Short in a lot of trouble

The wires are now carrying news that Clare Short is going to be the first Labour MP to get “fast-track” discipline by the Chief Whip following her comments on the Today Programme and in the Independent, as exclusively revealed by the daily.

Jacqui Smith said that Short’s “comments and actions are so serious, I am now taking the matter further by referring her conduct to the party chair and the general secretary of the Labour Party”.

Sources said that this would involve “the full bangs and whistles”. This may just be designed to keep the party looking strong by cracking down on dissent, but equally it could be an attempt to preempt the rumours that Short is planning to defect to another party.

UPDATE: Hull Uni Labour Club is reporting that West Midlands Regional Director Ian Reilly has formally requested to the Chief Whip, a fellow West Midlands MP, that Clare Short be expelled from the Party.

FURTHER UPDATE: The PA is reporting that the General Secretary has written to Clare Short and will take the matter to next Wednesday’s meeting of the NEC, which could decide to take disciplinary action.

FINAL UPDATE: Newsnight has just featured the story, with Short coming under fire from Campaign Group MP Ann Cryer (who recalled Short as the “Witchfinder General” where Militant were concerned and pointedly noted that Short had not resigned with Cook over the Iraq war, but said that she should not be expelled herself) and a more moderate Anne McKechin MP. The piece is 36 minutes in and will be available for 24 hours.

27 Responses to Short in a lot of trouble

  1. Dave says:

    One less vote for Gordon in the MPs section then.

  2. fairdealphil says:

    Clare certainly seems to be placing herself outside the Labour Party. She’s just been roasted by on the PM programme by David Winnick for her comments which he said were actively campaigning for Labour candidates to be defeated at the next election.

  3. fairdealphil says:

    Dave: Clare burned her bridges with Gordon ages ago.

  4. Matthew says:

    I personally think we should view promoting PR as implicitly wanting Labour out of office…

  5. Nick says:

    Her argument seems bizarre – she expects it to pull power away from the centre, but whatever arguments there are in favour of it, full PR is the most centralising electoral system there is. Her assertion that progressive parties would hold two thirds of the seats in parliament is pretty ridiculous as well.

  6. Andrea says:

    As much as I find the Jacquie Smith OTT and often wrong about rebel MPs, she has a point here. One thing is voicing your opinion and one thing is to campaign to make Lab MPs losing their seats.
    Short already knew the consequences of what she was doing. And then she doesn’t seem to care so much about keeping or not the whip.

  7. Voice of treason says:

    Can we start the campaign for a hung parliament by hanging Clare Short?

  8. Absolute madness. Even the rubble of Short’s post-Iraq career and principles were worth more than this shambolically argued position on the voting system.

    Unless Eddie the Eagle Edwards is planning to come out of retirement and enter the Winter Olympics with Single Transferable Vote emblazoned across his front, it’s hard to see anyone doing more to associate PR with delusion and other worldliness than Short has done over the last couple of days.

  9. Daraka says:

    Wow. This is interesting. I have always admired Short (from afar)- but this does seem quite nutty. What’s the upshot, here? Can “Nick” explain more about how PR is “centralizing”? That hasn’t seemed to be the case in Germany or the Nordic countries, and Italy’s constriction of PR seems have been the decisive “centralization” factor… I’m not arguing here, just wonderin aloud.

  10. Nick says:

    A “pure” PR system revolves around national-level parties, rather than constituency representatives accountable to their electorate.

    I would argue that this encourages a greater level of homogenity of views within parties and a greater degree of central control over legislators, and I think that is true in many continental countries. (NB Germany has a hybrid system, Scandinavia has regional lists.)

    You could argue that’s a benefit of course – no longer can local interests over-ride the national interest and MPs are not in hoc to local pressure.

    And it would be far more fun being an MP – no more constituency campaigns, letters from the voters, advice surgeries, fretting over your CLP. Instead you are a creature of Westminster, concerned only with national issues and accountable only to the national party.

    But I’m not sure quite that this is what Short meant…

  11. Andrea says:

    Why has Reilly requested Smith to expel her from the party (and not just removing the whip)? I didn’t know the Chief Whip had the power to expel people from the party (not the PLP, but the party as a whole). I though it was the NEC or the NCC to make total expulsions

  12. We are just reporting from other sources at this stage, but it is our understanding that the Chief Whip has passed on the complaint to the General Secretary, who will take it to the NEC. Presumably the offence is sufficiently serious to be beyond the remit of the Chief Whip under the PLP Standing Orders, which suggests that explusion is a possible option.

  13. Andrea says:

    I can’t understand why she doesn’t leave the party by herself considering she said it would be “fine” if they withdraw the whip!
    She would save time to everyone.

  14. Of course, she’d get a lot more publicity by being expelled…

  15. Andrea says:

    well, some of her comments sounded pretty much a “please, expel me. I can’t wait”

  16. Al says:

    Why doesn’t she just admit the truth and yell out for all to hear that she just wants attention?

  17. Ironically, her Independent article slammed No 10 for being more concerned with attention grabbing initiatives than serious policy…

  18. Benjamin says:

    I agree with many of her arguments. I am very much in favour of PR, and the whole Westminster system is ossified and partially corrupt. A wriiten constitution, PR, seperation of powers, an elected Lords, reduction in patronage, all steps in the right direction. Abolition of the monarchy while you are at it. We need a fresh approach to politics, and fresh ideas. Short is right to say that there is no real discussion in the Labour Party anymore, and the current Labour leadership contest is personality based.

    However actually calling for hung parliament was going too far – it was unecessary to call for that publically.

  19. Benjamin says:

    Nick

    Try doing a bit more research on PR. It’s not necessarily true to say that PR means a break with the constituency link or more centralised control. Anyway, you can’t really get more ccentral control than how the Labour Party is run now!

  20. Benjamin

    On the contrary. The only true form of proportional representation is a national list system. That is centralising. There are other systems that represent more proportionally than FPTP, but they are not purely PR.

    Many of those systems have their own problems. For example regional list systems, such as the De Hondt system, often over-represent rural areas at the expense of urban areas as to work it needs a minimum number of seats in each electoral region even if population is proportionally lower in rural areas.

    This is very clearly the case in Spain, where in the 1996 elections, the right almost got a majority even though they only got 1% more than the PSOE, and then governed with a parliamentary majority based on three parties that polled barely 44%.

  21. It’s unclear why the prophets of PR consistently manage to ignore the failure of their medicine to cure the list of problems it will allegedly solve, in the countries where it is already in use.

    It’s an utterly irrelevent bourgeois fantasy.

    If you’re really so short of stuff to waffle on about at your pretentious dinner parties, why not have a game of scrabble? It’s great, it helps improve literacy and everything.

  22. Nick says:

    PR clearly does involve breaking the constituency link. AV or STV don’t, but they’re not PR. Similarly with hybrid systems.

    You can easily get a lot more centralised control of the Labour Party than that which already exists. And where there are proportional systems in place ( the European Parliament and the top-up lists in the Assemblies) there is indeed far greater central control than over constituency MPs.

    As for the lack of internal discussion – I don’t think that’s true. There may be a lack of democratic control, but that’s not the same thing.

    However, this probably isn’t the best forum for this debate…

  23. Henry G says:

    I think PR was very much the argument for the late 80s and early 90s when Labour was believed to be incapable of winning outright at a general election. I think since 1997 when we assembled a huge coalition of support (through FPTP) there doesn’t seem to be the need or point.

    Furthermore, with a clear trend towards local issues, accelerated ironically by globalism, there never has been a better time to stick with FPTP and a simple and clear link between the MP and their constituency.

    I also get more than a sneeking suspicion that the biggest proponents of PR (along with state funding) see PR as trojan horse. It as a perfect means to jettison the union link and further hollow out the party’s few remaining democratic structures.

  24. Joking aside, I’m a cautious supporter of a more proportional voting system that what we’ve got now – what I object is the fantastical notion that PR would somehow be a mechanism to solve all the problems of democracy.

    The Short line is PR balls at it’s worst.

    It comes from a strain of political thinking where often well-meaning people ditch any vague notion of cause & effect and decide that if something isn’t in place and something is wrong, then putting that thing in place will automatically stop the thing that’s wrong from being wrong.

    Does Short think if you’ve got a broken leg and your bedroom window’s open, and you close the window, your leg will be healed?

  25. Daraka says:

    Maybe we are using the word “centralizing” in different ways, here…We have the ultimate system of “constituency-based” representatives here in the United States. It is completely “decentralized” in the sense that candidate political profiles are not handed down from “above.” But this system also produces centrist fluff candidates, and I’m not a fan. I pray for the day in which the national Democratic Party platform was respected and promoted by all candidates. Even just at the State level.

    So, I’m still confused, but perhaps folks are right that this is not the best forum. Perhaps a metapost on The Daily about PR?

    -daraka

  26. Benjamin says:

    We are talking at cross purposes. If the list system is “pure PR” then I don’t support that anyway. I support STV, or at least some sort of system that is more proportional than today’s ridiculous system but keeps a local link.

  27. Nick says:

    Daraka – the US system has probably produced one of the least disciplined or centrally controlled party systems in the world. There are arguments that this is actually quite a bad thing, and that’s fine. But that wasn’t Short’s position.

    Benjamin – PR and STV are certainly very different systems, what with STV not being proportional, but Short seemed to be in favour of full PR. Or she was being completely unclear.

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