I did hear on the grapevine that David Torrance raised a few eyebrows with his comments about the votes in the House of Lords the other night, but I've only just caught up with the relevant tweets in their full glory.
"A curious tweet from the FM: 1) it's not possible to 'abstain' in the Lords & 2) Labour tactics arguably worked..."
Sorry, what? It's not possible to abstain in the Lords? What happens to peers who refuse to vote? Are electric shocks applied to their shoulder blades? Are they threatened with ejection into a tank full of piranhas? Are they forced to look at Michelle Mone's photo collection until they scream "all right, all right, I'll vote, just STOP THE PAIN!!!!!!!"
So on second thoughts, it turns out that...
"To clarify, members of House of Lords can "abstain", but that's not what Labour peers did this evening, they voted for the successful motion"
As opposed to voting for the unsuccessful motion, which was unsuccessful mainly because...er, Labour abstained. Still, I'm sure we're all grateful for David's "clarification" that when he said it's impossible to abstain in the Lords, what he actually meant was that it's possible to abstain in the Lords. On the whole, I'm inclined to say it was our own fault for "misunderstanding" him in the first place. He later apologised for having been "too pedantic", although in my view the only thing he should even dream of apologising for is redefining "pedantic" as meaning "totally inaccurate" without giving the Oxford English Dictionary sufficient notice.
To recap on what we've learned -
If you abstain on the renewal of Trident at 5.30pm, but then vote in favour of a pay rise for MPs at 5.40pm, you did not in fact abstain on the renewal of Trident. You just voted for something else instead. That's how it works. Fact.
Andrew Marr once memorably said without a hint of irony that, although Torrance is Alex Salmond's unofficial biographer, "unionists can trust this book as much as nationalists can". So let me just say that when the long-awaited David Torrance Pocket Guide To How Votes In The House Of Lords Work finally hits our bookshelves next year, it'll be a book that can also be trusted by people who don't want to understand how votes in the House of Lords work.