Category Archives: General Election 2017

For the want of a nail…

 

 

 

 

 

 

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The revelation in last weeks Advertiser that Labour outspent all the other candidates combined for the recent Westminster elections in both Airdrie and Coatbridge raises an interesting question about the funding of political parties. In Airdrie and Coatbridge both Labour candidates represent trade unions, and it’s likely that those unions gave considerable financial backing to them. The same can’t be said for the SNP, the Conservatives or the Lib-Dems. The latter are treated as a major party and they are given airtime on political debates on equal footing with the three other parties, but their combined spend in Airdrie and Coatbridge amounted to an insulting £88! That speaks volumes and tells us that they have a greater desire to appear on the ballot paper than to win, and that in future elections there is little or no point in voting for them.

If I were an SNP member I would be extremely concerned at the paltry £2980 spent by Neil Gray as he saw his majority drop from almost 10,000 to under 200 votes. The last I recall, membership of the Airdrie and Shotts SNP was over 1100, but it appears that between them they were unable to rustle up the equivalent of £3 per member! As the saying goes, for want of a nail the kingdom was lost; Neil Gray’s lack of investment in his re-election very nearly cost him his seat, and as we see, Jeremy Corbyn now has him in his sights as a target for the next election, whenever that may be. It is ironic that had it not been for Ruth Davidson and the Tories using Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent support for the IRA to recruit hard core British Nationalist voters from their Unionist Labour rivals, then Labour would actually have taken Airdrie from the SNP! It will be interesting to see how this affects a future vote.

So far there appears to be no effort at all from Neil Gray to fire up the SNP in Airdrie and Shotts, while Labour already have Jeremy Corbyn lined up to visit Airdrie later this month. The strange thing is that both the Scottish Labour leadership and many of the local Labour party have publicly slated Corbyn and are only supporting him through gritted teeth. It will be worth watching to see which local Labour councillors don’t attend Mr Corbyn’s visit: their absence will speak volumes about just how dedicated they actually are to the policies spouted by their present leader. My guess is, not much.

 

 

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Airdrie SNP Lose 9596 Votes in Just TWO YEARS

2017 result

Neil Gray and Airdrie SNP will be in no hurry to have a forensic examination of the results of Thursday’s general election as it would raise some rather embarrassing questions. Much better to celebrate the win with some bland statement and carry on as before, but that isn’t an option, or at least it shouldn’t be.

2015 results

Having had the smallest swing in the 2015 landslide, Neil Gray’s hard work should have started two years ago, but he has silently watched as the party locally has shed members by the bucketload. The internal fighting in Airdrie SNP has not been contained and has spread outwards and beyond the confines of the party. At one point they were bragging of a membership of around 1100, yet by the local council elections were reliant on the same few half-dozen faces. Even his campaign launch photo at Airdrie stadium appears to be boosted by a number of faces from Coatbridge. The failure to show any leadership by reversing the flow of members out of the party has had a dramatic effect on the vote, as those members are not only leaving but leaving and taking a bad impression away with them.

Looking at the figures from 2015, almost every other parties votes are up, and in Neil Gray’s case he pulled in a full 9596 votes less than two years ago. That is a truly disastrous performance and it is ironic that the only thing which retained him his seat was the Orange Order voters  who wanted to send a message to Nicola Sturgeon by leaving Labour for the Tories; had they been more tactically aware they would have stuck with Labour and would have denied the SNP the seat! It’s now rumoured that there will be another election in October, and if the more bitter Unionists are prepared to switch back (many switched because of Corbyns apparent support for the IRA) then there is every chance Neil Gray will be gone.

Clearly the UKIP vote this time went to the Tories, but that still doesn’t account for the almost 5,500 vote Tory rise. Realistically those votes didn’t come from the SNP. There is the possibility that some 2015 SNP voters went to Labour at the same time that the hard-line British Nationalists shipped out to the Tories, but that still leaves thousands of SNP voters who failed to come back and endorse them on Thursday. Did they think the job was done and that this was now a safe seat or have they been turned away altogether?

So what can be done? SNP HQ could finally act and clear out what has become one of the most toxic branches in British politics (incidentally the loss of Phil Boswell in Coatbridge can be directly attributed to the in-fighting there and the continuing suspension of the SNP branch). The SNP should be getting itself out on the streets and into the community on a regular basis. The political awakening of 2014 has to be reignited, and the SNP has to be again seen as a radical party of the streets, not a sanitised party where, especially in Airdrie, no dissent is allowed and where challenges to the established order are followed by smears and personal attacks.

A question I regularly people is “What has YOUR candidate done to further the cause of independence?” For far too many they appear only when they want you to endorse them personally. They don’t enthuse or inspire, they are never seen on independence marches or rallies and they never, ever speak with passion about their vision of what an independent Scotland could look like.

Neil Gray falls into the latter category and unless he has a radical change of direction in the next few months he will be out at the next election. His seat has already been highlighted by the BBC as a key marginal, which means that he will get the Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond treatment next time: regular reports by the BBC reminding people that this is a key seat and who the most likely rival candidate is, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. I’ll Say no more.

The Walk Of Shame

Today Unionists in Scotland go to the polls to endorse Tory policies such as the Rape Clause, the Dementia Tax, stripping the triple lock on pensions, slave labour wages, zero-hour contracts, putting the boot into the country in general and the poor in particular.

They’ll be endorsing the replacement of council housing with private slum landlords; homelessness, foodbanks and stripping away breakfast from school-children.

They’ll be the ones endorsing taking benefits from the disabled and passing the terminally ill as fit to work. They’ll be saying yes to fracking, yes to weapons of mass destruction and yes to bombing other countries and telling the refugees they create to bugger off- Britain’s full thank you very much.

They’ll be supporting sectarianism because, well, Ruth Davidson is waving the flag and they aren’t going to look beyond it to see who she’s gathered on the other side.  Because it might just be a mirror.

They’ll be doing all this because they are proud to be British and want to send a message to Nicola Sturgeon that they don’t want a second referendum, and they’ve become so robotic in their repetition of what she’s saying that they no longer actually understand the difference between one election and another as every election is a de-facto referendum anyway.

So what if their parents lose their free bus passes or their kids have to without food and when they become ill they have to make the choice between buying food, heating their homes or choosing which of the medicines they can afford out of the ones they have been told they need.

And they’ll put a cross in the Tory box and they’ll walk out of the polling station with their heads down, avoiding the eyes of the neighbours they are condemning and if asked they’ll tell you they voted Labour like they always have and scurry away on the walk of shame. Safely behind their door, they’ll cheer every Tory gain and raise a glass to Ruth Davidson, the little tank girl. And they’ll sleep soundly, knowing that they are all right jack.

The Question Time Leaders Debate: A View From The Audience

I’ve applied to be in the audience of a few editions of Question Time and had failed to even get a sniff of a reply. It has long been said that the audiences are hand picked, and a previous edition in Edinburgh a few weeks ago appeared to go some way towards reinforcing those suspicions. Former Airdrie Conservative candidate Eric Holford (now Conservative councillor for Clydesdale East) was front and centre with the first question of the night- and he wasn’t the only Tory councillor in what is supposedly a carefully vetted audience. Fast forward a few weeks and it was the foodbank nurse who had amazingly been invited back by the BBC after failing to make her highly damaging (to herself) allegations about nurses in Scotland and their reliance on foodbanks.

I haven’t voted SNP for a number of years now and have voted for independent or Green candidates since then, and applied as an “undecided ex-SNP voter”. The website said that successful applicants would be contact on the Monday or Tuesday prior to filming and having received no such call assumed that I wasn’t needed. Saturday nights terror attack in London meant however that political campaigning was suspended for the day, and on Sunday I received a call asking if I could attend on Monday for a rescheduled debate. I could and completed the phone interview, where they seemed particularly interested in the fact I was an ex-SNP voter…

The filming took place on Monday evening at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and on arrival I checked in and had a look round at the invited cross section of the electorate, which looked to me nothing like a cross section of the electorate and more like a gathering of business professionals and suits. My initial impressions were that this would be an overall hostile audience towards the SNP and on that regard I think I was correct. Sometimes you can look at an audience member, try to categorise them and then be pleasantly surprised when that happens, or smug when you get it bang on. Last nights audience had both of those qualities.

Before arriving you are asked to submit two questions by email and you get a chance to submit more topical ones on arrival. The production staff then sift through these and select a number of them to be used through the filming. These are the topics which are probably most relevant at the time of filming, and the reason for their introduction is twofold; they allow the programme to be structured so that a variety of topics are discussed, and they allow cameras to be prepared beforehand so that they know where the individual questioners will be sat and aren’t panning around looking for them. So when they say that the debate is set by the audience that is partially true; they select the questions they want the debate to be about. When the question “Your education policy is failing, will you resign?” was chosen that wasn’t done by accident.

If the audience was hostile then the presenter could be said to be even more so: Nick Robinson. Who could forget him being caught out manipulating a news report with his famous “He didn’t answer” line. Such was the furore over his behaviour, that there were calls for him to resign during a BBC Bias protest and an online petition gathered almost 20,000 signatures calling for him to be sacked. With David Dimbleby unavailable clearly a replacement had to be found, but Nick Robinson? Was Sarah Smith ill?

So, an at first glance hostile audience and a less than impartial presenter. What could possibly go right…

Tim Farron of the Lib-Dems was first up and gave a competent performance, managing to deflect previous criticism of his views on homosexuality and he was also able to point to his defiance of his party’s coalition deal which saw them u-turn on tuition fees. I did manage to criticise his stance on wanting a second Brexit referendum but not a Scottish referendum. To me it seems abundantly clear that as a minority party the Lib-Dems will not be in a position to deliver such a second EU referendum, and with both Labour and the Tories committed to Brexit, Scotland within the UK is on its way out of Europe. Given that Scotland indirectly endorsed the EU in 2014 when it was told a No vote would secure its place in Europe, and then directly endorsed it in 2016, surely the only for Scotland to be able to get into the EU was through independence? He didn’t answer directly but did state in response to the topic that his reason for rejecting a second Scottish referendum was that there was a full prospectus produced called Scotlands Future which the Scottish people rejected. He doesn’t seem bothered that the winning side produced no such prospectus and got their win on the back of a Daily Record front page vow. Had it been pasted on the side of a bus perhaps he’d think differently.

The second half of the debate got underway with the introduction of Nicola Sturgeon, and began with a question about security before moving on to the “more familiar ground” of independence, and then moving on to education. Nick Robinson helpfully explained that education was devolved, which means he must be fully aware that in Scotland this isn’t particularly relevant at this election, but they went ahead anyway, with the First Minister being asked if she was going to resign over her record. Robinson’s responses in this section were…odd. Imagine if someone phoned the BBC Scotland football phone in on a Saturday and began to talk at length about motor-sport; if it wasn’t relevant the host would no doubt cut it short, but not only did the BBC chose this as one of the prepared questions, Nick Robinson wouldn’t allow it to be moved on, at one point repeating three times in a row “we’ll stick with education”. At one point Nicola Sturgeon tried to correct an assertion that statistics in Scotland were worse than in England by stating that the two sets of figures were not directly comparable, only to be cut off by Nick Robinson saying “Yes, they are”. Assertion as fact.

It’s unfortunate you can’t argue the point with everyone. One well dressed gent attacked free education, stating that it’s not “free” we all pay for it through tax. I’m glad he realised that. For a minute I thought it was paid for by the legendary magic money tree I’ve heard so much about. What this cretin was attacking was the very foundation of free education in Scotland, and I wonder how long it will be before the Tory ideal of a maximum of a two child family for the poor is extended into other areas: we’ll educate your first two kids free, but you can pay for the rest…

Some of the questions were not only hostile (and by that I mean the wording, difficult questions are only fair), but were delivered with palpable venom; I could sense real hatred in them, none more so than the Welsh teacher who was the caricature elderly British nationalist brought to life. “Rubbish” was about the politest thing I could think of for her hate filled attack on Scotland, that there is no such nation and we were extinguished in 1707, before claiming she’s not allowed to vote on Scotland’s future. Perhaps she was shipped in from Brymawr.

Having earlier clarified that Scotland would not be offered a referendum until the end of the Brexit process, whenever that would be, a statement from a woman who said SNP voters were turning away from the SNP due to, ahem, independence set Nick Robinson off again pressing Sturgeon for a date. Having said it was due to Brexit he then began reeling off the years; 2019? 2021?

The question on tax, like the one on education, actually did more to illuminate the questioners lack of knowledge than anything else, and Nick Robinson was again called to assist, with the ‘You have more powers, but don’t want to use them’ line. Nicola Sturgeon was able to explain that this was the argument for ALL tax-powers to be devolved, not just some, but when you are playing to an audience of what appeared in the main to be a rather well off audience who think an extra penny on their tax is a penny too much, it’s a tough crowd.

Earlier I said that I tried to judge the audience. Sitting waiting to go in I heard two men chatting and one happened to mention SNP policy on Education, and as a touchy subject for them was sure he’d be vocal in attacking the SNP, I was surprised to hear him speak about how the UK immigration policy was actually damaging his chances. By and large though, it was from my vantage point, pretty Unionist heavy.

Overall if you thought there was bias from the BBC before the programme you wouldn’t go away with a different point of view. It’s clear that on the face of it the programme is portrayed as being fair, with a fair cross section of the electorate and a fair range of topics and a fair host. On closer scrutiny that doesn’t really hold up, and from a Scottish nationalist perspective, this is perhaps as good as it gets from the BBC.

Neil Gray Pays a Flying Visit to Airdrie Town centre

While the real independence supporters were in Glasgow, Neil Gray took the opportunity to actually hold a street stall in Airdrie. For a branch with a membership last reported at over 1100, that’s not a great turnout.

I’m reliably informed that a street stall was planned for the previous week but was cancelled at the last minute. No reason was given for the late cancellation.

If you look closely you’ll notice one of those campaigning for Neil Gray is Agnes Coyle who was recently de-selected by the SNP, and then went on to stand against the SNP in the May council elections.

It should be noted that Section 4(d) of the SNP constitution states that;

A member may not contest or be a member of any organisation contesting elections in
opposition to the Party, or be a member of any organisation deemed to be a Political Party
under the Membership Rules.

To have left the party, stood against it, rejoined and be out campaigning for it again within the space of a few weeks must be some kind of a record surely? Wonders never cease within Airdrie SNP!

Neil Gray: Getting The Excuses In Early…

Letter to the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 05/06/17

I was disappointed that SNP candidate Neil Gray signalled his disrespect for the good people of Airdrie by failing to turn up for the General Election hustings in Airdrie but unsurprised. His claim that independent councillor Alan Beveridge was not an impartial person to organise it was weak, as it was made apparent to all candidates that other than organising the event he would be taking no part in the hustings itself. He advertised the openly in the Advertiser, had the event filmed for public record and even invited the local press to ensure that things were impartially recorded. In the partial world of politics this was as balanced as it could get, and it seems to me that the SNP group were simply intent on Neil Gray not being held up to public scrutiny. It’s a pretty bizarre fact but Mr Gray is in a position where he is the incumbent standing for re-election and has never taken part in an open hustings in the town! I noticed that the letters page contained a tag-team attack on Councillor Beveridge from Councillor Stocks and Alex Neil, clearly designed to discredit the hustings before it commenced and lay the groundwork for Neil Gray’s feeble last minute call-off. Councillor Stocks showed again how out of touch he is by failing to grasp that Councillor Beveridge wasn’t even chairing the hustings, while I laughed out loud at Alex Neil’s charge of betrayal of the SNP; this from the man who is now the Unionist media’s go-to guy for an anti-SNP quote whenever Brexit is mentioned! I’m fairly certain that Neil Gray will be re-elected, but this will not be an endorsement of him, but a by-product of the Unionist vote splitting along sectarian lines. Overall the candidates themselves were not impressive and I’m fairly certain that whichever candidate wins, the people of Airdrie will be the losers.

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