EU referendum: Parliamentary growing pains

EU referendum vote

So, in the end, only 27 Conservative MPs rebelled over plans to give the government a free hand in the final weeks of the forthcoming EU referendum campaign.

Not much to see here, you might think, time to move along. And yet what we saw today at Westminster was fascinating, the growing pains of a new parliament on show for all to see.

You had a prime minister, flush with victory, insisting he should have the freedom to campaign in the referendum on the EU in a way that he did not have in last year's vote on Scottish independence.

Penny dropping

Even loyal Tory MPs told me that Mr Cameron should have realised that scrapping purdah outright would provoke opposition and an unnecessary battle with his backbenches.

Those MPs claimed it showed a rather clumsy approach by Downing Street that a more sophisticated operation would have avoided. The PM might have his first genuine mandate but it only goes so far in parliament.

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The Conservatives' EU battle has already started

David Cameron speaks during G7 summit in Germany
David Cameron has promised an EU referendum by 2017

What is it about the Conservative Party and the European Union? What is it that prompts such passion, such muddle and - on occasion - such bitterness?

The relationship between Britain and the EU tore the Conservatives apart for years in government and in opposition.

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Election 2015: 10 brief conclusions

Palace of Westminster

After an extraordinary night, ten brief conclusions:

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Election 2015: The politics of legitimacy

Fox in Downing Street

Politics is sailing into turbulent constitutional waters. That at least is what the opinion polls tell us.

These waters are not entirely uncharted; politicians have had to navigate the shoals of hung parliaments before. But historical precedent and ancient charts can provide only a rough guide through changing winds and tides. Politics, like the sea, is never the same.

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Election 2015: Why Tony Blair still matters

Tony Blair
Tony Blair is back under the spotlight

"Former Labour prime minister backs Labour" is one of those news stories that falls into the "dog bites man" variety. Important, perhaps, to the poor chap with a sore leg but hardly news for the rest of us. So why will we spend so much of today discussing Tony Blair's intervention in the election campaign?

1) Tony Blair won general elections. Three, to be precise. He knew how to do something the current generation of political leaders seems unable to do and that is secure majorities in the House of Commons. Any advice he gives Labour will be scrutinised for vicarious wisdom from which the party could benefit with the opinion polls still showing little movement in any direction.

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Cameron v Miliband: The debates begin

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Jeremy Paxman (right) on the Sky News/Channel 4 programme: "Cameron v Miliband Live: The Battle for Number 10"

It was not a head-to-head debate. But it was a back-to-back job interview and a good one at that.

It gave voters the chance to see the two men who could be our prime minister tested, above all, by Jeremy Paxman's robust questioning. (Full disclosure: I once spent a summer doing some paid research work for Jeremy when I was a student).

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Has David Cameron opened Pandora's Box?

So, what did he mean by that?

David Cameron's admission that he will not serve a third term in Downing Street will provoke a flurry of speculation. What was he hoping to achieve? What message was he trying to send?

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Leader profile: Nick Clegg opens up about life outside politics

Nick Clegg is unique in British politics.

No MP has such a cosmopolitan and international background - his mother is Dutch, his father half Russian, his wife Spanish.

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Budget 2015: Osborne's message to voters

Chancellor George Osborne with his Treasury team outside 11 Downing Street

George Osborne's aim today was to turn the economic recovery of the country into the political recovery of the Conservatives.

So, he tried to reassure voters worried about another Tory-led government and convince them they'll benefit from the growing economy.

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Budget 2015: Police warning over leak risk

Chancellor George Osborne outside 11 Downing Street prior to the 2014 Budget
Mr Osborne is set to deliver his sixth Budget

The top civil servant at the Treasury has warned staff he will not "hesitate to call in the police" if anyone leaks details from the Budget.

Sir Nicholas Macpherson has sent an email to officials reminding them he takes rules banning any pre-briefing of next week's Budget "very seriously".

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