Friday, March 28, 2008

The 'Missing Two'

We all know by now that the decision to close our post offices was taken by the Labour Government, which decided that 2,500 should be replaced by 500 mobile units - and this after the same Government removed getting on for half of post office business in 2004. We know that Post Office Ltd have been left almost powerless to do much but change their plans at the edges because the Government own 100 % of the shares. The one chance to embarrass the Government over this was in a vote in the House of Commons last week. I was very surprised indeed that the two Liberal Democrat Powys MPs decided to absent themselves from this vote. In my opinion, this was an abrogation of their duty to their constituencies. I would most certainly not have missed the vote if I'd have been an MP.

I comment thus because a good old-fashioned rumpus has blown up over the action (or inaction) of our MPs in Powys. Several people have raised the issue with me, and Councillor Bobby Mills went public last week outside the threatened Garthowen Post Office in Newtown. I posted on this at the time. I have to say that I agree with every word that Bobby Mills said. 19 Labour MPs voted for our motion, as did most Liberal Democrats. Many more Labour MPs defied their party whip by abstaining. The vote was lost by just 20 votes, a close run thing for the Government.


Now its worth looking at what these two MPs have been saying in defence of their actions. Firstly, Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire. He told the B and R Express
"I talked to my whip about it and thought it was more important to take part in the consultative meeting. You can never get these things right, as you either spend too much time in Westminster, or too much time in the constituency. I was pleased to have attended the consultative meeting as it did give us a number of positive avenues we can use to mount a defence of post offices".
Now, its a weak MP, who hides behind the whip - and the meeting was for Town and Community Councils. The Post Office have offered me, a mere candidate, a full briefing on this issue at a time of my convenience - so I have not the slightest doubt that they would have done the same for the MPs. There was absolutely no need to be there, except that they wanted to be seen.

Lemit Opik has launched a full scale assault on Councillor Bob Mills. In today's County Times he is quoted as saying, amongst other things
" As Councillor Mills knows I was at a very important meeting about post office closures in Llandrindod Wells, where the decision makers about the cuts were available to discuss the issue. Cllr Mills has a bit of a brass neck to highlight this point considering he didn't bother to attend the meeting in Llandrindod Wells himself - perhaps his own sense of guilt for missing the meeting is the reason for him making the accusations now. "
And plenty more of the same. Now we need to remember that there were several attendees at Llandrindod who could have reported back to the MPs about what was said, a special meeting for them could have been arranged, and it was only MPs who could have voted in London. It looks to me that the MP is digging an ever deeper hole for himself over this - and Bob Mills is not a man to take on in a digging competition. The MP was wrong, made a gross misjudgement and should accept it, and not just attack a County Councillor who has stood up for his constituents by stating nothing but the absolute truth.

18 comments:

Paul said...

Glyn, Lembit and Roger had the choice to be either in Powys or London.

2 votes wouldn't have made a difference, and personally as a Montgomeryshire resident I am glad that my MP (who admittedly I didn't vote for) was here in Powys in a public meeting rather than bobbing up and down and in and out of the lobbies in Parliament.

Also, you need to do you research, between 1979 and 1997 the Conservatives shut just over 3500 Post Offices - you Tories may talk the talk, but when your in power you don't walk the walk.

Glyn Davies said...

Paul - Its a matter of our differing opinions. I think we elect MPs to represent us at Westminster, and vote in our interest when there are crucial votes. No-one else but MPs can do that. As far as I know, the Llandrindod meeting was a briefing session for Community Councils about the closure plans. A presentation of these plans had been made the week before to AMs, and I had already received offer to be privately briefed myself. So its inconceivable that the MPs didn't have the same offer. Neither do I accept your dismissal of 2 votes not making a difference. If that were to be the case, there would never be any point in any opposition MPbeing in the House at all. 19 Labour MPs actually broke the whip to vote in favour of the closure suspension motion, and many more broke the whip to abstain.

The omment about Tory closures twixt 79 and 97 has been well used. There are 2 points worth making. No-one argues that the network would not have to be have reduced from what it was at its maximum - mobility and changing retail patterns ensure this. Neither do I argue that all post offices should be retained now. During the 8 years that I served as an AM, there was constant flow of closures in Mid and West Wales as local cirumstances demanded. But what has happened now is that the Government removed 40% of the Post Office's business at a stroke and demanded a fixed figure of closures (2500) irrespective of conditions 'on the ground'. And secondly, 11 years is a long time in politics and comparisons with previous governments are fairly pointless, except as debating points. Even then, MPs were expected to vote.

Anonymous said...

williams is going around claiming that cameron didnt vote either

Glyn Davies said...

anon - This really surprises me. I knew that David had not been able to vote because of an urgent issue relating to his family. Normally, MPs respect this sort of situation. Its a sort of unwritten coce of honour. I've heard none of the Labour MPs, who have been attacked by the Conservatives for supporting post offices in their constituencies but not voting for our amendment making any reference to this. And neither have I heard Lembit Opik make this point either. I'm really surprised that Roger Williams was willing to stoop quite so low.

Anonymous said...

The Lib Dems' conduct is poor, but we expect no more of them. They are a party of conmen, giving the impression of caring but actually doing sod all.

Labour were even worse. Betty Williams signed the EDM but didn't support the actual motion. How hypocritical is that?

Trefor Jones said...

The MP's seem to have developed a penchant for defending the indefensible, in a way. At least they made that effort. The only justification given by Albert Owen (MP Anglesey) was that he couldn't bring himself to support the Conservative motion despite being against Gov't plans to force the closure of numerous post offices! He abstained by the way!

Anonymous said...

What absolute hypocrisy, the old days of a sick infirm member been wheeled into the lobby to vote have obviously long gone.
I am so annoyed that this posturing from my own party neglected to mention David did not vote.
Words fail me.
Glyn I am so frustrated I could punch the wall!

Mountjoy said...

Labour MPs can be as gutless as they like when it comes to ignoring their constituents on this issue, but when they lose their seats it will be those constituents who have turfed them out.

Glyn Davies said...

anon and Trefor - It is the hypocrisy that does it for me. I'd accept that MPs can vote against keeping post offices open, if they are genuinely concerned about too much public money going to subsidise Post Office Ltd - but they cannot campaign locally to save post offices at the same time.

anon - I think that not requiring the sick to vote is rather a good thing - except on major issues like war declaration or constitutional issues. Its wrong to suggest that anyone was trying to hide David being unable to vote. I read it in a newspaper the next day. Most MPs tend not to take political advantage of this sort of personal issue.

mountjoy - I think that voters will remember the hypocrisy more than than the failure to vote for closure suspension. An deservedly so.

Che Grav-ara said...

Glyn I wouldn't have a go at Cameron for not attending because I don't know the family cicumstances why he couldn't be there.

However, the fact that he wasn't there does seem a little hypocritical that you are slating Lembit and Roger for not attending. Although equally I do agree with you that they should have

Anonymous said...

Glyn, why oh why are you so surprised that Lembit "I'm a Celebrity" Opik did not attend the vote? LO does not, and has never cared about this contituency - witness his failure to show up at the recent Wind Farm meeting, and frequent mockery of the Mid Wales accent.....The man is lashing out right, left and centre. He's doing the same with Ms Lloyd at the moment, although he admits himself that he's not even read her forthcoming book. Presumably he's operating on the basis of attack being the best form of defence. It's not working, despite the best efforts of the County Times to boost him. LO shoud have been at Westminster to vote. It's outrageous that he didn't turn up. Even more so that he then issues a tirade agains the Councillor. The Lib Dems in Montgomeryshire have lost the plot. It's about time we lost them!

Glyn Davies said...

che - I don't think you can say I'm slating them. I do disagree with the judgement they made to absent themselves from the vote in Westminster. I would not have done that. I do strongly criticise Roger William's decision to draw David Cameron into it. The only MPs I criticise are those who are campaigning strongly against closures in their constituencies. Their actual contribution is no more than any other individual at the protest meetings they attend in Powys, but they are the only ones in the privileged position to cast a vote in Parliament on behalf of their constituents. Oh what I'd give for that honour.

anon - needless to respond, but I have some sympathy with your comment, though you put it much more stongly than I do. I was talking to a loyal Montgomeryshire Lib Dem today who would never vote Conservative - but his dissatisfaction was obvious.

Anonymous said...

They didn't know which way the vote would go and should have been there. Lembit and Roger now hold no moral high ground on this issue and deserve all the flack they get for it.
Their own members are also furious with them; particularly the ones who have been campaigning to keep Post Offices open.

Anonymous said...

It's now official - Lembit Opik is lost to showbiz and no longer does politics. This is a man who recently showed himself up on The Apprentice, ditto Al Murray's Landlord programme and now we learn that he's about to appear on Mr & Mrs - no doubt another PR diaster for him. This is a man who failed to attend a vote on a HUGE issue for rural Wales. Why does he even pretend to be a politician? Why don't the Liberals just get rid of him before he self-destructs completely?? You'll be laughing all the way to the polls Glyn, and good luck to you....

Cllr Gary Price. said...

Glyn, Its the smae old story from the powerless Lib Dems. I was at the public meeting held in Llandrindod Wells Friday last when poor old Roger Williams MP sheepishly tried to defend his decision not to attend the Parliamentary Debate to holt the post office closures programme. He explained that it was regretful that 4 Lib Dems and Twenty Conservatives did not attend the dedate one of those being David Cameron. However I did point out that the electorate of Brecon and Radnor voted him into power not his party whips and he was our representative not David Cameron. I was even told by the Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Llandrindod South Ward when picking up a chocolate biscuit that "we (the Lib Dems) are even feeding you as well? Well I will point out that the Lib Dems Postcard Campaign and the public meeting held on Friaday was paid for by the public purse and if you put politics before the people then you do so at your peril

Anonymous said...

Ot showbiz before the people.......

Glyn Davies said...

Gary - you are so right. The relevent point is that MPs who are campaigning against post office closures locally, should have voted, unless there was some overriding reason not to. Lots of people are now aware of this and every one of those who have talked to me are incensed.

Anonymous said...

Cllr Gary Price - how do you know that Roger's campaign was paid for out of the public purse.

If this is true its a big story, otherwise is slander and you shoudl withdraw your coments. And if all your after is haveing a pop at the Communications Allowence then I can gaurantee a larger proportion of tory MP's use it than Lib Dems do.