Last night, the Government managed to pass its much-heralded reform, English Votes for English Laws.

Set aside for a minute whether or not you think it’s a good reform, there are many writing elsewhere on that topic.

Note instead that the Government, despite a very slender majority, has managed to get one of its more controversial innovations onto the statute book.

One of the major challenges facing the Prime Minister in this Parliament is the fact that he went into the election with a very ambitious manifesto – expecting, no doubt, to have to barter away the harder edges in the widely-predicted event of a second hung parliament.

A small majority – which, as Chris White pointed out on this site it, is de facto 16 on matters where we can’t win Unionist support – is seldom conducive to aggressive legislative programmes.

When the Government initially retreated from its plans to accelerate the implementation of EVEL that could well have been the end of it. Yet here it is.

What does this tell us about the chances of other particularly controversial elements of the Tory manifesto, such as scrapping the Human Rights Act?

First, to expect modifications and moderations. The version of EVEL the Government has passed is fa less sweeping than it might have been.

English (or English and Welsh) MPs can amend legislation which only applies to their constituencies, and prevent it reaching the statute book. But all bills still require the consent of the full House to pass.

This means that, as it stands, English and Welsh MPs can’t enact legislation by themselves. It is simply a tool by which they can negotiate with the Government and the Commons – a significant change.

As I explained the other day, the process of compromise on EVEL is mind-bendingly technical. If Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, were to seek some kind of middle way on the HRA, the technicalities are probably where he’ll look.

It is possible to imagine the Government trying, instead of repealing the Act, to amend it in some way so as to make it more British.

Whether this is legally or practically possible, or of any actual value to opponent of the Act, is unclear. But, in principle, it would similar to the approach David Cameron is taking to the EU renegotiation: try to use some reform to the substance of the thing to justify retaining it.

In all this, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are still in the early stages of what is currently a fixed, five-year Parliament.

The Government is going to have to face whatever challenges the next five years throw up with a slender majority which will, if history is any indication, only shrink before 2020.

But despite that note of caution, yesterday’s vote shows that it might be possible to enact at least part of the Government’s reforming agenda even in such circumstances, which is good news for those of us who want more from a Tory government than straight-jacketed managerialism.

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