Digital Economy Bill: vote breakdown

I might write something longer (oh no! stop her!) on the Digital Economy Bill debate later. (Highlights: losing clauses 18  and* 43, Tom Watson, John Grogan, John Hemming. Surprise of the night: Don Foster getting his shit together. Random interloper from the Planet Twat: Denis MacShane. Best moment: old Tory MP whose name I didn’t catch telling the House of his shocking discovery that IP addresses weren’t unique and constant. Worst moment: all of the ones where Stephen Timms tried to talk about technology,  keeping clauses 11-16, the vote itself.)

But I want to say something quickly about the scores on the doors.

As I write, the voting breakdown for the third reading is still available here but it will be replaced with the Official Version at some point in the morning. I’ll try to update it when it does, and if you think my numbers are groggy let me know, because I’ve totted this up very quickly. I have copied the list though, if anyone wants me to check their MP.

Of the 189 Aye votes, I make it 185 Labour and 4  Conservatives. Plus the two tellers were Labour.

Of the 47 Noe votes, I make it 23 Labour rebels, 16 Lib Dems, 5  Conservatives and 3 others (DUP, PC, Ind). Plus the two tellers were Lib Dem.

We’ll get to the shock bit in a minute. The main pattern is very much the usual story (if much more thinly attended than usual), and the crumb of comfort here is that, for once, people saw this happening. I was watching the #debill Twitter stream last night as well as BBC Parliament, and the understandable conclusion of many was that the bill was getting the pwning it so richly deserved. And yes, on the floor of the House, it certainly was.

But when push came to shove, as Mr Head of State put it, it was the numbers, stupid. There were about 20 Labour MPs, mostly rebels, in the chamber for the debate itself, and then 170 more turned up to vote the bill through anyway. Because this is what they do. They sit in the bar and await instructions from the government. This is what they’ve done on everything since 1997. Did you hear Denis MacShane, urging loyalty to the Labour government as a socialist (and as a socialist, obviously he had to stand up for the great unwashed masses of broadsheet journalists)? Did you think he was kidding? This is how these  hopeless dweebs really think. I’m told it was like Passchendaele in the Lords wash-up yesterday, with everything the Lib Dems sent over the top getting machine-gunned down by the 5:1 Labservative majority.

This is what it’s like to have a government with a big majority. This is what “strong governnment” means. So, given that our electoral system is set up to deliver vast majorities to traditional blocs, you won’t be surprised when this carries on happening, right?

Now for the shock (and I stress it was a shock to me, but please provide a link if this was preannounced and I missed it). Wow. What happened to the Tories, and whatever it was, why didn’t we do anything about it? Nine votes! Out of 193 MPs. And John Redwood, who was getting so much Twitter fan mail yesterday, abstained.

My understanding was that the Tories were going to turn out and support the government. Clearly at some point they got cold feet – which would explain why Labour were whipped. The Tories staying away in those numbers – and the fact that Redwood was clearly interested in the bill but didn’t vote – can only suggest a direction of some sort from the top. Individual Tories, largely the old-skool crew, were obviously very unhappy with the civil liberties implications (I see David Davis was in the Noe lobby with the Lib Dems and Labour rebels).

Now, that suggests that more of them were ripe for turning. It strikes me that a trick may have been missed here.

* Just realised I really shouldn’t be calling losing clause 18 a highlight.  It was replaced by a government amendment, the only one that got through. If anything, it’s slightly worse than the original, and far, far worse than the Lib Dems’ amended version of clause 18.

UPDATE: Just noticed this suitably angry post from Lynne Featherstone.


  1. No Plaid Cymru, of course. You would think that a party which hopes to represent the interest of rural Wales would want to debate the expansion of broadband.

    But what were the Cons up to? They supported the Bill but instead of saying why, they moaned about the lack of time for debate. Then continued to moan about the lack of time for debate, thus denying time for debate to others.

  2. The election is on!
    MP’s from 450 “safe” seats dont have to work to retain them, which is appalling. But they could afford to be in the chamber and not in their Constituencies.
    So 29% of the LibDems is understandable. Why did the Tories agree not to kill this bill then all go home, leaving it to Labour lobby fodder to see it through??

  3. The more I think about it, the more puzzled I am. Because it’s not just a partisan point. From the Tory point of view, they had a chance to lead a government defeat on the eve of an election. They could have put up an amendment up on clauses 11-18, got Lib dem support on it (whose position on 11-18 was far from brilliant, but John Hemming had the right idea) and been hailed as the party that defeated disconnection. Even if the subject matter was a bit dry for the mainstream, a government defeat is a rare thing and they’d have got an explosion of coverage anyway. It would have turned the corner for them in the election campaign, and got them back on top. And they didn’t. Would Blair have missed a chance like this in 1997?

    My feeling, watching Vaizey and Afriyie speaking, was that they were the only people in the room who were angry and flustered about something other than the bill itself. They were the only people trying to make party political capital out of it in a way that suggested a total tin ear. Didn’t go down at all well on twitter. And Vaizey had the grace to go absolutely scarlet, having laid into the Labour backbench for being part of a government that had brought the bill, when he was forced to admit that he was actually backing the government he was denouncing.

    And then the almost total abstention after saying they’d back the government. Something weird was going on with the Tories over this yesterday, some big argument or something.

    1. I’m not sure the Tories could have engineered a Government defeat quite so easily. If they’d said they opposed the clauses they’d presumably have dies in wash up and never made it to a vote.

      To get a defeat, wouldn’t they have had to say they supported it and then voted agaisnt – an approach that would have caused more problems than it solved I suspect.

  4. …it’s not just a partisan point. From the Tory point of view, they had a chance to lead a government defeat on the eve of an election.

    I’m assuming that because it’s in wash-up there was a deal backstage.

    If there was then it’s not hard to see a tory advantage in letting it pass (and getting something in return) but not demonstrating support for something manifestly unpopular. At the same time, a few tories got the chance to oppose it, meaninglessly, and therefore can claim the moral high ground next time civil liberties comes up.

    On the other hand, applying Hanlon’s razor, maybe there was just a really nice stew on in the dining room or something.

  5. Worst moment: all of the ones where Stephen Timms tried to talk about technology

    This has been referenced elsewhere, but still worth sharing…

  6. The DEB is ridiculously flawed. The negative repercussions on our society and economy as a whole hugely outweigh any potential gains from combating piracy in this way. It’s an insult to democracy by being so blatantly written and pushed through by lobbyists from the BPI and other “music industry” figures. It ignored the British judiciary system by assuming guilt in the absence of proof (IP addresses cannot prove guilt in a court of law). It jeopardises our young digital economy, by eroding the chances of gaining truly wireless cities, and removes any incentive to provide free wi-fi areas.

    What’s more, it is unlikely to have any effect on file-sharing, as is evident when you look at Sweden as a case study, where file-sharing has risen since their anti-piracy laws, just now it is encrypted. Instead the record companies who wrote this Act should be focusing on live music promotion as their primary revenue stream rather than protecting an old, out-dated business model.

    For my blog on the implications of the DEB please go to Cheers.

  7. The creative industries will be dead – they rely on rapid file-sharing and ‘viral videos’ (most of which have embedded music and artwork that they can’t afford to pay royalties for, but its not ‘their fault’ for making it if someone else leaks it onto the web).

    Real money in the digital world comes that comes from personal experiences which genuninely mean something, not just noise to fill a void.

    Hopefully the silence to come will get people reading constitutional and administrative law so they know their human rights, free speech laws, and how democracy ‘should’ work…

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