Sunday, 8 September 2013

Mixed reaction to Teather's withdrawal from 2015 election

Sarah Teather's decision not to stand for election in 2015 has come as a surprise to many but her increasing alienation from her party has been clear since her sacking as Children's minister, which itself followed her failure to vote for Government welfare reform. The Daily Mail and Tory MPs vociferously called for her resignation at the time.

Some argue that she missed her moment and should have resigned on a matter of principle at the time rather than limp on until she was sacked. Her post-sacking re-dedication to her constituents was seen by many as an attempt to rekindle local support ahead of the General Election. She was suddenly available to constituents and campaigners again after pleading that ministerial conduct codes prohibited her from openly campaigning on national political issues - she dropped letters to ministerial colleagues instead.

I had a hunch that free from these constraints she would become a more open critic of the Lib Dem's collusion with the Tories and that by 2015, if she survived the likely Lib Dem  electoral disaster, she would be in a position to contest the leadership on the basis of 'I saw it coming'. This would of course have raised difficulties about her General Election campaign and how to distance herself from the party's manifesto.

This was not to be but her position as regards her party appears confused this morning. Her Observer interview says that she no longer feels able to operate within the Parliamentary Liberal Democrat group BUT she will stay in the party. Her personal statement on her website says that she will campaign for Lib Dems in the local elections and for her Lib Dem successor in the 2015 General Election. This seems to indicate that she will not cross the floor of the House.

Similarly Nick Clegg is both a 'decent bloke' who has done many good things but also someone whose stance on immigration left her 'catastrophically depressed'.

Teather's by-election victory six months after Iraq was partly due to her strong anti-war position and she won many plaudits for her progressive stance on Guantanamo and Palestine. Living locally and modestly in Willesden Green she was highly visible on local streets in contrast to Barry Gardiner Labour MP for Brent North who lives out in Chorley Wood. In opposition she won a reputation as a hard-working MP excellent at case work.

However her appointment to government after the General Election was immediately controversial as tuition fees were raised despite signed Lib Dem pledges.  Her passionate maiden speech opposing tuition fees was circulated on the net underlining her 'betrayal' LINK. Her acquiesce to Michael Gove's policies on free schools and academies, and her personal admiration for him, angered many on the left as did her later opposition to equal marriage.

Reaction on Twitter to Teather's decision has ben mixed to say the  least. Iain Dale called her 'A rather sad, pathetic hypocrite and  Alistair Campbell at his most cutting stating:
Sarah Teather- a looming lost seat dressed up as look-at-me 'principles.' Her voting record speaks louder than today's self-pitying whinge
Sunny Hundal called it a 'significant and principled decision' and Marc Cohen commented:
Agree w her politics or not (mostly I don't) as my local MP Sarah Teather has by most accounts been v good &u can't knock her principled stance
Tory MP Nadine Torries wrote:
 Hope knives stay locked away re Sarah Teather. She was never going to retain seat in 2015, has been a good constituency MP. Good luck to her
Patrick Vernon, one of the leading Labour contestants for the Brent Central Parliamentary candidate nomination in an exclusive statement said:
I understand why and appreciate why Sarah Teather has resigned as a Lib Dem MP.  As a former Minster she realises that her party has no moral compass on social justice in fighting for the rights of local people in Brent. It is a pity that she did not give the opportunity for a Labour Candidate to fight against her in the 2015 election so local people can decide on her record as a MP since 2003.

Some people have said that there should be a by election as she may not be committed to Brent over the next 20 months. This is up to Sarah to decide but I do think she does have a duty to organise a public meeting to explain to her constituents her intentions as the current local MP.

In the meanwhile a number of potential candidates including myself are putting ourselves forward as a prospective candidate for Labour in Brent. Local party members need to decide who has a track record working in Brent to build and mobilise an election campaign based on social justice and fighting against the growing inequality facing residents along with the massive cuts  and destruction of public services by the Coalition government. Also the selected candidate has to be transparent and accountable to restore confidence as a public servant to the community
Shahrar Ali, spokesperson for the  Brent Green Party and former parliamentary candidate for Brent Central said:
Having stood against  Sarah Teather as a Green in two general elections, I can testify to her verve on election platforms and her ability to mobilise the local Libdem electoral machine with a finger pointed at a heap of rubbish for good measure. I can't shake off the feeling that her decision not to stand again is as much political calculation based on party unpopularity as the frustration she now declaims with her party direction.

Now is not the time to eulogise about the high points of Teather's political career, not least when Guantanamo remains open for business. With her party in government, injustice remains rife across society home and abroad.

Yes, it is a privilege to represent the electors of Brent and one which I would like to see Teather exercising more with her new-found voice, no less than if she had been intending to stand again

1 comment:

Guru said...

Interesting summary but Patrick Vernon is self-serving. Labour introduced student loans, started the privatisation of the health service and said that they back austerity, at a local level has closed libraries and Willesden leisure centre. Arrogance and a misplaced sense of entitlement from Labout that they are taking for granted that people will automatically go back to Labour. A clear green alternative from a high profile candidate would make it interesting.
Guy Rubin