The Daily Mail has gone to town today on the 74 Labour MPs who signed Early Day Motions criticising the one sided Extradition arrangements with the US that the government signed up to, and demanding UK justice for Mr McKinnon. Their failure to vote for the Opposition Day motion which repeated their demands from the EDMs was not their finest hour.
I have been a consistent opponent of the lop sided extradition the government forced upon us, and am not surprised to see the government’s weakness on this issue with the US now causing harm. Today I want to say a little more about those EDMs.
EDMs are Parliamentary graffitti. They fall into three broad cartegories. There are the harmless ones invented by MPs to launch a local press release. These might congratulate a soccer team on winning a competition or praise a UK sports star for performing well.
There are the few designed by a group of MPs for a political purpose, as part of a much wider campaign to change the government’s mind or to change their party’s stance on something. The MPs designing them know they can’t work on their own, and are but the more visible part of what they are doing. They will, however, normally stick by their public declaration.
There are then many drawn up by lobby groups outside the House, tabled by an MP, and circulated to the members or contacts of the lobby group. People then send in an email, letter of postcard drafted by the lobby group urging MPs to sign the lobby group’s motion.
This latter industry implies that EDMs matter. The person sending in the card or email is invited to believe that if enough MPs sign the EDM the matter will be fixed. As yesterday shows, that is complete nonsense. Yesterday 74 Labour MPs showed they did not mean their signatures on EDMs. If they had voted for the Oppositon version of the EDM, then something could have changed. The EDMs just sit on the Order paper collecting some names and much dust.They have no impact whatsoever, and are never debated.
My advice to constituents is not to be taken in by the EDM mongers. EDMs don’t work. If you want to change a Minister’s mind you need to put something to the Minister that he or she has to respond to. Better still, you need the Opposition to table a motion, and then need to persuade more Labour MPs to see the need to vote against their government. But that of course, is altogether more difficult.