Westminster is alive again: the corridors are full, there a queues for the canteens, gossip is being traded. But even though a large chunk of the House is made up of new MPs, fresh faced, and hopefully refreshed after a long summer break, the mood already seems sour.
Lib Dems and Tories alike are still trying to come to terms with the coalition, and the first thing all MPs are being told after the summer is to vote against their own manifestos.
It is a very odd quirk of the bill for a referendum on AV that all parties will now vote against the position they argued for before the election. The Lib Dems believe AV doesn’t go far enough, while the Tories think it goes too far, but both will vote for the referendum as a central part of the coalition agreement. Labour doesn’t like the boundary change that is being bundled in with it and will vote against.
On top of this, there is talk that a Tory MP is planning to bring a privileged motion, which would trump all other parliamentary business, arguing that the new expenses regulator is hampering their work. Not only does this raise the vexed issue of expenses, which still causes great upset among MPs who feel they are being unfairly treated in the wake of the expenses scandal, but it could end up derailing other important government business.
There was talk that it would be brought today, and potentially bring chaos to the government’s attempts to pass the AV bill at second reading, but I am told it is not currently on the order sheet.
All this amounts in the words of one MP, who hs seen their fair share of parliamentary terms, to a “very unhappy parliament”. Fractious times indeed.