Sunday, March 23, 2008


Via Samizdata, I see that Gordon Brown is aiming for another fudge over the hybrid embryos—I prefer chimaera: it sounds cooler*—bill.
The BBC states that MPs who oppose the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be allowed a free vote and will not face sanction as long as the law is passed by Parliament. An act of conscience becomes an exercise in power.
The prime minister is prepared to allow MPs who oppose a controversial embryo bill to vote against pieces of the legislation, the BBC has learned.

A senior government official said the sanction would be permitted only if it did not threaten the passage of the bill to develop human-animal embryos.

The official said Gordon Brown accepts that some members of his government object on grounds of conscience.

This is a compromise that smacks of Brown's calculation: you may vote as you wish, but you will have to take the possibility of defeat into account. That is when you will face sanctions. Like many other vanished parliamentary conventions, this government will overturn liberal principles in pursuit of advantage.

This is an abysmal idea. And here's Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, wanking on about MPs' consciences.
Catholics in politics have got to act according to their Catholic convictions, so have other Christians, so have other politicians.

So, instead of obeying their party Whip they should follow their religious Whip instead? Well, thank you for that, Cardinal. Now, why don't you bugger off back to protecting priests involved in child abuse and let the big boys get on with the important matters?

First off, I dislike the party Whip system: abolish it and you would abolish a good number of the problems in our Parliament. It is an odd thing: we concentrate on MPs' abuse of expenses, and dig into the gifts that they get from rich businessmen, but utterly fail to notice the most blatant bribery of our representatives by political parties.

Here's the deal: the political party helps the MP to get elected—paying vast amounts in expenses, and so on—and in return for which the MP votes the way that the party wants. Tell me again: how is this not bribery of the most blatant kind?

Second, whilst I am in favour of free votes on everything, I am not in favour of MPs—Catholic or otherwise—voting with their consciences. Why?

It's simple: MPs are elected to Parliament not to represent their own views, but those of their constituents.

If they are unaware of their constituents' views on a matter, might I suggest that the MP uses some of those fabulous expenses to print up 10,000 explanatory flyers (this will cost no more than £500, including design) and set up a stall in the city centre on a Saturday afternoon to canvas opinion?

In fact, if this became a regular thing, it would do wonders for democracy; you might even get people going to the city centre of a Saturday specifically to see if there was an issue that they could give their opinion on. I would.

MPs should vote as their constituents would want on every issue before them: that is, after all, what a representative democracy means, isn't it?

* Incidentally, does anyone remember an 80s TV series (possibly on Channel 4) called Chimaera? I seem to remember it being excellent, though I was very young. It concerned two young children who found a strange creature, whom they named "Mr Scarecrow", living in their barn. As it turned out, the government was breeding half-human, half-ape chimaeras as a kind of servant üntermensch. I seem to remember finding the whole series terrifying.

UPDATE: a review of Chimera.


Tim Almond said...

I don't remember that, but do you remember First Born, the miniseries with Charles Dance about genetic ape/man experimentation?

mitch said...

Perhaps gordon was the result of an experiment half cow half cyclops and in keeping with his budgets half total fuckwit too.

Ian said...

Fuckwits all round, basically

Peter Jackson said...

The Chimera series was on ITV in 1991 - it was adapted from his own novel by Stephen Gallagher, who was in my class at school...

Anthony said...

On a practical level it could even be damnaging for those MPs or prospective MPs who are Catholic. I mean 1) Wouldn't they become a liability for any party when demands like this from the church are made. 2) Its an easy thing to attack them for on a constituancy level, people arn't stupid and when 'Catholic MP = Catholic church' on issues people are going to get miffed... Though they should probably be miffed now, as DK has said, with the wipping system. But meh.

curly15 said...

At last I find myself disagreeing with the Devil. A reading of Bagehot's English constitution confirms that an honourable member's first duty ought to be to his conscience, his second duty to his constituents, and third and last to his party.

Let's face it, if MPs have no principles at all, then why bother being there? (That speaks for a whole heap of them.)

Ian said...

They're supposed to be representatives, not consciences on our behalf! 'Representative Democracy' <--- the clue is in the name.

John Trenchard said...

dk - > this is small beer compared to the amount of abortions and divorce that are allowed by law in this country - both of which are against catholic teachings. considering that the catholic church shuts it mouth about that, then , you gotta give them *some* leeway.. such as on this , by comparision, minor issue.

and in any case - catholic or not- anytime i see someone come out fighting against the one eyed Marxist cyclops in downing street, i am glad. and i couldnt care less who it is.

Bishop Brennan said...

DK - MPs are representatives, NOT delegates. So they are free to vote according to their consciences. Of course, if their constituents don't like the way they vote, they can vote the MP out at the next election.

I think the risk of going along with your approach is that, because of our constituency system, minority views would be lost to Parliament (given that there are no constituencies where Catholics - who might make up 10% of the UK's population - are a majority, at least outside Northern Ireland) - whilst you or I might not approve of the Catholic Church's views on abortion or this Bill (which seem to be worth considering, rather than dismissing out of hand), it would be wrong to exclude those views on the grounds you cite. After all, in a democracy, these things should be debated :)

Ian said...

BB: I agree with the general concern that direct democracy (which is essentially what is being discussed here) combined with a constituency-based system would potentially result in minority views being marginalised.

I just don't consider it to be a problem in this case, since here the minority is seeking to impose its will (in the form of a ban) on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church vocally protest about a 5 day old group of stem cells the size of a pin tip being used to potentially advance the cure of serious illnesses but keep silent on pervert priests shagging little boys.

They are a funny lot the God Squad

dr cromarty said...

anonymous 01:32: but keep silent on pervert priests shagging little boys


2389 Connected to incest is any sexual abuse perpetrated by adults on children or adolescents entrusted to their care. The offense is compounded by the scandalous harm done to the physical and moral integrity of the young, who will remain scarred by it all their lives; and the violation of responsibility for their upbringing.
Catechism of the Catholic Church

“The abuse which has caused this crisis is rightly considered a crime by society and is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”
Pope John Paul II

Clear enough for you?

Fact is yer average paedophile is likely to be the father or stepfather in a family. Now, about stem cells.....

Antipholus Papps said...

...I suggest that the MP uses... expenses to print up 10,000 explanatory flyers... and set up a stall in the city centre on a Saturday afternoon to canvas opinion?

Is this in the LPUK manifesto? It should be!

silas said...

Ah, Chimera! You've made me think of my ex-wife (not a chimera herself - and note how well I dodged around the half-human half-cow pitfall there) as she loved the noise the thing made.

Sort of a "f-nah!" noise if I recall correctly.

This gives a good review of the first episode: