Tony McNulty never contemplated stepping down after last year’s expenses scandal.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Stanmore Politics, the Harrow East MP said that despite resigning from his ministerial position after he was found claiming second-home expenses for a house his parents lived in, he never considered not contesting the seat in 2010.
Mr McNulty, who was elected when New Labour entered power in 1997, said:
“I didn’t ever consider standing down. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way.”
He said he wanted to let the people of Harrow decide based on his record as MP, adding that he resigned as employment minister because it was unfair to continue in the post whilst the parliamentary investigation was underway.
The MP, who has a majority of 4,730, said he had no complaint with the media about the coverage of the expenses scandal. He said
“It was perfectly reasonable for there to be such scrutiny”.
Discussing the events while in his Westminster office, the walls decorated with posters of past American presidential campaigns, he said the overall political system was rotten.
“There was a degree of groupthink, collectively from MPs about the nature of the system. If I have any complaint about the coverage of expenses, it’s that the starting premise is that every MP is wrong until they prove otherwise.
“We may have brought that on to ourselves. I can understand that too.”
He said he accepted responsibility for his role in the scandal, and said that MPs should have been more transparent about the information.
“We should have dealt with the whole issue much, much earlier.”
Mr McNulty said the toughest time over nearly thirteen years in office had been the decision to go to war with Iraq. But the MP, who supported the war, said he stood by his decision and believes the fighting in Afghanistan is justified.
“I weighed up the pros and cons either way, first and foremost as an individual not as a government minister. If I’d arrived at the opposite decision then I’d have done the decent thing and stepped down.
“Given all the information at the time it was the right decision. History is replete with people looking back with 20/20 hindsight. Afghanistan is a place that we should be and good work is being done there.”
The former immigration minister denied that Labour policies in this area had boosted the BNP. He said:
“BNP members clearly dislike black or brown faces full stop, they’re not saying you’re a third generation Asian so you’re OK, they’re against black and brown people.
“There has been a failing over the last ten or twenty years, not just under Labour, that takes away the legitimate identity, particularly from white working class.”
Following the official opening of the Hindu Krishna-Avanti Primary School in Harrow, Mr McNulty said faith schools were a good thing and he did not accept they were divisive. Although Labour has long been criticised for its attitude towards faith schools, the MP said this was a debate within all parties.
He said he felt he had lived up to his commitment in his maiden speech to improve education in Harrow, adding that he was committed to securing funding for the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
Last month its medical director made headlines by announcing he might contest the next election if the money was not allocated. But Mr McNulty said he understood Professor Tim Briggs’s frustration.
“Tim is a passionate man, absolutely committed to the hospital. I’ve said to Tim that if he stands against me that’s entirely a matter for him.
“I will see through successfully the funding of the hospital because it’s the right thing to do, not because Tim wants to stand against me. That’s entirely a matter for him.
The MP would not even entertain the prospect of losing a fourth term in office. But he said if the council elections coincide with the general election by falling on May 6th – “I have to put the caveat there, but I assume it is” – the results would be interesting.
“On a 60 or 70 per cent turnout there might be some strange ward based results throughout Harrow. I’m predicting that Stanmore Park and Canons are to go Labour.”
He said it was ‘a real possibility’ that Harrow council would swing to Labour, but admitted that not having a working website, as Stanmore Politics reported here last week, was not helpful.
“I do take the point,” he said. “I will look into it.”
Having just joined Twitter, although not yet active on the site, Mr McNulty was positive about the role of blogging in political campaign. But he reserved no praise for fellow Harrow politician, (Conservative PPC for Harrow West) Rachel Joyce’s efforts.
“It’s quite a tedious blog though isn’t it.”
Read the full interview here