Austin Mitchell gives a masterclass in taking your constituents for granted…

That sound you can hear is the wailing of Labour campaign organisers in Grimsby as they work out how to deal with outgoing Labour MP Austin Mitchell’s latest bout of Foot in Mouth disease.

From the i:

From the shuttered-up homes by the once bustling fish market to derelict harbour-side factories, politicians of all stripes admit privately that the east coast town alternates between being forgotten and taken for granted in Westminster.

It’s a narrative that Ukip is pushing hard and one that the Lincolnshire town’s veteran MP, Mitchell, unwittingly reinforced by telling the Independent on Sunday that Labour would win the seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile”.

We knew that Labour have a real sense of entitlement to power that is most unattractive. Breaking their fiefdoms in Scotland by introducing STV for local government is one of the best things the Liberal Democrats have ever done in government. Labour are finding that years, decades of neglect and taking voters for granted is coming back to bite them on the bum. The thing is, I don’t see much sign of their attitude really changing that much.

This, of course, not the first time over the years that Austin Mitchell has said something stupid. One prime example was last Summer when he told the world how worried he was by the number of women in Parliament. And not because there weren’t enough.

The Labour MP for Great Grimsby, Austin Mitchell, who is standing down in 2015, has written an attack in the Mail against the “feminisation” of parliament. He unhappily claims that the Labour party’s “obsession” with all-women shortlists is making parliament preoccupied with social, educational and family issues (the horror), and warns that this increasing number of women would make a future Labour government less able to focus on international issues, and would lessen the quality of “oratory” in the Commons. This is coming from an MP who changed his name briefly to “Austin Haddock” to champion key fishing concerns of his constituents.

Perhaps he has a new role in life as a poster boy for electoral reform that does away with safe seats. Great Grimsby has been Labour since 1945. Having said that, it suddenly becomes much more marginal in the 2010 election with a 10.8% fall in Mitchell’s vote leaving the Tory with striking distance. The 2010 Tory candidate, Victoria Ayling, is standing this time for UKIP.

Labour have selected Melanie Onn to fight the seat. I suspect her campaign managers will be wanting to confiscate anything Mitchell might use to harm their cause further.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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26 Comments

  • A man with some really vile and outdated views, not just out of touch with his party or society, but reality too. I recall seeing how he spoke to his wife on some series on MPs a couple of years ago. Disgusting doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

    Let us be grateful for the sake of his constituents that however the people vote in Grimsby in May, he won’t be coming back.

  • Well said Caron,,why he has retained his seat so long in Grimsby I shall never know,tradition I suppose.Although he is not my MP ,I live in the neighbouring constituency and I’ve watched his stupid antics for many years,since he took over the seat from the late Anthony Crosland.The people of Grimsby deserve better,who that will be in May I wouldn’t like to say,but strongly suspect the seat could go to UKIP.

  • A general election in 70 or so days.
    A Labour MP is standing down in a seat which as far as I am aware is not in the top 30 Liberal Democrat targets.

    He is not my favourite MP either. But – so what ??? Outside of Grimsby – who cares ?

    I could write a very long list of Conservative MPs who take their constituents for granted. They have done it for generations, indeed in some seats generations of the same family!
    Some of them have excellent Liberal Democrats standing against them in May and a chance of winning in 2020 if not now. Will we hear aout them in LDV?

    Just why is LDV obsessing about a has-been Labour hack who is on his way out ? Or is this just another example that anything which helps prop up the Tory New Agenda will find a home in LDV ?

    By the way — you have not mentioned how he eats bacon sandwiches. Did you forget?

  • John Tilley: it really is neither necessary nor interesting for you to dump on every thread.

  • David 22nd Feb ’15 – 9:49am

    There are eight different threads in LDV with dozens of comments for Saturday 21st Feb —
    Not only have I not “dumped on every thread” as you claim – this is the only thread of the eight that I have made any comment on.

    No need for you to apologise, but I thought you might want to see the facts rather than your own distorted perception.

    You must be one of this people who does not have to comply with the LDV comments policy and are allowed to throw around completely false accusations. Quite a privileged status ! I found your comment neither interesting nor necessary, nor anything to do with the subject of this thread. I just found it to be wrong, baseless, and slightly sinister.

  • As an outsider and as someone who was beginning to think that most Libdems in Government seemed too cosy with the Tories, I consider John Tolley to be a shining light, who gives balanced, well informed opinion and really a credit to your party, for hanging in there and trying to change things from the inside.
    He gives a very positive impression of the party to people looking in ,a beacon of common sense and you need more like him.

  • Austin Mitchell’s status in the Labour Party derives from the fact that he was the unexpected victor in the April, 1977 Grimsby byelection, where he defeated his Tory opponent by 520 votes, at a time when the Callaghan government was deeply unpopular. Mitchell’s brand of West Yorkshire populism clearly worked. It really did look as if Labour had turned the corner that night, and the nightmare of a Thatcher government might be averted. But later that morning came the news that Ashfield had fallen to the Tories on a swing of 20.8%. The celebrations ended abruptly. Ashfield shook Labour to the core. A mining constituency had gone Tory. The ultimate catastrophe. Actually, Ashfield had long had a semi-detached relationship with the Labour Party, going all the way back to a 1930s schism in the NUM.

    But back to Grimsby. If you think Austin Mitchell is careless with his mouth, consider the man he replaced, the late Anthony Crosland. This was the Anthony Crosland who bragged that he didn’t bother to speak to people who hadn’t attended Oxbridge, and who once disparaged people on Brighton seafront as “(expletive deleted) proles”.

  • Sorry, I spoiled my comment with a spelling mistake and of course I meant John Tilley.My eyesight is not the best with my small tablet.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Feb '15 - 11:56am

    I must agree admit, I also think it seems an odd ‘Op-Eds’ when we have so many social, political and economic injustices and the future of our party facing us.

    John Tilley is correct when he says, “A general election in 70 or so days. A Labour MP is standing down in a seat which as far as I am aware is not in the top 30 Liberal Democrat targets.”

    Also, “I could write a very long list of Conservative MPs who take their constituents for granted. They have done it for generations, indeed in some seats generations of the same family!”

    Simon is probably one of the better people to advise on the number of Tory and Labour-facing seats we have but I believe we may have more Tory-facing ones.

    And I am expecting that we would like Labour supporters to vote for us in those seats?

    And our present leader (if few others) is said to believe in a policy of opponent-defined ‘equidistance’?

    So why the disproportionate interest in the likes of soon to be ex-MP Mitchell?

    What I found more interesting is that he was actually honest enough to admit “that Labour would win the seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile””. Now I seem to recall Mitchell actually being a supporter of PR.

    This led me to Google Proportional Representation and Austin Mitchell. This took me to a January 2015 interview:

    http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/PR-way-fair-deal/story-25841352-detail/story.html

    ” … So multi-party politics have arrived.

    That means proportional representation must come to the fore because it’s the only way to carry on effective government when there are several parties.

    Our first past the post electoral system becomes unworkable when a growing number of people support minor parties.

    PR is the only way to give minority opinions a fair deal and stop unfair and unbalanced results.

    That’s why most European countries and New Zealand have adopted PR and why I’m a strong supporter.

    Parties should be represented in Parliament in the same proportion as people vote for them.

    That gives every vote an equal value and everyone a stake in the Parliament.

    By PR I don’t mean the alternative vote system.

    That daft referendum two years ago proposed listing candidates in each constituency in order of preference because Clegg didn’t have the guts to demand full proportional representation as his price for coalition. I voted against it because it’s not proportional.

    Opponents say PR would make all governments coalitions. Not true. It’s allowed long periods of one party rule in Sweden and in New Zealand’s last election the Tories won an overall majority.

    Yet it often does require coalitions to keep government going.

    What’s wrong with that if it ensures that parties are represented in government according to their strength?

    PR keeps the politicians on a tight lead and allows more choice to voters.

    In Germany and New Zealand people have two votes, one for a constituency MP and one for the party list, and many split their votes to reward good MPs of another party.

    I support PR. In New Zealand where I campaigned for it the politicians were so reluctant that they required two referendums before bringing it in but then because it worked well they rallied behind it.

    Now every piece of legislation and every policy change has the approval of several parties, not just the backing of one.

    Every shade of opinion is represented in parliament rather than wailing impotently outside.

    The parties were forced to select better candidates, and more women, to make themselves acceptable. Can’t say fairer than that.

    We should have PR here, in national and local government, and stop the jackbooted implementation of the policies of one party. Any party. …”.

    I won’t be reading the full article and will bow to those who have but think that Mitchell actually have been highlighting something very different by his use of the words “Labour would win the seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile”.”

    I wonder how many, even of our own MP’s, will have given such a fair and strong interview in support of STV?

  • Stephen Campbell 22nd Feb '15 - 1:18pm

    @David “John Tilley: it really is neither necessary nor interesting for you to dump on every thread.”

    I, for one, really enjoy reading John Tilley’s posts. He often adds a bit of humour and fun to this site. I find him friendly, compassionate and not a mindless follower of the “leadership”. He’s happy to engage with people who disagree with this party and doesn’t tell people who have been let down by this party to just go elsewhere. His posts are a breath of fresh air compared to some people on here who do nothing more than pick people up on very tiny points, act superior, and generally have a go at those who are disappointed in what the Lib Dems have become. Reading the comments on this site, most of which are emotionless and technocratic and come across as if one just stepped into some off cult, would be a lot less fun without him.

    It’s people like John Tilley, with their compassion, willingness to talk to ex-LDs and general good humour who may bring ex-supporters such as myself back to this party. Let’s hope people such as him can rescue it from the abyss after this election.

  • Stephen Campbell 22nd Feb '15 - 1:19pm

    Er, for “off cult” in my last post, read “odd cult”. Damn autocorrect!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Feb '15 - 1:32pm

    John Tilley might never agree with anything I write, but his comments are often very funny and insightful.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Feb '15 - 1:55pm

    Stephen Campbell 22nd Feb ’15 – 1:18pm

    Stephen, John Tilley and others being good authentic mainstream, preamble-believing Liberal Democrats may not be enough if the coalition of equidistant Centrists and those who sought to ‘Reclaim Liberalism’ (presumably from the Preamble-believing Liberal Democrats?) have their way.

    We need people like you to pay up (£5 minimum) and be part of the change! At least we will then have given it our best and membership-representing shot!

  • Mark Inskip 22nd Feb '15 - 2:29pm

    @Sesenco
    Grimsby has never been in any part of Yorkshire!

  • Paul In Wokingham 22nd Feb '15 - 2:47pm

    The Wiki article for Great Grimsby constituency shows 2015 candidates for UKIP, Lab, Con, Green and TUSC, but does not show a Lib Dem candidate. In 2010 we polled 22.4%. Does the wiki page need editing to show our candidate or have we really got nobody in place there?

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Feb '15 - 3:11pm

    David,
    You are expressing a personal opinion when you make the insulting comment about John Tilley’s contributions to LDV. Perhaps in future, you could start your sentences with …. ‘I do not think…..’ rather than writing as though you have the authority to speak for for others who may, of may not share your view.

    Thank you in anticipation that in future, you acknowledge that you are speaking for yourself and no-one else unless given permission to do so.

    @John Tilley,
    You must have been one heck of a recruiter for Liberal Democracy when you were active in politics.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Feb '15 - 3:15pm

    @ David,
    You are expressing a personal opinion when you make the insulting comment about John Tilley’s contributions to LDV. Perhaps in future, you could start your sentences with …. ‘I do not think…..’ rather than writing as though you have the authority to speak for for others who may, of may not share your view.

    Thank you in anticipation, that in future you acknowledge that you are speaking for yourself and no-one else unless given permission to do so.

    @John Tilley,
    You must have been one heck of a recruiter for Liberal Democracy when you were active in politics.

  • Paul In Wokingham 22nd Feb '15 - 3:32pm

    After a little bit of google work I found the Lib Dem candidate for Great Grimsby: http://stevebeasant.4mp.org.uk/

    I have gone ahead and added his name on the wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Grimsby_%28UK_Parliament_constituency%29#Elections_in_the_2010s

  • Mark Inskip wrote:

    “Grimsby has never been in any part of Yorkshire!”

    Perhaps you will point me to where I said it has?

    What I did say is that Austin Mitchell’s brand of West Yorkshire populism clearly worked. Austin Mitchell was born and educated in Bradford, which is in Yorkshire, I believe. But he won in Lincolnshire.

    If you cast your mind back, you may recall that one of the issues in the byelection was the fact that a Yorkshireman was standing for Labour in a town which, according to the media, harboured a longstanding hostility towards Yorkshiremen. The media got it wrong. Austin Mitchell won, despite being a Yorkshireman. Hence my comment.

  • Grimsby would have been a prime candidate for exercising the right to recall their MP if the legislation was there to do so.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Feb '15 - 5:39pm

    John Tilley, I hope you are as well as can be.

    Austin Mitchell seems to be saying if he said it then he would have meant it as a joke, but he does seem to have his foot in his mouth recently.

    I’m a defender of FPTP. Just because people keep voting the same way in a certain area doesn’t mean it is not democratic. I’m open minded to reform (largely a topic for another thread), but I fail to see the horror that others see it and don’t think getting rid of FPTP should be a priority. Replacing the Lords with a Senate should be the priority.

  • My home town… and they’ve always had rubbish MPs! It’s a shame that were doing so badly in the polls because Steve would be an excellent MP and if we weren’t in Government we’d be having a real crack at it.

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