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).

SDLP: 3

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.

Picture: ANDRÉ CARRILHO
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Leader: Boris Johnson, a liar and a charlatan

The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. 

Boris Johnson is a liar, a charlatan and a narcissist. In 1988, when he was a reporter at the Times, he fabricated a quotation from his godfather, an eminent historian, which duly appeared in a news story on the front page. He was sacked. (We might pause here to acknowledge the advantage to a young journalist of having a godfather whose opinions were deemed worthy of appearing in a national newspaper.) Three decades later, his character has not improved.

On 17 September, Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy, hyperbolic article for the Daily Telegraph laying out his “vision” for Brexit – in terms calculated to provoke and undermine the Prime Minister (who was scheduled to give a speech on Brexit in Florence, Italy, as we went to press). Extracts of his “article”, which reads more like a speech, appeared while a terror suspect was on the loose and the country’s threat level was at “critical”, leading the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, to remark: “On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service.”

Three other facets of this story are noteworthy. First, the article was published alongside other pieces echoing and praising its conclusions, indicating that the Telegraph is now operating as a subsidiary of the Johnson for PM campaign. Second, Theresa May did not respond by immediately sacking her disloyal Foreign Secretary – a measure of how much the botched election campaign has weakened her authority. Finally, it is remarkable that Mr Johnson’s article repeated the most egregious – and most effective – lie of the EU referendum campaign. “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week,” the Foreign Secretary claimed. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”

This was the promise of Brexit laid out by the official Vote Leave team: we send £350m to Brussels, and after leaving the EU, that money can be spent on public services. Yet the £350m figure includes the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher – so just under a third of the sum never leaves the country. Also, any plausible deal will involve paying significant amounts to the EU budget in return for continued participation in science and security agreements. To continue to invoke this figure is shameless. That is not a partisan sentiment: the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, denounced Mr Johnson’s “clear misuse of official statistics”.

In the days that followed, the chief strategist of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings – who, as Simon Heffer writes in this week's New Statesman, is widely suspected of involvement in Mr Johnson’s article – added his voice. Brexit was a “shambles” so far, he claimed, because of the ineptitude of the civil service and the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 before outlining its own detailed demands.

There is a fine Yiddish word to describe this – chutzpah. Mr Johnson, like all the other senior members of Vote Leave in parliament, voted to trigger Article 50 in March. If he and his allies had concerns about this process, the time to speak up was then.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Johnson has no ideological attachment to Brexit. (During the referendum campaign, he wrote articles arguing both the Leave and Remain case, before deciding which one to publish – in the Telegraph, naturally.) However, every day brings fresh evidence that he and his allies are not interested in the tough, detailed negotiations required for such an epic undertaking. They will brush aside any concerns about our readiness for such a huge challenge by insisting that Brexit would be a success if only they were in charge of it.

This is unlikely. Constant reports emerge of how lightly Mr Johnson treats his current role. At a summit aiming to tackle the grotesque humanitarian crisis in Yemen, he is said to have astounded diplomats by joking: “With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?” The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. By extension, he demeans our politics. 

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left