Conservative Diary

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111 MPs (including more than 80 Tories) take part in biggest ever rebellion on EU

By Tim Montgomerie
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This is what I write in tomorrow's Guardian:

"After this evening Cameron needs to relaunch his whole style of governing. We are only 18 months into the parliament but problems that normally characterise senile governments are already evident. If he does not reconcile with the unhappy squad on his backbenches, the next few years will get a lot unhappier. Ed Miliband may not look like a prime minister in waiting, but Tory strategists are in danger of gambling too many chips on the Labour leader's weaknesses. Voters hate divided parties but the Conservative party is in serious danger of getting a reputation for disunity again. Add in the prospect of many years of declining incomes for many families and you have a dangerous political recipe.

When Downing Street called me last week and asked for my advice on how to handle the EU vote issue, I suggested they take a step back. I urged them to think of this as an issue of party management, not Europe. The rebels won't obey the captain if they don't feel part of the team. Large numbers of MPs, commentators and centre-right campaigners have little or no contact with No 10. Many others don't think they or, just as significantly, the ideas they cherish will ever be promoted. Downing Street has been repeatedly warned of discontent. Those warnings were ignored, and that discontent erupted on a grand scale today. Unless Cameron becomes a lot more collegiate, it's only going to get worse."

Read the full piece.

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