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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

David Cameron faces Tory rebellion over prisoner voting

David Cameron faces Tory rebellion over prisoner voting

By Craig Woodhouse


Restless Tory MPs could join forces with Labour to express their anger over prisoner voting, David Cameron was warned today.

Plans to give prisoners the vote could even see enough backbenchers rebel to defeat the Government, one MP suggested.

Around 40 Tories would need to defy their whips for that to happen, but Philip Hollobone said that would be “achievable”.

It adds to growing disquiet on the Conservative benches which the Prime Minister will seek to quell when he addresses his party tonight.

Labour are understood to be seeking out an issue that would unite sufficient Tories to vote against the Government.

They are looking at the possibility of using one of their “opposition day” debates to discuss prisoner voting, in the hope that it could lead to defeat for the coalition in the same way that Gurkha settlement rules brought a shock loss for Gordon Brown.

Conservative MPs told the Standard they would back such a bid.

One said: “I would certainly be happy to work with Labour on that one because literally over my dead body would I go through the lobbies to give prisoners the vote.

“There would be a significant number of us who would be prepared to vote against the Government on that.”

Mr Hollobone said: “There are lots of backbenchers who feel in their gut that it is the wrong thing to do.

“If 40 Tory backbenchers voted against it then that would put the Government in danger, and I would have thought on something like votes for prisoners that would be achievable.”

And another backbencher said: “I have been saying for weeks that is the best chance Labour have got to bring down the Government.”

The comments came as Mr Cameron was urged not to take his party for granted.

Many MPs are unhappy at what they see as concessions to Liberal Democrats over the tuition fees vote, as well the Government's direction on europe and its handling of the new parliamentary expenses system.

Nadine Dorries told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “It would not be wise to take Conservative backbenchers for granted in the way that they have been.

“We have mainstream core Conservative principles that for the good of the coalition and the country we have been suppressing.

“But it would not be wise to think that is a position that we would want to continue in the long term,”

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone even called for a fresh election once the economy has recovered, telling Today: “I don't think anyone voted for a coalition.”

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