» Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Religious Hatred Bill

Asked whether he could illuminate journalists further on what the Prime Minister had been doing at around 8.07pm last night, the PMOS thanked the Evening Standard for it’s polite question, but the answer was no. We had been completely open in saying that these things happened. We wished it had not. There was no great mystery but he would not get into processology. Put to him that it was not an unreasonable request, the PMOS said that at this morning’s briefing their BBC online colleague had provided a succinct and accurate summary of what had happened. His chosen phrase had been "cock-up".

Asked why the Prime Minister had not voted and whether it had been the Chief Whips decision, the PMOS answered that the Prime Minister had said at PMQs he would make sure he voted in the future on important votes.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had returned to Downing Street knowing that they were going to lose the second vote to avoid the humiliation, the PMOS thank the journalist for the invitation but he had already declined to be drawn into a process story.

Put to him that the Prime Minister’s comment had been a light hearted remark but the PMOS had seemed to suggest a more serious point, the PMOS replied that there was a danger here and he put it no higher that something quiet simple and straight forward was being made to appear otherwise. The Prime Minister had missed the vote. He had not voted and that was the end of the story.

Asked whether the Prime Minister was at a dinner with a foreign dignitary, the PMOS said it was a matter of record that he had a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan yesterday evening, which had been at 7pm.

Put to the PMOS that this government had now had in the last 4 months lost as many votes as John Major’s had between 1992-1997 and were the wheels coming off, the PMOS said that was an overstretch of a major kind. The government had lost two amendments last night not a bill. Asked whether the "cock up" meant there was a need to look at the whipping system, the PMOS said it simply meant that we had to make sure it did not happen again.

Asked how we could ensure it did not happen again, the PMOS said it was a simple mistake and people would simply ensure it did not happen again. Asked whose cock up it was, the PMOS declined to comment. Put to him that his remark that the Prime Minister would make sure that he would vote in important votes in the future seemed to be an admission of a change of strategy to take parliament more seriously now, the PMOS said that losing by one vote was a one off. Obviously the government would have rather won the votes last night.

Briefing took place at 13:00 | Search for related news

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