I brought you news on Monday about the Charles Walker proposal to slash the number of ministers in line with MPs. It turns out that his amendment did get called and there was a vote on Monday night – which he lost by only 293 votes to 252.
No fewer than 22 Tory MPs defied the whips and backed Walker, although this is fewer than the Tory backbencher had anticipated. “You wouldn’t believe how many of them told me they agreed and would give me their vote – and then changed their minds,” he tells me. “It’s taught me rather a lot.”
Looking through the order papers there are some interesting names among the rebels: Andrew Tyrie, Bernard Jenkin, Graham Brady (chair of the 22 Committee) and Mark Field amongst them.
Walker also believes that the numbers would have been much closer if Labour had imposed a three-line whip on its MPs.
Bernard Jenkin’s speech was a rather impressive one: He questioned the way in which the government was able to offer patronage across the Commons with its 119 ministerial posts:
“We must send this signal that we take our jobs seriously and that we are not going to be seduced, cajoled or flattered into accepting the executive agenda more and more.”
He said his committee has launched a new inquiry asking “What do ministers do?”:
“That might seem a cheeky question but at this time when there are so many ministers, we know from the revelations in various biographies that parliamentary under-secretaries have jobs and activities created for them to keep them busy.”
Worth noting as well that 37 Tory MPs voted last week against their own government and in favour of Douglas Carswell’s motion to cut the British contribution to the EU budget. Such votes are a reminder that not all Conservative MPs are signed up to the Cameron project – but that being in coalition makes him much more impervious to their complaints.