Sunday 29 April 2007

Motherwell and Wishaw - rise up and throw out your MSP!

The only newspaper I've had time to read this morning is the Sunday Herald. As soon as I hit the frontpage, my jaw hit the floor:

McConnell mauls his local town centres
By Paul Hutcheon

Has he gone mad? Why would any politician, not least the First Minister of Scotland, say this about any town? Why would a politician say it about the town he has supposed to have represented for eight years?

After reading the article, and Alan Taylor's interview with the best wee numpty in the world, I was even more shocked:

"I've been fascinated by this constituency," says McConnell, taking a sip of coffee from his mug. He looks weary but relaxed, glad of a few moments respite from the campaign. Birds are loudly singing. The rustling in the undergrowth may be a grey squirrel. The bench on which we are sitting has been newly constructed by Bridget. Is there no end to her talents?

"I didn't know this area at all when I got selected in 1998 and obviously I got to know it very quickly," adds McConnell. "And there are some really striking things about it. One is the basic state of the town centres which reflects some of the mood - contemporary mood - of the local community and those two decades of decline in the 1980s and 1990s and what that did to the psychology of the place. But they also reflect careless, thoughtless decision-making in the 1960s and 1970s, about what the place would look like.

"The town centre here in Wishaw has never been properly thought through for the past 20 years. That town centre in Motherwell is a pigsty. It's dirty, it's untidy, it's ... bad planning decisions, bad architectural decisions, and it needs radical surgery. There seems to have been something wrong with the psychology of the place over 20 or 30 years."

My Grandparents live in Motherwell and in Wishaw, and I spent a lot of my formative years in both towns. To treat the towns, and the people there as some kind of social experiment and muse on them in such a detached, casual, way is appalling and insulting. To take no responsibility for the state of the place he purports to represent is shocking. It seems as though Jack has been sitting back, looking out of his office window on Wishaw Main Street and watching it all tumble down around him.

My grandparents still shop in Motherwell and in Wishaw, partly because they have little alternative. They don't have cars to go to East Kilbride or Glasgow. They have to rely on an increasingly poor bus service - when I used to stay at my Gran's in Wishaw buses would trundle past her house all the time, now it's an irregular service that doesn't run into the evenings. There are still businesses clinging on, but it seems as if every time I go, the two towns have died a little more.

Jack has been their representative for eight years. They have been represented by Labour for generations. The only thing curious about the psychology of Motherwell and Wishaw is why they keep electing Labour politicians. It's time they broke with Labour, and elected someone committed to the town - someone like Marion Fellows.

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