Prime minister David Cameron was handed a bruising defeat late last night, as a coalition of Labour, SNP and Eurosceptic Conservatives rejected the government’s latest proposals surrounding the EU referendum.
In this government’s first defeat in the House of Commons, 312 MPs voted against the government’s amendment to the EU referendum bill, while 285 MPs backed the proposal.
The government had proposed a form of so-called “purdah” – a pre-election campaign period – that critics had called “watered-down”.
In a double blow for Cameron, after MPs rejected the government’s proposals, they swiftly backed an amendment put forward by the Labour party, which set out more extensive rules for the pre-election period.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Hillary Benn said late last night:
This is a humiliating defeat for David Cameron, with members from all sides of the House supporting Labour’s approach to purdah, which ensures fairness in the conduct of the referendum campaign while permitting normal government business to take place
The government should never have rushed through its flawed plans to play fast and loose with the rules on the referendum.