I rushed away to another event this evening after the vote on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. That means I missed the debate after this extraordinary vote but have now read the Hansard record and have a feel for the chaos that ensued.
The defeat was significant because it was a Liberal Democrat amendment, moved by Baroness Harris, to remove the various first sub clause of the bill. This flagship bill is first and foremost to introduce elected police commissioners. Tonight was the first opportunity for Lords to vote on the bill and the junior coalition partner used that opportunity to vote out that basic element of the reforms. This was very muscular from the Libdems, but of course it needed the hard work and argument of Crossbench and Labour peers to win the vote by 12.
Of course this meant that further consideration of those sections of the bill relating to police commissioners was pretty redundant but the Government tried to plough on with some of it. Reading the record it looks like it ended in chaos and farce. It appears that a massive Government defeat was followed by a hopeless piece of leadership in deciding to try to continue rather than abandon consideration for the night to allow regrouping.
Incidentally I feel some sympathy for Baroness Browning who has had just 48 hours in the job as bill minister and finds herself at the wrong end of the biggest Parliamentary defeat of this Government. I hope she in no way feels any responsibility.