Probably the two sweetest words in the English language. For the first time ever
, Tony Blair's government has lost a vote in the House of Commons. Yippee. This is the first Commons defeat in 11 years, and only the fifth in 25 years (the other four all being under John Major; two of them were on Maastricht).
His attempt to lock up anyone that looked slightly dodgy, for as long as 90 days, was defeated by a large majority: 322 votes to 291. An amendment, allowing for a detention period of 28 days, was passed by a similar margin in favour. The government argued that, as the police wanted the power to lock up suspected terrorists, they were obliged to deliver them. Funny, given that, time and again, the police's (more reasonable) demands are rejected on the grounds of human rights or accountability.
If a Motion of No Confidence is tabled, the vote would almost certainly come out in favour of the government, but it would also be close. All of the opposition MPs would vote against the government; account for Sinn Fein, that makes his majority 71. Then again, more than a few Labour backbenchers would vote against Blair, too (seeing the lack of Conservative leadership as leaving a window for a Brown election victory). If the government majority is reduced to fewer than 20 MPs, that should be his cue to exit, even if the arithmetic says otherwise (as with Thatcher in the internal party vote).
There'll be celebrations in the streets of Bradford and Bethnal Green (and pretty much everywhere else) tonight.