31 Oct 2012

Tory rebels not there yet – and there isn’t long left

“We need 50 and we’re at 46,” one Tory rebel leader said to me just now.

There’s a growing mood around here that the rebels won’t get there, that Ed Miliband piling in on David Cameron in the chamber at PMQs and comparing him to John Major hasn’t helped Tory rebel recruitment and that it’ll be close but not defeat for the PM. But the debate could still swing people so it’s not over just yet.

Some Labour MPs are underwhelmed by the Labour leadership’s position: they will decide how they vote on the pretty big issue of support for a cut in the EU Budget depending on how things look on the Tory rebellion as the day goes on. One Labour MP said to me: “Fantastic, we will wait to decide our position on Europe depending on how Douglas Carswell sees things around 3 o’clock. Merkel will be impressed by that!”

But Labour isn’t expecting much dissent at all, even if you can easily picture Tony Blair, David Miliband and Peter Mandelson looking privately exasperated with the party’s stance.

When you ask senior Labour figures or Tory rebels the question; “What about the argument that a failure to agree an EU budget means the current one will rise anyway?” you get a variation of; “So what?”.

“I can’t sell that on the doorstep,” a Tory MP said to me. “We’re not going to shape policy around Cameron’s failure to build alliances in Europe,” a senior Labour figure tells me.

Watching this and other twists and turns in other countries’ demands over the EU budget it’s hard to see how all 27 countries are going to be ready to sign up to anything by the time of next month’s summit.

Follow Gary’s blogs on Twitter via @GaryGibbonBlogs

Tweets by @garygibbonc4