On the 24th February East Lothian Fabians held their AGM. The Scottish Fabian Executive and National Manager, Katherine Sangster were there to thank Noel and Liz Foy for their 25 years of service to the Fabians. Noel and Liz are sadly standing down as Secretary and Treasurer and The Fabian Society owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for all their hard work over the years. We are delighted to have Mark Davidson take over the East Lothian Fabians and look forward to more member events in the near future.
East Lothian has a strong socialist tradition, and last May saw a Labour MP returned as the county’s representative. The East Lothian Fabians were delighted to welcome Martin Whitfield MP, himself a Fabian and newly appointed on to the Scottish Executive, as their guest speaker. He updated the meeting on his first six months as a MP and taking inspiration from a previous East Lothian MP John P Mackintosh posed the question “What is the Role of an MP?” East Lothian has a strong history of constituency MP back benchers who have contributed to the politic but always put the constituency first. “Does someone voting in the constituency of East Lothian want a specific person to fulfil the role of representative in Westminster and what role do they see that as? Law maker, solving constituency problems? Do they want to know who I am, ask questions of me? Or demand representation on all issues” JP Mackintosh advocated that any constitutional reform should put democratic control and the empowerment of it’s people at its core. “People in Scotland want a degree of government for themselves. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise institutions to meet these demands”
It is timely that Martin should reflect on the work of JP Mackintosh given that so much of his parliamentary time is taken up debating Brexit whilst in the Scottish parliament devolution and a possible second referendum is never far from any debate; JP Mackintosh was a strong advocate for devolution but also at a time when it was anathema to the Labour leadership, a pro- European. JP Mackintosh faced calls for deselection on this stance and it is not hard to draw parallels to the dilemma faced by our MPs today. The challenge is to balance the need to listen to voters and to interpret the discontent voiced in the EU referendum whilst acting in the best interests of the people of the UK. “This comes back to the question what is an MP for? They must act by their judgement and conscience and not just by the pressure of public opinion. ”
The question and answer session was dominated by Brexit with everyone in the room interested in Martin’s stance on Europe and the single market. Last week Martin Whitfield joined a number of prominent figures in Scottish Labour calling for the UK to stay in the single market. Martin makes the argument “If you’re worried people don’t like the sound of “single market membership”; let’s call it peace in Northern Ireland, saving jobs, and preventing catastrophic harm to families and businesses”