Scot Nats may stymy Labour

THE Recess Elections Act of 1975 may not have crossed your radar, but it has the potential to give the Labour Party in general, and Gordon Brown in particular, a massive headache.

Graham Dines

THE Recess Elections Act of 1975 may not have crossed your radar, but it has the potential to give the Labour Party in general, and Gordon Brown in particular, a massive headache.

The convention at Westminster is that when an MP dies or retires, the party to which he belonged has the responsibility to call the by-election. It's not the done thing for others to set the election timetable in motion.

Glenrothes' Labour MP John MacDougall died two weeks ago and in the normal scheme of things, the by-election would be called when the vacancy is declared following MPs' return from their long vacation, giving a polling day of the end of October or beginning of November.

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However, under the Recess Elections Act, the Speaker has the power to declare the vacancy while Parliament is not sitting and if Labour believes it will lose the seat and refuses an early poll, then another party - in this case almost certainly the Scottish Nationalist - may force the Speaker's hand.

It will be a crude political tactic if the SNP does act. The sole reason will be to embarrass the Prime Minister, because if Labour loses Glenrothes - the seat adjoining Brown's Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency - then the perceived wisdom is that he will be doomed and Scotland will be the SNP's for the taking.

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A NICE little jolly for those who can climb aboard is being organised by the European Regions Airline Association in Manchester in October. This is the first I've of the group, and I appear to have been invited because I'm on every “regions of Europe” mailing list.

Exclusive access to airline presidents and the industry's decision-makers is promised at a media breakfast and highlights of the three day event include a golf tournament at Mere Country Club in Cheshire - second only to Royal Birkdale in the ranking of North West England's golf courses - and a black tie cocktail reception at Manchester's five star Hilton Hotel.

Main event is a round table discussion to focus on “the current crisis relating to the overall impact on the structure and viability of the industry in terms of future fuel, carbon prices, and fuel availability.”

Pity I can't attend - I'm taking to the high seas for an autumn cruise.

AS Home Secretary Jacqui Smith cracks down on paedophiles, there is one difficulty for film censors and the police and that is the age of consent. Ours is 16 but in other countries, sex is lawful from 12 and therefore it would have to be tested in our courts whether imported images of their sexual activities are illegal.

This is not an exhaustive list, but in Chile, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Paraguay, Panama, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe consent is deemed to be 12; in Spain, Nigeria, Korea, and Syria it's 13; in Albania, Austria, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Estonia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Lichtenstein, Montenegro, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, San Marino, Singapore, and Togo it is 14, and in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, the Lebanon, Monaco, Morocco, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Thailand and Turkey its 15.

You will note that 15 of these states of these are in the European Union.

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