The Government were defeated on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which was designed to ensure that a final vote on the Brexit deal is voted on by Parliament and able to be challenged. It was a narrow vote, 309-305 which made it quite dramatic. I “man marked” the tellers on the Aye lobby so I would know instantly if the Government were going to be defeated and enjoyed seeing it happen.
The first question at Prime Ministers Questions that day was a Tory whip planted question [Another drawback of getting a PMQ if you are a Tory - their whips often take over]. This question was intended to suggest that there was no need for the Tory rebels to vote for the amendment as there would be an overall vote anyway. So it seemed that the day was being stage managed to quell the rebellion and maybe even persuade Dominic Green not to push his amendment to a vote.
It was also confirmed there were real intimidating tactics from the Tory whips too. One rebel was sacked from his position as vice chair of the party. The problem they now have is that these rebels now feel they have nothing to lose in other matters, and could be dangerous internal enemies.
Something I was able to witness first hand was the entire group of Tory whips standing at the glass doors of the No voting lobby just staring and trying to eyeball any of the rebels as they cast their vote in the opposite lobby. It seemed so childish for what is important business.
Additionally, the chancellor steered one of the planned rebels into the voting lobby he wanted her to vote in. Frankly this is immoral but it has been accepted over the years at Westminster that a nudge at the right time can be used to force someone into the lobby you want them to go in. It is probably another reason that they are resistant to electronic voting!
Labour and Brexit
Those following Brexit and the Labour party will see that they have no agreed position or alternative to the Tory position of withdrawal from the single market. I had an interesting conversation with a Labour MP, who lamented it was easy for me as my party had a clear position so voting was easy. He meanwhile, has to really study amendments to see if there are ones he wants to either vote against his whip on, or where the Labour whips try to force abstention. Much has been said about SNP party discipline, but I am happy with a unified position where no whip strong arm tactics are required.
Another week, another WASPI defeat for the Tory Government. This time I took the opportunity to highlight figures from the House of Commons library I got that shows up to the year 2025, the corporation tax, inheritance tax, capital gains and savings tax giveaways will cost the Treasury £66bn pounds. Why is it they resist transitional payments so much?
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard 21 December 2017