CCHQ Spinners Verdict: Dave Loses Media War

The CCHQ press office email press clippings and media snippets to MPs some four of five times a day. They don’t normally make for much of read, but their surprisingly candid verdict on today’s proceedings has brought a smile one chunk of the Tory benches:

Lead Story: David Cameron suffers biggest Conservative rebellion over Europe

Clips: PM, Nick Clegg MP, Adam Holloway MP (debate footage), Tim Montgomerie (Conservative Home)

Commentary: The PM says there is no bad blood or bitterness over Conservative Commons rebellion over Europe. Back bench motion prompted after petition signed by 100,000. In total 81 Conservative MPs defied three line whip voted for referendum. Mr Cameron said opposing vote right thing for the country.

The full briefing then quotes various pundits and hacks before concluding:

Verdict: PM loss

That would explain the “no bad blood, no rancour, no bitterness” bridge building then…

Clegg Lends Dave a Hand In His Hour of Need

When asked after his speech this morning about yesterday’s promised repatriation of powers from Brussels, the Deputy Prime Minister stuck his oar in:

We should stop tilting at windmills about threats and challenges which simply aren’t there right now… You don’t change Europe by launching some smash-and-grab dawn raid on Brussels…”

If Clegg promises something won’t happen, that means it will, right?

Sobering Maths for Dave

Given that the newspapers went to print before the votes had been cast, we’ll start with a little number crunching. Out of the assorted 111 votes for the motion last night, 81 were Tory and 19 were Labour. One LibDem – Adrian Sanders – stuck to his manifesto commitment and voted for a referendum. A further 15 Tories abstained, meaning over half of the parliamentary party that are not in government actively defied the leadership. When the message was being spread that even the Chief Whip was a little bemused by the insistence of a Three Line attendance, it was clear this was going to be a bloody nose for Cameron.

Though such a measure is only being joked about for now, it’s worth refreshing the memory of how easy it is to get rid of a Tory leader. 15% of the parliamentary party have to write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to trigger a vote. The 96 rebels and abstainers last night make up 31%. Is Cameron confident he would get 50%+1 to avoid a run off?

Probably, for now…

Tory PPS Falls At Dave’s Feet

Despite what is said to have been a bloody affair, only one PPS, Stewart Jackson, has shown their hand after their meeting with Cameron. Others don’t seem to be able to handle the heat:

It was Mark Menzies apparently…

Tory MPs Face a Weekend of Soul Searching
IDS Leaning on Dave

Guido speculated yesterday as to what Iain Duncan Smith will do on Monday. He is reportedly lobbying Dave to reduce the Whip to one line, something that Guido, at this stage, fully expects to happen in order to avoid a sizeable walkout. Euroscepticism is at IDS’s core, far more so than any other senior Cabinet Minister, and he’s almost un-sackable in many ways. He’s still in a tight spot here though. Those who suggested that IDS might quietly slip off to his favourite haunt – the Slug and Lettuce – during the vote, have come unstuck. Immediately before the debate on Monday’s order paper is: “Questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, including Topical Questions.”

As the cold war between Cameron and his party’s conscious rapidly warms up, there is soul searching going on from the Cabinet down to the humble backbencher. One A-lister – George Freeman – was overheard yesterday decrying the fact his association are threatening him with de-selection if he votes against the referendum. Guido will be keeping an eye on whether his careerism, or the people of Norfolk, comes first…

One Junior Minister who instinctively wants to rebel, but will not, said to Guido:

“If I have to resign over this principle how many sacrifices of other principle issues are made in doing so? Monday’s vote is one of frustration, I recognise that, but the revolt will lead to nothing except a loss of influence by those who resign. It’s a battle in which a few may gain notoriety, but it will come at the expense of others and runs the risk of destabilising the coalition when the country can least afford it. So an inconsequential though principled battle is fought but a war lost.”

That seems to some up the feeling of those staying loyal. Sentiments that would not have had to be aired publicly if Cameron had the integrity and balls to make this a free vote…

Dave Joins “Britain in Europe”

No.10’s very own little Euro-crisis hasn’t calmed down overnight. Sources close to George Eustice get in touch to say that his amendment hasn’t gone down well with the leadership despite reeking of a stich-up attempt, however there is mistrust on the benches about Eustice none-the-less. As of this morning, the Tory leadership are still unwilling to give any ground, blaming the LibDems, but it’s going to be a long weekend…

The “Britain in Europe” briefing that went out last night from CCHQ to the troops has not gone down well, not least because “Britain in Europe” was the name of 1999 grouping that brought together Blair, Ken Clarke, Helseltine, Heath, Mandy, Charlie Kennedy, Huhne, Hain and Kinnock to try to get us to join the Euro. Accusations of “going native” are two a penny this morning…

Evidence of Dave’s change of heart can be found on Page 5 of the lines to take:

Q: What’s wrong with having a referendum on renegotiating Britain’s relationship with Europe?

Britain’s interest is in being in Europe but not run by Europe. Conservatives are clear that we should get powers back from Britain to Brussels so we don’t need a referendum on that, we just need a Conservative majority government.

The leadership are in a panic flap and it’s showing through sloppiness and stubbornness. They are going out of their way not to make this easy for themselves…

UPDATE: Another wrecking amendment has been launched by Richard Harrington. It’s not getting much support.

Exclusive: Eustice Launches In / Out Wrecking Amendment

This just hit the inboxes of every Tory MP. Eustice was Cameron’s former Press Secretary, so you know it’s from the top:

Many colleagues have asked whether it would be possible to consider amending the current motion on an EU referendum next Monday so that is more closely reflects the views of the majority of the parliamentary party while being consistent with the intention behind the petition we have received.  A number of us have submitted the following amended motion which I hope you might consider supporting:  

“This House calls upon the Government to publish a White Paper during the next session of parliament setting out the powers and competences that the Government would seek to repatriate from the EU, to commence a renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU and to put the outcome of those negotiations to a national referendum.”

In the meeting that we held early in September, there was a strong consensus among colleagues that the EU is now an issue that unites rather than divides Conservatives and that, now we are in government, front benchers and back benchers should work together to deliver a fresh start in our relationship with the EU.  This amendment is consistent with the coalition agreement which gave a clear commitment to examine the competences of the EU which a White Paper setting out a renegotiating position would fulfil.  The advantage of having a referendum after the renegotiation rather than before is that the public would then be able to judge whether or not the government had succeeded and this would put pressure on the government to negotiate forcefully.

There is no guarantee that this amendment would be called and I should also point out that, despite being consistent with the coalition agreement, it is not yet supported by the government.  However, they have given an undertaking to consider their position over the next few days and take on board representations received.  I would therefore urge any backbench MPs who feel closer to this motion than the one currently tabled to add their names to it.  Likewise, I would urge any front bench MP who would like the opportunity to vote in favour of the motion rather than be ordered to follow Ed Miliband through the voting lobbies to make their views known to the Prime Minister’s office.

Anyone who would like to add their name to the list must do so before 3pm tomorrow (Friday).  If you are not in London, please email my office.  We will be trying to arrange for someone to table names on behalf of those who are absent.  If you want to help and happen to be in London, please let me know.

George Eustice MP

Member of Parliament for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Is that the sound of the long grass rustling…?

15 Ministers and Whips Are Threatening To Rebel

The list of Tory rebels welding machine guns to their jeeps and preparing to drive across the desert to Colonel Gaddavei’s compound, is going to reach 100. Guido has had an interesting tip from usually reliable sources: Word is that up to fifteen junior ministers and whips are threatening to break the three-line whip on Monday. There are some very angry voices on the inside, but emphasis is on the “threatening”…

It seems that the leadership are trying to be clever by trailing the prospect of a three-line whip to take the pressure off of voting day. Announcing it today gives time to row back over the weekend in an attempt to make Monday a damp squib. Guido isn’t sure these back-room manoeuvres will work…

Exclusive: Cameron’s PMQ Briefer Leaves Downing Street

Today’s PMQs session will be a tough one, unemployment is up, the defence secretary is in the wars and the Health Bill is falling apart. If you notice something a little different about Cameron’s performance at Prime Minister’s Questions later […]

+ READ MORE +

Inflation: Printing Error

On the Today programme this morning George Osborne dismissed the inflation threat “Actually the problem at the moment is too little money… That’s why the independent monetary policy committee came to its judgement” Is that really true?

The MPC has […]

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No Reasonable Offer Refused

As predicted / gifted this morning:

I’m incredibly fortunate to have such strong support from our previous leaders. Michael Howard.  Iain Duncan Smith.  William Hague.  Sir John Major.  And of course, Lady Thatcher. You know what? We don’t boo

[…]

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Cat Jokes

Yesterday’s catflap has prompted speculation about whether or not Cameron is or was going to use the line “The Liberals used to shoot your dog…now they steal your cat!”

Guido first reported the wisecrack being overheard in the conference bar[…]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

FT leader on Labour’s “Jewish problem”:

“If Mr Corbyn had serious aspirations to leadership he would tackle this problem head-on. Instead it falls to Labour’s moderates to ask themselves how long they will tolerate this state of affairs. Edmund Burke wrote that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Labour’s inaction over anti-Semitism is a stigma that must now be erased by the good people in its ranks.”

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