Causes and careers

July 29, 2008

Now that Margaret Curran is freshly defeated in Glasgow East, it seems she is looking to challenge for the now vacant position of Deputy Leader of the Labour MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

Is this what she meant when she said Labour was a cause not a career? A Times article reported her concession speech as full of self-delusion.

Nothing to do with the Baillieston constituency which she holds disappearing in boundary changes at the next election then?

Calum Cashley takes the view that if Labour was genuinely seen as a cause and not a career then it wouldn’t need saying.

No doubt, the Glasgow East defeat greatly damaged Margaret in the party’s eyes. Gone is the chance to be the MSP leader, but the Deputy Leader is a much lower profile role. And as Deputy Leader she would probably get a safe seat after the boundary changes; something which doesn’t look too likely now.

But even the Deputy Leadership may be beyond her hope after Glasgow East.

To continue her poltical career, Margaret desperately needs another seat or post.

That’s why she hasn’t ruled out a rematch in the next General election at Glasgow East, hoping that Labour’s fortunes have turned round and that the SNP eventually slip up.

I could be wrong about Labour and careerist politicans. But journalists however have been reporting the situation for years. Even before Brown took over as Prime Minister Andrew Rawnsley was writing about “… with suspicion and contempt at the careerist Labour MPs who have signed on to the Brownite cause”

We might find out soon enough when the next election comes and Labour lose their MP base.

Will these ex-MPs stay in politics? Or change career?

We may not have long to find out.

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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 Politicalbetting.com 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.


8 out of 10 cats

July 21, 2008

The Daily Mail has a piece on Gordon Brown’s survival.

They state that 8 out of 10 Labour MPs think Gordon Brown should go. Reminds me of that Frankie Boyle joke: “Gordon Brown looks like someone’s drawn a sad face on a scrotum… Does George Bush even know who he is? He must’ve thought Tony Blair put on weight and had a fucking stroke.” Thats the sort of remarks he can get away with on 8 out of 10 cats, I guess.

Three quarters of the Prime Minister’s cabinet think Gordon should go too.

Thinking of it, one of the very few who would want Gordon to stay is Frankie Boyle. He’s probably got a million routines all based on the Prime Minister’s scrotum face.

Maybe like Mike Yarwood sinking fast from trace once Harold Wilson and Ted Heath disappeared from public life, Frankie Boyle might suffer the same fate with Gordon Brown’s demise. Or just start on a new jokebook.

Celebrity status is a double edged sword. The whole point of it is that people recognise you and talk about you. Celebrity and gossip magazines fly off the newsagents’ shelves into the arms of an eager public.

But the other side is when your image is ridiculed. For politicians this is especially dangerous.

Think of Michael Foot wearing that donkey jacket on Remembrance Sunday. Neil Kinnock falling in the sea. John Prescott punching protestors. Currently, Margaret Curran’s slapstick election campaign for Glasgow East.

All suffered a loss of credibility.

At least it was their actions though.

Now think of David Steel on Spitting Image, a tiny figure sitting on David Owen’s lap. Margaret Thatcher with those mad eyes or a grey skinned John Major eating peas.

Satire is at its best when it reflects a public personna; the caricatures providing an insight to the actual people themselves.

At some point though these images seem to become real.

Tony Blair was always framed in the role as Bush’s poodle but this perception was reinforced when George W. Bush called out to him ‘Yo, Blair!’ at a dinner for heads of state.

And so it is with Gordon Brown. So unpopular has he become that comedians can now throw any insult at him and the public won’t be offended.

Calling the Prime Minister a ‘scrotum face’ and saying he looks like he had a stroke, in times past would have resulted in a ton of letters at the televison channel’s door.

Its a reflection of how poorly Gordon Brown is regarded by the public that Frankie Boyle’s comments were unedited.

Its also why there is almost nothing – barring a political miracle on the scale of Gordon Brown launching himself in Afghanistan and Rambo-style bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice singlehandedly! – that Gordon Brown can do that will prevent Labour from losing the next General Election.

The die is cast. Labour’s rating has fallen to just 16% in the new poll by the Metro newspaper – behind the Liberal Democrats.

The 8 out of 10ers are right. Gordon should step down.

The future of the Labour Party and Frankie Boyle’s new jokebook depend on it.


Monkeys wanted in Glasgow East

July 20, 2008

Were The Times journalists reading my post suggesting that a chimp would have been a better candidate than the gaffe-prone Margaret Curran?

It certainly appears so after its latest story regarding Labour’s campaign team:-

They would have employed a monkey

Its essential reading for a real insight to Labour’s disastrous campaign.

The story details a Labour activist and journalist joining up for a fortnight to help the Labour campaign team in Glasgow East. So short-staffed are the campaign team he was immediately employed without any questions to his background.

He couldn’t believe what a shambles the Labour campaign team are in.

Their computer system runs English canvassing software and can’t cope with Scottish tenement addresses!

Hence canvassers have to do everything manually. Assigned with out-of-date maps the campaign activists have wasted hundreds of man hours trudging round the constituency hopelessly lost.

Morale is at rock bottom. Even a Daily Mail poll which put Labour in the lead – and may have given some fillip to Labour – was quickly denounced as rogue by both campaign teams. The writing is on the wall.

This was evidenced by the comments the campaign team freely gave to The Times journalist:

“Talking to people on the doorstep over the last few days, I was sure that this one was going down the pan as well — nobody even knew who the candidate was going to be.” said one activist.

Christine May, former Labour MSP, spoke of her colleague Margaret Curran as a “scary woman”.

Margaret Curran also confessed she has not read any of the letter that she has sent to the constituents of Glasgow East; another gaffe that The Times reports as smacking of arrogance and complacency.

What hope has a constituent got of getting Margaret to read their letter if she can’t be bothered to read her own?!

How many more gaffes can the Labour campaign take? Unveiling a celebrity supporter, John Michie, only to find he has publicly backed independence? Hurriedly altering the Labour website that criticised Alex Salmond for his dual mandate when Margaret Curran seeks exactly the same dual mandate?

That’s in addition to the multitude of personal gaffes that Margaret Curran has already made. There are just too many to link to, but if you go to my last post you can trace links back from there.

I previously suggested that George Foulkes makes so many gaffes that he may be a fifth column activist for the SNP.

On this form I’m beginning to believe that Margaret Curran is also a fifth columnist.

Or is it that she just is hopeless; slipping on every banana skin?

I think she should be told.


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.


David Marshall was “value for money” says Margaret Curran!

July 18, 2008

Margaret Curran has just been on Newsnight Scotland defending David Marshall, the resigned MP, as “value for money”!!

It is the latest in a series of monumental gaffes made by the Labour candidate in the run up to the by-election. See here and here for examples! No wonder she even looked glum on her campaign launch!

The Glasgow East by-election was called when David Marshall resigned ostensibly over health grounds – stress and depression say his doctors.

It doesn’t take a doctor to work out that the causes for his stress and depression were probably the fact that he was being investigated by Westminster over his expense claims.

In fact, even Labour sources pinpoint this as the problem.

From the Daily Mail:

“Senior Labour sources dismissed reports that the Glasgow East MP’s resignation was entirely the result of his health problems.

They said privately that former bus conductor Mr Marshall, 67, was quitting his safe seat to avoid becoming the latest MP to be embroiled in allegations of misuse of expenses.”

David Marshall had spent over half a million pounds of taxpayers money running his constituency office.

But in this case, David Marshall used his home for his constituency office.

Which means that his expense claims should have only be limited to extra phone lines and a proportion of heating and lighting etc.

Another quote from the Daily Mail:

“A Commons spokesman said MPs can use their home as an office but only claim for additional costs like ‘extra phone lines, heating and lighting’. ”

Not the half a million pounds he took from the expenses fund then?

No wonder he resigned! No wonder he has stress!

Value for money? Is Margaret Curran having a laugh?

Does she intend to embezzle funds from Westminster?!

Is David Marshall only guilty of not taking enough??!

Can she not wait for her John Lewis list???!

I wonder what the long-suffering voters of Glasgow East will think of that?

“Value for money!” – Words fail me…

Its a pity they didn’t fail Margaret Curran. (At least then we wouldn’t have to listen to her rambling-without-answering monologues. Bring back Ronnie Corbett – all is forgiven!)

They used to say Labour could win this seat with a chimp wearing a red rosette…

The one at the end may have been better for Labour!

A pity Gordon Brown didn’t persuade one of them to run!