The next parliament “will be full of hacks, lobbyists and previously failed candidates”, or so said Tony McNulty at a political panel event last night.
In what one could interpret as a veiled reference to the Harrow East MP’s Conservative challenger Bob Blackman, who has run for parliament three times already without success, McNulty said we should be careful what we wish for.
“I think accountability will be on May 6th,” he said, but added “the notion that there is going to be the city on the hill I don’t think is the case.”
He was speaking at a panel event featuring Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles and Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake. At the Total Politics Question Time event, held near Westminster on Thursday evening, McNulty said he had some sympathy with the notion of Primaries as a way of electing parliamentary candidates, a sentiment supported by Pickles, the MP for Brentwood and Ongar.
Quizzed on everything from accountability to diversity, the topic on everyone’s mind seemed to be the allegations in Andrew Rawnsley’s book about bullying in Downing Street and tensions between Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.
Pointing out that during the First World War, Asquith and Lloyd George were known to have had their share of arguments, McNulty did not seem overly concerned about the revelations.
“People lose their temper in high octane situations – shock horror,” he said. “You can’t have a convivial relationship between a prime minister and a chancellor all the time.”
“I’m sure it will be a very nice book but I don’t believe that it is gospel.”
The MP added that when he had worked closely with Brown over he 42 days detention issue, Brown had not raised his voice at him.
“I raised my voice, but that’s another story for Andrew Rawnsley’s next book!”
Responding to an audience-member who asked why Brown had not called an inquiry, McNulty said: “You cam’t rush out on every single story on 24 hour news and demand an inquiry.”
Saying Labour still had a long way to go in terms of diversity, McNulty applauded the Conservatives for their efforts .
“It’s fairly snide of some commentators to say ‘oh, this is just window dressing’. Everyone needs to start somewhere.
“I think that’s thrilling for British democracy. Anything that gets a much richer and more divisive House of Commons has got to be good.”
Although he said it would be “quite astonishing” if his Liberal Democrat opponent, Iranian-born Nahid Boethe won the election, he added:
“I have always said my successor should be Asian.”
And faced with the question about the Tory lead slipping in the polls, McNulty was clear on why.
“Cameron had a free ride unscrutinized in any sort of depth, but people are starting to look closer.
“It’s not enough to say ‘vote for me, I’m not them’.”
He said there was not the enthusiasm for change there had been in the lead up to the 1997 election. “They are not doing well because they haven’t got that much to offer.”
And despite the panel host Iain Dale reminding of how McNulty had been ‘slaughtered’ over expenses, the MP said he would still encourage his nieces and nephews to pursue a Westminster career.
<!–[endif]–>“I’d say 100 per cent go into politics,” he said.
“There’s still some good and substance about it.”