Today (9/12/10) saw the vote in the House of Commons on the controversial Tuition fees rise for Universities in England and the day almost half the Liberal Democrats rebelled...
In the end 28 Lib Dem MPs voted for, 21 voted against, 6 abstained and 2 were at the climate summit in Mexico... On paper the result is simple 28 Lib Dems backed the Coalition, 27 went against it (albeit in different ways) and 2 will have the pleasure of being able to say they were not involved in. This rebellion also saw Lib Dem MPs Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott resign their unpaid Junior ministerial positions.
But what next? Other than a guarantee of more student action there is many possibilities yet few certainties as to what the fallout of this rebellion will be, but here are some ideas...
1) Seats at the Table - Although an unpaid position these Junior Position will become a scrap to be fought over after this rebellion, Will the rebels be replaced by Lib Dems again? if so we could see Clegg Loyalists being rewarded for sticking with the coalition, if not the newly promoted Conservative Junior ministers will serve as a symbolic smack to the Lib Dems, the message clear, Rock the boat and you will lose out...
2) The Old Guard - Both Former Lib Dem leaders Sir Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy voted against the plans and this could further upset the Clegg Leadership, with the Old leaders set firmly against him, he will be held up as a symbol for the 'Corruption' that has taken hold of the Lib Dem leadership, Which although bad for Clegg and his Loyalists could help mitigate losses in the 2011 Assembly/Local elections where Lib Dems will be able to position themselves as Anti-Clegg to help save themselves.
3) A Matter of Time - At this point I think it is only a matter of time before a defection or mass defection bites the Lib Dems. If there is a defection it will be interesting to see what road any would be deserters would take. Simply leaving the Government and sitting as an Independent Lib Dem could be an option, but it would most likely lead to the party revoking membership to save face. Jumping ship to Labour could be an option and would definitely raise the profile of any backbench Lib Dem. if there Defector wanted to avoid the Big three, jumping to the Greens might be a good idea and perhaps give them a PR boost that they could parley into more Devolved seats especially in Wales where they have none. The most extreme option would be to jump to a very small party, depending on where any defector is based this could be anyone from Mebyon Kernow if in Cornwall, to the Liberals, to any of the parties of the Left situated around the UK. Sitting as the only independent probably wont be an appealing prospect to any MP.
4) Backlash - With the Government majority of 83 shrunk to 21 expect the Conservatives to be quite annoyed at their Junior Partner's inability to keep their own house in order, especially with the current situation with the Governing Coalition of Ireland whose problems have been magnified as all of Europe scrutinises them. This could potentially see some Lib Dems gains of being in the coalition held back or denied entirely, as making the Lib Dems seem less relevant would help both Labour and the Tories destroy their 'King-maker' position
5) Firing Line - if you thought Labour's constant attack on the Lib Dems was too much, prepare to be snowed under as absolutely every other party in the House of Commons will be taking every opportunity to take a shot at the Lib Dems (as evidenced by the DUP's Nigel Dodds question during PMQs where he likened the Lib Dems to FIFA)
It is simply to close to Assembly election for any party with any sort of representation to resist being able to score the easy political points by publically humiliating the Lib Dems.
Only in the coming months where the Lib Dems prepare for the numerous elections around the UK will the exact Fallout of this rebellion be felt, Clegg may have had the support of 27 other MPs today but that may be all he's left with regardless of how the Lib Dems do next year as more and more turn away from his deal with Cameron.