Category Archives: kevin barron

Kevin Barron on Electoral Reform

The turnout in the Rother Valley constituency was the highest of all the Rotherham seats (over 64%). Although I received just over 40% of the votes cast, I only received 2,700 less votes than in the previous general election. I am in favour of the alternative vote system, in which voters rank their candidates in order of preference, ensuring that a winning candidate has to get more than 50% of the votes cast in a single constituency

As I said in my victory speech at last week’s count, a measure of any government is how that government affects the lives of people in constituencies such as ours. The new coalition government should and will be judged on that basis. From Kevin Barron’s website.

In a move that is to be applauded, Kevin Barron has begun to use his website to express his views on political issues. This is excellent news – we now know that he supports some level of voting reform, although sadly the referendum bit of this bit of the 1997 Labour Party manifesto was never delivered:

We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.

The report was completed though (The Jenkins Report) and can be downloaded here. The report has this to say about the alternative vote system:

“it is also the only option the Commons would probably back, since MPs are hardly likely to vote themselves out of their own seats, …

However AV does little to counteract geographical distribution of electoral support and will not assist parties such as the Liberal Democrats whose support is not concentrated in particular locations”

Which is not the most ringing endorsement. To me this reads: ‘it won’t really change the outcome of any seats, and it won’t address the major problem with the current system which is that parties with an even spread of votes geographically are under-represented nationally.’

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Latest news from Kevin Barron

I looked at Kevin Barron’s website today. I thought there might be some update from him, what with it being a potentially epoch defining moment in the political life of the UK.

As of May 14th 2009, his homepage mentions the election on May 6th as being in the future, and his latest news is to wish us a happy Easter (Easter 2010 was on April 4th).

Kevin's up-to-date homepage

UNITE on a Lab-Lib Coalition

On the 5th may 2008, Unite gave the largest single cash donation received by the Rother Valley Constituency Labour Party as recorded by the Electoral Commission.

Today the leaders of Unite releasd this statement – as reported by the Guardian:

As you know Labour are now in formal talks with the Liberal Democrats to see if we can agree a stable government to secure the economic recovery and change our politics. Together we can form a progressive coalition, a coalition that would reflect that over 60% of the population rejected the Tories last week.

The argument that ‘60% of people didn’t vote for the Conservatives and therefore a government made up of the second and third place parties who together received 52% of the vote is legitimate’ is an interesting one.

I guess it’s the same as saying ‘it doesn’t matter who won, a coalition of the losers is more legitimate as long as if together they got more than 50% of the vote’

I wonder if they’re hoping we don’t notice that over 70% of the electorate didn’t vote for the Labour party?

I wonder too if either Unite, or Kevin Barron would therefore recognise the legitimacy of a coalition of those candidates for the constituency who together received more than his 41%? After all, almost 60% of the population of the Rother Valley constituency rejected Kevin Barron last week.

I’m guessing not.

Does anyone know if Kevin Barron has ever made a public statement on his views on proportional representation, by the way?

Regular readers of the comments will know that Kevin Barron, the returning MP for the Rother Valley, took great exception to my post in which I explained why I would not be voting for a man who has often ignored my emails and letters to be my representative in parliament.

For those of you who missed Kevin Barron’s reply to my request to discuss the policies he believes in, here it is:

I have indeed had chance to read your earlier e-mails and have also recently seen what you have put about me on your blog. This is just a note to say in my 27 years of being an MP nobody has ever made personal remarks about me in the way that you have. You are wrong in most comments about my political career, have you ever considered that the reason I have not been a Minister is because I do have a mind of my own and do not always agree with my party. My stance on smoking in public places in 2006 made this clear.

Having reflected on the last two telephone conversations I have had with you I feel there is nothing to be gained by carrying on this dialogue. Of course if I am re-elected on Thursday feel free to contact me on any matters that you require personal assistance with.

Could I also say that the website that you say does not have many political comments on was originally funded through the Communications Allowance and therefore putting party political comments on would have been against the rules. I don’t know if you have noticed but a message went on the website earlier this year saying that I am personally funding it and therefore there will be no recall to public money. Consequently the content may possibly change in the coming weeks and months if I am re-elected.

I should also say to you that the content of blogs are not immune from the law. I would not hesitate to take appropriate action if the law is breached.

Regards

Kevin Barron

It’s a nice end to the letter, don’t you think – a veiled threat of legal action to one of your constituents for having the temerity to form their own opinion of the effectiveness of their MP based on his voting record, promotions and history of failing to reply to my emails asking questions about his views.

I was particularly interested in the line:

have you ever considered that the reason I have not been a Minister is because I do have a mind of my own and do not always agree with my party

I have to admit that the idea that Kevin Barron does not agree with his party almost all of the time, and on all major issues, had indeed never crossed my mind.

This is partly due to his voting record. In the last parliament (2005-2010) Kevin Barron rebelled against his party in 1.2% of votes in the Commons. I blogged about his voting obedience in March last year. His rate of rebellion makes him less rebellious than the likes of Stephen Byers, former Transport Minister (rebelled in 1.4% of votes), Derek Twigg (only elected in 1997, and has already been an Under Secretary of State, who rebelled in 1.7% of votes) Higher still up the list of Labour MPs who have voted against their party we get former Home Secretary, Health Secretary and Defence Secretary John Reid (2.2%) Former Health Secretary and Labour candidate for London Mayor Frank Dobson (4%) and a certain Tony Blair, who rebelled in 2.1% of votes. Kate Hoey (former Minister for Sport) rebelled in over 25% of votes.

The other reason – aside from lack of evidence from his voting record – that it had never occurred to me that Kevin Barron does not essentially agree with his party is that he has never said anything to us, his constituents about it. Kevin Barron stands as a Labour MP, and recently as a Labour candidate for the Rother Valley. I would have thought that if he did not fundamentally agree with the policies of the party he was representing, he ought at the very least to have made that clear to those whom he sought to represent.

But here we have a strong suggestion from Kevin Barron that he doesn’t always agree with his party. That he doesn’t always agree is not in question – he voted against his party 1.2% of the time, and it would be unrealistic to expect a member of an organisation to agree with everything that organisation did. Kevin though suggests or implies that he disagrees with his party to the extent that it has hindered his career. Given that some of those who rebelled have risen to much more senior positions in the party than Kevin Barron, I can see little evidence that him disagreeing with the party – if indeed he does – has held him back. In the 2001-2005 parliament, the leader of his party and Prime Minister, Tony Blair, rebelled more than Kevin Barron (Blair 2.1%, Barron 1.2%) and it didn’t seem to hold him back. Gordon Brown didn’t rebel at all in that parliament, by the way, and it didn’t seem to hold him back either.

Clearly though, there is must disagreement going on behind that scenes that is holding Kevin Barron back from a cabinet post, otherwise his statement is entirely misleading. It can’t be to do with policy, unless Kevin has been hypocritically voting for things he disagrees with. Perhaps then it is something to do with Labour party politics, rather then national politics? I can’t imagine what the disagreement would be there though – Kevin certainly hasn’t become an MP known to be critical of their party like, say, Claire Short, and as a leading figure in the campaign to rewrite Clause IV, he couldn’t wish for better ‘New Labour’ credentials.

So it’s a mystery. Kevin Barron suggests that he disagrees with his party significantly enough for it to hold back his career, but neither his voting record, nor his election literature suggest he is anything other than a loyal party member. I’m genuinely stumped by this.

Kevin Barron does provide one example of where he has been critical of the Labour party:

have you ever considered that the reason I have not been a Minister is because I do have a mind of my own and do not always agree with my party. My stance on smoking in public places in 2006 made this clear.

Which I assume refers to this article from the Guardian in December 2005 in which Kevin Barron was critical of the party for having a pledge in their May 2005 manifesto that wasn’t consistent with what had been agreed at conference. Whilst it is critical of party procedures, it isn’t the most incendiary piece I’ve ever read, and nor does it concern an issue over which I remember the government being particularly sensitive. Nor does it explain why someone with ‘Old Labour’ roots (former pit worker, NUM member etc) an, apparent new Labour mindset (involved in re-writing of Clause IV) and with plenty of parliamentary experience didn’t get a ministerial position in the eight years of Labour government prior to this article appearing. What is clear is that, if Kevin is correct that disagreement with his party is holding back his career, then it is a disagreement that is well hidden.

Kevin Barron’s statement on winning the Rother Valley seat

“I am very pleased to have been in office for so long and for my votes to have just gone down by 2,000,”

“It was a good turnout which is great for democracy.”

“I need to see what the shape of Government is going to be tomorrow (Friday) before I can say anything about policies, but I want to look after my constituency and the people who live in it- and that’s what I will be doing whatever the result.”

Source: Dinnington Today

A letter to Kevin Barron

Hi Kevin

It was good to talk to you, although via phone is, as I told Matthew at least twice before he passed the phone to you, not ideal. It suits neither my job nor my thought processes.

email is much better as I can reply between customers, and you can reply between your many commitments. I know you read your emails as you have just told me of a constituent who emailed you about one of the issues we were discussing.

You intimated in our conversation that you no longer reply to any communication from me because I have in the past blogged your responses without asking you first. You then said that I’d never explained why I had begun to blog your answers to my questions – but I blogged an explanation and an apology in May 2009. https://rothervalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/kevin-barron-mp-an-apology/ I know you and your staff read my blog as you have all mentioned it, so I cannot imagine you missed this post.

The reason I’d like to use your responses on my blog are because I want to ask you about the issues you represent us on, and as far as I can tell there is no way of knowing what you think – and lets face it you are going to get re-elected, so although you’re not our MP, you will be. We’ve just had an interesting discussion about ID cards, for example, in which you have defended the scheme. I suspect a very small precentage of the people you represent know what your views are on this issue, or how you have arrived at them. The same is true of any issue – car scrappage is another, the digital economy bill – I could go on. There is no way to find out what you think about the issues that affect us all, and no way to discuss what we – the people you represent – think.

The point is I’m not asking you about small issues like Mrs Miggins’ planning permission or complaining about my neighbours – I’m asking you about the major issues that you represent us on, and yet that we, the people you represent, know nothing about your views on. That is why I want to blog about them – because you are paid by the public to represent us, and we therefore need to know what your views are.

Do you not think it part of your role to communicate about what you think on political issues? I can only conclude not as your website only really tells us which park you’ve opened, and you are very hard to pin down – but I’d suggest that telling people who you represent how and why you form your views is an essential part of your job.

I’d be interested to hear on what basis you can possibly disagree with this.

For your information, I will post a copy of this email, and any reply from you, on my blog.

I look forward to communicating on the record with you via email, or in person soon – preferably before polling day. The parliament in which you seek to serve is going to have some massive decisions to make, and we need to know what your views are.

Regards

Kevin Barron on Abortions on the NHS

Not really a big issue, but as I’ve not been on here for a while I’ve just been scanning the automatically created link list of stories to do with Kevin Barron MP on the right, and the one about Polish women coming to the UK for abortions caught my eye, as it sounded very much like a ‘Daily Mail gets hysterical’ story, if you’ll excuse the pun. I wondered what Kevin had to say.

The story is that a Polish women’s rights group is running a poster campaign in Poland, where abortions are strictly controlled, explaining that flying to Britain, staying in a hotel and having an abortion on the NHS is cheaper and a whole lot safer than getting an underground abortion in Poland.

I have no idea how much an underground abortion is in Poland, or anywhere for that matter, but I have no reason to doubt that the what the poster says is true. It’s exactly the same logic that has seen many, many Irish women come over to the UK for an abortion on the NHS over the years. I suspect the ever-so moral Catholic Church is behind the legislation in both countries too, incidentally.

So what does Kevin Barron have to say about it – he is, after all, chairman of the Health Select Committee, so this is his area of expertise.

“’If a woman who is not British attempted to get a termination here I would hope they would be turned away,” said Barron

Hmm. He’d “hope” they’d be turned away. Clearly they are not – the article states 10,000 Polish women had abortions in the UK in 2007, at a cost to the UK tax-payer of between £5 million and £10 million. I’m not sure if that is correct or not though because although the NHS has a duty of care to anyone who walks through the door, I’m not sure if an abortion of a normal pregnancy would be covered under ‘duty of care.’

The official figures show 30 Polish nationals had abortions on the NHS in 2008. Compared to 150 Italians, and 4,600 Irish women.

Clearly Kevin Barron’s hope is in vain – people who aren’t British are getting abortions on the NHS, although not in anything like the numbers this report suggests – but then we’re not sure, it might be that women who want an abortion and cannot get one are prepared to rent a UK address in order to get treatment on the NHS, and are thus being recorded as UK residents. We just don’t know.

Kevin’s ‘charity begins at home’ response has surprised me somewhat though. It’s not as if this hasn’t been going on for years. I’d be surprised if there aren’t cases locally of Irish family members have stayed with relatives in order to get an NHS abortion, and yet the best Kevin can do is ‘hope’ – he doesn’t know, he’s just an influential member of the government, it’s not like he could have done anything about it!