It seems that Mark Williams (see previous Blog) is not alone. In his own blog Peter Black claims up to thirty Lib-Dem MPs have said that they will vote against the lifting of the cap on tuition fees. This of course is over half the Parliamentary party. However the arithmetic means that even if we have one of the biggest party rebellion in a UK parliamentary party 'the measure will still pass and I wonder if we are seeing a clever move by the Lib-Dems to have it both ways.
I'm sorry but I'm going to do some number crunching.
There are 650 members of Parliament, if we exclude the speaker and Sinn Féin (who will not take part in any vote) the number is reduced to 644. So you need 323 seats for a majority The Tories have 306 which leaves them short by 17 of seats. With the Lib Dens 57 they have a majority of 40.
If 30 Lib-Dems were to vote against the measure this would reduce the majority to 10 small but passable and would allow some of the Liberal Democrats to save face, and you can’t guarantee the 8 Democratic Unionist would vote enbloc against the bill.
Therefore if the Liberal Democrats whips work out the numbers correctly they can help preserve the seeming integrity of individual members and the coalition at the same time.
Only if there was a challenge to the leadership of Nick Clegg would I be convinced that the Lib-Dem leadership will not be following me in its number crunching and working out just how many of its MPs voting against the hike in tuition fees can be allowed, before they end up causing a collapse to the Libcon Coalition.
So I suspect that potential Lib-dem rebel will be allowed to speak out just so long as its clear that it will not do permanently damage to the LibCon government and see Lib-Dems going into the next election portraying themselves as brave defenders of poor students in the hope that they will not be associated with the party leadership who reneged on their pledge not to increase tuition fees. It’s a typical hypocritical Lib-Dem ploy but for some it just might work