Isabel Hardman

‘To sack Jesse Norman over a moral issue like whether to support war is outrageous’

'To sack Jesse Norman over a moral issue like whether to support war is outrageous'
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Jesse Norman's departure from the policy board hasn't come as a huge surprise to many Tory MPs: I was with one after the vote who was subjecting his twitter feed to a lengthy examination to work out whether Norman was stranded overseas. The only evidence available was that Norman went to a beer festival on 26 August and found out about the recall from the BBC and Easyjet. 'I love beer festivals, but I also know when to turn up,' grumbled the MP.

It would have been a terrible message to send to other backbenchers if Norman hadn't been moved from his job. This is a sign of Number 10 applying a bit of an Andy Flower strategy to MPs: and that is a good thing for party management in general. But one Tory colleague I've spoken to this morning disagrees. They think there's nothing wrong with the way he behaved on Thursday:

'Given Jesse is one of the brightest members of parliament his inclusion on the policy unit was or real comfort. To sack him over a moral issue like whether to support war is outrageous. If he had rebelled on a legislative issue I could understand but instead he acted on principe and reflected the vast majority of the public.'

This is interesting, because it shows - in case you'd missed it - that many MPs treated Thursday's vote as a conscience issue, even though it was subject to a three-line whip. Traditionally war has not been treated as a conscience issue (see Philip Cowley's excellent post on this), but along with a tide against intervention, there seems to be a tide in parliament at least towards making it a moral choice, rather than something the government leads on.