Tag Archive | Stephen Gethins

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 parties 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’m sure would be 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


A Man Of The Left Will Fly The Flag But The Race For European Places Has Never Been Closer

Hey everyone Whilst many bloggers will be focusing on Ed Milliband and his proposal to loosen the ties with the trade union movement and others will be turning their attention to the fact that Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray has said that he will decide his view on Independence at a later date, I have decided to direct my musings in a slightly different direction.

You see I have a problem but it is not one which can’t be solved by taking a little time and thinking things through. The nature of my problem is political. I say this because today I received my ballot paper to participate in the SNP candidate selection for the European Elections.

The elections which are to be held in the spring of next year, just months before our country’s independence referendum, will be important for both the party and the independence movement as we seek to build momentum towards securing success on what some people are rather romantically calling our date with destiny on September 18th next year. However I have to say that ranking my parties is the hardest task I’ve ever had to complete as part of the democratic process.

Yes, there are times when democracy can be tough and it is only right and proper that it should be. Life isn’t easy and sometimes we have to make tough choices. Believe me when I say this is one of those occasions.

Now I know they may sound mad but I’m glad that this is the case. In my opinion this speaks volumes for the calibre of our party’s nominations. Those selected comprise of the sitting MEP’s Ian Hudghton, and Alyn Smith Chris Stephens an influential member of the party’s Trade Union Group. Stephen Gethins a research and policy advisor on the European Union to First Minister Alex Salmond. Chair of the party’s Women’s group and Scottish Asian Businesswoman of the year award winner Tasmina Ahmed- Sheikh and Businessman and language specialist Toni Giugliano. This you have to say is a very impressive list of candidates by anyone’s standard and all of them would do our country and our party proud.

My first selection is an easy one and it will I am sure come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I name Chris Stephens as my first preference candidate.

I have to say that I know Chris better than any of the other candidates and have campaigned with him during the last Scottish election when he was very unlucky not to unseat the sitting Labour MSP for Pollok Johann Lamont. Ms Lamont having narrowly survived his challenge has now gone on to lead her party at Holyrood, I wonder however if the time has now come for the man she defeated that night to take his talents on to a different stage I for one certainly hope so.

If you detect a wee bit of bias here I have to say you may very well be right, however I have my reasons and believe me they are valid ones. You see I believe that personal loyalty is extremely important and now it’s payback time.

I say this as though I had been campaigning for the party for many years primarily in Govan for Nicola Sturgeon. it was only when I joined the party that I really made connections and friendships and Chris Stephens was one of the first people to offer the hand of friendship.

That friendship has remained strong and I often jokingly refer to him as my political wee brother and in many ways he is exactly that. Well I’ve always believed that whilst you can’t pick your biological family you can select a family of friends. These are the people who stand by you during the dark days. It is with pride I say that Chris Stephens is one of those friends. Proof of that if any were needed came on a cold dark December Thursday just before Christmas 2011.

Arriving home after a great day of poetry and Christmas shopping I found my flatmate wasn’t in. I kind of expected that as she had said that she would be visiting her mothers. However when she still wasn’t home by quarter to 11, I let my panic be known in the virtual village that is facebook.

Within seconds I had received two messages from the political community, one was from one of my favourite opponents and editor of Liberal Democrat voice Caron Lindsay. The other was from a man I’m proud to call a friend and that man is Chris Stephens. His support and that of other friends such as Catherine Baird, Kathryn Metcalfe, and Yvonne Hughes helped me get through a very difficult night.

Fortunately all ended well and Janette came home safe and well after treatment for a panic attack,however, if It hadn’t been for Chris and the others I’ve mentioned
I honestly don’t know how I would have survived that night, so if this is my chance to repay that loyalty believe me I am very proud to do so.

Chris has many outstanding qualities to represent our country’s interest and if selected will uphold the good name and reputation of our party. He is a skilled negotiator and will fight a fairer more democratic Europe by defending the rights of the ordinary workers both in Scotland and across the continent.

I make this point as with the free movement of Labour across the member states of Europe it is important to view this issue not from just from a nationalist perspective of which we are often and in my view wrongly accused, but from an internationalist perspective. We must have a voice which not only speaks for Scottish workers but for all workers throughout the member states. It is I suggest of equal importance to Chris that Scots workers enjoy the same rights in Poland, Finland, or our newest member state Croatia as those workers from those countries and others enjoy here and sometimes that will mean we have to improve our record on workers rights just as other countries may have to improve their records.

So that’s my first choice sorted out, however ranking the others will not quite be so easy. I mean how do I make my judgements? Should l go for experience or give new blood it’s chance. Should I try to reflect the diversity of the party in my selections or consider other factors? One thing I do know however is the fact that I face some difficult decisions in the next few days.

These decisions will not be taken lightly. All of our candidates have many good qualities and it would be wrong of me to rush in making what I consider to be an important ranking process. I have to consider all the candidates qualities and what they have to offer in terms of how they will represent our country.

At the moment I think some candidates have possibly gained a slight advantage. However over the next few days I will be checking out further information on all of them and their individual visions for country. Research I think is necessary to empower me to make the choices as to who are the appropriate candidates to gain the highest rankings. As I said earlier, sometimes democracy is about making tough choices and I won’t be looking to take the easy way out of making them. Our country deserves better than that and I will do my best to make sure I give all the merits of all candidates fair and due consideration. Only then will I decide who else closest shares my Euro vision for our country and more importantly our people. So it is perhaps fair to say that though a man of the left has won the flag, the race for European places has never been closer.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X