Kate Hoey under pressure

Things have come to a pretty pass when that doughty daughter of Ulster, Labour MP Kate Hoey is defended by the Conservative king of the blog Iain Dale and attacked in a Labour-looking website. Her announcement as sports adviser to the then Tory candidate for London mayor Boris Johnson can hardly have endeared her to the Labour campaign. But then she has often clashed with Labour’s sports policies from Wembley to the Maze. She behaves as if her own sporting prowess won on the fields of Ulster gives her more clout than her critics. In some Labour eyes Kate, easily Northern Ireland’s most famous political export, has become so wayward that not for the first time, she’s in some danger of facing a de-selection threat in her Vauxhall south London constituency. .Kate is behaving more and more like an independent than loyal Labour. Tony Blair fired her and earned her undying wrath ever since, though more in principle as with her opposition to the Iraq war and support for CND, and anti-Trident rather than out of revenge. What Kate sees as humbug around her is endlessly her target. She can carry her assaults to the point of perversity, thriving on topics that get right up the noses of the mighty. Did she really have to chide a beleaguered Gordon Brown for meeting the Dalai Lama in Lambeth Palace rather than Downing St?

In NI she take a detailed sometimes sporty, often non-party interest but politically she’s as near to the DUP as makes no difference, even to the extent as a Labour MP of endorsing Arlene Foster, an old friend.

But Kate is no right wing cliché. She’s a fierce anti-racist and at considerable personal risk made an undercover film in Zimbabwe to expose the brutalities of the Mugabe regime.
Kate Hoey shares the belief in an Ulster Unionist political nation under assault from a terrorist Republican enemy and undermined by pusilanimous Britain.

Her personality is so powerful that it’s often assumed over here that we’re all like her.

Yet she still has her supporters in the Labour tradition. From Andy Macsmith, once an aide to the late Labour leader John Smith you can almost hear the sigh coming down the wire: “What’s to be done with Kate?” Political survival I hope, but she needs to watch it. She probably won’t.

I wonder what impact the same mix of the bravely progressive and the blinkered would have had on NI politics, had she stayed at home.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London