‘No’ vote was strong, there’s all to play for

Feb 6, 2013

We always said the crucial thing about yesterday’s vote would be the strength of the ‘no’ vote. Before the vote, the media was speculating that we might get 130, or possibly 150 votes. We surpassed those expectations and got 175.

Together with abstentions and stay-aways, it means fully one third of the Commons did not back the Bill last night. And more Tories voted against it than for it.

That’s a serious blow to the Prime Minister, which is why this morning’s newspapers have focused on the strength of the ‘no’ vote.

Headlines: &#13&#13 The Daily Telegraph: &#13 'Half of Tories defy PM on gay marriage'  &#13&#13 The Times: &#13 'Cameron reels from huge revolt on gay vote' &#13&#13 Daily Mail: &#13 'Cameron humbled by Tory gay vote rebellion' &#13&#13 The Guardian: &#13 'Ministers and most Tory backbenchers reject Cameron's 'step forward''

Although Labour and the Tories promised a ‘free vote’, there have been reports of severe behind-the-scenes pressure put on MPs by the hierarchy of both parties. That is shameful, but well done to those brave MPs who resisted the arm-twisting.

Even supporters of the Bill spoke about the shocking way the issue is being rammed through Parliament with unseemly haste. Others said the Bill doesn’t go far enough because they want civil partnerships opened up to straight couples – a move that could cost the taxpayer £5bn.

There will be further votes and speeches in the Commons before the Bill moves on to the House of Lords. Last night’s strong ‘no’ vote will embolden the Lords, where the voting arithmetic is very different to the Commons.

Last night’s vote was important, and we are pleased that we achieved a very strong ‘no’ vote. The opposition to the Government’s plans has shocked Westminster insiders, and that opposition is growing. There’s all to play for.