Thursday, March 06, 2008

Twisted Knickers, Nick Clegg and the Blogosphere

For a change, some may say, I have been doing a bit of reflecting today. I happen to believe abstention yesterday was a mistake, so I have pontificated on the alternatives. Unpalatable as it may be, I would have had to support the Tory amendment, for reasons I have elaborated on elsewhere. So. Let's look at the position Nick found himself in. Mr Ming had already done the deal with Mr Gordo. He had done a public about turn, but come up with the in/out wheeze. What was Nick to do? Pour scorn on the memory of the great Ming by reverting back to our previous policy?

Let's face it, Nick had four alternatives.
*1 - vote for
*2 - vote against
*3 - abstain
*4 - allow a free vote

Option *1 - vote for. My preferred option. But, not everyone in the parliamentary party's preferred option. Many of them argue that the Lisbon Treaty is not the same as the Constitution, so there would have been a rebellion.
Option *2 - vote against. Can't understand why anyone would vote against, however...........not everyone in the parliamentary party's preferred option. Many of them argue that the Lisbon Treaty is the same as the Constitution, so there would have been a rebellion.
Option *3 - abstain. Open to lots of criticisms of sitting on the fence. However, not everyone in the parliamentary party's preferred option, many of them argue that the Lisbon Treaty is the same as the there would have been a rebellion.
Option *4 - free vote. Hey............this is where it gets really interesting! This, given all of the above, seemed to me the most sensible option. However, consequence? A potential 3 way split!

There is no doubt Nick was in a catch 22 whatever he did. So did he choose the least worst option? Maybe we will never know. The fact is that we are where we are. My personal opinion is that how ever Europhiliac we are as a party, our party is about far far more than Europe. There are urgent issues facing our country which will be there regardless of Lisbon or Maastricht or any other blinkin treaty!!!!! I for one believe Nick has been highlighting some enormously important issues, whether they be Mental Health, the Criminal Justice System, ID cards, Social Mobility or Education. All of which will continue to be issues whether or not we sign the Lisbon Treaty.

So, my advice to Nick is...........hold your nerve, don't be deflected, focus on your goals. When you are breaking new ground you are bound to hit a few bumps in the road - the test of your leadership will be whether you allow them to deflect you, or whether you get right back on track.

And, my advice to some of my fellow blogonistas is............get over it.


Alex Wilcock said...

Very sensible post - I agree with pretty much every word!

I've been trying to write an article about when to whip and when not to... And realising how difficult a question it is ;-)

I disagreed with Nick's position on this, but it was after all the policy he ran on when he stood for Leader, so people can hardly say they didn't know what they were getting. Shame there wasn't a candidate with a different view, but I doubt more than a few Euro-nerds would have changed their vote either way; the real problem is that the party's never had the option to debate and vote on it on Conference, so the pressure of top-down decisions keeps bursting out in blogs and MPs' rebellions.

Lee Griffin said...

And so we should also just get over it when, hypothetically, the ID card debate rolls in and Labour win the right to compulsion because of a three line whip?

Linda Jack said...

Alex, have you pinched yourself to make sure you are OK, agreeing with me on nearly every word?!! Lee - that's politics. I can't see how the party system could possibly survive without whipping. The whole purpose of political parties is based on a concept of collective action, without any discipline that is lost. However, 3 line whips do not preclude individuals determining that they will risk being disciplined and vote against. It may be very frustrating at times, but I really don't know what kind of chaos would be the alternative.

Lee Griffin said...

Here was me thinking that MPs acted on manifesto's and core party principles and not what a whip tells them in any given week. At least that's how it should happen. MPs are involved in the process of defining manifestos and if they don't agree with significant parts of it what are they doing being an MP of that party anyway unless it's simply to have power in their safe constituency seat?

It's this idea that MPs are somehow working for the party rather than the people that is so abhorrent with the current system. MPs should generally vote with their party because they agree with the core party beliefs and the stance of the party doesn't vary wildly from them, and if the MP disagrees because their constituents have a different view then that should be their prerogative on the minority of cases that such an event happens.

To me it's not "politics" that makes such things as the rail roading through of policies happen, it's just plain bullshit.