Parliament had been dissolved for little over 24 hours when Eric Joyce was again making headlines.
The maverick former MP is accused of assaulting two teenagers in a London off licence, something he vehemently denies. And when his case called again at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, despite him not being in court, it received extensive media coverage. This will no doubt be repeated on May 1 when he is due to stand trial.
It’s toxic for MPs in general, but a lot stuff that was published about me wasn’t true. I would have needed a permanent rebuttal machine if I was to have responded to it all and I eventually chose not toEric Joyce
After over 14 years representing the people of Falkirk in the House of Commons, his parliamentary career came to an end in the way it is likely to be remembered by many with headline-grabbing notoriety.
Days earlier, on his last visit to Falkirk as its MP, he took time to reflect on his Westminster years – and where it all began to go wrong.
Candidly, he admitted that perhaps it is something in his make-up that saw him fall foul of authority so often throughout his 54 years.
Expelled from school, he later resigned from the British Army, then quit the Labour Party after a well-publicised fracas in a Westminster bar when he unceremoniously thumped a Tory MP.
“Most of my time in politics I’ve actually enjoyed,” he admitted. “However, you have to become inured to stuff on a daily basis and perhaps I did that a bit too much.
“It’s toxic for MPs in general, but a lot stuff that was published about me wasn’t true. I would have needed a permanent rebuttal machine if I was to have responded to it all and I eventually chose not to.
“I was insensitive to it, which is probably rubbish politics on my part. When you do that the game’s up. I think I have a destructive gene and hope I have seen the end of that.”
He bluntly admits that he entered politics to gain a position of power – his aspirations of taking up residence in 10 Downing Street were what spurred him on in the early years.
But that changed in 2005 “when Tony Blair didn’t put me in his government” said the politician wryly.
However, his time as a constituency MP was still rewarding he admitted.
“I don’t think enjoyment is the word but it was immensely satisfying at times. You probably have around 100 live cases at any given time. The most interesting ones are when you can address issues to change policy or legislation.”
He cited two cases which he has worked on in the last 14 years which were rewarding as he managed to get changes made: one involving a discrepancy in child benefit regulations that disadvantaged young Scottish further education students and another where a father was losing out financially with the Child Support Agency because of his employment.
“However, I have found out that just because you manage to sort things out for people it doesn’t mean that they will vote for you,” he said.
Perceived by some as anti-establishment, Mr Joyce took part in the historic prorogation of Parliament in the ceremony in the House of Lords to mark the end of the current session and shook the Speaker’s hand as he left Westminster for the final time as an MP.
“I did take a moment to sit and take it all in before I left. I’ve enjoyed my time but not the mistakes I made.”,,
Controversial MP ready to tell it all
Quitting UK politics will bring a lot of changes for the divorced dad-of-two daughters.
Currently Joyce is writing a ‘warts and all’ autobiography, then planning to write another about Africa. He has devoted a lot of his time in Parliament highlighting the political struggles of the continent.
What exactly his first book will include is not known, but he does admit to being told by publishers that it must include details of his early life “as that’s what readers expect”.
Others will be no doubt hoping for more details on his decision to resign his commission in the British Army in 1999 after labelling it “racist, sexist and discriminatory”.
But it his misdemeanours that found him on several occasions held in a police cell that have the potential to be the best read chapters.
His conviction in 2010 for failing to provide police with a breath sample after a motoring incident in Grangemouth; the infamous House of Commons assault on a Tory MP in February 2012; then a subsequent court appearance for cutting off the electronic tag being worn as part of his punishment; another altercation in a House of Commons bar in 2013 which, although he was never prosecuted, led to a ban on him consuming alcohol in the Palace of Westminster; and, in May 2013, clashing with Edinburgh airport staff in a breach of the peace incident.
Whether he goes into any details of his friendship with a schoolgirl Labour Party worker during the 2010 General Election campaign is also unclear, although when it came to light in 2012, together with the assault case, it led to him quitting Labour and representing Falkirk as an independent MP.
He did admit that during his time in the Party he was “probably never seen as part of the brotherhood, not part of the team”, while Conservatives would say he was arrogant and distant.
“Not all of that is true,” he said, but added: “But I do have a natural arrogance.”