MP COLUMN: We may have to vote for a deal that is better than no deal

In ordinary times, you’d normally expect opposition parties to vote against the government in the Commons.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 7:00 am
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.

There were some exceptions to the rule before Covid. Opposition MPs sometimes abstained so they could later win amendments when scrutiny committees went through Bills with a fine tooth comb.

On other occasions, opposition parties would refuse to walk into a trap when governments presented Bills that combined the good and the bad. Government managers hoped to then present a vote against in the worst possible light.

Covid has changed many things and made the dilemmas sometimes awkward for the opposition parties. Earlier this week, there was a vote on the new tiered restrictions.

Labour was concerned that businesses and people affected won’t receive enough support from the state and we made that clear. But we knew that there were likely to be many Conservative rebels for different reasons.

If we had voted down the government’s proposal it would not have meant extra financial support to people in higher tiers. It would have stopped all restrictions as Labour and other opposition parties were a majority when combined with Tory rebels.

Given that we couldn’t lift all restrictions and let Covid infection rates rise we decided to abstain.

It wasn’t ideal but it had to be done that way.

We may face similar issues if and when the current UK government and the EU agree a new trading relationship that comes into force on 1 January.

No one knows what the deal will look like. It probably won’t be ideal.

But the deal with the EU will be the only one on the table. Labour voting it down will mean we have no deal and that would be catastrophic.

We may have to vote for a deal that is better than no deal or abstain again.

In both cases, we are dealing with extraordinary decisions. One day we will get back to more normal politics. I appreciate that the much more important issue is that the vaccines work as quickly as possible and we can all feel free again to live our lives as we wish.

Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP