1. ITV Report

Badger Cull debate likely to be lively

Thursday's vote in Parliament won't be binding on the Government Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Tomorrow promises to be livelier than usual in Westminster.

A vote on the badger cull - following the two pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year - will be preceded by a demonstration outside Parliament which could attract a coalition of wildlife groups from the West Country and beyond.

The vote itself will be on a motion - moved by a woman Tory MP, incidentally - saying that the culls have failed and should therefore be stopped; and that vaccination should be considered as an alternative.

Queen guitarist Brian May at a rally on College Green, Bristol Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The motion will almost certainly be carried, probably with a sizeable majority, but there are several notes of caution about reading too much into the result.

Firstly, it's Thursday afternoon, so not that many MPs will be around. Secondly, the government will probably tell its ministers (the so-called "payroll vote") to abstain in order to dilute the impact of the result. And in any case, it's not actually binding.

It will however send a powerful signal about backbench opinion on the culls, which in theory still have three more years to run and which ministers want to extend. Opponents point out that they failed to meet their targets, even over a longer period, and that free shooting by marksmen was literally so hit-and-miss that five per cent of badgers took more than five minutes to die.

The government, however, will argue that the cull needs more time to work, and that vaccination is simply not practical in the numbers required to make any difference. The farming community remains pretty much united that the culls should continue.

That latter reason means that the issue cannot purely be seen on party lines. Significant numbers of Labour and Lib Dem MPs, particularly in rural areas, do support the cull, just as some Tories oppose it on welfare grounds. Hence tomorrow will be a chance for both sides of this complex and emotive argument to let off steam - even if the final vote may not change the situation on the ground.