Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell responds to the independent report on the May 2007 Scottish elections fiasco:
"The Secretary of State’s apparent suggestion that everybody is to blame, and that therefore no one is to blame, simply will not do. It is time for the Scotland Office to take responsibility for failing the people of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman is also the Secretary of State for Defence, and today he has been forced to come to the House to defend his predecessor, who is, disappointingly but perhaps not surprisingly, absent. However, the right hon. Gentleman has scant chance of success, because there can be no defence to the conclusion of an independent reviewer, who says that both the Scotland Office—the Scotland Office, Mr Speaker—and the Scottish Executive were frequently focused on partisan political interests in carrying out their responsibilities, overlooking voter interests and operational realities. Furthermore, what was characteristic of 2007 was a notable level of party self-interest evident in ministerial decision making.
Does the Secretary of State agree that such behaviour is tantamount to attempting gerrymandering in the worst traditions of Tammany hall politics, and that it demonstrates complete contempt for the democratic process, laying bare the inner workings of the Labour establishment for all to see? Is not the position rendered even worse by the fact that the former Secretary of State was also Labour’s Scottish election co-ordinator?
The Secretary of State knows that when candidates and agents break the
rules for their advantage they go to prison. What sanction does he
propose for Ministers who seek to make rules for their partisan
advantage? If the Government cannot be trusted with the basic
democratic duty to run elections fairly and without political
interference, what can they be trusted to do?
On 23 May, the right hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, South
promised to apologise if the review found fault with the actions and
decisions of the Scotland Office. The review has revealed not only
partisan decision making but serial incompetence: Ministers unable to
pass legislation in time, unable to take decisions in time and unable
to communicate with their counterparts in Scotland; decisions taken
against all advice and two different elections with two different
voting systems on the same day, with votes to be counted electronically
through the night. The fact that the election was not an even worse
shambles is due to the work of returning officers and their officials,
who should never have been treated in such a cavalier manner.
The current Secretary of State has said that he is not in a position to
give a definitive response to the report, but what is required is for
his predecessor to give the apology that he promised, and the
definitive response the House requires. In the light of that response,
we shall judge whether his predecessor is fit to continue in public
office. However, what is absolutely clear from this damning report is
that in future no one should ever again hold ministerial responsibility
for elections simultaneously with responsibility for the conduct of
their party’s campaign, and the Minister should immediately be stripped
of those responsibilities in the Labour party."