Sources close to the Tory leader insist that you mustn’t call the 7.15pm  vote this evening – on the amendment regretting the lack of a referendum bill – a “rebellion.” Which begs the question as to why so many Tory whips are busily trying to turn some supporters into abstentions.

One senior and very active “rebel” MP said the idea that the prime minister was toasting him in New York was hilarious. One of his allies said nothing would turn him, and that the PM simply “cannot be trusted,” but he acknowledged that the whips’ work was wearing down some rebels and numbers might be “closer to 60 or 70″ than the 100 plus that had been hoped for earlier.

Edward Leigh, who will most definitely not be turned on the amendment, asked Nick Clegg if the leaflet (below) in which someone claiming to be Nick Clegg promises an in/out referendum was an “imposter or a hypocrite”?

15 GG w What rebellion? Tory whips prepare for EU vote

The plotting for a leadership coup that started last autumn was fizzling out this spring.

There were still a few organisers doing the rounds asking MPs to sign up and pursuing the idea of letters to the 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady demanding a vote of no confidence in the leader. But they weren’t getting much pick-up and some who had been “maybes” for the whole enterprise were signalling they’d got cold feet.

But much the same crowd has re-formed around a different project: bringing down the coalition. They are determined that the Tories must go into the next election shorn of their Lib Dem encumbrances as they see them and free to speak their minds.

The incidental damage of such an act, in defiance of their leader, might well bring down David Cameron if it succeeded. But that would be a (for some a close) secondary aim. There is much more to this rebellion for some participants than they would have you think.

UPDATE

I hear that annoyance at the government trying to whip what is supposed to be a free, unwhipped vote is potentially running the tally of votes for the amendment up again. Some rebels are still saying they have “around 100″.

There were suggestions that the meeting of Tory backbenchers, the 1922 Committee, could turn into a moment for airing some of that anger. One PPS I spoke to, who was angry with the “rebels”, said he wanted to vote against the amendment and had been ordered by his whip not to do so. Lewis Carroll, thou should’st be living at this hour.

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