The SNP’s 50 new members angered traditionalists before the election of the Speaker on Monday when some attempted to turf the veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner out of the seat he has always claimed when Labour have been in opposition throughout his 45 years as an MP.
Kaufman, who has the honorary title of father of the house, said: “I think that their conduct is infantile. I don’t know what they’re trying to prove. It’s all very well for them to try to sit in a block, but to move one of the longest-serving members of parliament out of a seat that he’s occupied for decades, it’s stupid.”
SNP MPs, who now hold 56 seats in the Commons, have also been reprimanded by parliamentary staff for taking selfies, which breaks the Palace of Westminster’s strict no-photography rules, and for applauding in the Commons chamber.
“On the date of the convening of parliament and on the date of the swearing in, some of them actually sat on the opposition front bench,” said Kaufman. “They’re goons and if they go on like this instead of using their undoubted mandate from the Scottish people to be serious about issues on behalf of Scotland – which is what they’ve been elected to do – if they’re going to play these infantile games, they will devalue themselves.”
Kaufman, 84, has been MP for Manchester Gorton since 1983 and, before that, was MP for Manchester Ardwick from 1970. He will have been a member of parliament for 45 years in June and was made father of the house, an honorary title given to the longest-serving MP, after the retirement of Peter Tapsell, 85, who was the MP for Louth and Horncastle since 1966.
The baby of the house, the title given to the youngest member, is Mhairi Black, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, who overturned the 24,000-strong majority of former Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander.
The Labour party lost 40 of its 41 Scottish MPs in this month’s general election, ending its 50-year reign as Scotland’s largest party. The defeat resulted in the resignation of the leader of the Scottish Labour party, Jim Murphy, on Saturday.
Asked what the Labour party needed to do to win back support north of the border, Kaufman said: “I’m not Scottish and therefore I don’t understand Scotland in the way that I hope I understand England. It’s clear that what happened in Scotland was a cataclysm. Some of our best Labour MPs, some for whom I have the highest regard and a number of whom are my personal friends, just vanished in the onslaught.”
He added: “I can’t tell Scottish people and I can’t tell Scottish Labour what to do, but just as the UK Labour party is going to have to take a long, hard look at itself and is going to have to assess what it needs to do in order to be in accord with the people of this country of the United Kingdom, the Scottish Labour party is going to have to be a part of that.
“Because, although we had a very bad result in England and Wales, it was nowhere near as bad as what our friends in Scotland underwent.”
- Gerald Kaufman was speaking to the Guardian for the Politics Weekly podcast, which you can listen to in full here
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