Sunday, July 06, 2008

The East Glasgow Question

Does Geoff Hoon (left) know what he is doing? A new matter arises following the fiasco of his letter to Keith Vaz - never mind his earlier role as Minister of Defence during the invasion of Iraq.

As explained here, why will Glasgow East be without an MP for over 10 weeks after its bye-election? It is now confirmed that the vote will take place on 24 July, following the issuing of the parliamentary writ (moved by Geoff Hoon as the Government Chief Whip) on 1st July and shown here from that day's Hansard -


That the Speaker do issue his Warrant for the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough Constituency of Glasgow, East in the room of David Marshall, who since his election for the said Borough Constituency has accepted the Office of Steward or Bailiff of Her Majesty’s Manor of Northstead in the County of York .—[Mr. Hoon.]"

As Parliament goes into recess on 22 July which is two days before the Bye-election, the newly elected member for Glasgow East will not then be able to officially be sworn in as MP (and will be restrained as acting as such) until Parliament finally re-assembles on 6th October. Did Geoff Hoon know this when discussing the technicalities of the situation with David Marshall in the run up to the latter's resignation?

The way round this is for Harriet Harmen to make a Business Statement delaying the start of the recess for a week or so. If this would prove to be unpopular amongst MPs, then the alternative is to recall Parliament soon for a short session. Yet acting in such a way for no serious political purpose (outside of the needs of Glasgow East) could upset the Speaker and disrupt the normal summer-time programme of cleaning and re-building directed at stopping the building from dropping to bits.

I was always one of those who argued that Parliament should not have lengthy recesses, as it means that all MPs are placed at a disadvantage in being unable to use Parliamentary Procedures for the pursuit of their constituents interests. The cleaning and re-building argument was always used against this argument.

Perhaps the East Glasgow Question will came to shadow the West Lothian Question and help sort this nonsense out. But I doubt whether Geoff Hoon had this mind when he moved the writ. If David Marshall's resignation and the issuing of the writ had taken place a week earlier, then this would have resolved matters as the Bye-election could have taken place on 17 July, five days before Parliament goes into recess. Given David's reasons for resigning, he can't be blamed for the situation. But a Chief Whip is supposed to know what a Chief Whip is supposed to know.


Plettan said...

I can't agree more, Harry. As someone who grew up in and ran all over Derbyshire, the writ for an election was precipitous. As an honestiore - born before 1940 - you understand the failure of the Saga/Baby Boom generation (1940-70). So self absorbed and so obsessed by materialism, they wouldn't make the same sacrifices their parent generation did for their benefit. They wouldn't pay the taxes for health and education. We've all suffered. Look at Glasgow East. I live in Somers Town, NW1. The 2 areas have a male life expectancy of 68. I have 3 sons. I'll be lucky to see three score years and ten, according to my consultant. I'm 57. What happened to the Labour Party, Harry? Or who happened to it?

Harry Barnes said...

Plett: Labour's position immediately after the Second World War rested upon the strength, influence and coherence of working class communities centred around basic industries such as Coal, Steel, Engineering and the Railways. Technological change undermined the strength of this tradition. With the loss of such a base traditional labourism went into decline electorally especially from 1979 to 1997. Unfortuneately, New Labourism was able to outmanouvre what then used to be called Labour's soft-left and thus isolated its hard-left. The New Labour ideology which took over was an attempt to encourage the growth of a free enterprise market system (now dominated by multi-national companies in a more globalised market), whilst for progressive social purposes using stealth taxes to draw down some of this wealth. But inevitably, this meant that the free market was also enabled to undermine the norms and values of the remaining public services -as in the NHS.

Whilst Labour needed to respond to changes created by the new technology, it could and should have done this without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Here is my shot at showing what the approach should have been -and still could be