The current constituency MSP for Airdrie & Shotts, Alex Neil, has announced his intention to stand down at the next Holyrood election, creating a vacancy for a new SNP candidate. Already two potential candidates have come forward, firstly local councillor Paul Di Mascio, and sitting Westminster MP Neil Gray. The latter will, under current rules, have to stand down as a Westminster MP prior to the election, letting his office staff go in the process.
If I recall correctly sitting MSP’s who were standing down had to notify the party of their intentions by March this year, and the NEC would then impose a quota of all-women shortlists for those seats. The cynic in me feels that perhaps Mr Neil held off from announcing his resignation to allow the all women shortlists to be allocated – leaving the field free for his apprentice Mr Gray to make the jump from London to Edinburgh.
While some may view this as a risky move, the SNP are currently flying high nationally, the new candidate would be standing against the political Mr Bean that is Richard Leonard; in addition a high placing on the party list would give a belt and braces guarantee of walking in to a new highly paid job, joining the rest of the limpets who cannot be removed from our parliament. Westminster has many, many faults, but at least there the public can remove politicians they don’t like.
With the high profile gained from his Westminster role Mr Gray must surely be seen as the favourite, and the new members flocking to join the local branch will surely be primed and ready to vote for him. It’s deja-vu all over again, and the only positive side I can see to this is that this may open up the Westminster seat to someone else, who may in the process raise their profile while remembering that they have been sent to England’s parliament to settle up, not settle down.
For me, representing your constituency should be a responsibility bestowed upon you by your constituents for a short period of time, not a job for life, and I am deeply suspicious of anyone who seeks to make politics a career. The SNP has become an industry in itself, with a huge amount of cash swilling around as MP’s and MSP’s employ staff who are often also Councillors or family members as research and office staff. As voters and activists our aspirations and those of our politicians are widely apart. For us the loss of an election can be hugely disappointing – for those occupying political office electoral loss can mean the loss of income, status and everything that accompanies it. Highly addictive I’m sure, and personally I’d like to see a two or three term limit imposed on any future Scottish political system to encourage fresh talent and new ideas and to discourage those who cling on long past their time like a blockage in the sewer.
The question each and every Yes voter in the Airdrie & Shotts area should be asking is which candidate will be more likely to put independence at the top of their priority list. Of the two candidates Councillor Di Mascio has reached out to local independence campaigners, attended local independence group talks and has been seen in his own time on independence marches. Mr Gray has not done the former and I’m unsure if he’s done the latter. Choose wisely, Airdrie & Shotts SNP…