Adam Afriyie’s sleepless nights are over. His amendments to the European Union (Referendum) Bill are now down and waiting hopefully for signatures. The MP claimed at the weekend that he had cross-party support for his call for an early referendum, but currently only two names – Afriyie’s and Keith Vaz – feature on the paper. Given the ambitious MP’s attempt to shake things up in the Conservative party didn’t have quite the desired effect, it will be interesting to see which MPs still think it worth signing these two amendments, which add 23 October 2014 as the referendum date to the legislation.
The newly beefed-up whips office may not see this as its greatest threat. But I understand that Greg Hands, who replaced John Randall as deputy chief whip, will have to pick up his predecessor’s schemes for getting the bill passed. I hear that Randall had been plotting in great detail the method by which this backbench legislation could become an act rather than just a political tool with which to goad Labour and the Lib Dems on their position on an EU referendum. He had worked out a number of mechanisms, and it is now Hands’ job to make sure that these are exercised.Tags: Adam Afriyie, EU referendum, Greg Hands, UK politics