An Early Day Motion, or EDM, is a petition that only an MP can start and only MPs can sign. By convention, some MPs (members of the Government and senior Opposition spokesmen) generally don’t sign them. Some MPs will sign almost any EDM that passes their desk – in some cases, we might suspect, having barely looked at it. Others are more sparing with their favours.
All of which adds up to Early Day Motions not really meaning much at all, other than being a useful way for an organisation to say “we’re campaigning for all policemen to wear pink tutus, to appear less threatening, and 23 MPs from all main parties have supported our EDM”, or for the media to jump on some oddball or disloyal EDM and make a big story out of it.
One quirk of EDMs is the convention that they be no longer than a single sentence, leading to some tortuous use of punctuation to string them out.
Who’s signed the most EDMs in this Parliament?
John McDonnell (Lab, Hayes and Harlington) and Mike Hancock (LD, Portsmouth South) are the Kings of the EDM, having signed 458 and 457 respectively – over two thirds of motions that passed their desk.
Jeremy Corbyn (Lab, Islington North) comes third with 387, closely followed by John Leech (LD, Manchester Withington) on 386 and Eric Illsley (Lab, Barnsley Central) on 351. The top Conservative signer is Peter Bottomly with a creditable 350.
Who’s signed the fewest EDMs?
Over two hundred MPs have signed no EDMs. Some through convention due to their position, some through choice. Gerry Adams hasn’t found the time (surprisingly enough) and neither has my old MP John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling).
Which were the most popular EDMs?
Measuring EDM popularity is a little unfair (but only a little) since earlier EDMs had more time to gather support. However, who could fail to feel a burst of pride at EDM 499, with the third highest number of signatures.
That this House places on record its thanks and appreciation to James Robertson, Matthew Taylor, Tori Reeve, Fiona Channon, Brendon Mulvihill, Caroline Robertson, Matt Walsh, Rina Odedra, Doreen Irving, Noel Kirby, Les Stockwell, Tony McDermott and Mike Styles and their dedicated and hardworking staff who carried out the recent office reorganisation with such efficiency and cheerfulness; is aware that past post-election office changes have often lasted to the summer recess; and is therefore delighted that all hon. Members have been settled into their new offices quickly and with so little fuss.
Beating it for the number one spot with 201 signatures is EDM 178 on the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (a fine example of painful punctuation to keep it all in one sentence against every rule of good grammar):
That this House welcomes the involvement of the many communities and local authorities in the first round of proposals from the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 and is especially heartened by the fact that this has led to people re-engaging in the democratic process; notes that this has resulted in 199 proposals for community sustainability being shortlisted by the Local Government Association; expresses its disappointment that although these proposals were initially submitted by local authorities on 31 July 2009 and were submitted to the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in December 2009, not one has yet been agreed; is concerned that this delay will cause disillusionment in many communities; further notes that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, has supported the introduction of a timetable for dealing with such proposals; and urges the Secretary of State to deal with all such proposals expeditiously.
Other high-scoring EDMs concern Carers Week, beak trimming of hens, the hunting act (for it) and community public houses.
And the least popular?
Since only an MP can submit an EDM, you have to be quite dedicated to get no signatures at all. A few EDMs were signed only by the submitter.
David Amess must have hoped to get more support for EDM 15
That this House notes with concern the quality of the BBC’s coverage of the recent general election, and in particular its results programme on election night; further notes the importance of accurate, timely and impartial analysis of political events to the health of democracy in the UK; and calls on the BBC to ensure its political reportage is underpinned by thorough research in future.
And whilst we’re discussing the BBC, where next for Robert Halfon’s plan to democratise Auntie?
That this House believes that the BBC should be subject to the same transparency and democracy expected of Government; considers that each licence-fee payer could be given a unique PIN number, so that they could vote annually via the internet on the BBC’s programmes, the level of BBC operational activity and administrative overheads, salaries, and on the standards of BBC programmes; considers that in each five-year Parliament there could be a vote as to whether to retain or scrap the licence fee, or to reduce it; and therefore calls on Ministers to extend their revolution in open government to the BBC and beyond.
Useful or not, Early Day Motions are nothing if not varied.