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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

 

The day of destiny and a hit on the dynasty


So tonight is the night, the Education bill will go before the Commons at 7pm and we can expect the result at around 7.15pm. It's one of the biggest tests Blair has faced in his premiership and almost certainly his biggest test since re-election last May.

Cameron's Conservatives will be largely voting with the government (Tory's are under a two-line whip) and it appears that the bill will only be passed because of this Tory backing; the Labour rebellion is expected to be in the region of 40-60 MP's. My own feeling is that this figure will be nearer the latter end of that spectrum. 95 Labour MP's put their name to an alternative to government plans and the surveys on Tuesday's Newsnight and SkyNews this morning suggested that at least 35 will rebel with many more either refusing to comment, abstaining from voting or still to decide.

An additional vote takes place tonight on the timetable for the parliamentary scrutiny of this legislation. The Tories are expected to unite with the Labour rebels to defeat this and ensure that the 'BLAIR DEFEATED IN CRUCIAL EDUCATION VOTE' headlines can still be run with, the thinking is also that this token defeat may sugar the pill for the Conservatives who would rather vote against the bill outright to discomfit the Prime Minister. I do wonder if this tactic will further open Cameron up to the 'flip-flopping' line of attack - ''he backs our reforms but votes to slow down their implementation!'' This in fact came up in PMQ's this afternoon, Cameron responded by stating how he supported the education reforms, but not the undermining of Parliament, he went on to ask why a prime minister with a majority of 70 was struggling to explain to his own MPs why they should support school reforms. That quelled any attack for the moment but it ma come back to haunt him.

Still on the topic of PMQ's; Menzies Campbell suffered yet another embarrassment today, he began to ask his question concerning pensions when Eric Forth bellowed ''DECLARE YOUR INTEREST!'' to huge guffaws. Not a good day for the Lib Dem chief who is making somewhat of a habit of this sort of thing.

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