8 Dec 2010

Tuition fees: number crunching ahead of key vote

About half a dozen Tory MPs are muttering about rebelling over tuition fees tomorrow night and the number of Lib Dem MPs currently telling their whips that they intend to vote against has gone up from 13. Plenty of time between now and the vote for those numbers to alter again.

David Davis will have the company of former Tory frontbencher Julian Lewis MP in the “No” lobby tomorrow night. Others, like Lee Scott and Tracy Crouch, may yet be imposed upon to come round or abstain. Chancellor George Osborne is being deployed to talk potential Tory dissidents through the arguments and encourage them to see things his way.

But there will be no Lib Dem ministerial resignations and it looks, right now, as if there will be only one Lib Dem PPS who votes “no” and thereby forfeits his job – Michael Crockart, PPS to the Scottish Secretary. Other PPS’s may abstain and keep their jobs.

Under Labour, the concessions in the run-up to a key vote used to be specially tailored to win over specific campaigning backbenchers. The concessions outlined by the government over the weekend and more today don’t seem to be specific bait in the same way. They’re more for public consumption. The arm-twisting inside Parliament is more focused on repeating the arguments, peppered with promises and/or threats.

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