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23 Lib Dems fail to support Coalition plans for the NHS

On Monday night, not a single Lib Dem MP managed to support the Labour motion in parliament opposing the Tory plans for the NHS. What a spineless bunch, you might say, and we would not disagree.  But… we should at least recognise that they’re a deeply unhappy crowd. And we should do everything we can to encourage their divisions in order to defeat the Tory attack on the NHS. In fact 23 Lib Dem MPs failed to support “their” government.“the definitive source for academic analysis of backbench behaviour in Britain” — summarised their position like this:

Dig a little deeper, and you can see signs of the Lib Dem doubts about the government’s policy for the NHS. Andrew George, who abstained on the Second Reading of the Health Bill on 31 January, cast a deliberate abstention last night by voting in both lobbies. And there is also a question mark over the large number of missing Liberal Democrat MPs. Dr John Pugh, a long-term critic of the Bill, spoke in the preceding debate against the legislation, but was then nowhere to be seen in either division lobby.

In total, there were 23 missing Lib Dems last night, of whom four were members of the Government (including the Deputy Prime Minister). So that leaves 19 missing Lib Dem backbenchers. We doubt all 19 had been given the night off.

And contrast last night’s limp turnout of 33 Members with the 48 Lib Dem MPs who enthusiastically voted in favour of the Second Reading of the Health Bill on 31 January. The two votes aren’t directly comparable but mustering fewer than six in ten of your parliamentary party in support of a key plank of Coalition policy hardly represents a full bill of health.

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