MPs will vote on the second reading of the unpopular lobbying bill at around 7pm. It has not had a particularly enjoyable introduction to the Commons this afternoon, with attacks from Labour and nervous questions from Coalition MPs worried about its effect on innocent charities. Some Tory MPs – including Douglas Carswell – intend to vote against the second reading, but from conversations I’ve had with backbenchers this afternoon, it looks as though a bigger rebellion will come on the programme motion, which puts the bill into a committee of the whole house (good) but with a guillotine – or time limit – for debate (bad). The reason the guillotine is bad is that it stops proper consideration of the bill, cutting the number of opportunities to iron out flaws. A few Tory MPs are also considering supporting Graham Allen’s motion delaying the legislation as well. In the debate, David Davis told Angela Eagle that ‘I rather agree with her’ that the bill was being pushed through the House with ‘excessive haste’, and asked whether the Opposition would vote against the guillotine. She confirmed that she would.
I’ve already explained why the row about this legislation has obscured what the Conservatives had hoped would be a fantastic opportunity to prod Labour’s union links (they were so complacent about the legislation that I understand ministers hadn’t planned a programme of union attacks and were instead expecting that backbenchers would rise to the opportunity to join in their favourite sport of union-bashing). But that there is a potential for a rebellion in their own ranks (albeit a small one) just serves to underline that a serious running sore in the party has not healed, in spite of the good summer the party enjoyed. That running sore is that Tory MPs just don’t trust the leadership and their ministerial colleagues when they tell them that a policy is fine, well-drafted and well-backed up with evidence. They had a period after the 2012 budget where U-turns appeared when the ink was barely dry on letters explaining pasty and caravan taxes to constituents. That omnishambles was a long time ago, but last week’s Syria vote showed that backbenchers just can’t take the Prime Minister at his word when he asks them to trust him on a serious decision. And this week MPs aren’t sure whether it’s worth taking ministers at their word on the lobbying bill.
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