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Big backbench rebellion over Lords
David Cameron has suffered his biggest backbench rebellion yet as the coalition's Lords reform plans cleared their first parliamentary hurdle.
Some 91 Tory MPs defied the leadership to oppose giving the legislation its second reading, while dozens more abstained.
Labour's backing for the proposals meant the Government still won the vote with a majority of 338. But earlier rebels had inflicted what could be a mortal blow by forcing the withdrawal of a key timetabling motion - putting the reforms at risk of being "talked out" by opponents.
The scale of the Tory mutiny exceeded expectations, and illustrates growing frustration among the rank-and-file over the compromises struck by Mr Cameron to govern with the Liberal Democrats. Two ministerial aides - Conor Burns and Angie Bray - chose to quit their posts rather than support the plans.
The previous largest rebellion came in October last year, when 81 MPs defied a three-line whip to demand a referendum on European Union membership. It only just fell short of the largest Conservative rebellion since the Second World War, which took place in 1996 when 95 MPs voted against gun control legislation.
There were claims the numbers would have easily topped a hundred if the Government had pressed ahead with a division on the timetable motion.
There were reports on Tuesday night of an angry confrontation between Mr Cameron and one of the rebel ringleaders, Jesse Norman. The premier was said to have approached his MP outside the division lobbies and accused him of not behaving "honourably".
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg sent an email to activists hailing the result as "a triumph" for the party. He also fired a warning shot to Mr Cameron by insisting he "fully expected" the Conservatives to deliver "this crucial part of the coalition deal - as we have delivered other coalition policies".
"This evening we overwhelmingly won an historic vote on the Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill - a Bill that will finish something our party started a century ago," Mr Clegg wrote. "This is a huge triumph for our party, and a clear mandate to deliver much needed reforms to the House of Lords."
Tory Cabinet minister Michael Gove said it was a "matter of regret" that so many Tories had chosen to go against the Whip. But he stressed that overall the vote had been won by a big majority.