A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little about our MP, Henry Smith, and his ‘hyperactive abstention’. One of the local papers mentioned this and managed to get a response from Henry which was a masterpiece of political answers, showing a level of misdirection that a stage conjuror would be proud of.
He starts by explaining that voting both yes and no is the only way to register an abstention and that just not voting is counted as being absent. Fine. I think I gave that as one of the possible good reasons for doing it. You see what he did there? He answered a criticism that was not made.
He then goes on a bit longer explaining why he decided to abstain, which didn’t really make sense. He says he wanted to send a clear public message that further large bail-outs should cease. I would argue that abstaining (or voting for and against) is not a very clear message. Voting one way or the other is a clear message. Voting both ways is a mixed message. All it says is “I am against this but I don’t want the vote to go the way I feel because I don’t want to upset the whips and miss out on a junior ministerial assistant job in the future.”
But of course, the real criticism from the Autonomous Mind and EU Referendum blogs was not that he effectively abstained (although they obviously don’t like that either) it was that, having abstained, he tried to give the impression that he had voted one particular way. On finding himself listed as one of the MPs who voted ‘for’ he did not get in touch to say that he had actually abstained: he got in touch and just referred them to the list of MPs who voted ‘against’.
That was the real criticism, and nobody seems to have noticed that Henry’s reply to the Obby avoided that completely but instead answered the much less important question of why he voted both ways. Incidentally, I can never understand why MPs put up with such rubbish. Why don’t they change the protocol so that abstentions can be registered? Building a third lobby would be a bit difficult admittedly, but then why are they still voting by such an old-fashioned, impractical and time-consuming method anyway? Surely Caroline Lucas can’t be the only MP out of 650 who thinks it is time to move to the 21st Century? Even the 20th would be a step forward.
Anyway, the cherry on the top of the cake is the final comment from Henry:
I don’t often read blogs as my time is very limited and I haven’t read any critical blog comments regarding this issue but I respect their right to free speech.
That would be fair enough but… this all started when the EU Referendum blog published a critical comment in the form of listing Henry as one of the MPs who voted for the bail-outs and he sent them an e-mail asking them to remove him from their list. A pretty clever trick if he hadn’t read because, as he says, he hasn’t “read any critical blog comments regarding this issue”.
The EU Referendum site reckons Henry is being “a tad disingenuous” about this so it is only fitting that his response to those criticisms should also be a tad disingenuous. In my mind his response has not answered anything. It has just responded to an accusation of bending the truth with an outright lie.