22 December 2008

The Christmas Whip

With Holyrood now in recess, it's time to look at the which parties are the better at group organisation, discipline and cohesion. And send various MSPs to the naughty step in the process.

Anyway, as always, we begin with the Top 5 Absentees. We have a new, and incredibly understandable Number 1 this time: Karen Gillon, Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister and MSP for Clydesdale, who has missed 52 votes. However, this is primarily as a result of her being on maternity leave so far the most part, she really does have better things to do with her time. Second is Elaine Smith, MSP for Coatbridge & Chryston and regular feature in the Top 5, who has managed to miss 42 votes out of 65. There comes a point where you do have to start wondering what state her health is in. Of course, if there are no health worries, then maybe, just maybe, her career will come a cropper in the boundary changes. Third is another Labour MSP: Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill), who missed 35, while fourth is Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw), who will not be going to Malawi but still managed to miss 28 votes. Fifth is Margo MacDonald, with 23.


This time the SNP have more than the best attendance rate in the Big 4: they have the best attendance rate of every party at 97.64%. Shirey-Anne Somerville missed 11 votes this time; Alex Salmond (Gordon) and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray) have missed seven apiece. Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) missed six votes; Alasdair Allan (Western Isles) and Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock & Loudoun) have each missed five. Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside), Environment Minister Mike Russell (South of Scotland), Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East) and Tricia Marwick (Central Fife) have each missed four. Bashir Ahmad (Glasgow), Michael Matheson (Falkirk West) and Gil Paterson (West of Scotland) have each missed three. Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee West) and Sandra White (Glasgow) have each missed two, while Keith Brown (Ochil) and Bill Kidd (Glasgow) have missed one.

In terms of discipline, the party is the most cohesive of the Big 4, with members following the majority line 99.63% of the time (I'm putting it like this as I'm including free votes in the statistics: for all parties, I'm considering anyone who went against the majority view a 'rebel' - that may be unfair but it's the best way of making out when an MSP has gone his or her own way). The only serial rebel is Kenneth Gibson, who went against the pack twice: abstaining on the organ donation vote, and (I assume) getting his wires crossed on a motion on Local Government Finance.

Then come the one-time rebels: Culture Minister Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland), Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee West), Christine Grahame (South of Scotland), Christopher Harvie (Mid Scotland & Fife), Jamie Hepburn (Central Scotland), Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop (Lothians), Tricia Marwick (Central Fife), Shirley-Anne Somerville (Lothians)and Bill Wilson (West of Scotland).


Labour's attendance record has been poor for some time, and this year it got worse: an attendance rate of 84.65%. Even factoring in Karen Gillon's maternity leave, it's still abysmal, and the only way for Labour avoid the bottom spot is to treat Margo MacDonald as a political party.

Anyway, leaving that thought to one side, and discounting the Labour members of the Top 5, the absentees were as follows:

19 Irene Oldfather (Cunnighame South)
Shadow Economy & Skills Minister John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife)

15 James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen)

14 Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian)
Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok)

13 Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston)
Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy)
Tom McCabe (Hamilton South)
Peter Peacock (Highlands & Islands)

11 Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton)
Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife)
Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East)
Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East)

9 Shadow Health Secretary Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley)

8 Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland)
Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth)
George Foulkes (Lothians)
Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland)
Trish Godman (West Renfrewshire)
Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride)
Shaodw Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin)
Shadow Transport Minister Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie)

7 Business Manager Michael McMahon (Hamilton North & Bellshill)

6 Shadow Sport Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston)

5 Wendy Alexander (Paisley North)
Hugh Henry (Paisley South)
Shdow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central)
Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde)
Chief Whip David Stewart (Highlands & Islands)

4 Party Leader Iain Gray (East Lothian)
Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray (Dumfries)

3 Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North & Leith)
Shadow Children's Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts)

Quite a lot, eh? And Labour MSPs follow the party line 99.17% of the time. Marlyn Glen has rebelled three times. Two-time rebels are George Foulkes, Jack McConnell, Irene Oldfather, Cathy Peattie and Karen Whitefield. Malcolm Chisholm, Cathie Craigie, Andy Kerr, Lewis Macdonald, Frank McAveety, Michael McMahon, Peter Peacock and Deputy Finance Spokesman David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden) have rebelled once.


The Tories have a 96.83% attendance rate, with Chief Whip (!) David McLetchie (Edinburgh Pentlands) doing the most to let the side down with eleven missed votes. Deputy Leader and Education Spokesman Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed five votes, while Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland) and Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed four. Gavin Brown (Lothian), Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland) and Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands) missed three votes each.

The group has a 99.3% cohesion rate - the second highest - with Jamie McGrigor and Nanette Milne (North East Scotland) departing from majority opinion twice, and Justice Spokesman Bill Aitken (Glasgow), Gavin Brown and Health Spokesperson Mary Scanlon (Highlands & Islands) deviating just once each.

Liberal Democrats

The group has a rather weak-looking 90.96% attendance rate, so should be thankful that Labour's woeful performance spares their blushes. For the record, Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South) and Nicol Stephen (Aberdeen South) have each missed fifteen votes. Hugh O'Donnell (Central Scotland) has missed twelve, Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) has missed eleven, and Party Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland) has missed ten. Culture Spokesperson Iain Smith (North East Fife) has missed eight; Justice Spokesman Robert Brown (Glasgow), John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West) and Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) have each missed five votes. Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney) has missed four votes, Health Spokesman Ross Finne (West of Scotland) missed three, and Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) has missed one.

The group has come unstuck somewhat, having the lowest cohesion rate: 98.94%, though this is mainly due to the almost 50:50 split in how to deal with Wendy Alexander. As it stands, Mike Pringle has deviated twice, while Robert Brown, Jim Hume (South of Scotland), John Farquhar Munro, Hugh O'Donnell, Chief Whip (only the LibDems could tolerate a rebellious Chief Whip!) Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine), Iain Smith, Jamie Stone and Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West) all departing from the majority verdict once.

Greens and Margo

For the record, the Greens have a 95.38% attendance rate - Robin Harper (Lothian) missed six votes - and have had no splits. Which, for a party of two MSPs, is a good thing.

Margo obviously can't split with herself, and her 23 absences give her an attendance rate of 64.62%. As she has no Whip or Party structure to answer to, her supporters will probably say that she's only bothering with the votes that matter. Her detractors will say she's not providing the independent voice for the Lothians that she offered. Working smarter, or a Margo-come-lately? You be the judge...

1 comment:

Holyrood Patter said...

Not to spin this to my party, but in terms of the SNPs absentees, im pretty sure shirley anne somerville had maternity leave this year. Also, salmond and lochhead are probably the two msp with the most actual business outside holyrood