Robyn Vinter: With all eyes on Miliband, we haven’t noticed the Tories are tearing themselves apart


Ed Miliband has had it tough from day one.

After what the public generally viewed as screwing over his brother to get the Labour leadership, the less-charismatic Miliband had a tough battle to get us on his side. Unfortunately it’s a battle he seems somehow intent on losing.

The leader of the opposition is now less popular than ever. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times last week found Miliband’s popularity has fallen to a record low – with even Nick Clegg marginally overtaking him in popularity (just pause for a moment and let that sink in).

In the last few days, broadsheets and tabloids have been awash with rumours and speculation that some in Miliband’s own party are plotting to oust him. This gossip seems to have been generated by a few whispers to journalists, with no Miliband detractors willing to air their views on record.

However, while journalists have been pushing this story, perhaps in the hope of prompting a real Labour leadership crisis, the Tory party has been quietly bickering behind the scenes.

In stark contrast to Labour’s – albeit united – lack of direction, the Conservatives have been pulling in all political directions.

The issue of EU membership has been niggling at the Tories for as long as UKIP has existed. But as the small far-right party swells in size, it’s becoming less of a fly buzzing round Cameron’s lunch, than a seagull pecking at the PM’s chips while his back is turned.

In fact, in order to keep his party together, in power and out of the clutches of UKIP, Cameron is faced with a nigh-on impossible task – simultaneously appeasing both the centre-right and far-right party members who are really not seeing eye-to-eye at all.

Yesterday this division in the party was momentarily exposed for all to see as senior Tories campaigned against Home Secretary Theresa May’s Commons vote to continue EU extradition arrangements. More than 100 Conservative MPs were against signing the European Arrest Warrant, for a multitude of reasons – though the perceived interfering hand of Brussels was a crucial factor.

Loyal Conservative members legged it across Westminster to make it in time for the vote, and David Cameron even left the Lord Mayor’s Banquet early in the hope of increasing numbers to play down the Tory rebellion.

Bizarrely in what was one of the biggest farces in the Commons in recent memory, the European Arrest Warrant wasn’t included in the vote. The Speaker ruled that May was actually asking the Commons to vote on a whole range of measures, and not giving MPs the opportunity to debate the controversial European Arrest Warrant, as had been promised.

It’s likely May would have won the vote as the issue had more than enough cross-party support, but Labour plans to use Opposition Day next week (a day where the opposition set the Commons’ agenda) to reopen the debate.

The Speaker branded the whole circus a “sorry saga”.

Cameron will be no doubt relying on Michael Gove, his recently-appointed chief whip, to get his party back into shape to avoid further embarrassment next week.

Tweet me your thoughts @robynvinter


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