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.