Has Gordon Brown done enough? An interesting post in Coffee House by Peter Hoskin
And so Gordon Brown has backed-down over the Embryology Bill. Now he won’t be forcing Labour MPs to vote in favour of the Bill outright – instead, they’ll get a free vote on three of its particularly controversial parts. Andrew Porter gets it spot-on over at Three Line Whip – it’s a great shame that Brown ignored the wishes of so many in his party for so long, only to buckle as soon as it looked like there’d be a wholesale rebellion. In this light, I doubt too many Labour MPs will be that grateful to Brown, even if the outcome was the one they wanted. Once again, our Prime Minister has been damaged by his own dithering.
It is percentage politics, with a reckoning at the end. And what does he expect? From the BBC News website (and hoping he has done his maths properly),
But the prime minister expects all Labour MPs to back the whole bill when it comes to the final Commons vote.
I am not sure which I find more disturbing, the Embryology Bill or the behaviour of Gordon Brown, in indicating that he is prepared to allow his MPs almost (but not quite) a free vote, but only if the mathematics show that the government will win (see the report on BBC News).
“The prime minister is prepared to allow Labour MPs who oppose a controversial embryo bill to vote against pieces of the legislation, the BBC has learned. The votes would be permitted only if they did not threaten the passage of the bill, a government official said.”
The government’s response to the warning from leading Labour MPs that a rebellion is on the cards, is a self-serving mixture of good old-fashioned Stalinism, control-freakery and sucking up to vested interests. I suppose we should expect nothing less of a man who writes about courage but who so clearly lacks it: obsessed by power and its exercise, and convinced that he and his acolytes alone know what is best for us. The arguments paraded are designed to make those who oppose the bill appear as enemies of progress, and unconcerned about our health and welfare. Thus Ben Bradshaw (fast becoming the acceptable face of the Brownite camp):
“This is about using pre-embryonic cells to do research that has the potential to ease the suffering of millions of people in this country. The government has taken a view that this is a good thing.”
We should all, therefore, be reassured? Or should we? For a different view, see Nadine Dorries’ post in Coffee House, The Embryology Bill, cui bono? And the opposition cuts across party lines. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph this morning, Labour MP Stephen Byers – a former cabinet minister under Tony Blair – said the public would “look on in disbelief” if Mr Brown did not offer a free vote, and (BBC News again) “Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy is reportedly prepared to quit the cabinet rather than vote for the bill.”