The U-turns on conversion therapy last night reveals a problem for Downing Street. After its partygate troubles, No. 10 is very keen to avoid issues that cause tensions with Tory MPs.
I understand that desire, in part, lay behind the decision to drop legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy. But the problem is that there are a host of issues on which Tory MPs don’t agree.
So as soon as news of the U-turn broke last night, taking several of the ministers you would have expected to have been involved by surprise, there came pressure from another set of Tory MPs for a U-turn on the U-turn.
The result: No. 10 U-turned again and there will now be a ban on gay conversion therapy, but not conversion therapy for trans people.
This is not the end of the government’s difficulties on the issues. There is bound to be an amendment to the bill that will seek to include trans people.
The problem for Downing Street is that Tory MPs know that No. 10 is now desperate to avoid upsetting them. This incentivises them to go public with any objections to policy that they have.
This is going to lead to an increasing number of public arguments between different sets of Tory MPs: you are already beginning to see this over energy policy, which will make party management ever more difficult.