Over 20 Labour MPs rebelled against their party whip and abstained on the government’s fiscal charter this evening. The Labour party claimed there were 20 abstentions, but the Tories claimed the number was closer to 28. This is the full list of abstentions which didn’t include authorised absences (some of whom would have been would-be rebels who were encouraged to find a speech to make or ailing relative to visit in another part of the country at the last minute) from the Labour whips office:
This means that the whips, who had started the day with 30 possible rebels, have been mildly effective at whipping an unwhippable party led by a man who barely followed the Labour whip until he became the man in charge of it. Overall it was an easy government win with 320 ayes and 258 noes.
Jeremy Corbyn’s sidekick John McDonnell probably didn’t help matters with a not particularly impressive speech, albeit with a refreshing apology at the start for getting the party’s position wrong on the charter. ‘Embarrassing – embarrassing – embarrassing? Yes, of course it is,’ the Shadow Chancellor told the Chamber as the Tories mocked him. ‘But a bit of humility amongst politicians never goes amiss.’ A bit of careful planning never goes amiss in politics either, though, and had Labour MPs doubted whether or not McDonnell was competent as Shadow Chancellor, he has given them a better idea in this past week of what the answer is.
He admitted in the Commons that ‘I was trying to out-Osborne Osborne’ in initially saying Labour would support the charter. This was not intended as a compliment, but given the Chancellor used the fiscal charter vote – something he cooked up not with any policy objectives in mine but to tip Labour into warfare – as an opportunity to celebrate his genius and Labour’s failure, truly out-Osborning Osborne tonight would have required a small brass band playing celebratory music.