By Paul Goodman
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11.30pm Update List of Conservative MPs who opposed Second Reading:
Tellers: Peter Bone and Craig Whittaker.
The 91 figure comes from Sky News. It may not be quite right. But we can be sure that the revolt against the bill has beaten last autumn's 82 votes for a EU referendum.
So how big a proportion of Conservative backbenchers is 91?
Let's work on the assumption that there are roughly 207 Tory backbenchers. This is because there are 307 Conservative MPs in total. At least 80 serve as Commons Ministers or Whips. Add the Parliamentary Private Secretaries - there appears to be no complete record of them on the net - and one can't be far short of 100 members of the front bench.
So 91 is well over a third of all backbenchers and approaching half - 103 or so.
But wait. 91 is just the number that voted against the bill. There will be abstentions as well. So it's more likely than not that if one adds votes against to abstentions over half of all Tory backbenchers failed to support it.
And since some Ministers will have held their noses and voted for the bill it's fair to say that there's no consensus for it among the 307 Conservative MPs.
PPS Conor Burns resigned from the Government this afternoon and PPS Angie Bray has been sacked for voting against the bill.
By Matthew Barrett
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There is a letter in today's Guardian from Adrian Yalland, a former approved Conservative candidate and now a lobbyist, which defends MPs in light of Eric Joyce's arrest for assault earlier this week.
The crucial part of the letter is:
"As a result of the stress, many have an ambivalent attitude towards the job (both loving and hating it), drink too much, exercise too little, eat unhealthily, work too many hours, and end up in unfortunate situations. Many are lonely, unhappy and living in debt. But they cannot say so, because they would be misunderstood by the media and the electorate, and shown no sympathy because "many others want to do your job". The vast majority of MPs I know, across all parties, are motivated by a commitment to making this country better. Very few go into politics for an easy life or to get rich. But do we have to make it so manifestly difficult for them to do their job? In the end, it is we, the electorate, who suffer."
Yalland ends his letter by saying "it's surely time to support our MPs". But the question is whether MPs will receive support from people outside former Parliamentary candidates and the Westminster village.
If there were to be a re-examination of attitudes towards MPs from the public at large, it would be a sign that the 2010 intake has learnt the lessons of the last Parliament and is managing to change perceptions of this one. There is no sign of this happening at present, however.
By Paul Goodman
Bernard Jenkin, the 1922 Committee's point-man on the AV referendum, is collecting signatures for an Early Day Motion. The EDM apparently questions the proposed timing of the poll. Jenkin's not been backward in coming forward on the matter: he recently explained why, in his view, there should be a turnout threshold when the vote's held, and why holding it on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh elections would distort the result.
So far, so unexceptional: EDMs are the lowest form of Parliamentary life, and one more doesn't usually make much difference to anything (even when it's right, as this one seems to be). But I gather from a furious member of the new intake that this one has seriously disturbed the Whips - who are trying to get MPs who've signed the EDM to remove their signature before it's tabled.
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