By Erik Geddes
The 2011 Scottish Parliament election is only five months away. The late winter and spring political landscape will be dominated by jostling, posturing and campaigning by all the main parties, and possibly the return of that well known independent, George Galloway.
Glasgow is divided into nine regional constituency areas; Anniesland, Cathcart, Kelvin, Maryhill & Springburn, Pollok, Provan, Shettleston, Glasgow Southside and – despite no longer being in the citiy’s council area – Rutherglen. Each one merits a seat in the Scottish Parliament. On top of this, there are seven Glasgow regional list seats where we will see a greater variation in the parties due to the second choices people make on their ballot papers.
After winning by the slimmest of margins in 2007, the SNP minority Scottish Government had an incredible, extended honeymoon of 18 months. But they have come under fire from all angles recently. If the bookmakers are anything to go by they will lose to Labour on Thursday 5 May 2011.
Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow Southside seat being one of Labour’s key targets, the Nationalists have time, yet, to retain their standing and credibility both in Glasgow and across the nation.
Bill Aitken, a Conservative List MSP for Glasgow, who has been in office at Holyrood since the Parliament’s inception in 1999, will be retiring from Holyrood. Bill, a Partick Thistle supporter, is a name and character who will be sorely missed by the Tories who have never polled particularly well in Glasgow in recent times. The next time round is unlikely to be any different. Also calling it a day will be Labour’s Margaret Curran who will focus on her role as Glasgow East MP at Westminster.
The smaller parties, collectively known as ‘the others’ will be hoping to poll better than the three seats they won in 2007. Two of these went to the Scottish Green Party. In 2011, for the first time, the Scottish Green Party will stand on a ticket where the environment is not top of their agenda. Instead they will push for what they describe as ‘responsible revenue streams’ and a reduction in the cuts on public services programmes. They are hoping that Glasgow will not only return Patrick Harvie but also Councillor Martha Wardrop who will be second on the Green regional list.
Rumours of an internal rift at the Glasgow Lib Dems due to Katy Gordon being top of their list, were denied by the careers advisor who is hoping that she will be voted into the Scottish Parliament along with existing MSP Robert Brown. She narrowly lost Glasgow North to Ann McKechin in the 2010 general election.
What could be interesting is if – as expected – George Galloway confirms early in the New Year that he will be standing. Despite dozens of phonecalls and emails over the past couple of months, George hasn’t got back to us at the LOCAL NEWS yet. This may be due to his own busy schedule or his ties with other, far larger, Scottish media organisations. One thing is certain – the other parties won’t be welcoming George back to Scottish politics with open arms.
The return of Galloway won’t help the Scottish Socialist Party as it could split what remains in Glasgow of the left wing vote.
SSP spokesperson Ken Fergusson compared George Galloway’s expected return to the Scottish political arena to a character from Alan Bleasdale’s 1980s Boys From The Blackstuff drama. He said: ‘It looks a bit like ‘Gissa Job’. He tied his wagon to a political career in London – then lost it. His policy is George for Glasgow – but that doesn’t tell us too much about what he wants. I suspect we will be looking at just another Labour MSP if he gets elected.’ In 1987, Galloway won the Glasgow Hillhead seat at Westminster. In 1997 and 2001 elections he won Glasgow Kelvin.
Labour would feverishly refute any parallel between themselves and the former Big Brother contestant who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003. There will be no love lost between the Labour candidates and George at the hustings, if he stands. And while George clearly has some respect for First Minister Alex Salmond, Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris who will stand in Maryhill and Springburn and on the list, isn’t too keen on George.
Bob said: ‘I don’t see George Galloway as a threat. He despises Scottish democracy and offers nothing more than personality politics to the people of Glasgow, who deserve better. ‘The Scottish Parliament is still in it’s infancy and the 2011 term will see the development of our working democracy, the last thing we need is George Galloway using it as a platform for his own ends.’
The LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW will interview all of the candidates standing at the May 2011 Holyrood elections so sign up for your weekly ENEWS by clicking on the last line of this one and entering your details. That way you will receive your weekly ENEWS letter direct to your inbox.
Maryhill has for generations been a Labour stronghold but was urged to change allegiance by Nick Clegg at Woodside Halls last night.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats – who was there to back Glasgow North candidate Katy Gordon – made a point of first engaging the audience and then asked them to ditch the ‘habits’ of voting for Labour.
He said: ‘Many of you come from families and communities who have supported the Labour Party for generations.
‘It was part of who you were, and I think you have been let down. I think you have been taken for granted.
‘I know it is very difficult to break the habit of generations, and it can feel like betrayal. But it is not a betrayal of yours – It is Labour who has betrayed you.’
Clegg urged the people of Glasgow North – and across the country – to follow their hearts and not vote tactically.
He said: ‘I don’t think people should people should be pushed and bamboozled by desperate government ministers.
‘It is a council of despair for Labour by trying to frighten people into voting in a way they want them to.’
Clegg believes it is his party that can help rebuild the communities that he says Labour have let down, and Cameron’s Tories have done nothing but pay lip service too.
Before rushing off to his next stop on his tour of the UK, he said: ‘Labour supporters are thinking about lending us their support and I’m very optimistic we can do very well in this election.’
An attentive audience of more than 100 people attended the Sunday night hustings held by the West End group of churches under the banner of ACTS – Action of Churches Together in Hillhead Baptist Church. Taking the place of most denominations’ evening service, the meeting gave all the Glasgow North Constituency candidates an opportunity to answer voters’ questions. These covered issues from the Royal Bank of Scotland’s damaging environmental involvement to improving the lot of asylum seekers and priorities on extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Deftly chaired by retired minister the Rev. Dr Norman Shanks, the line-up included current Westminster MP Ann McKechin (Labour) who is being closely challenged by Katy Gordon (Lib Dem) and Patrick Grady (SNP). But the other candidates – Martin Bartos (Green Party), Angela Mc Cormick (Scottish Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) and Richard Sullivan standing in for Erin Boyle (Conservative and Unionist) – gave positive contributions which left quite a few listeners admitting they felt unsure of where they would place their vote on Thursday 6 May. Thomas Main (British National Party) did not attend.
The hustings panel agreed that every vote counted in this election and could make a positive difference.
A further churches organised hustings will take place in Ruchill Parish Church, 15-17 Shakespeare Street, Glasgow G20 8TH at 7pm on Sunday 2 May.
And a service of prayer for the general election will take place in Kelvinside Hillhead Church, Observatory Road, off Byres Road at 7.30pm on Wednesday 5 May, the eve of voting.
Katy Gordon is riding the crest of a wave on streets of Glasgow North following Nick Clegg’s performance at the first Leaders Debate.
The Lib Dem candidate firmly believes the national optimism of her party – which has not had an MP in the city since Roy Jenkins over 25 years ago – is being mirrored in her patch.
She was keen to point out that the campaign has been helped by a new recruit who joined the Lib Dems from the SNP in February this year.
She said: ‘Since Alec Dingwall joined us and left the SNP, our campaign has gone from strength to strength. People who previously voted the SNP are thinking twice and nothing is a sure thing for Labour anymore.’
Despite this, the Liberal campaign has been slammed by Patrick Grady, SNP candidate for Glasgow North.
He said: ‘The Liberal Democrats are not fighting any sort of campaign in the other seats in Glasgow. That is neither a liberal approach nor is it very democratic.
‘Most of the Liberal Democrat campaign team are wearing post office uniforms.
‘The number of leaflets produced and sent along with flying Nick Clegg in to get his photo taken at the Clyde must make their carbon footprint awfully high.
‘We have been out knocking on doors across the constituency and for the past two-and-a-half years.
‘The SNP are fighting very hard to win all of the seats across the city.’
The Labour Party is not concerned about the Lib Dems’ optimism of gaining the seat from their candidate and sitting MP, Ann McKechin.
A Labour spokesperson said: ‘Ann is one of the most active MPs in Scotland and she is well known and well liked by the constituents in Glasgow North.
‘It’s up to the people in the area and we are confident that we will retain this seat no matter how many leaflets and brochures the Lib Dems put out.’
Glasgow North is shaping up to be quite a battle. Two women, sitting Labour MP Anne McKechin and Lib Dem candidate Katy Gordon, along with the SNP’s Patrick Grady are fighting a tight seat.
Katy Gordon has lived in Glasgow for nearly 20 years. She is pushing the notion that Glasgow North is a two-horse race between her and Labour. But it has been 23 years since there was a Liberal MP from any Glasgow seat.
Backed by Vince Cable, Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor, Katy said: ‘There is still a Liberal tradition here, a flickering flame that has never gone out.’
She has a massive task ahead of her. The seat is occupied by Labour MP Ann McKechin who polled 11,001 votes to the Lib Dem’
s 7,663 votes last time, with SNP trailing on 3,614.
McKechin expects real challenge from the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, but says most voters will be making a ‘key decision’ between Tory and Labour. She said: ‘This is always a seat that will be tighter than others in Glasgow.
‘The overwhelming number of people that I talk to don’t think David Cameron has anything to offer them . We have the strongest policies on jobs.’
The SNP can be optimistic, as they polled highest at last year’s European Elections in the North of the city. Their candidate, Patrick Grady, an Invernessian now living in Dennistoun, launched the SNP campaign in February at Summerston Asda, assisted by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Patrick said: ‘The Labour party in Glasgow have let local people down. With hard working councillors, MSPs and MP John Mason, people know that the SNP will put local interests first, last and always.’
Martin Bartos, the Green Party candidate, said: ‘At some point Scotland will elect its first Green MP, and Glasgow North will be the place to do it.’ Also standing will be Erin Boyle – Conservative, and Angela McCormick – STUSC.
VINCE Cable, The Liberal Democrats shadow chancellor, has backed his party’s Glasgow North candidate Katy Gordon to triumph at this year’s general election.
Cable is a respected politician who was one of the first to call for the nationalisation of Northern Rock at the start of the banking crisis.
He also has strong Glasgow links, as he studied at Glasgow University and was a Labour Councillor in Maryhill in the 1970s.
Speaking exclusively to Local News Glasgow today, he said: “I have seen first-hand how tirelessly Katy works on behalf of local people.
“She has been an effective and inspirational campaigner and would be an excellent parliamentary voice for the people of the constituency.”
44-year-old Katy Gordon, who was born in Cheshire but has lived in Glasgow for nearly 20 years, gets almost starry-eyed talking about her party’s economic spokesman.
Cable joined fight against school closures in Wyndford which inspired Katy, and she believes the local people in the neighbourhoods.
She said: “Following our campaign against the school closures the people in the Wyndford have gone on and set up a community council.
“Getting the public involved in politics through something that affects them is the way forward – my party has always been good at building from the bottom up.”
She is aware that it’s been 23 years since there was a Liberal MP from any Glasgow seat and even then it was the old SDLP, yet remains unhindered.
She said: “Roy Jenkins was the last Liberal MP in Glasgow. He was well liked and is well remembered round these parts.
“There is still a liberal tradition here, a flickering flame that has never gone out.
“The party has had solid campaigns here, developed strong roots and has repaid its faith in me by supporting me as much as it can.”
But Gordon has a massive task ahead of her; the seat is occupied by sitting Labour MP Ann McKechin.
McKechin worked under George Galloway in the old Kelvin seat in the early 1990s before she was elected herself to serve as MP for the old Maryhill seat in 2001.
She expects real challenge from the Liberal Democrats, but says most voters nationally will be making a ‘key decision’ between Tory and Labour.
She said: “This is always a seat that will be tighter than others in Glasgow.
“There are voters in the middle-class areas of the west end as well as the working class areas of Maryhill and Summerston.
“But the overwhelming number of people that I talk to on a regular basis don’t think David Cameron has anything to offer them in this constituency, or in Glasgow.
“We have the strongest policies on jobs such as the young person’s guarantee.
“This is where any young person who has been out of work for more than six months we will guarantee them six months paid work or training experience.”