Tag Archives: Jim Murphy

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: 22/12/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

Last week I wrote to the Advertiser trying to raise awareness of the issue of fracking, and I pointed out that sitting Labour MP Pamela Nash had failed to vote against the Infrastructure Bill which gave companies the right to frack under other peoples land without their permission. Ms Nash used her own Advertiser column to defend herself, claiming she had voted against it. In the real world Ms Nash voted not to allow the final part of the bill to be read, and her vote failed. The motion was then read and voted on, whereby she and every one of her Labour colleagues failed to register a vote of any kind. That is a matter of public record. Voting against a bit of a bill is not the same as voting against all of it.

Following publication of my letter I started a public petition put in place a ban on fracking within 2km of any inhabited dwelling . In addition to taking to the streets for public support I also emailed every councillor in North Lanarkshire to support my petition and to ask them to actively oppose any fracking application in the Airdrie and Coatbridge area. A few days later I learned that on 18th December there were two motions going before North Lanarkshire Council calling for a moratorium on fracking in North Lanarkshire.

Rather than commit to a ban on fracking in North Lanarkshire, the Labour Party united against the Greens, SNP and independent councillors, and instead voted to call on the Scottish Parliament to ban fracking instead. They voted for something they have no power over. North Lanarkshire Council had the chance to protect the people in this area and send out a message to other local authorities and to the Scottish Government. Instead it played politics and passed the hot potato back up to Holyrood. Jim Murphy, the new branch leader in Scotland has repeatedly called for more power to be devolved down to the councils, yet North Lanarkshire Labour are trying to devolve it back up. What do we pay them for exactly?

After the vote I was contacted by Labour Councillor Barry McCulloch in a reply to the email I had sent to all councillors. He wrote that “NLC decided on a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction at its meeting yesterday and called on the Scottish Government to do likewise. I made a contribution to the debate and made my opposition to fracking clear to the meeting.” This is an amazing email to have sent out, as it is patently untrue. NLC did NOT implement a moratorium on fracking yet I have a NLC councillor stating otherwise. As yet he has not replied to my email requesting clarification of this. There seems to be a culture embedded in the Labour Party that on contentious subjects you can make statements completely at odds with the record.

I also wrote to our elected representatives in Airdrie, Alex Neil MSP and Pamela Nash MP asking for their support in the petition. Alex Neil of the SNP replied that as Planning Minister he is not allowed to sign any petitions of this nature. As yet I have received no reply from Labour’s Pamela Nash. There are times when political differences must be put aside for the common good. The Labour Party’s unwillingness to support the SNP on any matter is putting our health and safety at risk here and now. It is time they picked up the teddy bear they threw in the corner when they lost Holyrood, grew up and started acting like the mature politicians they claim to be. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy


Post Referendum Letters: 28/11/14 (Advertiser)

An edited version of this appeared in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

It seems that this will be my last letter to the advertiser on the subject of Scottish independence. Yesterday I sat outside the Scottish Parliament and watched the great and the good troop inside, where they announced that the Vow had been delivered, with Michael Moore MP describing it as “Home Rule for Scotland”. With home rule recommended by the Smith Commission I have nothing left to campaign for.

It’s a great pity that newspapers don’t include smiley’s on the letters page, as that first paragraph would have been accompanied by a sarcastic one. A really big one. 

Home rule? It’s far from it. The list of reserved powers is substantial. The minimum wage, VAT, fuel duty, equality, pensions, child benefits, foreign policy, weapons of mass destruction, the list goes on and on. We were promised “Near Federalism” and “Devo-Max”. We have been palmed off with ‘Devo Hee-Haw’ and it has to be remembered that these are just proposals. They still have to go in front of our Imperial Masters in London where they will no doubt be picked apart and further reduced.

After all the noise coming from Jim Murphy as he flip-flopped on the subject of tax, the reality was disappointing to say the least: 70% of taxes and 85% of welfare spending remains under London’s control. Oh, and the Scottish Government will be allowed to bid for (not renationalise) the rail franchise in Scotland. Given that it isn’t allowed to raise extra money and everything it does raise will simply reduce the block grant of our own money that we get back anyway, I’m mystified as to how it could get the funding for this without stripping it from elsewhere.  

The simple fact is we have been offered a few token changes to meet the so called Vow, which according to a Freedom of Information request made recently, the UK Cabinet Office has no record of. It would seem that with nae power comes great responsibility. We can gather in and distribute money on behalf of London and pretend it is power. But how can we do anything about poverty when we cannot even set a minimum wage? The simple answer is we cannot. We can tinker with the edges, fiddle here and there but the power to change anything in real, meaningful terms is not available to us. Former leader of the Labour Party  (Scotland branch) Iain Grey said that “any politician seeing these powers coming to them should be excited about the possibilities…” I’d suggest that if that’s what excites him he should perhaps call it a day, like many other Labour high-heidyins.  

On the upside, the Smith Commission has recommended that we are given control over road signs. Unsurprisingly I’d like them to be tartan… 

Yours Sincerely 

Jim Cassidy

The Referendum Letters

In the run up to the Scottish independence referendum I wrote a number of letters to mainly the local press, although there was also also some to the national press as well. I’ve decided to put these all in one place and will collate all of them on here. Some may refer to letters, responses or replies which were made in the press, so the full context will not be available. Had I been a compulsive hoarder I would have these tucked away. If there are any compulsive hoarders out there who have the originals…can I have a copy?

The letters which I will be adding will be the versions saved in my files. The vast majority were published, mostly with no or minor editing from the publishers.

During the referendum I also contributed to may online discussions and created a number of images which were shared on Facebook. I think it may be interesting to see this laid out in order. Hopefully I’ll get around to that. This is a work in progress…