Yesterday Airdrie MP Neil Gray took to social media to say that he was delighted to chair the latest meeting of the North Lanarkshire SNP group and that re-elected group leader David Stocks would also be leading the council soon.
Yes, that’s right. David Stocks. Only last week in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser it was reported that he was accused of dishonesty in a campaign leaflet released by Independent Candidate Alan O’Brien, in which he claimed David Stocks provided dishonest testimony to back up fellow Airdrie Councillor Michael Coyle. Mr O’Brien was found not guilty.
This is the same David Stocks who couldn’t even manage his voter strategy in his own ward and came second to his colleague who, if he had bothered to put out any election leaflets, would have been listed as the No2 choice! In a ward which polled at way below the national average at only 39%, where he failed to be beat the first past the post threshold of 978 votes and where he simply failed to get the SNP vote mobilised, somehow Neil Gray thinks this is the man to lead not only North Lanarkshire SNP but North Lanarkshire Council!
There’s no delusion worse than self delusion and Neil Gray would be minded to remember that. Mr Stocks presides over an SNP group so divided that when David Baird won in Bellshill, and incidentally won convincingly, not one SNP ‘colleague’ cheered. An SNP group so divided that the Coatbridge Branch remains suspended. An SNP group so divided that one of it’s brightest stars was hived off miles from his home where he would struggle to pick up votes. An SNP group so divided that while across the country it is running on an SNP 1&2 policy (and in Cumbernauld an amazingly successful SNP 1,2,3 policy), in North Lanarkshire it shows some SNP candidates being elected with over 1000 more FPTP votes than their running mates, and those running mates then failing to gain from second preference votes. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of Ardrie South where Councillor Michael Coyle ran his “Team Coyle’ leaflet strategy where his SNP ‘team mate’ wasn’t even mentioned.
This is the man and this is the team that Neil Gray must now rely upon to get himself re-elected. With the SNP in Airdrie reduced to barely two men and a dug, Neil Gray must be wondering where is the campaign team he sorely needs to retain Airdrie? As MP for a branch which squandered a membership of over 1000 he will need to do what the branch appears to have been doing since time immemorial: relying on the national vote to carry them across the finishing line. Michal Coyle’s recent comments about Scotland having rejected independence and Alex Neil’s huffy pro-Brexit stance mean it looks like they will be missing from the frontline campaign, and it will be up to Neil Gray alone to rally the troops. When I saw him at a party hustings in 2015 I found him to be an unconvincing public speaker, unable to go off script. In the two years since, he’ll need to have improved considerably to inspire what remains of the local party. I can see him retaining the seat purely on the national vote, though it will be touch and go, and it will not be unexpected if he loses.