Tory Government Vote Shock
Since last year’s general election, the Tories have operated a policy of not voting against any Opposition motion, which basically means accepting the motion. This was their tactic of avoiding potentially embarrassing defeats where they might have Tory MPs that would have rebelled rather than following the whip. However, for two recent Opposition Day debates, which involved the Government having to release papers, firstly on the Windrush immigration scandal and then on all their analysis for Brexit, they have suddenly found the will to vote. If ever there were tactics that arouse suspicion that the Tories can 3-line whip votes to prevent them publishing information for other parliamentarians to scrutinise then surely this is it. What are they afraid of, or got to hide?
It has been a long standing convention that Labour and Tory MPs often have “pairing” arrangements with an MP from the opposite party. This allows them to agree with each other on certain votes that if one MP cannot be there the other MP then absents himself from the vote. It is supposed to assist say in the case of foreign trips that makes someone genuinely absent. However, to myself it is an odd arrangement as firstly you are completely trusting the MP from an opposite party and secondly if you are an opposition MP that agrees to absent yourself from a vote then you make it much easier for the Government to maintain a winning position. The SNP do not undertake pairing arrangements.
Another party which sits on the opposition benches near the SNP is the DUP from Northern Ireland. I had a conversation with one of their MPs who told me he sometimes arranges pairing arrangements. When I asked more, he explained he pairs with a Labour MP. So, the DUP, who sit on the opposition benches actually vote that much with the Tories that they pair off with Labour rather than a Government MP. This means that while the DUP get extra money as an official opposition party, they are so aligned with the Government when it comes to voting that they pair off with another opposition party. They really do have their cake and eat it given they also levered £1bn out of the Tories for Northern Ireland too.
East Coast Mainline
The UK Government have finally decided to formally end the franchise with Virgin/Stagecoach on the London-Edinburgh train service. They defend the operator for the fact they “got their sums wrong”. I pointed out in Parliament that this means the Department of Transport officials also got it wrong as they recommended tender award; it means those who missed out on the franchise did so against a consortium who basically submitted false figures and is allowed to walk away and it is further proof that the franchise system is not working properly costing all of us taxpayers more money. Virgin/Stagecoach also get to continue to be involved in the train operations, via the Department for Transport until a new working arrangement is put in place. It is time public sector bids are allowed as it is the only time that service has operated successfully.
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard