Saturday, 19 September 2015

Corbyn appoints Peer convicted of arson to his frontbench

Jeremy Corbyn has finalised his frontbench line-up, appointing a peer jailed for arson to his education team.

Lord Watson - a former MP and MSP - was given a 16-month jail sentence in 2005 for starting a fire at an Edinburgh hotel. He was suspended from the party, but regained the whip in 2012. 

 Watson was elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom as Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow Central at a by-election in 1989, following the death of Bob McTaggart MP. He was re-elected in the 1992 election and represented that constituency until it was abolished in 1997. He sought the nomination from the Labour party to run for the Govan seat at the 1997 election, but after initially winning the nomination by one vote, he lost a re-run to Mohammad Sarwar.

So in 1997 rewarded him  with a  Life peerage as Baron Watson of Invergowrie, of Invergowrie in Perth and Kinross.

In 1999 Lord Watson was elected to the Scottish Parliament to represent the Glasgow Cathcart constituency and was re-elected in 2003.
Then on  15 November 2004, Lord Watson was charged with two counts of "wilful fire raising" after a private reception at Edinburgh's Prestonfield Hotel following the Scottish Politician of the Year awards on 11 November.

The first alleged that he set fire to a curtain in the hotel's reception, and the second that he set fire to a curtain in the hotel's Yellow Room.

 On being charged, the Labour whip was suspended in the Holyrood and Westminster parliaments.[6] After initially registering not guilty pleas to both charges on 23 August 2005,[6] he changed his plea on 1 September to guilty on the first count, and had a not guilty plea accepted on the second charge.[7]
On the same day that Lord Watson admitted his guilt, he resigned from the Scottish Parliament.

 On 22 September 2005, Lord Watson was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment.

But now it gets interesting.
It was not possible for a life peer to resign from the House of Lords at that time and there was no provision for peers convicted of criminal offences to be stripped of their titles. Such legislation was last proposed following the conviction of Jeffrey Archer for perjury in 2001, but was then rejected.

In January 2007 Watson was appointed as an Associate Director with Caledonia Consulting, while also attending the House of Lords on a regular basis.

Watson was re-admitted to membership of the Labour Party in July 2012, after a vote of the National Executive Committee.

 Labour said the peer was rehabilitated and it was "right he should be allowed to play a full part in public life".

I have no problem with Mr Watson's rehabilitation   but should he have carried on as a Member of a Legislature .

It is a very bad start for a Labour Leader who may wish to see an elected second chamber  to appoint someone who should have resigned  expelled from that chamber or at the very least cease to attend  to your front bench.

Imagine the howls of outrage from Labour if Cameron had a pointed convicted perjurer  Lord Archer to his front bench?

An SNP spokesman said:

 "This is a bizarre appointment; it reflects how Jeremy Corbyn seems to be scrambling around for people to work with, which in turn is further proof of the deep divisions within the Labour Party 

Maybe but the real issue is that someone can come straight out of Prison and go straight back to their job.

Don't get me wrong I fully support the rehabilitation of offender. But in Mile Watson's case it should start with him standing for election and letting the electorate decide

 I just feel that remaining a Peer after being convicted and imprisoned is a bit to far

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