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Monday, June 26, 2006

The art of opposition

I was going to post on the latest example of Labour's candidates in the Blaenau Gwent by-elections campaigning against their own government and, in this case the last Labour manifesto. Labour candidate Owen Smith, has said that if there were a vote in the House of Commons tomorrow to replace Trident, he would vote against it.

However, this is getting a bit boring now so I will let you all draw your own conclusions.
I'm sorry Peter, but I'm not sure what point you are exactly attempting to make here.

The candidates in the by-election are setting out (in some detail) their position on a range of issues before submitting themselves to the electorate.

Isn't this exactly what is supposed to happen in a democracy?

You appear to suggest that there is something dishonourable about a Labour candidate making clear - ahead of the election - his stance on manifesto commitments to which he is not bound (Owen Smith was not a General Election candidate). It seems to me that it is good practice for him to disclose where he disagrees with the general election pledges of his party.

If he had done this after the election (or indeed wins and then changes his position) there would be cause for criticism. But he's not, he's setting out his position and then allowing the electorate to decide.

It wasn't so long ago that commentators such as yourself were berating the army of on-message Blair drones and suggesting they were incapable of independent thought. Now that Labour are choosing candidates who clearly are thinking for themselves you don't like that either.
It really depends on how you define democracy. Here we have a national, high profile by-election in which two Labour candidates have the full resources of their party behind them and carte blanche to say what they like to win. I bet it won't be like that if they are elected.

I have never complained of on-message drones, an elected representative should be free to stand out against the party line so as to effectively represent his/her constituents. He should also be free to vote with his/her conscience but here we have candidates setting out their position on major policy decisions before the matter is before them so as to get out of tight spots. It does not wash.

If they want to be independents then they should stand as such. There is a different between independent thought and an election tactic that is designed to give the impression of independent thought.
I'm not sure what a "national...by-election" is. This is a by-election for one seat, to be chosen by one constituency of electors.

You say the candidates are "setting out their position on major policy decisions before the matter is before them". I say they are being asked what they would do and how they would vote IF elected, so that their electors can help reach a judgement about them and the sort of representative they would be. They have an obligation to give an answer.

As I say, if (as your post implies) they change that stance when elected, and fail to give a satisfactory account why (we have all, after all, changed our minds from time to time) then there will be cause for legitimate criticism. It isn't a question of being independents or not, it's a question of being a Labour candidate with a full set of views - some in accordance with party policy and some not.

I see this as a good thing; these candidates if elected are now bound by the commitments they have given. In many cases I'm guessing they are opposing policy that you also oppose - so you should be pleased as well.

I suspect that the reason you are not has more to do with the competition between your party and Labour and less to do with their stance on particular issues.
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