Saturday, 15 December 2012

To Have And To Hold

How out of touch am I, now that, exactly as I have always predicted, Labour has confirmed a free vote on same-sex "marriage", having never threatened to whip it in the first place, unlike both Coalition parties?

Even the campaign in favour of this measure has to admit that it is in serious trouble, with a third of Labour MPs and a quarter of Lib Dems still undeclared, plus many of the rest held up as supporters on the basis of nothing more than single emails to constituents.

Figures such as Gordon Brown, David Blunkett, Alistair Darling, Hazel Blears, Margaret Hodge and Margaret Beckett (a member of the National Executive Committee) have still either said nothing, or else, in Blunkett's case, expressed studied ambiguity. Among the officially uncommitted and their constituencies, count the Catholic and Muslim areas, and count the Islamic and Irish names. Again, I always told you so.

The line seems to be, at least for now, that there are 12 avowed Labour opponents: Stephen Timms, Gavin Shuker, Jim Dobbin, Joe Benton, Mary Glindon, Brian Donohoe, Sir Paul Murphy, Stephen Pound, Roger Godsiff, Paul Goggins, Austin Mitchell, and A N Other who joined Timms and Shuker in threatening to resign his or her front bench position if the Whip were imposed.

But free votes are not granted on major pieces of legislation, and that at the Leader's insistence despite fierce opposition from his Deputy and from other Shadow Cabinet members, merely because 12 out of 257 MPs have threatened to rebel if whipped, and three of those have threatened to resign junior front bench positions in order to do so. The true figures are in each case anything up to 10 times greater. You read it here first. Months ago.

It is also notable that Dobbin, Benton, Glindon (a 2010 entrant, like the 31-year-old Shuker and like many of the undeclared), Murphy, Godsiff and Mitchell are all signatories to EDM 1334, the objection to the wider media's discrimination against the Morning Star. Dobbin chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, Benton is its Secretary, Glindon is a practising Catholic, Murphy is a Papal Knight and significantly sceptical of Welsh devolution, and Godsiff and Mitchell embody the Keynesian and pro-Commonwealth Euroscepticism of the Old Labour Right.

In other words, when pro-life activists, solid Catholics generally, staunch Welsh Unionists, and the heirs of Gaitskell, are also supporters of the Morning Star because of its trade union links and because of its different perspective on the news, then we are talking about that half-forgotten phenomenon, the Labour Movement. Out of that Movement comes a parliamentary opposition to same-sex "marriage" proportionately comparable to that which comes out of half-forgotten Toryism.

And what of the Lib Dems? We are told that only Gordon Birtwistle is opposed, although he is very strongly so. Well, he does have to defend Burnley. But there are plenty of silent voices from the Old Liberal heartlands of the West Country, the North of Scotland, and Mid Wales. Again, many of those seats are marginal, some of the Scottish ones extremely so. The SNP is likely to abstain, as it does at Westminster on matters devolved to Scotland. This Bill, which is a dog's breakfast even in its own terms, is now in very serious trouble indeed. But then, it always was. Any Bill redefining marriage in this way was always going to be.

The Civil Partnerships Act was a hard-won compromise within the Labour Party. There was never the slightest suggestion that it was a temporary measure on the way to same-sex "marriage". Quite the reverse, in fact. It was the settlement, the deal, the last word. No fewer than 80, and possibly 100, Labour MPs, including figures of the utmost seniority, were always going to continue to take that view in the Division Lobby, partly out of principle, and partly because they had not yet acquired suicidal tendencies in relation to their reselection or re-election.

There was never any serious suggestion that their doing so was going to result in their slightest loss of standing within their party. There is no longer any excuse even for any such unserious suggestion.


  1. As of course you know, this week's Shadow Cabinet was almost physically violent, with Harman, Twigg and Eagle (A.) all in tears and threatening to resign if there was no whip on this. None of them did and none of them will. Whatever made them imagine that this could possibly be whipped in practice? Nor in principle, since it was not in the manifesto.

    No chance of anything on this in the Tory papers for their own reasons, or on the BBC for theirs. But the Equal Marriage Campaign's admission that one in three Labour MPs and one in four Lib Dems is still saying nothing says it all. This one is going to the wire.

    It can still be defeated, but only if we get our Labour people out against it. Dobbin, Benton, Glindon, Donohoe, Murphy, Pound, Godsiff, Goggins, Mitchell, those are the names of some of the de facto Whips on this one.

  2. If I may add something that I have this evening discussed in several places, public and private:

    In Gavin Shuker, Labour has a 31-year-old Shadow Minister who is also the only Pentecostal pastor in Parliament.

    At any rate, until between 10 and 20 of them are brought in next time as the Labour MPs for largely black seats. To be followed by that number again in 2020, and again in 2025. The deals are already being struck.

    And that's before we even mention the Muslims.

  3. Just checked the link you gave about which way MPs are inclined to vote. You keep mentioning the Catholic MPs in Catholic areas who would not dare support this measure. Whose names do I see in favour? Your very own Pat Glass, and the very Catholic Ian Duncan Smith, and Andy Burnham, and Ronnie Campbell. Have they actually thought about what they are supporting? It is often said that referenda are not the way we do business in this country because we elect MPs who are better qualified to take decisions on our behalf. Well, in this instance, I do not want these people taking this decision on my behalf just because they do not have the moral courage to stand up against the Stonewall zealots, and then trotting off to church on Sunday morning to pray for forgiveness.

  4. IDS did come as a real surprise, even a shock. It will be interesting to see if he goes through with it.

    Andy Burnham is less of surprise; he was always the weakest pro-life link among the Catholics in the old Cabinet (whereas Paul Murphy was one of the strongest), although it was notable, during the recent discussion of the abortion time limit, that Burnham, the Health Spokesman, was kept away from the media.

    Instead, the talking was done by the hardline feminist Yvette Cooper, whose brief it was not. But even she has described this Bill, which is within her sphere of responsibility, as a shambles. And certainly Third Reading, arguably even Second Reading, has to be on the text before the House, not on the general principle that might have given rise to that text's composition.

    Ronnie Campbell is cited only as having emailed the campaign, presumably in reply to its enquiry, confirming his support. He probably didn't send it himself, and he remains one to watch.

    In Pat's case, we are informed of nothing more than an email to a constituent. On this issue, Pat has sent, or had sent on her behalf, a goodly number of emails to constituents. We shall certainly see when the House divides.

    I don't like referendums. But I am starting to see what you mean. This was in no one manifesto. It was not an issue at all at the General Election. Like a number of things, a very particular tendency in both Coalition parties slipped it into the Coalition Agreement as part of a coup.

  5. What you also predicted, David, was: 'Same-sex "marriage" is not going to happen. Forget about it.'

    Let's wait and see, shall we? I think you could be in for a surprise.

  6. Oh, I still don't think that it will ever reach Third Reading. It is more likely, though still quite improbable, that the whole thing will bring down Cameron entirely.

  7. A silly thought struck me after I had sent my last comments but as this is a silly piece of legislation I thought I may as well pose the question.
    Dave is trying to please the LGBT crowd and give them 'equality'. In this concern for equality what is the situation regarding the bisexual person? If Dave is serious in pushing equality then surely he will allow the bisexual person to marry twice - once to someone of the same sex and secondly to someone of the opposite sex. This would be true equality.
    The options for the transgender person are beyond me.

  8. Right. So the Labour Party (which, incidentally is meant to be the OPPOSITION) has, erm, 12 people who are sort of against a key Coalition policy.

    Whereas the Tories (who are not in Opposition, but in Government) have 120 MP's confirmed against gay marriage in published correspondence to their constituents, including current and ex-Ministers.

    Over half the Parliamentary Tory Party is actually against it (according to Peter Bone) but many are too worried about their careers.

    If that derisory total of 12 is all Labour can muster in Opposition, when it has a chance to split the Government....that shows you how passionately in favour of cultural revolution the Labour Party is.

    Theyre even prepared to give up a once-ina-lifetime chance to bring down Cameron by voting with the Tory rebels.

  9. I bet they wouldn't be, if that possibility actually arose. It would at third Reading, but that itself is extremely unlikely to happen.

    Miliband has not insisted on a free vote, even with his Deputy and two other Shadow Cabinet members threatening to resign if he did, for the sake of 12 people. Nor is the opposition among Labour MPs "sort of". It is as deep as it is wide. By the end of tomorrow (Sundays are always quiet, as they should be), my inbox will be overflowing.

  10. So there are fewer Labour opponents than Tories in absolute terms? There are fewer Labour MPs than Tories in absolute terms.

    Labour would have brought down Cameron at Third Reading of Lords reform, come up with any excuse why the final Bill was unacceptable and voted with the Tory rebels. Cameron had to withdraw the Bill to stop that happening. It could happen again.

    Miner's Boy, what would the Muslims say about polygamy legalisation?

  11. A few bigots left (or rather , Right!) in the party, but a very small minority.

    I think Ed's public comments are much more important
    " let me just say, not only will the shadow cabinet be going through the lobbies voting for equal marriage, I would say the vast majority of Labour MPs will be going through the lobbies voting for equal marriage. And if they ask my advice, that’s what I’ll advise them to do....I think that the vast majority of the parliamentary party will vote through equal marriage, and it will go through with Labour votes. And I think you will find a very significant percentage of Labour MPs going through"

    That's the dominant voice in the Labour party, not a few outdated religonists...........because, of course, if Labour becomes the voice of religious prejudices, they will lose the votes of the majority who think religion should be kept well away from politics. This isn't America - we are secularising faster than any other country, leaving immigrants as the main followers of religion. And many of them don't want to live in a theocracy

  12. Yes, that's why there's a free vote despite three Shadow Cabinet threats to resign, including from the Deputy Leader, if one were granted. Course it is.

    The Campaign for Marriage's email about the Labour free vote is ecstatic, quite clearly seeing this as the breakthrough for which we have been praying, the best hope ever of defeating this Bill.