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CCHQ unveils poster to mark today's debate on James Wharton's referendum bill

Screen shot 2013-07-05 at 07.24.16
By Paul Goodman

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David Cameron's charm offensive (target: Conservative MPs) and Grant Shapps's publicity offensive (target: voters) continues this morning with the launch of a poster to mark today's second reading of James Wharton's referendum bill.

The poster will be displayed at what CCHQ describe as "high-traffic locations".  Watch out for one if you're passing that digital billboard on the Vauxhall roundabout. (I apologise to our non-London based readers for this piece of capitalcitycentricbias.)

The poster won't change anything, of course, but is all part and parcel of the more purposeful Party activity of the last few weeks. The Prime Minister hosted a barbecue for Tory MPs in Downing Street's garden earlier this week, and e-mailed party activists about today's bill.

Christopher Chope has written a useful cut-out-and-keep guide in the House Magazine to the perils Wharton will face as he seeks to steer his bill through the treacherous waters of the Commons.

The Christchurch MP clearly expects the bill to survive today.  (Labour and Libdem MPs are expected to stay away.)  He identifies a future vote on a money resolution and the report stage of the bill as dangerous moments, particularly the latter.

Wharton will need to move closure motions if necessary, and will be reliant on the goodwill of his colleagues with regard to amendments.  If too many of them are too insistent on these, the bill will be lost.

ConservativeHome wishes the best of British to the Stockton South MP, who was interviewed by Andrew Gimson for the site recently.  But despite Cameron's and Shapps's activity this week, the key player on the bill could well turn out to be Ed Miliband.

Labour will stay away today, but they may turn up later - to demand a referendum before 2015.  I see that Ian Austin, a key Brown henchman and Balls associate, has come out for one.  I smell a plot: Balls is known to favour a poll.

Any Miliband decision to demand a pre-2015 referendum would well and truly set the tiger among the pigeons.  This would demand decisiveness from the man that Tom Watson described yesterday as having "Buddha-like qualities" - i.e: being torpid to the point of narcolepsy.


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