The shocking thing about the government's defeat this afternoon is that it can be described as a shock at all. And parliamentarians wonder why they are viewed with, to put it mildly, disdain? Anyone with an ounce of commonsense can see that it is grotesque to tell the Gurkhas that they may fight in the British army but they cannot live in Britain. And yet 246 MPs duly blundered through the government lobby solely so they could be good little soldiers themselves and try and spare their masters some much-deserved embarrassment.
Then again, it's a testament to the reduced expectations people have of parliament that it actually is a surprise that enough Labour MPs found sufficient reserves of conscience to vote against the government to produce the right result.
Such is the tyranny of the Whips Office. Parliamentary politics in this country would be well-served if there were more back-bench rebellions and if the power of the whips and the Downing Street machine were much reduced. Then again, any such developments would be treated by the press as proof that the government - any government - was losing its way, not as evidence of parliament debating matters in the proper spirit. So, in that sense, there is a logic to demanding blind, ignorant, contemptible party loyalty.