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Lewisham Deptford: A Safe Labour Seat?

Posted on Monday, April 26, 2010 in general election, Politics

The New Labour minister Joan Ruddock MP sure believes it is for her:

“Comment is free … but facts are sacred”. Unfortunately the Lib Dems in Lewisham aren’t letting the facts of my voting record on Iraq get in the way of their wholly negative campaign.

Contrary to Max Calo’s assertion I did indeed vote on the crucial amendment, which if passed would have prevented the Labour government going to war in Iraq. Once this amendment was lost, nothing could be achieved in the subsequent vote. The Guardian, the Times and the BBC are all on the record as recording me as one of the “Labour rebels” and there was never a doubt about my consistent anti-war stance. As Calo himself admits, I never voted with the government, and it is standard parliamentary practice to abstain when negotiating in private with your own leadership in an attempt to get them to change their minds.

Perhaps Nick Clegg should be told that his Liberal Democrats in Lewisham are up to their old dirty tricks.

Max Calo’s response:

First of all thanks for replying, I’ll try to clarify the point I make and that I think is important and justified.

In the letter you sent to residents you stated:

?I have always acted with integrity and stuck to my principles ? voting against the government going to war in Iraq.?.

And I think we can agree you didn’t actually do this, because voting for a motion to delay action does not mean voting against the government going to war.
For everyone’s reference here’s the text of the proposed amendment you voted for:

(this house)
- believes that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific United Nations authorisation; but,
- in the event that hostilities do commence, pledges its total support for the British forces engaged in the Middle East, expresses its admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hopes that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides.

When the amendment failed a large number of Labour MPs left, but an even larger number stayed and voted against.

I’m sure you agree that the stand taken by those Labour MPs that stayed on and displayed active dissent (including resigning from Government in some cases) was very principled and indeed commanded the admiration of many in the public.

Your public record I’m afraid is not so clear, and that’s why I don’t believe you’re entitled to make the claim you made in your letter. Your voting record on the war shows that you were absent in four out of 6 occasions, when you participated you voted in favour of amendments but never took part in the main vote.
You say that once the amendments failed then there was no hope of the main motion being rejected, still many thought that they needed to stay and register an open dissent on the main motions, and we do admire them for doing so.
It is also the case that a stronger dissent makes a weaker mandate, whether the vote is won or lost.

You say that in private you were negotiating in attempt to change the leadership’s mind, well, maybe you could have written that in your letter to Lewisham Central residents instead.

If you’re writing of your public record then you’re best advised to stick to the facts.

What people understand by reading your letter is what you wrote, and that’s what those that stayed on and took an open stand against the war did, not those that are now saying that they were negotiating in private.

Joan Ruddock is my MP. She is a vociferous supporter of ID cards, agreed with 90 days detention without charge, supports trial without a jury and control orders, and voted to ban protest around parliament. I seriously hope she gets beaten by either the Greens or the Lib Dems – this authoritarian nonsense simply has to stop.

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