Before I start, let me do a bit of a Nick Ross thing. Remember at the end of Crimewatch every month he used to say that crime was actually really rare and tell us to sleep easy. Well, that's just as true today. Most politicians, of most parties (racist thugs like the BNP excepted of course), are good and decent people who are in politics to help people. Don't let the behaviour of a very small number of people detract from that.
Anyway, I feel quite sad and disappointed at how my former MP, Jim Devine, has behaved on many occasions since he was elected. The guilty verdict on two charges of false accounting is the tip of a very large iceberg.
I first came across Jim Devine in the by-election in 2005. His selection as candidate was rapidly followed by a mea culpa interview in Labour rag the Daily Record in which he outlined his drunk driving convictions and womanising past. During that campaign, a group of our activists came across him canvassing on a north Livingston council estate and saw him tell a child of about 8 to f*** off. Without the asterisks.
On the face of it, he seemed to be your average take-the-constituency-for-granted Labour MP. To give him his due, though, he did a lot of work on the Farepak issue, and on the vexed issue of land management and property factors. It wasn't until 2009 when he became embroiled in the expenses scandal that we got more of an insight into his shambolic lifestyle. The charges he faced today were unrelated to the issues which actually got him deselected. Then it was all to do with questionable receipts, and shelving. I have to say, though, why did the whips investigating him not pick up on the stuff he was charged with?
He made bumbling, inarticulate, tv appearances at that time and then was charged for something quite different.
We also knew in 2009 that he was being taken to an employment tribunal by his former office manager. That case was finally heard four months ago and revealed some really weird behaviour on Devine's part. Apart from trousering £10,000 of expenses which should have been paid to Marion Kinley in mileage, he engaged in this bizarre hoax, getting someone to ring Marion Kinley up and pretend to be a journalist investigating expenses. He then totally fabricated some story about an expose that was supposedly going to appear in the press about her. He was subsequently ordered to pay her damages of over £35,000 plus the expenses.
The charges he was found guilty of today were of false accounting. He asked a printing company to provide him with receipted invoices that he used to claim money for work that hadn't been, and wouldn't be, carried out. At his trial, he said that he did this to pay a temporary member of staff, whom he wouldn't name because she'd be charged for benefit fraud, cash in hand. A former member of his staff said on the lunchtime news that there had been no such person.
Jim Devine's public life was chaotic, shambling and pathetic, with fabrications and unnecessary complications at almost every step. We will find out how he will pay for his illegal actions in around 4 weeks' time.
Update: I rather like the question the very perceptive Mr Calder has posed in his article on the subject.