Conservative Diary

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David Cameron fails to carry a majority of his backbench MPs

By my count, there are 76 Conservative Ministers in the new Government.  This number is of course lower than usual because of the Coalition.  Bear in mind that a full list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, who are part of the payroll vote, is yet to be published.

Now let's assume that every Minister voted for David Cameron's proposed 1922 Committee change.  Then subtract that 76 from the total of 168 Conservative MPs who did so.

Which leaves 92.  In other words, only 92 backbench Tory MPs voted for the leadership-backed plan, while 118 voted against.

Admittedly, my count of Ministers may be out slightly.  And a few of them will quietly have voted against the proposal.

Nonetheless, it's reasonably clear that a majority of Conservative backbenchers voted against David Cameron today.  The result will worry the Whips deeply.  It's made their work a lot more difficult.

Yet more evidence, then, of why the leadership's push is short-term smart (assuming that it now gets the 1922 Committee election results it wants), medium-term foolish.

A week ago, Cameron retained the goodwill of most of his MPs, despite failing to win the election outright and forming a coalition with an opposing party - on what many of them regarded as dubious terms.

However, much of that goodwill's vanished since yesterday afternoon, driven out by resentment, grievance and anger.  Tory MPs not usually prone to excitement are citing their leader in the same sentence as Kim Il Sung and Robert Mugabe.

Today, times are good for the Conservative leader.  But tomorrow, they may not be.  He needs capital in the bank with his backbenchers.  It's now running dangerously low.

Paul Goodman


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