65! What a pleasing figure.
I have fought many elections. Lost some: won more. I cannot remember the number of votes I had in any of them, but I will always the recall the hard won 65 votes my helpers gained in yesterday’s vote for Chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee. Because of my jobs on the front bench I had only a few days to let MPs know I was a candidate. Three Labour Party major figures had been hoovering up the votes since early September. I pleaded at Labour’s Conference in Liverpool for them to return to their frontbench roles. They are frontbenchers and we need them to lead Labour’s battle in the Commons.
For years I have advocated that Select Committees should be led by backbenchers – not by former/future ministers. The tasks call for different skills. In my brief message I applauded the enduring successes by past committees-virtually all chaired by backbenchers.
The immediate impression when I first rang a few members was that my chance of winning was nil and that one candidate was leading by a mile. There were very few who had not already committed to other candidates. Their loyalty to them was unmoveable and commendable. But the point I wish to make is an important one. I dug out my words on the strengths and weaknesses on committees and suggestions for reform. These points are worth repeating and there was a very encouraging twitter response to the text I put on my blog. It was a triumph to find 15 nominees from the Labour party who were uncommitted. With seconds to spare my completed nomination was accepted.
I tweeted the news that my chances of being elected were at protozoan level. Then, marvellous. 65 MPs voted for me. What a triumph. There was warm friendly reception from MPs of many parties in the Division Lobby last night. It could not have been more reassuring if I had won. The campaign was a loss but I will treasure it as a lifetime moral victory!