31 March 2010

Scenes from a Campaign

Jeff is not the only one turning his attention to Livingston today.

Livingston enjoys a fascinating presence in UK political history: for the first 22 years of the constituency's existence, it was represented by Robin Cook, until his death just a few months after the 2005 Election. Now, it should be possible to eulogise and not idolise someone, and Cook was by no means a saint, but he was an impressive performer and of course, presented the most effective case against the Iraq War that anyone could have done during his speech announcing his resignation from the Cabinet. And that departure, incidentally, marked the last principled resignation from the UK Government: the only ones to come close to being based on principle were Clare Short's delayed reaction to the Iraq War and James Purnell's prediction that Gordon Brown would hand the upcoming General Election to the Tories. So Robin Cook, MP for Livingston, former Foreign Secretary and the last member of the Cabinet to resign on principle, enjoys a special place in the books. Whatever his faults, he'll be remembered as an intelligent, high-powered politician and an independent mind. And Livingston will be associated with him.

How tragic, then, that his successor, Jim Devine, should end up in the dock for fraud. That he should have falsified receipts for his expense claims, and worst of all, that he should have defended his actions by claiming that a Whip told him to do that (if the Tommy McAvoy had told him to lie face down on the Westbound carriageway of the M8, would he have done that?).

Yet now we come to the man who would be his successor, Graeme Morrice. Now, he will probably avoid the complete downfall suffered by Devine, but the omens are not good if this leaflet is anything to go by:

Now, it looks like standard fare: the memories of the Thatcher years, and the carping about the SNP - nothing unusual for a Labour leaflet. Nothing positive, nothing hopeful, a quick CV and then the usual attempts to dismiss the SNP as irrelevant while at the same time devoting a large part of the missive to slating them.

But then there's this:

Ah, yes, those memories of the Thatcher/Major years. Such a shame that a Labour Chancellor and Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury have both come out and said that they'd be far more brutal with the Budget than any of Thatcher and her Chancellors were. How ironic: he could stop George Osborne, but would he even try to stop Alistair Darling or Ed Balls when they start wielding the red pen?

And the rest? Well, see for yourself:

In short, two pages in which he misrepresents who's in charge of West Lothian Council by describing it as an SNP/Tory Council (which will be news to COSLA, who see West Lothian as an SNP/Independent Coalition: the independents in question being Action to Save St. John's Hospital, who have been airbrushed out of political history by Councillor Morrice) and poses for photos on issues which either relate to Holyrood (so he'll be able to do nothing about it) or the local Council (so he'll actually be able to do more about it if he loses and stays on the Council).

It's strange. In a way, Devine is more impressive: he, like his predecessor, has become an icon of the big political question of the day, albeit for all the wrong reasons. And Morrice's photo might not be a police mugshot, but still, his leaflet really ought to be gracing the pages of Glum Councillors. Maybe Livingston could use some anonymity, an MP who won't make waves in the Commons but will turn up at railway stations with an MSP, a placard and a photographer.

Or maybe not...

I had the pleasure of reading Lis Bardell's guest post on Jeff's blog. Lis is the SNP candidate for Livingston and managed to sum up quite exquisitely just how the scandal has hit the area. As it happens, I had the good fortune of meeting Lis at the SNP Spring Conference and found someone who knows her area and knows the people, and clearly relishes chewing over the big issues. She's clearly someone who'll be at ease with local campaigns, but will be incredibly adept at handling the wider questions that go beyond Livingston and affect all of us. In short, I spent an evening at Conference in the company of an intelligent, articulate person with an independent mind. Remind you of anyone?

Maybe a spell out of the limelight isn't what Livingston needs. Maybe, instead, what's needed is a return to the things that connected that part of West Lothian to the wider political scene for all the right reasons.

That, I think, is where Lis comes in.

4 comments:

Grogipher said...

How do they get away with such blatant lies Will?

I mean, claiming we've ditched our plan to have 1,000 more Police - we've already achieved that, yet he can say we're only aiming for 500 now?

Claiming we've "ditched" things that are still party policy such as LIT is just disingenuous; are people stupid enough to believe we've broken a promise, or will they understand that we want it, but don't have the 65 votes?

I note that he is, as seems common in the Labour Party now, also spreading fear. Telling folk their bus pass is under threat is that!? That's absolutely ridiculous, and unfounded. The only changes the Scottish Government have made to the scheme are to INCLUDE more people, not to exclude anyone.

It just really gets my goat. There should be some independent checker of these leaflets, to prevent people from putting barefaced lies on them. It's disgraceful.

Caron said...

You aren't seriously expecting the Labour Party to fight this election in anything like gentlemanly fashion are you?

This leaflet hasn't made its way to my house yet. Given that this seat was so hotly contested during the by-election, and the current MP is in and out of Court, you would think Labour would be keen to introduce its new candidate to the population.

I would have thought that the SNP, scenting victory, would be wallpapering the place with literature.

Not a peep from either.

Mind you my vote is going to Charles Dundas who represents Nick Clegg and Vince Cable's credible and fair policies and who must be the bravest parliamentary candidate in Britain after surviving Tuesday night with me driving him around in a blizzard.

Anonymous said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8603483.stm

Lis Bardell webcast

Anonymous said...

more on Lis Bardell

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/06/livingston-marginal-seats-snp-general-election