Cameron shaken by Tory vote revolt
Published 24/10/2011 | 22:42
David Cameron suffered an assault on his authority as he was hit by a significant revolt over Europe by furious Tory MPs.
The rebel bid to pressure the Government into a staging an in/out EU referendum was overwhelmingly rejected thanks opposition from Labour and Lib Dem MPs.
But the defeat will provide minimal comfort for the Prime Minister, who failed to convince many disgruntled Tories that he backed their aims, but the timing was wrong.
MPs voted by 483 to 111 against the motion, a majority of 372.
During impassioned scenes in the Commons one ministerial aide, Adam Holloway, quit and another, Stewart Jackson, effectively fell on his sword by announcing he would defy the leadership and "take the consequences".
The rebellion is the most serious challenge Mr Cameron has faced since becoming party leader six years ago. Speaking in the Commons ahead of the vote he pleaded with Tory MPs to fall into line warning that a referendum would damage Britain's interests. He also spent the day meeting potential rebels in an attempt to defuse the row.
Mr Cameron told the Commons that launching legislation for a referendum could be disastrous at the current "moment of economic crisis". "When your neighbour's house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help him put out the flames - not least to stop the flames reaching your own house," he said. "This is not the time to argue about walking away. Not just for their sakes, but for ours. Legislating now for a referendum, including on whether Britain should leave the EU, could cause great uncertainty and could actually damage our prospects of growth."
He insisted he had "respect" for the rebels' views and claimed they disagreed "not about ends, but about means".
If eurosceptics had won the motion would not have been binding, but the Prime Minister said he decided to impose a three-line Whip rather than allow a freer vote because "this issue and Parliament matters".
Labour leader Ed Miliband told MPs Britain "could not afford" to leave the EU at the moment and should concentrate on pushing through reforms. But he mocked the Tories for having another "nervous breakdown" on Europe.