Tag Archives: Alistair Darling

Book Review: Project Fear by Joe Pike

Project Fear: Joe Pike

Project Fear: Joe Pike

Project Fear: How An Unlikely Alliance Left A Kingdom United But A Country Divided

Author: Joe Pike

£12.99, Biteback Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-84954-931-8

For anyone involved in the Yes campaign, Joe Pike’s examination of the inside works of the No campaign is required, if uncomfortable reading. It’s a book in two parts. The first part deals with the referendum itself, the creation of Better Together and the subsequent campaign. Alistair Darlings acquisition of the post of head of Better Together apparently came after a round of political hot potatoes; no one wanted the gig so it was left to Darling to take it forward. The author, a reporter to trade with good connections at the very heart of the No campaign, then details the next two years of Better Togethers operations, where they seemed to lurch from one mishap to another.

As a Yes campaigner I found some of the events differed from my recollection, and it is interesting to see how the same situation was viewed from the other camp. This was particularly notable in the chapter “Not Tonight, Darling” which deals in considerable detail with the two-legged debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling. Setting the scene, the author mentions Yes protestors outside Kelvingrove and there were a few, as I recall. The most memorable though was an African Better Together protestor exhorting those entering the hall to “Vote No for Jesus!” As someone who attended the debate and found myself seated next to a Northern Irish No voter and a Scottish No voter I would also have to disagree with the view that the audience were biased in favour of the Yes campaign. In the first debate Alex Salmond was shambolic. I think he would probably agree. Towards the end of that debate those audience members of a No persuasion found their voice and rounded on him with their cries of “Answer the question!” but it was too late in the debate and not pressed home fully. To be fair Alistair Darling had surprised everyone, his coaching staff included. Kelvingrove was a different beast and with the No campaigners having set the tone for audience participation the Yes campaigners took the baton and ran with it from the off. As soon as Darling began to rehash his previous debate it elicited loud and derisive laughter from the Yes campaigners. My view at the time was that there weren’t that many of us, but the difference was that we were more vocal, and kept up our attacks on Darling throughout the debate. My perception was that the Yes members in the audience had punched above our weight in relation to crowd numbers. The No campaign perceived the selection process to have been flawed, leading Darling to curse “The Fucking BBC”.

Of particular interest is the creation of “The Vow”, the No side’s infamous Daily Record driven Purdah defying last ditch effort to swing the vote back in their favour after throwing away a thirty point lead. What seems to seep through at every turn is just how inept and uncoordinated Better Together were internally and how internally fractured they were for much of the campaign, the book taking its title from one well publicised gaffe.

If part one of the book is hard reading for its obviously unwelcome outcome, part two is the proverbial happy ending, examining Labours implosion in the wake of the referendum and their historic Scottish wipeout at the Westminster 2015 election. Johann Lamont may have been a disaster for Labour’s Scottish Branch, but she appeared to have a far sounder grasp of their problems than her short lived successor Jim Murphy; when her General Secretary was sacked by London she is reported to have told them that “If you think the fucking problem with Scottish politics is who our General Secretary is, you have a lot to understand.”

With Johann Lamont out of the way the remainder of the book charts the downfall of both Jim Murphy and Labour, a tsunami of which there were plenty of signs of, but which no one wanted to believe was possible, right up until the early hours of May 8th.

This remarkably candid account of two campaigns and a revolution in Scottish politics is far removed from the usual puff piece analysis written by politicians to make them look good, and you have to occasionally remind yourself that this is real life and not a particularly foul mouthed account of a day in the life of Malcolm Tucker. The book is in the main even handed in its assessments and there are some clear lessons to be learned from it, lessons that by the look of things the Scottish Branch of Labour are still unwilling to learn.

My view: the queue to get in to Kelvingrove for the 2nd round of the Big Debate

My view: the queue to get in to Kelvingrove for the 2nd round of the Big Debate

The Debate Hall: A second hand set...

The Debate Hall: A second hand set…

Elaine (Not C) Smith, Vile Political Language (Advertiser 08/03/15)

 Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

Over the course of the independence referendum there was some pretty strong language used. Many unionists took offence at being branded, among other things, traitors and Quislings, but when it came to the sheer volume of derogatory terminology and language those same unionists had the upper hand. Nazis references were ten a penny with the now terminally declining Scotland on Sunday going as far as to change an iconic picture of the saltire being raised to show a blue and white swastika instead. September 18th has brought no closure on attempts to smear those who support independence. Extremists, Insurgents, and Separatists are the unionist buzzwords now. The language of the war on terror is now being applied at home, helped in great measure by the media wing of the Labour Party (Scottish Branch), otherwise known as BBC Scotland. Watch the London BBC news in the evening and see reports of insurgents in Iraq, extremists in Syria and separatists in Ukraine. Turn to Reporting Scotland and you will hear quotes from various politicians about the Scottish separatists here. A favourite phrase of Johann Lamont and Alistair Darling, it’s also used by Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran, and its use is a deliberate attempt to create a link in the mind of the viewer or reader between a peaceful, through the ballot box movement here in Scotland with the violent actions taking place in Ukraine and the Middle East. This attempt at subliminal association reached a new low this week when a school in New Stevenston issued a North Lanarkshire Council created classroom assignment about ‘separatist terrorists’. This is a disgraceful attempt at brainwashing children, and it illustrates the culture which goes on from the top to the bottom in politics. When leaders use such disgraceful methods it’s no surprise to see them replicated by those who follow that lead. I hope that in future North Lanarkshire Council thinks very carefully about the type of material it issues to schools and that teachers have the good sense to ensure that innapropriate content is challenged long before it reaches the classroom.   

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

Post Referendum Letters: 31/10/14 (Advertiser)

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

When the MP’s expenses scandal broke in 2009 the UK public were quite rightly enraged. The level of virtually legalised theft from the public purse was horrendous. The process of switching or ‘flipping’ your designated second home to claim more expenses was endemic, with the then Chancellor Alistair Darling gaining the nickname ‘Flipper’ for his activities in this field. Over the course of expenses revelations it became apparent that some activities fell outside the description of merely exploiting loopholes and were in fact criminal acts. Labour’s Jim Devine was one of a handful who went to jail. Some MPs did the decent thing and resigned, but others simply clung on, vowing to stand down at the next election. This of course meant they would secure a generous parachute payment and protect their pension. What became more than obvious to many was that in most cases it was simply impossible to get rid of corrupt and criminal MPs other than by voting against them at a general election. In the wake of this parliament vowed to clean its act up, and promised all sorts of new legislation, most of which never saw the light of day.

One action that was mooted but was never delivered was the power of recall. This would give the electorate the power to sack poorly performing or criminal MPs between elections. This would appear to be popular with the public and common sense, so it’s no surprise that on 27th October many MPs voted against it. What people may find surprising is that Lanarkshire’s Labour MPs, Tom Clarke, Pamela Nash and Frank Roy all voted against this legislation. I cannot for the life of me comprehend why these MPs, supposedly socialists, supposedly representing the working class, would instead close ranks and vote to protect a system that is rotten to the core. This is the system which allows the likes of Eric Joyce to lurch from one drunken escapade to another, yet cling on to the bitter end to the expenses and status of being an MP. The people of Falkirk must wonder what they have done to deserve someone like Eric. Having been convicted for drink driving, and been exposed for his relationship with a schoolgirl, his only punishment politically has been to be expelled from the Labour Party. Do these people ever put the electorate first? Do they ever do what is morally right, not just what their party tells them to? To be successful as a Labour MP seems to be to follow the mantra of ‘Party, Personal, Patrons and Public’, in that order.

We are represented at Westminster by a political class so out of touch they have no concept of real life. We have Tom Clarke who had his office contact Ed Milliband to source an actual copy of the Vow made by Milliband, Cameron and Clegg, only to be told it was mocked up and didn’t actually exist, and who recently stated he would never have voted for a council tax freeze. Then we have Pamela Nash who vote for a Tory welfare cap knowing just how hard it would hammer her constituents.

So long as we are represented by people who are interested in their party first then the people of Airdrie and Coatbridge will be treated as second class citizens. Time and again it has been proven that loyalty by the electorate is never rewarded. Marginal seats are the ones where resources are poured into, and according to a recent BBC report Essex is where the next election will be won. Airdrie and Coatbridge don’t even figure on the radar and won’t unless we are willing to do something about it. Occasionally you have to give MPs the boot to get them to change their ways. With only seven months until the general election it’s time we put our current MPs under intense scrutiny, and websites such as What Do They Know which record all parliamentary activity are ideal for this. It’s time for all of us to carry out due diligence on Pamela Nash and Tom Clarke and see if they are fit for purpose beyond 2015. Their records speak for themselves. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

 

The Referendum Letters: 01/07/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

On Sunday 29th June my daughter and I attend a peaceful protest outside the offices of the BBC in Glasgow. The protest was good natured and very well attended, a real family affair with all age groups in attendance. The reason for the protest was a simple one, to ask that the BBC act in accordance with their charter and report the referendum coverage fairly. It was addressed by Professor John Robertson, who has carried out a year long study of referendum coverage across the major channels, and found that the BBC was rather one sided in it’s reporting. I won’t bore Advertiser readers with the details, they are all available online, suffice to say that Professor Robertson’s research backed up what many people already suspected, that there was considerable bias in BBC reporting towards the unionist case. We attended this rally to ask for fairness and equality from the BBC, nothing more. Yet within hours Labour MP Jim Murphy was being quoted as saying that independence supporters were trying to “bully the BBC”. That is to be expected from him. What people didn’t expect was what happened next. Kathy Wiles was selected on Monday to be the Labour Party candidate for Angus at the 2015 general election. On Monday she posted a comment on twitter in response to comments from her Labour Party colleague Duncan Hothersall about a group of small children who attended the protest, in which she used a picture of Hitler Youth under a Nazi banner to describe them. Her attempts to cover up her actions were laughable, almost akin to Luis Suarez’s claims that the other player “fell onto his teeth”. Within 24 hours she had been forced to resign, and rightly so.

Two weeks ago I wrote to the Advertiser regarding the drip, drip, drip of Nazi smears that have emanated from Better Together and the Labour Party. I pointed out that this was a policy emanating from the very top, and here we are today seeing resignations from the lower ranks, yet Alistair Darling, Johann Lamont and Coatbridge’s Elaine Smith have all used this type of language and are currently getting away with it. If it is not Nazi slurs, we have them resorting to good old fashioned thuggery, where Iain Davidson, when not threatening fellow MP’s with a “doing” talks of a post referendum “bayoneting of the wounded”. It is no surprise therefore that new candidates such as Kathy Wiles follow the examples of their masters. I wonder how comfortable Ed Milliband, the son of a refugee from the holocaust is with these people on his team? When his own father was horribly attacked after his death by the press he said that it was for the people to judge whether this reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate. As to his party’s contribution to the independence debate, I could ask him the very same question.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 13/06/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

Alistair Darlings Nazi smear attempt on Yes voters everywhere could almost be described as gutter politics, were it not for the fact that Better Together sank far below that level a long time ago. Sewer politics would be more apt. Reporting of his outburst may have gained a bit more traction had it not come in a good week to bury bad news, with the mainstream media focusing on Lallygate, when the BBC and the unionist media went into overdrive about the actions of some Yes supporters individuals comments. I have to ask myself if the world has gone stark, raving mad. Some keyboard warriors said some pretty despicable things, however we are talking about individual views here, not the views of Yes Scotland. Compare that with Alistair Darling’s leaked conversation where he states that the Scottish Independence movement is not based on civic nationalism, but he agrees with his interviewer that it is “Blood and Soil” nationalism, a phrase used by the Nazi party to describe their racially pure, aryan vision of Germany. Hardly applicable to the nationalism we have in Scotland. If you live here, you have a vote, regardless of race or ethnic origin. Mr Darling is not alone in his Nazi jibes though. Elaine Smith MSP has regularly thrown Nazi references in to her columns and letters, referring to fanatical nationalism and the lessons of history. In one of the worst quotes of all, in September 2013 the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, Johan Lamont described nationalism as “a virus”, the very same term Hitler used to describe the Jews. Can these people sink any lower? To liken your political foes as to nothing more than a virus which must be wiped out is abhorrent, yet this is not the lone nutter in the bedroom speaking. This is the leader of Scottish Labour! If it’s not the Yes supporters themselves they are attacking its Alex Salmond. Each week I call full house on Better Together’s “Alex Salmond Dictator Bingo”. Mussolini, check. Hitler, check. Stalin, check. Kim Jung Un, bingo! Talk about playing the man, not the ball! Alex Salmond may be dead and buried in 10 years time, yet the unionists make out that a vote for independence is a vote for a Scotland ruled by him in perpetuity. What we have from Better Together is a top down campaign of hatred and bile. On September 18th, the people of Scotland will, for one day, have the power to decide the future of Scotland. Some of us will be able to look ourselves in the mirror afterwards and be proud of our actions. I do not think the Better Together leadership will fall into that category. 

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy