Open Letter to members of the PLP

A letter from the trenches.

Comrades of the Parliamentary Labour Party

I ask you to read this and think about your next steps.

I am a Councillor in a Local Authority, burdened with making the sums add up in the face of cuts from both a Conservative national government and a Nationalist devolved government. The choices which I, and my colleagues, make every day are about delivering on the labour values that our constituents voted for.

The recent EU referendum result will create a period of flux, uncertainty and turmoil in our society and economy and it is to you whom many of our residents will look for surety and comfort.

Sadly the chaotic recriminations, played out in lurid detail in the right wing press, are depriving people, who would look to us to serve them, of any hope. They feel that our party is interested not in them but only in ourselves and our careers. This is not good enough.

Jeremy Corbyn has an overwhelming mandate to lead our party. I didn’t vote for him but he won a majority of our members support. I am a democrat and accept the will of the party. I suggest you do too.

At no point is it acceptable for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to attempt to overturn the mandate given by the members. Worse still at no point is it acceptable for the PLP to undermine the Leader by briefing against him. It is disloyal and damaging to the party and if my MP were one doing so I would be on the phone demanding that they cease to do so.

I urge you all to focus on fighting a Conservative party in meltdown and prepare to take them apart on issues that impact on the daily lives of our citizens. Prove to the electorate that we are there fighting for THEM not fighting each other. Prove to them that we are a party that could govern in a different politics. Prove to them that we still have a point.

If we do this then the leader is supported and on the front foot and in front of the electorate. In time if a change of leader is needed then that will become apparent and we will choose another but until then this crass, opportunist, in-fighting is condemning our citizens to years of Conservative government and lives blighted by their policies. We will have failed them.

So, while I am not in your shoes and have a different view of things, I urge you to resolve the issues in the PLP by supporting the Leader and fight the Conservatives. Fight them with every fibre of your being. The vote of no confidence in the leader is an act of panic or spite and needs to be defeated.

I no longer have my own Labour MP to lobby so I am lobbying you and, like many members, I need you to show solidarity with all of us in the party whatever role we serve in.

The Conservatives are rudderless and divided, now is not the time to join them.

I urge you to support the leader and support the membership by voting to retain Jeremy Corbyn as Leader.

Your friend from afar,


Sent tonight to Labour Central Office for circulation to members of the PLP.

Labour is standing in the shadow of the constitutional elephant

I know, I know, I am obsessing.  The result of the election was the culmination of many factors and the coming third was a long time in the making.  I am increasingly irritated (no one voices surprise at this) that commentators from other places think they can tell Scottish Labour what we need to do.  As if their wisdom has never been voiced before.  Sadly, it is usually superficial and based on the last couple of years.

Being third is the latest output from issues whose roots lie in the dim past and the harvest is what we are reaping now.

So in an attempt to address the superficial content here is my tuppence (over priced I think).

It no longer matters.  Whose fault it is.  Whose fault it was.  Which campaign was the worst ever.  Which leader was more mince than any other.  What we did that was so great in the past.  Who did what to whom in the ballroom with the lead pipe.  We need to get over the pain and get on with showing what the point of our party is.

Analysis of voter trends, box samples from election counts, doorknocking sessions, focus groups, results, policy polling, members surveys, workshops, conference, brains trusts, stakeholder groups and uncle Tom Cobley and all counts for very little when the result was third.

Say it again.  Third.

The constitution is the elephant in the room.  A great big Grey lump that refuses to move out of the way despite a plebiscite and a general election and a scottish election.

Voters can’t see the good stuff we have on offer because the elephants bum is blocking us from view.  The two ladies riding on the elephant pulling the reins each way are trampling all over the agenda in a way that makes other issues flat and trampled underfoot.

We need the elephant to charge off down the road and allow other issues the attention they need.  However, the parties in first and second place need the constitution to stay right where it is.

Why?  (I am glad you asked)

For the SNP, the prime reason for their party is to deliver an independent Scotland (in the EU – but thats not the point).  Independence at all costs.  After the referendum defeat they need the elephant to hide the impact of their nine years in Government.  ‘Judge us on our record’ was the campaign line and no such judging was possible as the mibbies aye (if we can win or things change) to a second Indyref was coded into the manifesto and every press conference and debate.  They need the constitution to remain front of their supporters minds.  The total volte face on anti-austerity and tax policies needs some cover.  A big grey elephants bum planted on top of this did just the job.

For the Tories, Ruth had very little else to go with.  She would be the (only) defender of the union and a strong opposition.  The constitution was her saviour as she successfully hid the impact of a conservative Government from the Scottish Electorate.  Internal mail ‘Dear Dave, Bojo, IDS, Michael Gove and Theresa, please stay on holiday until after election day.  Thanks Ruth.’  Ruth Davidson made sure that the argument was still on yes or no.  That way the electorate gave that issue prominence and squeezed other union supporting parties.  She would be a strong opposition.

I accept that Kez should not have answered a hypothetical, hypothetical scenario about voting yes.  Fabian interviewer should have thought of the impact before asking it that way.  Still no point crying over the spilled milk.

‘Us too.’ Really doesn’t have the same appeal as ‘Defender of the union sitting akimbo on a tank .’

So we were squashed behind a big grey arse against the wall as the constitution battle raged on.  We were surrounded by failures of both governments but no one could hear our voice shouting about them above the trumpeting of the agonised constitutional elephant filling the room.  No wonder it was loud with the FM’s heels digging in and Ruth squeezing hard.

So what now?

It’s a bit like the tree falling in the amazon thing.  If no one heard it fall did it make a sound?  Politics is a bit like that.  If no one hears your message it doesn’t matter what you were saying.  Has anyone noticed the fall of scottish Labour?  Until the constitution is sorted out, it will be acceptable collateral damage for both camps.

The diarrhea of constitutional arguments has covered us and we are struggling to get clean.  We need a power shower and an elephant rifle at the very least.

Power shower to get the stink of Better together off of us and an elephant rifle to kill the elephant and let the electorate see the mess of everything else.

SNP – Education- a mess.  NHS funding – a mess. Environment and fracking – a mess.  Transportation – a mess.  Local Government – a mess.

Tories – Welfare – a mess.  Economy – Even bigger mess. Europe – another fine mess.  Defence – shambles.

The power shower may come in the guise of Jeremy Corbyn.  I am not a great fan but his positioning will certainly help as the Tory/SNP phoney war continues for the next 5 years.

The bullet for the elephant rifle? Buggered if I really know.  The EU referendum will expose the mess of the tories on Europe but it may have no impact on us in Scottish Labour.  If Scotland votes out and the UK votes remain might be interesting.

Scipio found a way to counter Hannibal’s elephants.  Maybe we could ask him how to slay the constitutional elephant.

One thing is certain, George Robertson missed.


Return of my grumpy!

I used to like to put my thoughts on my blog.

I would range across the range of topics political and sometimes vent into the blogosphere.

However, as an elected Councillor, the putting your thoughts down could lead to some interesting discussions and misuses of my words.  I stuck to my job and left my blog to gather dust.

After an election campaign that ended with results that are less than ideal, I felt my grumpy gene kick in and my fingers twitch across the keys of my keyboard.

Third!  yes THIRD!  That’s where Labour have ended up after this latest election.  My party suffering at the hands of the electorate.

Firstly, the electorate are never wrong, they make up their mind and if they don’t choose your party then it is down to your inability to convince them to give your their support.  Trite and I desperately want to blame something or caveat the statement.

There is no caveat.  It needs us to look in the mirror and work out what we need to do to regain that support.  The online news is full of pundits, ex-politicians, failed politicians, failing politicians, armchair political strategists, enemies and opponents – all saying where Labour got it wrong.  I have twice declined phone calls from a friend of mine who, no doubt, wants to pick over the bones.

As one Labour List Candidate said to the BBC ‘The manifesto was self immolation for dummies.’ unhelpful, mistimed and totally infuriating.  He was adopting the old adage of when things are going badly, fight with your own side.  It is the Labour way.

There are many strands that knit the rope that bound us to our result.  A result that, if we stand back and look at it, we could see unfolding before us.  There were a whole series of factors that left us behind the others.

Firstly, the Flag.

We have been unable to counter the Flag waving tag that presents us as anti-Scottish (or not Scottish enough / not REAL Scots) and a branch office of an oppressor party from Engerland.  Utterly idiotic and impossible to refute without buying in to the argument.  The wrapping in a flag approach worked effectively for the Westminster election but should have lessened in a Scottish parliament election.  It might have if Ruth Davidson hadn’t used the same tactic to pretend to be the defender of the union.  Polarised the issue once more.

If we are not careful this division will become a new sectarianism, a blight that we have been trying to rid ourselves of in Scotland for decades.

Nicola Sturgeon.

The profile, and generally high regard, that Nicola holds is an electoral asset.  Never mind the policies, never mind the record, ‘I’m with Nicola’ has bizarrely got traction in a way that Alex Salmond could never manage.

She has managed to avoid anything sticking to her for the moment but that won’t last forever.  The poor record on education, health, policing, environment to name but a few have been deflectable with a few blasts of dog whistle Indyref.  The manifesto, on which she has been elected, has no Indyref and only 1 mention of austerity.  Fracking may be the monster under the bed for her own supporters if it gets out.  Big boy did it and ran away won’t wash on this front.

The gloss is coming off the Nicola Apple but it certainly wasn’t going to be a problem this time.

Ruth Davidson.

A problem for Labour.  A Tory that has performed well in the chamber landing a series of caustic statements and hits.  However, being a Tory she was making little progress until she could paint Labour as weak on defending the Union.  Worked a dream, a new flag to wave and call Labour soft on opposing the SNP.  Bulldog and fierce she played her limited hand very well.  Always trying to make the electorate forget that she is still, and always was, a Tory.

The tagline ‘For a strong opposition.’ was astute, saying that she couldn’t win so it would be safe to vote Tory if you didn’t want the SNP.   No real statements on policy that a supporter of Ruth was ever able to tell me on the doorstep.

Jeremy Corbyn.

He gets the blame when it goes wrong, and no credit when it goes well. The constant negative press of Jeremy Corbyn is unbalanced but working for the right wing parties in Scotland.  Helped by our own side who cannot accept his mandate.  I didn’t vote for him but he has a huge mandate.  No Corbyn bounce in Scotland as the press here portray him as soft on the union (for tories), English westminster politician and puppeteer of branch office (for SNP) and some kind of dinosaur  (helps both).

Kezia Dugdale.

New leader taking over the mess after the GE massacre last year.  Leading an attempt to reorganise to fight again, taking on ‘the most difficult job in Scottish Politics’ with an empty purse and lacking in activists.  She is intelligent and articulate and wants to make things better for future generations.  Wanted to use the powers to raise taxes and invest in public services.

Sadly, the electorate never really thought Labour could win power (by defeating the SNP) and deliver the promises this time.  Making the job of articulating how we would use the powers more and more difficult.  Opinion polls told the electorate that SNP were going to win, and stubbornly refused to move much.

Putting up Taxes

Hard to believe that this would be a problem.  Being honest about the need to raise revenue to protect services apparently is a bad thing to say out loud.

The electorate (a bit like the SNP Government) talk left but vote right.  The notion that 1p on taxes would be a deal breaker is bizarre.  Somehow it was made in to one.  The Anti-austerity message of taxing to invest and protect against tory austerity was somehow unacceptable.

IF the media streams all sell the story that Government waste your money all the time, then the message that paying any more will be received with horror.  The idea of the 50p tax rate for the wealthiest was fine last year but this year Nicola didn’t fancy it.

Kezia tried to Talk and ACT left, was roundly criticised and ridiculed.  Hypocrisy in action, largely missed by the mass media (the Sun supported SNP, for example).


The vanity motion forced on Scottish Conference was a missile fired early that just confirmed the pattern of the election to come.  Scrap Trident (majority of Scots voters poll to be in favour), lose jobs, no real plan to diversify the industry.

It doesn’t matter how this would be done, and the need to rid ourselves of the Nuke, the issue was used as a club to beat us with. Jackie Baillie opposed the motion and was reelected as her constituency holds Faslane (although her years of service and fighting on local issues would have been huge factors).

Indyref Hangover and Red tories.

This has cast a pall over the Labour vote in Scotland.  The message that the Labour party were the same as the tories has been hard to shift.  All evidence to the contrary.  The politics of smear have worked well in the identity politics of post referendum Scotland.  It has stuck and will only weaken as the Tories and SNP start to agree on all things tax and spend.  It will wear off but will take time.

No indyref2 message in the SNP manifesto but opposing a referendum makes Labour look afraid of asking the people to decide.  Ruth managed to deflect this from the Tories to a respect the decision argument.  Sadly, we are bearing the blame and the tories have benefitted.  In strategic terms we are stuck in the middle, unable to find a place to stand that isn’t taken.

We have had to refight the indyref and fight about the constitution where it suits our enemies and not on the grounds of health, education and Anti-austerity where we would have been much more solid.


The hostility that personified the Referendum and GE, has largely disappeared and door knocking conversations have improved massively.  The voters haven’t returned to the Labour party (and it might take a while) but if we keep on talking about issues they will give us a hearing.  How far that gets us I don’t know.

There were other issues that contributed to where we are (some of them years in the making) but we are third and that will take some getting over.

We need to rebuild, rethink our approach and fight for the right to be heard in a largely right wing landscape.  It won’t be easy.  Who likes easy anyway.




I’m a traitor….apparently

Oh yeah and william Wallace died for you, ya bastard.

Today’s winner in the drive by insults.  although a close second on the doorstep was quisling and lying Bastard.

Now, I don’t need a lie down after these expressions of well-developed political opinion.  I am a politician after all.  Worse (in their view) I have the temerity to be promoting an argument for No in the referendum.  If these were one-off, events I would merely tweet about them and pour some sarcasm over them but sadly they aren’t.  They are a feature of the most divisive political campaign I have been involved in.

I wonder when it became acceptable to shout profanity from passing cars?  It must make them feel so manly? Virile perhaps?  Probably about the same time as the rhetoric of stupidity got ramped up in this neverendum campaign.  The people at the top are responsible for setting the tone of campaigns and this has been well and truly set.

Cybernats are now an accepted part of the online firmament and their equally unsavoury britnat descendants.  If perhaps a little thinking, about the beast being spawned, had been done then perhaps cybernattery would not have been tacitly supported.  It is now too late to put that genie back in the bottle.

Intimidation and worse are the legacy of this (it’s all a jolly good wheeze) laissez-faire approach to controlling (or advising) the supporters of the campaigns.  The mob shouting down Jim Murphy, the destruction of signs, posters and a rather suspicious fire at an office are all portents that the nutters have gotten loose and the leadership have been pretty slow (deliberately I expect) to do anything about it.

Foreign hate sites promoted and then disowned (by the Yes campaign) and we have a toxic brew of idiocy and a recipe for a disaster to follow.

Then finally ‘Day of Reckoning Sillars’ and his threats to anyone who is not fully on the SNP/Yes orthodoxy and we are heading for a doozy on polling day. ( There will be crowds standing at polling stations if the number of different organisations that have registered are anything to go by. ( farmers for yes FFS.))

Add in the pied piper of Niddrie who will be marching to and from the polling station with yes voters (in case they get lost?), with face painting and balloons (can’t decide what to laugh at first).

This is probably the biggest decision (politically) that we will make as a nation and the debate has been woeful, descending to anti-english rhetoric and utter denial of anyone who raises an alternative view.  However, the Better together campaign isn’t lily-white either.

It appears to me that both sides have forgotten Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘The means we use must be as pure as the aims we seek.’ Some of the tactics are deplorable.

Anyway the point of this post wasn’t the above….

I want to take everyone beyond polling day and ask a few questions.

Are you a democrat?

What if your side doesn’t win?  What if it is very close?

What will you do / feel then?

We are on the cusp of a very narrow margin for either side and a 97% registered to vote (almost double our usual turnout) and an expected turnout in the 80’s.

The division and bile stoked so hard in this campaign has nowhere to go on the 19th.  What do you expect the outcome to be?  Violence on the streets?  Windows smashed? riots? cars keyed?  Tyres slashed?  long-term grudge held? A them and us to develop?

IF Yes is the outcome?  Euphoria for the yessers and a day of reckoning and a stuffing of treacherous quislings like me? And capital flight and economic plagues the like of which will be hard to endure?

IF No win?  We can’t go back because there can be no celebration of the divided society we will have.  Grudge and grievance will be the norm for years.  Back to the poor wee downtrodden us crap that has festered for years.  Riots and wrecking perhaps?  we wuz robbed will become the national phrase.

Whatever the result we will all have to abide with the result but there will be no way anyone can claim it as a settled will of the Scottish people or any kind of mandate.  It is a divided society and a mess.

How do we put the ugly side of this debate back in its box?  While I agree that there has been increased engagement some of it has been very negative, anti politics engagement.

We are used to division in Scotland (sectarian) but not on this kind of scale.  It is how we heal this after the 19th (I know polling day is the 18th but the result will be on the 19th) that will be the hardest task we face.  Both sides will use the result to beat the other for years.

So what will you do?

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

I suggest you better know what you are going to do if you don’t get the result you want.  And I suggest you do it before the result is in.

We need to be able to look at each other after this.  Certain language needs to be stricken from political dialogue, because traitor, quisling, liar, paedophile, scaremonger are really not acceptable.  Something some people (who should know better) have decided to forget.

‘Democracy is the worst form of Government, save for all the others’  Winston Chuchill.  I think he was thinking of times just like this.


A barrage of Farage

‘It’s the fault of the Meedja.’  was the cry from our erudite and (apparently) miffed First Minister Alex Salmond.

Maybe, for once he has a point.  But then again trying to use UKIP threat to get support gave UKIP more coverage courtesy of the SNP.

I think that the coverage of UKIP on the Beeb has been excessive but how much this has led to votes isn’t really demonstrable.  Irritating?  Yes.  Unfair? we all (political parties) think that the Media are biassed against us at times.  However, they did get a fair old chunk of the vote and as such are deserving of some coverage.

For me the interviewing skills on most channels are pretty poor and the print media are generally not much better these days (everything was better in black and white….cue the hovis theme).

I saw a great tweet the other day Beeb : ‘Farage, farage, farage, farage, farage.’  Beeb : Shock lead in the polls for UKIP.

‘UKIP are the party of Racists, Xenophobes, sexists, Mysoginists and Homophobes.  And that’s their good points.’  This tack has been used to discredit the ‘swivel-eyed loons’ and to slay the UKIP beast.  Newsflash!  It doesn’t work.

The Electorate voted for UKIP in varying numbers across the country.  These are the same voters that when they vote for your party are respected and when they vote UKIP are nutters.  Anyone else uncomfortable with this line of thinking?  I am.

There is a simple three step plan to defeat the UKIP (or any of the other far right mob that pollute ballot papers – No2EU, BNP, Britain first)

Step 1

Engage the electorate (turnout and apathy are major issues)

Step 2

Demolish their (UKIP) argument

(not just sloganeering but solid analysis and facts.  You know those pesky things that trip people up)

Step 3

Offer electorate a solution to the issue.

Thats it.  Simple isn’t it?

So the mainstream parties have only themselves to blame on the UKIP success story.  No one else.  A self inflicted 20 year cock up.  If voters are not engaged and given facts and treated with respect they will invariably end up at the (political) door that feeds on their problem.

We have (all parties) refused to discuss immigration or Europe and have left a vacuum for the vacuous UKIP to fill.  That needs to change in a grown up way.  Not in a we can out UKIP,UKIP kind of way.  You can’t out UKIP them, so don’t try.  Their policies are toxic and need real solutions not easy slogans with nothing but blame behind them.

IF the solution is difficult say so.  But say so clearly.

Remember the old adage ‘Never argue with an idiot.  He will bring you down to his level and then beat you with experience.’  Nick Clegg found that out to his cost in the television debates.  Free publicity for the UKIP leader, free credibility too.  The party of IN got found out.

If ex-banker, Nigel Farage is the answer then god knows what the question was.

I would suggest that UKIP isn’t an answer ( to anything) but a symptom that has been too long ignored at our peril.

words are powerful things

A ‘funny’ thing happened to me today.

Sitting in my car (bedecked with a better together sticker) in a car park waiting for my (undoubtably) better half to get a missing ingredient for tomorrow’s tea (second time we had been at the shops tonight) , I was given the finger, backed up with a call of ‘independence ya bass!’

Hmmm, I thought, (Ok, I thought Eff off)  that will work to convert me to your argument.  Then I decided to break my long fast of blogging and comment tonight.

Now, before anyone has a apoplectic fit, I am not saying that these fine specimens are representative of the Yes campaign or the people involved in it.  I am a politician and, as such, used to the ocassional barb.  I don’t have thin skin (and need a wee lie down after such an event).

However, it got me thinking that things are not moving in the direction that most scots would accept as healthy.  Online, we are often guilty of being a little acerbic or unkind about those who don’t share our views.  The notorious Cybernats are often mentioned but there are lunatics on the No side too.

They say that culture flows from the top down (a bit like the brown smelly stuff) and we have become very much more unpleasant to each other on this very singular item.  It is not surprising that the impact has been a widening out of the language and behaviours that we are seeing.

At Scottish Labour Party conference, a placard wielding Yes supporter waggled his homespun, mis-spelled, message at me.  I was amused more than anything else but thought that on a sunny afternoon in March I would have been able to find many, many more interesting things to do had I been in his shoes.

Sadly, I expect that the idiocy will continue for the next nearly six months and then the tallying up will take place.

If you think it is getting hostile now, enjoy this period because it will get much worse (I expect).

Anyway, on September 19 (the morning after the night before) or whenever the decision is called, what then.  If the count is close then half of the country will be mightly aggrieved and the wailing and gnashing of teeth will commence.  Recriminations will abound and then the finger pointing will commence.

I expect No to win, and I am campaigning for that to be the case but there’s a long way to go.

Afterwards my main worry is that, as a society, we wont be able to look at each other (let alone talk sensibly to each other).  It is hard enough now.  Politically it will be carnage and at all levels theere will be spite and bile from those who have lost and smug, condescending triumphalism from the winners.

How we get over this will be a determining factor for years to come.  Politics will be irrevocably changed for this generation of politicians.

Which of these words would you accept being called and not react negatively to?

Collaborator, traitor, so-called-scot, quisling, scoundrel, coward, Britnat, feartie

Swivel-eyed Nat, Sep, separatist, fantasist, Cybernat, tartan tory,

I would expect, not one of them. ( I kept them clean, but there are much worse).  So why then are these flying around and hurled willy-nilly around the place (comment threads on news articles are a real eye-opener (or eye-waterer))?  It is because those at the top have given the lead and the trooops have followed.  The twitterspere and blogosphere are full of unpleasantness that is really unnecessary and unhealthy.  The responses to those who dare disagree with the Yes (or No) campaigns are vitriolic and poisonous.  Its time that the moderate voices spoke up and put these folks straight.

We are not debating with each other but sloganising each other.  Utterly specious and I am sooo glad I am not undecided, or I would end up not undecided but utterly disgusted.

I didn’t get into politics to spend my time on the constitutional settlement.  I did so to make things better in the town I represent and live in.  No one gets elected to make things worse.

However, I have to accept that this question needs addressed and once it is answered I hope not to have to do it again.

Calling for people to be aware of the impact of their words would be pointless (and a bit hypocritical as I have ocassionally been less than measured in my utterances) but someone needs to start winding back the insults and jeers.  Sadly, I think we are passed the point where much will change.

Playing the man (or woman) and not the ball is ingrained now.

174 days to go………



You can’t play politics with people’s lives.

Obviously, I am not the originator of this quote (and I’m not sure Neil Kinnock is either).

It is seldom that I am so utterly vexed by the political chicanery that goes on, that I am ashamed to be associated with other politicians.  Today was one such day.

Setting the scene.  A full council with a public gallery of demonstrators who want to ban the tax (the #bedroomtax, not the spare room subsidy or whatever nonsense the coalition call it).  A motion on the agenda, amendments and a long morning before we got to the main event, a debate on eviction policy of the minority Labour Council in light of the #bedroomtax.

All good so far.  The gallery got a bit excited (and hurled a few insults) mainly because they had to wait until after lunch and thought the motion wasn’t going to be debated.  However, all calmed down when it was apparent that after lunch the fireworks would start.

Seconds out, round 1

The motion (proposed by the SNP opposition) is not competent.  Shock!  well no, not exactly they already knew this (everyone notified in advance).  The final paragraph (and I wont bore you with the process) was different from the agreed policy of the council agreed at the executive just over a week ago (6 month rule in force).

72 of 78 (6 absent) councillors are geared up (and tooled up with pithy comments and speeches at the ready) stymied.  A collective defaltion.  Damp squib.

Ditch the last paragraph and we can get on with it.  It would have been all the way through the debate anyway.  No chance, the rules twonks (insert stronger if you feel the need) come out fighting.  standing orders and challenges to the provost’s ruling on the incompetent and an increasingly hostile set of exchanges fill the chamber.  Plenty of heat and next to no light as most of us new boys (and girls obviously) have no idea what standing order 60 is (or whatever number is being debated).

Suspend standing orders!  (because the proposer and seconder wont change the words of the last paragraph), Role call count so we have to answer agree or disagree to a call to suspend that is going nowhere.  Just so we can cast it up at you again in the future.

No suspension of standing orders as we collectively manage to make a total mess of getting the arguement (sorry debate) tee’d up.

Now the playground is really rowdy, with booing and name calling as councillors answer the role call.

The Gallery (not full of rules twonks) are incredulous and think the administration are trying to stop the debate.  One which we have prepared for, one which we want to have and one in which ( and here’s the rub) we basically agree.  definate political chicanery in action.

The Administration position is that we will not evict anyone who falls into arrears (because of the tax/subsidy thingy) who contacts the council and works with us to deal with the problem.  The incompetent motion – we will not evict anyone who has rent arrears from the bedroom tax.

Huge difference, obviously.

Angels on the head of a pin.

We wanted to have a debate that highlighted what we could do to protect our residents, we wanted a debate that showed Gidders/IDS and their gang were wrong, we wanted a debate that said we will protect you, the residents of Fife.  We wanted a debate so we could score some cheap points off each other (sorry sarcasm slipped in).

What did we get? Punch and Judy, rule this v Standing order that and a gallery of people who didn’t know what the hell was going on.  I might venture, that some on the floor of the chamber were in the same place (confused dot com).  In the end with no motion there was no debate.  Zip.  Nada. Eff all (to use the vernacular).  Rammy ensued.  Gavels banged and a few faces went red/puce or betroot.

Sorry it took longer than I meant to get to the point, and here it is.

You can’t play politics with people’s lives.


Now it will be a case of spin and counter spin, lies and mistruths played out in the press until we get to do it all again next time.

This bedroom tax is a disaster for many of the people we merry 78 are supposed to serve, after todays showing we have failed them terribly.  there will be over 5000 families across Fife (and 1300 more in housing associations) who will be worried about the impact of this change to housing benefit, who were looking to us to make clear what to expect, who wanted adults not children debating and deciding.

Their lives will be blighted (while most of the councillors will not be) and their purses constrained and all we offered them was finger-pointing and hot air and barely a whit of sense.

I have seen the spin tweets from fellow councillors and they just make us look like a bunch of twits (definitely insert stronger).

No wonder Politicians are reviled, distrusted and treated with contempt.  Sometimes we just help our poor public image along.


We are a crusade or we are nothing

Funny how the forgotten words of Harold Wilson fit so well in this modern era.

I think of all the terms used to describe the Labour Party, at the moment, a crusade is probably not one that would come up with too great a frequency.

The incipient panic (among policy twonks and politicians) that flows whenever strong terms invade the blandness of well spun political dialogue is probably a key to the problems we face.  We being a political society.  When all the parties play by the same triangulation and focus group code it is small wonder that the differences seem marginal at best.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for a ‘Red’ revolution or a ‘freedom for Tooting’ type of political dialogue.  I am, however, sure that blandness and spin to appeal to ‘mondeo man’ or ‘Joe the plumber’  is a self-defeating spiral that has left an electorate disillusioned in the extreme and one which is disengaging with the current parties.  The impact of this schism is a rise in the extremity parties and single issue parties.  Democratically reflective of what the electorate think? probably not.

So back to my crusade (in the week that the last of the Jarrow marchers passed away), when did the zeal for change get lost in the sea of management speak?  When did pragmatism become the master and principle become the expediently forgotten relative?  I can pinpoint it fairly closely.

The morning after John Major managed to beat Neil Kinnock in the General election.  It seemed to many on the left that it was impossible to shift the Tories from power without appealing to middle england voters.  A wooing as it were.  A ‘Don’t frighten the horses approach’ that tied Tony & Gordon to the Tory spending plans for a while.  A ‘trust us’ we’ll be better Tories approach.

Living standards for many have risen over the years of  selfish neoliberal economics and some have become fabulously wealthy.  I for one am not comfortable with the massive gap in distribution.  We have more ‘Stuff’ but that merely hides the long slow decline for many as worklessness bites.

So Crusade.  For what? Wilson had the big fights for better workers and civil rights, better living standards, workplace improvement and raising living conditions after the post war era.  funnily enough we have similar fights.  Although these seem to have been forgotten.

Workers rights are being eroded, benefits and welfare support under attack, disabled being vilified in the press as scroungers, pensioners choosing between heating and eating, unemployment structural and difficult to shift, hopelessness among the young, a crisis of confidence in the establishment.  A lack of social housing or care for the elderly, mistreatment of the mentally ill,foodbanks the only growth in the economy, flatline growth,  the list can go on and on.

Into all of this we are fed a diet of lowest common denominator populist drivel with a ‘what plays well in the press’ approach.  If a different approach is used, the vociferous criticism soon shuts it up.  Johann Lamont found this out quickly.  Asking hard questions on affordability but got punished by the spectre of means testing.

Why then is the radical party of the UK (ie the Labour party) so timid?  Because we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before.  The Sun killed Kinnock after the Sheffield Rally and we have been carefully media friendly ever since.

Balls and Miliband (et al) are trying a ‘don’t spook the Souff’ approach which may work but will not yield a crusading Labour Government.  It will yield a slightly more left approach and a pragmatic core.  Not at all whats needed.  This same don’t scare the horses approach is the same one used in the Independence referendum campaign for Yes.  Don’t panic it’ll all be the same.  No it wouldn’t and hopefully the electorate won’t be taken in.

So I say to Ed, Ed, Andy, Douglas, Harriet and the rest, its time to put on our campaigning boots and drive an agenda that is radically different from the Coalition programme.  Be bold on principles and keep banging on about where we want to go.  Political triangulation is what has cost us over the longer term (membership and vote declined rapidly after 97) its a tool but not a roadmap.  Focus groups need to be replaced by doorknocking face to face interaction.  Activism is the key.

We made some reforms, now its time to fight to make reforms that matter.

Crusade or nothing.  It’s a simple choice.



opened my mouth to change my feet

It started with a flippant comment in response to a Scotsman piece about the oldest Derby in Scottish football (Rangers v Queens park).  I cheekily tweeted it couldn’t be as Rangers were only 1 year old.

The Rangers supporters trust did not find my tweet amusing in the slightest and told their 23000 odd followers so.

In hindsight, it wasn’t my finest tweet or moment of lucidity.  Imagine my surprise when I logged on today (around lunchtime) to find my twitter interactions full of rather hostile and angry tweets.

Being a bit taken aback I reread my original tweet and apologised for having a green goggles moment.  I then deleted the offending tweet.  I hoped that my humble apology would be taken as such and the matter would have some of the heat removed.  The barrage of responses continued.

I accept that some of the labels attached are fair enough and can live with them.  Dimwit, clown, A***hole, muppet, twat, knob etc and such like generally reflect the ‘getitupye’ response that old firm fans use towards each other.  I Winced a few times at my own stupidity but generally took my licks.  A great piece of advice was to stick a wee winky face on next time (won’t be a next time)

A few offered me some encouragement in future elections by suggesting I would get beat as Rangers fans have long memories.

Some fans accepted the apology and had a giggle at my expense.  I’d earned it.

However, sadly that wasn’t it.

The Labels that I found most offensive came from a few (obviously very upset) bears.  Narrow-minded Bigot, scum, filth, Bheast and paedo being the most colourful and an over reaction I thought.

Now I know there are some excitable chaps on both sides of the Old firm divide but when one thinks it’s okay to post my mobile number (twice) and another says after looking at my handsome photo that he wouldn’t want me teaching his kids and uses #paedo hashtag, I get a bit irked.  Gone Too Far.

As an elected councillor I should have steered well clear of the topic, and will certainly try to keep away in future but it doesn’t stop me speaking out on this kind of behaviour.  Yes I am flippant (lots of evidence of this) and I do take my role very seriously (sorry it offended a particular respondent).

I was obviously not commenting as a councillor but I will certainly be more circumspect in future.

I am not, however, a Roman Catholic, a dirty Tague (taig both spellings), corrupt or a bigot.  Nor was I stirring up hate (although I seem to have managed that, accidentally, with aplomb).  Just because I support a rival football club does not make me a bigot.

I love using twitter and the immediacy of the interaction.  It has many great people contributing and sadly a few who take it too far.

Now, finally, I say to Any Rangers fan who gets this far I am sorry that you were offended by my flippant remark.  No caveat, just an apology.  As UEFA, SPL et al consider you to be the same club, then henceforth I will do so too.

And to the most offensive tweeps maybe you should reflect on your comments.  I know I have.



But Baby it’s cold outside

Seasons greetings to you all.

After the turkey and trimmings and pressie giving splurge is over I want to draw your attention to a couple of issues.

Housing and Food.

First up housing.

At this time of year housing occupies my mind more than a little.  Not the state of houses, not the number of bedrooms but the lack of them.  More specifically how many of our fellow countrymen (and women) don’t actually have access to one to call their own.  Homelessness (and its mate Rooflessness) are terrible issues for anyone to face.  My surgeries are most often taken up with housing and homelessness cases.

We need to build more houses, I hear (and say) all too often.  We need suitable houses not just little enclaves of executive housing for the doing-quite-well-keep-us-away-from-the-poor types but real attempts to build houses to meet the needs of our people.  You know, not chicken coop sized rows and rows of battery houses but well designed and community building houses.

In Fife (Where I live and am a Cooncillor), we have more than 11000 on housing waiting lists.  Part of our manifesto (at the local elections) was to build 2700 new homes over the next 5 years.  A start but not a cure.  Add to this the need to bring 60% of our houses up to Scottish Housing Quality Standards and you get an idea of the scale of the problem.  Affordable housing (an awful term) has overtones of poorer quality (though this isn’t necessarily true) and isn’t viewed in a positive light.  Councils need to build up their stocks quickly and take some of the heat out of the private let market.  A market that has gotten huge benefits from the shortage in supply.

Fewer people are ‘roughing it’ but that doesn’t tell the whole story of those in Scatter flats and temporary accommodation.  With no home to call your own the displacement and disconnection from society increases.  Add to this those without homes often have many issues (no money and dependencies to name but two) that make fitting into and contributing to communities difficult.

Overarching these current problems lie the haphazard and poorly thought out (and implemented) welfare / housing benefit changes to follow soon.  The uncertainty of  a roof over their heads will be horrendous.

The march of the makers needs to be in the direction of council housing and bucket loads of it.

An announcement today to spend £4.5m bringing empty private houses back into use by the SNP Administration at Holyrood will, it is hoped, bring 400 private homes back into the affordable sector on the proviso that they are made available for 5 years to rent.  Okay as far as it goes but a gimmick of a policy when the housing budgets to local authorities were slashed.  something must be done media driven policy.

Anyway, I digress, housing and the homeless occupy my thoughts at this time of year particularly and hope they’ll intrude on yours too!

(Shelter website with many, many things to share)


More specifically the lack of it.  I spent a very productive hour today with representatives from local churches and the YMCA discussing foodbanks and the setting up of one to cover Glenrothes.  The need is there and currently being met by volunteer groups who’ll need a big help if the requirements keep increasing (and the stats suggest they will).

Demand for food support (ie food parcels) has gone up by a third in the last year.

Far too many are being failed by DWP and a benefits system based not on need but on efficiency and cuts.  Telling people in need to appeal and the money will be back dated is really helpful especially when you are skint.  Crisis support to feed people is a growth area (if only the economy was eh?) and foodbanks are springing up all over the land.  A sure sign of a failing economic policy (and plan McB isn’t much better).

The Trussell Trust ( are raising the profile of this need in the media and on TV.  I am pleased they are doing so much because I hope it will shame the DWP and IDS into thinking again about the impact of their reforms (cuts agenda with a new badge).  Savaging the weakest is neither fair nor acceptable.

By the way, many of the 200 000 or so who will be helped by foodbanks this coming year will be working.  Read that again.  Working and unable to buy enough food.  Not on benefits, working.  Makes you wonder about wage levels doesn’t it?

SO when the turkey sandwiches are served up today, and you groan not turkey again, spare a wee moment for those who’ve been visited by the foodbank fairy or those whose roof is borrowed, temporary or simply not there.

Merry Christmas to you all.

I wouldn’t want you to be too cheerful now, would I.