Tag Archives: BBC

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 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.

The People’s Protests Against the BBC

Letter to The National, 16/09/15 (unpublished)

Dear Sir,  

Michael Gray in his column on Tuesday said that the protests against the BBC’s political coverage were a “significant, if not especially glorious moment in Scottish history.” I’m sure that many Scots would disagree with that assessment, and would argue that it pointed to, if anything, a significant and not especially glorious moment in the BBC’s history. The reasons for the protest were twofold. One was the by then clear exposure of the bias being displayed by the media in general and the BBC in particular: the study by Professor John Robertson was instrumental in putting meat on the bones of that particular argument, making the BBC’s denials all the more galling. The second reason for the protest was that the people were forced into saying what senior figures in the Yes campaign wouldn’t: that there was open bias by the BBC. Who of us can forget John Swinney being asked repeatedly whether there was bias in the BBC, and his flat refusal to say what was blindingly obvious and obviously true? Professional politicians’ unwillingness to back the people for fear of offending an already biased media was, for me at least, one of the most infuriating aspects of the Yes campaign.

The BBC protests were carried out peacefully and within the law, and called only for fairness in BBC reporting. Unfortunately the reasons for the protests remain as valid now as they were then, with no sign of the BBC having mended its ways, and if our Yes supporting politicians and talking heads fail to speak up on the subject, then it will again be left to the people of Scotland to speak up for themselves. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

 

28/04/15 Hope Over Fear and the National Media

The National

Dear Sir,  

I was one of the thousands who attended the pro-independence Hope Over Fear rally in Glasgow last Saturday. Channel 4 reported that there were thousands in attendance, and I think that this can charitably be described as both vague and accurate as one batch of a thousand people looks very much like another. The BBC was rumoured to have commented that 100 people were in attendance but this also appears charitable, as there actually appears to be no coverage at all of the event by the BBC, although it did manage to cover the Pedal on Parliament event in Edinburgh which was happening at the same time. Perhaps BBC Scotland is terribly underfunded and couldn’t commit resources to covering two events at one time. The cynic within me says otherwise…

This is the kind of thing that we have long come to expect from the UK media. Ignore it if you can, deride it if you cannot. As a supporter of independence I have spent a long time now examining not only what is said, but who is saying it and what their motivation is for telling me in the manner that they do. Which is why I was very surprised to find that both the National and its sister paper the Sunday Herald appeared to be playing down the attendance of the Hope Over Fear rally with the “over a 1000” line used in both papers, suggesting a smaller attendance than was in attendance. After all, 1001 is “over a 1000”. I also found it strange that the Sunday Herald appeared to concentrate on the alleged backstage divisions and Tommy Sheridan’s perjury conviction, rather than the positive message which was generated by the event. Fear over hope you might say. I hope that this is not a sign of both papers positioning themselves against other pro-independence parties ahead of the Holyrood elections in 2016. The cynic within me says otherwise… 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

 

15/03/15 Racism and David Coburn

 The National.

Dear Sir, 

Another day, and another example of the language of the gutter being used against the Scottish nationalists. In this case it was UKIP’s David Coburn MEP, with his comments that he refers to SNP MSP Humza Yousaf as “Abu Hamza”. Abu Hamza is a convicted terrorist, and the link being inferred by Mr Coburn is a particularly nasty one. Over the course of the independence referendum there was some pretty strong language used, and I have no doubt 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 (and still are) ten a penny with one the terminally declining Scotland on Sunday newspaper going as far as to change an iconic picture of the saltire being raised to show a blue and white swastika instead. One would have thought things would settle down after September 18th, instead the nastiness has went up a gear, with genuine hatred seething on a daily basis from some unionists who now realise that they appear to have won a battle and are now on course to lose the war. 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. I can watch the UK BBC news in the evening and see reports of insurgents in Iraq, extremists in Syria and separatists in Ukraine. Turn to Reporting Scotland and I can hear quotes from various politicians about the Scottish separatists here. A favourite phrase of Johann Lamont and Alistair Darling during the referendum, it is currently used by Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran, and I feel 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. David Coburn is certainly not as skilled as the likes of Jim Murphy in the political art of saying one thing and meaning another and is just more ham fisted in his delivery, which makes his nasty, racist jibes all the more easy to spot. If UKIP is genuinely not a racist party I’m sure they will have no problem disciplining Mr Coburn. If the response of their Scottish Chairman Misty Thackeray is anything to go by, he won’t be disciplined at in any way, which says it all. 

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