Labour MPs demand ‘backfiring stunt’ explanation

By Alex Stevenson

Red-faced Labour whips will not be looking forward to tonight’s parliamentary party meeting after an attempted stunt to defeat the government in the Commons backfired last week.

Angry opposition MPs are expected to demand an explanation as to why they were forced to stay in parliament later than usual on Thursday for a debate which did not go to a vote.

The debate on the comprehensive spending review was a one-line whip for the Conservatives but a three-line whip for Labour MPs, a parliamentary source told politics.co.uk.

Panicking coalition whips, having noted the number of opposition MPs’ cars in parliament’s underground car park, believed they faced an embarrassing defeat as they could only muster around 150 votes in the chamber.

But Labour’s failure to understand Commons rules meant when time ran out the deputy Speaker moved straight on to the next item, the adjournment debate.

It would only have taken a Labour figure to stand up before 18:00 and call for a closure motion for a formal vote to have followed on whether the House had ‘considered the CSR’ or not.

Mistakes of this kind had been anticipated by government insiders, who had raised eyebrows after Ed Miliband appointed inexperienced Rosie Winterton to the chief whip job.