Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When a Free Vote is not a Free Vote

So Gordon Brown has bowed to the inevitable and given Labour MPs a free vote on the embryo research Bill. Well, that's what he'd have you believe anyway, but as ever with him, you have to take note of the small print.

What he's actually done is to give them a free vote on only three clauses of the Bill - hybrid embryos, saviour siblings and IVF research. But on third reading there will be a three line whip. So if any or all of those clauses remain in the Bill at that stage then surely those conscience stricken MPs will vote against it? And three Cabinet Ministers may still yet have to fall on their swords.


Unsworth said...

Iain: "So if any or all of those clauses remain in the Bill at that stage then surely those conscience stricken MPs will vote against it? And three Cabinet Ministers may still yet have to fall on their swords"

The assumption being that these henchpersons might have some moral fibre and/or intellectual rigour. As we all know, that is simply not the case.

But Brown is so poor tactically. He really didn't have to get into this fight, as he has done so often before. How many enemies does he want? There are enough in front of him in Parliament, does he need even more behind him?

Anonymous said...

am sure this will go on and on and on Iain so trying to understand what YOU think about it.

Go on Iain - lets make this interesting. What is your opinion on this bill?

Anonymous said...

so lets have a "free blog" then mate.

whats your view Iain?

Anonymous said...

No minister will fall on their sword. They will be conveniently out of the country or elsewhere on "essential ministerial business".

Anonymous said...

And if any MP changes their vote during the course of this Bill, I will have as much contempt for them as I do for their extraordinarily cack-handed leader.
What on earth is the point of having a principle one day, and not standing by it the next?

Unknown said...

Why their should be any question of a whip on such a bill I can't imagine. If the bill is sound, which it seems to be, it will get through with most MPs supporting it. Brown seems yet again to have caused himself a whole load of problems and shown a complete lack of judgement.

Chris Paul said...

This is twaddle even by tory boy blogger standards.

The three ministers have already said they are content at the compromise.

They get a chance to illustrate whether they have some modernity and science about them on the so-called controversial clauses.

Then they can abstain or vote for the composite bill at later stages.

What's controversial about resisting the march of Parkinson's? My dad has it. My sainted mother will have a real choice to make on this area of morality.

The Churches have been disgraceful propagandists and alarmists. If you believe in the glory of god etc etc then surely you believe in god given science.

As Jim Devine has said - not in so many words - the RC clerics have been complete and utter clots on this. I'm glad there is a free vote and I want to see Catholic MPs voting FOR THESE clauses.

That will show that they are brainier than Mad Nads.

As to whether Brown has handled this well enough? It's too early to say by far. Having a bit of a battle, allowing a few blows to land, doing a peace deal. Might be just the thing.

David Boothroyd said...

There is a 'conscience clause' in the Standing Orders of the PLP which allow any Labour MP to abstain if it is a genuine matter of conscience. The Conservatives have in their time whipped votes on section 28 and on capital punishment.

I despise this implication that the only people who have consciences are Catholics who oppose this Bill. Nadine Dorries, who has gone from lying about Ben Goldacre to falling for a well known hoax picture, has now set herself up as the Catholic Whip enforcing the line of the Catholic Bishops. What an absolute disgrace of an MP.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to finding out the names of these MPs who put their own religious views before my future health and everyone else's. If they think their religion is more important, they should resign as MPs and go and live in a monastery (but the pay and perks wouldn't be as good there, would they?).

Incidentally, I was listening to the 6 p.m. news on (I think) Radio 4. They said that Cardinal Whatever-his-name-is was still campaigning against the bill, then they said that Lord Winston the embryology expert had said that the Cardinal was telling lies. This was followed by a longer piece on the Cardinal's objections -- but there was nothing more from Lord Winston's side. Generally, I think the BBC has been very keen to broadcast the Cardinal's latest ravings, but much less keen to put the other side.

And by the way, who is this Cardinal anyway? I can't seem to remember voting for him.

Anonymous said...

Classic dither and delay, Cameron couldnt have staged it better.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bean wins out over Stalin yet again. Surely a better compromise would have been inviting his Catholic-supporting MPs to abstain from the vote. After all, Blair himself had the principled position(!) of personally being against abortion while recognising he had no right to foist his religious-inspired views on women. It's hardly unreasonable to expect the same from recalcitrant Labour MPs.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear at least one other person was actually listening to the PM! The BBC were bizarrely announcing this as a 'back-track' when it was barely even a gesture.

Anonymous said...

When is a principle not a principle?

"When they get a chance to illustrate whether they have some modernity and science about them on the so-called controversial clauses."

What a load of tosh (again) Chris.

Anonymous said...

Has everybody forgottent that MPs are supposed to represent their consituents. How about free votes based not on religion but what their voters think?

Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown is only following Conservative example. This is exactly the formula agreed by the Tory government when debated in the 1990 Bill this is designed to update.

And also, politics should not be subjected to blackmail from religious figures.

To his credit, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor has spoken with dignity and intelligence, clearly wanting to raise the issue as a subject of debate.

The same cannot be said of his inflammatory counterpart in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

BUT (as other bloggers have pointed out) he didn't have to pick this fight. It was totally unnecessary. The man is utterly cack-handed. He just can't bear to opposed and genuinely believes that, 'We always make the right decisions.'

Twig said...

The only people who don't want a free vote are those in favour of the bill. What exactly are they affraid of ?

Yak40 said...

Just obeying orders from the EU. Get used to it.

This was on Guido, an excellent read and somewhat relevant here too.

David Lindsay said...

Brown could have lost Ruth Kelly and hardly noticed. But Des Browne is both his link to the Forces and his man in Scotland, important to any Prime Minister, and especially to this one.

And Paul Murphy is being lined up to be the ultra-Unionist hardman Secretary of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Nobody else who could do this has Cabinet experience. So he is indispensable. As we have just seen.

Anonymous said...

I guess I was wrong. Was thinking of a similar situation in which a Iman instructed UK Muslim MPs to vote on religious grounds would have caused a s**t storm.