James Forsyth

A preview of the rebellions to come

A preview of the rebellions to come
Text settings

Today’s papers are full of the Tory right asserting itself. In the Mail On Sunday, Mark Pritchard—secretary of the 1922 committee—demands that the Prime Minister and his allies come clean about any plans to create a long-term political alliance between the Tories and the Lib Dems. In The Sunday Telegraph, there’s a report that Tory rebels will vote with Labour to try and defeat the coalition’s European Union Bill. I suspect that these stories presage one of the major themes of the year, an increasingly assertive right of the Tory parliamentary party.

For too long, Cameron has neglected his own MPs both politically and personally. The result is a willingness to cause trouble for the government. As I write in the Mail On Sunday, there is discussion about putting down an amendment to the European Union bill forcing an in out referendum on membership. This would create an unwelcome distraction for Cameron.

The other revolt, and an issue on which I believe Cameron could well lose, is prisoner voting. Tory MPs are appalled that the coalition has responded to the European Court of Human Right’s ruling against Britain’s blanket ban on prisoners voting with a plan to allow anyone sentenced to less than four years to vote from their cell. Their anger has been heightened by the coalition’s false claims that it has no choice other than to do this. (In truth, it could have complied with the court’s verdict by setting the cut-off point at, say, a year.)

Over the holidays, opposition to the coalition’s enfranchisement of prisoners has grown. If Cameron doesn’t back track, there is going to be a mighty row.