A group of Liberal Democrat MPs defied the party whip yesterday and sided with Labour to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Commons.
The rebellion came as the Government gave the cold shoulder to attempts by the Royal College of GPs to re-engage with ministers. Asked if they were prepared to work with the RCGP following a letter by the College's chair Clare Gerada offering to "find a way through the tensions" the Prime Minister's spokeswoman said pointedly it still appeared to oppose the Bill.
A Liberal Democrat source dismissed the Commons rebellion as "the usual suspects". But the rebellion by the five MPs is still embarrassing coming on the back of its conference vote not to tell the party's peers in the House of Lords to support the Bill. In an ill-tempered opposition debate in the Commons Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, said: "It's now just political pride driving this Bill to the statute book."
On the vote he added: "We've an opportunity to develop an agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the NHS Bill. Patients who depend on the NHS and staff who have devoted their lives to it want to see political parties find common ground." But Mr Lansley rejected this and attacked him for questioning his loyalty to the NHS.