Both the Conservatives and Labour are struggling to contain rebellions among their MPs over whether prisoners should get the right to vote at general elections.
A House of Commons debate on the highly charged issue will take place tomorrow. Although the Government has proposed allowing the vote among prisoners serving up to four years in jail, that is likely to be rejected by the majority of Tory backbenchers.
Labour wants to maximise the Tory revolt but has problems in its own ranks. Jack Straw, who has called tomorrow's debate along with the senior Tory MP David Davis, clashed with Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. And after a heated debate, the Shadow Cabinet agreed to abstain but junior frontbenchers will be allowed a free vote.
Tory MPs hope to restrict the right to prisoners serving up to six months – or even to none at all. Many Labour MPs oppose votes for prisoners in principle, believing the public are hostile, but the Shadow Cabinet is reluctant to support a position which defies the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.