20 December 2009

More on Changing Chambers

There's a history of Parliamentarians and ex-Parliamentarians switching institutions, so should Cathy Jamieson succeed in her bid to be the candidate for Kilmarnock & Loudoun next year, her name may as well be Legion.

Of course, Winnie Ewing was the first to do it, all the way back in 1979: despite having lost her Moray and Nairn seat to the Tories earlier that year, the winner of the Hamilton By-Election defeated Russell Johnston (Liberal MP for Inverness) to become MEP for the Highlands & Islands. She kept that position for twenty years, until being elected as a Regional MSP for the same area. In so doing, she became the only MEP to switch to Holyrood.

But 1999 was the big year, with a large corps of MPs heading north to assist in the formation of the Scottish Parliament. Donald Dewar led the Labour Group, and was a dual mandate politician until his death; Henry McLeish went up with him, as did Sam Galbraith, Malcolm Chisholm, John Home Robertson and John McAllion. They all stood down from Westminster in 2001, and Galbraith resigned as an MSP at that time as well. McLeish stood down from Holyrood in 2003; McAllion lost his seat that year and went on to switch to the SSP; John Home Robertson stood down in 2007, but Chisholm remains, for now. The other Labour Parliamentarian to join them was Mike Watson, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, who had been MP for Glasgow Central until the seat disappeared and his attempts to stand in Glasgow Govan failed.

For the SNP, all six of the Westminster MPs at the time ended up at Holyrood: Alex Salmond, Margaret Ewing, Roseanna Cunningham, John Swinney, Andrew Welsh and Alasdair Morgan. Five of them stood down from Westminster, but Alex Salmond resigned his Holyrood seat to lead the Westmnister Group. Of course, we know what happened next: he returned to Holyrood in 2007 and he, along with the surviving members of that intake - Margaret Ewing passed away in 2006 - remain in the Chamber. Those six, and the outgoing MEP Winnie Ewing were joined by former Parliamentarians Margo MacDonald and George Reid.

OF course, by 1999, the Tories had considerably fewer people to draw on - not helped by the wipeout of the Scottish Tories at Westminster two years earlier. Consequently, the only Tory MSPs in 1999 with any Parliamentary experience were James Douglas-Hamilton, former MP for Edinburgh West and by then Lord Selkirk of Douglas, and Phil Gallie, former MP for Ayr. Both stood down in 2007, leaving the Tories with a group of MSPs who only had experience of Holyrood, if that.

The LibDems had more in their ranks: Jim Wallace, of course, and also Donald Gorrie, who by being elected for Central Scotland (despite succeeding James Douglas-Hamilton as MP for Edinburgh West), became the first and only ever dual mandate politician to represent to completely different areas: the First Minister's two constituencies do at least overlap, as do the two that Cathy Jamieson would represent should she win Kilmarnock & Loudoun. Wallace and Gorrie both stood down in 2001, and both quit Holyrood in 2007. Wallace, however, was ennobled soon after, and is now Lord Wallace of Tankerness.

But the weren't the only ones with Parliamentary experience: obviously, Lord Steel of Aikwood had shedloads of that, having been in the Commons for decades and having entered the House of Lords in 1997. But Nicol Stephen had briefly been the MP for Kincardine and Deeside, while Keith Raffan had been the Tory MP for Delyn, in North Wales.

And of course, there was Dennis Canavan, who stood down from Westminster early, having won his Holyrood seat despite the wishes of his former colleagues in Labour.

There have been other transfers since 1999, of course. David Mundell became the only sitting MSP to transfer successfully to Westminster in 2005, while his former colleague Ben Wallace won the seat he was contesting in Lancaster & Wyre. And aside from Alex Salmond's return to Holyrood in 2007, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock made the trip to Edinburgh (having been in the Commons from 1979 to 2005 as well), and David Stewart, who lost his seat in the 2005 Election, ended up getting into Holyrood on the Highlands & Islands list. Even in this year's European Election, George Lyon made a return to elected politics, having gained the #1 position on the LibDem List after losing his Argyll & Bute seat at Holyrood two years earlier.

So Cathy Jamieson isn't the first transfer and won't be the last - particularly if the rumours of the man she's replacing, Des Browne, seeking a place in the Scottish Parliament turn out to be correct. But the move that she wants to make has only been successfully executed once. Can she be the second?

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