Today brings yet another set of reminders for Numbers 9, 10 and 11 Downing Street about how difficult maintaining party discipline is going to be. First, there’s The Guardian story about Chris Heaton-Harris trying to use James Delingpole and the threat of him running as an anti-wind farm candidate in Corby as leverage to toughen up the party’s position on the issue.
Then, there’s the letter signed by 15 Tory MPs calling on Cameron to make a transferable tax allowance for married couples part of the 2013 Budget. In a sign of where a lot of the trouble will come from in the coming months, the lead signatory to the letter is a minister who was sacked in the reshuffle, Tim Loughton.
Part of the problems for the whips is that they now only have one tool in their tool box, ministerial preferment. By contrast the last time the Tories were in power, the whips had all sorts of tools at their disposal: select committee membership, foreign trips and the like. Working out how to whip the party without these inducements is one of the major challenges facing the leadership.