Watkins on conscience votes

Tracy Watkins writes:

Parliament should treat the drinking age as a conscience vote and here is the reason. MPs deserve to have the best brought out in them occasionally and conscience votes do that. They even have the power to remind us why it matters who we send to Parliament.

I agree. By far the best debates I have witnessed in Parliament, have been those as conscience votes. When an MP is free to speak their mind on an issue, without having to worry about whether this is the party line, is when you get the best debate.

So conscience votes are not unique in producing ad hocery, botched law-making and poor compromises (three strikes anyone?). It’s just that in the normal course of events, governments can dress it all up as something else by throwing the weight of their spin machine behind it.

Conscience votes, on the other hand, are policy-making stripped bare.

It comes down to what the MP believes. Some will take the easy option of voting according to the wishes of their electorate. But even that tells us something about them.

It tells us they are not fans of Edmund Burke who said in 1774:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

If there is to be a vote on the purchase age for alcohol, then it should be one of MPs voting as they see best, not whipped by their parties.

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