Monday, February 05, 2007

A sad story

I can't claim to have known Fiona Jones (pictured, left, in happier days) but I was extremely saddened to hear the news of her death last week. Although her death was ostensibly due to alcohol abuse, her problems appear to have stemmed from our hard-drinking Westminster culture coupled with her shocking, but totally predictable, treatment at the hands of the New Labour hierarchy.

Fiona was one of a number of MPs elected in 1997 who hadn't really been expected to win, and who as a result had not been thoroughly Mandelsonised in the way other "Blair Babes" had been. Mandelson actually held a meeting with Labour Press Officers at 6am on the morning of Labour's election victory to discuss what to do about these dangerous loose cannons. In Fiona's case, the answer soon became clear: marginalise them.

She certainly wasn't the only one. Another 1997 intake MP who I won't bother to name also became well-known for enjoying a drop or two and for consorting with journalists, and within a couple of months of the election I was being told by people in the whips' office that she "would probably have to be deselected." Another victim of the briefing culture around this time was Gordon McMaster, who committed suicide in 1997, alleging that two fellow Labour MPs had spread rumours about his sexuality.

Like McMaster, Fiona Jones was not a heavy drinker before entering Parliament, but once subjected to its degenerate boozing culture she allowed a taste for alcohol to get out of control. Having worked in the Commons for nearly a decade I know how easily this can happen, and at one time I had to take steps to make sure it didn't happen to me.

In 1999, Fiona was wrongly convicted of falsifying her election expenses in what, in the light of what we now know about this sleazy New Labour regime, now seems a pretty inconsequential hill of beans. The sum total of the case against her was that she had overspent her allocation by a few quid by neglecting to fill in her expenses form properly.

She was cleared on appeal, but "whiter-than-white" New Labour had now cut her firmly adrift and in 2001 she lost her seat. Perhaps this is one of the reasons they were so keen to see the back of her.

Several other pieces sympathetic to Fiona have appeared on the blogosphere over the weekend, but perhaps the most revealing comment came from an anonymous poster on Paul Walter's blog, Liberal Burblings.

"She was treated like shit by a local and national Labour Party that should have at least the minimal duty of care that we would expect (especially a trade-unionised party) in any other type of work. I was told not to speak to her - "she's bad news." Fiona's story is not the first and will not be the last."

This post was featured on "Best of the Web" on Comment is Free.

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G Eagle Esq said...

Dear Paul

I'm so sorry - is there anything we can do for the Family

Yr obedient servant etc


MorrisOx said...

Whether ot not the New Labour mafia did their worst, there is little doubt that a similarly narrow-minded and thoroughy nasty little clique did their best to ruin her both personally and professionally in the town she represented.
Fiona Jones was not an easy person to get on with, but the vested interests that like to treat provincial towns such as Newark as their personal fief simply couldn't stomach the idea of 'their' turf being represented by a) a New Labour MP and b) a woman. So they tried to run her out of town.
It is to New Labour's shame that they failed in their duty of care to her and failed to tackle the elements within their own party who also did her down.
Fiona Jones was not ministerial material and made a number of mistakes in her political career.
None of those mistakes merited being hung out to dry.
New Labour should be ashamed for not standing by her and not exposing the despicable activities of a distasteful provincial crowd who set about ruining her.
A small town with a very small mind.

Ellee said...

A very tragic case, and like minds, as you say, in posting on the same story today. I'm sure she is not alone, that the highs and lows of the job, the stresses involved, make it unbearable at times, as well as the loneliness, having nobody to talk to and share your depths of despair.

Bel said...

A very thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

sue r said...

This just shows the depth of apolicization of New Labour, it never was anything but personality politics. Did Fiona Jones have a background in activism or campaigning? She must have felt cut off from her constituents, one argument for having a fully functioning party.

Anonymous said...

Patrick Mercer, rejected the allegations of a smear campaign and insisted he was fighting a "clean" campaign.

Fiona said: "The Tories have been asking people on the doorstep if they knew their MP had been arrested on several occasions. It's very damaging. I was never arrested and the court case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal." Fiona wrote to Newark Conservatives to complain.

Patrick Mercer said: “I have made no form of personal attack.”

Commenting on an endorsement of Mrs Fiona Jones MP by Labour Party members for her to stand at the next General Election, Mr Mercer said: "I hope she will have a little bit more confidence to do her job properly as she seems to break appointments, to snub people and refuse to answer telephone calls and letters.

Let us hope in a year's time we get the result she richly deserves and we richly deserve, because if she cannot do the job properly, I know someone who can."

This Christian lady was done up like a Christmas turkey

Let us all hope that in the time to come we get the result he so very richly deserves and we so richly deserve!!

G Eagle Esq said...

Dear Paul

Wer ist Paul Mercer ?

Yr obedt servt