Thursday, 9 August 2012

Has Cameron done the arithmetic?

The prime minister feels he can afford to disregard the threat from Monday's press conference by Nick Clegg. He has calculated that he can proceed with reduction of the number of Westminster constituencies and redrawing of their boundaries, not to mention imposing his view of what the Welsh political map should look like. He can rely on his 306 members in the House, even those affected by boundary changes, to be loyal on this issue because it is a Conservative one. He can also count on the nine Northern Ireland unionists (including Lady Hermon, who sits as an Independent). That gives a total of 315.

 If (a big "if" judging by their strange voting pattern since the General Election) all the Labour MPs, including the two who have had the whip withdrawn, go into the division lobby with Caroline Lucas of the Greens and all the Liberal Democrats, there is a potential total  against the required subsidiary legislation of 315.
It then gets interesting. Of the remaining 20 MPs, one is Mr Speaker. The five Sinn Feiners have not taken their seats. Can Mr Cameron provide enough sweeteners to the various nationalists to induce  them to support the government, as Labour governments - and John Major - have done before him? What about Naomi Long of the Alliance* and the three SDLP members? They would have benefited from proportional representation for the "Senate" out of the Lords Reform Bill, but that has now been punted into the long grass.

By my reckoning, that just leaves George Galloway (Respect). He could suddenly find himself very popular for a change.

* The Alliance Party is Northern Ireland's equivalent of the Liberal Democrats and has close ties, but Ms Long declined to take the government whip after the coalition was formed.

1 comment:

Alwyn ap Huw said...

Can Mr Cameron provide enough sweeteners to the various nationalists to induce them to support the government
I wouldn't think so!
The SNP is going for the big prize of independence in 2014, any "deal" on any issue from the UK would be seen as a wobble by the SNP. An acceptance that they might not; or an admission that they will not win the referendum. The SNP can't afford to do any deals with the Westminster Government at the moment; they have too much to lose.

Under the proposals Wales is due to lose a quarter of its MPs. To gain Plaid's support the return would have to be gigantic - Devo Max and doubling the size of the Assembly might swing it, but that won't be offered by the Tories.

I can't see any of the national parties either voting for, or abstaining on the issue – they can be counted in the no camp!