Cameron and May must be incandescent with rage. It looks like the Whips Office have panicked.Not their finest hour

10 Nov 2014 at 20:47

It is not often that I get really, really angry with my party, but today’s disgraceful, degrading fiasco has made my blood boil. The European Arrest Warrant, as I have written before, is eminently sensible. It is, apart from the Tory brain dead, a no brainer. May has skilfully neutralised its deficiencies with checks and balances. British judges ensure British justice before British citizens can be extradited to a requesting state. It is supported by the Lib Dems and the overwhelming majority of Conservative backbenchers. The rebels without a pause had been reduced to a rump of about thirty. Neither the EAW nor the government were in jeopardy. Even better David Cameron promised them a vote. Not some wishy washy omnishambolic pot pouri of prattery that has been served up. The Speaker read the mood of the House correctly. What MPs were offered was a wholly dishonest artifice.

Two people will be incandescent with rage tonight. Cameron and May. Cameron because it has made him look shifty. May because it has used up all the goodwill she has built up with the troublemakers. And what of those Eurosceptics who put their necks on the line bringing round the wavers. It’s made them look like bloody fools. In the long run this is remarkably dangerous for the Tories. The Rampton wing will say it was all about trust. ‘If Cameron broke his promise on this’, they will say, ‘how can we be sure he really intends to have an in out referendum?’

So who is to blame? May? No. Cameron? No. Far too busy to deal with the wording of a motion. Grayling? I’d love to say yes, but not even this poisoned chalice passed from his lips. The fault lays at the door of the business managers, the Chief Whip Michael Gove and the Leader of the House William Hague.

There has always been tension between these two great offices. Technically, the Leader sorts out the business and the Chief sorts out the tactics. Normally, these guys are very safe pairs of hands. So what an earth has gone wrong?

Firstly, I don’t buy the line that this is Gove’s way of getting his own back on May. He is not that petty nor that stupid. His job is to get the government’s business though. If that fails so does he.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Whips panicked. I suspect that because the EAW had the overwhelming support of the House those who would have been onside might just have decided to disappear into the night to be able to say to their jittery associations that they never actually voted for it. That it why poor old May had to filibuster while the Whips scoured the drinking dens and eateries for the disappeared ones. But it knocks Miliband off the front page and it makes the Whips Office look like the Keystone Cops.

Not their finest hour.

I like Michael Gove. He is a good man. Somehow, if he is still in office by PMQs on Wednesday, he has to convince his backbenchers that the business managers can actually manage. Most of all he must try and restore trust. I am not at all sure that he can. This may be the last straw for his close friend Cameron. But I doubt it. To move him from DFE was a terrible mistake.