Finally and much later than I should have I have cast my vote in yet another election. On this occasion however, I didn’t need to go to a polling station and instead I cast this particular vote from the comfort of my living room whilst enjoying my after dinner coffee and I did it using my mobile phone. I was able to do this as the ballot paper was sent to me by a personalised link from the Scottish National Party (SNP) of which I am a member and have been since April 2010 and a supporter for many years before that.
As I am sure you are aware if you are a regular reader of this blog I rather like the idea of participatory democracy and tend to vote at every available chance no matter what level of election it may be. This however was the most important vote I’ve cast since my yes vote in the 2014 independence referendum.
I make this claim by saying that though there have been two elections UK and Scottish and the European union referendum this vote was more important to me as it signals not only what kind of Scotland I want to see but what kind of party I want to be a member of. It was with this very much in mind that I voted for my choice as to who I want to be Nicola Sturgeon’s number two and Depute Leader of the SNP.
Let me say that though I had a very definite preference as to who I would be supporting I believe my party are very fortunate to have four outstanding candidates contesting this important post. In Angus Robertson, Alyn Smith, Chris McEleany , and Tommy Sheppard we have candidates who are blessed with a wide range of skills, knowledge, and expertise they can bring to the top table and whoever is successful will be a worthy successor to Stewart Hosie who resigned for personal reasons from the post earlier this year.
As for my vote I decided to give my first preference to Tommy Sheppard and I did so for a number of reasons. The first of these of reasons is that like myself Tommy Sheppard has a long and active history within the broader Labour and trade union movement. This is important to me because as someone on the left of the party who has always been committed principles of a socially just Scotland which is built upon the rocks of equality of opportunity , fairness, and community empowerment I want someone who reflects those values and Tommy’s commitment to giving branches a greater say in the decision making process speaks to my left wing political condition.
Another key reason I selected Tommy was the fact that Angus, and Alyn are already playing important roles within our existing leasership team. Angus is doing a brilliant job as leader of our Westminster group of MP’s where he has faced down former Prime Minister David Cameron and is now doing the same job on current incumbent Theresa May as he makes sure Scotland’s voice is both heard and respected as never before in the corridors of power at Westminster. As for Alyn this is a man who has grown in confidence and stature since first being elected to the European Parliament and is now recognised as the party’s main voice on European affairs. As a party I believe the SNP will be best served by supporting the existing leadership teamm rather than stretching it and adding an even greater degree of responsibility to one of its existing members. It is I believe important indeed essential to let both Angus and Alyn get on with their current jobs without adding to their already busy workload.
This same argument can also be used to explain why I didn’t vote for Chris McEleany. As a councillor facing re-election Chris has other concerns to prioritise particularly in the run up to and in the imeadiate aftermath of the local government elections in which the party hopes to perform well.Should we do as well as we hope we will it could be that Chris may be in a very senior post in local government and may not have the time to devote to the post that I as a party member believe it merits. This to me means that Tommy Sheppard though an elected MP would be able to carry out the duties of the post more effectively and indeed more efficiently than his rivals would be able to do.This would be especially true if his plan for regional officers at local level were to be implemented by the party.
Organisation aside another important reason I voted for Tommy is the fact that I think of all the candidates in this election he is the one best placed to reach out the hand of friendship and comradeship to those voters who at this stage in their political journey are SNP voters but reluctant SNP voters as disenfranchised by the Westminster parties they searched for a new political home. I make this point as Tommy himself has made that political journey and therefore say with greater authenticity than any other of his rivals I know how much you must be hurting I’ve been there and I feel your pain.
As a former member of the Labour Party Tommy like Jim Sillars before him brings a different kind of passion than those of us who and I include myself in this have been with SNP for all or at least the vast majority of our political lives. This I believe will be beneficial not only to the SNP but to the greater independence family as he will be to reach out to the undecided or the soft no voters we will need to win in any future independence referendum far more effectively than others who rightly or wrongly could be perceived by this demographic as traditional SNP establishment.
This to me gives Tommy Sheppard a clear advantage in this contest as he can reach a wider group of voters than his opponents but I am not voting for Tommy in spite of the fact he was a member of the Labour Party I am voting for him because he was a member of the Labour Party though the fact that he shares my long held belief that Scotland should be a Republic was also a significant factor in my decision.
The fact that Tommy Sheppard is a successful businessman having been part owner of the Stand Comedy Club is another reason for what is and I’m going to be upfront about this a very public and I hope passionate endorsement of my preferred candidate. You see I have greater personal knowledge of Tommy than I do of the candidates and that counts for a lot in a contest where we have a very able and talented field.
The knowledge I have was primarily gained in the period I refer to as my comedy years, when I in my pre transition years with only half a stockinged foot out in the world and often retreating to a closet which at least outside was as blue as a Scotland strip even though the inside contained more pink frills than Barbie’s wardrobe, received support and a few bookings from a man who encouraged me to develop my comedy, and my poetry and always be true to myself. It is true to say that those dark days have long disappeared in to the distance, but what hasn’t vanished is the memory of the support I got from a stand up guy in more challenging times than now so believe me this is personal and I am happy to declared it as such
Having attended his campaign launch at the Glasgow Centre For Contemporary Arts I was impressed by a candidate whose main focus was, is, and ever shall be making members matter. To Tommy Sheppard politics should driven by the communities to the establishment and not the other way round. This is a value I have always shared as my late gran who if she were alive today would without doubt be a Sheppard supporter often told me without you the activists there would be no leaders. Tommy Sheppard recognises this and speaks with clarity on his vision for my party and our country. It is a vision I share and I hope you will support.
You see good as things are for the SNP we have to realise we lost the independence referendum in 2014. There are many different reasons for this but one of the oft repeated reasons I hear from those soft no voters who we need to win over to cross the finish line and win the independence I believe our country needs is that the yes campaign in general and the SNP in particular spoke from to narrow a base. Tommy Sheppard is in my opinion a man who can help us change that and help us focus on the kind of Scotland we want to see for both ourselves and the generations who will follow us as inheritors of our nation.
So it is my opinion that at this time in our history we need a candidate who is not only committed to the idea of an independent Scotland, we need a candidate who is committed to listening to the voices of the members and making those voices matter. Tommy Sheppard is that candidate and the stand up guy I am proud to have given my support.
Yours For Scotland
Love And Best Wishes