Regime chaos

Labour MP Chris Bryant took this picture of the chaos in the voting lobby of the House of Commons on 19 October 2022
Labour MP Chris Bryant photographed the chaos in the lobbies

The entertaining, not to say South-American, scenes in the Commons last night did not cover the Mother of Parliaments in glory. Politics nerds will enjoy the irony, though, that the chaos was actually caused by Ed Miliband, whose canny last-minute anti-fracking bill put the government on the spot.

If Miliband’s motion had succeeded, Parliament would have had to consider legislation to ban fracking all together – an attempt by Labour to ‘take control of the order paper’, to quote a Tory whip. Ruth Edwards, Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, put it well when she said in the house that the motion “enabled the opposition to force colleagues to choose between voting against our manifesto and voting to lose the whip.”

Dozens of Tory MPs, including ministers, refused the choice, and abstained, exposing themselves, in principle, to losing the whip. MPs, on the other hand, representing constituencies affected by fracking, who supported the government in the vote have now, of course, exposed themselves to the anger of their constituents. Talk about a cleft stick. Clever Ed.

Our MP, Oliver Dowden, did manage to squeeze through the chaos to cast his vote against the Labour motion and thus in favour of fracking. Hertsmere is at least a hundred miles from the nearest proposed fracking site and, in fact, the geology of our region means there’s no risk of fracking here ever, so what he was really voting for was fracking in other people’s back yards.

Dowden didn’t speak in the short debate and wasn’t to be seen in the lobbies when reporters were looking for opinions (there was no shortage of opinions). And although the beleaguered Prime Minister has begun to fill the gaps in her cabinet with political opponents – member and famous chancer Grant Shapps is now Home Secretary – it doesn’t look like Dowden’s phone has been ringing off the hook.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *