Tories cheat like a Vote Leave campaign over crucial customs union vote

This country is currently on a path to economic self-destruction because of a narrow vote to leave the European Union in 2016. Today we discovered that the Vote Leave campaign had cheated. And, by the way, that monumental news isn’t even on the BBC’s front page any more.

Tonight, this country was helped along its path to economic self-destruction  because of a narrow vote – 307-301 against an amendment which would have kept us in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. The desperate Tory government pulled a particularly dirty trick to win that vote.

The pairing system has long been a civilising feature of our Parliament. When an MP is indisposed for some reason or needs a night off, they can be paired with an MP who would vote the opposite way. Imagine the sorts of circumstances that you might need that in – maybe a dying parent, or a sick child, or your own illness, or being on maternity leave. Tonight, Jo Swinson, whose baby is just two weeks old, was paired with Conservative Party chair Brandon Lewis. He voted in the crunch votes. He didn’t vote in the earlier votes.  Jo was justifiably furious:

The incident even got a Twitter moment.

After a couple of hours, Lewis tweeted that it had been an honest mistake:

If he had voted in the earlier divisions, it might have aroused the suspicion of Alistair Carmichael and Jo. Knowing Jo as I do, if she had suspected for a minute that anything was up with the arrangement, she’d have made it over there to vote. But she shouldn’t have to think like that. She should be able to trust that an arrangement will be honoured.

But, if Andrea Leadsom had got proxy voting sorted out, Jo and the other two MPs on maternity leave (whose pairs were honoured) wouldn’t have to worry about this at all. Their votes would have been counted and they wouldn’t have to depend upon the integrity of a party which clearly doesn’t have any left.

Later, Julian Smith the Tory Chief Whip offered an apology to Jo

But Sal Brinton saw through it straight away:

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Steve Trevethan 18th Jul '18 - 9:58am

    To describe a mistake as honest is a contradiction in terms.
    A genuine mistake is just that and so has no need of further qualification or description. To state otherwise is to indicate that it was not a mistake.
    The phrase “honest mistake” is put forward by the perpetrator(s) to avoid or obscure responsibility for ation(s).
    A more accurate phrase is “self-serving mistake”.

  • Richard O’Neill 18th Jul ’18 – 1:52pm………………. Fortunately in both cases it didn’t materially effect the outcome of the vote. I can’t believe the govt would cheat because of the obvious adverse publicity that would follow………………

    I can’t understand your reasoning. Is drink driving excusable if there is no accident?

    I feel JS is absolutely right in believing this was the government’s deliberate flouting of parliamentary convention when faced with a vote that they looked like losing.

    As for this government caring one jot about adverse publicity???? As, with so many other cases, they apologise and move on.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jul '18 - 4:09pm

    Although the PM was appearing before the Liaison Committee (much better than PMQ) at the same time the Parliament Channel (201) was unable to follow the live debates in the House of Commons at the same time, such as the resignation statement by Boris Johnson. They did recognise their problem by the use of a split screen, but without sound.
    Unlike Wimbledon, there was no use of alternative Channels with sound. Speaker Bercow has been generous with urgent notice questions and issues around proxy voting and maternity leave were debated. Labour called for a ‘baby emoji’ in Hansard if possible. (Of course it is possible in any pixelated or dot matrix display). Changing a baby on a copy of the Daily Record was admitted, although the baby was not (of course) a Member of Parliament (at the time). Other MPs are having babies, so there is urgency. Angela Leadsom MP has promised a debate in September (2018?) before the party conferences. The SNP spokesman was invited to talk to Ministers in the (government) lobby as an alternative to electronic voting. It should be possible for an MP to listen to debates remotely and consider constituency interests and vote or abstain accordingly. Some issues currently require presence in the chamber so as to ensure that the MP has listened to the debate, for which multiple broadcast channels would be helpful.
    There is a short window of opportunity between the end o the summer recess and the start of the conference season, during which debate has been promised and decisions are needed.

  • Ruth Bright 19th Jul '18 - 9:07am

    Heartening the strength of public support Jo Swinson has received about this from within the Lib Dems and from Labour MPs like Tulip Siddiq (who, disgracefully, felt she had to return to the Commons just 6 weeks after an emergency C-section because there were no formal maternity leave arrangements).

    This support hopefully shows that the general climate around maternity leave is improving. A happy contrast with the comments from a Lib Dem Lord on LDV a few weeks ago that advocates of maternity leave for parliamentary candidates should “get real”.

  • Richard O’Neill 18th Jul ’18 – 5:16pm………..@Expats
    I am still relatively glad little harm was done. And I stand by my point that I believed both incidents were accidental misjudgements unless proved otherwise. The govt will have people who are ill/pregnant in the future and the reciprocal arrangement benefits thenm. Like I say I hope this was a genuine mistake………………………..

    The ‘accidental’ bit is becoming less and less feasible by the hour. When a Tory MP says he was instructed by their chief whip to ‘break the pairing’ and even
    Laura Kuenssberg pours scorn on the latest excuse that the chief whip ‘accidently’ told paired MPs to vote, you know it was no accident….

    1. Ready for this explanation? Tory sources say chief whip considered but did not go through with telling any MPs on short term pairs to vote even though they weren’t meant to
    1:53 PM – Jul 19, 2018
    2. But Julian Smith did, by accident, they say, tell Brandon Lewis to vote, breaking the long term pair of Jo Swinson.

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