A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Game over

It looks like it is game over for the PLP's serial rebels as Chief Whip Jacqui Smith brings in new disciplinary rules: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2263140,00.html

This should have been done in 1997 not left until now.

My own MP Diane Abbott is having a good whinge about it: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2262980,00.html

I don't have much sympathy for her position. Why should there be one law for local councillors and another for MPs? On any local council you confine your policy arguments to private Group meetings, if you lose a vote in the Labour Group you support the majority position of the Group once it gets to full council, and you can have the whip suspended for behaviour that brings the party into disrepute or for voting against the Group. I've had to vote for things I disagree with because I've been in the minority - that's the nature of being in a political group rather than an independent.

There is very little point having a Parliamentary Labour Party - as opposed to a bunch of individual MPs - if it doesn't take decisions collectively, stick to them, and have effective sanctions to apply to people who won't accept collective responsibility.

The wider electorate only get one Labour candidate to put a cross next to in a parliamentary election. They don't get to express a preference for a leftwing or a Blairite MP - most voters are judging the parties on which one they want to form a government. The least they should expect is that if it says Labour on them tin it will be Labour in the tin - i.e. every Labour MP will vote for the policies that were in the Labour manifesto.

No one is trying to silence you Diane - just to get you to accept basic standards of collective responsibility that even the most junior backbench councillor signs up to.


Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

If you are going to spoof my blogsite, do at least try to keep up. I discussed Lady Di's article with my fan club two days ago in my article http://lukeakehurstsblog.blogspot.com/2006/07/closer-to-home.html

1:38 pm, July 10, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Actually you commented on it at 7am this morning, which is a bit sad, but saved me having to buy a copy of the Times. Keep up the good work Henry.

1:47 pm, July 10, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, I've absolutely no time for you or your politics, but by christ do I hate Diane Abbott. I can only imagine that having you around causes her no end of crap, not least because she's used to hordes of people telling her how good she is and what an 'independent spirit' she is.

Keep up the good work!

2:34 pm, July 10, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

It'll be great when some local CLPs will support the rebel MP and tell Jacquie Smith they don't care about her opinions as they did in Nottingham South.

And considering some rebels already privately told Hilary Armstrong they were standing down anyway, I doubt they'll be too concerned by the new rules.

Btw, Diane Abbott is one of the worse left wing MPs and Meg Hillar is almost more irritating. Not sure what the people of Hackney did to deserve them.

10:05 pm, July 10, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

Ah, btw, today I read the spoof blog thinking it was the real one.....not sure what does it mean!

10:06 pm, July 10, 2006

Blogger Welsh Spin said...

The problem is that there is not really much middle ground. All this proposal does is muddy the position and may make the situation worse.

As Luke says, the party whip is voted on by the PLP and all members of the PLP are expected to follow it. If they don't they can have the whip removed, which up until has meant expulsion from the PLP. The difference between suspension and expulsion is semantic except that a sitting MP cannot be selected by a CLP unless they are a member of the PLP. This is what gives withdrawal of the whip its teeth.

It's partly the terminology itself that leads to the confusion. The 'whip' itself - i.e. the advice note circulated on Monday evening - is never actually withdrawn in the sense of being concealed. MPs who have been expelled can always find out what the 'whip' is as part of their efforts to rehabilitate themselves. Expulsion v suspension is in effect a distinction without a difference and may obscure the position in the eyes of GC's and local party members.

10:41 pm, July 10, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

But here Smith wants the new power not just to expell/suspend MPs who votes against the whip, but also to MPs who make comments she doesn't like.
In her letter to Simpson, she expressed her desire to have the power to suspend him. So it's pretty clear what she's after.

The putting the party into disrepute isn't actually a so clear definition. As soon as the new rule is approved today, I'm more than willing to write Smith about comments made by the press from some loyalist MP that I judge as negative for the whole Labour Party's repution (starting from all those MPs who are briefing against the Deputy PM).
I doubt she'll take actions against them.

10:55 pm, July 10, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

"The difference between suspension and expulsion is semantic except that a sitting MP cannot be selected by a CLP unless they are a member of the PLP. "

but do they remain member of the Labour Party, right?
If so, couldn't they just seek selection in an open selection process?

10:56 pm, July 10, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Sorry - you were right. It's just that writing this stuff about myself makes a few hours seem like two days.

11:15 pm, July 10, 2006

Blogger Dave said...

There's a name for the political method you support so strongly, Luke. Democratic centralism, I think it's called.

I actually prefer my elected politicians to think for themselves and vote according to their consciences, rather than toeing the line like robots.

3:32 pm, July 11, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I prefer them to think for themselves and vote according to their consciences inside the Labour Group or PLP then accept a majority decision and support it. It depends whether you think people vote for the person and their often unpredictable conscience or the party and its more predictable manifesto. "Democratic Centralism" as practised by Leninists goes further - you just elect a leader and/or central committee then do whatever they say.

4:01 pm, July 11, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

but Luke, would you mind Labour MPs openly criticizing a policy in the media? Are you just voting against or even saying your opinion is a "no go area" for you?

6:13 pm, July 11, 2006

Anonymous observer said...

Ah! That explains Ruth Kelly's absences from the House on each and every occasion it came time to vote on equality for lesbians and gay men. She wouldn't mind having the Whip removed. As a member of Opus Dei, she would have a drawer full of her own.

3:10 am, July 12, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

observer, she wasn't always absent. She once took part to a vote.....to vote to exclude gay couples from adoption rights.

Ok, they were free votes, but to put her in charge of equal gay rigts, it's a total nonsense

8:54 am, July 12, 2006

Blogger Welsh Spin said...


They remain members of the Party, but they WOULD NOT be eligible to be selected under any selection proceedure. As I understand it no-one who is a sitting MP can be selected unless they are also a member of the PLP

6:04 pm, July 12, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Andrea, generous pluralist soul that I am don't mind "Labour MPs openly criticizing a policy in the media" as long as they don't over step the hype like Simpson did. The vigorous open policy debate needs to happen before the party and PLP decides its collective position not afterwards.

6:21 pm, July 12, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

welsh spin. thanks.

Luke...I actually agree about criticizing without insulting.
AS could have used Louis XIV and Louis XV as examples instead of Saddam and Udai! Or maybe not because they're French! :wink:

7:05 pm, July 12, 2006

Blogger El Tom said...

Partnership in power is hardly an adequate process. actully you elect a leader wh doesn´t consult (exept with leadig questions, occasionally), then do whatever they say.

you might call thta democratic centralism. eventually that leads to a cult of personality...

4:38 pm, July 13, 2006

Blogger El Tom said...

also, I´d stress that for MPs, due to the historical and continuing role of parliament, that the have a first dut to their constituents, and that sticking rigidly to manifestos comes some way down the line.

people (often, but by no means always) vote for people of a party on the content of the manifesto; but as prospective MPs they are elected first and foremost on their personal merit and relationship with the constituency...

4:42 pm, July 13, 2006

Blogger A soft socialist said...

Didn't some MPs stand on a labour against the war manifesto?

2:51 pm, July 17, 2006


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