The coalition faced its first rebellion last night when two Liberal Democrat MPs voted against a budget proposal to increase VAT to 20%.
Bob Russell and Mike Hancock voted with Labour to oppose the increase, which has alarmed many Lib Dems who warned during the election of a Tory VAT “bombshell”.
To shouts of “shame” from the Labour benches, the 2.5% increase in VAT from January was backed by 346 to 270, majority 76. Russell, MP for Colchester, and Hancock, MP for Porstmouth South, had earlier supported a backbench Lib Dem motion demanding a Treasury investigation into the impact on the poor of the VAT rise.
The backbench amendment was not put to a vote.
So far, so reasonable as reporting goes. But the paper does rather strain its own journalist credibility in an attempt to talk up the rebellion by adding:
Hancock has a special status because he was a founding member of the SDP.
The Spectator is more on the button:
In the last few days, there’s been much speculation about how many Lib Dem MPs would vote against the VAT rise. In the end, only two did—Bob Russell and Mike Hancock.
I suspect that the Lib Dem whips will be quite happy that the rebellion was so small. Other Lib Dems with misgivings about the policy are clearly not yet prepared to cross the Rubicon of rebellion.