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It seems Gordon Brown is to retire from his career as a member of Parliament at the 2015 general election.
This presents a challenging dilemma for the current Labour leadership, which has announced that it wants to take over the selection process for replacement Parliamentary candidates if MPs stand down late.
You see, Mr Brown is MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath – in Scotland.
Labour is extremely unpopular in Scotland at the moment, where the SNP has whipped up a belief (rightly or wrongly) that the party betrayed the people by siding with the Conservatives – even though, as a supporter of the union, Labour could not do anything else. Mr Brown, who raised concerns over the future of state pensions in an independent Scotland, has been singled out for special criticism.
In these circumstances, will Labour’s London-based leadership really be so insensitive as to ‘parachute’ an ally of the leader’s office into the constituency? This would be someone who is unlikely to bear any resemblance to a traditional Labour candidate, and is more likely to be a privately-educated Oxbridge graduate who has spent their entire career at a thinktank or working as a SPAD (special adviser) for a sitting MP.
Such an appointment would be entirely inappropriate and would signal that Labour is not interested in retaining the seat; the mood in Scotland means voters would take it as an incentive to support another party, most probably the SNP.
It is possible that Labour would leave the selection open to the constituency party, as its declared intent was to take over selections from the middle of next month; again, the course of action that is chosen will determine the response from the local electorate.
Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath would be far better-off with a Labour candidate chosen from local residents, with a deep knowledge and understanding of the area and what it needs, having lived and worked there for his or her entire life.
This strategy succeeded with Liz Mckinnes, the newly-elected MP for Heywood and Middleton and should offer the best chance of success elsewhere.
Postscript: Readers are reminded that Gordon Brown is the other recent prime minister who has had a disabled child.
We all know how David Cameron rose to the challenge of his late son Ivan’s cerebral palsy and epilepsy – he used it in a series of photo opportunities and then, after Ivan’s death at a tragically young age, went on to use his memory as a shield whenever his ill-treatment of the National Health Service or disability benefits were raised in Parliamentary debate.
In contrast, Mr Brown chose to suffer in comparative silence. His daughter, Jennifer Jane, died after suffering a brain haemorrhage, on January 7, 2002, just 10 days after her birth. His son James Fraser (born in 2006) was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, but Mr Brown would have kept this information private if The Sun had not published an intrusive report. Years later, he said the publication had left him “in tears“.
Whose behaviour would you describe as more dignified; more prime ministerial; more statesmanlike?
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