Peter Hoskin

Simmering below the surface...

Simmering below the surface...
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By way of an addendum to Fraser's post, it's worth reading Melissa Kite's account of internal Tory strife for the Sunday Telegraph (it doesn't seem to be in the paper, but is available online here). The piece records what sounds like a tumultuous week for the Tory whips, as they struggled to keep a group of disgruntled MPs on side. There are plenty of little insights, of which this is just a selection:

1) The 1922 Committee gets angry. "The ceding of a series of major powers to Europe, the increasing of international aid, the decision to have a referendum on voting reform, the redrawing of constituency boundaries – all had been eating away at Tory backbenchers for months. Worse than that, their concerns had been repeatedly brushed aside by Mr Cameron.

Forced into the division lobbies to back a European foreign ministry and increased EU budget, they felt enough was enough.

Tensions boiled over at a tumultuous session of the 1922 committee of backbenchers on Wednesday during which MPs exploded in anger at Sir George Young, Leader of the House.

'It was very ugly,' said one MP present. 'Some of the older members said it was the most ferocious session of the 22 they had known in twenty years.'"

2) The new intake. "The most vociferous critics of the Coalition were new intake MPs, young, ambitious men and women in their 30s and 40s."

3) Vengeance voting. "This newspaper understands that more than a dozen Tory MPs told the whips before the tuition fees vote on Thursday that they might vote against the legislation purely in protest at how they had been treated."

4) The whips go nuclear.
"At one stage, Tory whips were so desperate they called in potential rebels and told them that if they voted against the government, they would not get any help to find a new constituency when the proposed boundary changes went through."

5) The Birth of the Conservative Mainstream? "Insiders say there is now a very serious prospect that Mr Cameron could be held to ransom by a group of Conservative backbenchers who may organise themselves into a pressure group prepared to vote against the Coalition when the numbers are tight.

They might even give themselves a name, some have suggested, such as Conservative Mainstream."