There is a cast iron rule that constituencies elect the individual as their member, and whilst any Party can remove benefits such as the whip, no-one other than the electorate at the next national election should be able to unseat them.
As such, calling for the removal from Westminster of a convicted drink driver and thug who also had used his position to proposition female constituency workers (of any age) or removing from Holyrood of a serial wife beater would set a worrying precedent…
… no, hang on. That is rubbish.
I already have written about the then Labour MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce who – at that stage – had been convicted only for drink driving after refusing to provide a sample, and shown to letched over a 17 year old constituency worker. Since then, he has been convicted of common assault after going berserk in the Strangers’ Bank at Westminster and expelled from the Labour Party, but is determined to remain an MP until 2015.
Now Bill Walker, SNP constituency MSP for Dunfirmline since 2011 has been expelled from the SNP following revelations in the Sunday Herald that he had physically abused three consecutive wives, and striking the second wife’s teenage daughter with a frying-pan (in self-defence, mind… after she lunged at him as he was striking her mother).
To the SNP’s credit, there was no vacillation over whether to suspend Walker; unlike the initially almost forgiving attitudes towards Joyce after the assault incident which hardened only after the reports of his sexual impropriety. My criticism of the SNP is of the obviously poor research into Walker’s background before his selection as candidate for the 2011 Holyrood elections. He had been unknown to the local Party and the sheer scale of the SNP’s success in 2011 means that he will not be the only surprise MSP who will be found to have less than salubrious past record.
Now Walker has been expelled from the SNP. Like Joyce, he intends to continue as an MSP, and can be expected to vote with the SNP of crunch issues.
The principle of individuals not Parties being elected to Westminster and, by extension, Holyrood dates from a time which pre-dated Party politics and when it was considered acceptable to deny the franchize to all women and a majority of men. Yet, I never have heard those maintaining that obvious blaggards such as Walker and Joyce should remain on principle also call for a return to this parliamentary system.
Likewise, legislation which allows the removal of MPs gaoled for more than a year and a day dates from a time when it was relatively common for such sentences to be imposed; compared to now when going berserk and assaulting half a dozen people including Police might not attract a custodial sentence. I do not know when this legislation was implemented, but it presumably post-dates John Wilkes who was re-elected to Middlesex in 1769 despite having been sentenced to two years at King’s Bench.
The British parliamentary system(s) clearly survived.