Today’s press relay the startling news that a group of rebel Conservative MPs may be about to deliver what Sky News calls “the first defeat in a Queen’s Speech vote in nearly 100 years”.
Some Vote Leave-supporting Tories – Sky names Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Steve Baker, and Peter Lilley – have signed a cross-party amendment which purports to protect the NHS from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The amendment expresses regret that the Government hasn’t included a Bill to protect the NHS from some of TTIP’s provisions in the Queen’s Speech, although the Prime Minister insists that the Health Service is not at risk.
Since 1924 the closest a Government has ever come to losing such a vote was in 2013, when 130 Conservative MPs backed an amendment laid down by John Baron and Peter Bone regretting that the EU referendum was not being held sooner.
Pro-Leave MPs are increasingly unhappy about the Government’s conduct during the referendum campaign, as Baker set out on this site this morning, which may explain why some are willing to give David Cameron a bloody nose.
It also highlights the temptations and strategic difficulties that the small Tory majority – which our editor argues has already produced a very cautious Queen’s Speech – poses for Labour.
The Opposition want to be seen to be part of a united, pro-EU front but can’t resist an opportunity to exploit the Government’s small majority.
Nothing could be better for Labour, after all, than a 1990s-style civil war between Cameron and his eurosceptic backbenchers.
Hard-left Jeremy Corbyn is also much more avowedly anti-TTIP than he is pro-EU, so he may consider giving a win to the Leavers to be a low price for a theatrical Commons victory.