By Derek Bateman
You might not see the immediate connection, but defeated Labour MP Cathy Jamieson has a potential link to Valéry Marie René Georges Giscard d’Estaing, ex President of the French Republic.
VGE, as he is known, lost the 1981 election to Mitterand and shortly after successfully stood again for parliament and become leader of the Auvergne. He even went on to get elected as an MEP which is where I bumped into him in Strasbourg.
Cathy lost her Kilmarnock and Louden seat to the SNP (having previously sat as a MSP) and could justifiably pursue a renewed career at Holyrood next year. She could join Giscard on the pinball machine of elective politics, pinging from chamber to chamber.
There is no rule that says defeat in one forum excludes you from another. It’s just that in the UK, the most likely route is to the unelected Lords, so most end-of-term members don’t consider standing again. But in Europe, it’s a perfectly respectable career move to submit yourself to the people for another go and to use the skills acquired in a different venue. If even the President can do it, surely wee Cathy can too.
With the Labour Party regional list opened up again – unkind to those already in place, sure, but these are extreme circumstances – there are those among the defeated 40 who would be a neat fit and could bring weight and experience to a generally unimpressive cohort. In Labour’s current predicament, it would be madness to exclude anyone who just might add lustre and while most of the Failed 40 will soon become the Forgotten 40, a little panhandling could produce nuggets. Cathy is surely one of them while Jim Murphy is not.
She sits to the Left, supports CND, set up the Scottish Human Rights Commission, fought sectarianism and anti social behaviour, was deputy leader and stood for the leadership, coming second to Gray. She was arguably Labour’s most successful minister covering justice and education. I heard she was open to the SNP’s minimum pricing of alcohol plan but was replaced with Jackie Baillie when Gray saw how successful the policy might be. Something convinced her to make a move to Westminster.
It’s hard to make a criticism of a career switch between Edinburgh and London (or vice versa) when Alex Salmond has leapt the lilypods for the best part of 30 years.
But one of the issues for Labour is the history of contempt the Westminster contingent held for the wee parliament up the road, filled as it was by those unable to get a proper job and who disastrously lost the 2011 election. They weren’t real professionals like the Westminster crew who’d never make a mistake like that…
The bad feeling persists and there was palpable resentment about Murphy’s leadership and presumption of power which means his emergence on any list would trigger animosity – inside and outside the party. It may be too that Margaret Curran’s profile was too high and too divisive for recovery in the short term. Douglas Alexander will do a David Miliband and pick up a corporate international job, don’t you think?
But I’d reckon there are contenders with something to offer a struggling group, who wouldn’t be viewed as rejects and resented. Tom Greatrex? Ann McKechin? Were all the Labour MPs rejected because they were failures or were they swept away on an irresistible tide that didn’t discriminate? Now I don’t think the public care much for the Labour Party as an organization – why should they? – but we should all care about a healthy democracy and that needs talent on all sides, not just one.
In politics, you’re allowed to lose. If you weren’t, the SNP would have disbanded years ago. Giscard himself didn’t just lose the Presidency, he also lost a subsequent election on a local scale when he stood as mayor of Clermont-Ferrand. If we believe in a cause and have the desire to serve, why do we think we should give up in defeat? This nationalist says: Go for it, Cathy…