Cameron is battling for obediance

WANDERING through the book lined, deep pile corridors of the Palace of Westminster this week was a surreal business.

On almost every corridor corner were former Labour ministers looking totally dazed as their loss of jobs was just beginning to sink in.

They mumbled into their mobile phones and many were deep in conversation speculating just who would declare themselves as candidates for the vacant Labour leadership.

No more the cocky and arrogant masters of the universe, Labour has to come to terms that the party will be out of office for at least five years.

But as the smiling Conservatives joined forces with their Liberal Democrat allies, signs emerged that there are tensions under the surface - from the left of the Lib Dem party which hates Conservatism and from the Tory right which fears Cameron is going too far down the road of libertarianism.

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The Prime Minister’s answer is that we “all have to get used to a new way of doing things.” But trouble looks certain as David Cameron stamps his authority on parliament and party.

If he and Nick Clegg get their way, the Government will only be forced to resign if 55% of MPs vote it down. Until now, the rule has been that a simple majority of one was sufficient to pass a vote of no confidence.

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Imagine the uproar if a Labour government had proposed such a fundamental change to our parliamentary democracy.

Tory grandees and senior backbenchers are furious at the proposed change, calling it undemocratic and unparliamentary. Rebels are uniting behind David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary whom Cameron defeated in the leadership vote five years’ ago.

The rule change is designed to ensure that fixed term parliaments of five years can be introduced. And it infuriates many Tories that the modernising drive is being led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who said the 55% majority vote for an early dissolution was a much lower threshold than the two-thirds required in Scottish Parliament.

“It strikes the right balance for our Parliament, maintaining stability, stopping parties from forcing a dissolution to serve their own interest,’’ he said.<

``This last week, former Labour ministers who were once perfectly happy to ride roughshod over the rights of Parliament are now declaring that this is somehow an innovation which is a constitutional outrage. They are completely missing the point

“We are not taking away Parliament’s right to throw out government. We are taking away government’s right to throw out Parliament.’’

Just as MPs were digesting this move, Cameron toddled off to a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs and told them he was to neutralise it as an independent forum for criticising the Tory leadership, whether in government or opposition.

The committee is named after the 1922 General Election, the year the Tories withdrew from a coalition government with David Lloyd George’s Liberals.

Despite mutterings, Cameron has succeeded in changing the rules to allow him and his ministers to vote in the committee and even run for election as officers. He maintains it will help unite the Conservative Party, bringing ministers and backbenchers together in one body.

<n> SUFFOLK’S’s first ever woman MP Therese Coffey won the tussle for the right to sit behind the Prime Minister as he made his opening remarks to the House of Commons on Tuesday. To demonstrate just how female friendly they are in our male dominated parliament, the party leaders normally like to encourage women MPs to sit behind them so that it looks good on television.

Ms Coffey, who has succeeded John Gummer, is no supporter of tokenism, but was proudly smiling as her leader sat beside Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, who got in on the act by having Home Secretary Theresa May to his left.

Ms Coffey said: “It was a proud day for me.”

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