By Martin Kelly
The splits in the Labour party over the Eric Joyce affair have deepened after the MP’s local branch members issued a statement calling on him to “do the right thing” if found guilty on three charges of assault.
Speaking yesterday, a spokesman for the local constituency party said if his accuser’s allegations of events “are proven then we expect Mr Joyce to do the right thing.”
The statement was issued after Labour politicians in the Falkirk constituency met to discuss the controversy currently engulfing the MP who has not been seen since being released from a London police station after being arrested following a brawl in a House of Commons’ bar.
Mr Joyce has been charged with three counts of common assault following the incident which left a Tory MP claiming he had been head-butted and a Labour whip nursing a bloody nose.
The incident has split the Labour party in Scotland with reports claiming that senior party figures north of the border are resisting calls for the MP to resign as an MP.
However Jim Blackwood, a Labour member of Falkirk Council, said: “As far as I am concerned he is no longer a Labour MP and I am happy to stand up and say that we should have a by-election.
“He has been an embarrassment to our party for many years and I am not prepared to defend Eric Joyce. He claims to have been a major in the Army and I thought these people had some degree of honour and the honourable thing for him to do would be to stand down and let us get a Labour MP we can be proud of.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has been criticised for her silence on the growing scandal and her refusal to condemn Mr Joyce. Labour sources have acknowledged that there were “very serious questions” about the 51-year-old former Army officer’s “mental state”.
Ms Lamont is also under fire following remarks by a Scottish Labour HQ source who claimed that the party in Scotland “really would rather have a nutter in that seat than a Nat.”.
The comments prompted calls for an inquiry from the SNP who described them as showing “contempt for the electorate”.
Eric Joyce’s predecessor, former Labour MP and MSP Dennis Canavan, has already attacked Labour over its selection processes.
Commenting after Joyce had been arrested and charged he said: “If he is found guilty of serious assault, then I hope the parliamentary authorities take action against him to suspend him from the House of Commons.
“I am saddened but not very surprised to hear about this latest incident. Sadly, it says as much about the quality of the Labour Party’s selection process for candidates as it does about Mr Joyce.
“He is not a fit and proper person to be an MP. My sympathies lie with the people of Falkirk, not with Mr Joyce. This all speaks volumes about the way the Labour Party goes about selecting its candidates.”
This is the second time in two years that the Labour MP has spent the evening in police cells. In November 2010, Mr Joyce spent the night in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Mr Joyce refused to provide a breath-test. He later pled guilty to guilty to failing to provide a sample without reasonable excuse.
Sheriff William Gallacher banned the MP from driving for one year and fined him £400. Sheriff Gallacher told Mr Joyce: “You brought this situation on yourself.”
The controversial Labour MP also made the headlines as a result of his expense claims after he became the first MP to top £1 million in expenses. In 2011 it emerged that Joyce had claimed a staggering £200,000 in expenses for the previous year, which included over £46,000 in travel costs.
The former Army major also prompted outrage in 2010 when he likened middle-class voters to paedophiles, drunks and liars in a rant on a left-wing website.
In the last general election he achieved a win over the SNP with a majority of 7843 – 23,207 votes to 15,364.