Sunday, June 07, 2009

Could there be another by-election in Livingston?

The underlying assumption to this is that Gordon Brown survives whatever level of disaster the voters visited him and the Labour Party when they voted on Thursday and is able to persuade his backbench Labour turkeys not to vote for Christmas when he meets them tomorrow.

That's probably more likely than most people in the media are portraying - this is a man who showed enormous stubbornness and made his life a whole lot more difficult than it needed to be for 10 years while his arch enemy Blair was PM, so the current turmoil will be something like a default position to him. Anyone else might give up, but he's been used to living life in the full blast of a storm, sometimes a self inflicted one.

Anyway, to get back to the point, if Gordon does survive, I'm wondering if my home town of Livingston will become the focus of a second by-election during the course of a single Parliament. Its current Labour MP, Jim Devine, was elected in September 2005, in a by election caused by the sudden and sad death of Robin Cook. As another aside, at the time BBC Political Editor Brian Taylor said that one of the stories of the night was the fact that the Liberal Democrats had not been squeezed - we virtually held on to our General Election vote from earlier that year in a campaign with now Edinburgh Councillor Charles Dundas as the candidate and Your's Truly as the campaign manager.

Anyway, Mr Devine's expenses have, to say the least, been the focus of some controversy with over £2000 being paid for electrical work to his flat in London - but the invoice submitted had a number of irregularities including an incorrect VAT number and a a company name which isn't registered. There's also the matter of over £2000 being paid to the landlord of Mr Devine's local pub for 66 metres of shelving - that's quite a lot, surely - which doesn't seem to be visible at either his home or his constituency office.

This is all on top of him claiming almost £17000 for constituency mileage but apparently the person who was driving him around only received £60 of it. The former member of staff who drove him round is apparently taking him to a Tribunal, as is his successful. Lady Bracknell would be looking on disapprovingly.

What's also become very clear in recent weeks is that local Labour councillors in Livingston hate Devine's guts. Two have taken up work in his office and left in varying degrees in disgust. The local Labour party are apparently circulating one of these letters that seems to have become de rigeur when you're trying to get rid of someone. He faces them this afternoon - if he's recovered from the illness which led to him having to cancel a meeting with Labour councillors on Friday.

It is, of course, perfectly possible that everything is all completely above board and Mr Devine's record keeping is simply shambolic and chaotic and his memory has let him down. The Labour Party's "star chamber" NEC Committee will be investigating him this week. If they recommend that Devine should be de-selected, would he do an Ian Gibson and stand down immediately?

If so, would he be the only MP never to have fought a General Election and would Livingston be the only seat ever to have 2 by-elections in a single Parliament? I can't find anything to say it isn't, but I'm sure one of the history geeks who read this will tell me if I'm wrong.

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Richard Gadsden said...

I can think of two cases where a by-election winner died, leading to another by-election.

Bootle in 1990 and Bobby Sands in 1981

Richard Gadsden said...

From Wikipedia:

Seats with more than one by-election in a single Parliament

* Bootle: May and November 1990.
* Fermanagh and South Tyrone: April and August 1981.
* Bristol South East: 1961 and 1963.
* Mid Ulster: 1955 and 1956.
* Edinburgh East: 1945 and 1947.
* Middlesbrough West: 1940 and 1945.
* Combined Scottish Universities: 1936, 1938 and 1945.
* Berwick-upon-Tweed: 1941 and 1944.
* Clay Cross: 1936 and 1944.
* West Derbyshire: 1938 and 1944.
* Buckingham: 1937 and 1943.
* Manchester Gorton: 1937 and 1942.
* Dunbartonshire: 1936 and 1941.
* Greenock: 1936 and 1941.
* Doncaster: 1938 and 1941.
* Southampton: February and November 1940.
* Preston: 1936 and 1940.
* Wandsworth Central: 1937 and 1940.
* City of London: 1938 and 1940.
* Combined Scottish Universities: 1934 and 1935.
* Eastbourne: 1932 and 1935.
* Twickenham: 1932 and 1934.
* Portsmouth South: 1922 and 1923.
* North Down: 1921, February and July 1922.
* West Down: 1921 and 1922.
* South Londonderry: 1921 and 1922.
* Louth: 1920 and 1921.
* The Wrekin: February and November 1920.
* Londonderry North: 1919 and 1922.

Edis said...

We should surely knock of the ones in the 1935-1945 Parliament, special violent circumstances having prevented a General election in 1939 or 1940.


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