The Heathrow rebellion on 28 January 2009 saw 28 Labour MPs vote against their party line, after a lot of work by the whips to limit the revolt. Yesterday, 24 February, there was a ten minute rule bill, moved by Lib Dem MP, Susan Kramer, which proposed to amend the Planning Act 2008 to require parliamentary approval for the construction of ‘new major airports and additional runways at existing major airports’. Despite Kramer’s Bill gaining a Second Reading by 247 votes to 203, without Government time it will fail. It is, however, interesting because of the light it throws on the real divisions within the PLP on the issue, given the private members bills are unwhipped.
Yesterday 23 Labour MPs backed Kramer’s bill. Of the 23 Labour MPs who supported Kramer’s Bill, 15 had voted against the Government on Heathrow on 28 January. But a further eight who backed Kramer’s Bill either voted for the Government on 28 January or abstained/did not vote: Hugh Bayley (for), Colin Challen (dnv), Katy Clark (dnv), Bill Etherington (dnv), Martin Linton (for), Paul Truswell (dnv), Dr Rudi Vis (dnv) and Mike Wood (dnv). Take the 15 Heathrow rebels from 28 January who also voted for the Kramer Bill together with these eight and then add the 13 Labour MPs who voted against Heathrow on 28 January but either missed or sat out yesterday’s debate (12 of them did not vote yesterday, only one – Nick Raynsford – supported the Government), then we reach the magic total of 36, just enough to have defeated the Government in January. You can see how hard – and how successfully – the whips worked at dividing and conquering.
There was one further, tiny, rebellion as well: Alan Simpson was the only Labour MP yesterday to support a Conservative Opposition Day motion calling for ‘unambiguous labelling’ of food, stating the country of origin to enable British consumers to show their preference for home-grown food.