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15 November 2017

Are there enough Tory rebels to cause trouble for Theresa May over Brexit?

The Telegraph's front page has branded 15 would-be rebels “the Brexit mutineers”.

By Stephen Bush

What do MPs fear they’ll lose if they rebel? Their jobs, obviously, whether that be as ministers, select committee chairs, or as ultimately their seats. They worry, too, that they’ll run into trouble with their Conservative association or their constituency Labour Party, or that it will limit their chances of future promotion.

Understanding that is why so many Brexiteers are annoyed with the Telegraph today: “The Brexit mutineers” is their splash, and they’ve put the pictures of 15 would-be Tory rebels on it, ranging from veterans like Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve to relative newbies like Tom Tugendhat and Paul Masterton.

The thing is that once you’re on the front of a newspaper as a “Brexit mutineer”, many of those negative consequences are baked in no matter what you do next. So you might as well just rebel.

That there are enough named rebels to overcome the Conservative-DUP majority – though they are three short of being able to beat the Conservative-DUP majority plus the six Labour leavers and Kelvin Hopkins, who has had the Labour whip suspended – further emboldens Conservative Remainers. So it’s not the best start to the day for Julian Smith, the new Chief Whip, and it may mean that the Withdrawal Bill, already looking like the source of a painful few weeks for the government, becomes trickier still.

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