Yesterday I went through the formalities of renewing my membership. Today I am disappointed. Oh the emotions of being a member of a political party. As you all will have heard this evening Mike Hancock MP has resigned the parliamentary party whip to concentrate on clearing his name against a civil action against him. He will continue as an independent MP. Which basically makes his resignation sound so see through it is as transparent as I am when someone tells me that they’ve made me a mushroom and fried egg sandwich and I’ve said ‘ooo that sounds lovely’ – it doesn’t. It really doesn’t.
In a letter to the Chief Whip Mike Hancock writes:
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.
He says he is doing it in the best interests of the party nationally and in Portsmouth and for his family. Considering up until a few hours ago he certainly didn’t think this then it is relatively clear that in his meeting with the powers that be today he was pretty much strong armed into this position.
Now we know Mike Hancock faces a very serious civil action against him but remember the police and CPS have investigated and decided there was no case to answer. At this point the party decided not to do anything. Now a civil suit has been forthcoming they have been extremely proactive and decided they want to put him at arms length (at best) until the case against him has been concluded.
Now I am in no position to judge the merits of the court case and I won’t. However I believe strongly that the Lib Dems decision to act has been influenced by the lack of action on Lord Rennard. The Liberal Democrat peer is under investigation from both the Met Police and the party but nothing has happened as yet and I think the party are keen to be seen as proactive in these situations – just like most companies are. The difference in my eyes is the fact it is not a criminal investigation, it is a civil action. To me that is an important distinction as to how an employer or representative should be judged.
The Lib Dems have decided that they want to judge and instead of letting the matter unfold they want him out. Of course the door is open to him to return should the case against him be unproven, the chief whip 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.’ However I wouldn’t be so sure that Mike would want to return having been told that essentially the party want rid of him. Lets be blunt here. I know I wouldn’t if I were in the same situation.
I don’t think the party should pre-judge anyone and that is the role of the courts. The fact of the matter is that Mike Hancock not having the parliamentary party whip will do nothing to help the MP concentrate on his case. If that were the case he’d have resigned as an MP. This is all a PR situation and shows that the party either do not believe Mike Hancock’s side of the story or were just looking for a way to get him as far away from them as possible. Either way it is either disappointing to me that they have decided to judge Mr Hancock or they have used this situation to get rid of who they perceived to be a problem.
Reading through Twitter this evening and most Lib Dems are practically rejoicing his departure. To call Mike Hancock a ‘colourful figure’ would be doing the term a disservice. Some just think he is a bit too out there, some think that there is no smoke without fire whilst others think that anyone with serious allegations over them should be gone until they have proved their innocence. Yeah the old ‘innocent until proven guilty’ line doesn’t apply in certain circumstances when it suits… *vomit*
The reason I’m disappointed is because of this last line. The party have decided that they either think he’ll lose and/or that he is more trouble than he is worth. So instead of doing nothing they want to be seen as being proactive. As of this moment the MP for Portsmouth South has not been found guilty in a criminal court (and the police and CPS have decided there is no case to answer) and has yet to face a civil court. When Chris Huhne was facing allegations (albeit of a less serious nature) he was not strong-armed into a resignation. Whilst the allegations against Mr Huhne were far less serious they did come with the possibility of prison and they were criminal charges. The civil action Mr Hancock is facing does not.
The Lib Dems want to be proactive. Great. However I fully believe in innocent until proven guilty and certainly that is the case when it comes to civil action. The differences between a civil suit and a criminal case cannot be understated. Anyone can bring a civil suit and no weight of evidence is needed to get the ball rolling whereas in a criminal case it should be different. If the party now have the motto that anyone facing any legal action either civil or criminal needs to be suspended/strongly encouraged to resign from the party until that situation is resolved then we are going down an extremely slippery slope.
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