As we have noted before, our Leeds NW Liberal Democrat MP thinks of himself as a different kind of politician.
Here’s how he describes himself: ‘Whilst other politicians rely on spin, Greg is known as a plain speaker who is not afraid to speak his mind.’
Well, is he?
In foreign relations terms the vote on possible military action in Syria held on 29th August was probably the most important national and international one during this parliament so far. It looked as if Mr Mulholland understood this because, in the days leading up to the vote, he used his website to inform his constituents about how he might vote.
This is what he wrote online: “It is important to make it clear that today’s vote is not about authorising military action. The Government have agreed – quite rightly – that that vote is not appropriate today and that a second vote of the House would be required before any UK involvement. If we were being asked to vote today, I would vote against the UK being involved in any military action not backed by the UN. The use of chemical weapons in Syria is abhorrent and if it is shown that the Syrian Government was responsible, there must be a strong and appropriate UN response to what is war crime. What is crucial now is that the UN inspectors must be allowed to conclude their inspection and report back to the UN and following that the UN must decide on an appropriate response. The problem then will be if the UN security council fails to do that, then other countries must consider what response there can and should be. It is then that the House of Commons must then debate this issue again.”
So how did Mr Mulholland vote?
He voted against the Labour amendment, so he was clearly present in the Commons that evening. But his name is missing from the lists of those who took part in the second vote on the Government’s motion.
So, it appears that Mr Mulholland voted neither for nor against the Government’s motion. That is his parliamentary prerogative, though if he had a strong enough opinion to vote against the Labour amendment, you might have thought he had strong enough opinions to vote on the substantive motion – a motion which determined whether we should start a process which could lead to military intervention. The great majority of MPs did – and it was a vote which many have seen as a real proof of Parliament’s importance.
However, given what he calls his spin-free, plain speaking approach to politics, you would have thought that he would at least have let us know how he had voted – especially as he had gone out of his way to explain his options.
Perhaps he has been too busy since 29th August. But in the days immediately following the vote he not only found time to attend a beer festival and a cricket match but also to tell his constituents about these activities online. So being short on time doesn’t seem a plausible explanation.
Perhaps he feels that his explanation above is sufficient. But given the sheer significance of this vote, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of MPs assessed it as such, then a decision to abstain – if that is what it was – might be felt to require more.
Could it be that Mr Mulholland thinks there are lots of Leeds NW votes in cricket and beer, but none in Syria?
If so, he may have badly misjudged his constituents.