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What David Cameron will tell the Parliamentary Party tomorrow

As I tweeted yesterday, David Cameron has called a Parliamentary Party meeting tomorrow at 18.00 - probably in the Commons, but the venue's to be confirmed.

During the last Parliament, such gatherings, chaired by the Chief Whip, replaced the weekly 1922 Committee meetings of all Conservative MPs, chaired by the '22 Committee Chairman, as the main vehicle for leadership announcements.

The decision to drop the Lisbon referendum, for example, was broken to the Parliamentary Party at a special meeting.  Michael Howard, and other very senior loyalists with a right-of-Party-centre reputation, spoke in support - and were called to contribute early, in a manoeuvre that was clearly pre-arranged.

I suspect that tomorrow's event will have a similar flavour.  Cameron's most unlikely to breeze into the room and announce: "I say, chaps: I've been thinking of offering that Norman Baker a Cabinet seat - what do you all think, eh?"

This isn't to say that he won't ask for questions.  He will.  But the pattern of the meeting's more likely to be as follows.

Cameron will sweep in.  If the venue's Committee Room 14, or another room in the Palace of Westminster, the yet-to-be-sworn-in MPs will bang the desks.  If they're Whips, Shadow Ministers, or new boys who want to be either, they'll bang the desks especially loudly.

Cameron will then thank them for coming - and all for their hard work before and during the campaign.  He'll then say that it's a pity that the Conservatives are just short of a majority, but that the result was an amazing achievement - biggest swing outside Alton Towers, more seats than a furniture factory, and so on (Much banging of desks.)

He'll stress that his offer to Clegg has safeguarded Tory positions on key issues - defence, immigration, the EU.  And on cutting the deficit.  He'll rule out supporting PR - though whether he'll also rule out a referendum on it is a compelling question.

He'll go on to say that he knows everything hasn't been perfect.  But that colleagues have run a great race, and the winning post is in sight.  And that he wants his colleagues to have the great privilege of serving the British people as Ministers.  (Some desk-tapping and "hear hear"-ing, as each present ponders his chances.)

He'll finish by saying that the eyes of the nation are on them.  Sliding pound, market turmoil, chaos in Greece, volcanic ash, and so on.  Time for discipline. Time for unity.  Time to get Brown to send for the removal van. (Loud cheers and noisy desk-thumping.)

The Chief Whip will then ask for questions, requesting that they be kept brief.  "Big Beasts" will pile in, proclaiming that David will be remembered as the Party's greatest leader since Edward IIII, that he deserves support, and that it's time for discipline and unity.

Those unhappy will then get the chance to have their say.  Don't be surprised if they're in a minority. Whether this is so or not, the key point is this: Cameron's prime purpose won't be to seek the views of others, but to tell them his own.

Does this mean that he'll have a deal with the Liberal Democrats to announce? Not necessarily.  So why's he calling the meeting in the first place?  Because he knows that regardless of whether a deal's in place, or is hanging in the balance, or has fallen through, it's important to keep the initiative.  After all, it's better to call for such a meeting than to have others call for it - probably off the record but possibly, and far worse, on it.

Paul Goodman


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