And just when we’d been talking about abortion…a battle within the Labour party between Catholic MPs and the pro-choice majority has resulted in the Monday’s big votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill being put off to October. Pro-choice supporters were gearing up to move an amendment making abortion easier by requiring only one doctor to give consent, rather than the present two. The Government is unhappy about yet another internal Labour row and has pulled the Bill for now.
Lobbyists on both sides of the row have moved fast to put out conflicting versions of what lies behind the postponement. Fears of the impact on Catholic voters in the Glasgow East by-election is the main spin in the Independent; while the Telegraph favours the interpretation that Leader of the House Harriet Harman wanted to give the pro-choice MPs more time to rally their forces.
The Guardian offers the particular twist that behind it liesa plot to overthrow an abortion pledge to the DUP.
One possible change – to end the abortion ban in Northern Ireland – could have proved difficult for Gordon Brown. The prime minister reached a tacit understanding with the Democratic Unionists – which helped him to win the Commons vote on the 42-day detention plan – that Britain’s liberal abortion laws would not be extended to Northern Ireland. Senior Labour MPs believe that Harman would have supported any changes to this, contravening the agreement with the DUP. “It could all have become very messy on Monday,” a senior Labour figure said.
So that’s what the deal was about? Far fetched, or what?
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