Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Abortion, Nadine Dorries and why Ben Gummer should have told us how he would vote.

Today in Parliament, the Tory MP Nadine Dorries's abortion proposals were heavily defeated.

MPs voted by 368 votes to 118 – a majority of 250 – to reject the amendment by the Tory Nadine Dorries after she lost the support of her co-sponsor, the former Labour minister Frank Field.

But what many Ipswich voters may not know is that our own MP Ben Gummer was one of the 118 who voted with Dorries.

I had asked on this blog and by twitter for Mr Gummer to inform us on how he intended to vote. To be fair to Ben, he did email me this morning and indicated (if not in a direct answer) that he would support Dorries. indicating that as Frank Field was supporting the amendment it was not just a straight Right v Left vote.

He also indicated that his view had not changed since he was interviewed by the Guardian (before the last General Election) and that he has always been open about his views and was elected on that basis.

Now I was aware of Ben's views on abortion and I have no problem with them even if I do not agree with them, and I am sure that a number of other Ipswich residents were also aware of how Ben feels on the matter but I am not sure many would have read the interview in the Guardian and that his views had any influence on his election win.

I respect Ben for sticking to and voting for what he believes in, his principles were so strong that this was the first time he has not voted with the Prime Minister.

Where I do have a problem with Ben, is in a matter like abortion where many residents have very strong opinions, he should have used his Evening Star column to inform residents of his support for the amendment and how he planned to vote for it. But instead his column last week did not mention the matter at all or even the NHS debate which the abortion amendment was part of.

I would not have expected Mr Gummer to change his opinion but at least he may have become more aware of what his constituents thought.

So I hope in a future Evening Star column he gives us his opinion on the new Conservative proposals for gaining planning permission for housing development and how he feels this will effect plans for development of the Northern Fringe in Ipswich.He might even state if he feels we should build on the Northern Fringe or continue to build on brownfield sites in the town.

Going back to the Nadine Dorries amendment, I am glad it was defeated heavily but still concerned that a number of senior ministers voted for it. I see the Dorries proposals as a move towards Far Right USA style Christian thinking.

But Nadine blamed the Lib Dems and even stated that Cameron originally supported her!

Dorries claimed that the prime minister had advised her on the wording of her amendment by saying that she should describe abortion counsellors as independent.

Dorries said: "I went to see the prime minister regarding this amendment and he was very encouraging. In fact it was at the prime minister's insistence that I inserted the word 'independent'. I attended a meeting at the Department of Health and at that meeting it was decided what the outcome, the process that would be implemented, to make this a reality."

The Dorries amendment would have stripped non-statutory abortion providers such as Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) from offering counselling to women. This was designed to provide greater opportunities for independent counsellors, some of whom are influenced by pro-life groups, to provide counselling. NHS abortion providers would still be free to offer counselling.

Dorries claimed that the prime minister changed his mind under pressure from Nick Clegg, after the deputy prime minister was lobbied by the former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris. Dorries said: "Basically the Liberal Democrats, in fact a former MP who lost his seat in this place, is blackmailing our prime minister. Our prime minister has been put in an impossible position regarding this amendment. Our health bill has been held to ransom by a former Liberal Democrat MP."

One of the Tory MP's who spoke against Mrs Dorries was Louise Mensch, the trouble is for the Tories is both these women seem more interested in raising their own profiles rather than representing their constituents

1 comment:

Mo said...

I was interested by Ben's tweeted explanation of his vote: "Substandard amendment by Nadine D - but voted on principle of separation of advice and income."

So I asked him if he held to this principle in general, or was applying it particularly to the issue of abortion. He replied "in general, yes."

I think this is a bit of a unrealistic attitude in the health care field, because generally only professionals are going to be sufficiently informed to be able to provide useful advice. For example, what does Ben say when his dentist advises him that he needs a filling?