21 May 2013

Gay marriage vote ends bruising few days for Cameron

There were 136 Tory rebels (including two tellers) tonight voting against the gay marriage bill. That’s almost the same as second reading (137 including two tellers).

It looks on this, as in the earlier vote, around 40 per cent of Tory MPs (123 this time) took the time to support David Cameron‘s personally endorsed bill. Owen Paterson and David James, both cabinet ministers, opposed the bill.

It’s a bruising end to a rough few days for David Cameron and, these rebels hope, a message to the Lords to do their worst with the bill.

I’m told by one cabinet minister who has seen David Cameron in cabinet today and at a recent cabinet committee that the stress was showing on him more than this individual felt they’d seen before.

I met one Tory MP this afternoon who had literally just come down from the office of the chairman of the 1922 committee, where he had just deposited his letter demanding a vote of no confidence in the Tory leader. That doesn’t mean there are anywhere near the 46 letters (15 per centĀ of the parliamentary party) required to trigger that vote, but it shows you that for at least one MP the gay marriage measure was enough.

I bumped into Frank Dobson who suggested he’d found the perfect bill to keep the Tories’ nerves on edge and destabilise the party in perpetuity. It would be called the Compulsory Religious Same Sex Marriage to Romanians and Bulgarians (Gassing Badgers) Bill.

One Tory cabinet minister I bumped into said if Frank attached the word “referendum” at the end, it might just do the trick.

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