Interviewing the Party President: Part 4

By George Potter

Tim was due to propose his motion making amendments to the party’s constitution very shortly after the interview session so unfortunately we only had a very short period of time in which to interview him and so we took turns to ask questions.

I recorded the answers Tim gave to my questions but unfortunately I found our my Dictaphone had run out of power just as I went to use it and so I had to use my phone instead. There was a lot of background noise on the recording and, because Tim isn’t a very loud speaker, I’m afraid there are few sections of the interview where I can’t decipher what was said. All of them are fairly brief though so hopefully the following transcript will give you a good idea of what was said:

George: How low do you think it’s going to be possible to squeeze the Labour vote in your constituency so far?

Tim: Um, take no vote for granted. Um we got, the Labour vote in Westmorland and Lonsdale at the last election was, I think I’m right in saying, it was nearly two per cent, I think it’s the lowest percentage share of the vote that Labour’s got in a general election in any seat since universal suffrage. So, you know you can be super nerdy and find out that I’m wrong.

You take nothing for granted. We had a by-election in Windemere just four or five weeks ago where, I think where they got 10% previously, and we halved that to 5. And again we had a very good candidate.

The point is not to see people as Labour voters, or as anything else, but as human beings, and as people who have a vote to cast. And you’ve just got to be on people’s side really. You won’t always agree with them and they won’t always agree with you, but if you are – you love them to death, basically – then you will normally get rewarded for it but just don’t ever take it for granted. I never assume, I don’t put, I mean, Labour got twenty one – nineteen per cent – in ’97, the big Blair uplift, thankfully, we didn’t fight that campaign very hard.

But we know that there are one in five people in Westmorland who would consider voting Labour, um it would be stupid to ignore it.

George: If I could ask an awkward question

Tim: Please do

George: Do you think it was moral or liberal for our MPs, yourself included, to vote to time limit to contributory ESA to one year when government figures show that 94% of people in receipt of it won’t have found work within that time?

Tim: Yeah, tough one. The simple fact is that we couldn’t afford a two year limit. And, in the end, that was what the pragmatic decision was.  I thought… I should be careful saying since this is being recorded… but shall I say that I considered my position very carefully

And when you know, that as a Member of Parliament, it comes to going through the lobby, that you are actually not going to change the outcome of the result, even if you wanted to, then you’ve got to think what are your motives for doing that.

I’d have been able to appeal to the wider membership, and perhaps some of my constituents, and I wouldn’t have achieved anything and there were a lot of wins we had already won.

The fact that the changes are going to be reviewed as they’re implemented, and the fact that there’s an awful lot of discretionary measures available, these were all wins we got because the Lords were not accidentally, difficult. You know what we’ve got and we’ve got to think, okay we’ve achieved this, it’s not brilliant and you asked me earlier about Labour voters, and I get much less troubled by Labour voters in my constituency than I do by my conscience.

And sometimes there are things I’ll do, I’ll think, I don’t like this, and I’ll think, we’re in coalition, none of us are happy with the situation, but I’ve got to balance that, and Nick Clegg and Steve Webb have done a lot. And I thought I owe it to them to be loyal and not to be a pain – given that I wasn’t going to change the result anyway.

George: Very quickly, in a single sentence, what’s your favourite coalition policy?

Tim: I, personally, I guess it’s probably, erm the er the decision not to renew Trident.

George: Thank you.

George blogs at The Potter Blogger

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