Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Can't think of a title that's not tasteless


The LibDem MP for Cheadle, Patsy Calton, has died of cancer.

Naturally, such an event is one of great sadness for her family and friends, her party colleagues and presumably many of her constituents. It leaves a nagging doubt in my mind, however. She had been ill for a long time and, indeed, had campaigned for cancer charities, being quite open about her own illness. With such a disease, no one can predict exactly when one's time will come; but Ms Calton was too sick to attend her count, and had to take her new oath of office in a wheelchair.

What, I wonder, was the point of putting up an openly terminally ill candidate in the most marginal seat in the country? I'm speaking from a position of ignorance, I admit, in that I don't know to what extent her condition was definitely terminal and I don't know how physically able she was to go knocking on doors, etc. But the LibDems must have known that they were looking at ekeing out their hold on the seat, rather than confidently expecting another full term.

None of this is to say that Ms Calton should have been barred from standing, or that she doesn't deserve respect for fighting what must have been a gruelling campaign. Nor do I deny that any MP could be hit by a bus, say, at any time (I wouldn't cry if some of them were). But where is the benefit to the consituents, who are now going to have to go through the rigmarole of a by-election, with the possibility of the seat changing hands? Where's the benefit in saying, effectively, "please vote for me, even though I may not be your MP for long and I may be too ill to attend to constituency business much of the time?"

MPs are public servants and, however heroic they may appear in such circumstances, the public interest is not served by electing a representative who is unlikely to be able to discharge his or her duties to the full. That's twice in quick succession that a LibDem candidate has died, forcing a by-election ("to lose one candidate may be regarded..." etc., etc.).

The above may sound callous. There may be good arguments why what I have said is reprehensible. Please make them.


Blogger Stephen Newton said...

I was active-ish in Stockport politics around ten years ago and can confirm that Patsy Calton was working hard for the Lib Dems for many years before wrestling Cheadle from the Tories.

While I there are many good reasons to be anti-Lib Dem, Patsy Calton's candidature is not one of them.

3:49 pm  
Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

Fair point, but my post was intended in no way to denigrate Patsy Calton's record of campaigning, nor her past work as an MP. I was simply wondering whether it is wise to stand for re-election when you know your effectiveness and longevity as an MP may be restricted.

Of course, the logical extension of my argument is to prevent any MP over 70 standing for re-election (Piara Khabra, MP for Ealing Southall, will be over 80 by the time the next GE comes round). Perhaps that's where the whole thing falls down. I don't know.

12:18 pm  
Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

By the way, I see exactly the same point as my original post has been made on The Virtual Stoa.

8:50 am  

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