On Monday night, a member of the Number 10 Policy Board, Peter Lilley, voted against the government. Now, in the past, it has been made clear to the MPs on the board that if they defied the whip they would have to resign or be sacked. But despite this, Lilley is staying in place. Number 10 clearly doesn’t feel in a position to pick a fight over the European Arrest Warrant.
Now, you can make a case that Lilley should be treated differently from the rest of the Policy Board. The rest of the Board is made up of new MPs, Lilley—by contrast—is a distinguished former Cabinet Minister. One can argue that on this basis, he should be cut a bit more slack. But Jesse Norman, who was sacked from the Board for merely abstaining on the Syria vote in 2013, is entitled to feel rather raw today.
One gets the distinct impression that the failure to sack Lilley for not voting with the government is born of weakness, not a new more broad-minded approach to party discipline. After the shambles that was Monday night, Downing Street clearly wants to move on from the European Arrest Warrant as quickly as possible and has no desire to create a martyr over the matter.
None of this will be much noticed outside the Tory ranks at Westminster. But sending out mixed signals on party discipline is never a good idea for a Prime Minister.