I think a few eyebrows have been raised by the absence of 7 Liberal Democrat MPs from the voting lobbies this evening on same-sex marriage. However, looking through the names there’s only 1 actual abstention amongst them – that of Greg Mulholland.
Looking through the others, the explanations are:
- Norman Baker, Martin Horwood, John Thurso: absent on government / constituency business
- Charles Kennedy: caring for an ill family member
- David Ward: abroad on Parliamentary business
- Jenny Willott: just given birth (congratulations!)
UPDATE: To confirm that the first three absences were all genuine absences and not ‘conveniently timed visits’, all three had previously expressed support to constituents for equal marriage (details here).
UPDATE 2: Greg Mulholland has posted a statement on his website explaining his abstention: “I do agree unequivocally that all adults must be treated equally in terms of legal recognition of their relationship and the rights that they convey; the question is how best to deliver that at the same time as protecting freedom of conscience. These are two important rights and must both be delivered simultaneously. The problem is that as currently drafted, the Marriage Bill delivers neither of these … I abstained because as drafted I can’t support the Bill, but nor would I want to oppose it as I as that could certainly lead to people misunderstanding and misrepresenting my position and seeking to portray me as illiberal and intolerant and anti equal rights, all of which I am not.”
UPDATE 3: Martin Horwood has said more to Pink News: “I most emphatically did NOT abstain! I was 100 miles away in my constituency speaking to members of a local church about poverty and homelessness. I had already postponed this meeting once and felt I could not do so again, but nevertheless checked with Liberal Democrat whips right up to the afternoon of the vote itself to make sure they were absolutely confident the bill was at no risk at all.”