Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Disbelief at Libdem abstaining over Gay Marriage motion

Before I start, I want to make it clear that is definitely a personal blog and has no connection to the Local or National party - more a vent.

Last week, at full council Medway's Labour group brought forward a motion to discuss Gay Marriage and urge the Council to write a letter to the Medway MPs urging them to support the motion as it passed through Parliament.

I was unable to attend full council as I had an early (4am) start the following day but I followed along on Twitter.

There was an amendment made by the Conservatives arguing the MPs had a free vote and that the Council should leave it to Parliament to vote on.

Without putting words in their mouth there is the problem of Rehman Chishti MP who also sits on the Council and is opposed to Gay Marriage. You can see that it could be embarrassing and that they'd argue this was a wholly political move.

I, on the other hand disagree with this hypothesis. I truly believe that Medway Labour submitted this as a genuine move with good motivations. After all this is an important piece of civil liberty legislature and has got a lot of support on the ground a fact ignored by Rehman Chishti who claims 80% of responses in Gillingham & Rainham have opposed it despite the petition he received from Mid-Kent College in favour.

Anyway, the chamber descended into a debate which became very heated with one Tory Councillor saying that marriage was out of the question as there could be no chance of children (-I Know! News flash adoption!) and another who intimated that next step would be polygamy!

Labour put in a spirited defence led by the indefatigable Vince Maple but the Tory wall stood firm and in a heated moment and understandably angry Cllr Osborne referred to the Tories as Thatcherite bigots - this obviously caused a backlash amongst the Conservative benchs especially with Cllr Tollhurst who took umbrage at being tarred with the same brush.

The motion was rejected by the Conservative majority and their amendment passed. Only Labour (minus Cllr Igwe who had a convenience break), the Independents and one Conservative (Cllr Watson) opposed.

So where were the Liberal Democrats? How did our three councillors feel?

Who knows? They didn't partake in the vote and abstained on both votes!!!!

When I read Ed Jennings' twitter stream I shared his horror and spent the next day exchanging DMs discussing wtf had gone amiss. As Exec members when been eager to speak to our councillors beforehand at our meeting two days before - unfortunately only Geoff had attended and we'd not got round to it before he left. Our mistake was presuming that a civil Liberty would be backed by Liberals.

The fact that the Council group sat on the fence on something we as a party have agreed as policy was ridiculous!

I could understand if they had voted for or against Labour's motion (not my view but I can respect their opinion) or if Geoff had taken the stand to say that in the group's opinion this was not a council matter or was purely an opportunistic move by Labour (again, not my position but at least it is a position!).

Both Ed and I have voiced our opinions publicly online and our local chair has been contacted - questions will be asked.

I feel the need to apologise for the council group dropping the ball on this, believe me that you aren't the only ones who have been let down by this inaction.

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