Tory rebels entrench their positions
Tory rebels are to keep in close touch over the summer to ensure they are not outmanoeuvred by the Government in the battle over Lords reform.
The move reflects the growing organisation of dissidents opposed to plans for an elected upper house. Similar determination has been shown by party Eurosceptics pressing for a referendum on Britain's place in the EU and by MPs critical of subsidies for wind farms.
An analysis by The Independent has underlined the levels of opposition facing David Cameron on his backbenches. A total of 145 of his MPs have stepped out of line on at least one of the issues, well over half of the Tory non-payroll vote. Forty-seven have opposed the Government on two issues and a hard core of 40 on all three.
On Tuesday, 91 defied their whips to oppose Nick Clegg's Lords reform blueprint, and 81 rebels called last year for an EU referendum. Meanwhile, 101 Tories signed a letter to Mr Cameron in February demanding dramatic cuts to subsidies to "inefficient" onshore wind farms. To the alarm of ministers, the Lords rebels managed to outwit the Government in the run-up to this week's vote. Their campaign echoed that of opponents of the Maastricht Treaty who destabilised John Major's government in the early 1990s.
The Lords rebels pulled a masterstroke by releasing a letter signed by 71 opponents of reform on the eve of the vote – forcing the Government to delay the plans for at least two months while a compromise is sought.
But they are not sitting back. "We're not going away and will be in close touch with one another after the summer recess starts. We will not be caught by surprise," one ringleader said.
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