Posts Tagged ‘Leveson report’

Ignore the headlines, Leveson will still pass…if Nick Clegg wants it to

30/11/2012, 07:00:59 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s quite simple really. The decision on whether Leveson is implemented is not exclusively in the gift of the prime minister. He does not, to quote today’s Telegraph headline, have a veto because the Tories do not command a majority in the House of Commons. Ed Miliband has committed to bringing forward a vote on the judge’s recommendations so it will be down to the 650 members of parliament to determine the future of press regulation.

Here’s how the arithmetic stacks up: the coalition normally has a working majority of 82. This is the number by which the 360 coalition MPs (303 Tory and 57 Liberal Democrat) exceed the combined strength of all the other parties – 278 MPs – less the speaker and his three deputies who don’t vote and the five Sinn Fein MPs who similarly don’t vote.

If the Lib Dems were whipped to support a vote on implementing Leveson (albeit an amended version to address Clegg’s misgivings on Ofcom’s role in verifying the new watchdog and on data protection), the working majority over the Tories would be 35 (303 Tories versus a new combined total of 335 of the rest).

There is the potential that one of the Lib Dems, John Hemming, will defy the whip, given he signed the anti-Leveson letter organised by Conor Burns and David Blunkett. Similarly there are a handful of anti-Leveson Labour MPs who may defy the whip, including Blunkett, Gisela Stuart, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Gerald Kaufman and Eric Joyce (yes, I know Eric Joyce is nominally an independent).

Taking these dissenters and adding them to the Tory total gives a reduced pro-Leveson majority in the Commons of 18 (a combined total of 328 MPs versus 310 Tories and anti-Leveson defectors.)

As whips office veterans of the knife edge votes in the 1990s and late 1970s can attest, this is where it gets complicated. The remaining 23 votes are made up of a hotch potch of minor groups and parties.


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