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Friday 24 July 2009

Own Goal

There’s been another by-election. This one was in Norwich North, and once again Labour lost it. In fact, they lost it twice over, because this by-election need never have happened. The gloating of David Cameron – which will be loved or loathed, depending on personal preference – can be seen in the Beeb’s report. The winning candidate, Chloe Smith, will become the youngest MP in the present House of Commons (she’s 27).

Some time ago, as Expensegate was rumbling on, I considered the froth (as I saw it) around the living arrangements of Stone MP Bill Cash, and concluded that I couldn’t get worked up enough to be overly concerned about them. And I’d be at the front of the queue if there was a Europhobe bashing session in prospect. To give Cameron and his chaps their due, they also, on reflection, didn’t see Cash as worthy of a hanging jury: he was instructed to pay some expenses back, and has now been reselected for his constituency.

This tendency to think matters through did not find a parallel with Labour. Thus when the independently minded Norwich North MP Ian Gibson was fingered over the apparently cut price sale of a flat to a relative, he was barred from standing again. Gibson, who is now 70, could clearly do without the resultant aggravation, and so stood down immediately – forcing the by-election contest.

Compare and contrast, as they say. Had Gibson been merely reprimanded, or allowed to leave at a time of his own choosing – which may have been at the next General Election, probably the intention of the disciplinary hearing – then the party could show that it had taken action, without ending up shooting itself in the foot.

Also, Pa Broon could have intervened to impose common sense on the participants. Any argument that holds that he was powerless in this matter I do not buy: once again, it comes down to his judgment being found wanting.

The result is a headache for Labour – but a self inflicted one.

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