Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

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.

 

 

Radical Independence Campaign, 20/06/17: Less Is More

I attended the Radical Independence Campaign meeting in Edinburgh’s Augustine Reformed Church last night. It was my first time at one of their meetings and with eight speakers given 10 minutes each over a two hour time slot, it was more akin to political speed dating than an in depth exploration of ideas. The discussion was supposed to be on Independence, Corbyn and the Future, and on two of those it hit the mark. Former SNP MP George Kerevan appeared to be on fast forward for his 10 minutes trying to pack so much in to so little time; so much so that it became difficult to follow. In broad brush strokes he felt that the SNP had retracted from the Yes movement and had focussed too much on its parliamentary profile, to the detriment of both Yes and the SNP. He said that he accepted that the SNP had suffered a setback in the election with the loss of so many seats, with the loss of votes being attributed to people moving to Corbyn Labour. He finished off by stating we needed to mobilise and radicalise, but unfortunately this wasn’t explored, which is a great pity, because this was an area where I know the SNP was (at least in Airdrie and Coatbridge) light on bodies.

Rory Scothorne of Roch Winds was of the opinion that that Kezia Dugdale’s main aim in the election was to return Ian Murray as an MP and anything else was a bonus, and that the additional seats gained by Labour were gained by Corbyn’s policies. That’s an over simplification; to use the Coatbridge seat for example, Hugh Gaffney increased Labours vote by 2000 votes, while Phil Boswell, representing a split SNP who have been suspended by the party dropped 11,000 votes. Had there been no such split, with an effective campaign the SNP could have retained that, and Labours vaunted magnificent seven would have been a less impressive six. Rory seemed to be of the opinion that the radical left should shift to backing Corbyn, to put the short term aim of getting the Tories out over independence. I did make a contribution which related to this in the discussion; that grabbing the short term achievable aim of putting Corbyn in power only gave us a potential stay of five years on being gifted another Tory government.

Pete Connell of RISE observed that the debates which took place in England around housing, immigration and austerity didn’t take place to the same extent in Scotland, overshadowed by the unionist parties combined focus on constitutional matters. He also said that without extra parliamentary groups keeping the pressure on parliament there would be no progress in many areas and where aims coincided, RISE would work with Momentum (which we really should acknowledge as a Labour party internal pressure group), and that’s laudable, so long as we bear in mind that what Momentum is doing is to advance the Labour Party and by extension, British Nationalism. Pete in fact mentioned that he was surprised to see that there was little acknowledgment of the concept of British Nationalism in UK discussion, nationalism of course being a quirky Scottish thing. He should know by now that Britons are of course patriots, not nationalists…
Hilary Horrocks of the Edinburgh TUC spoke for time about the Grenfell Tower fire and how the TUC was putting members of the community in touch with help from the Trade Unions to help with a number of housing and community issues: she pointed out that in Edinburgh alone there are 4000 high rise homes with no sprinklers fitted. Lynn McCabe, a local anti-evictions activist also spoke of housing problems, in Edinburgh social housing accounts for only 13% of the total stock, well below the 24% national average. She made the point that Tory ideology is that social housing is a short term solution, not a long term one, demonstrated by the selling off of council housing stock and not replacing it with similar levels of new housing.
Peter McCall of the Greens spoke about how across many parties there was an acceptance of capitalism but also a broad agreement that certain areas should be excluded from free market exploitation and influence: social housing and health being notable examples.
I found Jonathon Shafi to be one of the most relevant speakers as regards the debate title, pointing out the similarities between the Yes campaign in 2014 and Corbyn’s campaign in 2017, the role played by the media in both cases against Independence and Corbyn and how both appeared to grow organically from the ground up. His observation that Jeremy Corbyn and Angus Robertson were better at understanding such movements than Nicola Sturgeon rang true, and his view that Sturgeon’s response to such a movement was to ask how she could control it was spot on. Had there been time I would have added a further point, that there was an element who neither understood it or wanted to control it but actively deterred it. I also agreed with him that both Yes (as it loosely exists) and the SNP are not radical enough.

The resulting Q&A session was as scattergun as the debate itself, and a combination of a shortage of time and a few blawhards who clearly weren’t allowed to talk at home meant no exploration of anything in detail. One questioner asked how we could have a more democratic system of government, Peter McCall of the Greens summed it up perfectly: democratise the political parties, with the over centralised SNP a prime example. The evening concluded with Holly Rigby of London Momentum speaking about how her inspiration for campaigning came from the RIC during the 2014 independence campaign, and that with the media against them they relied on the enthusiasm and effort of activists to beat the media and the opposition, a lesson sadly lost on the SNP at present.

Airdrie Hustings 01/06/17: No-Show Neil Gray

Tonights Panel. Empty chair just out of shot…

Tonights General Election hustings in Airdrie was the first to be held in the town for many years and was long overdue. The right of the electorate to cross examine candidates is a key feature of our democratic system and it was hugely disappointing that SNP candidate Neil Gray refused to take part. I was not alone in holding the view that Neil Gray was extremely disrespectful in boycotting the hustings; Independent Councillor Alan Beveridge who organised the evening read out Mr Grays whiny refusal which cited his concerns that the evening would be quite partisan, and with that the hustings was underway.

You Sir. The gentleman with the blue tie…

Last minute chair Peter Winnie introduced himself and then the candidates were given five minutes to give their pitch. Ewan McRobert of the Lib Dems led off with his reasons, Brexit being the primary one, while not seeing the irony in the fact that his opposition to a second independence referendum would deliver Scotland a future outside the EU. Labour’s Helen McFarlane cited her experience in the NHS as one of the reasons to support her; claiming that the “wool wouldn’t be pulled over her eyes”. She was very positive about Jeremy Corbyn and his manifesto, but I was concerned that her party nationally and locally have been working to remove Jeremy Corbyn; the Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale is anti Corbyn, as are numerous Airdrie members and councillors. Oh, and she was strongly against a second referendum. Finally we had Jennifer Donnellan, the Conservative and Unionist candidate who opposed another referendum, backed Theresa May as the strong and stable leader needed for Brexit negotiations, attacked the SNP’s obsession with independence, their inability to get on with the day job, their record on education and health, and oh, yes, she did she mention she was opposed to another referendum?
I was allowed to ask the second question of the evening and used the opportunity to make a point: given that health, education and the like were devolved, could we actually stick to reserved issues during the discussion, and by and large the audience and the candidates obliged, with questions ranging from Brexit to ethical foreign policy and the international arms trade to workers rights and the anti-trade union laws.
Candidates were also questioned about how they would make Airdrie a better place to live and work, and a crucial question which none could adequately answer was surprisingly simple: ‘If there was a policy which your party implemented which was directly detrimental to the town and people of Airdrie, would you oppose it?’ No one could give a satisfactory answer. Over the course of the two hours it became apparent to me that while likeable, the Lib Dem candidate was a complete lightweight, with some knowledge of party policy and no knowledge at all of other areas (he was unable to say whether the Lib Dems opposed or supported renationalisation of the railways, while his personal opinion seemed to be to oppose it).

I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue…

The Tory candidate was strong on opposing a second referendum, but was utterly bereft in other areas and was even laughed at for her inability to answer questions on subjects such as Tory policy on selling arms to Saudi Arabia. If this is the quality of George Osborne’s former special advisors it’s no wonder he failed time and time again to meet his own targets. At one point she was asked by an audience member who was in receipt of Unicersal Credit if she would join him tomorrow at his next foodbank appointment. After looking to a colleague in the audience she declined. Not a surprise. Labour’s Helen McFarlane came across as the strongest of the candidates; knowledgeable, experienced and confident. Credit must be given to her in answering the penultimate question of the night. She could have joined in with Tory criticism of the SNP for their management of the SNHS; instead she rounded on UK Tory policy of creeping NHS privatisation in England, and over the piece if there were only three candidates then she would walk it.
There are however four candidates. Neil Gray refuses to put himself up for public scrutiny, and nion  is to Airdrie what Theresa May is to the UK: a poor public debater who won’t allow himself to be subjected to fair and open scrutiny by the general public. Can he read a pre-prepared statement in Parliament: yes. Can he explain policy, and debate it with ordinary voters? No-one knows. To my knowledge he has NEVER had to. In a way his absence was a probably a blessing as the other three candidates were put under more scrutiny than they otherwise might have been, but his refusal to debate won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
My apologies must go to the last minute substitute chair Peter Winnie. His inexperience as a chair did show through and I was rather rude to him for his refusal to allow people to come back in to make follow on points or to have something clarified. While he admitted this was a first for him, he certainly can’t be accused of being unfair or biased, and credit must go to him for presiding over an informative and enjoyable hustings.

Caledonian MacBrayne and The Politics of Hypocrisy

Letter to RMT News, 15th November 2015

From RMT News, November 2015

From RMT News, November 2015

Dear RMT News, 

I was disappointed to see that Coatbridge MSP Elaine (Not C) Smith given considerable space in Novembers RMT news and I was more disappointed to see that Mrs Smith remains convenor of the RMT group of MSPs. Mrs Smith, a vocal cheerleader for the pro UK Better Together campaign, is strangely silent as the 2000 jobs which would have been secure running Scotlands tax system are lost to Croydon. She is silent now that Scotland is about to say ta-ta to the last of its steel industry. She is silent on the subject of her party siding with the Tories to deny Scotland the chance to operate it’s own tax credit system, and instead implementing a system where we can use our Westminster pocket money to top up the benefits they are about to cut.

In the Scottish Parliament she has however not been silent on the alleged privatisation of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry contract. As people across the country who are not afforded the same airtime as Mrs Smith have repeatedly pointed out, this is not privatisation. In fact it’s the same tendering process that the Labour/Lib-Dem Scottish Executive followed when the contract was awarded to Caledonian MacBrayne in 2007. Back then the SNP claimed this was privatisation by the back door, a charge denied by Labour then, yet employed by Labour now they are in opposition. So if we can take that hypocrisy away we are left with the argument as to whether Calmac or Serco should be awarded the contract. From a moral point of view you could say that Serco should be discounted, having as they do a horrendous record across the world in workplace relations. They are involved in almost every sphere of life, from office cleaners to atomic weapons, and at the end of it all the money they generate goes to private shareholders. They have the global financial clout to outbid anyone, anywhere, should they wish to do so. Calmac know that they must put a bid in which is sufficiently within the same ballpark that the Scottish Government can point to aspects of the bid which will compensate for what will undoubtedly be a poorer bid in strictly monetary terms in order to give them the contract, and I hope they are successful in doing so because I feel that at present we are seeing the asset stripping of everything that a future independent Scotland will need and in my view it would be far easier to renationalise a Calmac owned ferry service than a Serco owned one.

But I for one will not be standing alongside Mrs Smith and parroting her reasons for campaigning, which in the main are that anything the SNP does is bad, nor shall I share anything with a logo created by the treacherous Daily Record. The RMT, in aligning with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Daily Record appear to have chosen to ally itself with two organisations which are entirely out of step with the mood of, if not outright destested by a huge proportion of the Scottish electorate. I understand that the RMT has for the last few years campaigned on an anti EU stance, but I am sure it would not share a platform nor give a column to the odious UKIP politician Nigel Farage, even though his stated aim of a UK outside the EU is in line with this unions. Its apparent endorsement of the Labour Party’s Scottish branch is therefore viewed with equal distaste by this member. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy