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Storm Of Sorrow

On the day of the Catalan Independence Referendum the Spainish state is tainted as Prime Minister Rajoy tries to deny reality and employs both sabotage and brute force to stop people exercising their democratic right to vote. These tactics are an insult to democracy and reminiscent of Franco’s fascist dictatorship As I watched the scenes unravel on my phone I was sickened to see pictures of people covered in blood and yet the UK government statement talked only of Spain and how valuable an ally they are to the UK without giving so much as a moment  to consider the victims of these unprovoked attacks. Having csmpaigned for Scotland’s independence in 2014 I remember the support we received from our Catalan comrades and outraged at their treatment I wrote this poem in support of both Catalonia and their right to exercise their democratic mandate. Ive given it the title Storm Of Sorrow I hope you enjoy the read

Storm Of Sorrow

Carnage in Catalan streets

citizens shot down by riot police.

as people go to exercise their right to vote

on seeing images of bloodsoaked protesters

British politicians gloat on social networks

unable to continue their glee

before removing their offensive tweets.

this will teach the SNP they claim

on the day democracy is less important than blame

and Franco’s heirs flaunt their hate

they should be ashamed to side with Spain

but they do

the red white and blue is bloodstained again

as democracy weeps it whispers the truth

with tears used as punctuation

you can judge a nation’s leaders

by the company they keep

and people who lecture others on internationalism

fall silent in the storm of sorrow

© Gayle Smith 2017

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After The Votes Were Counted The Result Was A Night Of Mixed Emotions

​This will not be an easy post to write nor indeed should it be. As I look back on the events of last Thursday evening it is I hope with a cool head that I review the results of the UK General Election and in particular what it means for the politics of Scotland. 

Having won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in the election of  2015 it is I think fair to say that for the SNP this was always going to be a difficult night and I say that openly and with a Scottish National Party card in my purse. The fact this was a snap election called by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to get a mandate for her hard Brexit strategy seemed to wrong foot my party who just didn’t seem prepared for it or the fight it was going to bring. After all the only elections we were supposed to be fighting this year were of the local council variety. 

Talking of the council elections these should have given the SNP a warning of just how dirty  all the unionist parties were prepared to fight. The fact that there were all sorts of tactical voting arrangements in place to defeat SNP candidates should have sent a flashing amber light straight to SNP headquarters and the fact that it didn’t seem to do this is something I find very alarming indeed. All through the council election campaign all three leaders of the pro UK parties were talking of nothing else but the threat of  a second divisive independence referendum and a willing press and media allowed them the space to do so. 

It is my  opinion that the SNP were far too civilised on this issue and we should have went for the throat in a much more assertive manner with all of our pro union opponents and we should have went for Ruth Davidson in particular far harder than  we did and not let her get away with her outrageous and disgraceful behaviour against our democratically elected First Minister.  Ever since last year’s Scottish election Davidson has been acting as if she had won that election, and not the SNP. This should have been held up to ridicule and Davidson should have been forced to defend her Conservative policies rather than get away Brit free with  her one issue campaign on defending  her precious union. 

Now whilst this may be perceived as bias by those concerned I am more concerned  about our apparent lack of fight in meeting this ridiculous claim head on and forcing the unionists on to the back foot.  This must be at least to some extent responsible for our loses on Thursday night as more than any other  party SNP voters need to be inspired by a campaign that motivates them to vote and to me at least that didn’t happen this time 

The matter of tactical voting wasn’t taken anywhere near as seriously as it should have been by the SNP and it  wasn’t just unionists who were  doing it. There were in my opinion three groups of yes voters who exercised their own version of independence and  anyone who says this didn’t happen is denying reality. These groups were left leaning yes voters who voted Labour for Jeremy Corbyn and his vision of a fairer society, Yexit voters in rural areas especially but not exclusively in the North of Scotland , this was a group of voters who voted yes for independence in 2014 but voted to leave the European Union, and the stay at home voters who will always vote SNP when they go out to vote  but who if they feel the party has let them down or are not doing enough in key areas and have not been engaged by the manifesto or contacted by local activists  may exercise their democratic right to withhold their vote and there is no doubt that all three of these factors played against the party on this occasion.

 This however, could have been migitgated at local level if we had been a bit bolder in holding the unionist patties feet to the fire and challenging them on the authenticity and indeed sincerity of their views. For example we should have sought to make much more of the internal Labour Party fued between Jeremy Corbyn and his Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale and highlighted the fact that far from being  Corbynistas the vast majority of the Scottish candidates had more in common with Kez than they did with Jez. 

Whilst I’m not sure it would have prevented any of our loses to Labour with the possible exception of Glasgow North East, I do believe that such tactics might have firmed up our majorities in a significant number of the seats we managed to hold thus making it easier to defend them at the next election. Instead of that it may well be the case though I hope it isn’t, that we have to go in to that election with the kind of fire fighting strategy aimed at avoiding a whole swathe of loses to Labour in what used to be their heartland seats.  It is my opinion that should this be the case the SNP will be looking at a return of between 18 -23 seats maximum and on a really bad night we could go down as low as 8-12. However if as I think we should, we take a more assertive line against our opponents I see no reason why we can’t win between 44-48 seats at the  next election. 

I believe we have to go down this road as I think there are dangers in playing too nice. Let’s face it we campaigned as the nice party in this election and it didn’t work and to be honest I don’t see it working in  future .  You can call me alarmist if you like, but I prefer realistic. You see I learned from the best my like lecturer in electoral behaviour Malcolm Dickson who did the System Three polls for the Herald and our resident professor who at that time gave guest lectures which I always made sure to attend. I am of course talking about the voice of elections in Scotland John Curtice who I am sure would happy to see one of his former students exercising such caution in their forecasting 

If  my caution is justified and born of out of both experience and I hope reason, my party’s caution was to some extent dictated by the fact that this was a Westminster election and the fact that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn produced by their recent standards a radical manifesto which captured the imagination of voters throughout the UK and had I not been a member of the SNP and been so emotionally committed to my party and our ultimate aim of independence I could easily have been one of the yes voters who could have loaned my vote to Labour Party to get Jeremy Corbyn elected as Prime Minister.

The other key reasons for my party’s caution was the fact that having won an unrealistically high number of seats it was always going to be a night when the unionist voters would indulge themselves in a wee bit of tactical voting to get rid of some of our most talented and high profile MP’s whilst the media predicted the end of the road for our Westminster leader Angus Robertson who lost his Moray seat to the Conservatives, Callum Kerr and Richard Arkless who were the victims of a Conservative clean sweep in the Border constituencies Kirsteen Oswald whose East Renfrewshire seat once the safest Tory seat in Scotland returned to its natural home for the first time since the days of Alan Stewart, Stuart Donaldson in Kincardine And West Aberdeenshire and Pete Wishart who ironically enough fulfilled my  prediction and held on in Perth and North Perthshire. They didn’t pick up on others which were definitely on my vulnerable list such as Angus , Stirling, Ochil And South Perthshire,  and potentially Alex Salmond’s Gordon constituency  though I thought this was likely to be a Liberal Democrat gain rather than a Tory one.  

I have to say that the more the campaign went the more concerned I became for the SNP candidates who were fighting a difficult election on an agenda over which they had little control. At the beginning of the campaign I rather optimistically predicted that the Conservatives would get no more  than six seats and may even be lucky to get that. It is however fair to say that as the campaign progressed I began to see the direction of travel and it wasn’t travelling in our direction and even as a lifetime optimist I started to think the scale of our loses could be and in all probability would be far heavier than I first thought. Indeed on the morning of the election I forecast to a friend that my prediction for my party was between 38-44 seats, a far cry from the 48-52 seats most of my friends and even some sections of the press believed we would win. 

All things consideredthis  election was not a good one for the SNP or at least not on the surface , but if I take a closer look at it from a more personal perspective I think it could be discribed as a night of mixed emotions for me and my party. Yes we lost some serious big hitters from our ranks but  make no mistake we are a party with plenty of talent in our ranks and I hope that honourable members such as Alison Thewliss,  Chris Stephens,  Joanna Cherry , Lisa Cameron,  Mhairi Black ,  Stephen  Gethins , Stewart MacDonald , Tommy Sheppard and others will be given the chance to shine in this parliament and by doing so demonstrate the wealth of highly skilled representatives we have at our disposal.  
It is I think fair to say  that despite our  loses most of which were inevitable for a party in the mid term of a third term Scottish Government, and in an election when UK politics has been more polarised  than at any time since the 1980’s the SNP still won the Scottish part of this election. I believe to do this in the face of an unprecedented and vicious press and media onslaught represents a truly remarkable achievement from which we should take quiet satisfaction. You see by removing what they see as our most talented MP’s the Conservatives may actually have accidentally strengthened our hand as with no Angus or Alex to cast in the role of the bogeyman it will be so much harder for them cast us as a two man team now than was previously the case. 

Looking back on the  events of the night I have to say that after the votes were counted it was a night of mixed emotions.  From a personal  perspective I had as good an election as was going to be possible given the circumstances as  I watched with pride the return of several of my closest  political allies to serve as their constituency  MPs and my reputation for fairness and accuracy   as a political  pundit was vindicated by my early morning election day prediction being uncomfortably close to the truth 

Meanwhile with regards to the gains  made by the pro UK parties I will await with interest the verdict on the new Labour and Tory intake and how many of them will actually be up to the job. I suggest that it may not be quite as many as they think and once they have to talk on  issues other than their obsessive hatred of the SNP and independence they may  be found out for what they are and the SNP stand  best  placed to benefit from such a scenario.

 At the beginning of this campaign all the unionist leaders in Scotland said they wanted to send Nicola Sturgeon a message, and to a certain extent they got their wish. It is my opinion however, that sometimes people should be careful what they wish for as they may actually get it and find to their horror that it might  not be as good as they think.  

Till next time 

Gayle X

Mirrors Of Time 

​This poem was inspired by my good friend and current tartan tights man of the year Johnny Cypher as he gets ready to vote in his first General Election and has to make a choice between two contrasting visions of the future. In the poem I look back I hope with empathy at the 1983 UK General Election when I was in the same position Johnny is now. I’ve titled the poem Mirrors Of Time I hope you enjoy the read.  
Mirrors Of Time 

An intelligent thoughtful twenty something

contemplates his decision 

as yet unsure as to where he’ll place his cross on election day 

though he does know 

it won’t be for Theresa May 

and her selfish brand of conservatism

hatred and division are not his way 

he seeks to help others 

building bridges rather than barriers and walls 

he is aware of the fact 

his dreams may fall under a pile of ashes 

yet still he clings to them

hoping he might see change 

live in a better society 

than the one he has grown up in

this is someone who does something 

many people don’t 

he listens to opinions

in a way that others won’t 

taking an extra second to think things through 

before deciding what to do 

I understand him 

I respect his point of view 

I look back to 1983

and the women he knows 

can see herself 

through the mirrors of time 
© Gayle Smith 2017

Dissenting Voices 

On day 29 of NaPoWriMo my penultimate poem of this year’s collection deals with the authoritarian politics of the increasingly right wing British Conservative Party whose Prime Minister, Theresa May has recently  boasted about crushing dissenting voices in the United Kingdom. This is something which I find very alarming indeed as I happen to believe that debate is an essential part of the political process in any civilised democratic society. It is with my democratic values in mind that I have written this poem and given it the title Dissenting Voices. I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read. 
Dissenting Voices
When someone talks of dissent

rather than debate 

the spectre of hate speech 

appears like a dark shadow 

on the clouds of an early morning 

this is a stark warning 

of darker days to come 

the slow beginning of the demonsation of others

the creeping use of ghostly figures 

used to represent a past which was never glorious 

but in which we will be told we were happy 

because our country was victorious over our enemies

in this language of blame  

prejudice rears its ugly head 

time and time again

so instead of making progress 

on the journey to equality 

or helping working families find routes out of poverty 

we will collectively be known as the silent majority 

who thought it best to stay silent 

in the face of hostility from authority 

and generations to come will ask the question 

why did our ancestors not fight 

for the yesterdays that were our grandparents tomorrow’s 

they will speak with sorrow and shame 

when they see the causality list of rights 

we sacrificed at the temple of self interest 

because we thought it was the best thing to do 

to secure our future regardless of who we hurt

disabled people were trampled into the dirt 

as were those with different gender identities , sexualities , or races 

this is what happens 

when someone talks of dissent rather than debate 

couched in that language

is the place where hate begins

where fear and ignorance wins over hope 

and the road to a better tomorrow lies decimated

 before the fight for it has even begun 

yet some would want us to walk that path 

of selfishness and loathing 

ignoring the fact we have been here before

when a wolf wrapped himself in the clothes of a sheep 

so no-one could see the swastikas hidden underneath 

and a beaten people danced when they were told 

falling in to line behind the master 

there were no dissenting voices in the Reich 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

 

Smelling The Roses

​On day 24 of NaPoWriMo I decided that political satire would be my poetic weapon of choice after seeing a UKIP candidate’s response as to why they are standing for election on social media. After laughing so much it nearly split my sides I remembered what I’ve always known namely politics is a serious business and though UKIP might like to portray themselves as lovable eccentric guardians of tradition they are in reality anything but. In fact truth be told these people are of the hard right conservative school of political thought and have some very  extreme and dangerous views. It is with in mind I decided to write this poem in the form of a UKIP candidate’s speech to highlight the type of country I don’t want to live in. The title for the poem was chosen for me by my Norwich based friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett  who selected the title Smelling The Roses. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Smelling The Roses (The Thoughts Of A UKIP Supporter) 
You ask me why I want to be elected 

well I’ll tell you 

it’s because I believe

  the British way of life is under threat 

and I want to put forward  solutions 

I couldn’t give a damn for devolution

the revolution has to be stopped.

I’m a proud Scot but I know my place 

so here’s what I think we need to do 

to put some pride back in the red white and blue 

I’ll start with sports

 I am convinced every child  should learn to ride a horse 

but as for golf , those courses are environmental disaster 

and a threat to the safety of our people 

and that is something I cannot abide 

still on environmental matters 

I want plastic bags abolished 

they are a threat to animals especially whales and dolphins 

as for an independent Scotland forget it 

I’m a proud Scot but 

Westminster is our colonial master 

and we should be content to keep it that way 

Mrs Thatcher was wonderful back in the day 

I’m a plain speaker and say what’s on my mind 

which I think you’ll find enlightening 

some people find my views on capital punishment frightening 

I think the death penalty should be restored 

but I wouldn’t bring back hanging 

the guillotine would be better 

and I’ll tell you something else

we’re heading in to world war three 

due to China, India , and the SNP 

that lot are a public danger 

and it’s all to do with 

money, and greed  

we in Britain do a lot for charity 

comic relief is wonderful 

so is children in need 

talking of children 

I think poor people shouldn’t have them.

now this is only my view 

but in my united kingdom 

mother’s should stay at home

to look after their little darlings

there should be no support for nurseries 

but all schools need classes 

and education needs reforming 

 this is a warning we are heading for  world war three 

I blame it on the SNP 

it will have nothing to do with Tony Blair or Theresa May 

personally I think we should go to war with Spain over Gibraltar

after all we’ve beat them before

when we sunk their Armada

remember the Falklands it was great wasn’t it 

yes I know there were millions unemployed

and living in poverty 

but we had pride in the flag

we were respected then 

now it’s all this political correctness lunacy

there is no such thing as an LGBT community

that kind of thing should be kept private

behind closed doors

you get good and bad people of all types 

talking of rights

I believe Margo MacDonald’s right to die bill

should be put to referendum 

well old people are living too long 

though working them till there 70 

should tire some out 

well if there dead  we don’t need to  worry about their living expenses 

we really need to come to our senses

the free bus pass scheme has to stop 

these people should be encouraged to walk 

I know you’ll be shocked at some of my views 

but here’s the bit you didn’t hear on the news

I would reopen public loo’s 

and create community gardens

yes I know I maybe hard on some issues

but believe me we don’t have time for tissues 

 it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Polar Opposites 

​On day 22 of NaPoWriMo I look at the political debate using the metaphor of environmental geography. With the coming UK General Election people will have to make a very real choice as to what kind of country and indeed what kind of society they want to live in. It is for this reason that after some much valued proof reading from Gary Hay who I  thank for suggesting some important edits for me that  I’ve titled this poem Polar Opposites. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Polar Opposites

corrosion starts slowly 

as climates change

gathering pace when no precautions are taken 

no safety barriers put in place 

to stop the situation getting worse 

eventually as things deteriorate

those living in these conditions

develop a me first mentality 

as survival comes before all else 

mind thy self and to hell with civilisation 

is the mindset as all move from the centre 

the heart of the nation is broken 

the corrosion gets worse 

engulfing those in its path 

forcing them to move to extreme positions 

as those who were once friends 

are now polar opposites. 
© Gayle Smith 2017

Democracy Matters 

On day 20 of NaPoWriMo I tacke the media made myth that Scotland’s voters and getting tired of voting and may be have a bit of voter fatigue. This is exactly how Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale  want you to feel , it represents by far their best chance of even limited electoral success as they know that a politically motivated Scotland is not in their intersts These people who are no  more than branch office managers for their respective Westminster parties are really keen for Scotland to be quiet and go back to sleep so they can do what they like and no-one will notice or even care. It is therefore fair to say that apathy is one of the most important weapons they happen to have in their quest to keep Scotland subordinate and that’s why I’ve tilted this poem Democracy Matters. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Democracy Matters. 

The drip feeding has started on TV and in the press

as the establishment suggest 

the voters of Scotland are fed up with voting 

 you’ve  got to be  joking 

I never tire of defending my hard won rights and liberties 

I’ll campaign hard but I’ll do it with dignity 

you see I’ve been involved in too many fights 

for too many causes 

to ever even think of giving up on democracy 

so when I hear people say 

I don’t do politics 

I say a prayer for the apathetic 

and hope they remember their words 

when someone they don’t like gets elected 

and their rights are infringed 

I’ve had enough of this cringing 

it really is time for them to stop their whinging 

or shut up and never raise their voice in anger  again 

as for who wins the race to number 10 

God forbid  the Tories will be re-elected 

though I think they will 

I like some Labour policies 

but voting for them would be 

 too bitter a pill to swallow

their still toxic to me 

I voted yes to independence 

and will do so again 

I’m scunnered with Westminster

and their heartless austerity policies

I want to live in a country where democracy  matters 
where our rights and liberties are respected 

and no-one needs to live in fear 

because of who they are 

or what  they are perceived to be 

stereotypes don’t do it for me 

my politics will  never be 

 about giving people different coloured triangles 

this is not 1933 

I wouldn’t be here if it  was

a trans woman with physical impairments 

who supports the Trade Union movement 

I’d have been a cert for the final solution 

my only saving grace would have been

having so many labels 

the Nazi’s wouldn’t have known 

where to place me or what box to tick  

though no doubt they would have got me on something 

trust me I’m not bluffing 

this country is facing a very stark choice 

if we don’t use our vote 

The Tories will claim we’ve made our choice 

more families will be forced in to poverty 

more disabled people will die 

but the top one percent will thrive 

and the media will spin it

 that we’re doing well 

they’ll talk of prosperity and dig out a few selective examples 

as proof of their point 

giving no further thought to consequences of their actions 

or the trail of devastation they leave in their wake 

to be apathetic to this heartless government 

is a risk I’m not willing to take 

If you say we’re voting too often 

that’s your call 

but if you fall for this trap 

 don’t say you weren’t warned 

when your nightmares become reality 

and  one by one your rights die 

at the dawn of a true blue Tory kingdom 

united in your name

 by your apathy and your ignorance 

© Gayle  Smith 2017