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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Major's Vote Win Soured By Defection

LONDON -- British Prime Minister John Major's celebrations Thursday over a crucial parliamentary victory on Europe were soured by an extraordinary solo rebellion by former finance minister Norman Lamont.

Lamont defied the government in Wednesday night's vote, which was vital to Major's continued leadership, by siding with the opposition Labour Party -- the only member of the ruling Conservative party to do so.

Members of parliament rejected a Labour motion expressing lack of support for the government's policy towards Europe by a narrow five-vote margin, saving Major from a vote of confidence.

Major's high-risk decision to lead the debate for the ruling party -- a rare tactic in a debate sponsored by an opposition party -- at first appeared to have paid off. Four Conservative MPs out of nine who had been expelled or resigned from the parliamentary party after defying Major on an earlier vote on Europe voted with the government. The other five abstained.

Winning their support had been a key aim for Major, who wooed the rebels by edging closer in his speech to a commitment to a referendum on any further European Union integration.

The return of four to the fold -- opening the way to their readmission to the parliamentary party -- split the group, which has been holding the government to ransom over European policy. But Lamont's decision to vote with Labour, described by one British newspaper as a "stab in the back," was stunning.