Tom Harris quits Labour shadow cabinet


   By a Newsnet reporter

In a surprise move, Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has quit his position as Labour’s front bench spokesman on environment, food and rural affairs, saying that he wishes to spend more time with his family.

In a resignation letter to the Labour leadership, the high profile MP said that he was unable to juggle his political role with his commitments to his young family.

In a letter to Ed Miliband the Glasgow Labour MP wrote:

“You and the party need frontbenchers who can fully commit to holding the coalition to account and to doing the hard work necessary to move into government in two years.

“I am faced with the uncomfortable truth that my talents, such as they are, do not extend to being an effective front bencher as well as a good husband and father.”

He added: “Most shadow ministers with young families seem to cope quite well in balancing the demands of their jobs with their family commitments.  I envy them, because I’ve tried and I can’t,” he wrote.

“So I’m passing on my briefings and papers, my diary appointments and contacts, my facts and figures about wildlife cruelty, fishing quotas and bee action plans, and my badger costume (that last one was made up but it’s an idea) to my lucky successor.

“I genuinely hope he or she becomes a Defra minister.  As for me, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.  Serves them right, too.”

A noted Blairite, Mr Harris first entered government when he was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport in September 2006 under Tony Blair.  Mr Harris remains a supporter of the former Prime Minister, and continues to defend his record on Iraq.

When Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in June 2007 Mr Harris retained his junior ministerial role, but in a reshuffle the following year he was sacked and returned to the backbenches, only to return to the shadow cabinet in 2012.

On 9 June 2009, he was the first Scottish Labour MP to call for Gordon Brown to stand down as prime minister.   He stood for the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland following the resignation of Iain Gray after Labour’s disastrous showing in the 2011 Holyrood elections, however he struggled to find sufficient support from Westminster colleagues. 

Mr Harris, who is a prolific blogger, was later appointed as Labour’s Internet Advisor, however in January 2012 he was forced to step down from the role after publishing a controversial video which likened First Minister Alex Salmond to Adolf Hitler. 

The video provoked outrage as Mr Harris has been one of the most outspoken Labour critics of online independence campaigners, whom Mr Harris has regularly accused of using abusive language and making personal attacks.

Mr Harris’s resignation from the shadow cabinet will provoke fresh speculation that infighting has yet again broken out amongst Labour’s higher ranks.