29 Oct 2014

Tories to rush arrest warrant vote for fear of worse

The government’s decided to bring forward the planned date for the vote on when it tries to re-join European Arrest Warrant (EAW). It will now happen in the first half of next month.

Tory rebels have been threatening 100 dissidents in the vote. Some are now saying that number could be greater.

So why risk such an unhappy evening for the leadership in the run-up to the Rochester by-election?

David Cameron

There was space the other side of the Rochester by-election to hold the vote. Agreement to re-enter the EAW is needed by 1 December and the by-election is 20 November.

The truth is the Tories believe the chances of losing Rochester are increasing. They haven’t given up on the seat but recognise it’s not going well. A vote in the immediate aftermath of a defeat risks fuelling the rebellion and ramping up a mini-crisis into a bigger one. The leadership has decided the balance of risks supports going earlier.

Tory rebellion

Labour is adamant there will be no last minute tricks on their part and they will not withdraw support for EAW re-entry so the vote will be passed. One Tory backbencher said if his whips were hoping the threat of the by-election would limit the rebellion they would be disappointed. He and others I’ve spoken to point to the vote on Zac Goldsmith’s Recall amendment when they say their expectations of the Tory rebellion were wildly exceeded by about 40 per cent.

MPs, they say, wanted support for the tougher recall measure in the amendment on their election literature and they will, similarly, want opposition to the EAW on their leaflets too. The whips with the Home Office are planning a big effort to squeeze down that insurrection. The rebels are hoping to take to the airwaves and newspapers stoking up the arguments in the week ahead.

Some at the top of the Tory Party feel they’ve got too hung up on talking about immigration and Europe in the last few weeks and risk fuelling Ukip support every time they do that. They want to get the political debate back onto the economy and welfare. But today, at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron and Ed Miliband were still stuck in the issue.

Ed Miliband attacked David Cameron’s shattered pledge to get net immigration down to below 100,000.┬áDavid Cameron attacked Labour’s record on immigration in government. It’s hard to imagine either of them making converts from exchanges that Ukip would probably happily put in its election broadcast. One Tory member of the government told me he found the exchanges “depressing beyond belief.”

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