Politics: Two old troublemakers are happily reselected

The Week In Westminster

EXPERIENCE AND independence are still valued in the Labour Party. Witness the reselection of Austin Mitchell (65, Great Grimsby) and Tam Dalyell (67, Linlithgow).

Mr Dalyell had originally planned to retire at the next election but was angered when Labour's general secretary, Margaret McDonagh, sent a round robin to senior MPs demanding to be informed of their intentions - with the implicit hope that they would walk the plank.

Mr Dalyell told her that he felt his constituency party should be the first to hear his decision. Linlithgow Labour Party was aghast, however, at the prospect of losing its indefatigable member of 37 years, and by popular demand, it looks as though Mr Dalyell has been prevailed upon to stand again.

This is great news for Parliament but bad news for Gordon Brown, who faced Mr Dalyell's wrath for failing to listen to Labour MPs' concerns regarding the Welfare Reform Bill's proposals to withdraw invalidity benefit. Mr Dalyell even tabled a written questions, seeking to know of the Chancellor's official engagements "between 3.30pm and 7.00pm on 3 November".

Mr Brown's response - "I had meetings at the Treasury and visited the London Stock Exchange to launch Techmark [a new share market for technology companies]" - drew criticism from Mr Dalyell at the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting when he told the Chancellor that the Prime Minister's and ministers' first duties were to attend in the House of Commons, especially to hear backbench arguments against the Government.

"Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan were always in the chamber if there was a rebellion and even Margaret Thatcher faced my criticisms over the Belgrano affair," he said.

THERE WAS universal anger and disgust at the way Tony Benn (Lab, Chesterfield) was treated by the Government during his adjournment debate on the relationship between the executive and the legislature.

Although the debate did not start until 1.00am, more than 50 MPs from all sides were treated to a speech of devastating clarity with arguments in favour of re-asserting parliamentary control of the Government. His central theme was to remind MPs that "governments do not make laws. Members of Parliament make laws", and he called for MPs to "speak and vote more freely".

MPs were furious that the Government treated Mr Benn with contempt by putting up the most junior minister, the newly appointed Under- Secretary at the Cabinet Office, Graham Stringer, who was elected only in 1997, to reply to the debate. Mr Stringer, clearly out of his depth, resorted to insulting Mr Benn, always a model of reason and courtesy, by dismissing his arguments as built "completely on fresh air". His suggestion that "if all honMembers decided to vote this way and that in this place" it would lead to "chaos" was regarded as heavy-handed and excessive. The general view was that Mr Benn should have had a response from the Leader of the House, Margaret Beckett, who would at least have attempted to giftwrap the Government's desire to smother Parliament.

GERALD HOWARTH (C, Aldershot) was involved in an altercation with a government whip, Jim Dowd, at the Bar of the House during Tony Benn's adjournment debate that resulted in Mr Howarth raising a point of order with the Deputy Speaker. "I was threatened," Mr Howarth alleged.

Sweetness and light appeared momentarily to have broken out the next morning when Mr Howarth's office was telephoned by the Chief Whip, who invited him to nominate three young people from his constituency to accompany him to 10 Downing Street to join others in taking tea with Cherie Blair. Sadly, Mr Howarth was slow off the mark in returning the call, by which time the invitation had been withdrawn.

AS THIS column noted last week, Francis Maude's tenure as shadow Chancellor has been a disaster. But even I did not imagine how this reputation would be compounded by his shambles of a response to Gordon Brown after the pre-Budget statement.

Clearly chastened, Mr Maude did not even bother to tackle the Chancellor in any exchanges during Treasury questions, preferring instead to engage only against Melanie Johnson, the newest junior minister.

THE TORY health spokesman, Dr Liam Fox (C, Woodspring) a former general practitioner who still keeps a prescription pad in his briefcase to helpMPs to get over minor ailments, was recently approached by a Labour MP for a Viagra prescription. "Sorry, I don't do Viagra or Prozac," Dr Fox told him.

Dr Fox said: "The MP went away looking very deflated. On second thoughts, perhaps, that's why he came to me in the first place."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam