Well that’s us finished for tonight, except for the poor unfortunate who has the adjournment debate, and the even more unfortunate minister who has to reply. For obvious reasons I don’t intend to blog at length on this, but to clarify what has just happened. We were debating whether the UKYP should be allowed to debate in the Commons Chamber again, as they did last year… I say ‘debating’ but after the Government frontbench and their Labour shadow spoke, briefly, Philip Davies MP got to his feet… and was still on them well over an hour later. Earlier on the House had passed a motion that debate on this topic could continue ‘until any hour’. rather than placing a time limit on it, as is more usual for a programme motion.
In these circumstances, there are only two ways to bring such a debate to a conclusion. Either we run out of speakers (and nb, Christopher Chope was there on standby should Davies run out of steam) or someone moves a closure motion.
Someone from the Government whips office eventually did. But for a closure motion to succeed, at least 100 MPs must vote for it. We then saw Government whips sprinting through members lobby and the corridors, desperately trying to find the last few members needed to reach the 100 mark. “We need three more!” they were shouting. It was a one line whip, and had been since the Finance Bill concluded at about 7.30pm, so lots of people had gone home. Paul Farrelly MP put on a sprint, and just made it through the door into the division lobby before it slammed shut. Another MP had about to leave parliament for the night, and only turned back because she realised she’d left her Commons pass behind.
(As an aside, the Govt whips are having additional problems when sittings go late, now that Home Counties MPs aren’t allowed a London base; if they hang around they miss the last train home, and then there are complaints they can’t get a London hotel room under the IPSA-approved rate at such short notice, so it’s difficult for the whips to keep them here after a certain time. Not such a problem for Labour MPs!)
In the end the vote was 103 for closure, 3 against (that doesn’t include the two tellers on each side, who count the votes). If the closure motion hadn’t passed, we could have been here all night, and if it had gone past 11.30am, it would have destroyed the next day’s business – seeing as that’s day one of the Academies Bill in committee, some might say that wasn’t a bad idea!
We didn’t actually vote on whether the UKYP should be allowed to use the Chamber again. That’s what’s called a deferred division, and we’ll vote on it tomorrow, from 11.30am onwards. It’s not like normal voting, we get a pink voting slip, put a cross on it. and put into a ballot box in the division lobby; we have about an hour and a half to do so. So we’ll know the result tomorrow afternoon, but it’s got cross-party support, so it should be fine.
P.S. If anyone can stick on YouTuve the contribution from Jacob Rees-Mogg to the debate, in which he accused Philip Davies of socialism… please do!