7 May 2005


The fact that Labour has a smaller majority in the House of Commons obviously changes the terms of trade between the government and the parliamentary Labour Party – but by how much?

The commentariat consensus is that (1) it gives rebels of one kind or another much greater oomph and (2) it necessitates a more collegiate governmental style than heretofore.

I wonder. The old Labour rebel army has been much reduced by retirements and election defeats – there's hardly anyone left now from the old Tribunite Europhobe soft left of the 1970s and 1980s, no one from the Peter Shore Europhobe right, and the Campaign Group is down at least five members to about 20 (among 360 MPs).

This is a much more New Labour PLP than previously.

And on Europe, which will be the key issue of the next parliament (assuming France votes yes to the EU constitution), the government will whip mercilessly to get it to toe the line in advance of the constitution referendum – regardless of the state of the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

My guess is that the current deal between the two is that Blair has said he'll go in 18 months as long as Brown pitches himself 100 per cent into the yes campaign on the constituion, regardless of the result – and that Brown has agreed.

That means war on Labour anti-Europeanism, starting now. And rebels will get the short shrift they deserve.

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