Tag Archives: Johann Lamont

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…

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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

The Post Referendum Letters: 25/10/14 (Advertiser)

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

The article in this weeks Advertiser about MSP’s expenses in this weeks Advertiser was a timely one. As one who regularly criticised our former Labour MSP Karen Whitefield for her expenses claims, I thought it only right to check out Alex Neil’s expenses as a comparison. A common criticism I made of Ms Whitefield was that living less than an hour from Edinburgh she had a habit of making overnight stays in Edinburgh when a taxi home would have been far cheaper. As the people of Airdrie have elected an MSP from outside the constituency it stands to reason that Mr Neil’s claims will be higher, and as anyone can see if they go on to the parliamentary website the majority of Mr Neil’s claims are travel and accommodation based. It’s also worth noting that his claims for a hotel are on average £20 per night less than his Coatbridge counterpart. Living less than an hour from Edinburgh, surely she could get a train or taxi home for far less than £115?

This should also apply to MP’s. During the recent referendum campaign I finally met our local MP, Labour’s Pamela Nash. When I complained about her expenses her reply was that perhaps I should “spend less time online looking at her expenses.” This is a bit rich coming from a woman who voted in Parliament to support the security services being given more powers to snoop on our private emails and retain electronic information about us. Prior to writing this I checked her expenses again, just to get my facts right. It seems our MSP’s claims in Monklands, Labour and SNP alike, pale into insignificance when compared to Ms Nash’s. £1516 a month for the rental of a house in Lambeth, council tax, gas, electricity. That’s over £19,600 a year! Coatbridge’s MP Tom Clarke may be living the high life in a hotel at around £150 a night, but he still manages to come in at around £3600 a year less than Ms Nash. Taxis to Edinburgh airport are another stand out on Ms Nash’s list, with claims made due to there being “no direct public transport available.” Here’s a thought, get the train to Haymarket and catch the airport bus or take the tram, like normal people have to.

What really makes this all the more galling is that as Scottish MP’s they have far less responsibility than MP’s from the rest of the UK. Health, education, sport, transport, housing, agriculture and more are devolved. Scottish MP’s are virtually part time. They should be on half a salary, never mind the full salary, and they certainly don’t need to employ more staff to do work they should be doing themselves. More powers are supposedly going to be devolved, but here’s the problem. The “more powers” we are promised are now tied to limiting Scottish MP’s ability to vote on English only matters, and these powers are now being put at risk by Labour who as usual are putting their party first. The SNP do not vote on matters which have been devolved. Curiously the Blue Tories, one of the main complainants in this matter allow their one MP to vote on English only issues. Anyone outside of Labour would see it as right and proper that if a power has been devolved that Scottish MP’s do not vote on it, yet Labour who are putting forward a weaker “Devo Max” package than even the Tories are willing to scupper these powers simply to retain power in England. It looks as though this very thing may have forced the resignation of Johann Lamont who now complains that her party in Scotland is having to dance to London’s tune.

In this time of greater austerity we should be looking at cutting the costs generated by Parliament, and I think it should be uppermost in all MP’s and MSP’s minds that their allowances should always be thought of as other peoples money, and that when claiming for rail travel, meals and hotels and hiring staff that they should be out to get the best value that they can find for the taxpayer. When they believe that they are entitled as a right to first class travel and 5 start hotels then they have lost the right to represent us. They are not finding a solution, they are simply part of the problem.

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

Post Referendum Letters: 25/10/14

To: Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

The article in this weeks Advertiser about MSP’s expenses in this weeks Advertiser was a timely one. As one who regularly criticised our former Labour MSP Karen Whitefield for her expenses claims, I thought it only right to check out Alex Neil’s expenses as a comparison. A common criticism I made of Ms Whitefield was that living less than an hour from Edinburgh she had a habit of making overnight stays in Edinburgh when a taxi home would have been far cheaper. As the people of Airdrie have elected an MSP from outside the constituency it stands to reason that Mr Neil’s claims will be higher, and as anyone can see if they go on to the parliamentary website the majority of Mr Neil’s claims are travel and accommodation based. It’s also worth noting that his claims for a hotel are on average £20 per night less than his Coatbridge counterpart. Living less than an hour from Edinburgh, surely she could get a train or taxi home for far less than £115?

This should also apply to MP’s. During the recent referendum campaign I finally met our local MP, Labour’s Pamela Nash. When I complained about her expenses her reply was that perhaps I should “spend less time online looking at her expenses.” This is a bit rich coming from a woman who voted in Parliament to support the security services being given more powers to snoop on our private emails and retain electronic information about us. Prior to writing this I checked her expenses again, just to get my facts right. It seems our MSP’s claims in Monklands, Labour and SNP alike, pale into insignificance when compared to Ms Nash’s. £1516 a month for the rental of a house in Lambeth, council tax, gas, electricity. That’s over £19,600 a year! Coatbridge’s MP Tom Clarke may be living the high life in a hotel at around £150 a night, but he still manages to come in at around £3600 a year less than Ms Nash. Taxis to Edinburgh airport are another stand out on Ms Nash’s list, with claims made due to there being “no direct public transport available.” Here’s a thought, get the train to Haymarket and catch the airport bus or take the tram, like normal people have to.

What really makes this all the more galling is that as Scottish MP’s they have far less responsibility than MP’s from the rest of the UK. Health, education, sport, transport, housing, agriculture and more are devolved. Scottish MP’s are virtually part time. They should be on half a salary, never mind the full salary, and they certainly don’t need to employ more staff to do work they should be doing themselves. More powers are supposedly going to be devolved, but here’s the problem. The “more powers” we are promised are now tied to limiting Scottish MP’s ability to vote on English only matters, and these powers are now being put at risk by Labour who as usual are putting their party first. The SNP do not vote on matters which have been devolved. Curiously the Blue Tories, one of the main complainants in this matter allow their one MP to vote on English only issues. Anyone outside of Labour would see it as right and proper that if a power has been devolved that Scottish MP’s do not vote on it, yet Labour who are putting forward a weaker “Devo Max” package than even the Tories are willing to scupper these powers simply to retain power in England. It looks as though this very thing may have forced the resignation of Johann Lamont who now complains that her party in Scotland is having to dance to London’s tune.

In this time of greater austerity we should be looking at cutting the costs generated by Parliament, and I think it should be uppermost in all MP’s and MSP’s minds that their allowances should always be thought of as other peoples money, and that when claiming for rail travel, meals and hotels and hiring staff that they should be out to get the best value that they can find for the taxpayer. When they believe that they are entitled as a right to first class travel and 5 start hotels then they have lost the right to represent us. They are not finding a solution, they are simply part of the problem.

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

The Referendum Letters: 14/04/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to Sam Daly’s letter in last weeks Advertiser. I assume that from his letter that he is unhappy that the SNP’s definition of those who are poor differs markedly from his. Perhaps Mr Daly would like to bring in means testing, and all the costs that come with it? There are thousands of families across the country who work who no doubt would fall on the wrong side of Mr Daly’s line, and for whom a few days sick means losing wages they cannot afford to lose, leaving them to decide whether they can actually afford the medicine that will make them better. It’s all very well saying him that he is happy to pay more tax for better services, but he doesn’t speak for those I have mentioned. The truth is by stripping away the costly administration of the prescription system, it is possible to give everyone, irrespective of income, free prescriptions for little more than was already being paid. Isn’t that a fairer system? Or would he prefer that those who can as he puts it, afford it, can pay for it but not use it? 

He also states that our health service is in sharp decline due to funding cuts. Perhaps Mr Daly is unaware that our NHS, while independent of the English NHS since 1948, receives it’s funding as part of the block grant created under the Barnett Formula. This gives Scotland an allowance based on it receiving a small fixed percentage of how much England spends. As England moves towards a privatised NHS, government expenditure has dropped. PPP and PFI, along with privatisation ad directly billing the sick for treatment means that their NHS spending is dropping, and will continue to drop, and if their budget goes down so must ours, irrespective of our needs or our contributions. Even if Mr Daly’s generous offer to pay more tax was taken up it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference, because if England spends less, they will give us less of our money back to spend. Yet we Scot’s are the ones labelled subsidy junkies! 

He then goes on to complain that the SNP only agreed to pay the Bedroom Tax, which our Labour MP failed to oppose, when forced to do so. He completely misses the point that this is a completely unfair tax, as rotten as the Poll Tax, which should never have been imposed in the first place! Even worse than that, was that the money to pay this unfair tax had to be found from somewhere, so other budgets suffered because of it. Why complain about Social Services having their budgets frozen and then support stripping money through a completely pointless tax, designed to hammer those who can least afford it? 

Mr Daly seems to be parroting the ever more out of touch Johann Lamont, a woman at the head of a party now so bitter and twisted that it would scrap every last decent thing which has been put in place by the SNP, precisely because it was done by the SNP. The fact that at some point along the line she supported these policies makes no difference, and now she cries that Scots just want something for nothing! The SNP have succeeded where she and her party failed. God forbid that woman ever becomes First Minister, as she is all for reintroducing prescription charges, imposing higher council taxes, scrapping free bus travel for the elderly and supports cutting the amount of money that Scotland gets via the Barnett Formula. When I say that she supports it a cut, what I of course mean is that she is proposing that Scotland raise more of its own tax, which would indirectly lead to a cut in our block grant, and a massive drop in what Scotland gets, as the oil revenue which trickles back to Scotland would be turned off entirely. It’s just that Mrs Lamont doesn’t understand it’s a cut. Her recent shambolic television appearances when she had to speak without having things written down proved that. Other Labour figures have chipped in to provide clarity, such as Tom Clarke MP, only to muddy the waters by contradicting what their leader says, as it appears they don’t understand it either. 

Finally, as I’m sure Mr Daly knows all too well, the cuts to the opening times at Airdrie Police Station were carried out by Police Scotland, NOT the SNP, but why let the truth get in the way of things?. Even then I fail to understand his point. If you have lost your purse and can’t afford travel to the station, why does it make a bit of difference whether someone is manning the desk? You can call 101 to report it anyway. To me it makes more sense to actually have the police out on the ground dealing with crime rather than at a desk on the off chance that someone will want to drop by at three in the morning.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy