David Cameron managed to extract promises from some of the more troublesome backbench MPs that they wouldn’t get up to any monkey business around this year’s Queen’s Speech. Last year’s motion of regret tabled by John Baron and Peter Bone caused all sorts of trouble, but it did lead to the Conservatives publishing their own EU referendum bill, which was taken up by James Wharton and provoked #LetBritainDecide fever.
I have learned that the thinking in some Eurosceptic circles is that someone should table another similar amendment to the vote on this year’s Speech which similarly expresses regret for the absence of an EU referendum bill. But this time the plotters hope that the Conservative whips will direct their MPs to support it, given the Cabinet battle to get such a bill into the government’s legislative agenda. The plotters wonder whether it would be a good way of highlighting Lib Dem intransigence on this issue and putting pressure on Labour.
This is far less unhelpful to the Tory leadership than last year’s rebellion. But the chances are that Number 10 will still see it as a distraction from what already looks to be a pretty lean speech. As for whether such a move would gain sufficient support from within the Conservative party, that hinges on the Newark result. Even winning by a close margin will not send the Tories into turmoil, but it could well provoke some soul-searching that swells the supporters for this latest plot.