The sight of LibDem squirming over the tuition fees vote has not been a pleasant sight. First Vince Cable, and now Nick Clegg, have been been done over by the media and (to a lesser extent) by Labour MPs over their apparent discomfort over what to do in the lobbies. In particular the sight of Mr Cable not voting for a piece of legislation that he co-wrote and will be piloting through the Commons is bizarre to say the least.
Some LibDems are, of course, being more straight forward and honest. Jon Leech, one of Manchester's LibDem MPs, has announced he will oppose the move as has Cardiff LibDem MP Jenny Willmot. The difference is, I suppose, that Ms Willmot is a PPS and thus technically covered by collective responsibility - the idea that all Minister must back the government in a vote or resign their position. PPSs quitting is nothing new and many will simply be recycled in a few months time, so why is Ms Willmot holding on like this?
Regulars will know that I am not a fan of collective responsibility on the whole. If the legislation is yours (a la Cable) then yes, you must be duty bound to vote for it. But why can't our politics to be grown up enough for somebody to say that they disagree with X policy but still want to remain part of the government because they back the other 99% of the programme? If we know this in advance, why shouldn't MPs do the adult thing? Will be see David Lidington and Cheryl Gillan quit the government over High Speed Rail links that threaten their constituencies? I hope not; they should be free to speak and vote against that part of the government programme but work had to deliver the rest of it.
Controversial, maybe, but might the coalition agreement weaken the doctrine of collective responsibility? I hope so.
UPDATE; a friend points out the CR seems to be a problem for this government only, the previous lot used to regularly, for example, campaign against hospital closures in their areas without quitting the government that imposed them