Midlothian’s new Labour MP has big shoes to fill – but they aren’t her party’s

So, the dust has settled, and the election results are clear – Midlothian has a new MP, Labour newcomer Danielle Rowley, who defeated the SNP incumbent Owen Thompson by only 885 votes.

From 1955 to 2015, Midlothian had been a Labour stronghold; with Corbyn’s meteoric rise in England, it seems almost unsurprising that the voters of Midlothian have returned to their Labour roots, despite a 10,000 majority to the SNP in the last election. But while Miss Rowley has been swept to power on the back of a resurrected Labour movement, closer to home she may find that the shoes of her predecessor are quite a bit larger than she anticipated.

Oh, but I’m not talking about David Hamilton, the Labour MP who stood down before the 2015 elections after representing Midlothian for 14 years. I’m talking about Owen Thompson.

Let’s look at the numbers.

In his two year tenure as MP,  Owen Thompson spoke in an impressive 60 debates, and put forward 25 Early Day Motions – parliamentary  jargon for the motions designed to bring attention to areas of interest or a particular subject. Contrast this with Hamilton, who between 2001 and 2003 (the first two years of his tenure) spoke in only 23 debates – it would take him a further two years to match the figure of his SNP successor – and by the end of his parliamentary career had submitted just 23 EDMs in 14 years.

So while Mr Hamilton may have been a recognised figure in the community, in reality his successor had done more for Midlothian in two years than Labour did in over a decade.

While I am reserving my official judgement on Miss Rowley until she has had enough time to prove herself, initial impressions aren’t exactly comforting. Her campaign pledges spoke nothing of Brexit, Trident, or other issues within her control – instead she focused on housing and social care, a stance she reiterated in this interview with LabourList:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/LabourList/videos/10154902747863020/

Of course, housing and social care are matters devolved to the Scottish Government, over which she has no control or influence – not that the anti-Corbyn MSPs of Scottish Labour would support her, even if her father is their Deputy Leader in Holyrood. I suspect that she may seek to form ties with the new Scottish Labour administration in power at Midlothian Council – but that in itself brings with it a host of problems, given the party’s informal alliance with the Scottish Conservatives there.

All in all, it’s interesting times ahead for Midlothian – and if Miss Rowley does not provide the same voice for her constituents as her predecessor, we may well see that 885 figure diminish by the time a new election is called.

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