16 March 2016: Former Labour MP Tom Harris to lead Vote Leave campaign in Scotland
Tom Harris, who represented Glasgow South until losing his seat in last year’s general election, said he will serve as the director of Vote Leave north of the border. He insisted the move “isn’t about being anti-European” but said instead “it is about putting our own country, our own economy, our own people, first”. Writing in the Daily Record, he said: “I’m proud to announce that I have been asked to serve as the campaign’s director in Scotland. “It’s true that most Labour MPs will be voting for the UK to remain part of the EU. But Labour voters themselves are not as convinced.
“And who can blame them? Every week the UK sends £350 million to the EU. Scotland’s share is roughly a tenth of that – more than £1.5 billion a year. “Just think what that money could buy here in Scotland – on schools, on our health service, repairing our roads – if it wasn’t being sent into the black hole that is EU spending.
Hush puppy or Rottweiler?
Tom Harris was born in Ayrshire and was brought up in Beith. He attended Garnock Academy, Kilbirnie and Napier College, Edinburgh where he was awarded an HND in Journalism in 1986. He worked as a trainee newspaper journalist with the East Kilbride News in 1986 before joining the Paisley Daily Express in 1988.
He was appointed as a press officer with the Scottish Labour Party in 1990, moving to the same position with Strathclyde Regional Council in 1992.
He was briefly the senior media officer with the City of Glasgow Council in 1996 before joining East Ayrshire Council later in the same year as a public relations manager.
In 1998 he became the chief of public relations at the Strathclyde Passenger Executive, where he remained until his election to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
He joined the Labour Party in 1984 and was active in the Edinburgh South Constituency. He was elected as the chairman of the Glasgow Cathcart Constituency Labour Party for two years in 1998. He was then elected to the House of Commons at the 2001 General Election for the Glasgow seat of Cathcart following the retirement of the Labour MP John Maxton.
He held the seat with a majority of 10,816 and has remained an MP since. He made his maiden speech on 27 June 2001. His seat was abolished following the creation of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood and the subsequent reduction of Scottish seats at Westminster. He has represented the new seat of Glasgow South since the 2005 General Election.
He served on the Science and Technology Select Committee for two years from 2001, and was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State for Northern Ireland John Spellar in 2003, and from 2005 was PPS to the Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt.
As of 7 September 2006 he replaced Derek Twigg as Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Transport. However, in October 2008, Harris announced on his blog that he had telephoned the Prime Minister to inform him that he would be returning to the back benches.
He is a committed trade unionist and was a member of the National Union of Journalists from 1984 until he joined UNISON in 1997, and he is now a member of Unite the Union. He introduced a bill in 2005 for tougher sentences for e-criminals.
Also in 2005 he was involved in an argument over the funding of a housing charity which had called for direct action following the eviction and deportation to Albania of an Kosovan family seeking asylum from a flat in Drumchapel. He is a member of, “Labour Friends of Israel”.
Having been vocal about uncapped EU migration to the UK, he made controversial statements on 3 August 2013, via online media about Daniel Pelka’s parents, immigrants from Poland convicted of the abuse and murder of their child, suggesting they be tortured.
In statements made on Twitter, Harris wrote: “That we have not killed them horribly says a great deal in our favour.” He also stated that he was, “certainly in favour of disinfecting our country by deporting them at the end of their sentence.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Harris_British_politician
November 27 2005: Harsh exchanges over asylum row tactics
Tom Harris, Glasgow South Labour MP has drawn a furious response from a group campaigning for asylum seekers after he called for its funding to be reviewed. He said Positive Action in Housing (PAH) went too far in urging direct action to stop failed asylum seekers being removed.
He has called on the Scottish Executive to look at the anti-racism body’s future funding. That provoked a furious response from director Robina Qureshi. Positive Action in Housing has been vocal in condemning dawn raids on the homes of failed asylum seekers – an issue which came to a head when the Vucaj family were removed from their flat in Drumchapel in September and subsequently deported.
The Scottish Executive and Home Office have been involved in long-running controversy over the reserved issue, with Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm speaking out in condemnation of “heavy-handed” tactics. They accused the Home Office, for instance, of furthering the aims of the far right, they call on Strathclyde Police to arrest immigration officials.
Last week First Minister Jack McConnell met with Immigration Minister Tony McNulty in what was seen as an effort to present a united front.
Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Show, Mr Harris said: “First of all I want to make it clear that I have absolutely no problem at all and I think it’s absolutely right that charitable organizations should campaign and there’s nothing wrong in anyone campaigning on a particular policy. “My problem with Positive Action in Housing is the kind of language that they use. “They accused the Home Office, for instance, of furthering the aims of the far right, they call on Strathclyde Police to arrest immigration officials as they carry out their legal duties and this kind of language does nothing to ameliorate the situation, all it does is heighten tensions.” Ms Qureshi said PAH has a wide remit in helping the victims of inequality in Scottish society. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4476332.stm
October 30 2008: Concerned about an ever increasing number of attacks on individual freedoms by the government, the Devils Kitchen Blog sent a free copy of Orwells 1984 to all Westminster MP’s – Tom Harris was not impressed.
Tom Harris posted to his blog. “An oddity arrived today at the office: an Amazon package containing a brand new copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It’s not the book itself that is odd – I read it for the first time nearly 30 years ago and it’s a rollicking good yarn, with a great plot and a very dramatic ending. An Orwellian nightmare? Oh, wake up!”
Devil’s Kitchen, posted a reply: “Harris just doesn’t get 1984. One of the distinctive traits of the labour Party is their eagerness to rewrite history, and we all know that Harris is very adept at that, do we not? Now, having received his copy of 1984 and dismissive of it’s content. His comment, an Orwellian nightmare? Oh, wake up! and that, of course, is all that Harris took from it: the appreciation of a book that described, very well, the state of Stalin’s Russia — before it became so fucking obvious that even (most of) the Labour Party had to acknowledge what was going on, has been lost on this moron Why, thank you, Tom, for your patronizing comment:
Also, there seems to be an awful lot of people out there – perhaps dozens of them – who seem to get strangely exercised at the prospect of a “police state”. “Well, first of all, how about the arrogance of anyone referring to anyone else as anyone’s, “masters”?”
In a democracy, as you proudly boast that this country still is, who is master and who is servant? It’s a no-brainer isn’t it? Call it employer if you like but it doesn’t change anything and there is nothing arrogant about reminding the Labour party (or any of the other MPs) that this is the case. You all seem to have completely forgotten.
Your blithe dismissal of this, “gift” is stunning in its lack of understanding of how strongly many people feel about how the minutiae of their lives are being constantly interfered with. This isn’t Jim Baxter’s cherry-picked instances we are talking about, this is wholesale destruction of everyday life.… and a new restriction is brought out EVERY day. Today it was: Prospective MPs not required to give addresses any-more (yet contrast this with Section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 where it is an offense for a member of the public to refuse to give their name and address to the Police when asked, whether they have committed an offense, or even been suspected of one, or not – your lot brought that one in).
I could list one of these EVERY day if you like but I have a business to run and I would expect someone whose business is Government to know these things and to recognise when civil liberties are being cut out. You don’t seem to think there is anything wrong! It’s not all about CCTV, it’s about tiny things that add to a whole that is unacceptable and should be stopped. YOUR party have encouraged this and should be ashamed of yourselves. OK. Here’s a list of the recent ones that have staggered me and which your party should be thoroughly ashamed:
Separate queues for buying alcohol in supermarkets so buyers “will be subjected to scrutiny of fellow shoppers”. What? Why?
Smokers being banned from fostering children when there is a shortage of 2,000 foster homes. What?? Why??
History & Geography being scrapped from schools in favour of ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ and ‘Multi-Culturalism’. What? Really?
Compulsory … note, not available for veto by parents … compulsory sex education for 5 year old’s. (I haven’t mentioned the finger-printing, that’s so last month isn’t it?)
Bans on fast food outlets opening within 500 metres of schools. Funny, I don’t remember voting on that particular issue in this wonderful democracy that you seem to think exists, much as I didn’t vote on the idea of a blanket smoking ban but DID vote on a partial ban and a manifesto pledge of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
That is just the past couple of days. Your copy of 1984 is richly deserved after reading your blog post. Read it again and take note of how your party have passed so many laws that are so very similar to those mentioned in the book. Here’s an example – a guy accosted in Middlesbrough for taking pictures on his mobile phone, the reason for being stopped for doing something legal? Anti-Terrorism laws. His crime? Nothing. The Police officer’s reasoning as to why he may have been committing an offence? He may have been a voyeur. Is the officer examining the man’s thoughts? Is this a ‘Thought Crime’?
My local paper (today) has the story of a 15 year old on a Geography field trip being accosted by PCSOs and made to sign forms under the Terrorism Act. His details were to be stored on a database as a potential terrorist for 6 years. Fortunately he has a Dad who is educated and can get it erased.
Your lot talk about social justice, can you imagine the son of a builder living on a council estate getting the same result? YOUR laws Tom. Labour is rotten. Orwellian nightmare under Labour? Absolutely. Quite. But, Tom being a party political animal, can’t resist getting such a dig in.
We live in a democracy, and just because those – including my anonymous benefactor – who get excited about such things are unhappy that Labour is in power, that does not make us anything other than a democracy.
March 1 2009: Tom Harris – Another Strawman
Jack Straw, responding to increasing criticism of the labour government’s ever increasing restrictions to the individual liberties of UK citizens. “Those who cast myself and my colleagues as Orwellian drones engaged in some awful conspiracy planned in Whitehall basements not only overlook all this government’s achievements, they cheapen the important debate about getting the balance right so that a very important freedom, that to live without fear in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, is nurtured and protected.”
Longrider commented. “Anyone who genuinely believes this is delusional. Labour has introduced over 3,000 new offences. Reducing individual liberty does not protect or increase liberty.
Tom Harris, like other labour MPs defends the government’s legacy on liberty. He, like other Labour MPs believes that black is white, up is down and slavery is freedom. And, like other members of the supercilious righteous political elite, regards those who disagree with his opinion as green ink tinfoil hatters.”
April 5 2009: The return of morality. The army of teenage mothers living off the state is a national catastrophe
When my wife Carolyn was in hospital, having just delivered us of wee Reggie, a very young girl in the bed opposite was also celebrating the arrival of her newborn. As was her proud father, who made great play to anyone who might have been listening (me) of how proud he was of his daughter.
She was, I guess, about 16. I don’t think he should have been ashamed and it’s great that this young girl had such a loving dad to support her. But proud? Proud that his teenage daughter was not only sexually active but was now a mother? Proud that any chance of a decent education, followed by a decent job, was now remote at best? Proud that she was, in all likelihood, about to embark on a lifetime of depending on benefit handouts for her and her child?
I’m a Labour MP, so some will undoubtedly be surprised, and shocked that I’m writing this. But I can no longer pretend that the army of teenage mothers living off the state is anything other than a national catastrophe.
April 12 2009: The McBride/Draper smear scandal – “We can’t spin our way out of this. My party has screwed up big time.”
Tom Harris adding fuel to the fire at the time of the exposure of Damien McBride as Gordon Brown’s Rottweiler stated it was important that Labour people made clear that the whole McBride/Draper episode (must we call it “Smeargate”?) is as inexcusable to the Labour Party as it is to the rest of the world. There is absolutely no point in anyone in the party trying to spin such an odious sequence of events, in trying to suggest that it’s less serious than the media are trying to make out.
A reader commented: “Such behaviour used to be inexcusable, but that was in the days of “Old Labour”. The arrival of Tony Blair coincided with the arrival of spin and smear. A new type of nasty politics emerged. This rather embarrassing but obvious fact that cannot be missed. Over the past decade, quite a few “nasties” have been appointed to senior positions in New Labour governments.
New Labour heralded not only a change in policies and a change in personnel, but also a change in ethics and morality within the party. Once the cat has been let out of the bag it becomes difficult to reign it in. A good period in opposition is what the Labour Party needs to purge itself of the type of person who now predominates at the higher levels in the party.
New Labour is a rather distasteful party, deeply divided, with little or no idealism and little or no vision. It has been too long in power and now the pursuit of power is its only objective. Great Britain needs a strong party of the left, but New Labour, in its present form and with its present personnel, is certainly not that party.
June 9 2009: Tom Harris MP confirms his disloyalty – calls for PM Gordon Brown to resign
A Glasgow MP has become the first Scottish Labour MP to suggest Gordon Brown should stand down as prime minister. Tom Harris said he did not think Mr Brown should lead the party into the next general election. Speaking at a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, Mr Harris added that he felt compelled to express his views.
The group’s chairman, Tony Lloyd, said he was convinced there was no serious threat to Gordon Brown’s leadership after he was backed by most MPs.
Writing on his blog, Mr Harris said he told the meeting: “If there’s one thing that unites this PLP, it’s a determination to win the next election. “And those of us who have come to the conclusion, by an entirely objective and logical process, that you cannot lead Labour to victory, would be doing a disservice to our country and to our party by staying silent.”
August 20 2009: The high pay commission won’t work – the proposal has ‘securing Labour’s core vote’ written all over it – and the effect on our economy would be negligible
The left-wing pressure group, aligned with the Labour Party, “Compass” proposing establishment of a high pay commission said that pay disparity in the UK was the result of greed. The salaries of those at the top had raced away while the median wage stagnated. Inequality had grown, and an economic crisis ensued.
The unjust rewards of a few hundred, “masters of the universe” exacerbated the risks we were all exposed to many times over. Banking and executive remuneration packages reached excessive levels and we believe now is the time for government to take decisive action.
We need a, “High Pay Commission” to launch a wide-ranging review of pay at the top. It should consider proposals to restrict excessive remuneration such as maximum wage ratios and bonus taxation to provide the just society and sustainable economy we all want.
Tom Harris commented. The proposal has, “securing Labour’s core vote” written all over it – and the effect on our economy would be negligible.
A reader commented: The minimum wage was introduced with all the enthusiasm of someone clearing up the cat’s honk. Once established, it was more or less ignored, with annual increments in the region of 10-20 pence/hour, if that, and an enforcement set-up so undermanned as to be useless. It was easy for UK’s vast sweatshop brigade to work around it.
Clearly Mr Harris, the scourge of pregnant teenagers on benefits, needs to earn more as his claim for a cot and bottle sterilizer for his London home was turned down by the House of Commons expenses office. £64766 pa (plus expenses) is simply not enough when you have this sort of heavy expenditure.
April 10 2010: Tom is a blogger with a taste for the direct, sardonic and serious
Tom Harris in discussion. Talking about twitter, the value of blogs in politics, rushing legislation through Parliament in ‘wash up’, Votes at 16, hung parliaments, why Tom Harris went into politics and his enthusiasm for the years ahead, the issue of whether Scots MPs should vote on purely Scots matters and even find time to discuss independence for Scotland – briefly.
November 16 2010: A significant moment in the British political blogosphere is Closing down
Tom Harris’s blog, “And another thing” was once one of the must read Westminster blogs, regularly ruffling feathers and making news, and consistently being voted one of the best political blogs. Now, with similarities to Tony Blair’s long goodbye – and Sinatra like – Harris announced he is shutting up shop.
In a blog entitled, ‘A Blessed Relief’ he writes that he is calling it a day. “I love blogging because I love writing. I love politics, I love the Labour Party, I love writing about Labour Party politics. But the blog has become a burden.
It’s taking up too much time (though not as much as some might think – I am a very fast writer), it’s getting me into too many squabbles with people I have never met and are likely never to meet. And increasingly I’ve felt like I’m adopting stances simply for the sake of being confrontational and provoking a row”.
Most of us who have a profile on the blogosphere can relate to these last comments, and he concludes. “Basically, the bottom line. blogging is having a negative effect on my personal, family and political life for reasons too many and complicated to recount.”
Gerry Hassan, Research Fellow in cultural policy at the University of the West of Scotland wrote; ‘I don’t like Tom Harris’s politics one bit. I regard them as symptomatic of the changing style of politics which is part of the problem. He is a defender of the status quo.
The wider currents of our politics which have taken us to this unfortunate position. He is an unapologetic defender of parliamentary privilege and tradition – in particular venting his anger on the new IPSA regime at length – and he is a strident, voice who enjoys the politics of condemning and attacking, finding opponents almost everywhere.
He has grown tired of the world he has created around himself, of hectoring, abusive non-debate, populated by enemies, and a lack of real exchange. I cant help feeling that Harris, dislikeable as he is in style and content, is merely a manifestation of a wider set of currents of confusions and changes.
What is the point of being a politician today? If one is not a careerist, or more accurately a failed careerist, what is the point of your existence?
Harris tried to provide an answer to this through his entertaining and often controversial blog, but it is a question we still need to ask. What is it that we expect of modern politicians? Of backbench MPs? What is the role of the majority of MPs who don’t sit as part of the government payroll vote or opposition equivalent?
January 17 2011: Dear Ed, remember that party members are not normal
Providing written advice to the leader of the labour party Harris compiled a characteristically entertaining piece, he instructed Ed Miliband to remember that Labour members “are not normal”. In other words, he should be prepared to ignore the politics of the membership because, in Toms opinion, it is so far to the left of the general population.
Yet what is most illuminating about the piece, is not what it says about the general public but what it says about Labour members. Like many of the Labour elite, he appears to see the Labour Party as more of a supporters club than a party. Those at the top of Labour have long seen party members as canvassing fodder rather than partners in a collaborative political project and Harris makes this explicit like nobody else.
Activists he notes, will come out on a Saturday morning to, “shove leaflets through people’s doors”, and, “Thank goodness they do” he says. “Neither you or I [Ed] would be MPs if it weren’t for our volunteer army of activists, they’re what keeps the party machines – and democracy itself – going.
But as a source of reliable strategic political advice, they’re at best a bit hit and miss. And the problem with too many party activists is that they spend far too much time talking about politics. Full stop”.
June 8 2011: A Glasgow MP has been criticised after accusing Dundee University of “dumbing down” by pioneering a postgraduate degree in comic book studies.
Harris posted a sarcastic twitter comment on Monday night stating, “Dundee University is launching a degree in comic books. That’ll show those who say degrees are being dumbed down!”
Several other Twitter users challenged Mr Harris and he responded by posting, “Wait for the cries of outrage when people realize that a MA in the Dandy is considered less valuable than PPE from Oxford.” He later added he was “looking forward to Sheffield University doing a degree in forks.” The dispute rumbled on throughout the day and Mr Harris continued posting comments disparaging the course.
One post in the afternoon stated, “Coming soon to a university near you: a BSc in Battlestar Galactica — comparisons of the original v the reboot. One of Harris’ constituents, former Dundee man Dave Lunan, said, “He seems to have his priorities all wrong. “I would like to know why my well-paid elected representative is spending so much time arguing on Twitter when he should be concerned with the real issues facing his constituency and the country”.
July 18 2011: A media abuse inquiry highlighted the need for more transparency in contacts between the Press and politicians
Tom Harris twittered. In an ideal world, of course, there would be nothing wrong in registering every conversation we have with journalists; “transparency” is the new “progressive”, dontcha know? But politics is about more than transparency.
It is about deals, it is about secrets. For myself, I shall continue to have lunches, dinners, coffees and beers with any journalist I like (provided s/he pays for them, of course – parliamentary expenses don’t stretch far these days). Our conversations will continue to be private, and unless they describe their source as “an unidentified, tall, Scottish ex- minister, ex-blogger MP representing a Glasgow seat”, then I will be content.
Twitter response was swift. This is another depressingly typical entry in Tom Harris’ knee-jerk salvo’s against even the most minor political reform. First off he makes the classic mistake that ‘politics in Britain= only politics going on in the world.’ Plenty of countries have robust transparency rules in their politics, and work better than Britain as a result.
July 25 2011: The dangerously ignorant Tom Harris – added uninformed twitter comment on the mass murders in Oslo by Breivik
What happened in Oslo was horrific beyond belief. On that, there is agreement across all the political divides. However, when it comes to the cause and the consequences, there is little agreement. For many, Tom Harris MP has epitomised the crassness of the right-wing response to the tragedy.
As the events unfolded, he waded in with a silly tweet assuming that the perpetrators were Al-Qaeda. He is unable to face down the complicity of his own politics for the events which led to that brutal murder and in doing so, he is showing himself to be a dangerous, hypocritical demagogue whose own politics need facing down and defeating if we are to avoid such tragedies.
August 26 2011: Tom Harris the twitter king of Westminster
The correlation between large amounts of tweeting and a below-average attendance in Parliamentary votes is well established. Tom Harris, Labour MP, has published over 22,000 tweets but made it to Parliament to vote 51% of the time, well below average.
September 12 2011: Harris Ready for Salmond
Confirming he will be a candidate to succeed Iain Gray as leader of Labour in Scotland the controversial Glasgow South MP made the announcement as the party’s Scottish Executive Committee agreed major changes to its constitution, including allowing MPs and MEPs, as well as MSPs, to stand in the contest.
The committee also agreed that the new leader would lead the whole Scottish Labour Party instead of leader of Labour’s MSPs at Holyrood.
September 12 2011: Way to up your book sales, Tom Harris
A reader commented: For all I criticize the SNP, to accuse them of not being patriotic, or not caring about Scotland, isn’t fair – and I really can’t stand bringing that sort of language into the political arena. However, Tom’s going the same way as Jim Murphy did as Secretary of State. “Above all, we need a leader who will always put Scotland ahead of their own party.
I can’t see a Labour Party led by Harris ever co-operating on anything, or discussing anything in other than sound-bite fashion. But of course, book deals don’t appear overnight and when teased about his leadership being a way to promote his book, he replied, “In my defence, the deal was agreed when it seemed like Labour might win at Holyrood”!
Extra sales resulting from his leadership bid will, of course, be a happy coincidence.
October 29 2011: Tom Harris warns Scottish Labour could become an, “irrelevance”
Three contenders battling for control of Scottish Labour held their first leadership debate yesterday, amid warnings that the party could be an, “irrelevance” by 2016 unless it got its act together.
Tom Harris, the only MP standing in the contest, issued the warning when he appeared on a hustings platform with his rivals. Harris, the MP for Glasgow South, stumbled on his lines as he spoke without notes, but he told delegates at a conference in Glasgow that Labour must re-invent itself as the party of aspiration. “I love my country, I love my party and I hate being in opposition,” Harris said, “By 2016, Scottish Labour will either have re-established itself as the party of aspiration, or it will be an irrelevance.”
November 11 2011: Tom Harris is a Liar – Wings over Scotland adds criticism
When Harris isn’t trying to imply racism with cheap sophistry, he resorts instead to evasion, sarcasm and condescension, and quite often just infantile jibes (e.g. suggesting all online SNP supporters still live with their mothers). Rev Stuart Campbell takes his twittering apart.
November 13 2011: Tom Harris’ launches an unsuccessful campaign to be Labour’s candidate for first minister of Scotland
“Nearly four months after our dreadful result in May, there still had been precious little debate about the future direction of our party and how we could restore our electoral fortunes.
There had been precious little debate, either, about the challenge of nationalism and the threat posed to Scotland through the break-up of the United Kingdom.”
“So, in the absence of virtually anyone else making the case for Labour or against the nationalists, I stepped forward. Since then, I have led the debate on the future of our party and our nation.
January 16 2012: Labour MP Tom Harris forced to resign as social media Tsar
On 16th January, 2012, he was forced to stand down from his role as Internet Adviser after posting a video on youtube depicting First Minister Alex Salmond as Adolf Hitler. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-16576255
The Twitter expert had posted the, “Downfall” parody video likening Alex Salmond to Hitler. Harris, who stood for election as Scottish party leader last year, apologized and said his “actions were an unhelpful distraction” which damaged his party’s attempts to make better use of social media.
The Scottish National party (SNP) commented, “It is silly, negative nonsense like this that helps explain why Labour are in the doldrums in Scotland,”.
March 12 2012: The thin line between confidence and arrogance – The Scottish Referendum.
Tom Harris wrote. “Of course, the SNP have more cause for optimism than Labour these days; their overwhelming victory in last year’s Holyrood elections changed the political landscape in this part of the country and made life extremely uncomfortable for the Labour Party.
The same is true of that bigger electoral contest: the independence referendum. It’s actually very difficult to find an SNP activist on Twitter who might concede that defeat for the nationalist cause in autumn 2014 is even a remote possibility.
This is despite the fact that all the polling evidence shows that, one or two recent polls aside, pro-unionist sympathy still dominates in Scotland. The fact is the nationalists might win. I hope they don’t, but they might. We might win. We might not, but we might. Such doubt is strangely absent from the nationalist camp. And I don’t think it’s all show or propaganda.
They seem to need to believe in the inevitability of their victory. They need to believe that the odds against them are simply the context of the Hollywood drama that will one day be made about their historic struggle and victory. But the public, whose support in both the local elections and the separation referendum is taken entirely for granted, still have the final say.”
A reader commented: !Expanding globalization and associated global systemic financial and economic crises are pushing the ruling parties of the UK state into feats of austerity and assaults on the public which can only serve the interests of the Scottish National Party, or so it would appear, as these phenomena form a catalyst for disintegration of the multi-national state.
That being the case, it is difficult not to be confident that the central objective of the Scottish National Party will be achieved. Rapid progress towards independence might not be ideal, and it is to be believed that this is understood and shared by a substantial proportion of the electorate, whose common sense and caution have always seemed to me to be rather well respected by the SNP.
There is merit in having faith in and respect for the people, a faith which the Labour Party in Scotland, not only appears to have lost but seems to be incapable of regaining.
September 2 2012: Democracy: what a pain in the backside
Tom Harris wrote. “Any country where it can be lazily assumed that X or Y party will take power no matter what, is a badly run one. The harder it is to win the votes of the electorate, the more determined will the winning party be to make their term in office a success. And in any modern democracy, no party should assume they will retain power ad infinitum; however healthy any living thing, it must die eventually, and the same should go for governments.
The principle that governments govern better when they’re held to account by strong oppositions is more than a sound-bite. And a strong opposition is one that stands a realistic chance of being the government next time round.
A reader commented: ” The thing is real participative democracy doesn’t happen and there is this huge power gap. Most potential voters feel powerless to effect change so switch off. Then politics becomes the almost exclusive territory of professional politicians and political pundits while the rest of us at best contribute with our vote every 4 or 5 years.
Every potential reform of the system to open it up and refresh democracy is resisted tooth and nail by the political classes of all parties at Westminster. From AV to Lords reform. As for accountability. MP’s expenses would still be shrouded in secrecy if it hadn’t been for whistle-blowers and brave journalists.
Much of the appeal of the Nationalist cause is arguably about this aspiration for more democracy and there is something politically enlivening about the process of challenging and taking back from the concentration of power at the centre. It is really satisfying to watch the FM take on the PM and send him back to London with a flea in his ear.
If it’s not Nationalism that rocks your boat then what is your democratic vision for the future of Scotland ?
September 23 2012: The Scottish obsession with the constitution has not served Scotland well
Tom Harris insisted Scottish Labour has an advantage over it’s nationalist opponents. For most Scot’s, devolution was never an end in itself. Donald Dewar’s dream was of a fully devolved Scotland, firmly within the UK but developing unique and radical policies that might even inspire the rest of the country once they were seen to succeed in Scotland. devolution as nothing more than a vehicle through which better policy solutions could be delivered.
Nationalists, on the other hand, however much they will deny it, see, “independence” as the end result of their struggle. A bad decision made in Edinburgh is, they believe, better than a good decision made on our behalf by Westminster.
A reader commented: “If Labour have big ideas to add to the post-constitutional referendum debate or even to enliven the debate process itself then we should hear them. We have been waiting a long time. A recall of some missed opportunities.
Before the Labour victory of 1997 we had Labour promises on all sorts of constitutional reform like Charter 88 which would have rebalanced the power of the citizen viz a vis the state. Then there are constitutional developments, up to and including independence, which have the potential to free up the way we think about public services and service delivery in modern Scotland and within a Scottish context.
The current institutional inertia in Scotland has been in large part cultivated by the Labour Party and has served it well until now. Constitutional reform does not need to be a barrier to new political and institutional thinking, indeed it could well be a catalyst, releasing new creative energy and freeing some of Scotland’s vested interests from institutional capture. Which is why Scottish Labour policy is limiting since ultimately it takes a limited, narrow and politically conservative view of constitutional reform.
October 22 2012 Scottish Fishermen’s Federation attacks shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris for failing to understand his brief
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has launched a scathing attack on Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris for his complete failure to understand the numerous problems currently facing the Scottish fishing industry.
The criticism of the minister comes in the wake of his contention that fishermen should be treated like ‘drug dealers’ in reference to the pelagic sector following prosecutions brought against them for incidents that occurred many years ago.
April 1 2013: Tom Harris’ Taxpayer-Funded Game of Thrones Session – The I-Pad saga
Apple addict and Doctor Who fanatic Tom Harris, the likeable if slightly geeky Labour MP, got into a bit of bother when it was revealed he successively claimed for three iPads on expenses, insisting that they were for his staff and, according to the rules, that they were needed, “wholly, exclusively, and necessarily in the performance of their parliamentary duties”.
When queried about the use of iPads by staff versus cheaper computers with keyboards on which to type letters to constituents, Tom gave assurance that it wasn’t just him upgrading to the latest models. They were all at it.
June 12 2013: Glasgow MP Tom Harris leaves Labour front bench for family
Labour MP Tom Harris has quit the front-bench – saying he was unable to juggle the responsibility with his family life. The MP for Glasgow South was appointed shadow environment, food and rural affairs minister in May last year. But he told party leader Ed Miliband that combining that extra role with his responsibilities as a husband and father had proved, “beyond me”.
In his resignation letter, the former minister who sought the leadership of the party in Scotland, said he had been “delighted” to return to the front-bench. But he added: “You and the party need frontbenchers who can fully commit to holding the coalition to account and to doing the hard work necessary to move into government in two years. “I am faced with the uncomfortable truth that my talents, such as they are, do not extend to being an effective front bencher as well as a good husband and father.”
July 18 2013: The tenth best MP on Twitter
Harris is a fully qualified journalist. Fluent in shorthand he has long been required reading on Twitter. The Scottish Labour MP is funny, eloquent, honest, steely and impatient. He can be tough. His mockery of his attackers on Twitter shows a man who resembles a columnist as much as he does an MP.
Nevertheless he is to be commended for standing up for his profession, in numerous tweets and blog posts, against a public which often associates being a member of parliament with being a criminal. “Just had some idiot on Twitter telling me I should be “MP-ing” instead of watching the tennis. “good grief” he wrote recently.
His Commons commentary is also golden. “Dear front bencher’s – when you throw your head back ostentatiously to ‘laugh’ derisively, you look like an idiot.” Harris is the opposite of those fake, positive Twitter accounts most MPs manage in a desperate bid never to cause offense.
In actual fact, Harris really isn’t nice at all. He’s a political attack dog with a side-serving of Doctor Who trivia. Firm, workmanlike and delivered from the trenches: this is beefy stuff.
September 26 2013: Why I Wouldn’t Support Votes for Sixteen and Seventeen-Year-Olds
Ed Miliband supports the campaign to lower the voting age which is being promoted by the vaguely left wing political classes and there seems to be plenty, or at least, vocal, support for the measure.
It’s just a pity that among the age group affected, demand for change doesn’t go beyond that tiny unrepresentative minority of teenagers who are already politically engaged.
October 25 2013: Tom Harris Gets involved in the 2016 London Mayor election
Elected office is now too often something that can be attempted according to the convenience of the aspiring politician. Shouldn’t one’s calling, one’s conviction, come first? If the cause you espouse is so important, if the solutions you offer so vital to the well-being of your future electorate, surely such trifles as personal career, even family, must take a second place in your priorities?
December 14 2013: Voting Record — Tom Harris MP, Glasgow South (2001-2013)
Wonder why he remains a member of the Labour Party. He regularly rebels against Labour in the Commons.
December 23 2013: Labour MP: Tom Harris twittered angrily in support of Denis MacShane
Denis McShane, former Labour Party minister was sentenced to six months in prison after claiming more than £13,000 in fraudulent expense claims. The Taxpayers’ Alliance commented, “justice has been done”. “He routinely forged receipts to take taxpayers’ money” and that it was not up to the taxpayer to fund MacShane’s trips around Europe.
“This is an awful day, the jailing of my friend and ex-colleague Denis MacShane for making bogus expense claims was not justice”, said his former Labour colleague Tom Harris.
Annual Cost Travel, Accommodation, Subsistence, Office Rental & Running Costs – 2110-2014
Accommodation £12,542 (7 months rent and ancillary costs only)
Constituency £5,378 (6 months office rental)
General Admin £7,655 (£1,906 cellphones, telephones, mobile broadband, £3,699 computer hardware purchase + incidentals)
Travel £14,075 (£10,028 MP travel by air, car, rail, taxi Remainder staff and dependent travel costs)
Accommodation £21,637 (rent of flat London £1,447 monthly (£1,950 from February)+ ancillary costs)
Constituency £21,079 (£11,150 office rental 1 year. computer hardware purchase £2,140 Cellphone, mobile broadband and other costs)
General Admin £240
Travel £17,132 (£11,362 MP travel by air, car, rail, taxi + £5,500 staff and dependent travel & accommodation costs)
Accommodation £20,301 (rent of flat London £1,950 for 5 months then change of accommodation £8,580 + ancillary costs)
Constituency £23,740 (£11,150 office rental 1 year. computer hardware purchase £2,140 Cellphone, mobile broadband and other costs + rewiring and office redecoration)
General Admin £240
Travel £19,389 (£14,989 MP travel by air, car, rail, taxi + £4,400 staff and dependent travel & accomodation costs)
Accommodation £18,790 (rent of flat London £1,430 for 12 months + ancillary costs)
Constituency £21,492 (£11,150 office rental 1 year. computer leasing £1556, stationery £3,106 + Cellphone, mobile broadband and other costs)
Travel £14,769 (£11,769 MP travel by air, car, rail, taxi + £3,000 staff and dependent travel & accommodation costs)