Forgive me, but Polly Toynbee is ranting about me in today's Guardian and that does make me feel just a little smug. I don’t even mind that she is misrepresenting my position. The fact that Polly Toynbee hates me is a badge of honour, and one I will wear with a smile, and a degree of pride all day long.There is little doubt in my mind that the pro abortion lobby would have won significant victories if they had been allowed to table amendments tomorrow. This could have led to the number of doctors needed to authorise abortions reduced to one, an increase in the upper age limit and much worse besides.
But the fact that both Nadine Dorries and Frank Field had managed to marshall a significant alliance of the media to their cause has made the government think twice about allowing this issue to deflect from the economic crisis. The Mail had always been in favour of a lower term limit, but in the last few days the News of the World and Telegraph backed the Dorries/Field initative for a balanced Joint Parliamentary Committee to review the law. Even The Observer on Sunday was balanced in its coverage.
Number Ten wisely intervened to stop any further discussion because they realise that although there might be parliamentary support for further liberalisation of the abortion law, there is very little support among either the general public or the media. They decided not to pick a fight where none were needed. Brown knows it played badly in recent by elections and doesn't relish it rearing its head again in the last stages of the Glenrothes campaign.
Harriet Harman is said to be incandescent. Yet again, not only has Number 10 ignored her arguments, they have rubbed her nose in it by making her defend the volte face.
There can surely be little doubt that this is a victory for Nadine and a real demonstration that hard work and tenacity always pays off in political campaigning. She may not have achieved a reduction in the 24 week term limit but the balance has now firmly tipped from the pro choice agenda towards a more sensible middle way discussion.