Hugh Kerr

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Person.png Hugh Kerr   TwitterRdf-icon.png
(politician, academic)
Hugh Kerr 4.jpg
Hugh Kerr at the 2014 SNP Conference
Born9 July 1944
Hurlford, East Ayrshire

Hugh Kerr is a Scottish politician and a former lecturer in social policy at the University of East London.

Hugh Kerr was elected a Labour Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in June 1994 to represent the euro-constituency of Essex West & Hertfordshire East until 1999.[1] Kerr was in charge of cultural policy for the European Parliament from 1994 to 1999. He is now a freelance journalist writing on cultural and political affairs, and has been attending the Edinburgh Festival for 45 years.

In November 2011, Hugh Kerr joined the governing Scottish National Party claiming he wants to fight for an "independent Socialist Scotland" within Alex Salmond’s SNP. At the SNP's November 2014 Conference, Hugh Kerr made a rousing speech criticising Tony Blair ("I knew he was a Tory long before everybody realised he was a Tory") and eulogising "my old friend" SNP politician Winnie Ewing, who had invited him to join the SNP.[2]

In December 2014, Hugh Kerr announced his candidacy for the Westminster seat Kilmarnock and Loudoun. However, on 30 January 2015, Hugh Kerr reported that his bid had been unsuccessful:

"Congratulations to Alan Brown who won the vote today and good luck with the campaign to win Killie for the SNP. I want to thank everyone who voted for me and my wonderful team of supporters who worked so hard."[3]

Surprising win

At the 1994 European Parliamentary Election Hugh Kerr defeated the Conservative incumbent Patricia Rawlings, and was elected as the MEP for Essex West & Hertfordshire East (then comprising the Westminster constituencies of Brentwood and Ongar, Broxbourne, Epping Forest, Harlow, Hertford and Stortford, North East Hertfordshire and Stevenage). In his speech on election night in June 1994, Hugh Kerr chided the defeated Patricia Rawlings (now Baroness Rawlings of Burnham Westgate) for not attending any of the series of pre-election hustings throughout the euro-constituency where local issues had been debated by the other candidates in her absence. Kerr's Press Officer during his successful European Parliamentary Election campaign was former British diplomat Patrick Haseldine.

New Lockerbie evidence

Patrick Haseldine at No 10 in July 1994
Hugh Kerr's reply to Patrick Haseldine

On 5 December 1995, Patrick Haseldine faxed a letter headed "Lockerbie bombing: new evidence to confirm South Africa's involvement" to Hugh Kerr MEP:

Dear Hugh,
It was remiss of me not to have thanked you sooner for your letter of 31st July about my bid to get reinstated in the FCO.
You may be interested in seeing Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Hanley's "final" word on the matter which arrived under cover of Eric Pickles' letter of 19th October (two pages follow).
On Lockerbie, Mr Hanley suggested in his letter that the Crown Office in Edinburgh would evaluate any new evidence. Yesterday, I delivered a dossier of new evidence to Eric Pickles at the House of Commons with the request that he should transmit it without delay to the Crown Office. I then mailed a copy of the dossier to you.
When you have had an opportunity to read this new evidence, I hope you will consult your near neighbour in the European Parliament as to how best to carry the matter forward. As you know, Glenys Kinnock is Chair of One World Action which was set up in memory of Bernt Carlsson who, according to this new evidence, was the target of the Lockerbie bombing.
It would be a poignant reminder of Mr Carlsson's last official engagement (in addressing a Committee of the European Parliament on 20th December 1988) if MEPs were to take the lead in resolving the current impasse over the Lockerbie investigation and in finally bringing the murderers to justice.
Yours sincerely,
Patrick Haseldine

On 15 December 1995, Hugh Kerr replied as follows:

Dear Patrick
Thank you for your letter of 5th December and for the dossier about the Lockerbie bombing. It certainly makes interesting reading!
I have given a resumé of your finding's to Glenys Kinnock's office and asked her to contact you direct if she wishes to become involved. I have also spoken to John Corrie, the MEP in whose constituency Jim Swire lives. He has done a lot of research into the Lockerbie disaster and might also be interested in contacting you.
It will be interesting to see what the Crown Office makes of your evidence!
With best wishes
Yours sincerely
Hugh Kerr MEP

In his letter dated 13 February 1996, J A Dunn, Senior Legal Assistant in the Crown Office, told Patrick Haseldine:

"Although everything you say has been considered in relation to the Lockerbie criminal investigation, I have to advise you the the four items which you have described as new pieces of evidence do not provide the evidential basis which would be required for bringing charges against anyone."

Old and New Labour

Hugh Kerr based his euro-constituency office - run by Mike Hobday - in the marginal constituency of Harlow providing support for the local Labour party and its nominee Bill Rammell. Kerr fell out with the New Labour government not long after the 1 May 1997 General Election - when Rammell was elected as Harlow's MP - accusing the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of "stalinist tendencies" for planning to abolish all current euro-constituencies and for introducing a party list regional system for future European elections, and to stifle any criticism by Labour MEPs.

In a House of Commons debate on 27 November 1997, Hugh Kerr was quoted as saying that the gagging "shows that New Labour is increasingly authoritarian and centralised".[4]

The dissident

Hugh Kerr was suspended by Labour's National Executive Committee and later expelled from the Labour Party along with fellow dissident Ken Coates MEP, with whom he then formed the Independent Labour Network. He left the Party of European Socialists and joined forces with The Green Group in the European Parliament, becoming the first Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MEP. At the June 1999 European Parliament election, with voting on the basis of proportional representation throughout the United Kingdom, Kerr was at the top of the SSP's party list for Scotland's seven European seats but the party's share of the vote was too low to secure his re-election as an MEP.

Back to Scotland

After a period living in Australia, Hugh Kerr returned to Scotland and worked as press officer to Tommy Sheridan MSP. In the May 2003 Scottish Parliamentary Elections, Kerr stood as an SSP candidate for the East Lothian constituency but gained only 1,380 votes (4.42%).[5]

Hugh Kerr was the SSP's #3 candidate at the June 2004 European Parliamentary Election, but it didn't do much better for the SSP than five years earlier. His share of the vote at the Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency in the 2005 General Election slumped to 1.9% (833 votes).[6] Hugh Kerr resigned from the SSP in September 2006 to become the Press Officer of Solidarity, a new party led by Tommy Sheridan.

He was a defence witness in HM Advocate v Sheridan and Sheridan.

Joining the SNP

In November 2011, Hugh Kerr joined the Scottish National Party.[7]

Mr Kerr, who was expelled from Labour in the late-1990s under Tony Blair’s leadership, said that he had opted to join the SNP because the nationalists had "moved to the left" and that he now wanted to work with other "socialists inside" Scotland’s governing party at Holyrood.

Tommy Sheridan’s former press officer also said he would be "delighted" to stand for the SNP as a Holyrood candidate or in the 2012 council’s elections, after contesting a South of Scotland seat in the Scottish Parliament on the Solidarity banner this May. Mr Kerr, who has already been out leafleting for the SNP and is now a member of the party’s Edinburgh Western branch, said that he "wouldn’t be surprised if other comrades" from Solidarity joined the nationalists.

He said: "There are socialists inside the SNP and I hope to contribute to that by doing my bit to create an independent Socialist Scotland."[8]

PPC at Kilmarnock

Hugh Kerr rounding up the votes!

In a bid to be selected as the SNP's prospective parliamentary candidate at Kilmarnock and Loudon in the May 2015 General Election, Hugh Kerr issued the following statement:

I want to be a different kind of MP for Kilmarnock and Loudon.
Firstly, I intend to take only half my salary and give the other half to good causes in the constituency.
Secondly, I want to have a regular report back meeting to the electorate where anyone can come and ask me questions on what has been happening at Westminster and in the constituency. This is something I used to do as an MEP and with new technology we should be able to live stream it and archive it so that everyone can access it.
Thirdly, I want to have an excellent constituency office with well trained casework officers, policy workers and administrative workers aided by interns from local colleges. This is how my office was organised as an MEP and it was acknowledged as one of the best in the Parliament.
Fourthly, my Westminster office will be backed by a panel of advisors drawn from friends in academic life and journalism where I have a wealth of contacts and will help me make an impact.
If selected and elected the SNP will get an experienced MP to help win more powers for Scotland, and Kilmarnock and Loudon will get an excellent service from its member.[9]

Resigning from the SNP

On 3 May 2016, Scottish Labour stalwart Mary Lockhart announced on Facebook:

"I am sorry for my friend and fellow NUJ member, Hugh Kerr, who has resigned from the SNP over Nicola Sturgeon's post Hillsborough endorsement of the Sun. But I do not believe for one second that he is retiring altogether from politics. However many times he has found himself without a political home, he always seeks and finds a new one![10]

Darwin to Melbourne

On 11 August 2013, Hugh Kerr announced on his Facebook page:

"I am riding a motorbike across Australia in September (1st to 21st) from Darwin to Melbourne: 6,400 km including some off road trail riding. I am in my old patch in Adelaide for a few days catching up with old friends and the election! Then up to Darwin and then I motorcycle from Darwin down to Melbourne with a group of Aussie bikers: 21 days 6,400 km! Then a couple of days in Melbourne and a week in Sydney.
"So I don't feel bad about missing a month of campaigning for 'Yes', I will accept sponsorship which will go to the 'Yes' campaign. Anything gratefully accepted: make your contributions directly to the 'Yes' campaign or send it to me and I will pass it on and match the funding!
"Thanks, Hugh (and I will of course be campaigning among the Scots diaspora in OZ!)"[11]

Don't mention the referendum

On 13 August 2013, Hugh Kerr issued the following press release:

Extraordinary scenes happened at an Edinburgh Festival event last night in the Hub.
BBC Newsnight journalist Paul Mason was giving a talk on struggles around the world. In a contribution from the floor, journalist and former MEP Hugh Kerr mentioned that the Festival director Jonathan Mills had banned any mention of the referendum during next year's Festival, which of course would only be weeks away from the vote. Paul Mason replied agreeing that Scotland's decision would be very important to the future of the British State.
However minutes later a Festival official rushed onto the stage and insisted that the chairman Bill Heaney of the Musicians' Union read out a statement from Festival director Jonathan Mills. In it Mills insisted he was not banning the referendum but choosing to focus on the First World War and the Empire and the Commonwealth!
Hugh Kerr asked for the right to reply but this was refused by the chair!
Hugh Kerr said: "This is an extraordinary happening, clearly either Jonathan Mills was listening in his office nearby as the event was in the Hub, or a press officer alerted him to my contribution and he decided to issue what he thought was a rebuttal but actually confirmed what I had said. Interventions like this suggest that Mr Mills is afraid of real debate over the issue of the referendum which is no doubt why he has banned any shows dealing with it at the Festival. I note the National Theatre of Scotland is producing a major theatre show covering both sides of the referendum. This should be part of the official Festival next year. Visitors to Edinburgh will think it very odd that, weeks before the most important decision in Scotland for 300 years, the Festival is ignoring it. However I note again that Sir Jonathan is going to focus on the First World War and the Empire no doubt to remind us how 'British' we are. It is clear that Mr Mills has got his knighthood for his loyalty to the British state!
"This attitude by Mills does not surprise me as throughout his tenure he has shown little interest in Scottish affairs or Scottish culture, for example he refused to have any events around Robert Burns in the year of the Bicentenary. When I challenged him about this he claimed that the Festival was international. I reminded him then that part of the Festival Mission statement is 'to showcase Scottish culture to the world' - something Mills has singularly failed to do. However I am not leaving this matter here, I will be mounting a major campaign to make sure the Festival covers all sides of the referendum debate next year and will be asking the Edinburgh Trades Council and Edinburgh City Council members on the Festival board to raise this issue at board meetings. I will also be launching a campaign in the press and social media on the theme of 'Make the Edinburgh Festival part of Scotland'! Of course the Festival should be international but its mission statement is also to represent Scottish culture to the world. Next year Scotland will be taking its biggest decision for 300 years: it would be a travesty if this was not reflected in the Festival. Art is political and Sir Jonathan's decision to ignore the referendum and focus on the First World war is a political decision! Scotland expects the most important arts festival in the world held in Scotland to reflect what is going on in Scotland!"[12]

Post-referendum Labour

In a letter to The Scotsman on 28 October 2014, Hugh Kerr predicted that the election of Jim Murphy as leader of the Scottish Labour Party would hasten Scotland's independence:

I joined the Scottish Labour Party more than 50 years ago in Kilmarnock and spent more than 30 years as an activist, councillor and MEP in Scotland and in England. Even though I was expelled from Labour in 1998 for opposition to Tony Blair (I was ahead of my time!) I still feel some sympathy for the pain that socialists who remain in the Labour Party in Scotland must feel. The truth is that Labour signed its own death warrant when it decided to get into bed with the Tories and oppose independence.
Labour founder Keir Hardie was a Home Rule man and this was Labour’s view until it was changed by Kilmarnock MP Willie Ross in the 1960s when he became "the hammer of the Nats".
Just think: if Labour had campaigned for independence, we would have won the vote and Labour could have won the next Scottish Parliament election.
The only person who might stand a chance of pulling Labour together and putting up a fight would be Gordon Brown but the "great clunking fist" sees himself as a colossus on the world stage and is very unlikely to stand, not least because he isn’t certain he would win.
So that leaves Jim Murphy as the likely winner of the leadership election but the certain loser of the General Election in Scotland next year and of the Scottish Parliament in 2016. This is very appropriate as Murphy has been (my Labour friends tell me) plotting Labour’s future in Scotland for the past few years.
I am looking forward to the debates between Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Murphy, in which she will remind him that he was a cheer-leader for the Iraq war and a supporter of spending £100 billion replacing Trident, not to mention being Tony Blair’s greatest fan in Scotland.
Jim Murphy may also help in the historic task of gaining independence for Scotland. A Murphy leadership will ensure at least 20 MPs for the SNP next May and I can’t see anyone taking Ed Miliband seriously as an alternative Prime Minister.
So five more years of a Tory government sustained by a rump of Liberals and a sack of UKIP MPs, a vote to leave the EU in 2017 and lots more cuts will convince the Scottish people that independence is the only answer.
Jim Murphy will go down in history as the Labour leader who helped to break up the Union. I look forward to his election!
Hugh Kerr (former Labour MEP)
Wharton Square
Edinburgh[13]

Upon confirmation of Murphy's election as Scottish Labour leader on 13 December 2014, Hugh Kerr commented on Facebook:

"Is this the end of the Labour Party in Scotland?"[14]

Ethics and Journalism

Hugh Kerr addressing the 2014 NUJ Conference

As an Ethics Committee member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Hugh Kerr is pictured addressing the NUJ Conference on 11 April 2014. Kerr's motion on defending Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers and journalists reporting on state surveillance went through unanimously.[15]

Hugh Kerr's Facebook friend Jeremy Corbyn MP said:

"Well done Hugh, was great to see you there on Friday."[16]

Martin Allan commented:

If you know about whistleblowing, you will know that going to the media is the last resort, because you will lose your job, way of life and equal opportunity health and safety. That's in Scotland, so what will this paper exercise do to prevent democracy being removed from individuals and their families who exercise the moral obligation to whistleblow about wrong-doing? Can you ask while sitting making the defenders of democracy?

Patrick Haseldine added:

Us whistleblowers must stick together!

BBC's dreadful bias

On 11 July 2019, Hugh Kerr wrote to The Herald:

I have never seen such a one-sided, biased documentary as the BBC Panorama programme on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party ("Two Labour chiefs accused of interfering in anti-Semite probes", The Herald, July 11).[17] This was backed up by biased coverage on news programmes on TV and radio. Those of us in Scotland have become used to BBC bias in the coverage of independence which is why the BBC in Scotland has the highest number on people refusing to pay the licence fee.

Now people in England are experiencing this level of bias I predict the number of non-payers will rise significantly too. Of course we can protest but the evidence from Scotland is that the BBC ignores the protests.

For the record as a former Labour Party member for many years and a councillor and an MEP I never encountered anti-Semitism in the Labour Party; indeed Jewish members were active in every section of the party without encountering any prejudice. The so-called problem has only begun when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader; not because he is anti-Semitic, I’ve known him for more than 40 years and he is a committed anti-racist. He has been targeted because he is a supporter of Palestinian rights and the people attacking him inside and outside the Labour Party have close connections to the Israeli government. Indeed Al-Jazeera had a very good documentary of people from the Israeli embassy boasting they have a fund of a million pounds a year to bring down their enemies.[18]

Of course, if I was a member of the Labour Party I could be expelled for stating the above but fortunately in Scotland our First Minister is on record as supporting Palestinian rights. No doubt we can expect accusations of anti-Semitism soon. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the State of Israel for its dreadful treatment of Palestinians and I hope we in Scotland can continue to uphold that right despite the BBC’s dreadful bias!

Hugh Kerr, Edinburgh EH3.[19]

References

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