Friday, March 27, 2009

Why is Tom Harris Proud of His Voting Record?

Something's been troubling me. Gnawing away. On Tuesday, Tom Harris wrote a blogpost about intending to vote against his Party on a three line whip for the first time ever. It was over the issue of gay hatred. As it happens, I agree with his stance. However, his argument is not the reason for my disquiet. It was his opening paragraph...
Since being elected in 2001, I have never, until today, voted against my party on a three-line whip. That is something I’m extremely proud of.

Just think about that. He's saying 'my party, right or wrong'. And for the first time in eight years, he's decided to break with that belief. Why he should be proud of behaving in a robot like fashion for nearly four years is something I find difficult to comprehend. A party system inevitably requires whipping, and I make no bones about that - and politicians must recognise that they are elected under a party label, but for an MP to be proud of never having voted against the party line is something to be remarked upon. It is even more bizarre when I know Tom to be someone who does indeed have a mind of his own.

So why is he proud of this? I have to say that if I had been an MP for nearly eight years and had only ever voted for the party line I wouldn't feel proud. I'd feel slightly ashamed.


Chris Paul said...

Interesting stuff Iain. Can we now expect a critique of loyal Tory whip followers? Loyalty is both under-rated and over-rated in certain circles. The remarkable thing is that Tom Harris MP chose to do this over a "for the avoidance of doubt" clause that is - pretty much by definition - unnecessary in primary legislation.

Interesting too that in a matter of free speech Tom chose to spike my comment on his post explaining himself.

Anonymous said...

This would be the same Tom Harris spouting bumptious nonsense about Daniel Hannan's now-famous YouTube speech, I imagine. See Douglas Carswell

cassandra said...

The current system creates incubates and encourages mindless yesmen, yessir nossir three bags full sir!
The system is more akin to a British Leyland strike meeting circa 1970s, the slide into disrepute mirrors the giving away of sovreign powers which also mirrors the eradication of independent MPs not afraid to speak their mind and stick to their principles, some of our finest MPs are/were mavericks and some of our worst were party bagmen and nodding heads.
Both labour and the Tories should treasure their independent MPs instead they have sabotaged them and sidelined them.
A soviet style rubber stamp charade is what we are seeing emerge, a corrupt gang of 'on message' simpletons unable to think but clearly quite capable of understanding how to claim all the gravy they can!

Colin said...

It's all part of his rehabilitation back into the brown "circle of trust".

He's even started wearing a tie to work...

Jim Baxter said...

Tom Harris has been an MP since 2001. So I suppose that emphasises the point some more.

He was right on this occasion to do what he did. Better late than never.

Jim Jepps said...

I agree - although 2001 is eight years ago not four... sorry

Unknown said...

Try having a "yes man" like Tom Harris as a constituency MP. Trying to get them to meaningfully discuss any topic on which their party has pronounced is completely futile. ID cards? -yes please. 90 days detention?- yes please. war in Iraq?- yes please. Transparency in government?- no thanks!

Tom Harris said...

"Just think about that. He's saying 'my party, right or wrong'. And for the first time in four years, he's decided to break with that belief. Why he should be proud of behaving in a robot like fashion for nearly four years is something I find difficult to comprehend."

And it's eight years, iain, not four.

Maybe I'm just lucky to have a party so in tune with my own views... much like David Cameron, who has been an MP the same length of time as me and who has never voted against the Tory whip. Is that a post you're holding back for a quiet day, Iain?

Simon Gardner said...

MPs owe their position to a small number of people - principally the local “selectorate” plus (these days) a head office certification of a candidate’s suitability.

I believe you Iain are one such so certified.

On toeing the party line or otherwise it is these two audiences that any MP or prospective MP must address - party and selectorate.

Voters in our FPTP system have bugger all to do with it.

Compare and contrast STV with multi-member constituencies where the power is much more with the voter. An independent-minded party MP with local voter support (or even an Independent) can thrive under STV. Under FPTP all power is with local and national parties.

Plato said...

Has someone put something in the water?

Iain says it's only been 4 years since 2001.

Guido has a story that is 5 years old and the latest figures are worse than the ones he's leading with. More here from TWFY

And Mr Yoghurt is still stuck in 2007.

And Mr Harris has compared his party loyalty to Mr Cameron's

*is it April 1 already?*

Andrew said...

Iain, you've been trying for ages to convince us that Harris is a "good guy", whereas in Scotland he's seen as just another Nulab nonentity who does what he's told.

No surprise then about his voting record.

Unknown said...

"Iain, you've been trying for ages to convince us that Harris is a "good guy", whereas in Scotland he's seen as just another Nulab nonentity who does what he's told."

Perfectly expressed

Lola said...

MP. Thinking. Not compatible.

Mark Thompson said...

It is indeed interesting how quickly MPs can get out of touch with what their constituents may want Iain.

On a related note, did you see Question Time last night? Eric Pickles made a fool of himself with an answer about expenses which showed him to be completely out of touch I am afraid.

I have transcribed the relevant section on my blog here if you are interested.

strapworld said...

Iain, I do not agree with your twitter about Michael Winner.

I am lucky to know him well. He is a man with views and he certainly expressed them last evening- and with the support of the audience.

He also created a charity, which I as a former policeman, thank him greatly. The Police Memorial Trust.

Just because he sewed Pickles up! Pickles should learn to understand the public mood and answer accordingly.

What last night proved to me,sadly as I was one calling for him to be made Chairman, was how truly terrible Eric Pickles was.

God, he would not stop digging the hole he had dug for himself. He totally misunderstood the mood of the Country. He was quite nasty, no humour, he lost it. As the Conservative Party Spokesman he must have lost votes last night.

He was embarrasing.

James Burr said...

I agree. Pickles was embarrassing last night, and seemed dangerously out of his depth. He had a decent sense of humour, but just because you could probably enjoy pint or two with the man doesn't make him suitable for a high position in the Opposition. How any non_Labour MP can manage to get heckled and booed in the current political climate is quite astonishing.

Pete said...

I couldn't agree more regarding Mr Pickles' abject performance last night. He may well be a terrific asset to the Tory party but definitely not as a front man...

Unsworth said...

Well Harris may have, as you say, 'a mind of his own' - but he has no free will. The question might be why, if he has any intelligence, his voting record is what it is.

DespairingLiberal said...

I don't know why he is proud.

However, I feel time on this blog would be more usefully spent discussing Eric "fatty" Pickles and his second home allowance for living 37, yes, just 37 miles from the Commons. Poor man, the exertion of such a long commute must be too too much for him.

Strange that this hasn't been brought up as yet by the Mail or other leading Tory propaganda outlets like this blog.

Anyone wanting to watch Mr Pickles' pathetically insincere apologia for this craven milking can watch his arrogant bluster for themselves on the Beeb - enjoy! But be ready with the sick bag.

Oldrightie said...

Why would any Labour politician be proud?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Loyalty can blind you to the truth.

You are not immune from that, Iain.

I don't have the loyalty gene. It puzzles me.

Old BE said...

Maybe Tom Harris agreed with everything up until now.

Martin S said...

Iain the thing is this. You would be an MP for the constituency, not someone desperate to be a junior bag carrier in the 'General Assistance Department' or the Ministry for Administrative Affairs.'

Anyone who doesn't know what the 'General Assistance Depratment' was ask you parents. Or grandparents!

Maybe I'm just lucky to have a party so in tune with my own views

Being in tune with all the leading lights in the Labour Party would be bad luck, surely?

Unknown said...

I think it should be an act of parliament that you can only - ONLY - three line whip on items of policy mentioned in the manifesto.

That's fair enough because as you say MPs do stand on a party ticket. Three line whipping should be illegal for all other bills, with some mechanism for MPs to report undue bullying or threats by the whips to a parliamentary ombudsman.

After all, if you cant convince your own MPs to vote for you then how can you convince the country.

The reputation of our "democracy" (ha,ha) would be strengthened as a result.

However the media would also have to be a bit more responsible and stop writing up every disagreement as a sensational 'party split', which is partly the reason the whole repulsive obsession with MPs being 'on message' arose in the first place.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Most Labour MPs put party before country and most Tory MPs put country before party. So Tom is just doing what most of his party does, follow like sheep. He must know the next election is lost so he is now voting against his party to salve his conscience.
To little to late.

Conand said...

I totally agree with you Hon. Mr Iain Dale.
I know that you two are mates but I have to say that this is why you should be an MP and Tom Harris shouldn't. It isn't at all complicated in my mind.

The Grim Reaper said...

When I first came across Tom Harris, I thought he was a tosser. Everything that has happened since simply reinforced my view.