Hard on the heels of losing badly on points in the high court on Friday, the government now faces the prospect of being defeated in Parliament over its wretched attempts to wriggle out of paying compensation to those who lost out in the collapse of Equitable Life.
331 MPs had already signed an Early Day Motion put down by Vince Cable before the court case, by far the highest number to lend their support to a controversial EDM for many years and over half of the membership of the House of Commons.
Up to now, the government has refused to put the issue of compensation to a vote in the House of Commons, presumably for fear of losing. Now, the Liberal Democrats have decided to give over one of their allocated debates this Wednesday afternoon to press the government further on behalf of the Equitable Life policyholders. We haven't seen the wording of the motion yet but it is likely to put the Treasury on the spot and it is hard to see how it can now recant it weasel words of the last few years and cave in - it would be a huge climb down. That is not to say that there is absolutely no hope of a sudden wave of decency sweeping through the Treasury corridors and charming the up to now intransigent ministers into realising the scale of the injustice they are perpetuating but somehow I don't think it is likely.
The problem the government faces is that if the Liberal Democrats word the motion sensibly then there are 331 MPs publicly committed to supporting the Equitable Life policyholders: Parliamentary defeat stares them in the face. The government has already been turned over by the Liberal Democrats once in this session - over the Gurkhas - and to be defeated by them twice would be unprecedented.
It promises to be an interesting few days.
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