Labour MP for Tyne Bridge, Mr David Clelland, is not having a good year. There is open speculation in the North East press about his future following his interesting use of the expenses system to give his then partner Brenda an equity release of £45,000 from his taxpayer funded London home. (Shortly afterwards Brenda became Mrs Clelland.) To add to his troubles, it was revealed that Mr Clelland had bought a rather attractive "oriental rug" and tried to get the taxpayer to pick up the bill for it.
Mr Clelland has also been one of the leading critics of the government's policy on smoking. He led the unsuccessful attempt to have private members' clubs excluded from the ban on smoking in public places. More recently he has been trying to incinerate government plans to ban tobacco displays in shops. The Observer recently attacked him for not declaring an interest in the issue. It turns out his step-daughter is head of a pro-smoking lobby group that is financed by the tobacco industry to fight the retail display ban.
Now Mr Clelland's troubles are a bit closer to home. Gateshead Council's Labour group will tomorrow move and debate a motion at full council highlighting the deaths and ill health caused by smoking in Gateshead - pointing out that the smoking-related health situation in the borough is amongst the worst in the country.
Interestingly, the motion goes on to demand that the MPs of the borough support a ban on point of sale promotions of tobacco in shops. Most Labour councillors in Gateshead come from the new Gateshead constituency for which Mr Clelland was narrowly selected to fight the next general election. His Tyne Bridge constituency is being scrapped.
So on the big, high profile issue on which Mr Clelland is battling, his own troops appear not only to be failing to back him, they are demanding he abandons the line he is taking. Is this the opening shot is a Gateshead Labour plot to rid themselves of this MP? Are there ambitious people in the Labour group with their sights set on his seat? Is Mr Clelland about to be smoked out?