Sensible, unfortunate and frustrating: the three reasons three Lib Dem MPs missed Euro vote last night

With a close and controversial vote on Europe last night in the House of Commons, the absence of three Liberal Democrat MPs have raised more eyebrows than a complete back catalogue of Roger Moore appearances.

For Jo Swinson, her absence was sensible. She is on maternity leave. Parental leave exists precisely so that parents can take time being parents, and they, their children and our society are better for that. She was also ‘paired’ with another MP, which is the process by which two MPs who would otherwise have voted opposite ways both agree not to vote and so their absence makes no net difference to the result (normally – though this time was more complicated).

For Vince Cable, his absence was unfortunate: an absence at another meeting caused by a miscalculation about whether or not there would be a close vote last night. As Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said in apologising for the mistake,

I was not expecting a close vote – up until 8pm, Labour were planning to abstain which would have meant the vote would be lost by hundreds. In fact several Labour MPs voted with the government- which is why they won. By the time it became apparent that the vote was going to be close – it was too late to get two of our MPs back in time to vote.

I’m taking responsibility and redoubling my efforts to stop Brexit.

That other MP mentioned in his statement was Tim Farron. But I suspect many (including myself) will class his absence slightly differently as in his case he was giving a talk titled “Illiberal truths” at Sherborne Abbey about his experiences as a Christian politician.

Previous examples of such comments have not exactly been happy and the official write-up of the event framed his talk as, “Tim Farron MP made the headlines during the 2017 general election campaign as leader of the Liberal Democrat party, although it was not, in fact, politics that generated the headlines but repeated attempts by the mainstream media to get him to express an opinion on whether gay sex was compatible with Christian faith.”

To his credit, Tim Farron has also apologised: “We clearly called it wrong, as did Labour. I take full responsibility for my part. The Tories don’t deserve any luck, I’m so sorry I inadvertently granted them some.”


21 responses to “Sensible, unfortunate and frustrating: the three reasons three Lib Dem MPs missed Euro vote last night”

  1. If this happens again I will join Labour we could have stopped the gov committing suicide what a ridiculous excuse

    • How does that help stop Brexit? Labour still have a significant hard-core of Brexiters and an even larger number who will simply play at party politics. There was a mess up and apologies have been made.

    • Kevin , I hope you don’t decide to rejoin Labour the fight against Brexit starts here. Incidentally Jo Swinson’s pair voted !!

    • Four Labour MP’s voted with the Tories on Monday – how does that help stop Brexit or this dire government?

  2. It was very uncomfortable to watch Tom Brake appearing (to his credit) on Daily Politics today and doing his best to defend this situation. I can only hope that from now on no Lib Dem MP will be permitted to miss any division on a brexit issue no matter what the calculations are as to the likely closeness of the vote. We are supposed to be leading on this for heaven’s sake.

  3. Jo was happy to take her young child to the march against Trump on Friday. I would have thought this vote was important for the future of her child.

    There is simply no excuse for Farron and Cable. Tragic and Shameful

    • I have heard that Jo was paired with Margot James from the government who would have voted with the government but didn’t vote, so Jo’s absence did not affect the outcome of the vote.

      • Well that was wrong and the Tories cheated . But of course not nice place for us to be in..

      • Jo was paired with Brandon Lewis, who respected the pair for seven votes, but broke it for the two crucial ones.

  4. This was frankly an embarrassing and ridiculous mistake. Lib/ Dems especially leaders should have been at this vote – I’m fuming I don’t like the piss taking out of my Party on the Daily Politics show. A faux pas of epic proportions !

  5. It is nonsense that MPs on maternity leave cannot cast their vote – provisions must be made to enable MPs in such circumstances cast their vote.

  6. First Lib Dem news I’ve seen shared on my Facebook by non-LDs for a long time and it’s….very negative. If it was two unknown MPs that’s one thing, but for it to be the leader and former leader is just about as bad as it can be!

  7. Philip observes that “Jo was happy to take her young child to the march against Trump on Friday.” Indeed. For a short while, just a few minutes’ journey down the road from where she lives.

    It’s quite another thing to expect her to complete an 800+ mile round trip just to vote in a division.

    I agree with Hamish – it seems ridiculous in this day and age that MPs on parental leave are unable to vote remotely or by proxy.

  8. It wasn’t a mistake, its was a complete abrogation of duty of leadership by Vince and Tim AND Jo Swinson.

  9. The vote would still have been won by the government even if the three MPs had turned up (and I assume that pairing operated in the case of Jo Swinson – she has complained about it not operating in the second vote on Tuesday). But there is something symbolically odd about the leader and former leader of the most remain-orientated party in parliament being away for this vote; and it feeds into a narrative, much repeated during and since the coalition government, of the LDs as untrustworthy.

  10. The Labour Leadership has been deliberately missing from the Brexit battle for more than 2 years. Yes – frustrating mistake – but the finger is being pointed in the wrong direction here.

  11. Not good enough-we as the Lib Dems are supposed to be at the vanguard of pro european legislation. I am deeply gutted our so called leaders and exleaders cannot see the importance and miscalculate on such votes. We are working on the ground to make a difference at the grass roots do not let us down. You are paid to be there we are not! Get your act together!

  12. Please see LD Voice on this. Jo was paired but the Tory voted anyway. Both Tories and Labour seem to have abandoned the usual customs in all this Mayhem. Members need reassurance from Vince that everyone will be present for all Brexit debates from now on.

  13. So several Labour MPs voted with the government, so Kevin is thinking of joining Labour?

    I thought “Sensible, unfortunate and frustrating” must be our new slogan. It would fit better than some.

  14. It was excruciating. Yet I’m angry about comments on Jo Swinson’s presence at the march yet absence for the vote. Jo was at the march, baby strapped to her, for a short time, to show support and leadership. She wouldn’t be allowed to bring her days-old baby into the chamber, waiting for and traipsing through the lobby, and we rightly have no knowledge of how well and comfortable she is and how much rest she needs. At the Trump march huge credit goes to Jo and to Jane Dodds, There wasn’t another senior LD figure in sight.

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