Hey everyone It is now a week since the General Election and the tartan tsumani that was the election of 56 MP’s to Westminster. As I had said in my pre election post on this blog I expected the party to do well, after all the polls had been predicting we would for at least a year but as many SNP supporters and members know there is no day like polling day for having your dreams cruelly shattered.
At least that’s the way it used to be but this year I sensed there was something different in the air and something wasn’t just optimism it was genuine belief. A belief we could do something we had never done before we could go in to the traditional Labour Party heartlands and win at a UK election.
I think there were four factors at play which helped us in this fight. The first and probably primary amongst them was the fact that the independence referendum had galvanised Scotland in a way the likes of which had never been in my lifetime. Secondly voters did not see Jim Murphy or indeed Ed Milliband as leadership material and did not believe they could win. There was also the fact that Nicola Sturgeon played a brilliant campaign which no unionist was able to match coming across to voters as a genuine but capable woman who was prepared to reach out to the forces of progressive politics throughout the United Kingdom. And last but by means least the fact that the Labour Party campaigned with The Conservatives for three years during the referendum buries once and for all that these parties are in any way different.
When faced with these facts the Labour Party adopted a campaign style which can only be described as shambolic. It would seem to me at least that they knew what was going to happen and had neither the will nor the ability to stop it. From the first declaration when the SNP’s Alan Brown gained Kilmarnock from Cathy Jamieson the writing was on the wall for a party which had become both arrogant and complacent to a Scottish vote they regarded with haughty disdain.
It was all smiles from the Western Isles when the next declaration came through and the likable charmer that is Angus Brendan McNeill held the seat he first won in 2005 when he gained it from Labour’s Callum MacDonald and brought it back to the SNP family for the first time since 1987 Labour had on the retirement of SNP stalwart Donald Stewart.
If this result wasn’t entirely unexpected then the next one most certainly wasn’t at least not in my opinion. The political commentators may not have expected this result but I had been expecting it for months as I had been very positive reports from friends in the constituency. This marked the defeat of the first of Labour’s big beasts as Paisley And Renfrewshire South returned the youngest MP in Scotland and in Britain as 20 year old student Mhairi Black gained the seat for the SNP from the man who was Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander.
To his great credit Douglas gave one of the most dignified concession speeches of the night and his congratulations to Mhairi came from a heart of a man who accepted his defeat with good grace and was a credit to the colours he wore.
You know there are certain people of my acquaintance who say that Mhairi is too young to be an MP as she hasn’t been properly tested yet. Quite what planet these people are living on I really don’t know as I believe this campaign in which she had take on one of Labour’s most formidable fighters and a man who has been at the top table of British politics and would have been there again had his party won the election has tested her in ways unimaginable to me or many others and she has passed those tests with flying colours.
Personally, I think anyone who doubts the calibre of this amazingly talented young woman must have graduated not from university but the Craig Brown school of optimism. Craig Brown for those of you who don’t follow the fortunes of the Scotland National football team was once our manager and was so over cautious at giving youth a chance that the in joke amongst Scotland fans was that when giving a 27 year old their debut he would describe them as a promising youngster. Now I don’t know about you, but I prefer the attitude of Scotland’s greatest ever manager Jock Stein who held fast to the view that if you were good enough you were old enough and Mhairi is certainly good enough.
The next result was Dundee West. As Dundee had given the highest yes vote in last September’s independence referendum this was a seat I fully expected us to win. This was one of our top target seats in 2010 and that occasion despite a great campaign it was held by Labour’s Jim McGovern with a majority of over 7,000. Realising the tide of public opinion was against his party Mr McGovern dramatically resigned as candidate during the campaign and it was a fitting reward for Chris Law that he turned a Labour majority of 7,000 to an SNP majority of 17,000.
This result was followed by West Dunbartonshire where Labour’s Gemma Doyle was dramatically unseated by SNP candidate Martin Monaghan in a seat even I, and I’m optimistic by nature wasn’t sure we could win. Though the area like Dundee the area had voted yes in September. On hearing this result I began to realise that I had over estimated the support for all opposition parties and particularly Labour.
One by one the seats to started to fall and I was reminded of that classic Paul Weller song Walls Come Tumbling Down. Falkirk West, Ochil And South Perthshire and Glenrothes early gains for great candidates and John McNally, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik, and Peter Grant whose swing was one of the biggest of the night in a seat I had hoped but not expected to come to the banner will make brilliant representatives and give their areas a voice which for so many years has remained unheard
East Kilbride so long a Labour stronghold had been gained in the 2011 Scottish Election by Linda Fabianni so it is fair to say I was expecting victory for Dr Lisa Cameron and she didn’t disappoint ending the parliamentary career of Labour’s Michael McCann. In Midlothian the SNP council leader Owen Thomson gained a seat which I thought would be a Labour hold. I had based my belief on the fact the Labour candidate Kenny Young had won a council by-election against the tide last November so I therefore believed he may be able to do the same again by playing the local card against a man who as council leader has had to make some very tough decisions. Fortunately however this was not the case and Midlothian was another addition to the list of SNP gains.
The next result really pleased me and I was delighted when I heard Dundee East had been retained by our Depute Leader Stewart Hosie whose sterling work for our party and our country was rewarded with an increased majority. This is a seat which like the Western Isles has a long standing tradition of voting for the party but Stewart Hosie is a man who will never take that tradition for granted and that is why this dedicated nationalist just keeps on winning. Like Alex Salmond who went on to win Gordon later on the night, despite Liberal Democrat predictions he would lose to Christine Jardine this is a man who knows the only way to make a seat safe is to do the job you were elected to do and represent the people of your constituency. That is exactly what he has done since his election in 2005 and why he was re-elected to serve them again.
The results at this stage indicated that Labour were on course for a disastrous night in Scotland but it was the next three seats which turned that disaster into their greatest ever nightmare when Margaret Ferrier gained Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Roger Mullin gained Gordon Brown’s old seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and party leader Jim Murphy lost his East Renfrewshire seat to Kirsten Oswald. Of these results I had only expected potential gain and that was Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. As for Rutherglen And Hamilton West and East Renfrewshire I had said that Labour were to lose these seats they would be in meltdown and now I was beginning to realise how accurate that comment actually was.
Another seat I put in the hard to win category was Motherwell And Wishaw but as was the case with the case with the rest of Scotland this was yet another SNP Gain with Marion Fellows defeating the sitting MP Frank Roy. This declaration came at the time when Glasgow was getting ready to declare and this was the city Labour even a bad night could not afford to lose. However they did lose and lose spectacularly failing to hold a single seat in the city which was once the beating heart of Red Clydeside. One by one the dominoes fell starting in my own seat of Glasgow East where Natalie criused home defeating the outgoing Labour MP Margaret Curran by more than 10,000 votes This it has be to said was personal highlight on a night where there were so many it was almost impossible to choose. This was my seat, my conmstitutency the place where i campaigned and to see our magnificent Glasgow East campaign rewarded for all our hard work was a truly fantastic feeling. Natalie’s success was quickly followed by a stunning success in the seat even our most optimistic supporters said she couldn’t as she unseated Willie Bain in the seat we even told ourselves we wouldn’t take with one of the largest swings of the night to claim Glasgow North East. Indeed not only did Anne win the seat she gained the biggest majority in Glasgow in the process.
There were fantastic wins for Chris Stephens in Glasgow South West where he crushed unionist hardliner Ian Davidson, Stewart McDonald in the neighbouring seat of Glasgow South where he unseated the equally hard-line Tom Harris and Alison Thewliss who defeated former Deputy Leader of Labour in Scotland Anas Sarwar. The route was completed when Patrick Grady gained Glasgow North And Carol Monaghan claimed the scalp of John Robertson the man who succeded the late Donald Dewar in the part of Glasgow which was formerly Anniesland and is now known as Glasgow North West.
So Glasgow had given the Labour Party the red card and replaced the red hand of the past with the bright yellow jersey of the future
It was a similar story in North Lanarkshire with Airdrie And Shotts, Coatbridge Chryston And Bellshill and Cunbernauld Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East all changing their political colours. These results meant the end of the road for Labour veteran Tom Clarke who lost Coatbridge to Phil Boswell and not a moment too soon in my opinion, and Greg McClymont who was widely tipped as one of Labour’s rising stars and whose chance I am sure will come again if he gives it a decade or so.
I have to say I really enjoyed the victory of Angela Crawlwey in Lanark And Hamilton East where she ended the political career of the woeful Jimmy Hood. This gives me particular pleasure as this was a man so blinded by prejudice that he said he would vote against Independence even if Scotland could prove it would be the richest country on earth. This to me was stupidity beyond belief and unworthy an elected representative and it more than likely playerd a significant part in his downfall.
I also was happy for Hannah Bardell who won Livingston the seat her mother contested in 2010 and Tommy Sheppard the man who co-founded The Stand Comedy Club and is a former member of the Labour Party’s Scottish Executive who became SNP MP for Edinburgh Eastern in the wee small hours of Friday morning.
The unionist parties did gain some very small crumbs of comfort winning one seat each. Alasdair Carmichael holding on to Orkney And Shetland for the Liberal Democrats David Mundell keeping his place as Scotland’s only Conservative winning Clydesdale Ettrickdale And Dumfrieshie for the 3rd time and Ian Murray holding on in Edinburgh Southern in a seat which saw the SNP rise from fourth place to second. Well to paraphrase the classic Meatloaf song I say to them ‘Don’t be sad cause 3 out 59 ain’t bad. Indeed to paraphrase another line from the same song ‘Unionists can talk all night but that ain’t getting them nowhere. This is especially true whem you listen to embittered Labour candidates such as Tom Harris who had the audicity to blame the voters for not listening to Labour who in his words were winning the arguments on the doorsteps. This is completely delusional and shows just how out of touch his party really are with the ordinary Scottish voter. Indeed I would go as far as to say that the trouble for the Labour Party was the voters were actually listening and they didn’t like what they were hearing one little bit.
With Eilidh Whiteford retaining Banff and Buchan, Angus Robertson holding Moray. Mike Weir keeping Angus in the SNP family, despite my fears of a potential Tory tactical vote and Pete Wishart doubling his majority and reclaiming Perth and North Perthshire the SNP retained all of the six seats which they held in the last parliament.
As the rest of the Scottish results came in it was clear this was going to be a landslide for the SNP who took both seats in Aberdeen from the Labour Party and won seats I wouldn’t even have thought were possible at the beginning of the evening. These included North Ayrshire And Arran where SNP candidate Patricia Gibson got an early birthday present defeating Labour’s only real socialist at Westminster Katy Clarke. Irvine And Central Ayrshire where Doctor Philpa Whiteford ended the career of long serving Labour MP Brian Donahoe and Ayr where Cori Wilson gained the seat from Labour’s Sandra Osborne.
Whilst the Liberal Democrats may not have had as far to fall as the Labour Party they still fell from a significent height and lost some real political big hitters in the process. The wee small hours of Friday morning saw the end of the road for former Scottish Secetary Michael Moore who lost his Roxburgh Selkirk And Berwickshire seat to Callum Kerr in the last Scottish seat to be declared. Mr Moore would be joining former party leader Charles Kennedy whose 32 year career was brought to an end by the voters of Ross, Syke, And Lochabar who elected the SNP’s Ian Blackford to take his place, and Danny Alexander who lost out to the SNP leader of Highland council Drew Hendry and paid the price for being George Osborne’s Scottish voice at the treasury.
On a personal level I have to admit to having a degree of sympathy for Jo Swinson who lost to John Nicholson in East Dunbartonshire and perhaps more than any other defeated MP I can say I’m truly sorry to lose her from parliament. The work she has done on behalf of women and girls has been important and it is in future generations we will see what I am sure will be known as the Swinson legacy.
So with the Scottish election all wrapped up it was I have to say a great night for my party. As for the results in England And Wales that is a matter for the people of those nations to decide and they decided that as a whole they wanted a Conservative government. Whilst this is a disappointment to me on a personal level I fully support their right to make that decision even if I disagree with it profoundly. Like Scotland there were some big name causalities who will no longer be walking the corridors of power, the most noticable being Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls and two leading Liberal Democrats in Simon Hughes, and Vince Cable.
So, many big beasts have been removed from both Scottish and Brittish politics but I have a very clear message for those Labour supporters and believe me I’ve met them already who would attempt to claim that the SNP success cost them the election. This is a message they need to hear whether they like it or not. You see I deal in facts the fact is their numbers don’t add up. Even if Labour had retained every one of the seats they lost even if they had won every seat in Scotland the fact is Scotland would still have a Conservative government. So you see voting SNP didn’t get Scotland a Tory government voting no to our independence did.
This is a fact from which there is no escape and no hiding place. This result proved that the people of Scotland are angry but believe me this is no protest vote this is the voice of an angry nation a nation which feels badly let down by the failures of unionist politicians many of whom cared more about self interest and their place on the expenses express than they did for people they were elected to represent. So with this in mind I would say that though I am confident I will see independence in my lifetime that for as long as Scotland remains in the UK we have to vote SNP to make sure we are not ignored.
Make no mistake this is not the same Scotland as it was at the time of the last Westminster election in 2010 or even in the early part of 2012 before the referendum was called. You see something happened to Scotland during the referendum that hadn’t happened before. We began to talk about politics and from that we gained our confidence. After being told for centuries what we couldn’t do last Thursday showed what we could and to me and I suspect many others it proved beyond all doubt that the day our people found their voice was Scotland’s beautiful Thursday.
Love And Best Wishes