As Malcolm was saying elsewhere, there’s a smidgeon of suspicion over the division voting for the Tory attempt to reboot the constituency gerrymander. It came out at 334 to 292 to accept the Lords amendments, so nothing changes until at least 2018.
What’s a bit odd is there are 303 Tory MPs. This must have been a heavy three-line Whip, so we are ten or a dozen short. Meanwhile the combined Opposition is around 347 (omitting, by convention, the Speaker and his Deputy). We further deduct another five for the abstentionist Sinn Feiners and their Mid-Ulster vacancy: we’re now at 342. All the minority parties seem to have piled in — even the DUP who, we were told, were getting serious courtship over the weekend, up to and including an exemption of Northern Ireland from the cull.
That leaves just eight non-Tories unaccounted for. Even if all those were “paired” (and the tellers for both sides would be, so cancel out), there are four Tories off-piste, presumably abstaining. That would match the reports from earlier today that four Tories — mostly named “Davi(e)s” — were trailed to be crossing to vote with the Opposition.
We also now know that Wee Willie Hague was one of the Tory absentees for today’s vote. He’s away to DC and wishing Hilary Clinton a fond farewell — so presumably would be “paired”.
One other missing name (so far) is Helen Grant, the A-list replacement for Anne Widdecombe as MP for Maidstone and The Weald. She’s on the payroll, as understrapper for Women and Equalities at the Minister of Justice. This one certainly needs explanation.