I don't mind admitting to being astounded at the size of the majorities against a reduction in the abortion term limit last night. I think even those who favoured the status quo were equally surprised. Suspicions remain that there was an unofficial Labour whipping operation, but even if there was, the votes for 20 weeks just weren't there. I haven't looked at the division lists yet, but I suspect a decent number of 2005 intake MPs on the Tory side may have voted for 24 weeks. It certainly didn't help when the Tory frontbench sent confusing signals by tabling a 22 week amendment either.
Has this issue been permanently put to bed? No. And nor should it be. It deserves periodic debate and review and I fully expect it to be revisited after a change of government. I'm not sure the outcome will be any different, though, as I suspect the 2010 intake of Tory MPs will have more so-called 'progressive' views than their predecessors.
In some ways, the only winner to emerge from last night was Parliament as an institution. It was a good debate full of powerful speeches. And because of that it got reported in full by the media. Government business managers should learn a lesson from that. The way to revive imterest in parliamentary debates is to have more free voutes and more set piece debates on issues people really care about.