Gosh, and to think tonight I was planning to favour you all with a fascinating post on recycling.
On topic of the moment, Ed Davey’s ejection from the Commons and the ensuing Lib Dem walk-out, I find I am a cross between Linda Jack and Stephen Tall (now there’s a thought): part of me whoops for joy in a totally unrestrained fashion, part of me clear-headedly approves both tactics and principle. It gives me hope, because if we in the People’s Republic can whoop for joy, other people - neutral people - can have their interest piqued as a result of this afternoon’s events. It also gives me hope to see Tories spitting out accusations of childishness, first retort of the terminally out-manoeuvred, as fast as their little keyboards can carry them.
I would just like to echo Stephen on one particular point though – of course it was bloody planned! It would have been the height of irresponsibility to take a decision like that on the floor of the House on the spur of the moment.
Man with a plan
And what on earth is the problem with planning a protest, in effect boycotting a political process because you don’t believe it is being effective and allowing you to answer to your constituency – both your actual electors and the wider electorate ?
There was nothing procedurally wrong with the amendment being turned down, but it was a slap in the face to the parliamentary party’s core view, as expressed through the tabling of the amendment. And sorry, but it just isn’t enough to mumble about splits in the party as Michael White does in the Guardian. That was the amendment that was. It was obviously important, obviously an issue of national interest, obviously of more significance than the procedural sum of its parts. It was not put on the agenda. This is a matter for concern. The parliamentary party’s response could have ranged all the way from acceptance that getting it on the agenda was always a long shot anyway and issuing a disgruntled press release afterwards up to what actually happened – and they went with the latter. O shock and-as-it-were-to-say horror.
It’s not just the publicity value either, nice though that is. This incident has the potential to be a watershed. It draws a line, blows away of some the madness the Cleggster wrote about yesterday. It may now be a matter of backing the Tory amendment en masse after all, but my feeling is it won’t quite amount to that, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a disaster. The online party presence has been all over this question with fine-toothed combs, secateurs and feather dusters (or at least other folk have and I’ve been reading and going, “Yeh….”) and briefly a second-best referendum on the treaty alone is not without serious objections. A Yes vote, which the party could not, in all conscience, campaign against, is interpretable by the government as a blank cheque in Europe, and the whole notion of voting on a treaty which does not by itself amount to a constitution as if it is one is intellectually bankrupt.
There are two other alternatives to hand. One is to unashamedly go for exasperated free-for-all voting now that the party’s first preference has been so publicly pushed off the table, and continue campaigning for a full referendum in other ways – hell, we’ve got the anecdote to kick off with, should the Cleggster feel like doing any more writing for the Yorkshire Evening Post. The other is to use the threat of mass backing for the Tory amendment to get that first preference back on the table.
Either way, there is an unfamiliar sensation of having shots to call, and how it pans out remains to be seen, but tonight in the People’s Republic we concur with a significant section of the liberal nerdorati that today is a good day to be a Liberal Democrat.