I might write something longer (oh no! stop her!) on the Digital Economy Bill debate later. (Highlights: losing clauses 18 and* 43, Tom Watson, John Grogan, John Hemming. Surprise of the night: Don Foster getting his shit together. Random interloper from the Planet Twat: Denis MacShane. Best moment: old Tory MP whose name I didn’t catch telling the House of his shocking discovery that IP addresses weren’t unique and constant. Worst moment: all of the ones where Stephen Timms tried to talk about technology, keeping clauses 11-16, the vote itself.)
But I want to say something quickly about the scores on the doors.
As I write, the voting breakdown for the third reading is still available here but it will be replaced with the Official Version at some point in the morning. I’ll try to update it when it does, and if you think my numbers are groggy let me know, because I’ve totted this up very quickly. I have copied the list though, if anyone wants me to check their MP.
Of the 189 Aye votes, I make it 185 Labour and 4 Conservatives. Plus the two tellers were Labour.
Of the 47 Noe votes, I make it 23 Labour rebels, 16 Lib Dems, 5 Conservatives and 3 others (DUP, PC, Ind). Plus the two tellers were Lib Dem.
We’ll get to the shock bit in a minute. The main pattern is very much the usual story (if much more thinly attended than usual), and the crumb of comfort here is that, for once, people saw this happening. I was watching the #debill Twitter stream last night as well as BBC Parliament, and the understandable conclusion of many was that the bill was getting the pwning it so richly deserved. And yes, on the floor of the House, it certainly was.
But when push came to shove, as Mr Head of State put it, it was the numbers, stupid. There were about 20 Labour MPs, mostly rebels, in the chamber for the debate itself, and then 170 more turned up to vote the bill through anyway. Because this is what they do. They sit in the bar and await instructions from the government. This is what they’ve done on everything since 1997. Did you hear Denis MacShane, urging loyalty to the Labour government as a socialist (and as a socialist, obviously he had to stand up for the great unwashed masses of broadsheet journalists)? Did you think he was kidding? This is how these hopeless dweebs really think. I’m told it was like Passchendaele in the Lords wash-up yesterday, with everything the Lib Dems sent over the top getting machine-gunned down by the 5:1 Labservative majority.
This is what it’s like to have a government with a big majority. This is what “strong governnment” means. So, given that our electoral system is set up to deliver vast majorities to traditional blocs, you won’t be surprised when this carries on happening, right?
Now for the shock (and I stress it was a shock to me, but please provide a link if this was preannounced and I missed it). Wow. What happened to the Tories, and whatever it was, why didn’t we do anything about it? Nine votes! Out of 193 MPs. And John Redwood, who was getting so much Twitter fan mail yesterday, abstained.
My understanding was that the Tories were going to turn out and support the government. Clearly at some point they got cold feet – which would explain why Labour were whipped. The Tories staying away in those numbers – and the fact that Redwood was clearly interested in the bill but didn’t vote – can only suggest a direction of some sort from the top. Individual Tories, largely the old-skool crew, were obviously very unhappy with the civil liberties implications (I see David Davis was in the Noe lobby with the Lib Dems and Labour rebels).
Now, that suggests that more of them were ripe for turning. It strikes me that a trick may have been missed here.
* Just realised I really shouldn’t be calling losing clause 18 a highlight. It was replaced by a government amendment, the only one that got through. If anything, it’s slightly worse than the original, and far, far worse than the Lib Dems’ amended version of clause 18.
UPDATE: Just noticed this suitably angry post from Lynne Featherstone.