Labour comes to Cameron's rescue as gay marriage wrecking amendment is defeated

Ed Miliband advised Labour MPs to vote against the amendment, rather than abstain, after Tory whips warned they could be defeated.

MPs have just voted to reject Tory MP Tim Loughton's wrecking amendment to the gay marriage bill by 375 votes to 70. The amendment would have introduced civil partnerships for opposite sex couples, but while many support this change in principle, MPs from all parties warned that it could delay the introduction of equal marriage (Loughton is an opponent of the bill, which is revealing of his true motives). Instead, they voted in favour of a Labour amendment to establish an immediate consultation on the issue, an improved version of the government's earlier pledge to hold a review in five years' time. 

Labour originally planned to abstain from voting on the Loughton amendment but ended up voting against it after Conservative whips warned that they were in danger of losing the vote.

Supporters of gay marriage have responded by praising Labour for opting not to play politics and declining an easy opportunity to embarrass David Cameron. Tim Montgomerie tweeted: "Hats off to Labour tonight. They've seen through @timloughton's wrecking amendment and put the gay marriage reform before politics." But, unsurprisingly, Tory opponents of gay marriage are less pleased with the outcome. Conservative MP Stewart Jackson has denounced equalities minister Maria Miller for "defending the indefensible grubby deal with Labour to ram bill through."

Here's a full list of the 70 MPs who voted for the Loughton amendment, notably including Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes. It looks as if Green MP Caroline Lucas, having earlier supported the amendment and derided claims that it would "wreck" the bill, ultimately chose not to vote for it.

Four of the Conservative MPs who voted for the amendment - Christopher Chope, Roger Gale, Anne McIntosh, Andrew Robathan - voted against the introduction of civil partnerships for same sex couples in 2004. While it's possible that they have genuinely changed their minds on this issue, it is more likely evidence that the primary motive of many of those who supported the amendment was to derail the introduction of gay marriage. As I noted earlier, the irony is that Tory MPs oppose gay marriage, which would not undermine the institution of marriage, but support heterosexual civil partnerships, which certainly would.

Conservative: 56

Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Peter Aldous (Waveney), Steven Baker (Wycombe), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswolds, The), David Davies (Monmouth), Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire), Philip Davies (Shipley), Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North), Roger Gale (Thanet North), Cheryl Gillan (Chesham & Amersham), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Charles Hendry (Wealden), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), Pauline Latham (Derbyshire Mid), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater & Somerset West), Tim Loughton (Worthing East & Shoreham), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Anne McIntosh (Thirsk & Malton), Esther McVey (Wirral West), Anne Main (St Albans), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), David Morris (Morecambe & Lunesdale), David Nuttall (Bury North), Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Chris Pincher (Tamworth), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Andrew Robathan (Leicestershire South), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell), Henry Smith (Crawley), Caroline Spelman (Meriden), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Ben Wallace (Wyre & Preston North), Robert Walter (Dorset North), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Bill Wiggin (Herefordshire North), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South)

Labour: 8

Joe Benton (Bootle), Rosie Cooper (Lancashire West), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Jim Dobbin (Heywood & Middleton), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Mary Glindon (Tyneside North), Paul Murphy (Torfaen), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East).

Liberal Democrats: 3

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Simon Hughes (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West).


Mark Durkan (Foyle), Dr Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South), Margaret Ritchie (Down South)


David Cameron and Ed Miliband walk through the Members' Lobby to listen to the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on May 8, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.