The people of Falkirk deserve better

At the risk of inciting cries of “haud the front page”, allow me to announce that the burd has changed her mind.  Rather, the burd has been persuaded by articulate and eloquent argument made elsewhere, that she got it wrong.

First, it was the comments from Jo in relation to the statement in this blogpost concerning Eric Joyce.  Jo, to put it mildly, was raging with me but still managed to string a cogent sentence or three together.  Then, there was Lesley Riddoch’s excellent article on the subject matter and Johann Lamont’s woeful leadership on the issue.  Leadership or more pertinently, lack thereof.

Silence has been the order of the day, which brings into sharp relief my rather premature declaration of promising signs from Scottish Labour’s putative leader.

The episode also demonstrates two things.  That the Scottish Labour leader is not really mistress of all she surveys in her land and that the rules on recall of MPs need changed, urgently.

Johann Lamont appears to have no locus on matters pertaining to Westminster and the conduct of MPs.  Labour has already removed the whip from Mr Joyce which is fair enough, but it seems clear that the Scottish Labour leader had nothing to do with that decision.  It was made by Ed Miliband.  Even if that is the right and proper thing to do – and it probably is – they could have at least made it look like Johann had summat to do with it.  She could have made lots of appropriate sounding noises and shown that she was in charge of all things Scottish and Labour.  It would appear, either that the new status of the Scottish Labour leader got forgotten in the rush to act, or Johann Lamont was happy to avoid the situation.

Whichever, or whatever if the reason for her being absent without leave on this occasion was because she was flossing her teeth, in one swift move, her authority and credibility has been undermined.  And she has made no attempt to try and claw back lost ground.  Leaders are expected to lead or at least, give the impression that they lead.  Johann Lamont, on this one, failed on both counts.

Despite local folk and Labour worthies lining up in an orderly fashion to furnish the Sunday papers with quotes stating that Joyce must go, the people have no power in this matter.  Eric Joyce is an MP and as an elected representative, the only person who can remove him is himself, until or unless he gets a suitably hefty conviction for the bar-room brawl.

And despite promising to introduce recall powers in legislation, the Coalition Government hasn’t quite got round to it yet.  A draft bill was published in December which would enable the recall of an MP imprisoned for less than 12 months or if the House of Commons determines to recall an MP, after 10% of the registered electorate of a constituency signs a petition seeking one.  Given the reaction to Eric Joyce’s misdemeanours last week, such a petition would seem pretty easy to fill, if only the good folk of Falkirk had the chance.

So we are left with Eric Joyce doing the honourable thing and that amounts to the Labour party, whichever bit of it wants to take charge, making him do the honourable thing.  If the party was wishing to demonstrate that it has learned its lessons, it would act tout de suite and not wait for the outcome of justice.  The people of Falkirk deserve better.

But even if we have to wait a while, a by-election there shall be.  So who might be Labour’s chosen one?  It’s probably far too early to tell, but when has that ever stopped me having a punt?

Ian Smart was being poked and prodded on Twitter to declare his intentions.  Naturally he said no.  I mean, who’d declare an interest at this stage: Mr Smart is far too experienced an activist to make such an elementary mistake.  He says no, he might well mean yes when the time comes.  I’d like to think he’d have a shout but then maybe the issue is that it would mean hauling up and down to London every week.  I’m not sure I’d want that either.

Someone who was pretty keen out of the traps was John Mackay, erstwhile “not very good former Labour candidate”.  That’s the problem with Twitter:  everyone can see your tweets.  So he has acknowledged an interest in pursuing an opportunity to stand and would definitely be one to watch.  Whether or not he has the hinterland is debatable: sadly, at a time when Labour should be looking to introduce bright young things into its mix, there is bound to be a time-served angle to the decision.  There usually is.

Which is where the former MSPs come in:  bound to be at least one whose name gathers a few mentions.  Whether or not he or she will actually mount a challenge for the seat is a moot point.  Speculation is about getting enough runners and riders in the column inches to make it seem like a hot contest, whether or not it actually is.

It would be nice to think that a woman might make an appearance at some point, though none of the parties in Scotland are renowned for their feminine side when it comes to choosing by-election candidates.  There’s plenty former women MSPs who might fancy it, though the ones with a connection to the Falkirk area are bound to wonder if they can be bothered.  When a man usually wins such internal contests after all.

Then there are the local worthies.  The time-served councillor who often wins the day, if not the contest.  I scanned comments carefully to see if there were any obvious contenders but alas not.  Which is not to say one or other would not fancy their chances, especially when many of the Falkirk wards are on a shoogly peg courtesy of continuing party doldrums and a rampant SNP in the polls.

So who would I like to see get it?  If Mr Smart puts his hat in the ring, my heart would definitely will him on.  A more thoroughly decent guy in Scottish politics would be hard to find.  He’s served his party loyally and deserves reward for that; more importantly, he’d make a good MP.  My head would point at the likes of John Mackay. Scottish politics needs new talent and he comes from a decidedly different Labour tradition which would be welcome in the central belt.  Besides he’s done things other than politics (though that is bound to disqualify him).

But the smart money should probably be on a local, never heard of councillor, with years of experience, a biddable presence and a risible media personality.  His kind – and they nearly always are male – always win through in the end.

And while the people of Falkirk deserve better than Eric Joyce, it’s doubtful they’ll get it from Labour anytime soon.

17 thoughts on “The people of Falkirk deserve better

  1. Pingback: We need a power of recall and we need it now « A Burdz Eye View

  2. Has Johann Lamont been well advised to seek his resignation from his seat on a morality witch-hunt, rather than on his potentially criminal assault? It seems to me to be the lesser sin, if sin it is.

    It’s all very well to seem to act decisively, but it just looks like she has reacted to a Daily Record headline. Perhaps that is not true, but perceptions matter.

  3. I was quite prepared to cut him some slack because it wouldn’t be the first time someone who was suffering from stress behaved in a bizarre way and priority should be treatment if he is ill – thereafter he would have had to resign in my view. But today’s story, if true, is so bad. I don’t feel the least bit like saying so what? In fact I feel myself becoming rather Victorian and thinking he should be horsewhipped frankly. I say “if true” of course. Don’t know if it is.

    • Do we know if it’s true?

      Eric Joyce has now denied it.

      This Daily Record story is too convenient for it allows Johann Lamont to enter the stage and to come over all moral despite the fact that we are told she was quite prepared to overlook any thuggish and criminal behaviour on the part of Eric Joyce.

      If morality plays an important part in Labour politicians lives then why is that they are quite prepared to shake the hands of dictators, enter into illegal wars and allow them to defraud the taxpayer.

      Also where does morality lie in the newsmedia in outing an alleged two year old affair whereby the Record can say this of the teenager, “As the Record learned of the romance yesterday, Meg deleted her Twitter account and her Facebook page, where she listed friendships with other Labour MPs.”

      That is an obscene sexual inference.

      The question that should be asked is;

      Who gains from dragging Eric Joyce and this young woman thru the tabloid mire?

  4. It transpires that Eric Joyce has had an affair with a teenage over thirty years his junior, and this affair has been ongoing for two years.

    This news has just been published in the Daily Record, a Labour supporting paper. So we can be sure its source was from within the Labour party itself.

    Now you may think – so what? This is a private matter isn’t it? People would have been well aware of this relationship, and it appeared this did not cause the Labour party any real problems what, in reality, two consenting adults under Scottish law got up to.

    The real problem is Johann Lamont and not in any sense what Eric Joyce did in a parliamentary bar. The justice sysem will deal with Mr Joyce, but the court of public opinion is a tad more merciless than any judge or jury.

    When this incident too place it was Mr Miliband who suspended Eric Joyce. This revealed that Johann Lamont is a Scottish Labour leader in name only. She remained silent. When other Labour MPs started to voice their support for Mr Joyce, Ms Lamont was conspicious by her absence, but we were informed third hand that she preferred a Labour thug as an MP rather than any SNP representative. It was only when commentators and bloggers started to point out not only the direct silences by MS Lamont on this issue but the similar non-responses on other Labour scandasl and her absences in aired public debate. “Where’s Johann?” suddenly became a big problem fro Labour. What could the party do in response.

    “VOILA” – a two year affair with a teenager gets revealed in the Daily Record and Ms Lamont is quoted as saying, ” This is a man who has abused his position of power and authority. I’m disgusted, regardless of any other issues. I think this makes Eric Joyce unfit to stand for the Labour Party.” Worst still for the Falkirk MP was a (Labour) insider saying, “Joyce had always enjoyed associating with young female aides, despite colleagues being concerned about their “potential vulnerability”.”

    So in order to get Ms Lamont off a political hook a young person’s reputation has been deliberately ruined in the tabloids.

    Next time anyone says that Ms Lamont is doing a good job think about Meg Lauder. That young woman has paid a very high price for her association with the Labour party.

  5. I’m quite harsh when it comes to the behaviour of elected politicians. As far as I am concerned, any criminal convictions received during a term in office should have them immediately barred from politics.

    If those who are responsible for the creation and implementation of laws cannot respect them, then they do not deserve to hold the role they do.

    If a politican is charged with an offence, then they should be suspended – with pay – from their job until the process is complete. If they are found to be innocent, then fair enough. But if guilty – out they go, regardless if it is a cabinet minister or a new MP/MSP/councillor.

  6. I live in the Falkirk constituency and Eric Joyce is my MP. I would like the opportunity to have my say in a by-election, as I have no respect for the man (this is apart from the fact that I am not a labour supporter). This outburst is disgraceful and sets no example to the population of an elected member of a parliament. We expect better of elected members of parliament, which goes with the job title when elected. As far as I understand the situation – he has asked more questions in parliament regarding the armed forces rather than things to do with his constituents. Then there is the scandel of his expenses.

  7. 1. The assault is just an allegation. We would all want the legal protection of ‘innocence’ no matter who we were in a similar situation, so the calls/cries of ‘by-election!’ (exclamation optional) are quite presumptive. (And Labour would win anyway.)
    2. The SNP has chosen a grand succession of candidates in by-elections to both parliaments.

  8. Whilst Eric Joyce has take refuge in the hills, Johann Lamont, his boss in name only, has gone underground only popping up once a week for FMQs.

    The new political game in Scotland is – Where’s Johann?

  9. I actually think your original position on Eric Joyce was better. Whilst it is true that many or even most organisations would discipline him for his actions if there are mitigating circumstances then they would also form part of the decision making. I have colleagues that I like and colleagues that I don’t but if one of them did this then my 1st reaction would not be to hang them out to dry or get them to do the “honourable” thing and resign. My first reaction, my basic human reaction, my civilised reaction would be to find out why they had lost all control and did this in the 1st place.

    At this stage we don’t know why. If he was just plain drunk then he would have to go. He he was drinking to get through the day due to personal issues I would have far more compassion that others have shown him.

    I have met him a few times as well as seeing him on TV and I would never vote for him, but these situations need to be thought through.

    • I’m torn to be honest. I do think anyone in this situation deserves treatment, support etc. But he did banjo people and physical violence, whatever someone’s problems, is not acceptable. Don’t have much sympathy with the line of my employer would march me out the door – that’s about bad employers rather than what is right in this situation. But there are constituents here too and they deserve some say in it all. Eric Joyce has some form here – his arrogance and high handed treatment of people has been legend for years. Maybe a more sympathetic character would elicit more sympathy? Not that that should be the deciding factor here either. I’d say he needs support out of the public eye to sort out what is going on in his life and he should resign the seat to allow a fresh atart for the people he represents, and also to give him the space he needs to seek help. Don’t think that is being so contradictory – or not more than normal for me!!

      • I think that his constituents, in the short term, will still be supported just the same by having him as a MP. If he is jailed then they won’t (even if it is for under a year) and then he should resign as the court will have looked at any and all mitigating circumstances.

        If the people of Falkirk (and even the local Labour Party) don’t think that he should continue then they both have options to deselect or not vote for him. I think though it should be locals that make the decision not national parties or opposition parties. Who knows, enough actual constituents may be happy with him as an MP.

        There is a court process to undergo and I’d want to wait until that was over.

  10. You might have to spend a long time chapping the doors in Falkirk to get 10% of the electorate to sign such a petition…. and be prepared for a fair few refusals arguing “He heid butted a Tory? Good on him, Ah’d dae the same mysel’…. gie him a bonus!”

  11. Should read “fit for” of course. Must check my work before I hand it in!

    • While I don’t disagree with you, here’s a thought. Why would we want everyone to believe the same as the SNP? Other than the more supporters of independence the better, of course. Pluralism in politics is a good thing. I have as much admiration for someone who knowing the weaknesses and failings of his own party is not prepared to abandon a lifetime commitment but is prepared to stay put and try and reform from the inside.

      Folk like Ian Smart are not hostile to independence per se – he is probably much more sceptical of Alex Salmond’s commitment to independence than any of us are because he looks from the outside in – just believe the priority is other things. I can live with that, folk like him will work with whatever constitutional settlement the Scottish people opt for and politics post independence will be a better place because there are such people still around and willing to apply themselves to the task at hand.

  12. Ian Smart is indeed of the caibre I have been hoping would have moved with the political tide and recognised that Scottish Labour’s position on everything but particularly the constitutional issue is not for for purpose.
    There comes a point at which loyalty to your organisation means telling them the truth

    I remain sadly disappointed.

    I still believe the defining breakthrough is going to come when the Labour Party in Scotland reconises the lansdscape it is now in and behaves accordingly.
    I remain hopeful

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