Eyes down

The sloshing sound I could hear in the background, as I rang James Wharton MP to break the news that he'd just topped the ballot for private members bills for the coming year, must have been his cup running over. He managed to conceal his delight.

He told me he would consult with colleagues and his constituency (Stockton South) before deciding whether to pick up the Conservative draft bill on an EU referendum.

That consultation didn't take very long - he has said that he is picking up the bill and will lead the charge.

With a micro-majority, it will probably do him no harm at all to have a spell in the spotlight. The bill will take over his life for months to come. It's quite a gig for a new intake backbencher.

There are several other Conservatives who placed high on the list - Jonathan Lord, Dan Byles, Karl McCartney and Sheryll Murray.

And one of the other possible manoeuvres to keep the bill alive is for them to bring forward their own bills on whatever subject; but if necessary yield up their debating time to Mr Wharton.

Arch getter-out Douglas Carswell has already tweeted that God must be a eurosceptic, too. There's certainly plenty of scope for a referendum bill here, with the added advantage that the MPs who normally use every procedural wile to block private members' bills - the Chopes, Davies, Nuttalls etc - actually support this one...

So there will be plenty of smart tactical advice available.

Eyes down for a classic of Commons manoeuvre and counter manoeuvre!

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