Mike Hancock temporarily withdraws from Liberal Democrat whip

From ITV:

In a statement released through the party Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has said he is withdrawing from the party whip:

Following our meeting today I have decided to offer to temporarily withdraw from the parliamentary party in the Commons until the civil court case against me has been concluded.

I can assure you that I will continue to vigorously defend my position and that I completely refute the allegations made against me.

I’m doing this in the best interests of the party nationally and in Portsmouth and for my family.

I will continue to work hard for my constituents in Portsmouth as I have always done.

In response, Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said:

If, at the end of your case, your name is cleared then I would fully expect to have you back in the parliamentary party to play again your role in the Commons.

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

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19 Comments

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jun '13 - 11:14pm

    I am a bit confused by the decisions of Mike Hancock and Patrick Mercer to withdraw from their party’s whip when there is a whiff of scandal.
    What is the point?
    They’re still MPs, with the same political views, and presumably doing the same job day to day and receiving the same pay.

  • I wonder who he’ll be calling as a witness? Oaten, Laws, Huhne, Reynard?

    By – election anyone?

  • If you are going to troll then get the names right. Plus was Mark Oaten ever convicted of a criminal or civil offence?

  • These allegations were dismissed by the Police. That should be the end of the story. Except the County Court, the Standards Committee, etc, provide the obsessed with second and third bites of the cherry. Mike Hancock has a history of attracting strange characters who will stop at nothing to destroy him. Perhaps that’s a combination of his effectiveness as a local politician and his flamboyant personality. Some support from the leadership of the kind that was heaped on David Laws (who, unlike Mike, was suspended from Parliament) wouldn’t go amiss. How many of our MPs are safe from really determined vexatious litigants and others with real or imagined grievances and too much spare time?

  • I heard that Mike Hancock had stated he was being treated differently from Chris Huhne who continued as a member of the Parliamentary Party. Did the Parliamentary Party decide to change the rules (without Mike knowing) or has the leader issued a diktat that any member of the Parliamentary Party being taken to court accused of something shall be suspended from the Parliamentary Party?

  • I think this is the most sensible conclusion to take here. No point in standing down if the party deems you unfit to hold the whip – you may still vote with them anyway.

    More importantly, party deselection should never mean an MP should automatically then stand down. Setting up an MP’s office, hiring and training staff, handling and continuing delicate casework – this all requires time and planning and shouldn’t in itself be vulnerable to party politics.

  • Alex Harvey 4th Jun '13 - 10:25am

    Government majority down by another MP, then…

  • This is not a Police prosecution, that was rejected, it is a civil case yet to be determined. Mike Hancock was leading Hampshire county Council with distinction when N Clegg was bag carrier for Leon Brittan in Brussels.

  • Do we know if there has been any conclusion to the investigation on Portsmouth Council ?http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-21948016 – presumably he has not resigned the whip there?

  • I’m not really comfortable with the current trend towards those claiming innocence giving up the whip. I have a feeling (though no evidence) that this is them being coerced rather than doing so entirely voluntarily. People who voted for a Lib Dem MP now have an independent who claims innocence, other than that what has it achieved. Any Party disciplinary process should have been put on hold pending the outcome of the legal process. MP’s should give up the whip only where they feel they are guilty.

    Innocent until proven guilty anyone ??

  • BBC’s South Today had an interview with the woman who has made accusations against Mike Hancock on today’s programme. I assume that the programme will be available on IPlayer tomorrow. I hadn’t realised that the Police and the PPS decided not to pursue the issue in 2010. I was given the impression from the interview it appeared to be about Mike taking advantage of his position but The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/portsmouth-south-mp-mike-hancock-quits-liberal-democrat-whip-to-fight-sexual-allegations-8643066.html) states it is about “inappropriate behaviour”.

  • @Peter
    Not a mistake I understand the system. However, our electoral system is very rarely about an individual. People vote for their preferred party far more often. For example, would you be happy for all Lib Dems to go into the next series of elections without any mention of party? If we are ever to move to a proportional system then we need to accept that Party Affiliation is as important as the individual….

    It’s about time we had rules requiring those who cease to be a member of the party whose banner they were elected under to face the electorate at the earliest opportunity. In this case though my point is if he was pressured to resign the whip it says little about the Party’s views on innocence.. Why should someone who claims complete innocence, and who has yet to be found other than innocent, be expected to resign the whip…

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jun '13 - 8:52am

    @Steve: If we decide that votes are just for parties, then it doesn’t make sense to have by-elections at all: instead an MP who for whatever reason can no longer represent their constituency should be automatically replaced by a nominee of their original party.
    In any case your idea would give too much power to party machines: it would be easy to get an MP removed from parliament just by invoking the party disciplinary process.

  • @Alex
    I never said the that votes were just for parties. However, where an MP changes party or ceases to be a member of that party, they have changed the very basis on which they were elected. 5 years is a long time to wait to replace an MP who gained your vote on a falsehood. In this case it would have made the Party act in a reasoned way and allow the whip to be retained until the hearings reach a conclusion.

    There is nothing to stop people standing as individuals..

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jun '13 - 9:38pm

    @Steve: Party machines can act as they wish. We cannot legislate to ensure that whips’ offices act reasonably, especially when parties and whips do not even have a formal role in the UK political system (except for the label on the ballot paper). We must therefore fear the worst of party machines. Requiring an MP who loses or resigns the party whip to fight a by-election would give whips a powerful weapon against any potential rebel: stay in line and vote how we tell you or we shall withdraw the whip, you’ll have to fight a by-election and you shall almost certainly lose your seat.

  • @Alex
    Not necessarily, do you really think the Lib Dems would wish a by election at this point ? Even in a safe seat…
    Even if your point is valid for the whip being withdrawn, where an MP crosses the floor there is a clear change in how they can be expected to vote on major manifesto issues from that given at an election under different colours.

    All I want is MP’s to keep their word and act as they promise in elections. I know that is less popular on this site post tuition fees where so many Lib Dem MP’s showed an inability to keep to their word but the public deserve honest representation. If an MP wishes to change party they should have the courage to face the electors. Likewise if a party wishes to eject someone think twice and do it only where it can be proven there has been a wrongdoing.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Jun '13 - 11:00pm

    @Steve: If any parliamentary candidate is foolish enough to sign a “pledge” to vote in a particular way if elected, or if a party is foolish enough to direct its candidates to do so, then they deserve all the opprobrium that they will get for perpetuating such a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of MPs and of parliament. This party’s mistake was in making the “pledge” (on student tuition fees) in the first place, not in breaking it once it was made: to make such as pledge was to do the role of MPs, and parliament itself, a disservice. It supposes that MPs are delegates, and parliament is an electoral college, whose members are elected on the basis that they will vote in a certain way. This is wrong; a parliament is not an electoral college; as the first syllable of the word suggests, it is a “speaking” chamber, where members debate issues and then vote according to their own views, perhaps as shaped by the discussion. It could be argued that in practice they act and vote as party representatives, but that is simply a function of the excessive party discipline of modern parliament; it would be more desirable if MPs were encouraged to act according to their consciences, and not to promote the idea that they are there to fulfill any sort of “pledge”, be that to vote with a party or anything else.
    Regardless of the label under which MPs are elected, their mandate is as individuals; requiring them to seek re-election if they change label would institutionalise the idea that they are merely party representatives, and expected always to vote according to the party line, and not to have any views as individuals. I cannot accept that situation. There would be no point in having parliament at all if MPs were required to be party placemen.

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