A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

Archive for the ‘Parliament’ Category

That Iraq Enquiry Vote in Full

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

So Labour won the vote to reject last night’s motion in the Commons on whether to have an enquiry into the Government’s conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war.

But Labour’s majority of 25 disguises several interesting voting patterns.

Firstly, this was an Opposition Day debate. Labour MPs who do not agree with Blair are more reluctant to vote for a motion led by an opposition party. This was particularly applicable last night, with the SNP and Plaid Cymru moving the motion and the Welsh and Scottish Parliamentary elections due in 6 months. Potential Labour rebels were reluctant to vote in a way that would give credit to the Nationalists.

Next, the Tories have brass necks. Having joined Labour in 2003 in backing the Iraq war, they put a two-line whip on backing the enquiry last nght. This amounts to a “not quite pulling out all the stops” approach to getting their MPs out to vote. I rather think had the Tories been in power in 2003, they would have taken the same decisions as Blair and would be as obstructive to an enquiry now.

So the vote went 298 to 273. The Public Whip helpfully analyses the vote in a way that puts Hansard to shame. Looking at the Public Whip’s data I find:

  • 12 Labour MPs voted for the enquiry – well done to them for putting expediency aside and voting with principle;
  • 1 Labour MP went through both lobbies (David Taylor of NW Leics) – this may have been to cancel out a mistaken vote or to register an absention;
  • 41 Labour MPs were either absent or abstained;
  • 14 Tory MPs were either absent or abstained;
  • 59 Lib Dem MPs voted for the enquiry, the remaining 4 were either absent or abstained;
  • 3 Democratic Unionist MPs were either absent or abstained;
  • 1 Plaid Cymru MP was either absent or abstained (Elfyn Llwyd of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy).

What does this mean?

MPs may have abstained because they were ill, “paired” due unavoidable committments or because they chose not to vote. I suspect many of the 41 Labour non-shows and not a few of the 14 Tories fall into the latter category.

I haven’t much time for those Labour MPs who want an enquiry but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Nationalist- sponsored motion. What is more important? How things might appear to voters or the reality of the Iraq War?

The deliberate Tory stay-aways just reflect their muddle on this issue. They backed the government on Iraq whilst the Lib Dems, with access to the same information, chose to oppose. Now the Tories have no clear idea what to do about the situation: Back Labour’s line? Call for an enquiry? They are rudderless on the issue.

The Lib Dems and the Nationlists put nearly all of their Parliamentary numbers behind the call for a much needed enquiry. The motion may have carried with half a dozen or so more Tories, a couple more DUP MPs and a dozen more Labour MPs putting their principles before perception.

Instead the Government is still not properly held to account for the deception of why Iraq was invaded. And we cannot learn the much-needed lessons that might stop the same mistakes being made again.

Those “rebels” & absentees/abstainers:

Labour MPs voting for the enquiry:

Harry Cohen Leyton & Wanstead
Jeremy Corbyn Islington North
Mark Fisher Stoke-on-Trent Central
Roger Godsiff Birmingham, Sparkbrook & Small Heath
Glenda Jackson Hampstead & Highgate
Robert Marshall-Andrews Medway
John McDonnell Hayes & Harlington
Alan Simpson Nottingham South
Peter Soulsby Leicester South
Gavin Strang Edinburgh East
Robert Wareing Liverpool, West Derby
Mike Wood Batley & Spen

Tories who didn’t vote:

Michael Ancram Devizes
James Arbuthnot North East Hampshire
John Bercow Buckingham
Alistair Burt North East Bedfordshire
Patrick Cormack South Staffordshire
Quentin Davies Grantham & Stamford
Adam Holloway Gravesham
Mark Lancaster North East Milton Keynes
Julian Lewis New Forest East
Ian Liddell-Grainger Bridgwater
Michael Mates East Hampshire
Laurence Robertson Tewkesbury
Grant Shapps Welwyn Hatfield
David Willetts Havant

Labour MPs who didn’t vote:

Diane Abbott Hackney North & Stoke Newington
John Austin Erith & Thamesmead
Vera Baird Redcar
David Borrow South Ribble
Lyn Brown West Ham
Martin Caton Gower
Ben Chapman Wirral South
David Chaytor Bury North
Frank Cook Stockton North
David Crausby Bolton North East
Claire Curtis-Thomas Crosby
Frank Dobson Holborn & St Pancras
Paul Flynn Newport West
Hywel Francis Aberavon
Linda Gilroy Plymouth, Sutton
Nigel Griffiths Edinburgh South
Dai Havard Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney
David Heyes Ashton-under-Lyne
Kate Hoey Vauxhall
Kelvin Hopkins Luton North
Brian Jenkins Tamworth
Lynne Jones Birmingham, Selly Oak
Gerald Kaufman Manchester, Gorton
Peter Kilfoyle Liverpool, Walton
Tony Lloyd Manchester Central
John MacDougall Glenrothes
Judy Mallaber Amber Valley
Ian McCartney Makerfield
Michael Meacher Oldham West & Royton
Julie Morgan Cardiff North
Paul Murphy Torfaen
Gordon Prentice Pendle
Mohammad Sarwar Glasgow Central
Angela Smith Sheffield, Hillsborough
Geraldine Smith Morecambe & Lunesdale
John Smith Vale of Glamorgan
Graham Stringer Manchester, Blackley
Dari Taylor Stockton South
Emily Thornberry Islington South & Finsbury
Shaun Woodward St Helens South
Tony Wright Cannock Chase

Lib Dems who didn’t vote:

A J Beith Berwick-upon-Tweed
Evan Harris Oxford West & Abingdon
Paul Rowen Rochdale
Jennifer Willott Cardiff Central

DUP MPs who didn’t vote:

Jeffrey M Donaldson Lagan Valley
William McCrea South Antrim
David Simpson Upper Bann

PMQs: The Distracted Media

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Whilst the new Tory leader grabbed the headlines trying to out-do Blair on selection for schools, an under-reported exchange took place between Charles Kennedy and the Prime Minister at PMQs yesterday (video feed – go to about 8 minutes in to see this bit) :

Mr. Charles Kennedy: …..to what extent, therefore, have the Government co-operated in the transport of terrorist suspects to Afghanistan and elsewhere, apparently for torture purposes?

The Prime Minister: …..The practice of rendition as described by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been American policy for many years……However, it must be applied in accordance with international conventions, and I accept entirely Secretary of State Rice’s assurance that it has been.

Mr. Kennedy: Given that assurance, can the Prime Minister therefore explain why the published evidence shows that almost 400 flights have passed through 18 British airports in the period of concern? When was he as Prime Minister first made aware of that policy, and when did he approve it?

The Prime Minister: In respect of airports, I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is referring to…..”

Am I the only one worried by this? Furthermore:

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Why?

The Prime Minister: …..It is as well to remember that we need to detain some of the people we are talking about for reasons of action against international terrorism. Some of those people are highly dangerous, and some of them can provide information that is of fundamental importance in preventing terrorism. Of course, there should be proper treatment of anyone who is detained…. “

So why are these suspects being flown around the world, possibly to countries with questionable judicial processes and human right records? Something is not quite right here and if the UK is allowing these flights to use our airports then we are an accessory to human rights abuses.

Back to the C*m*r*n media love-in. I am astounded at what some of the TV channels are getting up to on this one. OK, so the above story got a spot on C4 news but they didn’t exactly make it clear that the Lib Dems had asked the question at PMQs – even though Kennedy was interviewed about it.

I tried to watch the repeat of PMQs usually available on BBC News 24 interactive or Sky News but all they had was the Blair-C*m*r*n exchanges. Back to the nice and easy imaginary two-party world that journalists like so much because it means they don’t have to think as much.

The item on PMQs during ITV’s “News” at Ten-something was so slanted to be biased in favour of the Tories that I’m sure it qualified as a PPB. Let alone the awful shallowness of the reporting.

I am more and more convinced that Chris Morris invented ITV News a decade ago. It was called “The Day Today”.