Labour holding crunch talks to discuss ‘brawl’ MP Eric Joyce’s future
FALKIRK Labour party constituency group met last night to discuss the future of MP Eric Joyce.
The 51-year-old was charged with three counts of assault following a row in a House of Commons bar last Wednesday night.
The former army officer remains MP for Falkirk but cannot take the Labour whip until the police investigation ends.
Some senior Labour figures want the party leadership to press him to “do the decent thing” and resign as an MP immediately. However, they are outnumbered by others who want to avoid a by-election in the immediate future for fear they lose the seat to the SNP. Mr Joyce is currently suspended from the party.
Falkirk labour councillor Jim Blackwood said the constituency party would be discussing Mr Joyce at their meeting last night.
“He is on our agenda for tonight and there will be discussions about him and if he will do the decent thing and step down,” he said. “As far as I’m aware there is nothing else that we can do right now. I think that even if he is found guilty and sent to jail for less than a year he can still hold onto his seat until the next election. There is nothing else we can do which is in our remit.”
Activists in the Falkirk Labour party have tried on a number of occasions to deselect Mr Joyce as their candidate, but he has always managed to survive.
Last night a Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Major Joyce has been suspended from the Labour Party pending very serious allegations and criminal charges. Whilst the matter is sub judice, it is necessary to exercise significant caution in order not to prejudice proceedings.”
The spokesman added: “The local party meeting was a regular, scheduled meeting but has no locus in Major Joyce’s suspension. He is ineligible to attend because his membership has been suspended.” Mr Joyce was elected in a by-election in December 2000 and has served as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to a number of government ministers since 2003.
He was PPS to the then defence secretary Bob Ainsworth until 2009, and prior to that had been a parliamentary aide to John Hutton, Mike O’Brien and Margaret Hodge.
Even if he is found guilty of assault and receives a jail sentence of less than a year he can continue to serve in Parliament. That means that Mr Joyce, if he is convicted, could continue to draw his £65,738 salary, expenses and pension contributions as an independent MP until the next general election, due in 2015.
Last week Mr Joyce’s predecessor, Dennis Canavan, who was expelled from the Labour Party for standing as an independent for the Scottish Parliament, said Joyce was not “a fit and proper person” to be an MP.
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