The Conservative party is all abuzz this afternoon, but it’s not about the Autumn Statement. They’ve been told that there is a three-line whip vote on ‘something’ on Thursday. Not even the whips know what the vote is on, other than that they must tell MPs to turn up. Labour is also on a three-line whip.
Apparently all will be revealed tomorrow at the Autumn Statement, which suggests that this is going to be some kind of elephant trap laid by George Osborne for Labour. It will most likely be the the ‘budget surplus rule’, which commits the government to eliminating the structural deficit by 2017/18 and is an attempt by the Chancellor to force Labour either into accepting his plans and supporting it, or suggesting it is fiscally incontinent by voting against it. Of course, no legislation can bind a future government anyway, but repealing such legislation would be politically awkward.
Or it could be something else that the Chancellor will spring on Labour tomorrow and leave them in disarray for 24 hours as they try to decide what they think about his measure and how they should vote. Whatever it is, the mysterious nature of the vote suggests that someone somewhere is plotting something.
UPDATE, 8.50pm: A well-placed source confirms to me that this vote is indeed business relating to the Autumn Statement. Which means that if nothing else, Osborne is trying to spin out as many days of headlines as possible from this week. So far he’s doing pretty well.