Monthly Archives: May 2017

Airdrie Hustings for the 2017 General Election

Candidates:

Conservative
Jennifer Donnellan

Scottish National Party
Neil Gray

Labour
Helen McFarlane

Liberal Democrat
Ewan McRobert

Tomorrow night sees the first election hustings in Airdrie for many years, I think perhaps around 10 years have elapsed since the last one. All the candidates have been invited and as far as I am aware all are attending. Except one…

As I understand it Neil Gray of the SNP has yet to confirm he will attend. I’ve asked him directly on Twitter if he’ll attend. He didn’t respond. My wife asked him on Facebook. He didn’t respond.

It’s entirely up to Neil Gray to decide to attend or not. It would be courteous if he would respond to a simple question about whether or not he will attend.

If he won’t attend then the unionist candidates get a free hit at the SNP with no one to defend them. He SHOULD be there and it will be extremely disrespectful to the electorate in Airdrie if he isn’t.

He can’t say he doesn’t know about it, he was informed weeks ago as were all the other candidates, and he’s been asked about it on social media. He can’t say he has parliamentary business as there is none. So his only excuse left is to say that a family emergency or engagement prevented him from attending. Even the excuse that he was out knocking on doors will be a weak one: that’s what his team is for.

7pm tomorrow night will see whether he has the decency to attend or whether he’ll weasel out.

#airdriehust

 

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Ruth Davidson: Playing The Sectarian Card

Jeremy Corbyn seems to be suffering an incredible amount of coordinated attacks regarding his stance on terrorism. Depending on the sources Jeremy Corbyn ranges from being soft on terrorism to a terrorist mouthpiece, all the way through to an appeaser of terrorists. It’s been revealed that he was the subject of MI5 interest  over his stance on Ireland and the IRA, and it’s this which has ramifications on the Scottish political scene.

I’m not a great fan of Mr Corbyn. He supports a united Ireland but not an independent Scotland. So no matter how attractive some of his policies are, for me they are trumped by Scottish independence. Jeremy Corbyn offers a sticking plaster on a constitutional question which requires major surgery, a temporary solution to a more permanent problem. Take fox hunting as an example. Banned by Labour, it looks set to be legalised by the Tories; legislation is not permanent and can be undone by future governments. The Scottish Parliament can similarly be removed by a future UK government, if that government is strong enough to ride roughshod over Scotland. That future is looking increasingly more likely, with a Tory majority in England highly likely and a vocal element rallying to the Scottish Tories as a purely unionist party. Combine that with a compliant press and media and you have a recipe for Scotland apparently “demanding” that Holyrood be closed down and Westminster complying with our “wishes”.

The Tories in Scotland have cast their net out into the sectarian pool for votes and have dragged in a large haul, and this has led to their fielding quite a few dubious characters, and I can only expect this to grow. Not only will this grow but as those numbers grow you can expect to see policy change, simply because they are targeting a group of people who have a specific set of views and will bring those with them to the party. It will be become more unionist orientated rather than Conservative and Unionist.

In the lead up to the 2014 referendum the Yes movement didn’t cast it’s nets into a narrow pool of opinion, but into a far wider one, and in the 2014 post referendum flood of new SNP members there were no doubt many supporters who had dubious backgrounds too. That’s to be expected. Some of these people supported a united Ireland, and to be honest I can see no reason why if the people of Ireland wanted such a thing that it should be denied to them. But that’s something to be achieved through the ballot box, not by guns and bombs. Yet there are people within the Yes movement who see no problem in praising and celebrating terrorists and terrorism in an Irish context, but who decry it elsewhere. That’s not an acceptable stance. It’s also one which is being seized upon by some extremist Tory supporters to try to brand the whole Yes movement as somehow an “Irish republican YeSNP” movement. Pictures of one Glasgow councillor in an Irish republican flute band are passed around as though they represent all of Yes or the SNP. Old photographs of Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon posing with Martin McGuinness are often shared as if if to say “See! Here’s the proof!” while conveniently ignoring pictures of the Queen and Mr McGuiness together. Or ignoring the fact that the Tories actually have a former IRA member serving as a councillor in London.

Terrorists are the lowest of the low. Celebrating their attacks on civilians is as low as it gets I suppose, and people who hold these kind of views should be exposed for their views wherever possible. If a candidate for a party I supported had such a background I certainly would not vote for them. The problem for the Tories is they are specifically targeting and recruiting from what would appear to any independent observer to be sectarian and extremist groups, albeit British Nationalist ones. So while the charge made by those extremists that the SNP or Yes are pro-IRA/ Irish Republican in nature fails to hold up, the reverse is certainly true of the growing Tory/British Nationalist movement.

In England they don’t have the same trouble with sectarianism as we do in Scotland. They do have a problem with xenophobia though. In the attempts to portray Jeremy Corbyn as a friend to terrorists in the English media, this will have an inevitable ripple effect here. For Ruth Davidson, using the union flag as a dog whistle to attract support is one thing; going full on bigot is another.

 

North Lanarkshire SNP: Grabbing Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

IMAG0680Letter to The National, 23/05/17

Dear Sir,

In today’s Nation Alex Neil MSP alluded that some kind of back room deal had been done between Labour and the Conservatives to block an SNP administration from taking control in North Lanarkshire. It’s hardly surprising that the Tories would vote against the SNP, considering that across Scotland they are campaigning on a single policy: Stop the SNP. This is not proof of a deal. He points to the convenorship of the Audit Committee and it’s £29,000 salary going to the Tories, yet Labour Group Leader Jim Logue twice said during last weeks council meeting that he had not only offered the post to SNP group leader David Stocks, who refused to take the position he had previously held until the elections, but that he was disappointed that he wouldn’t reconsider his decision. It seems to me that the SNP had realised before the meeting that the game was up and that with victory clearly out of their reach they would go down a petulant road of not co-operating, refusing to take places on committees and refusing to even pose for a group photograph, all so they could fashion a narrative of a Tory and Labour stitch-up.

Alex Neil failed to mention that there was one independent Councillor who voted against the SNP, Councillor Alan Beveridge. In 2015 Councillor Beveridge resigned from the SNP citing a “climate of fear, bullying and intimidation”. Perhaps if Nicola Sturgeon had dealt firmly with the issue back in 2015 it would not have snowballed into the Monklands McMafia fiasco, they would have retained the huge number of members who joined in 2014 and would have gone on to hammer a final nail into North Lanarkshire Labour. Instead they gained a pyrrhic victory, petulantly gifted the Audit Convenors job to the Tories and have in all likelihood blown their last chance to take control in North Lanarkshire. Alex Neil is now the unionist poster boy for BREXIT. His election agent and Airdrie SNP councillor Michael Coyle was quoted in the Herald saying that the reason the SNP lost the council elections was due to headquarters obsession with independence! With such a level of ineptitude it appears the voters of North Lanarkshire may well have dodged a bullet, and for now a Labour administration may be seen as the lesser of two evils by many. So put your own house in order Mr Neil, because for now within Independence circles in North Lanarkshire, you are unwelcome, as are your opinions.

Yours,

James Cassidy

Put The Sweet Sherry Down and Step Away From The Keyboard…

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 240517

I was taken aback at the Advertiser editorial this week; it was, on so many levels, weapons grade nonsense. In recent years we’ve become more used to minority governments, coalitions and the like; indeed Scotland’s electoral systems are designed to create consensual governments which reflect the broad picture. So to see the Advertiser paint Labour taking control of North Lanarkshire Council as somehow akin to North Korean politics was utterly jaw dropping; indeed it read more like a drunken late night Facebook rant than an actual newspaper editorial which left me wondering how it actually made it in to print.
Some actual analysis wouldn’t go amiss here, and as The Advertiser has singularly failed to do so, let me help. Labour and the SNP were within one seat of each other, with the SNP having the slimmest of margins over their rival, but far short of a majority. To have a workable authority the SNP would have to rely on support from somewhere, and for that they would have to make concessions. SNP group leader David Stocks said that he had written to Jim Logue offering an SNP/Labour coalition. I’m sure that I’m sure if they had been willing to come and go on the names being put forward then that may have been an acceptable compromise. That offer was not accepted and we are left to draw the conclusion that the SNP’s proposals were so poorly thought out that Jim Logue was left either with the option of taking a gamble that the Tories would back Labour to block the SNP out of hand, or with entering a formal coalition with the Tories. Given that there is absolutely no evidence of the latter, except in the fevered mind of Alex Neil, we have to conclude that Labour didn’t form any such coalition. Pointing to the Tories being given the Audit convenorship as proof doesn’t stack up either. The previous Convenor was David Stocks of the SNP, and this was because the post goes to someone from outside the ruling body and as the SNP refused to take any of the posts offered by Labour they had to be filled by Tories! So Megan Gallacher left the council chambers £30K a year better off thanks to the SNP’s petulance and David Stocks left £30K worse off. Is it any wonder he’s bitterly complaining?

Councillor Stocks was quoted as saying “We won the election but people ask why we are not in power.” That’s a very good question and I’m glad he asked it, however I don’t think he’ll like the answer. The SNP were expected to romp the election, but didn’t. The Labour vote collapsed, but not primarily to the SNP. Hard core British Nationalists were seduced by Ruth Davidson’s rhetoric, abandoned any working class principles and sold out to a party ready to stick the knife into pensioners, the poor and the disabled at the earliest opportunity; never mind the policies, smell the flag. They then used their second and third votes to vote for Labour to block the SNP; quite simply Tory voting strategy was well briefed out to their supporters. But these voters were never going to vote SNP in any case, so what about those who were among those who could be persuaded?

Independent Councillor Alan Beveridge hit the nail on the head when he said that the SNP were fighting like rats in a sack, and it is this reason and this reason alone that the SNP did not gain the convincing win they should have done. Councillor Stocks apparently didn’t campaign at all during the election and actually came second to his novice running mate Nancy Pettigrew who preceded him alphabetically on the ballot paper. That shows a clear lack of voter management strategy. Airdrie South was no better where the Team Coyle leaflet campaign undermined actual SNP candidate Paul Di Mascio. Airdrie North was struck by a social media debacle and Coatbridge was racked by internal disputes too. The only part of North Lanarkshire to deploy an effective voter management strategy was in Cumbernauld, where the SNP swept the boards, and it raises the question: why aren’t they in charge of the group? They know what they are doing, are cohesive and work well as a team, everything North Lanarkshire SNP isn’t under David Stocks.
The SNP now have five years to get their party in shape to win convincingly in North Lanarkshire. It will require them to honestly appraise themselves and they must be prepared to clear out the dead wood and hangers-on who cost them victory. The current plan seems however to be not to carry out that self critical analysis but to fashion a narrative of a secret Tory/Labour coalition and to shout it for the next five years. As a plan of action it is unsustainable and is reveals a complete lack of self belief and vision. If I were an SNP member I would be asking these critical questions at every opportunity, as clearly the elected representatives will not. If they don’t, they’ll be asking in five years time, and that’s five years too late.

The Elephant In The Corner (Of North Lanarkshire)

Letter from Councillor Tom Johnston; The Herald, 20/05/17

Letter to The Herald, 22/05/17

Dear Sir,

In his letter in Saturdays Herald, Councillor Tom Johnston, Depute SNP Leader alluded that some kind of back room deal had been done between Labour and the Conservatives to block an SNP administration from taking control in North Lanarkshire. His proof was the voting pattern displayed, whereby the SNP were on the losing side of every vote by a margin of 41 to 33. It’s hardly surprising that the Tories would vote against the SNP, considering that across Scotland they are campaigning on a single policy: Stop the SNP. This is not proof of a deal.

The SNP point to the convenorship of the Audit Committee and it’s £29,000 salary going to the Tories, yet Labour Group Leader Jim Logue twice said during the meeting that he had not only offered the post to SNP group leader David Stocks, who refused to take the position he had held until the elections, but that he was disappointed that he wouldn’t reconsider his decision. It seems to me that the SNP had realised before the meeting that the game was up and that with victory clearly out of their reach they would go down a petulant road of not co-operating, refusing to take places on committees and refusing to even pose for a group photograph, all so they could fashion a narrative of a Tory and Labour stitch-up.
Councillor Johnston noted that there was one independent Councillor who voted against the SNP, Councillor Alan Beveridge. In 2015 Councillor Beveridge resigned from the SNP citing a “climate of fear, bullying and intimidation”. Perhaps if Councillor Johnston’s group had dealt with the issue back in 2015 it would not have snowballed into the Monklands McMafia fiasco, they would have retained the huge number of members who joined in 2014 and would have gone on to hammer a final nail into North Lanarkshire Labour. Instead they gained a pyrrhic victory, gifted the Audit Convenors job to the Tories and have in all likelihood blown their last chance to take control in North Lanarkshire. With such a level of ineptitude it appears the voters of North Lanarkshire may well have dodged a bullet.

Yours,

James Cassidy

The British Nationalist Delusion

It really was ironic that Ruth Davidson used her invitation to the Orwell Society to display Doublethink in action. According to Davidson, nationalism is divisive, while patriotism is uniting. Yet by stating that “if it came to a choice between the country or the party, for me, it’s the country every day of the week and twice on a Sunday.” she demonstrates beyond all doubt that she is a nationalist, albeit a British one. For someone who apparently isn’t a nationalist she does a very good impression of one.

Up until now it has all been fairly harmless, if you ignore the use of terms like “fratricidal conflict” and ignore her parties courting of sectarian groups and right wing extremists. Ruth has played the fool, posed with any number of animals and armoured vehicles, all with a patriotic union flag backdrop. But now the gloves are off and Davidson is becoming clumsy. Her attempts to link support for Jeremy Corbyn with the IRA are seen by many as trying to stir up sectarian support ahead of the general election and are a new low in Scottish politics from a woman who should be mindful of the pool she is dipping her toe in.

Her u-turn on Brexit was a perfect example of her arguing on a principle, then abandoning it because it threatened her British nationalist perspective. Her announcement this week of a Tory u-turn on free prescriptions was a particularly ham-fisted abandonment of principle, considering that it was made to woo voters in a Westminster election, yet health is devolved to Holyrood- the parliament she actually sits in!

In short, Davidson is a woman who has no principles, other than her nationalism, and the more scrutiny she receives, the more apparent that is. The question the Scottish electorate have to ask themselves is; can we trust this woman? The answer among those who aren’t hard line British nationalists is no, we can’t. This is why there may be some gains by the Tories in the June election, but not enough to unseat the SNP. That won’t stop poor, delusional Ruth though; she will claim the few SNP scalps as an outright victory, and will no doubt use what scraps she gets as proof that Scotland rejects a second referendum, when in actual fact the SNP gaining a majority of seats again will be an endorsement of the decision the Scottish parliament has already taken: to support a Scottish referendum and to take us back into Europe when the rest of the UK has left.

That Tory Resurgence…

Before last weeks council elections I made a prediction about the Airdrie North seat. I said that there would be one SNP, one Labour, one Independent and one Conservative and I was bang on. The so called “Conservative Resurgence” is being painted as an end to any hopes that Scotland will become independent, and I’m sure that over the coming month in the run up to the General Election this will be repeated ad nauseum.

To those who are open minded this came as no surprise. I read many social media comments before the local elections which were not only gloating at the imminent demise of British Labour in Scotland, but scathingly dismissive of the Conservatives hopes of returning any councillors. The media seemed shocked too, with the Sunday Herald aghast that the Tories and Labour (though mainly the Tories) had been infiltrated by the Orange Order.
Those who are able to step back and see the big picture were less than surprised. The signs had been there for some time, and Ruth Davidson had been banging the drum (if you’ll pardon the pun) for so long that she was referred to as the Ruth Davidson Loyal Party for Ruth Davidson. So why didn’t everyone see it coming?

Everyone had seen for some time Ruth Davidson being the public face of attracting hard core British Nationalists to vote Tory. Davidson carried on with normal Tory policies and made no attempt to soften the image or play down what was once unpalatable to the majority of Scottish citizens. Instead she’s gone with a policy of ‘Never mind the policies, smell the flag’ and it has been devoured by the British Nationalists. In doing so she has attracted a new generation to the Tories and while she has been distracting us with her public sleight of hand, the real trick has been taking place just at the edge of your vision.

Something I had noticed with some of the Tory candidates was their surprisingly clean social media profiles. In this day and age when confronted with an unknown we find we can learn about most candidates from social media; in fact when I voted in the local elections I specifically ranked candidates with no social media presence lower. So to find numerous candidates with bare profiles sparked my interest. By chance I happened across one candidate entirely by chance, given that his social media profile was under a variant of his own name. While his profile appeared to be private he had liked some online content, so although what he had posted couldn’t be seen, his likes could:Loyalist flute bands. Follow the bands, follow the likes. Time consuming, but revealing. It shows a network of locked profiles and invitation only groups, mostly Loyalist in nature. This is the beating heart of the Conservative revival; hidden and protected. To get in you have to be known. There are no intruders, no lurkers. Those inside are often rabidly pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant, British Nationalists. The Tories didn’t have to build a network up, they simply leeched on to an existing network, and it’s huge. Unlike the Yes movement, it isn’t confined to Scotland and draws support from across the UK. Compare the likes /shares on a post on Bella Caledonia with a post on one of the more extreme British Nationalist sites and you can see the weight of numbers being utilised to spread pro-British/Anti-Scottish content. That pro-British content is by and large aggressive and negative, seldom positive, and is often accompanied by racist and sectarian imagery or comment. It’s a cesspit, and the Tories haven’t just dipped a toe in, they are now in up to their neck. The danger for them is that having targeted an organisation for support in the form of volunteers and votes, those people become members and inevitably stand for the party. Which is precisely what has been seen across Scotland as there’s a drip, drip, drip of new councillors and candidates exposed who have either expressed questionable views or shared unsavoury images. There’s only so many times you can share a Britain First image while feigning ignorance of who Britain First actually are.

So in light of the above Ruth Davidson’s miraculous Tory revival is anything but; it’s merely a repositioning of the less principled and more unsavoury element of the unionist support from Labour to the Conservatives. The Tories aren’t reducing the SNP’s support, they are reducing Labours, and so long as the combined British Nationist vote is smaller than the combined Scottish Nationalist vote then there are no grounds for claims that Scots have rejected another referendum. In fact, on looking at how the vote played out cross North Lanarkshire the unionist parties created a symbiotic relationship where by and large British Nationalist votes cascaded downwards, and where the candidate failed to win on FPTP was elected at a later stage- by Labour 2nd preference votes!

June’s election, like the local elections, will be played by the Tories as a defacto vote on the constitution, and if the SNP want to mobilise their voters in June then they have to respond in kind. They failed to do so in the local elections and failed to make the big gains that some predicted. It was the constitutional question which returned 56 MP’s in 2015, and will be in June if they want to come anywhere near that result again.