Not one MP dared to vote against Tory MP James Wharton's EU referendum bill at its second reading today, with 304 voting in favour. But while most Labour MPs followed their leader's advice to abstain, there were six who backed the bill in an unusual alliance of the party's old left and old right. They were:
This is notably fewer than the number (15) who support the Labour for a Referendum campaign, with many put off by what they see as the excessive partisanship of the Tories.
Having avoided voting against a referendum, the key question now for Miliband is whether he will either table or support an amendment calling for a pre-2015 vote. An increasing number of Labour MPs are of the view that the party should use this device to split the Tories (Cameron has promised a vote in 2017 following a renegotiation) and to avoid the charge that it is denying the people a say. In a significant intervention yesterday, shadow work and pensions minister Ian Austin broke ranks to call for a referendum at the same time as next year's European elections. Whether or not Miliband has the chutzpah to adopt this strategy, it is significant that he has not ruled it out.