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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

Shufflings offstage

If David Cameron thought that the Mark Pritchard affair was a little local difficulty, he should perhaps think again.

During last night's marathon session on the Finance Bill (which left a few MPs looking a bit hungover after their 2am finish), there was a row over moves by the Government whips to get a Tory amendment pulled.

Fiona Bruce's amendment to instate a married couples tax break looked like it was being withdrawn after some, ahem, influence from the Government.

But a furious Edward Leigh refused to be cowed and moved a vote anyway. He was scathing about the Prime Minister's "broken pledges" on the whole issue of marriage.

It's worth quoting him in full:

"Why do people not follow these debates? It is because they vote for parties who make solemn pledges and five minutes later, when it becomes inconvenient, break them.

"This was a solemn commitment. So when this new clause was promoted this afternoon there were all sorts of shufflings offstage [my italics] to try to prevent its debate.

"I am not going to stand here and allow a solemn pledge not to be debated on the Floor of the House of Commons. It is about restoring faith in British politics. We made this pledge and many in this party will hold the Government to account on it."

The highly-regarded Treasury minister David Gauke was emollient, stressing that the Government would indeed come forward with some married tax break plans but not just yet.

But Leigh's claims of "shuffling offstage" - ie pressure applied in the Tea Room to errant backbenchers - presage a Pritchard-like reluctance to take this stuff lying down.

 

UPDATE: Joe Murphy has some lovely detail of the threats used by the whips in the Tea Room as the hours dragged on:

“Well, guys, we would be going home earlier if it was not for the following people . . . ”

 

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