The Referendum Murders (paperback)

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Jeremy Corbyn with Yanis Varoufakis – Scottish Independence implications of, and contradictions in Corbyn's claimed internationalism

 A fascinating exchange overall. But my Danish friend Troels Just has focused my attention on a middle section ( 25m mark to 39m mark approximately Click to select ) where Yanis invites Jeremy Corbyn to promote an international solidarity with left-wing groups in other countries to counterbalance the manifest, pernicious - and rapidly growing - co-ordination and solidarity of bankers, international capitalists and extreme right-wing groups across the world.
As Troels points out, if Corbyn is sympathetic to such interactions - co-ordination and solidarity with other countries - why does he find it impossible to understand and relate to the aspirations of a small nation on his doorstep, namely Scotland, and its wish to be independent, a movement that is undoubtedly people-driven and predominantly of the centre left to left of the political spectrum?

It makes nonsense of Labour's internationalism when Corbyn and Labour announce their intention to deny the right of the people of Scotland to vote on the issue of their self-determination in a second independence referendum. Such a contradiction can only be explained by a narrow and decidedly un-internationalist objective of securing their own electoral success in the dysfunctional conglomerate of four nations that constitutes the Disunited Kingdom, a union that has never reconciled its four constituent parts over three centuries.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The National Assemblies 2018: a new beginning for SNP membership communications?

Buckle in for a long blog: if you’re not up for long read, leave now. If you simply haven’t got the time, either take it in sections when you have time, or scan for highlights (if there are any for you!)

A bit of recent history

We all remember the despair in the early hours of September 19th 2014 as the NO results piled up, and we realised eventually that Clackmannanshire, the first local authority to declare, with its 54% NO and 46% YES result, had been a close predictor of the final result, 55/45.

As a character in my book The Scottish Referendum Murders Danny McBride said to his wife “The game’s a bogey, Jean – we’re screwed.”

As if that were not enough, later that day we had to watch, and for some, be the victims of a callous attack on peaceful YES supporters in George Square Glasgow by Union Jack-wielding unionist extremist thugs.

But as the days passed, a strange thing began to happen: the SNP membership figure, standing at 25,642, surged in less than a week to 42,000 – a spontaneous and totally unprecedented act of faith by Scots in their Holyrood Government, in the political party that had just lost the Referendum and in the future of the cause of Scotland’s  independence. These Scots clearly had no plans to wait a generation to try again …

(The membership continued to grow at a quite astonishing rate. Today almost four years later, SNP, a party that operates only in Scotland, has the second largest membership of any UK political party, only exceeded by the UK Labour Party: just under 125,500 registered members on September 3rd, compared to 124,000 for UK Tories. Given the relative populations of Scotland and rUK, these figures are quite astonishing.)

New members impact on SNP Branch structure

The SNP can be forgiven, at least in part, for their unpreparedness for such a huge influx of members. Long-established venues and rooms for branch meetings in most cases had nothing like the capacity to accommodate them, and hasty arrangements had to be made to find suitable venues.

But a plan should have been developed and put in place as a matter of urgency by SNP HQ to analyse the  composition of the new intake, their expectations, their needs and their impact on branches that for decades had consisted of small bands of long-term members, most of who were dedicated activists in all the traditional ways and activities of their branch, often in the middle to high end of the age demographic.

If such an analysis was ever done, there is little evidence that it ever reached the branches, and if it did, that it had any impact whatsoever on the behaviour of most of them towards new members, with creditable and honourable exceptions. Such evidence as exists is anecdotal and, in addition to my own experience, the National Assembly provided me with more of it on Sunday from many participants who had been part of that new surge in 2014-2015, and subsequently.

The failures, where they occurred, fell into a  number of broad categories -

A failure to find out more about the new intake and to determine their expectations.

A failure to recognise that traditional branch structures and behaviours had to be adapted to handle  large numbers

A failure to determine and recognise the new skills and experience offered by the new members and to find ways to utilise it

A crucial failure  to recognise the very different dynamics and expectations of the younger demographic of the new intake

A negative signal, sent consciously or unconsciously by many branches was that only activism in the core areas of leafleting, doorstep canvassing and street stalls qualified a new member to be treated seriously as a branch member.

It is undoubtedly true that these core activities are vital in any political party, especially during election campaigns. But it is also true that only a minority of members of any political party ever attend their local branch, and of those that do, only a minority are able or willing to engage in these activities.

Others felt that that the branch environment and the vitally necessary, but bureaucratic branch procedures were not something they wanted to be part of, and that, fresh from the excitement and dramatic ups and downs of the referendum campaign, they had better places to direct their efforts for independence within the YES Movement. Those who felt that they had special skills and experience to offer saw no way in which they could be utilised in the branch environment. Some felt they were unwelcome.

It is probably true to say that a majority of the new members were there as independence supporters, offering their support to the party that had brought them the referendum and they hoped would bring them another, not as conventional members of a political party in devolved government and operating under Westminster rule. In other words, they were members of the mass movement called YES, offering support to the party that provided – and still provides – the only legal, democratic route to #indyref2.

Many may disagree with the above potted history and its tentative conclusions: many may say that was not their experience in their branches: others may say Where is the evidence for this?

I accept that it is a subjective view, formed by my own experiences, the experiences recounted to me by others and the very recent experiences offered by those I engaged with at the National Assembly. To my knowledge there is no research paper into this period, only the fact that many branches experienced a surge of attendance at branch meetings only to subsequently experience a rapid drop off in attendance.

Nonetheless, the branches continued to offer their crucial support to SNP successfully, with dramatic successes in the 2015 general election, in the 2016 Holyrood election and in the 2017 general election, albeit with reverses and losses. The bombshell of Brexit took its toll and still does.

Some long-term branch activists, the veterans of the independence struggle in the long decades of minority representation, may feel the above depiction is insulting to their effort over decades of unselfish commitment and sacrifice of their personal time and priorities to the great cause they believe in.

It is not intended as such a criticism – it is simply a description of events after a wholly unprecedented and unexpected surge of membership. If there is an implied criticism, it is of SNP HQ and their historical lack of communication with, and support for existing members and branches, one which I believe they have now recognised, dramatically and successfully, with the appointment of Keith Brown to his crucial role and by Sunday’s National Assembly.

The National Assembly, Edinburgh Assembly

The National Assembly I attended on Sunday the 9th of September in the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh was one of a number of such assemblies. About 500 party members gave up an entire Sunday to attend. They expected something new from Keith Brown and the Party, and they certainly got it – a radically changed modus operandi from previous national assemblies, with the emphasis squarely on listening to the members, not talking at them, in a dynamic structured format expertly facilitated and managed by the wonderful people of  Connecting Scotland, plus a team of SNP helpers. Keith Brown and Roger Mullen made key inputs but kept the speechifying to the absolute minimum, making it clear it was our show and we should make the most of it. And we did …

The format, new to SNP but familiar to many of those present with a  medium-to-large company/organisation background in industry, commerce, civil service, local government or human resources, was that of the facilitated workshop, under the light touch, humorous-but-firm, clear direction of the Connecting Scotland people, led by Gordon Carmichael, a man who inspired instant respect and liking, a view confirmed over the course of the day by everyone I spoke to. His natural authority and warmth set the tone for the entire day, which was, insofar as my experience went, was totally free from rancour or destructive debate, yet highly productive and very pleasant.

(Many of those present commented gratefully  on the marked contrast of the day with the model so often adopted by political parties and branches, that of the platform speaker and chairperson, facing a seated group, with long speeches followed by admirably brief questions (with the odd speechifier!) responded to by tediously long replies: a minimum participation approach, only made bearable when the speakers were exceptional, or possessed unique knowledge and expertise, an approach on occasions inadequately time-managed and controlled by the chairperson, often yielding little of value, and operating dangerously close to most people’s boredom threshold.)

The range of topics freely chosen by assembly members was wide. The structure of the day had set the core agenda as topics being relevant to the Growth Commission Report. Some were directly related to it: both the pre-lunch and post-lunch groups I elected to join squarely focused on the Growth Commission, as did Joanna Cherry’s topic group, but many were about topics only loosely related the GC Report, but relevant to wider independence topics. Keith Brown wisely respected the members’ choices rather than trying to restrict the topic range – after all it was our day and our choices!

The report back session at the end of the day, with in excess of 40 groups reporting back, inevitable focused on brevity, so we must wait for the more detailed reports of the main points of the group discussion, captured by the group leaders to be published, as promised by Keith Brown. We were aided in getting a feel of the whole day’s discussion by the invaluable graphic diagram helpfully produced by a member of the support staff.

N.B. I can only offer my understanding of the views of the two groups I attended on the Growth Commission, pending the final published report.

It’s fair to say that every group member was unhappy with a range of issues covered by the Commission Report, ranging from views that it should never have been published at all, but simply submitted for private deliberation by Nicola and the Cabinet, to criticisms of it apparently being endorsed, at least tacitly, by the First Minister as the official SNP view of the economic and social shape of an independent Scotland, and its perceived failure to recognise that the constitutional question was primary: not to give it the weight and dominance it deserved and place the report in that context was seen to be wrong.

Its position on a 10 year time frame was perceived by many as pessimistic and unrealistic in the light of major unpredictable uncertainties as opposed to quantifiable risks over such a time period. Some felt that its perceived failure to squarely adopt a firm position on a  unique Scottish currency rather than sterlingisation was not only wrong but in breach of SNP’s position on seeking re-entry to the EU, since EU rules demanded that member countries had their own currency on entry.

However it was recognised that the SNP, as the current government of Scotland and possibly the government of Scotland during the bridging period after an #indyref2 Yes Vote and ultimately independence day (if 2021 Holyrood election confirmed it as such) had to take some kind of position on how we would be bridged into a new currency before the election of a new Independent Scottish Parliament, of unknown party composition and political colour, and only some form of sterlingisation could achieve that until the first Holyrood election for the new indy Parliament.

The feeling was that the Growth Commission had given our opponents an easy target by their frankness in identifying the difficulties the new Scotland would face, especially in the light of Brexit, but to counterbalance this, it was recognised that there were positive and valuable aspects of the Report, both in its detailed contribution to a necessary debate and in projecting a realism that made some of our more rational opponents sit up and take notice and grudgingly acknowledge these factors.

It was strongly felt that, since we could not unpublish the report or re-launch it, it must be made clear that it was a valuable and necessary contribution to debate and a demonstration of the strengths of Scotland’s economy despite the Union’s dead hand on it, and its potential and undoubted capacity to successfully meet the challenges - but it was not an SNP Government policy blueprint and not an attempt to bind the other parties and groups of YES and the YES Movement, nor to bind a future independent Scottish Government.

It was also felt that the report potentially created problems for the doorstep and street campaigns’ YES message unless the SNP view of report was clarified.


Overall the day was an unqualified success and the mood of those attending was positive on arrival and upbeat, buoyant and re-energised on leaving, with gratitude to Keith Brown, Roger Mullen, the SNP support team and especially to the wonderful Connecting Scotland people for making it a productive day.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Big, Bad Beeb and my YouTube channel

I first posted on YouTube in 2008 with two objectives - to post video clips made by me, and to embed them on my blog. My first video was a series of still photographs of Glasgow East with a voiceover by me to support John Mason's candidacy in the July 24th by-election, where he won a surprise victory over Margaret Curran. It did well, and had about 18,000 hits.

At that point, I had no thoughts of capturing clips for broadcast news - the copyright implications worried me(!). But, emboldened by the fact that others were managing to do it, notably Baron Sarwar of Govan, I started cautiously to test the water with BBC clips, reasoning that, as a public service broadcaster, they were less likely to challenge on the basis of copyright.

By early 2009 I had a fully structured YouTube channel, and was capturing, editing and posting BBC, STV and Channel Four clips. By November 2009, I was getting some flak on my clips, not from the TV channels but from individuals, who complained bitterly that I was "restructuring and re-purposing" the BBC clips to give a nationalist bias. One Labour MP made a veiled threat to "get the BBC to do something about me using their copyright material".

On December 4th, I had a heart attack and a subsequent quad bypass at the RIE. When I came out, I didn't feel up to handling these noises off, so I closed my YT Channel, losing over 100 clips. However, the prospect of the 2010 general election re-invigorated me, and I started up again but then had another heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrest in late May/early June. I resumed online work in a limited way during my recovery period in the RIE

Originally, I permitted comments on my clips, but the volume and nature of the comments made it necessary to pre-moderate replies, involving all comments arriving by email for me to vet and say yea or nay to posting. I found I couldn't handle the sheer volume - sometimes 400 a day - and closed comments on the channel. This produced a torrent of abuse by email, claiming I was "censoring free speech".

The 2011 SNP landslide and the commitment to the Referendum in 2014 upped the ante, and rapid response and rebuttal became my driving force on blog and YouTube, primarily because of media bias, but also because SNP were - and still are - bog awful at rapid response and rebuttal, and had no real online or YouTube presence.

I was always highly aware of the copyright rules of YouTube, which were quite simply that either I held the copyright of clips posted or had the permission of the copyright holder - which for the vast majority of my clips was BBC - to use them. In the main, I had neither, but the YouTube system was that, after posting the clip, either nothing happened or YT notified me that a copyright claim had been made. The notification came initially by a blue note on the clip saying it was copyright, followed by YT advising directly me in one of three formats -

1. The clip was restricted by region, i.e. country or continent. This sometimes meant that it could be shown in UK but not in America or Europe, for example. Bizarrely, in some instances it could not be shown in UK but could be shown worldwide. These restriction came from the copyright holder, not YouTube. No action was required of me - I had to simply accept this de facto.

2. The copyright holder asserted copyright, but I was permitted to keep the clip up, providing that I did not monetise the clip, I did not permit embedding of the clip by others, and that I accepted that the copyright holder had the right to place advertising on the clip. I readily accepted all of these restrictions in such instances.

I have never monetised my clips  and I was happy to disable embedding and to accept advertising on request.

YouTube advised me that if I accepted these restrictions, no action was required of me, but if I ignored them, a copyright strike would be recorded against me and could result in withdrawal of privileges and, for three strike, total closure of my whole channel.

(This amost actually happened in late August 2014 when STV, out of the blue, hit me with three copyright strikes at once, which appeared to relate to background music on two political clips. I took the clips down at once, but to no avail - I was hit by withdrawal of privileges which lasted for six months during the crucial pre and post-Referendum period. Their timing was interesting!)

3. The copyright holder asserted copyright and required that I take the clip down at once, which I did on the few occasions this occurred.

YouTube permits you to check if your channel is "in good standing" and has no strikes against it. I do this regularly, and had no strikes up until last week to my knowledge, for the good reason that I had complied with all copyright requests as per YouTube rules.

Without warning on Friday I received a notification that my channel had been closed for "multiple copyright breaches" together with a list of 14 clips, on all of which I had complied with the YT rules on after being notified of copyright claims as per 2) above - no monetising, no embedding, accept advertising and I needed to do nothing. and the clip could stand.

The majority of the clips related to Question Time and the Marr Show, both produced for BBC by private production companies. All copyright claim were made in the name of the BBC. (see my Twitter feed)

I am now denied access to my channel details, and cannot check or verify any historical detail. I am denied access to 2311 clips and to my other YT channel MoriduraAlt, which contains no political clips at all. Since nothing in my actions impinges on the ability of the BBC to profit from my clips, by hits, by placing advertising etc, their action - selective and sudden - can only be political motivated. YouTube is littered with BBC clips from unionists, from Poldark fans, from pop fans, all containing copyright material, yet apparently invulnerable. But somehow Wings Over Scotland and I have uniquely broken the hidden rule - thou shalt not question the Union or the British Government - despite having complied with the published rules.

I don't intend to contest this - I have neither the time, nor the money, nor the inclination to go to war with Google, YouTube and the BBC, three powerful media giants  with unlimited funds to litigate, and since I am unable to access my YouTube channel, can’t access the information necessary to rebut – or comply with – their claims.

My YouTube channel is gone, and I regret it - but it's time to move on. There's a second independence referendum to fight

...YouTube on copyright strike

Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Andrew Wilson on Growth Commission Report SundayPoliticsScotland Video URL: … Takedown issued by #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: BBC News: Richard Leonard wins the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party Video URL: …

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Sunday Politics: NHS funding crisis - what must be done? Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: BBC Brexitcast 23m clip of 59m programme Video URL: … Contact Info: Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Jeremy Corbyn on the Marr Show Video URL: … Contact Info: Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Question Time, Reading: Brexit Shambles - confused electorate, government in chaos Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Question Time, Perth: the independence question - indyref2 Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Newsnight asks question on fake news, loss of trust and the dodgy dossier fallout Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Question Time, Perth - the bits that really mattered, from the audience! Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Dateline London - Russia, UK and Skripal response - tempers fray a bit ... Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: The Irish Border: Ireland's Deputy PM and Foreign Minister spells it out for Marr Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

From Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Brexit Deal: Keir Starmer gives Labour's response Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

Google Due to multiple copyright strikes associated with the videos below, your YouTube account has now been disabled: Video title: Removing MPs: Much guff talked on Daily Politics and elsewhere in media on this topic Video URL: … Takedown issued by: #bbc

Friday, 23 March 2018

A question of two Unions – and Brian Cox on Question Time

Unpublished Letter to Herald 21 March 2018

Dear Sir/Madam,

Brian Cox's Question Time remark on Scotland, the Union and England provoked a reaction on the programme and subsequently, as he countered the false parallel drawn, and the implied contradiction between Scotland's wish to remain in the European Union and its wish to leave the Union with Great Britain - and dared to mention England in that context.

Firstly, a couple of incontrovertible facts -The UK - or an independent Scotland in EU - can take a unilateral decision to leave that union at any time by giving due notice (UK has recently done just that with Brexit.). They don't need EU's permission, and neither does any member state - all they have to do is invoke Article 50.

Scotland, in contrast, having surrendered all sovereignty to England in 1707. was (and is) locked into a Union that it could only exit with the King of England's permission then, and with the Prime Minister of UK's permission now, backed by The Scotland Act - or leave by a unilateral declaration of independence after a Scottish Referendum held without UK's permission.

Our 'glorious Union' was formed by armed conquest of Wales and Ireland and by initial failed attempts by England to conquer Scotland by force of arms (failing decisively at Bannockburn) then by a sordid mixture of economic intimidation (Darien) and bribery that led to a voluntary union that was much opposed, and subsequently derided, in 1707 and subsequently contested by an armed revolt (Culloden), one that was brutally crushed.

Brian Cox's reference to England was relevant to both earlier history and present realities. The Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the rump of an English empire formed by conquest,economic intimidation and bribery. The European Union was created by free men and women with a great vision of free association and mutual benefit of the free sovereign nations of Europe in the aftermath of the second devastating European conflict in the 20th century.

There is no valid comparison whatsoever between the two unions.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

End of Year Tweeting Time. Have a Merry Christmas and a Guid New Year

  1. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

    'The Referendum Murders' re-titled The Scottish Referendum Murders to avoid confusion with EU referendum. …

  2. Peter Curran‏ @moridura 

    Scotland thanks #Richard_Leonard, not just for giving us the biggest #Holyrood laugh of 2017, but a #key_objective with which to enter 2018 - "To join the #small_independent_countries with higher #GDPs and #growth_rates by becoming independent ourselves."

  3. Peter Curran‏ @moridura 

    All #Scotland's problems won't be solved by getting the hell out of this #Disunited_Kingdom - just most of the key ones. We'll still make mistakes - we're human - but they'll be our mistakes, not those of a Scotland-hostile government in Westminster - a self-serving narrow clique

  4. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

    The #Blue_Brexit_Passport is a #Passport_to_Penury and isolationism. In contrast #Scotland has always looked outward, and as a truly internationalist country, knows that #internationalism begins with secure #nationalism and real identity as a people. #indyref2 late2018/early2019

  5. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

    Peter Curran Retweeted Paul Lewis

    The "security bits" for UK citizens are all being subtracted in UK, as it blunders into this #Benighted_Brexit, full of empire-nostalgic bluster, Land of Hope and Glory nostalgia: a synthetic patriotism for a country that never existed, #Britain', a conglomerate of four countries

    Paul Lewis @paullewismoney

    Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis cannot promise that new blue passport will be made in UK @BBCr4today though the security bits he says are all added in UK

  6. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

    2018 is the year the small cloud on the frozen horizon of Scottish unionists will grow insistently larger, as will the question "Is staying with this disunited, politically and economically chaotic and blinkered Union really the best thing for Scotland?" Help them find the answer

  7. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

  8. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

    #separatist A person who supports the separation of a particular group of people from a larger body on the basis of #ethnicity, #religion, or #gender. #Scotland and #Catalonia do not seek independence on any of these, but on historical, geographical, economic and cultural grounds

  9. Peter Curran‏ @moridura

  10. Word #ethnicity is now confusing, and original definition is inadequate, with usage tending to refer to #racial_origin and physical characteristics, rather than just #national_origin. e.g. "a common national or cultural tradition", as census questions on #ethnic_origin make clear

    Peter Curran‏ @moridura

  11. I almost felt sorry for #Tom_Gordon. How to write a sketch piece on #FMQs and omit mentioning #Richard_Leonard's own goal on "small independent countries" - the highlight of FMQs this week. But he managed - …

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Queensferry Crossing debacle - a classic piece of destructive unionist politicking over a great Scottish land mark project

Nicola Sturgeon, FMQs 30th November 2017

"Firstly, what Willie Rennie want to call pedantry, I call accuracy and honesty.
Secondly, as the Transport Minister has set out - as I have set out today - it was not known in August what would be required to be done in order to fix this particular stretch of road.
There had to be investigations, and a design for this repair had to be prepared. When that had happened, and when it was known that that would require a lane closure and the diversion of southbound traffic to the existing Forth Road Bridge, minsters were informed of that - they were informed of that last week - and when it was known when the weather would allow the repairs to be carried out, Parliament and the public were informed of that.
That is exactly how these things should happen.
And more generally here, what we have is, as I've said repeatedy today, one of the biggest construction projects in the history of this country, with some snagging work requiring to be done.
Now I know that politics comes into play when we debate these things in this Parliament. I'm not complaining about that - we all are guilty of that - but I think most people who use the bridge, and most people who travel across this bridge will understand that once a bridge like this is in operation, there will require to be to be pieces of work done to deal with any snagging defects that arise. That is what is happening.
I regret that it is happening, because I don't want to see any inconvenience to the travelling public - but it's important to put these right, not least when it's 70 miles per hour. Speed limits can be introduced so that people can continue to use this bridge in the way intended - so let's focus on that - and with the greatest of respect to Willie Rennie, let's stop mischaracterising what is happening.”
Gaun yersel, Nicola – show them how grown-up politics are conducted …

Monday, 6 November 2017

Sexual harassment, Ministers, MPs and resignation or removal from post

The sexual harassment scandal has led to a great deal on ill-informed nonsense being talked online and in the media, not least by professionals who are paid to know better. So let’s get a few things straight, in what is probably the vain hope of changing that. Let’s start with MPs …

Westminster MPs – Members of Parliament
(I addressed a few aspects of election of politicians and role of political parties and parties in government in a December 2014 blog – after the Independence Referendum and less than six months before the 2015 General Election.

1. Our UK democracy allows the citizen to vote for a candidate for the Westminster Parliament. Any citizen qualified by law (not by party!) may stand for Parliament.

2. A candidate may elect to stand under a political party labelif that party agreesor stand as an independent. If the candidate stands under a party label, the party is identified on the ballot paper.

3. Political parties must have processes to identify potential candidates, nominate them for assessment, assess them, and decide if they are to be adopted as a prospective Parliamentary candidate.

What this means is an elected MP is either a party MP or an independent, i.e. they have either agreed to take the party whip and be bound by the rules and voting instructions of that party (except on free votes; so-called conscience votes) or they are an independent and may vote as they choose. Either way, they have been elected to Westminster by the voters, not by any party - and can only be removed in special circumstances under tightly-defined law as applied to Westminster MPs or by personal resignation

 An MP cannot be removed by a political party, nor by a Government, nor by voters. At the next election voters may choose not to vote for their former sitting MP if he or she is standing as a candidate – that is not sacking them but simply declining to vote for them. (At the time of the general election they have ceased to be an MP, as has every other MP.)

There are, of course, mechanisms by which a party can shows its displeasure or rejection of an MP who takes the party whip so they can no longer be seen as sitting as a member of their party. They can simply remove the party whip, which effectively means that they are still an MP, but not a party MP.

In such cases MPs might decide to offer themselves to another party and take their whip, or sit as an independent. A political party might or might not expel an MP from the party at the point they remove the party whip. In the latter case, the MP may either retain membership of the party or resign his or her party membership.

Constituency parties can refuse to nominate the candidate in the next election.

An MP at any time may resign, either completely voluntarily or under pressure to do so and to save face. But there is a quaint twist involved here – MPs sitting in the UK House of Commons are technically not permitted to resign their seats. But they have a typically ‘British’ escape mechanism …

Once upon a time, appointment to an office of profit under the Crown disqualified an individual from sitting as an MP, so the hell-bent-on-resigning MP – or coerced MP! – acquired a very temporary office of profit by being appointed to either the office of Steward of the Manor of Northstead or Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds. If more than two MPs are trying to resign at the one time (as has happened, e.g. 1985 walkout of Ulster Unionist MPs) they are appointed, then fired from office two at a time till they’re all out – a typically British Whitehall farce …

For what offences or behaviour can an MP be removed by law?

Since I am not a lawyer and have no legal qualifications, I can only suggest that readers refer to either Wikipedia - The Recall of MPs Act 2015 - or a legal text book – or a lawyer, if they feel so inclined, to anwer this. Suffice to say, it has to be something pretty damn serious, as the Expenses Scandal showed, not just something somebody or some group finds distasteful behaviour. In very serious cases, read Misconduct in Public Office. (Note that dependent on the offence, this can mean life imprisonment!)

The reason it’s so difficult – and should be difficult – to remove an elected member of Parliament is that removal of a representative of the people of a state, duly elected, is a very serious matter indeed, one subject to serious abuses, ones that  can threaten the democratic process, as the behaviour of banana republics or states metamorphosing into autocracy, dictatorship or worse throughout history demonstrates.

(Current events on Spain over the Catalans’ bid for independence should give us all cause for pause, especially in Scotland.)

Removal of Government Minister from office

The difference between removal of government ministers from office and MPs who hold party posts but are not MPs in the Government and removal of a sitting MP from the Commons and stripping them of their MP status should be blindingly obvious to our media pundits, political journalists and even politicians. But quite patently it is not, hence the proliferation of nonsensical staement like “If he can be sacked as a minister, why is he still an MP?

A UK government minister, a prime minister or a party leader functionary is either appointed unilaterally by another politician or politician group, or by election by members of a political party by processes which have a kind of democracy, often a very dubious one. They are not elected under the law and constitution of the UK state by an electorate comprised of all eligible UK voters in a constituency of that state, as a member of the Westminster Parliament is.

This Daily Politics exchange on Monday exemplifies the specious rubbish talked on this subject – although they began to almost get there near the end of it …


UPDATE : They're asking the same stupid question again at FMQs today. Read my blog, guys!