Nadia Whittome said she did not intend to resign from her position as a parliamentary private secretary on Labour’s frontbench last night when confronted with the news that breaking the whip had lost her the post.
On ITV’s Peston on Wednesday evening, the MP told viewers she had voted against the government’s overseas operation bill as a “matter of conscience”. She described it as “anti-veterans” and “anti-human rights”.
But it is understood that Whittome, as well as Beth Winter and Olivia Blake, all Labour PPSs until yesterday, were told that if they voted against the bill they would be resigning their roles due to a one-line Labour whip to abstain.
15 other Labour MPs also defied the whip to vote against: Diane Abbott, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Lavery, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John McDonnell, Kate Osamor, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Jon Trickett and Claudia Webbe.
Commenting on the bill, Whittome said: “I thought that the bill was a matter of conscience. I understand why colleagues came to a different conclusion and thought that we can amend this at committee stage and that’s perfectly reasonable.
“But I felt that given all the major human rights organisations – Amnesty, Human Rights Watch – and given that even the British Legion and veterans themselves opposed this bill. And these are all arguments that our frontbench made today.
“We don’t agree with this bill. And we think it’s anti-veteran, it’s anti-human rights. It would effectively decriminalise torture and that’s why I voted against it.”
— Peston (@itvpeston) September 23, 2020
Labour warned on Wednesday that the government bill relating to British troops serving overseas “creates the risk that the very gravest crimes including torture and other war crimes go unpunished” – but the party did not vote against it.
In a vote on its second reading, the legislation passed with 331 MPs voting in favour and 77 against. It will now proceed to committee stage, at which point Labour and other opposition MPs will attempt to amend the bill.