factionalising the Conservative Party. As time passed, however, other groups emerged, including right-wing Conservative groups, and the perceived need for a counteracting group increased. At his home in Westminster, Walker met with chairmen of four organizations he had previously had contact with, and they agreed to come together to form the TRG. From the start, the TRG was an activist group with membership, as opposed to being a think tank. The TRG hoped to spread its view through publication of pamphlets, discussion with MPs, use of media, and by widening its membership. Weekly lunches were inherited from PEST. London PEST had organized a Tuesday Luncheon Club in local pubs, such as Magpie and Stump in Old Bailey. These lunches provided a programme of speakers as well as opportunities for members to become involved in constituency activities.
In January 1976, TRG released its first publication, entitled Home Run by Nicholas Scott MP, the President of TRG, arguing for a nationwide extension of the GLC's sale of council houses to their tenants a key part of the Conservative policy platform.citation needed
The 1980s saw TRG pitched headlong into some passionate debates within the Conservative Party, notably over the direction of economic policy and the apartheid regime in South Africa.citation needed The group made annual Budget submissions representing their opposition to Thatcherite economic views.
- President: Ken Clarke MP
- Chairman: Victoria Roberts
- Deputy Chairman: Alex Challoner
- Patrons:5 Sir John Major, Nicholas Bourne AM, David Curry, Stephen Dorrell MP, Charles Hendry MP, Lord Heseltine, Lord Hunt, Lord Hurd, Michael Howard, Steven Norris, Lord Patten, Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Sir Timothy Sainsbury, Ian Taylor, Lord Trimble, Lady Verma, Sir George Young MP, Richard Fuller MP, Neil Carmichael MP.
- Vice-Presidents:5 Alistair Burt MP, Damian Green MP, Jonathan Evans MP, Robert Buckland MP and Jane Ellison MP.
In the past, some Conservatives, who were also members of the TRG, have defected to parties to the left of the Conservatives. The following TRG members subsequently left the Conservative Party to other parties:
- Liberal Democrats: Emma Nicholson,6 Susan Bell,7 Arthur Bell,7 Hugh Dykes, Lord John Lee, Bill Newton Dunn, Peter Price MEP, Keith Raffan,8 Anna McCurley, Harold Elletson, Sir Cyril Townsend, Peter Thurnham, Sir Anthony Meyer, Paul Howell MEP
- Labour Party: Shaun Woodward, Alan Howarth,6 Peter Temple-Morris, Alan Amoscitation needed, Anthony Nelson, Robert V. Jackson, Judith Symes9
- Pro-Euro Conservative Party: John Stevens MEP, Brendan Donnelly MEP, Ian Gilmour, Tim Rathbone, Sir Julian Critchley, Nicholas Scott, David Knox MP, Robert Hicks, Margaret Daly, Adam Fergusson, Madron Seligman, Anthony Simpson
- http://www.trg.org.uk/index.php Tory Reform Group
- Cameron, David. , "The Reformer", London, June 2009.
- The Reformer
- TRG People – From the Official site
- Tory left starts fightback
- "Recent Liberal recruits include ex-Conservative MP Anna McCurley, ex-Tory Reform Group leader Arthur Bell and his wife Susan Bell" from North East Scotland by-election in Scottish Politics – The almanac of Scottish elections and politics
- Where are they now: Keith Raffan, Total Politics
- Reformer, August 2003, page 25
- Times; Guardian; Daily Telegraph; Sun; Daily Mail; Daily Express; Mirror 12 – 14 August 1985
- Tory Reform Group official site
- Egremont official Tory Reform Group blog
- Catalogue of the Tory Reform Group papers at LSE Archives