Ruth Kelly on the wrack

Limavady-born Ruth Kelly the Transport Secretary, a devout Catholic, has been put under the cosh from one quarter for being excused from voting in the final stages of the Human Fertilsation and Embryology Bill in its final stages beginning in the Commons today. Free votes allow Labour MPs to opt out from supporting the measure as throughout the Bill’s progress. The exemption will apply to three clauses, governing human admixed embryos, “saviour siblings”, and the “need for a father” during fertility treatment. Attempts to reduce abortion to below 24 weeks have been tagged on in “pro-life” amendments. A guide to the Bill is available here.
The website Cranmer, (named after the Abp of Canterbury who led the departure from Rome and was burned to death for his pains) sheds crocodile tears for Kelly’s position as a minister opposing an important government Bill and endorses the suggestion that she should consider resigning from the cabinet instead of all this ducking and diving.
The same exemption is allowed for two other cabinet ministers, Paul Murphy and Des Browne, who have served in Northern Ireland and 2 whips. There are 64 Catholic MPs.

I tried several times to get Ruth Kelly to comment on Northern Ireland but that’s another topic she steers clear of. However, she’s entitled to her conscience like everyone else.

The attempt to put the finger on her looks like a witchhunt, with unpleasant echoes of the 16th and 17 century.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London