Conservative MPs who have previously supported statutory underpinning of press regulation are meeting on Monday morning to discuss how they will vote. There is a list of 75 Tories who have backed the idea, but I understand that if an agreement isn’t reached on Monday between the main parties, there are around 20 MPs who would be minded to vote against the Conservative three-line whip and support Labour’s amendments.
The Conservative part of the government has just published its Royal Charter, and Labour and the Lib Dems are also tabling more amendments today. Once all the information is available, pro-statute Tory MPs will make up their mind on whether to back their own party, or the others. George Eustice, who is heading up the pro-statute group, tells me:
‘Overwhelmingly the view on the Conservative side now is we’re trying to get a deal now on the Royal Charter. If that really can’t be done, then there’s a group that would be willing to vote with Labour and the Lib Dems. But I think both sides need to just show a little bit of movement just to get these final things agreed.
‘My position is that I would be willing to vote with the Labour amendment if all else fails, but my preference is that we still get a deal on Monday morning, and that’s where most of Conservative MPs would be on that side of the debate.’
There currently is no plan for the PM to meet his wavering backbenchers ahead of Monday evening’s vote, and neither, as things stand, will Maria Miller hold a similar meeting as Culture Secretary. But it will be interesting to see how the whips play this. Will they go over the top, as they did with the last big rebellion?
UPDATE, 4pm: I’m now told that there will be phone calls from ‘various people’ in Number 10 over the weekend to those who might rebel. And Labour and the Lib Dems have now published their own Royal Charter here.Tags: Conservatives, Leveson, press reform, UK politics