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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 08:08 GMT
Wales@Westminster newslog

The Wales@Westminster weblog, BBC Wales' Parliamentary correspondent David Cornock's diary on political life

Thursday, 15 March

Stretching a point

posted by David | 0806 GMT |

The agonising is over.

Chris Ruane spent most of Wednesday wrestling with his conscience. His conscience won and he resigned from the government during the middle of BBC Wales Today.

He has impeccable timing. Mr Ruane has been a serial loyalist, to his boss and to the government during his 10 years as an MP.

Until last night, he had never voted against the government. He was offered the option of "discovering a sick granny" that would have allowed him to absent himself from last night's votes and keep his job but he decided instead to vote with his conscience against the upgrading of Britain's nuclear weapons.

It was another difficult day for Tony Blair. With 95 Labour MPs voting against the government, he was forced to rely on Conservative votes to deliver his defence policy.

The prime minister's day also took in a meeting with a group of mountain rescue volunteers. He was sympathetic, and apparently surprised to discover how these teams rely largely on volunteers who often have to buy their own kit.

It is up to chief constables to decide how much funding local mountain rescue teams get, if any, and the aim of yesterday's meeting, organised by Dai Havard and Lord Inglewood, was to press the case for more central government funding.

Several other MPs took part in a photocall. For some reason the volunteers were asked to leave one of their props - a massive stretcher on wheels - outside Downing Street.

Wheeling the stretcher up to the door of Number 10 would have generated nice TV pictures for us, although it would perhaps not have been the image of Mr Blair's government he would have liked to convey yesterday.

I was about to interview a member of the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team when a north Wales MP tried to barge in with a request to be interviewed before the volunteer.

"I'm very busy," explained the said politician. The volunteer got on Wales' most-watched television news programme. The MP didn't.


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