Craig Murray rejected by SNP as parliamentary candidate for saying he would defy whip to vote against Bedroom Tax

Craig Murray has always been a free spirit. As an ambassador, he favoured human rights over the war on terror. He was always happy to criticise the Liberal Democrats when he was a member, as are many of us. He left us in 2011 and joined the SNP to campaign for Scottish independence and was a shoo-in for the seat of Falkirk which the SNP hope to win. Unfortunately, he came up against the SNP’s approval process and lost.

Here’s what he had to say on his own blog:

Upset and depressed after being barred from the SNP candidates’ register by the hierarchy for “lack of commitment to group discipline”.

I was asked at assessment whether, as part of a Westminster deal with another party, I would agree to vote for the bedroom tax if instructed by the Party. I replied “No.” End of SNP political career. Problem is, I really believed we were building a different kind of politics in Scotland. I also knew that a simple lie would get me in, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter it.

I had very, very strong support from ordinary members to be the candidate in Falkirk or in Airdrie, and had 17 requests to stand from other constituencies, several from branch meetings. I wonder what the SNP new membership will think of this?

His description of the appeals panel he faced was interesting:

I should note that I was astonished by the hostility of the appeals board, chaired by Ian Hudghton MEP and flanked by two MSPs. They could not have been more personally unfriendly towards me if I were Jim Murphy: their demeanour was bullying. They were less pleasant to me than was Jack Straw or anybody in the Foreign Office when they were sacking me for blowing the whistle on extraordinary rendition and torture. It was a really weird exercise in which these highly taxpayer paid professional politicians attempted to twist every word I said to find an excuse to disqualify me. I found it a truly unpleasant experience.

I have wondered for some time how the SNP would cope with this massive influx of members. It’s a great problem to have, but for a party which has been rigidly disciplined and run by a very small cabal, the potential loss of control must be terrifying. When Nicola Sturgeon accepted the leadership, she name-checked the powerful elite who make the decisions – John Swinney, former leader and now her Deputy First Minister, Stewart Hosie her Deputy Leader and his wife Shona Robison, her new health secretary and best pal. There is a strict hierarchy in the SNP. Councillors are expected to do as they are told by their MSPs and not to ask any questions. There have been  hardly any backbench rebellions and no resignations on principle. A couple of MSPs left the party over its change of policy to join NATO and one of them has since joined the Greens, but that’s it.

On one hand, you had the party suggest that anyone in the wider Yes movement could stand under an SNP banner. On the other, when a credible candidate puts themselves forward, they are rejected for not being on-message enough. I can’t think many of the wider Yes movement would pass  the “would you support the Bedroom Tax?” question.

None of this actually suggests that the SNP is planning to ditch its opposition to the Bedroom Tax, which, along with the NHS was mentioned approximately once every 10 seconds in any speech made during the referendum campaign as an example of an evil Westminster misdemeanour. It does however, suggest that it’s preparing for the realities of coalition in a way it hasn’t had to before. They can now expect to have Craig Murray’s blog post quoted back at them any time they mention anything we might have voted for in government, though.

It’s also worth pointing out that those Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against the Bedroom Tax have not suffered any disciplinary consequences. Nor should they. Had I been an MP, I would have  been with them.

It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in the Liberal Democrat approval system. We always used to ask people on the application form what party policy they disagreed with – because we all have at least one. I would have treated anyone who answered that question with “None” with extreme suspicion. I don’t think we actually ever had any, to be honest.

I have to be honest. Had Craig Murray been a Liberal Democrat, I’d have had severe concerns about him as a candidate for us, particularly given his strong support for Julian Assange who, I believe, should be facing the Swedish judicial system. It may be that the SNP had similar worries. If that’s the case, they should have been upfront with him. This story will run for some time, I think.

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

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37 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 27th Dec '14 - 8:10pm

    “We always used to ask people on the application form what party policy they disagreed with – because we all have at least one. I would have treated anyone who answered that question with “None” with extreme suspicion. I don’t think we actually ever had any, to be honest.”

    Perhaps we should get one or two before the General Election? 😉

  • Tsar Nicolas 27th Dec '14 - 8:41pm

    I doubt if Assange is guilty of anything beyond embarrassing Washington and London, but even if I am wrong, given that the maximum sentence for rape in Sweden is six years (I am open to correction on this), he has spent about half that time under house arrest or cooped up in the Ecuadorian embassy.

    So he is being punished anyway – surely you would approve of this Caron?

  • Craig Murray was a pretty brief member as he stood as an independent in the Norwich North by-election then subsequently joined us. He paid for a DVD to go out as his Freepost. I remember some of us on the Lib Dem campaign team giving up on the DVD after 5 minutes as watching him being stopped fm filming at Norwich station wasn’t a compelling viewing.

  • This will lose the SNP votes. All SNP members of my acquaintance are very proud of the fact that the SNP was opposing the bedroom tax in 2011 when Labour abstained and the Liberal Democrats voted for it.

  • The SNP have secured a deal on welfare to abolish the bedroom tax in Scotland…. The Lib Dems set the bloody thing up! It wouldn’t exist without Lib Dem support including the vehement championing of it from the Lib Dem leader. The Lib Dems need to come clean about the mistakes they’ve made in government and stop trying to deflect attention away like they are here.

  • Toby Fenwick 28th Dec '14 - 2:46am

    I’ve had great regard for Ambassador Murray’s position on torture in Uzbekistan, and thought his subsequent treatment by the FCO was a pretty long way from the finest traditions of the Diplomatic Service. I also think that Craig has entirely the wrong end of the stick in terms of the independence question, and his suggestion that No voters were either evil or stupid was ridiculous.

    However, I agree with Caron that this rather puts the lie to the SNP’s assertion that there would be a Yes alliance for Westminster in GE15, and I’m delighted that they’ve shown such poor political judgement in response to an admitted maverick with a significant profile in the pro-indy universe. If it begins to show the new SNPers that their new party is in fact as command-and-control as many of us have long believed, rather than some sort of spontaneous people’s army, so much the better.

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Dec '14 - 2:53am

    I think the anti-Craig Murray jibes by Simon and Gayle Smith are petty and demeaning.

    Craig spoke up for what he believed was right and lost his job.

    Most Lib Dem MPs and peers, for the sake of their careers, went along with the crowd during this Parliament and conspicuously failed to stand up for what is right.

    I know whom I respect more.

  • Jane Ann Liston 28th Dec '14 - 11:38am

    Hmm. I wonder whether the question Mr Murray was asked about the Bedroom Tax was rhetorical? If not, it is extremely interesting that the SNP are even contemplating a scenario where they would support it as part of a coalition agreement.

  • The issue is the bedroom tax and what SNP would do at Westminster.
    Mr Murray is an interesting person with a mix of views, but the policy issue he highlighted is the one that matters most.

  • There is no such thing as the ‘bedroom tax’. If Labour say there is, then their stated intention to remove Housing Benefit from all under 22 year olds is a Youth Tax.

  • As far as I can tell, it is Mr Murray’s assumption or deduction that his non-selection had anything to do with the bedroom tax question; he does not appear to have received any direct communication to that effect.

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Dec '14 - 3:36pm

    David-1 28th Dec ’14 – 1:42pm

    “As far as I can tell, it is Mr Murray’s assumption or deduction that his non-selection had anything to do with the bedroom tax question; he does not appear to have received any direct communication to that effect.”

    It’s a pretty logical conclusion given what he was asked – and Lib Dems can’t criticise him for making an assumption given the rumours posted as facts by the first few posters on this thread.

  • Martin Land 28th Dec '14 - 4:11pm

    The mistake Craig made was in assuming that the SNP was anything more than a Nationalist Party. That’s what it says on the tin, Craig and that’s what’s inside. Nationalist parties are based upon mythology and the belief that you are either for them or against them. By refusing to fully tow the party line, your agin ’em I’m afraid. There is no room for Liberal’s in a nationalist party as liberals, by nature, are internationalists.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 28th Dec '14 - 4:32pm

    Whatever the bedroom tax is called, it is wrong. Simple. Our MPs were whipped to support something which is wrong. We all get it but some think you can play with principles. I don’t – and support Craig’s reply – whatever party he is in.

  • I don’t know if it’s logical or not. Quite possibly it is, but I could only draw that conclusion with confidence if I knew all of the other questions that had been put to Mr Murray, and the responses he had made; it’s quite possible that there were other things he said that may have been interpreted (or misinterpreted) negatively by the assessment panel.

    I am not saying this in order to question Mr Murray’s veracity in any way. I am just keeping in mind that real life is complex, and conclusions often “seem logical” without actually being true.

  • The assertion in your headline doesn’t seem to be backed up by any of the facts in the actual article. In fact, you contradict it by suggesting another reason CM may have been rejected (as he himself does on his blog). It’s pretty obvious that the SNP couldn’t accept a candidate who had called half the electorate evil morons, however obedient or otherwise he was to the leadership.

  • Martin Land 28th Dec ’14 – 4:11pm
    “..The mistake Craig made was in assuming that the SNP was anything more than a Nationalist Party. That’s what it says on the tin…”

    Martin Land, we might all be accused of making a similar mistake by being members of a party with those old fashioned words LIBERAL and DEMOCRAT on our tin.

    It does not say ‘Centre Party’ on our tin.
    It does not say ” property of Marshall-Laws ” on our tin.
    Before accusing Craig Murray of making a mistake maybe we need to sort out our own party first.

    Then maybe Craig Murray will come back and join us. I would certainly welcome him back.

  • Little I said about how the bedroom tax affected people like me, I was out of work, a psychiatric outpatient, living in crappy overpriced shared accommodation that housing benefit didn’t cover because I was under 35 (another shit thing Lib Dems voted for) and I found it almost impossible to get a one bed council flat because of all the pressure on them caused by council tenants downsizing to avoid the bedroom tax. They’d get 200 extra points compared to the 220 or so I had because of my waiting points, medical points and points because I was living in shared accommodation. Many of these people were getting flats after about a 3 month wait compared to my 10…

    In the end I was threatened with illegal eviction by my landlord and took a council property that three people had turned down and was in a terrible state. Cat shit scraped off the floor, complete replatering required, no carpets , curtains, bathroom needs about 800 quid spent on it.

    Don’t get men wrong I didn’t expect to get anything but what a nightmare because of that bloody bedroom tax that the party that I supported and campaign for for years voted for!

  • David Allen 28th Dec '14 - 6:56pm

    Terrible party, the SNP, obviously. Can’t tolerate rebellion.

    Whereas the Lib Dems have tolerated any number of token rebellions, whereby a few MPs are allowed to make a great play of defying the party whip. Provided, that is, that it isn’t actually enough MPs to cause the Coalition to lose the vote, on an issue it was important to win.

    So we had rebels against tuition fees, against the Lansley NHS bill, against the bedroom tax. But all those bills were nevertheless passed, thanks to the majority of Lib Dem votes. That’s what mattered.

    So it’s blatant authoritarianism from the SNP, covert authoritarianism from the Lib Dems. Given the choice, I think the SNP approach is less bad. At least it’s relatively honest.

  • Chris Manners 28th Dec '14 - 7:48pm

    I don’t like the SNP at all, but they probably rightly didn’t fancy one of their representatives revealing the names of women who say they were raped.

    Crossed swords with Murray on his blog too, where he went on about Labour’s secret Asian vote rigging plans without producing any evidence.

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Dec '14 - 8:43pm

    Reading the number of petty put-downs about Craig Murray posted by people on this thread, I am surprised that this party was ever able to call itself Liberal – you can cut the intolerance and disapproval with a knife.

    I guess if you want to be a Liberal Democrat these days you have to conform.

  • Apologies for my rant, also it should say 10 years on that list.

    Sad thing is, the reality is that the Lob Dem leadership is completely out of touch and no amount of shallow attempts to persuade people that they disagreed with so much of what they implemented is going to change any of that. The Lib Dems are finished, they deserve to lose over half their seats and be broken up and that is the east thing that could happen to them at the moment. Roll on the election in May.

    Our best chance of a progressive government is either an SNP/Labour coalition or a Labour minority govt propped up by the SNP. And I can’t believe that is the only real choice but that just shows what damage the Liberal Democrats in government have done.

  • Pete 28th Dec ’14 – 9:39pm
    ” The Lib Dems are finished, they deserve to lose over half their seats ……”

    A lot of people will agree with you, Pete.

    In fact it is obvious from virtually every electoral challenge since the Orange Book was published that the decline of the Liberal Democrats as an independent party has been inextricably linked to the right wing men in their forties who currently dominate the leadership of the party.

    People may have different views about the best chance of a progressive government. Apparently according to yesterday’s poll 19% of first time voters will vote Green.

    A minority Labour Government seems more than likely in 2015 despite the constant vilification of Milband put out by the media moguls who force-feed the voters with right wing nonsense. A quick look at who was elected to local councils in May 2014 shows the ability of Labour to actually get people elected despite the media.

    As for the SNP, it is a mixed bunch. Salmond struck me as being the leader of Scotland’s SDP, whereas the new SNP leader looks much more promising. What is clear is that the Liberal Democrat MPs in Scotland will be drastically culled.
    I hope those MPs that are about to lose are happy that they will have been sacrificed on the atar of the Orange Book.

  • Craig Murray: “The railways” are not privatised. Network Rail, the owner of the tracks and signalling is a public body set up by the previous Labour Government , without any private shareholders, whose borrowing is guaranteed by the Government, that is the taxpayers. They are the body which is responsible for the recent mess and most of the problems throughout the year. I guess we will not be hearing any apologies for this muddle from those who continually ask for the “renationalisation” of the railways but often rarely use them.

  • nvelope2003 29th Dec ’14 – 10:54am

    You may be mistaken about the status of Network Rail. According to Rail News of December 2013 the status was set to be changed in 2014 as a result of action by the coalition government. Or are they confused? —

    “…NETWORK RAIL will become a public sector body during the coming year, following a reclassification of the company’s status by the Office for National Statistics. The present company was set up in late 2001 to take over from Railtrack, but although NR had no shareholders it was said to be in the private sector.”

    http://www.railnews.co.uk/news/2013/12/17-network-rail-is-nationalised-by.html

    “…A Network Rail spokesman said it would be ‘business as usual’. A statement from the company explained: ‘This reclassification is a statistical decision that does not alter the company’s structure as a not-for-dividend company, limited by guarantee, with Members rather than shareholders. The business acts and operates today as it did yesterday, and its job of delivering a safe, reliable and improving railway for four million daily users continues.”

  • nvelope2003 29th Dec '14 - 3:35pm

    John Tilley : That is simply window dressing. Network Rail was set up by the Labour Government in 2002 as a “company limited by guarantee” because if they had nationalised Railtrack as they had wished they would have been obliged by EU Regulations to pay compensation to the shareholders based on the average value of the shares over the previous 4 years which would have been about £10 instead of the £2.60 that they offered. Railtrack was forced into bankruptcy by deliberately withdrawing the subsidies they were contractually entitled to. The very organisation that is supposed to uphold the law contrived to break it to avoid paying compensation to shareholders, many of whom were ordinary railway employees, not old grannies losing their blouses as Shriti Vadera sneeringly referred to them.

    On 1st September 2014 Network Rail officially became what it had always been but without any mention except in the railway press, a public sector body owned by HM Government. Does anyone recall Parliament having a vote or debate on this ? Maybe they have reaped as they have sown. At least one Labour MP did apologise for the mess created as she said by this public sector body.

  • Tony Greaves 29th Dec '14 - 4:00pm

    Interesting that a really interesting revelation by Caron gets diverted into a discussion on the status of Network Rail…

    Anyway, for the record… I am a Liberal Democrat Peer. I did what I could to oppose the bedroom tax (which by any other name stinks as bad). I will go on doing so regardless of what the Whips say. I am quite a fan of Craig Murray and believe he would be a better MP than most, whatever his label. I am amused that anyone is shocked by the authoritarianism of the SNP (look at their legislative record in Scotland). The poll of young voters ought to be a wake-up call to the LD leadership but they will ignore it and plough on towards the electoral pit (but why should we be surprised – if you repeatedly kick your core vote hard, it will turn into your core opposition).

    Now I will go and lie down again.

    Tony

  • David Allen 29th Dec '14 - 5:02pm

    Craig Murray deserves to be an independent MP. He is terrible as a team player, which is no doubt why Caron Lindsay (after slagging off the SNP) admits that she would similarly have “severe concerns about him as a candidate for us”. But he speaks out powerfully against injustice when others fall silent. What he gets right is far more important than what he gets wrong. Except of course to a political party, which perforce must worry more about headlines, gaffes and banana skins than it bothers its collective head about “trivialities” like torture and the security state.

    If politics actually worked, then the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens would all agree to give Craig Murray a clear run as an Independent. Not going to happen, though, is it?

  • Steve Comer 29th Dec '14 - 6:37pm

    Martin Land 28th Dec ’14 – 4:11pm
    “There is no room for Liberal’s in a nationalist party as liberals, by nature, are internationalists.”
    So are you saying that members of our sister part in Catalonia are not Liberals? And what of those in the Liberal Parties in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? Were their members not ‘nationalist’ in terms of not wanting to be part of Russia after 1991, as well as Liberal in their politics since? I’m sure similar logic could be applied to Liberals in ALDE member parties in Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Kosova.

    I am a Liberal and an internationalist, yet so many contributors to LDV seem to have a blinkered ‘Britocentric’ view of the political world, and a love of the Imperial Parliament of the illiberal United Kingdom!

  • I don’t agree that nationalism and internationalism are opposites: one can easily argue for national sovereignty within the context of an international community. There are also many examples of liberal nationalism in history. The problem is that nationalism easily becomes a matter of pure emotion, which then is often appropriated by the extreme right.

  • nvelope2003 29th Dec '14 - 9:26pm

    Tony Greaves: Some people might think that a discussion about Network Rail at this time might be rather more interesting than one about a former Liberal turned Scottish Nationalist, however exalted his status.
    The Liberals/Lib Dems have been angling for a coalition for 80 years and it has apparently turned out to be an electoral disaster, though we shall have to wait for the results of the election to see if that is true, but coalitions involve compromises. You cannot have everything you want and must give ground to your partners on some issues but so many here do not seem to understand that. Better forget PR and return to the back benches for the next 80 years ?

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Dec '14 - 9:55pm

    @ Pete.
    I agree. I don’t think the leadership of the Lib Dems put up much of a fight either.

    The criticism of tory economic plans by David Laws to differentiate the Lib Dems from the tories just shows what a brass neck he has got. Does he think we have short memories?

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