Boundary decision day tomorrow
Tomorrow morning’s government whips meeting will be a very unusual one. After talking through (most of) the business of the day, Conservative and Lib Dem whips will go their separate ways to plot against each other on the day’s key vote: the boundary review.
You get a flavour here from the Lords debate earlier this month how ratty this particular row can get.
Labour and the Lib Dems are fretting that the Democratic Unionists might have been made an offer by the Tories to bring them on-side. Their support (assuming full Tory attendance) would bring the Tories up to 319, still short of the 326 threshold for victory. One rumour doing the rounds is that they’ve been offered an exemption for Northern Ireland from the review (the DUP fears it could lose out under the current planned review, and also lose out on Northern Ireland Assembly seats as the constituencies there are drawn inside Westminster boundaries.) Lib Dems mutter they wouldn’t let the Tories get away with that.
One DUP source denied any deal had been done and suggested the DUP MPs would not be like turkeys voting for Christmas. We shall see.
Government sources say the threat to return to all this with another Commons vote in the autumn is not going to happen, in part because Tory whips and party figures say selection in seats needs to be settled quicker than that to bed in candidates, but also because rivalry between sitting MPs for seats where constituencies merge will only add to the ill will on some parts of the Tory benches.
Anyway, this is one of those periods when MPs are talking about something that isn’t on the news agenda for just about anyone else. Tomorrow will be tightly whipped: one MP very close to giving birth is expecting to come in to vote. There are some possible Tory rebel votes and/or abstentions that are being worked on. Some senior Tories close to David Cameron have said they don’t think their party can win the next election outright without the boundary review. Labour thinks it’s pretty “existential” stuff for them too. And the Lib Dem leadership thinks a very tough election could be turned into an abysmal one in 2015 if Lib Dem MPs had to fight wards they hadn’t pounded for ages rather than the settled borders of the seats they’ve known for years. The vote will come mid-afternoon tomorrow.
The very latest is that the government chief whip, Sir George Young, is telling folk he doesn’t think he can win it. And as he can’t be sure of 100 per cent support on his own side, that’s how it looks like it will go.
Given it could’ve given the Tories around 20 seats by some estimates, remember this moment when the seats are tallied in May 2015. It could be decisive.
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