Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jim Devine - an ignominious end to an unremarkable career

There are some politicians you don't really mind that much being beaten by, and Robin Cook was one of them. His re-election to Livingston in 2005 was not unexpected and also not particularly unwelcome. His stance on the Iraq War, and resignation from the Cabinet on principle, a rare thing in this Government, as well as his diligent service as a constituency MP showed him to be a decent human being. I had cause to visit him once with a problem and he sorted it with some sensitivity.

When he died in August 2005, I was genuinely saddened. Yet another good senior Scottish Labour figure had been struck down too soon.

It was going to be hard for anyone to step into Robin's shoes, but, to be honest, Devine was never really up to the job. His political obituary is not going to take very long to write.

He was someone that I really did object to being beaten by, particularly after he was seen being really rude to some children during the campaign by some of our people. I also know that friends of mine, who have nothing to do with politics, have been less than impressed with him when they've gone to him seeking help.

Having promised to continue in the Cook tradition, he then proceeded to vote with the Government on virtually all of their illiberal anti terrorism measures and was particularly strongly against an Inquiry into the Iraq War, as you'll see from this excerpt from his They Work for You site profile.

"How Jim Devine voted on key issues since 2001:

"Has never voted on a transparent Parliament. votes, speeches
Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards. votes, speeches
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws. votes, speeches
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war. votes, speeches
Voted very strongly against replacing Trident. votes, speeches"

He also voted with the Government on the Gurkhas last month, much to my disappointment.

To be fair to him, though, he did vote against the replacement of Trident, and had to resign his unpaid post as a PPS as a result.

He didn't even have the political nouse to realise what the problem was going to be with his expenses. In a pretty poor display of political judgment, this is what he told the Scotsman just under a month ago:

"Meanwhile, Jim Devine, the Labour MP for Livingston, said he feared media criticism for claiming around £4,000 claimed towards a house purchase in London – but told The Scotsman it paled into insignificance when compared to Tories such as Douglas Hogg, who claimed for moat-dredging."

So, now that he's been told he can't defend his seat, what next for Labour in Livingston? The party is not in good shape locally, having lost both the Holyrood seat and control of the Council since Devine's election. They were pretty much invisible during the Euro election here.

The question is will Devine resign now, like Ian Gibson, and cause another by-election? If he did, that would be a major headache for Labour in Scotland as they also have to defend Speaker Martin's Glasgow seat. While having the first Livingston by election on the same day as the Scottish Parliament Cathcart by-election split the Nationalist effort, the climate was very different then.

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