SNP win Glasgow East

July 25, 2008

Yes. The SNP have won Glasgow East.

It might be a shock result but is anyone surprised?

I’m not going to go into Labour’s terminal decline in Scotland today.

I’ve already posted quite a bit on Labour’s slapstick election campaign too.

No. Today should be about celebrating the SNP’s magnificient win.

A justified result for the SNP’s brilliant campaign team and candidate John Mason.

A win that delivered the promised ‘political earthquake’. (Yet another SNP promise delivered!)

An earthquake with tremors felt around the world:-

The USA: New York Times and Time magazine
Canada: The National Post
India : Top News
South Africa : News 24
Australia : Sydney Morning Herald
France: France 24
Spain: EITB 24

to name but a few countries coverage.

Now thats what I call putting Scotland on the world stage!

To do it permanently, independence is the next step.

Bring it on!

Glasgow East? I wouldn’t live there says Margaret Curran

July 24, 2008

In what can only be described as the mother of all gaffes in her gaffe-torn Glasgow East campaign, the Labour candidate has refused to consider moving to the constituency once elected.

The Scotsman sums it up like this:

“But the news story was surely the refusal of Margaret Curran, the Labour candidate, to promise to live in the constituency if she wins on Thursday.”

She was asked on the Radio Scotland show Good Morning Extra by a caller if she would consider moving to the constituency if elected. She pointedly refused to answer the question instead calling her ‘I have lived in the East End all my life’ speech as just a slip of the tongue. She has lived in a £600 000 villa in the fashionable Newlands area in Glasgow’s Southside for many years.

The Scotsman article also follows on with this reasoning:

‘Must an MP live in the constituency? No. So why is this an issue? For two reasons. As the First Minister, Alex Salmond, said yesterday, it’s an issue because Ms Curran had “told fibs” about her home address.

The second reason is that Ms Curran has vowed to be a “fighter” for the East End. That’s more easily done when you are witnessing its problems on a daily basis, not on a once-a-week trip to the community centre for a weekly surgery with constituents on a Friday.

To make matters worse for Labour, Ms Curran’s SNP rival, John Mason, does live in the constituency. Predictably he reminded listeners of this fact.

Asked who he would vote for if he could not vote for himself, he said: “I live in this constituency. I’m voting for myself. I’m the candidate who lives here.”‘

On the eve of polling day, a refusal to live in the constituency must be seen as a huge slap in the face to the Glasgow East locals.

No doubt some of them would like to move into a swanky Southside house themselves but it hardly resonates either with those who are happy there or those are stuck there with no funds to move. Is this what she means when she says she doesn’t want to talk the area down?

Another Scotsman page numbered the activists in the Labour and SNP camp.

SNP 1000+
Labour 200 (The 2000 listed the paper admitted was a typo.)

That got me thinking of the membership bases of Scottish Labour and the SNP.

The BBC reported that the Labour Party in Scotland has 17000 members (2007 figures).

The SNP reported their membership figures of 14183 at March this year.

Given the bigger membership you may have expected Labour to have more activists in place in Glasgow East. In fact, as we know some of those 200 were English Labour MPs and the odd Swaziland journalist.

The Labour membership is sinking so fast that the SNP is predicted to be the largest Scottish party by 2010.

But using the figures quoted:-

Activist / Membership ratio of Labour is 200 / 17000 or 1.1%
Activist / Membership ratio of the SNP is 1000 / 14183 or 7.1 %

So an SNP member is 7 times more likely to be an activist than a Labour member.

It really does emphasise my point yesterday that the SNP message has Gladwell’s ‘stickiness’ quality and that the unionists are bereft.

The SNP campaign has been a triumph for their activists, win or lose.

Even if they don’t take the seat such dedication can only stand the SNP in good stead for the future. Many a safe seat will fall in Scotland with such an organised army of followers on the doorsteps.

I can’t wait to see if Labour’s vote is as soft as I think it is.

Labour make by-election gamble

July 22, 2008

As is well documented Glasgow East has one of the highest numbers of unemployment and incapacity benefit subscribers in the UK.

So it may seem strange that James Purnell, the Works and Pension minister, has chosen today to formally release his plans that detail his attempt to curb those numbers by forcing the jobless to work for their dole money and those on incapacity benefit back to work.

Proposals include:-

Making the unemployed do community service.
Drug addicts will be forced to get treatment or they will lose their benefit.
Any drug addicts who lie about their addiction will be branded fraudsters and made to pay back all their benefits received.
Disability claimants will be pressed into work if at all possible.
Single parents with children aged seven or more will be expected to seek work – not claim benefit.
Hardcore heroin and crack cocaine users could be jailed if they refuse to get treatment while receiving unemployment benefit.

All 2.7million people on the sick will undergo fresh tests by independent doctors rather than their local GP to determine whether they can work. It seems every person in Glasgow East on incapacity benefit will have to get reassessed at Cadogan St.

Incapacity benefit will be scrapped by 2010.

It remains to be seen if these plans will be popular in Glasgow East.

I suspect most people there will agree with the measures outlined for the drug addicts. Drugs have been a blight on their community for too long.

I suspect people will be more concerned at the incapacity benefit being scrapped and those on it being forced to work. There may be some cheats but I would say that most people on that benefit are genuinely unable to work. Few could cheat the system with the regulations currently in place. I remember having to take my very ill father to Cadogan St to prove he was unable to work and the stress it caused him. He died not long after.

In that respect I have complete sympathy with this view from The Times:

A drug aid worker said: “Some of my clients simply aren’t capable of doing a job, any kind of job, no matter how much you try to force them or incentivise them. They’re too far gone; their brains are too damaged by booze or drugs. If you abolish their benefits you condemn them to squalor and great risk.”As another charity worker put it: “You’re talking about a quick fix for half the adult population of Glasgow. It’s madness.”

That is the big problem with the plan. Some people can’t work, will never work again. It may be all their fault through drugs, alcohol or whatever but even if they could get clean their brains are so badly damaged they still could not work. And putting such people under stress to find work is morally reprehensible.

Its a one size fits all solution that just can’t work for the genuinely ill.

Its a idea that Labour have pinched from the Conservatives.

George Osborne, Conservative Shadow Chancellor, said the ideas in the green paper were taken directly from Tory policy papers of just a few months ago, adding: “We regard today as a victory for the centre-right in British politics.”

No wonder John Mason, the SNP candidate, previously commentated that he could see little difference between Labour and the Conservatives. And Labour had the cheek to complain about it!

Glasgow is expected to be a pilot area for the plans. Labour are waiting till after the Glasgow East by-election to confirm this.

Margaret Curran has supported the plan.

The question is why are Labour taking a gamble announcing radical plans that will affect around half the Glasgow East constituency?

If they were so sure of the policy then why not just announce Glasgow as the pilot area now, instead of after the by-election?

It seems to me that Labour already know that Glasgow East will be lost.

If it wasn’t then the policy would have been unveiled the day after the by-election, once they had held Glasgow East.

The Glasgow pilot announcement will be deferred only to avoid a whitewash in the by-election. Gordon Brown will probably survive if the vote is tight. If Labour lost all its votes in one of its safest seats the Prime Minister would be forced out of office by the Labour MPs.

One of the reasons things look so grim for Labour is that it seems the postal votes have been checked. Now the ‘count’ seems to have been leaked.

In the 2005 General election Glasgow East Labour’s postal votes outnumbered the SNP’s by 4 to 1.

If the leaks on and the Herald comments section are true (** I’ve decided that the better choice of action is not to reveal the number posted on the boards myself, but you can easily find them for yourselves! **)

Postal votes had to be applied for on or before the 9th July. They had to be received by the 16th. Early in the campaign then. Momentum for the SNP was just beginning then and the first rather dodgy poll had Labour still holding the lead.

Still close then but the first tremor of the political earthquake has begun.

Labour’s animal cruelty in Glasgow East

July 19, 2008

Another day, another gaffe by Margaret Curran.

This time its over fire service response times in the constituency.

Margaret Curran publicly backed a campaign to try and save Parkhead Fire Station from closure, saying that the station should not close unless fire service response times were bettered by its replacement.

But, oh dear.

It was Margaret Curran and the Labour Party who voted for the Fire Act (2005) which scrapped guaranteed response times.

A fact that was not lost on the firefighters.

“She seems to have forgotten that she is partly responsible. It really is hypocritical of her now to talk in this way.” one said.

Just why is Margaret Curran walking into gaffe after gaffe after gaffe in this campaign? Can’t someone in the Labour team – if they have anyone – stop her from injuring herself? She badly needs one of those medical collars you give to dogs to stop them opening their wounds…

Perhaps Margaret Curran needs a medical collar?

She is an experienced politician, local MSP and at one time one of the frontrunners to lead the Scottish Labour group of MSPs.

Could it be that she just isn’t that good?

Many commentators have noted that there is no real political talent on the Labour benches at Holyrood. This became immediately apparent on Wendy Alexander’s resignation – there just wasn’t anyone who was immediately obvious who would lead the party; in the same way that Gordon Brown was the obvious choice when Tony Blair stood down.

Her television performances so far have been poor. In each one she looks nervous, rattling off 500 words to the minute and obscuring any points she has been trying to make.

In contrast, John Mason’s performances have been assured – even relaxed, to the point where Glenn Campbell’s trap of bringing out an old letter from an SNP adversary was so successfully brushed aside it made Glenn and the Newsnight team complete fools into the bargain.

There is no doubt in my mind that a neutral would have said that John Mason is the experienced politician, not Margaret Curran.

Is there any reason why the Labour campaign is so lacklustre? Why is it that journalists are asking why Margaret Curran is behaving like an underdog in the campaign?

Is it part of a strategy that people always support an underdog? Is it an attempt to win votes?

If so, it seems a dangerous strategy for Labour to take. They should by rights be the favourite in the seat – as mentioned before the Labour Party (and sometime Independent Labour) have held Glasgow East since 1922; it is one of their safest seats in the UK – a public image of being an underdog is one of their fortress stronghold constituencies is being projected around the UK, and around the world.

What sort of impression does that give of Gordon Brown’s Government? One that is deeply unpopular must be the answer; and hanging onto power by the skin of its teeth.

Although purposely planned as a short byelection campaign in an attempt to save the seat, Gordon Brown must be despairing over Labour’s chaotic campaign.

Because even if Labour do manage to hold the seat – and that is a big if – the perception is now reinforced around the country that this Labour Government is a dying government.

This Labour Government and the Glasgow East underdog campaign need to be taken to the vets to be put out of its misery. Its the kindest thing.

Glasgow East swings

July 4, 2008

I see that William Hill has changed their prices to bring them in line with the other bookmakers:-

SNP — 8/11
Labour — evens
Conservatives — 25/1
Liberal Democrats — 33/1

So now the only bookie that was backing Labour to win, now thinks the SNP will win.

The Liberal Democrats have named their candidate as Ian Robertson. He previously stood in the Westminster election of 2005 in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat, increasing their share of the vote by 6.7% – mainly from Labour voters – and squeezing past the SNP to go into second place. Given the state of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland now I think he’ll be lucky to keep their vote share but nonetheless he has a decent pedigree.

The SNP have also named their candidate as the Baillieston councillor John Mason. He has served on Glasgow City Council since 1998 and is the Glasgow SNP’s longest serving councillor. He also happens to be the most popular councillor in Glasgow – having the highest personal vote of any councillor in Glasgow, and the 4th highest vote in Scotland!

When he was first elected in 1998 he achieved a swing of 17.45% from Labour to the SNP. Can he manage to pull off a 22% swing?

Since Baillieston is a large part of the Glasgow East constituency this should be a shrewd move, capitalising on his local support. John lives in the East End and has done for the last 18 years.

The Scottish Socialist Party have named their candidate as Frances Curran; the joint leader of the party alongside Colin Fox. This clearly shows an intent by the SSP to try and take the socialist vote from the Solidarity Party, the other socialist party headed by Tommy Sheridan.

Both Labour and Solidarity are expected to name their candidates later today. I would guess that George Ryan (Labour) and Tommy Sheridan (Solidarity) would be the favourites.

If Tommy Sheridan does run, his high personal profile will probably take votes from both Labour and the SNP, making any result ridiculously hard to call.

And that will make Gordon Brown very nervous indeed.