As expected, this evening the Commons approved the 1.25 per cent increase in National Insurance, with 319 votes in favour and 248 against. The Tory rebellion was tiny – far smaller even than the predictions earlier today of 20 or so voting against. Just five MPs opposed the motion: John Redwood, Esther McVey, Christopher Chope, Philip Davies and Neil Hudson.
There were rather more abstentions from rebels who had previously been outspoken in their opposition to the policy, for reasons I set out earlier.
Some MPs who didn’t vote, by the way, weren’t protesting: they just weren’t in Westminster because the government had sprung this vote on them at the last minute. Indeed, the rush to hold the vote meant that what opponents there were didn’t have time to get organised. There was no rebel whipping operation, no ginger group or faction leading the charge and so it was easy for the Tory whips to peel people off.
Tonight’s result means that Boris Johnson can say that despite his party normally being pretty rebellious, it has given him a resounding backing on a controversial policy. It also pushes the focus still more onto the Labour party and its refusal to either back the government’s plan or offer an alternative.