Golly gosh – all that sound and fury over the Tory amendment to the Queen’s speech, and it’s defeated by 277 votes to 132. More than 200 MPs didn’t even bother to vote.
What an anticlimax. But then, what did we expect?
The simple fact was that Peter Bone’s amendment to the Gracious Speech (its correct title) was never going to get any traction. Labour and the Liberal Democrats don’t want a referendum; neither do many Tories.
And the Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister, who was initially well-disposed to the idea of an amendment, changed his tune after several media outlets including Vox Political reminded him that he would have to resign if it succeeded, and apparently instructed his cabinet to abstain.
Did anybody see his interview with, I think, Tom Bradby on ITV yesterday evening? It was all about whether Cameron actually has the chops to lead the Conservative Party, and his contribution can be boiled down to: “Yes, I am the leader of the Conservative Party. I am exhibiting leadership. This is because I’m the leader. Leader? Me! I’m THE LEADER!”
I half-expected him to burst into a chorus of I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am) – and half-relieved when he didn’t, because of the obvious connotations of quoting the person who made that song famous.
The EU referendum amendment was chosen for debate and a vote by the Speaker, John Bercow – but it wasn’t the only choice.
What if he had chosen Labour MP John Mann’s amendment, which was extremely similar to Peter Bone’s, except for one crucial substitution. It ran: “respectfully regret that a bill to call a referendum on reversing NHS privatisation was not included in the Gracious Speech”.
How many would have supported that? Probably all of the Parliamentary Labour Party, most of the smaller parties, and perhaps even a fair number of Liberal Democrats, who are now – with only two years left on this Parliament’s clock – looking over their shoulder at a local electorate that has a lean, hungry and predatory look after three years of Coalition misgovernment.
It could all have been very different, if not for a cop-out by the man with the clout.
And does anybody think for a moment that this has put UKIP back in its box?