Coffee House

Tories win knife fight using devious and confusing methods

17 June 2014

6:31 PM

17 June 2014

6:31 PM

As expected, Nick de Bois’ amendment to the Criminal Courts and Justice Bill passed 404 votes to 53. It owes nothing to the Conservative frontbench, which abstained for reasons I’ve tried my best to outline here (it’s difficult to explain something that doesn’t make a grab deal of sense, especially when both parties have voted in different ways before, as on the boundary changes). And it owes nothing to the Liberal Democrats, who opposed the measure in Cabinet and in this vote.

The result this evening is an example of the way the Coalition has reshaped the workings of government. Can’t get the Cabinet agreement you need on a policy? Let it rise up from the backbenches instead and hope for an unholy alliance with the Opposition. The Tories are of course practising the same logic with the EU referendum bill, having been frustrated on introducing this as a government bill for a second time by the Lib Dems, but they will not get Labour’s support for that piece of legislation.

The Tory backbenches have become more important and dangerous under this Coalition. Rebellious Conservatives dramatically changed the way the government works, as illustrated by the revolt on the Immigration Bill led by Dominic Raab. But backbench MPs are now also important ministerial weapons. They can introduce legislation that a Coalition partner will block at Cabinet level, although as David Cameron knows, this new power won’t always benefit him: his MPs are just as likely to introduce legislation he’d quite like his Coalition partners to block.

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Show comments
  • Denis_Cooper

    We need a general election.

  • Ian Walker

    So one upshot of coalition government is that you can bypass your coalition partner by coming up with sensible legislation that appeal to a broad base of MPs, and therefore by extension the public?

    This is a problem why?

  • Brigantian

    This amendment is only worthwhile if it keeps celebrity chefs off television.

  • anyfool

    Most legislation should be initiated by back benchers especially in a coalition, if the leader and cabinet took a more stand off view to EU legislation, you would find that what does come through will be better thought out than letting civil servants draw up the acts.
    This way you would also find they are not gold plated by the jobsworths that make up what nowadays is a very poor quality Whitehall machine.
    After all that is why we elect them.