Sunday, December 04, 2005

Border disputes or parliamentary etiquette for newbies

'The British parliamentary system is founded on the principle that one Member represents a single constituency, and that her or his relations with constituents are very much a preserve other Members should not interfere with.'

In 1996, the Liberal Democrat MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth sent personalised direct mail to residents in the neighbouring constituency of Oldham Central & Royton who were about to be included in the new constituency of Oldham East & Saddleworth. This was a breach of long-established parliamentary etiquette noted above and was raised in the House by the then MP for Oldham, Bryan Davies who asked the Speaker for her help:

I consider that to be the grossest interference with the rights of my constituents and with my rights as their elected representative.My constituents are clearly being misled, because the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth is not their representative and cannot carry out actions in the House on their behalf, as suggested by the material.'

He was supported by Robert Sheldon (Lab, Ashton-under-Lyme) and Barry Field (Con, Isle of Wight), who added that the

'The Liberal Democrats are a bunch of poltroons'
Madam Speaker referred the matter to the Liberal Democrat Whip and asked that there be no recurrence. It seems that the current Whip needs to have a chat with John H.

While boundary changes are awkward, the convention is quite clear - the member who is MP at the time should deal with constituency casework. Seeking casework from residents outside the current constituency boundaries is out of order.

So, why are John Hemming's acolytes sending out leaflets in the Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency of Roger Godsiff MP?

(Apologies for the dodgy quality of the scan.)
Granted, they are being sent out in the parts of the old Fox Hollies ward that will form part of the new Yardley constituency come the next General Election, but they are most definitely not inside the current Yardley boundaries.

To coin a phrase, John - tell your kids to get their scooters off his lawn.

It should be instructive that Chris Davies was the Liberal Democrat MP in question and that he lost the next election to Labour's Phil Woolas.

3 comments:

john said...

As Group Chair of the Lib Dems and Chair of the Birmingham Strategic Partnership I have some responsibility or interest for anything within the city.

Hence I do deal with matters across the city - up to a point.

PoliticalHack said...

Nope. Not even a good try at a defence there.

This has nothing to do with your party political role or your role as chair of BSP. This is an MP trawling for casework in another MP's constituency and that's out of order, especially so far from the next election.

You are taking it under false pretences - you can't raise it in the House because it would be ruled out of order.

Don't you have enough work to do in Yardley or are the councillors in Acocks Green not sufficiently competent?

An apology to the MP in question might be an appropriate, together with an assurance that it won't happen again.

Anonymous said...

"Hence I do deal with matters across the city - up to a point."

Funny, I live in Birmingham and have not received the literature referred to here. I don't live in the bit that will be the new Yardley constituency though, is this a coincidence?