Wednesday 22 April 2009

Claudia Beamish - an interesting Labour choice ...

The new chair of the Scottish Labour Party is Claudia Beamish, daughter of Sir Tufton Victor Hamilton Beamish, also known as Baron Chelwood, who was wounded during the retreat from Dunkirk; rowed (along with seven other men) away from Singapore as it was falling to the Japanese forces (to Sumatra which had also fallen, forcing them on to Ceylon); served with the Eighth Army in North Africa and took part in the invasion of Italy before leaving the army at the end of the war. He followed his father into the Commons and served as a Conservative MP for 29 years - turning down offers of Ministerial positions. He inspired the Private Eye character Sir Bufton Tufton and wrote a book, Half Marx, warning against the rise of the left in the Labour party.

His daughter is made of similarly stern stuff - a primary school teacher, she's topped Labour's list in the South of Scotland for the last two Holyrood general elections and is currently a Labour candidate (taking on David Mundell, I think) for the Westminster election. She's not shy and retiring, and she's not afraid to put forward her case. As an activist in the Socialist Environment and Resources Association she spearheaded a campaign to remove David Milliband because of his support for nuclear power - which she and others in Labour's 'green wing' oppose.

She's not afraid to speak out publicly either, authoring submissions to consultations which make clear her opposition to nuclear power (and the opposition of other Labour members) and her interview with the BBC before last year's Labour regional conference hints at an intelligent and thoughtful woman (yes, there are one or two in the Labour party). She was on the CND/STUC working group that reasoned that getting rid of Trident would increase Scottish employment prospects and she's described nuclear power as a "dangerous irrelevance". She has had a wee bit controversy here and there, but nothing too scandalous.

Here's the question, though, with Labour's new Scottish convenor agreeing with the SNP on nuclear power and nuclear weapons, are we about to see a Labour volte-face to support the eminently sensible position of the SNP? Will Labour in Scotland have the courage of Claudia Beamish's convictions and will Labour in Scotland now oppose the unwelcome positions taken by Gordon Brown and his cohorts on nuclear power and nuclear weapons?

This could be most interesting. Mind how you go!

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