Same-sex marriage: 7 Lib Dem MPs not present, of which only 1 an abstention

5 February 2013 , ,

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.”

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18 comments
Martin Lunnon
Martin Lunnon

Steve Webb and Danny Alexander managed to vote and attend a black tie dinner with my boss later in the evening.

David Austin
David Austin

I can definitively confirm Norman Baker was on ministerial business in Paris.

Chris Keating
Chris Keating

depends a bit what the "government business" is - obviously, some is more important than others...

Alex Folkes
Alex Folkes

Afraid I don't buy the 'constituency' or 'government' business line. This was a Tuesday night - a night when Parliamentary business always happens. If an MP arranges something in their constituency then they are using this as an excuse to miss the vote. I reckon Jenny's excuse might be valid though!

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

Thanks Robert. Will update the post accordingly.

William Jones
William Jones

I guess abstaining on religious grounds is better than voting against like several Labour MPs did, including my own.

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

As Richard says, I think Greg has doubts about the measure - but has also reflected on the strongly expressed views in favour of it from some of his constituents.

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

As all three were on record as support equal marriage, I think there's good reason to believe they weren't just looking for excuses to be absent.

James Benton-Evans
James Benton-Evans

I bet they all turned up to vote through the Welfare Reform Act.

Chris Read
Chris Read

I heard Martin Howood on a weekly R4 politics discussion over the weekend. I thought the matter came up and he said he supported it. If David Ward was abroad it sounds like his reason could be genuine

Alex Folkes
Alex Folkes

Am especially concerned re Martin given that he is chairing the party local election campaign (a campaign I have a, er, vested interest in). If the chair of that campaign can't vote for party policy then I'm very concerned. In such a case, I think he needs to get his explanation out fast and wide.

Paul Green
Paul Green

Dont think Martin would normally abstain?

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

I can understand the instinctive scepticism, especially as it mirrors my view in some cases in the past. However, it's worth bearing in mind that all three of them had written to constituents saying they supported equal marriage (see details on http://www.c4em.org.uk/support-for-equal-marriage/)

Vicki Bolton
Vicki Bolton

Norman Baker doesn't seem to me like an obvious abstainer... Agree re: Jenny Willott. Plus she's lovely.

C-