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Post office vote: criticism of MPs is justified

PUBLISHED: 09:32 28 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:53 07 September 2010

LABOUR MPs Glenda Jackson, Frank Dobson and Karen Buck cannot be surprised at the criticism they have attracted for failing to nail their post office colours to the mast where it really matters - in Parliament. When it came to the crunch they could not b

LABOUR MPs Glenda Jackson, Frank Dobson and Karen Buck cannot be surprised at the criticism they have attracted for failing to nail their post office colours to the mast where it really matters - in Parliament.

When it came to the crunch they could not bring themselves to vote against the government, preferring instead to help defeat a reasonable Tory motion calling for further consultations. Their public attacks on the latest proposed round of branch closures now have a hollow ring.

Evidently, Ms Jackson did not want to be seen to support the government closure plan. Yet the thought of voting with the Tories was so abhorrent to her that she abstained. However, this still places her in an uneasy No Man's Land, causing many to question if her opposition to the closures is as strongly committed as she would have us believe.

Mr Dobson and Ms Buck, both of whom have led local protests, went a significant step further by actually voting against the motion. The distinction between their position and that of the honourable member for Hampstead and Highgate is not insignificant. However, these were all poor choices, for on this matter it was important that opponents of the post office closures left the government in no doubt as to the strength of feeling in their constituencies.

Voters have long memories. They will not easily forgive what is being seen as treachery on the part of politicians who placed party loyalties above the need to represent their constituents.

In the grand scheme of things, the Tory motion was not unsupportable, calling merely for the suspension of the government's programme to shut 2,500 post offices to allow for more detailed consultation and wider discussion.

But before the Tories become too smug about making life uncomfortable for their Labour opponents, it is of course duly recorded that the vote would have been even closer if the Tory leader, David Cameron, and 10 of his MPs had turned up to vote. Instead they were notable by their absence.

It now remains to be seen if Mr Dobson and Ms Buck in particular will be quite so welcome at future public protests, particularly in Camden where Mr Dobson joined the demonstration to keep Crowndale Road post office open, and in Maida Vale where Ms Buck has been entrusted to deliver to Parliament a 2,000-name petition opposing the closure of Formosa Street branch. Glenda Jackson has been somewhat less visible but has a great deal to do to convince post office campaigners that she is really on their side.

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