Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Changing of the guard for Scottish Labour

Almost a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs have now signalled their intention to stand down at the general election in what will be a real changing of the guard at Westminster this year.

Nigel Griffith’s announcement that he is to stand down as MP for Edinburgh South after 23 years service brings to nine the number of Labour MPs who will not contest their seats again.

Given the rate at which Scottish Labour MPs are announcing their departures and replacement candidates being found there could be more retirements from the 39-strong Labour ranks before the election.

The change will see jockeying for position in the next few weeks for some of the safest parliamentary berths in the land. Former ministerial advisers could go head to head with veteran local activists for nomination and party bosses still face local skirmishes to impose all-women shortlists in one or two seats.

Most of the departures were expected but Nigel Griffiths kept his cards close to his chest until Friday night. There had been intense speculation that Griffiths, defending a majority of just 405, would look for the exit door after being caught in a Sunday newspaper sex sting which alleged that he cheated on his wife inside the House of Commons

He only signed for his new post, as director of an international educational institution, on Friday afternoon and started putting the wheels in motion to stand down then.

Over 120 MPs from all parties have already announced they are leaving the Commons at the election in what will be the biggest clear out of a generation.

The other big Scottish Labour guns announcing their retirement are former Home Secretary John Reid (Airdie and Shotts),

former Defence Secretary Des Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudon), and former Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram who is standing down in East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

Also departing from Westminster is SNP leader Alex Salmond. He is letting go his beloved Banff and Buchan seat to concentrate on the task of being First Minister and MSP for the Gordon constituency. John Barrett, the Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP is also standing down.

Some of the faces of the next generation of Scottish MPS are already familiar to voters. Labour MSP Cathy Jamieson, the former Scottish justice minister, has been selected for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, being vacated by Des Browne.

Jamieson will bring the fight to the SNP which won the equivalent Scottish parliament seat and runs the local council. Labour no longer fear the charge of "dual mandate" - politicians sitting in both parliaments - which they threw at Alex Salmond. The party simply wants the best candidates with the best chance of winning.

Former civil servant and trade union official Michael McCann was nominated as the Labour candidate in East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, last weekend to defend Adam Ingram’s generous 14,723 vote legacy.

The selection process for a replacement candidate for John Reid in Airdie and Shotts hit an obstacle when the local party rejected the idea of an all-women shortlist. Labour’s ruling National Executive Council is now expected to impose an all-female list to make up for the lack of female Labour MPs in parliament.

Most local members had rallied around North Lanarkshire councillor Jim Logue as their candidate, while the party hierarchy appeared to favour Joanne Milligan, a former chairwoman of Scottish Labour students. Johanna Baxter, who is close to Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, has also been linked to the seat

Rosemary McKenna signalled some time ago that she would retire from as MP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth which she has served since 1997. Greg McClymont, a local boy who worked as a speechwriter for John Reid and now teaches history at Oxford University, is to return home to stand.

In Glasgow Central the Mohammed Sarwar hopes to hand on the chains of office to his son, Anas Sarwar, the 26 year old dentist who has proved himself to be something of a political livewire.

Scotland’s longest serving MP, Gavin Strang, who was first elected in 1970 and served as a Minister under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, is calling it a day in Edinburgh East. Labour’s replacement candidate for the safe seat is Shiela Gilmore, a former Edinburgh councillor.

Another candidate new to Westminster but used to hustings will be former West Lothian Council leader Graeme Morrice who has been selected as the Labour candidate in Livingston. The sitting MP Jim Devine was deselected by the party following a probe of his expenses claims.

The future of Anne Moffat (East Lothian) is in the hands of the NEC after she was recently de-selected by the divided local party. Despite the battles at Prestonpans Labour club the majority of over 7000 makes the seat an attractive prospect for would-be politicians. Edinburgh South, where the Griffiths majority was a slim 405, is likely to be an open selection.

The biggest nomination battle will be over the12,000 plus majority bequeathed by the scourge of the banking classes, John McFall MP. The chair of the Treasury select committee, who held bankers to account over the credit crunch, announced his retirement to the West Dunbartonshire party on Friday night and there is a lot of interest in the seat.

Stephen Ballie, the husband of local Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, is being named as the local favourite but he could face stiff competition. Scotland Office adviser John MacTernan, who worked in Downing Street with Blair, is known to be looking for a parliamentary seat and other former special advisers are looking for safe berths too.

These ambitions could be curtailed if Labour bosses decide on an all-women shortlist. Even after the battle for selection the candidates have to fight a general election campaign too.

No comments:

Post a Comment