15 August 2006

Campbell Martin

The Independent MSP for the West of Scotland has said he's going to stand as an Independent for Cunninghame North next year, citing the precedents of Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald. Let's run a few comparisons to see if this is valid:

1. Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald enjoy reasonably high profiles and have records for launching fairly prominent campaigns on issues they care about (Canavan on the St. Andrew's Day holiday, MacDonald on tolerance zones). The last time you saw the name Campbell Martin was when he was booted out of the SNP.

2. Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald were cheated out of their respective parties' selection processes in the run-up to the 1999 Election (for Canavan) and the 2003 Election (for MacDonald), and were therefore forced to leave their party if they wanted to be elected. Campbell Martin was thrown out for being persistently gobby.

3. Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald had political beliefs and an approach that didn't sit well with the respective parties (too left-wing, too independently-minded). Campbell Martin just kept slagging off John Swinney.

You're probably getting the impression that I'm not a fan of Campbell Martin, and you'd be right: I respect Canavan and MacDonald and while I think they were harshly treated by their parties, I think that Independent status has been good for them and good for politics (you've got a set of MSPs who aren't just part of Rent-a-vote, and I speak as someone who was pinned to a bar by Margo MacDonald in 2001); Martin meanwhile is just a mouth on a stick and in my opinion, isn't fit to lace either Canavan or MacDonald's shoes.

Even when you compare him against the other Independents, he doesn't come out well: despite John Swinburne's initial notoriety for offending the gay community and the mentally ill (and I'm a member of the first and have a family member in the second category, so I wasn't best pleased), he's been very quiet, but has at least got the kudos of representing a group whose voice you don't often hear in politics. Jean Turner hasn't made waves, but as you'd expect, she's made important contributions to discussions on health, armed with her experience as a former GP. Even Brian Monteith, who got flung out of the Tories last year for stabbing David McLetchie in the back, is an astute political pundit and can make sound assessments of any situation, despite making George Bush look like a dirty Commie. Campbell Martin spent a small amount of time bitching about John Swinney and then caused a small amount of consternation at Holyrood by summing up for the SSP.

The fact is, that recent polls show about a 6% swing from Labour to the SNP, and that's the swing required for the SNP to win the Cunninghame North. Martin's intervention could make the difference between his former party gaining the seat and not gaining the seat. Considering that in his announcement, Martin criticised the sitting MSP for being loyal to New Labour, you'd think he'd want him to lose the seat. You'd also think he'd realise that if he splits the SNP vote, however slightly, that becomes less likely to happen. His failure to realise this puts him in line for a Golden Eejit award.

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