Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Little Liberal Bother.

I'm not convinced that Alistair Carmichael, Tim Farron and David Heath will be household names any more tonight than they were last night, but these three men - who are all actually Liberal Democrat MP's - have managed to inflict a bit of damage on Nick Clegg, their shiny new party leader. They were members of his shadow cabinet, and therefore in line to be key members of government in the event of a Lib Dem victory at the next election. Today, however, they voted against their party leader's call (ignoring the advice given in Gilbert and Sullivan's peerless "When I Was a Lad" to "always vote at my party's call, and never think of thinking for myself at all"). Nick Clegg wanted his MPs to abstain on the Commons motion for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. They - and 13 others - didn't. 16 Lib Dems voting against the leader across 2 votes counts as a major rebellion in Liberal terms.
Nick Clegg's position is a little obscure, and he has had to vigorously defend his decision to essentially give the Brown government free passage to avoid consulting the British public in a referendum, especially since Clegg is in favour of a referendum on the issue of the (very similar to Lisbon) EU constitution. But that's Liberal politics for you. Even when they're in the limelight we're still asking 'who? who?' and trying to understand their tortuous middle ground.

6 comments:

Ben Rpss said...

Clegg has some idiots advising him. If he had any sense, he would have known that withdrawing the whip would be politically much more viable than forcing an abstain. How can they be the liberal "democrat" party, if they are telling their members not to vote. Ridiculous.

So now i have no one i like in parliament. Maybe i could abstain in the next election.

Marc said...

This is a huge positive for British politics. How can we ever expect to increase election turnout of the public if our own MP's are 'abstaining' from the vote.

I was taught (by GM) that the members of parliament were elected by their consitituancy to represent their views in parliament . Until we have proportional representation (which I'm sure the Liberals would love), its great to see MPs thinking for themselves instead of towing the party line.

Richard Weatherill said...

1. I think Clegg was pretending to be in favour of an "In/Out" referendum (in the certain knowledge that it wasn't on the cards) rather than one on the EU Constitution (which, he would claim, no longer exists).

2. I suppose Pinafore might be described as "peerless", whereas the same couldn't be said of Iolanthe. ;-)

3. Marc (wearing my pedant's hat): the phrase is "toeing the line", though one more often sees it written incorrectly (as "towing") these days. Sigh ...

GM said...

Richard - on pinafore/iolanthe - very droll!

C H Daly said...

Anyone who criticises our political system for being undemocratic if we don't hold a referendum on the ratification of the European legislation has clearly not completed an AS level in Government & Politics.

The representative democracy that operates in this country and serves us so well should not be marginalised at the electorate's whim. A referendum would be a challenge to the authority of the legislature that this country does not need.

If people disagree with their MP's position on this issue then they should express this opposition by not voting for them in the next general election, not by trying to temporarily remould the nature of our democracy.

GM said...

Couldn't have put it better myself!