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Friday, 23 May 2008

Mother Kelly's sidestep

Weird Opus Dei member Ruth Kelly – whom the UK government entrusted with education, among other things, till she eventually took over transport – wants to do the dirty on Prime Minister Gordon Brown and defy him by voting against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill when it comes to the Commons for its final reading.

Brown allowed MPs a free vote on some aspects of it, because they go against their irrational religious convictions, but the moves got through, anyway, as we've seen. However, he expected that they'd all obey the whip when it came to voting on the entire measure. Oh, but mother-of-four Ms Kelly doesn't want to do that.

Let her suffer the ire of the whips, then, and be removed from her Cabinet post of Transport Secretary. Surely that's the appropriate and fair fate for her if she defies the whip as a Cabinet member – a member of the government that's paying her far more for being a Cabinet member than she would get as a backbencher. She's had her say; she's made her choices. Things have gone against her.

Now she's acting like the kid who says, "If you don't let me have another innings I'm taking my bat home."

Now you may or may not agree with the system of whipping, but it's in place, it's what we use, it's a fact of life in politics and, given that it's the system in use, a Cabinet post is usually a reward for loyalty (and not a small amount of arse-licking, I'm sure). Kelly doesn't seem to want to show that loyalty.

"The Transport Secretary was among a number of Catholic Labour MPs who attempted to block the legalisation of hybrid human–animal embryos and saviour siblings, and legislation to make it easier for lesbians to obtain fertility treatment," says the Telegraph. "She also voted to lower the abortion time limit – a position which the Prime Minister opposed but most Conservative MPs supported."

The Telegraph analyses it thus:

Mr Brown had been reluctant to offer a free vote on the measures, all of which he argued strongly for, but his hand was forced by the prospect of a rebellion by Mrs Kelly and two other Catholic Cabinet ministers. Sources said that Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, and Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, were under the impression that the Prime Minister had consented to a free vote on the condition that the three back the Bill at the third reading.

Insiders say they expect her to sidestep the issue by obtaining a "leave of absence" and abstain from the vote.

That's just cheating.

Kelly has a crap record on gay rights (as you'd expect from a Catholic of her stripe), and tellingly has absented herself from votes she's not comfortable with. Isn't it time she was given the heave-ho?

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