Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Free Vote

David Williamson of the Western Mail has been on the telephone today to ask me for my opinion about 'Free Votes' in our parliaments. He may have been reading my post about the Human Fertilisation and Embyology Bill, which has caused me angst and Gordon Brown to display another bout of dithering. I'm rather in favour of the 'Free Vote' as a general principle. I accept that there has to be a system of 'whipping' if any sort of consistency or structure is to be maintained, but on issues of moral or religious conviction, I think politicians should be encouraged to decide for themselves - as far as possible anyway.

I thought that David Cameron was absolutely right to grant a 'Free Vote' to Conservative MPs on this contentious Bill, and Gordon Brown was right to change his mind, thought it doesn't really smack of 'moral compass' in that he only conceded when he thought he could carry his Bill without the rebels. Expediency rather than any sense of 'rightness' methinks. This debate is now likely to be much more interesting. It will be more transparent for the public, it should bring out some strong parliamentary performances by individual MPs (I would really love the challenge of speaking on this issue) and its good for democracy, in that voters can see how their MPs perform when they are not confined to the party line. This Bill is shaping up to be a highlight of the 2008 Parliamentary year.


Anonymous said...

The Speccie has a good article this week you should read

Hen Ferchetan said...

But what counts as "moral or religious"? Where is the line drawn?

I'd consider NHS privatisation, top-up fees, minimum wage and most other topics discussed in the commons to be moral issues.

What about fox-hunting? The objections to the "sport" are based on morals (i.e. that it's wrong to harm anmals for fun) - so I guess that also comes under the "morals and religion" heading.

I cannot understand how any party can justify giving a free vote on matters that involve religion but not on all those other important issues.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I've read the Spectator article and I share its concern that children would be born without a father at all. I just don't like it, or the message it sends out. This aspect of the Embyology Bill hasn't had much coverage yet, and it should.

Hen ferchetan - I completely take your point. All of us will have a different opinion about where 'free votes' are appropriate. At least it does seem that we agree that the principle should be acepted more widely than it is currently

Left Field said...

I share its concern that children would be born without a father at all.

Crikey. If women could mow lawns men would be finished!

Glyn Davies said...

left field - as a matter of fact, its Mrs D that mows the lawns in our garden. I bought her a ride-on mulcher when I was elected to the National Assembly 9 years ago. If I'm elected to Westminster I'll have to buy a 'ladies' fork and spade set'. Only joking. I do hope that I haven't transgressed the BBC's political correctness code.

Tom Pugh said...

"David Williamson of the Western Mail has been on the telephone today to ask me for my opinion about 'Free Votes' in our parliaments"

We only have one Parliament, you are not an elected member, yet, so in fairness how could you comment?
You could only know about THE Parliament if you are elected to it.

Glyn Davies said...

Tom - question for David, not me.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Certaintly the principle of a free vote should be used much more often - but I feel very uncomfortable about the precedent set here of allowing a free vote on matters of religious conscience but not on ones of personal conscience.

The parties should either admit that for all sense of purposes the free vote is dead and that the public vote for the party in elections not the individual, or, preferably, free votes should become more than common. Kow-towing to the Church while ignoring equally valid secular objections is a dangerous path.