MP Ian Gibson's Parliamentary career in tatters
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:54 06 July 2010
Labour MP Ian Gibson's career was in tatters last night after Gordon Brown's 'star chamber' barred him from standing for the party at the next election in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal.
Labour MP Ian Gibson's career was in tatters last night after Gordon Brown's “star chamber” barred him from standing for the party at the next election in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal.
Dr Gibson was in the dock after allegations were levelled that he had let his daughter and her partner live in his taxpayer-funded London flat rent free before selling it to her at a knockdown price.
Three other Labour MPs - Margaret Moran, David Chaytor and Elliot Morley - who had also been referred to the recommendation committee, had already pre-empted the guilty verdict on them by announcing they were quitting at the next election. But the 25-minute hearing in London ruled unanimously that Dr Gibson should not be allowed to contest his Norwich North seat for Labour.
There was speculation last night that Dr Gibson might now call it a day after becoming disillusioned with politics.
But Martin Booth, president of Norwich Labour Party, who went along with the
MP to the hearing to offer support, said it was too early to say what would happen next, or whether he would fight on as an
independent. “I'm horrified - it's victimisation. Whether it's because he is a bit of a maverick, I don't know,” he added. “It's just outrag-eous: I can't believe it. They have said he can't stand at the next election.
“At the meeting all they were going on about was the fact that his daughter could have sold it. It's so unfair. There will be an awful lot of anger in the party now.”
Dr Gibson has maintained a media silence since the allegations first appeared last month and was not available for comment last night.
Mr Booth had thought the hearing went well at the time. He said: “Ian put his case and they asked questions and he answered them very well, I thought. We were in there for about 25 minutes. We also presented written evidence from the constituency, including more than 300 emails and letters of support.”
North Norfolk Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb condemned the decision, saying: “It feels like a kangaroo court. I'm struggling to understand why Ian has been doled out this summary justice like some sort of banana republic while Hazel Blears, to date, remains in the cabinet, together with plenty of others who have 'flipped' and done other things to maximise their gains.
“It feels to me like retribution for someone who has been a thorn in the side of government, and I don't like injustice wherever it is perpetuated.”
Dr Gibson's fellow city Labour MP, Charles Clarke, said: “This is a sad day for Norwich and for Ian. He has been a good servant of the people of Norwich and of the Labour Party.”
The decision, which carries no right of appeal, raised fears of a split in local Labour ranks, while the hunt must now begin to find a new candidate.
It also marked a sad end to a 12-year career that has seen Dr Gibson campaigning on a range of issues from cancer research to nuclear test veterans, as well as chairing the influential science and technology select committee.
And, with the MP's electoral success based on a strong personal vote in the constituency, including support from some Tory voters, it is hard to see how the party will be able to hold on to the seat if, as seems expected, the Conservatives win the next election.
Many had questioned the decision to refer Dr Gibson to the “star chamber”, as the allegations that first appeared in the Daily Telegraph did not appear to be as serious as the other three. But Chloe Smith, the Conservative Party challenger for Norwich North, felt Labour had got it right. “In Dr Gibson, Norwich North has had a strong and respected local MP, and I pay tribute to the good work he has done in the past,” she said. “But his actions in making a gift to his daughter that few could afford themselves, and that diverted taxpayers' money and good faith, have let his constituents down.
“In the last weeks I have spoken to many Norwich North residents; they are disappointed, disillusioned and angry. Dr Gibson said he would stand down if his constituents wanted him to, and many do. The Labour Party's decision reflects what many people here think.”
A Labour Party statement confirmed the ruling at around seven o'clock last night. It said: “After considering in detail the cases of David Chaytor, Ian Gibson, Margaret Moran and Elliot Morley and speaking to those who wished to be interviewed, the Labour Party's special NEC endorsements panel today unanimously recommended rescinding each of their endorsement as Labour candidates. They will not be able to stand as Labour candidates in any constituency at the next general election.
“The organisation committee of the Labour Party's NEC agreed with the panels' recommendations, and new prospective parliamentary candi-dates will be selected to join Labour's hard-working councillors in Bury, Norwich, Scunthorpe and Luton.
“As both Gordon Brown and the national executive committee have made clear, the Labour Party demands the very highest standard of its MPs. The special NEC endorse-ments panel will continue to consider cases referred to it by the chief whip or the Labour Party's general secretary.”