There has been a lot of talk in recent times in Westminster about adopting some form of recall system that could be triggered by an electorate if their MP has been found guilty of breaking Parliamentary code. However, as with Dr Ian Gibson in Norwich North there is the now talk of the possibility that Jim Devine in Livingston may well stand down forcing a by election. The possibility of him standing independently making it effectively his own recall.
It is possible that he would stand himself as an Independent in any such by election (as he disbarred from standing under the Labour banner he has served as agent, candidate and MP for a quarter of a century. In a comment I made on Jeff's SNP Tactical Voting blog it throws back to the experience of the first General Election I was old enough to vote in.
1992 found me on the electoral roll in Coventry South East during the period of Militant deselections from the Labour Party. The sitting MP then was Dave Nellist who was the closest of the Millitant expulsions to getting re-elected and for that election made the safe Labour seat into a three way marginal. The vote that day was:
Jim Cunningham Labour 11,902
Martine Hyams* Conservative 10,591
Dave Nellist Independent Labour 10,551
It is interesting to think that the last time I voted in a Westminster election (for all of 2005 I was living in Livingston Village) may well lead to a similar situation. It leads to interesting questions as Caron has laid out or indeed as I did last night.
How Labour select their candidate, whether all women short list or not it will be done by a local party that not 10 days ago endorsed a candidate that has now been deselected by the committee of the party's National Executive Committee.
Then there is the man himself who watching the news coverage (yeah including the Charles Dundas face in the background most often picture) many people, even those who appreciated him, are wary because of the expenses scandal.
As for the Nats well they PPC doesn't want to be in Westminster for even as long as Jim Devine. They are wanting a referendum on Independence within 18 months. Alex Salmond is saying that there should be a debate and referendum about the Calman proposals.
If there is a second Livingston by election that will be a issue that no doubt the SNP will run with and to be honest I think it is something that the Lib Dems should be proud of our record on and take the fight to the Nats. It was a number of years ago that in a healthy debate and close call that we democratically voted for Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland. Tam Dalyell in yesterday's Scotsman is trying to avoid the partial West Lothian answer. Sadly it shows that Labour like to talk the talk about the reform but are actually very conservative when it comes to implementation, but I'll take the Laird of the Binns to task in another blog post later on that point.
It really does lead to interesting permutations as to what could happen. In the current climate there are issues and situations that arise that work in the Lib Dems favour. If Devine were to step down we as Lib Dems should not be scared of taking the lead on those issues and pushing Alex Salmond unto his back foot and into the ropes.
Whoever takes the Lib Dem mantle into a by election or for the General Election there is plenty of scope and opportunity to get across our message of real change. Something that we have laid out but which the other 3 parties are still talking about as pie in the sky. We also have the space to get a clear message across which was lost somewhat in the recent Euro elections by the hi-jacking of the political agenda but in a way this time we can talk the issues that need to be talked for Westminster without qualms as it is for a Westminister seat, it's not a referendum on Independence, though we shouldn't be afraid to jab, upper cut and hook into that fight with some killer punches.
In the 2005 by election the press starting talking up the contest as only between the SNP and Labour from even before electioneering got under way. I've noticed already they are doing that again. But there is so much more change in the political landscape since then. Labour are in turmoil (although they will deny it in open), the SNP whole raison d'être is coming to a head, the Tories are showing as no ideas. The Lib Dem's Vince Cable was like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness about Banking regulation, problems that would have for the economy and found to be correct. Nick Clegg has laid down the gauntlet on political reform than more than just trimming away the split ends and messy edges is a complete re-landscaping of our politics. We are radical, relevant, reforming and ready to take the issues up with all comers.
Earlier today I popped into Clifton Terrace where with Charles Dundas and myself in the same room the joking was at times about which of us was going to get our nomination papers in first for the Livingston by election. Also makes the fate that the selection of West Lothian Lib Dem PPCs has yet to take place (at least in the actualité) a far more open scenario than in 2005 when we were two months after pledging to fight on for our respective constituencies.
Further add into the by election speculation mix that fellow blogger Nich Starling is being talked about as a potential for Norwich North and the Lib Dem blogosphere would certainly have plenty to talk about.
* One lasting memory of Martine's election literature was that it mentioned she was a graduate of 'Kingstone [sic] Polytechnic' my own tertiary educational establishment as it was known at the time. The fact that she couldn't spell Kingston correctly on her literature was another reason that I would never have voted for her, yeah I voted Lib Dem at just after 7am on election day (as you may know from recent tweets my time of voting in person is pretty static).