North Ayrshire is dear to my heart. I still regularly go down to Largs for an ice cream at Nardini’s, or to visit Vikingar, or to simply enjoy the remarkable little resort town. I visited Kelburn country park, and my Great Auntie Connel in Skelmorlie, the town where my mother spent her infancy. As a young activist, I helped prevent a road being built through the village of Fairlie. More recently, I took part in a canvass in Millport, which I’d like to think contributed to the successful election of Grace McLean in October last year. Through it all, the Largs Yes Shop has remained open even after the referendum has passed.
Katy Clark has served as North Ayrshire & Arran’s MP uninterrupted since 2005. She is one of those odd ducks – a socialist who’s still in New Labour even after the neoliberal Blairite coup of the 1990s (of which the current leader in Scotland was central). Unlike most champagne socialists, however, Ms Clark has the voting record to back up her rhetoric. Could it be possible for Katy Clark to represent North Ayrshire & Arran’s best interests despite being part of the New Labour party?
Well, you tell me, as we unpack the Katy Clark folder of the Devo Files…
Ms Clark is quite the rebel, comparatively speaking: seventy rebellions over ten years is practically defiant in the grand scheme of things. However, the majority of those rebellions (57, over four fifths) happened in her first five years: since 2010, Ms Clark’s rebellious streak has cooled from 5.8% to 1.5%. Most of the rebellions happened to fall in line with how the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens voted, and usually in regards to traditionally left-wing values – but what about the times Katy Clark voted against both her party and the SNP?
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 — Libya — No Fly Zone
557 for, 13 against
She was one of 9 (+2 tell) New Labour MPs (and the only Scottish New Labour MP) who voted against a motion welcoming the use of the UK’s military in establishing of a no-fly zone in Libya, along with 2 SDLP, 1 Green, and 1 Conservative
Katy Clark voted against virtually everyone else in the Commons on this: she was concerned that the wording of the motion was vague and could have escalated into a much graver situation. The SNP felt that since the motion had UN backing, they could vote in favour as long as David Cameron was well aware of the dangers of such mission creep.
Use of Hand-held Electronic Devices and Social Media in the Chamber (Backbench Business)
63 for, 206 against
She was one of 14 New Labour MPs (4 of whom were Scottish) who voted for restrictions on allowing MPs to tweet from the commons chamber, along with 44 (+2 tell) Conservatives, 3 Liberal Democrats, 1 DUP, and 1 Plaid Cymru
One wonders why Katy Clark felt strongly enough about this, of all things, to rebel against her party.
Yet even taking into account her notable rebellions like Trident renewal and the 2014 Autumn Statement, that still accounts for a mere percentage of all her votes. If re-elected in May, it seems extremely unlikely that Ms Clark’s rebellious streak will continue – especially if she turns out to be one of the only New Labour MPs left north of the border. Why risk it?
Since this is the Devo Files, perhaps a perusal of her record on devolving powers to the Scottish Parliament would provide some justification.
Public Whip record: 54.1%
Did not vote on a second reading of the Scotland Bill 2012
Did not vote on requiring Scottish ministers to order officers to start counting within four hours of polls closing
Did not vote on devolving regulation of air weapons
Did not vote on keeping insolvency powers with the Scottish parliament
Did not vote on keeping responsibility for regulating health officials with the Scottish Parliament
Did not vote on devolving tax quarrying and mining
Did not vote on code of conduct for Scottish ministers in relation to the treasury
Did not vote on devolving the Scottish elements of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Did not vote on devolving responsibility for railways that start and finish in Scotland
Did not vote on devolving elements of the Crown Estate and accountability of the Crown Estate
Did not vote on devolving timescales, time zones, and British Summer Time
Did not vote on devolving food content and labeling
Did not vote on allowing the Scottish government to tax companies’ profits
Voted for devolving the regulation of shale gas to the Scottish Parliament
Like her Inverclyde colleague Iain McKenzie, Katy Clark is one of the few New Labour MPs to have voted only once in the last parliamentary term to devolve more powers to the Scottish Parliament – the fact that this single vote happened after the referendum and during a period where the polls show a monumental shift to the SNP no doubt completely coincidental. Unlike Mr McKenzie, however, Ms Clark does not have the excuse of not being in office at the time – for one reason or another, she did not attend a single one of the first thirteen votes.
How on earth can we expect Katy Clark to fight for more devolution where she did not even turn up to vote on 13 of 14 motions?
Incredibly, when the sale of Scotrail was announced by the Scottish government, Ms Clark actually claims credit for “playing a part” in the devolution of railways:
“A clear commitment was made by Gordon Brown that the power to allow a not for profit making railway company to run Scottish rail services would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. I was involved in putting an amendment to the Scotland Act 2012 which both Labour and the SNP voted for which would have devolved this power to Scotland. At that time the Tories and the Liberals voted against it but I do not believe they will now so this power is highly likely to be devolved in the coming months. Unfortunately it may be a further decade before it has any beneficial impact on the people of Scotland thanks to this decision to award a 10 year contract.”
Ms Clark did not vote on Devolution of Responsibility for Rail Services to the Scottish Parliament. She did not debate on the Devolution of Responsibility for Rail Services to the Scottish Parliament. How could Ms Clark possibly justify claiming credit for her involvement in “putting an amendment to the Scotland Act” when she did not even vote on said amendment? (Nor did Gordon Brown, as it happens).
Other Votes of Interest
In addition, here are some policy overviews according to Public Whip:
Voted strongly against the policy: Referendum on Alternative Vote for MP Elections (1%)
Voted strongly against the policy: Iraq Investigation – Necessary (8%!)
Voted strongly against the policy: Tax Avoidance should be illegal (12%)
Voted moderately against the policy: Human Rights & Equality (22%)
Voted strongly for Nuclear Power
Voted moderately for Terrorism Laws (72%)
Office Costs: £27,136.94
I post Ms Clark’s expenses not to point out anything particularly unusual about her spending habits, suffice to say that an awful lot of money tends to be spent on politicians of all stripes.
“If there were even the remotest chance of the NHS being privatised the Yes campaign would have been shouting about it for the last two years – not desperately scaremongering in the last two weeks.
The NHS in Scotland is not under threat of privatisation: “…we have exclusive 100 per cent control over its future in Scotland. That is what we have as a consequence of devolution; we have control to decide what type of national health service we want, what direction we want it to take and what reforms we want it to undertake. Those aren’t my words – that’s what the SNP’s John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament on the 30th of April. And presumably that’s why SNP MPs didn’t turn up to vote against the legislation that is driving the privatisation in England and Wales.
NHS funding in Scotland isn’t affected at all by privatisation in England – the Scottish Government decides how much of the money in its budget it spends on Health. Even the Barnett Formula related amount of money that goes to the Scottish Government isn’t impacted – that’s based on how much is spent on Health in England , not who spends it. In fact privatisation has cost money not saved it – so the Scottish Government has actually got more, not less money as people in England have seen services turned over to contractors. ”
– Katy Clark on the SNP’s “scare stories” on the NHS, 1st September 2014
Ms Clark was clear and forthright in what she thought of the SNP’s “scare stories” about privatisation. So why did she make the exact arguments as the SNP’s on Labour Online?
“Many constituents have contacted me about this piece of legislation which would allow ‘any willing provider’ to provide NHS services. Whilst the Bill would not have direct effect in Scotland many are concerned about the implications of these threatened changes for our health service here.
Whilst I am pleased that these changes have been made to the Bill I am concerned private companies will always put costs before any other concerns which could harm patient care. I fear that with the NHS looking to make significant cost savings, allowing ‘any willing provider’ to provide a service may create a race to the bottom on who can provide the service the cheapest without due consideration given to the needs of patients.
The NHS in England may be seriously damaged by the Government’s Bill and this will have a knock on effect in Scotland given the current co-operation between the services north and south of the border.
For example I am aware of a number of neurosurgeons who come up from Birmingham to Clydebank on a regular basis to perform specialist surgery and of children who have travelled from Scotland to Newcastle to receive specialist heart services there. There are many other examples of the services working closely together and I have been contacted by many constituents concerned at the impact which Government’s proposed changes will have on the services they receive. I believe that the changes made to the Bill will make little difference to its central aims, which will massively increase private involvement in the delivery of services and could threaten the NHS both in England and Scotland.”
– Katy Clark on “the implications of these threatened changes“
Which is it, Ms Clark – is the notion of Scottish NHS spending being affected by privatisation in England “desperate scaremongering,” or is it a genuine concern that “could threaten the NHS both in England and Scotland?”
New Labour’s General Election campaign is practically founded on the danger the Conservatives pose to the NHS – yet prior to the referendum, you claimed that the only threat to Scotland’s NHS was the Scottish government. You clearly have no problems defying your party on war, nuclear weapons, and right-wing idealogies. So why do you attack the SNP over an argument you yourself have made?
— Katy Clark (@KatyClarkMP) November 19, 2014
Katy Clark herself posted this graphic on twitter. It is curious that it is the idea Trident could win back votes, not her long-standing and no-doubt genuine belief that Trident is a colossal and immoral waste of money, is what she chose to focus on in her campaign for deputy leadership. Her voting record is consistently anti-Trident, she has spoken at pro-disarmament platforms. So why frame it as a cynical populist vote-winner instead of the right thing?
Yet the greatest irony is that the quickest and surest way to abolish Trident was with a Yes vote:
If the Scots vote yes on Thursday the UK’s already tight military budget will be squeezed even harder, writes Paul Ingram, dramatically increasing the chances of nuclear disarmament. Adding to the UK’s headache: the only medium term alternative base for its Trident submarine fleet would be … in Georgia, USA.
The Yes parties were anti-Trident, anti-war, anti-austerity, anti-privatisation, and generally to the left of the economic spectrum. The No parties – including the party Ms Clark belongs to – were largely to the right. Rather than choose to side with the SNP, Greens and SSP – all of whom share more of her professed values than the leadership of New Labour or their Better Together allies – Katy Clark stayed put. She campaigned on the same platform as those who would renew Trident, engage in more costly and unethical wars, perpetuate austerity, continue privatisation, and veer ever further to the right.
You may still think that Ms Clark still has her principles, that she does put the interests of her constituents before the party. So did I… until I saw this.
“One of the worries that I have at the moment is that, you know, it could be Scotland that lets us down when it comes to the general election. That’s why we need to get our act together in Scotland, we need to be very clear that the choice is between Labour and the Tories at the general election”
– Katy Clark is fairly unambiguous in who she holds responsible for New Labour’s failure in Scotland – and it isn’t New Labour
There you have it. Katy Clark does not feel that New Labour is failing Scotland – but that Scotland is letting New Labour down. A sense of entitlement endemic to New Labour, who seem to feel that Scotland is their dominion, their kingdom: that the voters are but serfs and slaves.
It didn’t have to be this way. She could have gone independent, like Inverclyde’s Vaughan Jones. She could even have defected to the SNP, Greens, or SSP. But she didn’t. At the end of the day, Scotland remaining in the UK was more important to her than taking the quickest avenue to nuclear disarmament. Scotland remaining in the UK was more important to her than the idea of her constituents never being forced to suffer under a Tory government again. It was more important for her to perpetuate lies about the NHS than to tell the truth about privatisation. It was more important to her to remain in a party which has abandoned nearly all the values established in its foundations, which show less and less interest in returning to the days of Keir Hardie and Aneurin Bevan, than to embrace the new generation of left-wing, socialist, anti-war, environmentalist parties. At the end of the day, the UK was more important to her than her own principles.
She made her choice. She must never forget it.
Which Side Are You On?
“Our party in Scotland has been taken to the political abyss by the New Labour and it’s architects, now is the time to choose change, and choose the candidates of change.
“From a Living Wage backed by the full force of the law, to decommissioning Trident to help fund the permanent abolition of tuition fees, or the common sense approach of bringing our railways into public ownership, and my radical pledge for free childcare from the age of 12 months – it’s there in black and white, it’s what the people of Scotland are demanding.
“Business as usual will lose Scotland for Labour, it’s time to win back the missing 37 per cent by abandoning New Labour for good.”
“I’ve campaigned for these types of policies for many years and now, more than ever, they are completely in line with the views of Scottish people.
“Abolishing Trident is right and it’s popular; introducing a Statutory Living Wage will help thousands of people and it’ll help win us elections.
“We have the opportunity to change Labour and our society now for the better. “
– Katy Clark makes a final heroic call for the left-wing vestiges of Old Labour – to no avail
The problem, Ms Clark, is that New Labour doesn’t realise it has failed. As far as they’re concerned, it’s been a wild success. Why else would Jim Murphy be elected your leader in Scotland by a substantial margin, even after everything he’s done to the socialist remnant within the party? Why else would he surround himself with the likes of John McTernan? Why else would Ed Milliband be more concerned about ruling out a coalition with the SNP than with the Conservatives?
You tried to make the change, though.You called upon the last of the socialist movement in New Labour to vote for you as Deputy Leader on the basis that you are going to go against pretty much the entire rest of the party:
You called upon MPs in your party to sign a petition for a dramatic change in policy direction:
“Jobs and growth are vitally needed rather than prolonged austerity as the best means both to cut the deficit fastest and to give hope to our people. Public ownership is urgently needed to reverse failed privatisations, and the railways should lead the way to a new perspective of the crucial role of the public sector. And an enhanced role for the trade unions is strongly needed both to promote economic partnership in our workplaces and to reverse the extreme inequality now so badly disfiguring our society”.
How many signed it? 13. Out of 256.
There’s your revolution, Ms Clark. You didn’t get voted in as Deputy leader. A handful signed your petition. It’s looking less and less certain that you’ll even retain your seat. And you expect us to believe you could enact the change New Labour so desperately needs?
I also note, once again, this bizarre focus on the policies’ popularity. Is doing things because they’re right and will help people not good enough? If you feel you have to convince people to do the right thing by pointing out it will help them win elections, maybe you should reconsider just what party you’re fighting for.
Put your money where your mouth is, Ms Clark. If you truly feel New Labour has taken the party “to the political abyss,” then it is your duty to fight it with every fibre of your being. After all, you advocated a No vote, even though it meant fighting for nuclear disarmament that much harder, even though it meant the Tories could still punish your constituents, even though it meant fighting on the same side as UKIP and the BNP and multinational corporations. Now the ball’s in your court. Are you going to let Jim Murphy run your party into the ground? Or are you just going to continue being that lone voice in the wilderness, few friends and allies among the 40 New Labour MPs, with little say or influence on party policy?
It’s easy being the voice for nuclear disarmament when you know there’s no chance of it really happening – and you know that your vote will not jeopardise your party’s motions. I have to wonder: what would happen if your vote did mean the difference between a Labour motion failing or succeeding? What would you do then, Ms Clark?
“Having campaigned against the bedroom tax and voted against it during every stage in the House of Commons I am delighted that the SNP Government have u-turned and agreed with Scottish Labour’s calls for full mitigation.”
– Katy Clark has an absolute blinding cheek
“The oil industry have been exploring the Clyde waters for oil over the past 40 years with to date little success. For some years in the 1980s BP did have a licence to explore the waters south of Arran but relinquished its licence in 1988 after concluding that there was no reason to continue exploration. It may be that there is shale gas in the area but this possibility has not been properly explored. I have spoken with people at the high levels in the oil and gas industry and to independent academics who specialise in this field who advise me that unfortunately there is no reason to believe at this time that there are commercially exploitable oil reserve.”
– Katy Clark dismissed “conspiracy theories” that the Ministry of Defence blocked oil exploration in the Clyde to stop it from interfering with nuclear submarines… even though, three months earlier, the then-Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine confirmed that is exactly what happened!
“The British public do not want to be told by multinationals how we should organise our country. We have fought for democracy and we want those bodies for which we have fought and which exist to protect the individual and our communities to have the democratic ability to make decisions.”
– Katy Clark opposes multinationals, yet remains a member of a party who sends peers to the House of Lords with direct ties to multinational companies who wanted to privatise entire tiers of the NHS
“I am very disappointed that the Prime Minister has given no indication that he will act to bring down the length of disabled time people are having to wait for a PIP decision. I have been contacted by a number of people locally who have faced unacceptable delays and experienced considerable hardship as a result. This is an issue of vital importance as delays in benefit payments was the number one cause of foodbank referrals last year. The Government needs to snap out of its complacent attitude on this issue and act now before more disabled people waiting on a decision are forced into poverty.”
– Katy Clark has strong words to say about David Cameron’s treatment of the disabled. One wonders why she does not speak quite so strongly to her colleague Owen Smith MP, who said “it is important that disabled people to continue to die” lest any commitment to drop Work Capability Assessment jeopardise New Labour’s election chances!
It is right our new Leader is an MSP. But whatever the outcome of the Smith Commission on devolution decisions and laws made at Westminster will still impact on Scotland. Three years ago we decided our Leader would be responsible for the whole of Scottish Labour not just the Labour Group at Holyrood. As your Deputy who is also an MP I will work to give Scottish Labour a strong voice at Westminster to ensure that Scotland’s interests are protected.
– Katy Clark’s deputy election leaflet promises a lot of things that directly conflict with the UK Labour party’s proposals
The irony is that Abellio is a state-owned company however it is owned by the Dutch state. We will now be faced with the absurd situation where profits generated on Scotland’s railways will be used to improve services, not in Scotland but in the Netherlands.
– The internationalist socialist Katy Clark there, begrudging Scottish profits being spent on those awful foreigners in the Netherlands
As candidates standing against SNP incumbents in the forthcoming Westminster and Holyrood elections, we are realistic in the knowledge that we have a tough fight ahead of us.
The referendum and the subsequent debate has been an exciting time to be involved in politics in Scotland. Unfortunately, it’s not been our party that’s excited people.
The SNP is not a progressive party but we’ve lost a lot of our progressive vote – our core vote – to them because people simply don’t trust Labour anymore.
We don’t need to tell you that people are fed up of feeling ignored and left behind by mainstream politics. Anyone who’s knocked on a door recently will have heard the same things we hear day in, day out – people are fed up of Labour.
If we are to have a hope of winning next year we need to change and we need to show people we’ve listened to their anger. We can’t go to the electorate with more business as usual. It doesn’t matter how good a campaigner or public speaker you are, if we don’t have the right values and policies as well to convince the electorate again, we will lose and so will dozens of candidates across the country.
We know you may have nominated another candidate in the previous stage of the competition but please consider voting for Katy. We really feel that any other option would be a surefire path to defeat next year and in 2016.
This deeply illuminating email from Carol Mochan and Lesley Brennan was sent out by accident to SNP members who were somehow included on a New Labour mailing list. It provides further evidence of Ms Clark’s equation of getting “back” SNP votes that New Labour lost, and concentrating on “the right values and policies” not in and of themselves, but so that they win the vote.
Tell me, Ms Clark: do you think the SNP cared that independence might not have been a big vote winner in 1942? After all, it was Home Rule which was all the rage during the post-war years: surely the SNP, if they were interested in winning elections, surely would have pursued it instead of full independence? Same with the 1979 referendum: if they were more interested in the popular vote, surely they would have been more uniformly for it?
See, that’s the thing about the SNP and New Labour: the SNP don’t change their mind on core policies just because it will win votes, they do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do. The SNP’s immigration policy is not popular, but they stand by it. The SNP’s rejection of the death penalty is not popular, but they stand by it. And, as we’ve just seen, independence was not supported by the majority of Scots at the time of the referendum, but they stand by it. New Labour, on the other hand? They cut their ties with the unions. They vow to be “tougher than the Tories” on welfare. They abandoned all of their most treasured values for a taste of power.
For a party that’s not “progressive,” the SNP seems to share an awful lot more of the values you hold dear than New Labour do. SNP are anti-Trident, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-privatisation, all sorts of policies I’d deem progressive. Your party is pro-Trident, pro-austerity, pro-war, pro-privatisation. Does “progressive” mean something different to you? Do you even consider yourself progressive?
Why are you still wasting your time being a supposed socialist in a party that has long abandoned socialism?
Can It Be Done?
Patricia Gibson has contested North Ayrshire & Arran before, in the 2010 election. She is a former councillor, an English teacher, and represented the SNP as spokesperson in Scotland’s largest education authority. She has been active within the SNP for 17 years.
The area of North Ayrshire and Arran has been one of Scotland’s last Tory chiefdoms: it was only in 1987 that Brian Wilson took it from the Conservatives. But while the relatively affluent northern areas are still conservative with a small C, the industrial towns of Ardrossan, Saltcoats, Stevenson and the like are far more likely to form the base for a Labour realm. Yet as we’ve seen above in Katy Clark’s leaked email, even this place is so “fed up with Labour” it could turn yellow in 2015.
|General Election 2005: North Ayrshire and Arran|
|Liberal Democrat||George White||7,264||16.4||+7.6|
|Scottish Socialist||Colin Turbett||780||1.8||-1.4|
|Socialist Labour||Louise McDaid||303||0.7||-0.5|
|General Election 2010: North Ayrshire and Arran|
|Liberal Democrat||Gillian Cole-Hamilton||4,630||10.0||-6.4|
|Socialist Labour||Louise McDaid||449||1.0||+0.3|
So, we’ve seen New Labour go from 19,417 votes (43.9%) to 21,860 (47.4%, +3.5), one of the few places were the party’s vote share has increased both numerically and proportionately – though the overall majority has fallen from 11,296 (25.6%) to 9,895 (21.5%). In any other year, that would be an insurmountable majority. In any other year.
The SNP vote has climbed from 2005 to 2010: Tony Gurney was behind the Conservatives in third place, though only just: 7,938 (18%) compared to Stewart Connell’s 8,121 (18.4%). It was the last time the Conservatives really challenged for North Ayrshire: in 2010, Patricia Gibson shot the SNP up to a comfortable second place with 11,965 (25.9%) to Philip Lardner’s 7,212 (15.6%). What’s more, the Greens and the SSP are not contesting the seat (nor is Socialist Labour, whose Louise McDaid contested in 2010): the Conservatives are putting forward Jamie Green, the Neoliberal Democrats Ruby Kirkwood, and UKIP Sharon McGonigal, threatening to split the unionist vote in an area that historically had higher Conservative votes than elsewhere in Scotland. North Ayrshire only narrowly voted No in the referendum, and Arran voted Yes.
Katy Clark has proven that she will vote for what she believes in… when it suits her. But she has also proven that she will toe the party line even if she disagrees: we have seen this with her parroting the Better Together “the NHS is safe with a No vote”deception, we have seen this with her smears against the SNP, and we have seen it in her voting record.
The truth of the matter is that for all her laudable opposition to military interventions and nuclear weapons, Katy Clark is far more likely to vote with New Labour than against it – more than 90% of the time, in fact. That is what it means to be a “rebel” in the UK government. We cannot rely on her to defy her party all the time. Why would we want to vote for someone who was just going to defy the party she identifies with, instead of either standing as an independent or joining a party which does represent the core values she professes? Why not vote for an MP whose party will campaign to abolish Trident, end austerity, and deliver further devolution?
Katy Clark has had enough chances to prove her credentials. As far as I’m concerned, she’s proven her true colours.
It’s Patricia Gibson’s time.
You can contact Ms Clark through all the usual channels: she has a website, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. As ever, these platforms would provide an excellent opportunity for a polite and courteous dialogue.