01 February 2010

A scalp's a scalp, I suppose

Yousuf was rather looking forward to today's papers last night, expecting as he was that they would contain news of an SNP elected representative jumping ship to Labour. Jeff, meanwhile, reckoned that the defector would be in local government rather than at Parliamentary level. And so it proved, with South Lanarkshire Councillor John McNamee switching sides. Here's today's Herald:

Mr McNamee, who represents the Blantyre area, cited the decision to axe the proposed Glasgow Airport Rail Link as a crucial factor in his jumping ship, as well as the impact of the global financial collapse on small nations such as Ireland and Iceland, and the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

Sounds fair enough. After all, if you don't agree with anything your party has done, then you should leave the party rather than make a continued tired effort to defend what you consider to be the indefensible on the doorstep. Which is why I left Labour, the party of the Iraq War, the preservation of the NHS internal market in the shape of foundation hospitals (Nye Bevan must have been spinning in his grave at that one), the continued defence of Thatcherite housing policies and the advocate of commercialised higher education in the shape of top-up fees, to join the SNP back in 2004. So while I went in the other direction, I can understand why, in those circumstances, he might wish to move. But there's more:

He has also criticised what he describes as the lack of leadership and talent within the SNP at town hall level, describing the two years he has been an elected member as being riddled with in-fighting and that he has been “operating in a political vacuum”.

Hmm. The throwing of the egg. Happens, I suppose. Though the last person to deride former colleagues for lack of talent was David Mundell, the Shadow (or should that be Overshadowed?) Secretary of State for Scotland, in a dossier about the Tory MSP group for David Cameron. That's the same David Mundell who's likely to be passed over for the actual Secretary of State job in favour of one of his apparently talentless colleagues at Holyrood. So it's not a wise move to make, and in any case, what happened to being the change you wished to see? But wait! I'm missing something! This is how the Herald introduces us to Councillor McNamee:

South Lanarkshire councillor John McNamee has quit the party, which had initiated disciplinary procedures against him over concerns over his expense claims and were investigating him over alleged “inappropriate behaviour” at a social function.

Oh dear! Surely Labour are a little bit nervy about taking him on then? Here's the man himself:

“I have spoken to the Labour Party nationally and at local level about what is essentially an internal SNP group matter with no other ramifications and they are easy with that.”

Really? Here's the Herald again:

But the SNP said that Mr McNamee was the subject of “disciplinary procedures” by the South Lanarkshire SNP Group after “concerns were expressed over his expense claims and use of council travel allowances”.

The group was also investigating allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” which Mr McNamee says involved alcohol at a Strathclyde Fire Board event before Christmas, which he attended in an official capacity.

So apart from the fact that he's been accused of fiddling his Council expenses - or taxpayers' money as they are more commonly known - and getting pissed on behalf of South Lanarkshire Council at the Strathclyde Fire Board, basically his problems are, in the world of Labour, for the SNP to sort out. Even though they're problems occurring as a result of his holding public office. Yet still Labour are willing to take this guy on - what would it take for them to get nervy? A Standards Commission investigation? Suspension from public office?

Frankly, I'm staggered that in the wake of the many scandals affecting politicians at the moment, and the Labour 'Star Chamber' that saw MPs deselected for fiddling their expenses, the party is not only willing to welcome him in with no questions asked, but to celebrate the fact. As Stephen says, this isn't news to be joyful about.

But still, when the party is on a downward track (and I'll blog about that later on), a scalp, any scalp, is to be cheered. I hope Cllr McNamee finds himself at home in the Labour Party, and I hope they find themselves comfortable with him.

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