Thursday, December 09, 2010

Huhne stays in Cancun, no thanks to Labour or the Greens

So, Chris Huhne has decided to stay in Cancun to continue the valuable work he's doing at the UN climate change conference. This is a good thing, and shows that he's prepared to stick by what's important, regardless of the political consequences. Let's hope that he really can achieve some progress on measures to combat climate change and persuade those countries who have their fingers in their ears going la la la la la that they need to do more or the global consequences will be catastrophic.

The reason this was ever an issue was, as I wrote yesterday, because Ed Miliband decided to abandon years of parliamentary convention and refuse to provide a pair. That means taking a Labour MP out of the vote so that a Government vote in favour and an opposition vote against would cancel each other out. It's the sort of procedure that's necessary for the Government to do its job and meet its international obligations. You would think, by now, that Parliament would have found some way of using technology so that not just ministers, but MPs who may be sick or on maternity leave, who have a good reason for not being there in person, can record their vote in another way. We accept that principle in public elections by allowing everyone who wants one to have a postal vote, so why not at least trial something soon?

I think it's becoming imperative to do so if Miliband is going to behave like an idiot. I'd have more sympathy with him if Labour had never used the pairing system for close votes when they were in Government - but they did on ID cards, when they went against their manifesto pledge and introduced top up fees and on pre-charge detention.The opposition co-operated then, not because they wanted to, but because it's one of these conventions that keeps the wheels of Government turning.

You would think that a stint at climate change secretary would have given Ed Miliband an awareness and understanding of the huge issues facing the planet. I want to know whether he sleepwalked through his time in office and just doesn't understand or whether he is deliberately deciding that the future of the planet is not important when there's some political point scoring to do. Incompetent, or opportunistic? You choose.

And as for Caroline Lucas, until yesterday I had quite a bit of respect for her as the first Green MP, but she too has shown that she'd rather play games than put her principles into action. She could have offered to pair Chris Huhne but chose not to. She would have been quite prepared to see him fly across the Atlantic and back again to walk through a voting lobby. Apart from the exhaustion and the effect it would have on his work at the Conference, what a waste of carbon that would have been. I would have thought that Caroline Lucas would have put that issue above any other but it seems that's not he case after all.

Chris Huhne has shown that he's prepared to take the risk of losing the vote because he knows how important his presence in Cancun is. As it happens, I think the Government will win regardless, which is something I will watch with a very heavy heart.

Millennium Elephant's Daddy Alex has come out of his sick bed to write a fabulous post not just on this issue but on the whole tuition fees thing. Today is not going to be an easy day for any Liberal Democrat, but when the party is in pain, he knows exactly which bit to rub.


Duncan said...

Yeah, I don't think Chris was going to be that gung-ho about getting back for this one. He's got the golden ticket: Won't vote no, won't vote yes, won't abstain and won't be avoiding the vote on dubious grounds.

How did you vote Mr Huhne? I didn't. Why not? I was... oh you know, saving the world. It's my job. How would you have voted had you been here? You know I never really gave it much thought.

If I were Chris I'd be petitioning TheyWorkForYou to change their policy of weighting absence as 'light support' of a policy, as he doesn't want people to be 'confused' next election when it says he 'slightly supports raising the cap on tuition fees'.

James Mackenzie said...

That's a totally perverse argument. Caroline should have failed to vote against Vince Cable's fees plan, so no Green vote on this key issue should be registered, and all so that Huhne could be paired with her specifically rather than the anti-fees Lib Dem he's out there with, or indeed anyone else? This is suddenly her fault? She's even co-signed the amendment seeking delay with a Lib Dem for goodness sake.

Sorry, I don't normally put this in comments, but that's utter nonsense.


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