Cameron suffers first major Commons defeat on EU budget vote

Tory rebels and Labour vote by 307 to 294 to support a real-terms cut in the EU budget.

It turns out that the government wasn't bluffing when it briefed that it would lose tonight's EU budget vote. David Cameron has just suffered his first major Commons defeat after Conservative rebels and Labour combined to vote in favour of a backbench Tory amendment (tabled by the aptly-named Mark Reckless) calling for a real-terms cut in the budget. MPs voted by 307 to 294 to support the motion, a majority of 13.

Since the vote was non-binding, the government's negotiating position remains unchanged - Cameron will go to Brussels on 22 November vowing to veto any above-inflation increase in the budget (the rebels, as I said, want him to go further and veto anything other than a real-terms cut). But the result is further evidence of just how divided the Tories now are on Europe. Fifty one of the party's MPs (excluding the tellers) voted against the government, making the rebellion larger than any before 2010, including the Maastricht revolts. The new Conservative chief whip, Sir George Young, has failed the first major test of his ability to control the party.

The result is also a significant victory for Ed Balls, who has long argued that Labour should seek to exploit Conservative divisions on Europe by forming tactical alliances with Tory rebels. While the party is vulnerable to the charge of opportunism, tonight's result will embolden those who argue that Labour should do all it can to maximise Cameron's discomfort in this area.

David Cameron gives his final press conference on the second day of an EU summit in Brussels earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.