Following Patrick Mercer’s resignation after allegations by the Parliamentary standards committee of alleged financial misconduct (cash for questions) a by election will be held in the Nottinghamshire seat of Newick to find a replacement MP.
There are lots of angles to this story and it forms a good example for several topics in Unit 1 and Unit 2. At one stage early in his career Mercer was seen as a potential front bench minister. He had enjoyed a glittering military career (the youngest man to be appointed colonel since WWII) and was awarded an MBE in 1990. However, he fell out with David Cameron and was reported to have a major rift with the now Prime Minister, having served in the Shadow Conservative governments he retreated to the back benches amid allegations that he was complicit in racist behaviour while in the military. His decision to resign could be used as an example of misconduct by an MP that will damage the trust the electorate has in their representatives and in due course diminish the turnout.
There is also the issue of by- elections. By elections historically have been good fun for the political observer because the established rule book gets thrown out of the window, safe seats evaportate, the Liberals (historically) usually win and really anything can happen. Newick is a safe Tory seat with a 16,000 majority but when a party has been in office for a prolonged period of time (four years) and is not enjoying huge popularity it is normal that an opposition party will achieve victory in the by- election.
Which brings us to Nigel Farage, with UKIP riding high in the polls and the By election in Newick delayed by the European Elections many people thought that Nigel Farage might use this as an opportunity to enter Parliament. However earlier this morning he decided not to stand. The argument in Mr Farage’s own mind probably encompassed the following pros and cons. Pros- UKIP are doing well in the polls, if they win or come a close second in the European elections it would maintain momentum around the UKIP news story, if UKIP are going to move from a minor also run to a signficant Westminster party they need an MP and for the reasons above a by- election is the best way to get one, Nigel Farage has huge ‘man of the people’ popularity that in the wake of Mercer’s behaviour in could cash in. However, the cons of standing (and clearly these won out) the Conservatives do have a very large majority in Newick, Newick is in the Midlands (not a traditional area of UKIP strength), it has a predominently middle class population (UKIP do well with working class voters) and there is no UKIP infrastructure in Newick as there is in the South East or East Anglia. Ultimately it seems that Farage has decided the risk in Newick is too great (while he does need to stand, and soon- he can’t afford not to win).
Despite Farage’s decision not to run in Newick, UKIP will remain a ‘hot topic’ at least until the European elections in May.
In 2006 David Cameron, pictured in the Artic with a husky promised that a Conservative government would be the greenest ever and the ‘Vote blue go green’ slogan combined with the rebranded oak tree logo appealed to herald a new era of environmental consciousness for the Conservative party. Historically environmentalism in Britain had been an issue focused on by centre- left parties. However, now it seemed to have moved into the mainstream of the centre right as well.
However, since 2010 it is evident that the Conservatives have not really lived up to the Green credentials on display the day David Cameron made his policy announcement.
However you could argue that today was the day the Conservative ‘green’ husky finally died when it was announced that the party would not subsidise wind farms if they won the next election. This failure to invest in renewable energy is seen by many as a return to the old days of ‘profit first, environment second’ economic planning.
This announcement has also driven a wedge between the coalition partners on the issue of energy as the Liberal Democracts are keen to invest in renewable technologies.
Individual Ministerial Responsibility (IMR) is a concept that you are required to know about for Unit 2. IMR is a constitutional convention that holds that Ministers are responsible for their personal conduct and that of their departments and if that conduct falls short then they are required to resign their office.
This concept was once again brought into the news in recent weeks by the conduct of former Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
At the heart of Maria Miller’s alleged misconduct were a series of mortgage payments claimed in the wake of the expenses scandal. Labour allege that although a Parliamentary commission cleared Maria Miller of having to repay the full £90,000 morally she was in the wrong.
It took Maria Miller several days to ‘fall on her sword’ despite the fact that she had received the public backing of the PM. The hostility shown towards her by grassroots Tories and the media was evident during this period. However, her role in pushing through gay marriage has alienated her from sections of the Conservative Party’s rank and file support and her involvement in pushing for press regulation in the wake of the NOTW scandal has won her few friends on Fleet Street.
Not only is this a good example of IMR in action it is also a good example of the considerations made by PMs when appointing Cabinet. Maria Miller is obviously a woman, and David Cameron’s cabinets are short of women. Unfortunately he was unable to replace her with another woman but has instead promoted Sajid Javid to the role. However it is worth noting that Sajid Javid is the first British Muslim man to serve in Cabinet and increases the ethnic diversity of the top table in British politics.