Tuesday 11 May 2010

Everyone loses

I've taken a few days to reflect on the election results - particularly the one I was closest to.

I'm just gutted that Labour's campaign of fear has resulted in the loss of a fine, hardworking MP, and replaced him with a part-timer. While Alex Salmond used this election as an opportunity to correct the dual mandate situation, Labour have used it to back up their MSPs from seats which are to be abolished for the Scottish Parliament next year.

I fail to see how the new member for Glasgow East will be able to fulfil all of her duties in two hung parliaments and still make time for her constituents. As she doesn't even live in Glasgow East (John does!), I expect she'll be there pretty rarely. Glasgow East deserves better than that.

Labour ran a campaign based on scaremongering and fibs; their "vote Labour to keep out the Tories" message seems to have failed, since we're likely to have a UK Tory government regardless. Now, they even refuse to work with the SNP, out of sheer pettiness and tribalism.

I'm hugely disappointed not just by John Mason losing his seat, but by the margin of the defeat. We ran the best campaign we could, and in truth I'm not sure there's much more we could have done with the resources we had. The by election saw hundreds of activists from across Scotland and beyond beat a path to Glasgow East - we always knew that replicating that effort on polling day was impossible.

I'm very grateful to the many people who did leave their own campaigns, both last Thursday and in previous weeks and months to help John. Your efforts were appreciated.

I would like to share a few anecdotes from Thursday:

- after we opened the campaign rooms at 6.30, people weren't long in popping in to tell us they'd voted for John. This included a chap from a trade union, and an Evening Times newspaper seller. Goes to show, they don't all believe what they read in the papers!

- I ran quite a few people to the polling station. One particular elderly lady as delighted to be voting for John, and had supported the SNP and the independence cause her whole life,. She had signed the National Covenant, a petition for the Scottish Parliament, in the 1940s.

- a couple, who wanted to proxy vote for their son in service overseas, were denied as they couldn't find the paperwork. A man whose father had died six years ago complained to me that the Election Office hadn't yet taken his name off the electoral roll. His daughter, who had moved house but not yet changed her details, was able to vote using her out-of-date details and no polling card.

- Two ladies I ran to the polls in the evening had been helped by John, and wanted him to continue as an MP, as he always tried his hardest for people.

- By contrast, another woman was so disappointed and let down by Margaret Curran's indifference to the anti-social behaviour she had suffered that she would never vote Labour again.

John is an incredibly committed and principled person, and a great role model for anyone getting involved in politics. He was well-known on the doorsteps, and his easily-accessible office on Shettleston Road was a boon for constituents. I am certain that the loss will be felt by those who need help the most. He's taking some time to reflect on what he wants to do - I dearly hope that he will find a role that keeps him in politics.


Doug Daniel said...

I've actually written an email to Margaret Curran, asking when she'll be announcing that she's stepping down from Holyrood. You can read the (rather sarcastic) email here.

I wrote one to Cathy Jamieson too, but she quickly informed me that she'd already said she'd be giving up her Holyrood seat if she got elected to Westminster. In my defence though, I still can't find this information anywhere on the internet. As for Margaret's reply, I'm still waiting...

Anonymous said...

dear alison i am sorry about john he was a good mp for glasgow east am i think the people of that part of the city will miss him .I hope the members who are close to him get him to stand next year for hollyrood i think he will win and bring 2 snp msp from glasgow winning by fptp system .

andy roberts cumbernauld north snp branch

Doug Daniel said...

Perhaps John could get Margaret's seat in the Scottish Election, a sort of "seat swap"? Channel 4 might be interested in making a programme about that. They'd certainly get the requisite rowing and arguing guaranteed with Margaret.

BellgroveBelle said...

Aha Doug - the issue is that Curran's seat in the Scottish Parliament is being abolished, that's why she stood in the first place. I do like the idea of seat-swap though, they could do urban/rural, rich/deprived, SNP/Labour.

The boundary commission have done a review and concluded that Glasgow could get by with one fewer seat. Baillieston and Shettleston are to merge (losing the illogical south-of-the-river part of Shettleston constituency). This causes a selection battle between sitting Labour MSPs Curran and Frank McAveety. I gather Margaret is less popular than Frank and would likely lose in that contest, so she has gone for the Westminster seat instead.

Spoonsy said...

Can't help but feel there's a bit of sour grapes about all this dual-mandate bashing.

For the record, both Curran and Jamieson have said they will step down at the next Scottish election, will only take one wage and will not take the resettlement grant available to MSPs who leave their seats.

Also, they will only have dual mandates for about a year. Salmond had his for three - and it was really a triple mandate, given that he's FM.

I notice you say he 'corrected' his dual manadate status. Isn't that what you do with mistakes? I don't remember you complaining about this mistake while he was an MP.

Basically, this post reads like you think it's ok for the SNP, but not ok for Labour to hold both MP and MSP seats - and that, my dear, is what's known as hypocrisy.

Personally, I think it's wrong for anyone to hold seats both at Holyrood and Westminster. You can't serve two masters, after all.

BellgroveBelle said...

Spoonsy - the main problem arose because I don't think it was anticipated that Gordon Brown would hang on so long as Prime Minister without going for an election.

If Brown had gone for an election as expected after taking over the leadership, the opportunity to stand down would therefore have come a lot sooner - our Westminster candidates for this election were in place for about two and a half years in anticipation.

Salmond also put his wage into a charitable trust, giving back to the local community. I don't see either Margaret or Cathy doing that.

In defence of the dual mandate, I think that the SNP cleverly used it as a political tool - the First Minister was able to take matters of concern directly to the floor of Westminster. There's no other means of doing this, and I feel that his intervention in the budget debate was a good example of how this can be done effectively. Arguably, it's more important for the FM to do this than a backbench MP/MSP.

Spoonsy said...

Thanks for the reply.

However, forgive me if I consider it complete face-saving tosh.

For a start, Salmond didn't have to wait on Brown or anyone else to call an election - he could have stepped down himself and sparked a by-election. But he didn't.

And remaining as an MP gained Scotland nothing - any of the other SNP MPs could easily have asked the questions at Westminster. Some would say more effectively - they didn't have the baggage of being distracted by matters at Holyrood.

As for Salmond's donation - that's fine. But as far as I remember, it wasn't the larger wage, and he was still well renumerated for being FM.

And lest we forget, he's quite happy to take the £65,000 resettlment grant for departing MPS - which I believe is intended for those who are out of a job, not those who will have political careers for some years to come....

Both Jamieson and Curran won't take two wages and won't take the resettlement grant, so we can leave their finances out of this.

And, finally - You don't address the central question. I say that you can't be an MP and an MSP at the same time and properly serve your constituents.

What say you?

Ian Johnson said...

As someone who worked with John at Westminster, I just want to say that it's a real shame that he won't be returning after this election.

He was always hard-working, concerned for others well-being and humble about his role as an MP.

I'm sure that he'll be contributing a great deal more in future though!

Good luck, John! We'll miss you!

Unknown said...

I don't see that it's a problem for her to run (and win) a seat in Westminster if she already has one in Holyrood; it's a problem if she then does not give up her Holyrood seat. She's so far not announced any plans to do so that I can see.

(We can't bar people from running just because they already represent somewhere else; we don't prevent councilors from running for Holyrood).

@Spoonsy - "For the record, both Curran and Jamieson have said they will step down at the next Scottish election"

1) Not that I can find. I might be wrong though, I don't live in Ballieston.
2) Not soon enough! Why should the people of Ballieston or Cumnock have to put up with part-time representation for A YEAR? Completely unacceptable. They should both step down at the earliest possible occasion (I can appreciate that might be after the summer and/or after the leadership contest, that's reasonable).