I count 26 critical questions from Conservative backbenchers to David Lidington after his statement on the Government’s EU referendum leaflet to 5 supportive ones.
The former came from: Ken Clarke, Nicholas Soames, Damian Green, Nick Herbert and Simon Hoare.
The latter came from: John Redwood, Liam Fox, Bill Cash, Owen Paterson, Crispin Blunt, Cheryl Gillan, William Wragg, Bernard Jenkin, Nigel Adams, Julian Lewis, Nadine Dorries, Edward Leigh, Bob Stewart, Christopher Chope, David Jones, Andrea Jenkyns, Steve Double, Anne Main, Nigel Evans, Martin Vickers, Peter Bone, Andrew Bridgen, Philip Davies, Stewart Jackson, Richard Drax and Tom Pursglove.
One must conclude from this imbalance either that the Remain camp isn’t convinced that the Government should be spending £9 million or so on its leaflet and website or that it believed the statement not to be important (or both).
My former Parliamentary neighbour deserves some sort of honour – a hereditary peerage, say – for taking bullets on the Government’s behalf during EU related Commons statements. Why is Philip Hammond never available to do so?
9am The Foreign Office gets in touch to say that the Foreign Secretary was unavailable to take the statement yesterday because he was representing Britain at the G7. But our point was not that he was unavailable yesterday, but that he is somehow never available for these tricky statements. Over on Twitter, Chris White points out that these occasions represent “what the whips might euphemistically call a ‘career enhancing opportunity’ when Messrs Lidington and Gauke are ‘voluntold’ “.