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The failure of the Tories to do a deal on MP pairing will make life miserable for ministers and CON MPs alike

August 5th, 2017

Get ready for ambushes and unexpected Commons defeats

For me the biggest UK political news this week has been the FT’s report that the Tories have failed to reach agreement with Labour at Westminster on MP pairing. This is the long standing practice that allows government MPs to miss a Parliamentary votes because an opposition one agrees not to take part as well.

For ministers the ability not to have to be in the Palace of Westminster during a specific period can be critical in order for them to carry out their jobs. Think of those who have to be overseas or, say, get stuck in Belfast because of thick fog at Heathrow.

I must be one of the few people still writing about politics now who were journalists during the 1974-1979 parliament. This was the one when under Wilson and then Callaghan’s LAB quickly lost its majority. Then I was a young man at BBC news doing regular stints at Westminster and watched in amazement at the mechanisms required just to get simple procedural motions through.

Large numbers of opposition MPs, for instance, would appear absent from Westminster giving the government whips confidence to allow some their individual MPs not to be there. Then suddenly, just minutes before the vote, scores of them would flock back, by which time it was too late for the whips to round up the votes to match it and the government faced a defeat.

That looks set to happen time and time again.

Getting the government’s business through is going to be very challenging and Labour, still flushed with what they see as a success in their part depriving TMay’s of her majority, are going look for every opportunity to make life difficult.

The absence of a pairing agreement is stage one.

Mike Smithson