By Paul Goodman
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"Well, gentlemen, I see we have a good gathering tonight," said side-burned Forth, like a teddy boy relishing a dust-up with some mods at the local disco. "I think we ought to have a discussion of what this group believes in. I must say I always thought we believed in lower taxes, locking up more criminals and standing up for Britain. But now I am told we stand for something called REACHING OUT! He shrieked the words with melodramatic disgust."
This morning's account in the Times (£) of a "dinner table plot to unseat the coalition" turns out to be the second subtantial leak from the No Turning Back Group - the right-of-party-centre backbench dining club of Conservative MPs of which I was once a member. The first is chronicled in loving detail in Simon Walters's romp, Tory Wars, and I quote from the words of the late, great Eric Forth - whose attack on Michael Portillo opens the account. (It followed Portillo's speech to the Conservative Conference in 2000.)
Over ten years on, how fortunate we are that these contentious issues have been put to rest!
A word on the Times's story and the NTB itself. The Times refers to some MPs “chuntering” about a leadership contest. If that's all that took place, what took place wasn't a "plot" - so the headline is a bit out of proportion. The Times mentions the idea of a "mandate referendum" to precede the In-Out one to which David Cameron is committed. There's no great mystery about whose idea that is. It's Davis's. We know that because...he set it out publicly at a ConservativeHome conference last autumn.
Finally, note the names quoted in the Times story: Davis, Redwood, Liam Fox, Bernard Jenkin. Chris Grayling. These names are those of very senior MPs. The report also says: "it is understood that about a dozen MPs were present". If that's right, it sounds like a gathering consisting almost entirely of senior and older MPs. I wonder if the NTB is replenishing its membership. At any rate, no member of the 2010 intake, which now constitutes half the Parliamentary Party, is quoted in the story.
When I was a member of the NTB in the last Parliament, about 20 or so MPs would turn up regularly, including John Baron, Mark Harper, Jonathan Djanogly, Andrew Turner, and Angela Watkinson. Clubs of Tory MPs spring up all the time - for example, the Free Enterprise Group, which gave very public advice to Osborne earlier this week - and the more established ones must renew themselves to stay at the cutting edge. One thing's certain: the NTB will this morning be undertaking a leak enquiry.
By Matthew Barrett
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The annual newspaper index report by Hanover Communications into media coverage of MPs shows that 12 of the top 20 most-mentioned politicians are Conservatives. The index, which measures newspaper coverage over the last year, shows few Labour frontbenchers have media profiles, with only Ed Balls and Ed Miliband featuring in the list.
I list below the top twenty politicians and the number of mentions they received:
By Matthew Barrett
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The Daily Mail this morning reports on the 118 Conservative MPs who have written to constituents indicating their opposition to gay marriage proposals. The Mail says "Their opposition has been expressed in letters and emails sent to constituents who have contacted them with their own concerns", and points out that if these MPs voted against proposals, it would constitute the biggest Tory rebellion in modern times. However, Equalities Minister (and Secretary of State for Culture) Maria Miller pointed out on Twitter that since any vote on the issue would be a free vote, it would not technically be counted as a rebellion.
I have listed the MPs from the Mail's story below.
By Matthew Barrett
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One of the two biggest political stories today, the summit to consider the next European budget, is opaque. We cannot know what is happening behind closed doors. However, we can know what Tory MPs have made of the other big political story today: the Government's attempt to deal with the European court's ruling that Britain must give at least some prisoners the vote. Here are some of the best contributions of Tory MPs to the debate in the media surrounding prison voting.
Nick Herbert, the former Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice, wrote about leaving the jurisidiction of the European Court of Human Rights for ConservativeHome this morning. He also appeared on the Today programme this morning, and said:
"I think it’s doubtful that this will comply with what the European Court of Human Rights wants, and it seems as if the Government is effectively just playing for time. And ironically one of the three options that the Government is going to put down today, which is that we retain the blanket ban, is something that it’s unlikely ministers will be able to either to advocate or vote for because it’s a breach of the ministerial code to advocate breaking the law, even though the Prime Minister himself said that there was no way this Government was going to give prisoners the vote and that it make him feel physically sick to even contemplate the idea."
By Matthew Barrett
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Robert Halfon, the Member of Parliament for Harlow, and one of the most successful campaigning MPs in Parliament, has organised a motion, backed by 60 MPs from all parties, and including 41 Tories, calling for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The full motion is worded as follows:
"That this House urges the OFT to investigate oil firms active in the UK; calls on the Government to consider the emergency actions being taken in other G20 nations to cut fuel prices, for example President Obama strengthening Federal supervision of the U.S. oil market, and increasing penalties for “market manipulation”, and Germany and Austria setting up a new oil regulator, with orders to help stabilise the price of petrol in the country; finally urges the Office of Fair Trading to note that the Federal Cartel Office in Germany is now investigating oil firms active in the UK, after allegations of price-fixing."
By Paul Goodman
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I would be suprised by Fleet Street's unanimous hostility to the Queen's Speech were it not, first, for Leveson (which the papers will never forgive) and, second, for the impasse between the Coalition partners on growth measures. The situation is too urgent to afford Vince Cable's lack of oomph.
Conservative backbenchers were always likely to be more measured in their contributions to the debate on yesterday's first day of the Queen's Speech. But I was struck reading Hansard this morning by the way in which the debate which Tim reported at yesterday's meeting of the 1922 Committee also spilled out on to the floor of the Commons.
It naturally did so more discreetly and decorously, and below are some extracts that may give you the flavour of the moment. Charlie Elphicke (on the economy and childcare), Priti Patel (on families, criminal justice and small business) and Chris Skidmore (on social care and health) stuck entirely to the contents of the Speech, and were none the worse for it.
By Matthew Barrett
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Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart of the University of Nottingham have released a new pamplet - "The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions", which documents the 239 backbench rebellions so far in this Parliament, in which 544 votes have been held.
The pamplet takes us from the first rebellion, on the government’s control of time in the Commons, to the last, on Sunday Trading during the Olympics. This Parliament has seen more rebellions by government MPs than in any other session in the post-war era. As "The Bumper Book" says, "It comfortably beats the previous record of 128, held by Conservative MPs in the 1971-72 session. Indeed, a figure of 239 is higher than all but three entire post-war parliaments."
In fact, there were more rebellions in the last two years than there were between 1945 and 1966 - a period which saw six Prime Ministers and six parliaments. On a different measure, the "relative rate of rebellion", this session's 239 rebellions constitute a rebellion by Coalition MPs in 44% of divisions, which is a record in post-war parliaments. The 44% figure can be broken down further: Conservative MPs have rebelled in 28% of votes, while Lib Dems have rebelled in 24% of votes.
It is also notable how much of a contrast there is between the 2010-12 session and most first sessions in a parliament. As the pamplet says: "The rebellion rate for coalition MPs collectively is way above all other first sessions in the post-war era (the previous record was 28%, for Labour MPs in the 2005-6 session, as the party entered its third, and most troublesome, parliament under Tony Blair)".
By Tim Montgomerie
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On Radio 4's World This Weekend four veteran Tory big beasts have been speaking to Shaun Ley about what Cameron should do next.
Two former Tory Chairmen kicked off the discussion.
Lord (Richard) Ryder - John Major's chief whip - agreed with Baker on the need for a Party Chairman. Neither of the two existing Chairmen (Feldman and Warsi) have ever been elected, he said, and neither had access to the Commons. Cameron desperately needed a Party Chairman who was an MP and who could be both a lightning rod for him and also a firefighter. He urged the PM to stop being distracted by the 24 hour news cycle and focus on the horizon. Let junior ministers announce small initiatives, he advised. To this day voters don't know where Cameron really stands, what are his true convictions. As a consequence his government lacks coherence. The Chancellor, George Osborne doesn't understand the difference between tactics and strategy, Ryder continued. He said it was "comical" that the director of strategy in Number 10 was also an opinion pollster (Andrew Cooper).
David Davis also was interviewed for the programme. Previewing the Alternative Queen's Speech that will be published on ConHome tomorrow and which he and other Conservative MPs have contributed individual parts, he said we needed a Government programme that was more focused on growth and social mobility. The Coalition's programme needed, he said, to recognise, that five-sixths of the MPs on the government side were elected as Conservatives.
By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs has so far mainly featured groups founded or mostly composed of 2010 intake MPs. Last time, I looked at the Thatcherite No Turning Back group, founded in the 1980s. This week's group is somewhere between the two. The Cornerstone Group is the main group whose defining mission is to represent socially conservative Members of Parliament. The group was formed in 2005, and presented some challenges for David Cameron's leadership. In this profile, I'll see how the group is doing now.
Origins of the group
Cornerstone was founded by Edward Leigh and John Hayes, who still chair the group. Leigh has been the MP for Gainsborough since 1983, and is a former Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, who was sacked for his opposition to Maastricht, and John Hayes, who has been the MP for South Holland and the Deepings since 1997, and the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning since 2010.
Cornerstone admired the work done during Iain Duncan Smith's time as leader to promote a more communitarian, Burkean conservatism, and wanted to ensure IDS' work on this front was carried on.
When the group launched formally in July 2005, it released a pamphlet, which criticised Michael Howard's election campaign for being too quiet about tax cuts, public service reform and family values. Strongly condemning the personality politics and liberalism of New Labour, Leigh wrote:
"We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition, nation, family, religious ethics, free enterprise ... Emulating New Labour both lacks authenticity and is unlikely to make us popular. We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based."
The group first exerted its influence during the 2005 leadership contest. A group of about twenty Cornerstone supporters interviewed David Cameron, David Davis and Liam Fox. Fox apparently put in the best performance, while David Davis was, reportedly, not able to take criticism well. This meeting, combined with David Davis' alienating stint as the Minister for Europe under Major, and Davis' reluctance to support Iain Duncan Smith's compassionate conservatism programme wholeheartedly, is thought to be why many Cornerstone supporters first voted for Fox, and then switched to Cameron.
By Matthew Barrett
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In my series profiling groups of Tory MPs, most groups I've looked at have been mostly or wholly composed of 2010 intake MPs. The next group is bit different, as it was founded more than 25 years ago. The No Turning Back group has a proud history of celebrating and promoting Thatcherism. How is the group doing now? In this profile, I'll be examining what No Turning Back, the backbench group for Thatcherites in Parliament, is doing now.
Origins of the group
No Turning Back was founded in 1985 to defend Mrs Thatcher's free-market policies. The 25 founding members included, amongst others, now-Deputy Chairman Michael Fallon, now-Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, and the late, great Eric Forth.
The name of the group comes from Mrs Thatcher's famous conference speech given in October 1980:
"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning.” I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas and also to those who are not our friends."
There are about 100 members of the group, which is chaired by John Redwood, including "quite a lot" from the 2010 intake. Members include such big beasts as John Redwood, David Davis, Bernard Jenkin, Peter Lilley, Lord Forsyth, and Liam Fox. Current Conservative officeholders who are members of the group include the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith; David Cameron's PPS, Desmond Swayne; Nick Clegg's Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mark Harper; the Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers; a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jonathan Djanogly; three government whips, Angela Watkinson, Mark Francois and Greg Hands; the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, Greg Knight; and the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale, who was Mrs Thatcher's Political Secretary in the late 1980s.
"It’s a historic sort-of shift for Britain; it does mean that we can think more freely about where we want to be in the long-term. I think the great majority of British people don’t want to be part of political union. We want free trade and co-operation, but we don’t want to be tied into a straitjacket, and that is something that we need to address in the coming years, and I’ve no doubt David Cameron will understand that and will take that forward. He’s proved, as Prime Minister, that he’s prepared to put Britain first, and that’s what he’s done ... We never had a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, so there are issues that need to be addressed, but at least we have a Prime Minister that understands what matters to Britain, and is prepared to stand up for our country, put Britain first, and show the bulldog spirit, and that’s what David Cameron did this week."
"I think that the immediate reaction is the Prime Minister secured the objectives, the two objectives that he had. One was to give encouragement to the eurozone members to sort out their problems, because he recognises the immense damage that collapse of the euro could have in this country, and the second, more complicated objective, but very important, is to protect the interests of the City of London, so he wasn’t prepared to give away any sort of negotiating position or any degree of national control in the middle of the night on Thursday."
2pm Mark Reckless MP told Sky News about his expectation of support for the Prime Minister amongst MPs:
"I think when the Prime Minister makes his statement on Monday he is going to be exceptionally well received on the Conservative benches. He kept his word. He said that if we didn't get protection for the City he would veto the treaty. He didn't get that protection so he vetoed the treaty. I think many of my colleagues will see this as an opportunity to develop a new relationship with Europe whereas a country we become independent once again, trading with Europe but governing ourselves and making our own arrangements with Europe - like the Swiss do - while the EU-26 go ahead with fiscal union with the union."
"I am a Conservative, and it is my job to urge the Coalition Government to reflect more fully the very strong Conservative opinion on this issue where I think we are in touch with the mood of the country, where the polls show that about four out of five people agree with us that we want less Europe. They don't agree with the Liberal Democrats. ... The UK isn't afraid of Germany, and we are happy to look Germany in the eye and say we don't agree on this and we want to do something different. A lot of the smaller countries near Germany are scared and they have to go along with a German Europe."
"We are going to see the detail of what [the 17] are proposing, but I don't see this as being necessarily negative. They already have the Euro, which is something that the 17 of them agreed on that has not harmed us. They have had other things that haven't harmed us either. I don't see this as one of those seminal moments in history that we are suddenly seen to be isolated in some way. We are still an economic power and buy more from Europe than we export to it."
"The eurozone want to move ahead now and pool their sovereignty and have decisions over tax and spending taken centrally by Brussels and so on. We don't want to be part of that. We want them to get on with it, to sort out the eurozone crisis, because it has been spreading across and slowing down economies right across Europe. We wish them well in that but we certainly don't want our tax and spending decisions taken in Brussels. We are going to protect that."
George Eustice MP in the FT (£):
"The truth is that today, Europe unites rather than divides Tories and they will all support the stance Mr Cameron adopted at this summit. They will judge him favourably because of how hard he has tried rather than what was achieved. There is a pragmatism within the new parliamentary party but underlying that patience is a steely resolve to see a new relationship between Britain and the EU: one in which, as Mr Cameron said in his Mansion House speech, powers ebb back to Britain rather than flow away."
John Redwood MP on his blog:
"The numbers of Conservative rebels will doubtless wax and wane, but there is now a hard core of at least 45 who are likely to vote against unsuitable EU measures, meaning the Coalition needs some Labour support or help should they want to put through more EU decisions."
Robert Halfon MP on his blog:
"Britain's veto was of huge importance. It is the first shift away from the ratchet effect of European integration for many years. It shows that the UK will no longer accept the unacceptable transfer of powers away from our nation state. It also opens up a real possibility of a fundamental renegotiation of our relationship with the EU: as part of a co-operative free-trading bloc within a European Economic Community - rather than being an inexorable part of a federal superstate."
5.45pm Mark Reckless MP has recorded a video-blog, in which he says:
"Our Prime Minister has shown that he is a man of his word... David Cameron said that unless he got a protocol to protect the City from European regulation that he would veto the European treaty. He didn't get that protocol...and he vetoed the treaty as he promised he would, and I just think restoring faith in politics is so important, and I think the Prime Minister has helped do that."
5.45pm The Daily Express reports on Boris' praise for the PM:
"The Mayor of London said: "David Cameron has done the only thing that it was really open to him to do. He has played a blinder.""
"I welcome the Prime Minister's stand. He is to be given credit. However it is now clear that the United Kingdom's relationship with the EU will significantly change given the emergence of a new inner EU-bloc, a dominant bloc. This new bloc is a major power shift, and establishes a new paradigm in the way the Eurozone and the wider EU will do future business. The UK has the full legal rights of all the other EU members. If these rights are abused then the UK should use its considerable budget contribution to the EU as leverage in its interests. The unintended consequence of these negotiations is that it seems more, not less likely that there will be an EU referendum on the UK's relationship with the EU within this Parliament, which is something our Coalition partners have also agreed upon in their last election manifesto. Today is a good day for British sovereignty"
4.30pm VIDEO Cameron has created path to "full renegotiation" of UK's EU relationship, claims Bill Cash MP
3pm Douglas Carswell told PoliticsHome:
"The events in Brussels show that we have changed direction. We have got a long way to go, but I think people will be supportive of David Cameron for doing the right thing. What we need to do is make absolutely clear that there is no scope for changing the small print of the deal. ... The idea of a new architecture of the EU that we are not part of is incredibly, incredibly exciting, and has the possibility of giving us a better relationship with the EU. We must make sure that we actually deliver the change."
2.30pm Lord Tebbit has just blogged for the Telegraph:
"At last! When all other options had been exhausted, David Cameron has done the right thing. By refusing to sign up to changes in the Treaty of Rome (which is now, after amendments, really the Treaty of Lisbon) the Prime Minister has adopted the policy which, in a conversation with Giscard d'Estaing, I described as “getting the British dog out of the European federal manger”. ... Whether Cameron's decision was made out of conviction and understanding of these great issues, out of fear that his party would split with a majority led by dissident Cabinet colleagues against him, or out of fear that demands for a referendum would become irresistible, we cannot know. We should just be grateful that he made it."
By Joseph Willits
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Last night in Parliament, a motion tabled by Dominic Raab MP (Esher and Walton), demanding a review of the 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and US, was agreed without a vote. Raab was clear in that the tabled motion was "not about abolishing extradition, which is vital to international efforts in relation to law enforcement" but "whether, in taking the fight to the terrorists and the serious criminals after 9/11, the pendulum swung too far the other way." The purpose of the review, Raab said, was to "inject a dose of common sense into the blunt extradition regime that we now have in place".
Raab cited comments made by Alun Jones QC (who represented the Spanish Government in the Pinochet case) in the Telegraph yesterday, who warned of an imbalance within the UK-US extradition treaty. Raab said:
"An American citizen who is subject to an extradition warrant in the US has the constitutional safeguard that a judge must examine the evidence. In this country, a short recitation of the allegations suffices. That is a very real and important imbalance."
By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday in Parliament, during questions on the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy (which Paul Goodman covered on ToryDiary yesterday), former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis highlighted the case of a Muslim prisoner who had witnessed extremist preaching in a "high-security prison":
"Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I welcome wholeheartedly my right hon. Friend’s statement and comments, not least because a couple of weeks ago I received a letter from a Muslim inmate of one of our high-security prisons, in which he said:
‘Last week our prison service imam told us ‘not to believe western media’ in relation to the death of Usama bin Laden. The week prior to that the imam celebrated the escape of hundreds of Taliban prisoners from the Kabul jail. He went on to list equally inappropriate teachings by prison imams in a total of five prisons.
The Home Secretary is right to draw attention to the previous Government’s complacency over the issue. Will she give an undertaking that this will be put right and that we will not be able to say those things next year?"
In response, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, promised to work more closely with the prison service in order to stamp out extremism of the nature Mr Davis mentioned.
"Mrs May: I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing that letter to the attention of the House and, in doing so, raising a very important aspect of the work on which we wish to focus. There is a great deal more to be done in prisons, and a number of steps that we intend to take are set out in the Prevent strategy today. I should be very happy to receive a copy of that letter, if he feels able to share it with me, so that we can look at the specific allegations that have been made, but we intend to work more carefully with prisons, prison staff, the National Offender Management Service and those going into prisons to deal with individual prisoners in order to try to ensure that we do not see the sort of activity taking place that he has identified."
by Paul Goodman
George Osborne bested Ed Balls yesterday. But the Treasury team also faced three sharp questions from its own side, which the sketchwriters have duly picked up this morning. Here they are in full, together with the answers.
"Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): There is a lot of public disquiet about alleged enormous sweetheart deals done with major public companies-Vodafone and others-in the last five years. Three or four months ago, I tabled a question asking how many of these deals had been done, costing more than £100 million at a time. The answer I received was that the information requested was "not readily available" and could be provided "only at disproportionate cost". I received a similar blocking answer this morning. When is the Minister going to tell the House what HMRC has been up to?
Mr Gauke: The National Audit Office has investigated and examined that as a matter of course. There is no question of sweetheart deals. The reality is that HMRC is seeking to recover as much tax as is due. That is what it has done in a number of cases. I am not going to comment on individual cases. That is a matter of confidentiality; I do not get to see the details. None the less, I think wild allegations have been made against HMRC, for which there is little or no evidence."
"Mr Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (Con): The Chancellor is entirely right to emphasise the need to be careful with public money. Will he therefore please explain his role in approving the deal to make the UK taxpayer liable for billions of pounds to bail out the euro under the European stabilisation mechanism? Will he respond to my freedom of information request, and publish the advice that he was given on the agreement on assuming office?
Mr Osborne: First, I will look at my hon. Friend's FOI request, because I have not seen it. The broader point that I would make is that my predecessor as Chancellor, in the weekend between the general election and the creation of the new Government, agreed to the creation of the European stability facility. That involves a UK commitment which takes place on the basis of qualified majority voting; we do not have a veto. I made it clear to the previous Chancellor at the time that I did not support what he had done. However, it has happened and we have to live with the consequences."
"Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Do Treasury Ministers agree that the real problem with bankers' bonuses is that they are paid not out of profits, but out of revenues? Taxing banks after the bonuses have been paid merely depresses dividends, particularly for pension funds. Why are bankers' bonuses not paid out of profits, as they always were by my very efficient stockbroking firm?
Mr Hoban: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course, under the old regime, there was no clawback when bonuses were paid out in cash, and no lock-up. The new code on remuneration introduced by the Financial Services Authority, which is ahead of international practice, has clear rules on deferral, requires that bonuses be clawed back for poor performance, and requires that bonuses for significantly highly paid members of staff-those who take risks-be paid out principally in shares, not in cash. That will ensure that the interests of bankers are aligned with those of shareholders."
By Jonathan Isaby
Next week sees the first parliamentary debate on whether to give the vote to prisoners - not in government time, but initiated by Tory MPs David Davis and Dominic Raab, along with Jack Straw, in time allocated by the backbench business committee.
The motion before the Commons - to be debated next Thursday - reads:
"That this House notes the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst v the United Kingdom in which it held that there had been no substantive debate by members of the legislature on the continued justification for maintaining a general restriction on the right of prisoners to vote; acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK; is of the opinion that legislative decisions of this nature should be a matter for democratically elected lawmakers; and supports the current situation in which no sentenced prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand."
The Government has indicated that it is very reluctantly intending to implement the ECHR ruling granting votes for prisoners sentenced to four years or less (although there has been speculation that it could be restricted further).
However, minsters are yet to formally set the wheels in motion and in the mean time it is an issue which has been causing massive dissent throughout the Conservative parliamentary party, even among usually loyal backbenchers.
Paul Waugh from PoliticsHome reports this morning that backbenchers will be granted licence to show their opposition to the proposal:
Tory backbenchers are set to be allowed a free vote on a Commons motion opposing prisoner voting rights, PoliticsHome.come has learned. Faced with possibly his biggest ever rebellion by Conservative MPs, David Cameron is looking closely at allowing the Government payroll vote to abstain on the motion.
The Liberal Democrats have long believed in giving the vote to prisoners, so can be expected to oppose the motion as above, but I can't imagine that they'll be joined by many others.
James Landale from the BBC is now reporting news that might make the issue give the Governmnt a headache even sooner:
The government has been warned it must give prisoners in Scotland and Wales the right to vote in May's elections or risk compensation claims for allegedly breaking human rights laws. Ministers had thought a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights would force them to give prisoners the vote only in Westminster or European parliamentary elections. But giving evidence to MPs lawyers said the ruling applied to all elections that create a legislature, such as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.