This is a tale of two people coming to Inverclyde. Both party and national leaders at some point, both Scots, neither campaigning for a seat in Westminster. One is New Labour. The other SNP.
Let’s compare and contrast.
Ex-PM throws weight behind Labour campaign in Greenock
Published: 22 Apr 2015 11:30
Bookies now have the nationalists 1/4 favourites to claim the seat in a fortnight’s time but the former PM refused to answer whether he has any concerns about his party’s chances on 7 May.
Mr Brown was speaking at Greenock’s Waterfront Cinema, where he was the box office smash for Labour and Inverclyde candidate Iain McKenzie.
When asked what he thought about bookmakers making the SNP odds-on favourites to win the seat, Mr Brown brushed it off and said ‘I’m not interested’. Instead he gave a glowing endorsement of Mr McKenzie.
Mr Brown told the Tele: “Iain McKenzie is a great guy, he’s been a councillor, he knows the area and we’ve got to let someone who can represent the needs for jobs here in parliament.”
The Labour faithful had to wait more than half an hour to hear the former PM, who was delayed by the roadworks on the A8 at East Hamilton Street. The former chancellor did eventually make it through the gridlock and apologised for being late.
Mr Brown, who has just stood down as an MP in his Kirkcaldy constituency after more than 30 years, said: “What a real pleasure it is to be here, thank you all for being so patient.
“I see very few of you have went to the cinema next door waiting for me — I think it’s Fast and Furious that’s on.
“I apologise, I’ve been slow, late and let you down but I’m here now and I’m very pleased to be here to support Iain McKenzie.
“When Iain was elected in 2011 to parliament he made a huge impact in parliament because he’s taken the problems, the issues, the concerns of the people of Inverclyde right to the heart of the House of Commons.
“Born here, brought up here, at school here, his first apprenticeship here, working at IBM here then a councillor here, chairman of the education committee and rebuilding the schools in this area, leader of the council and trying to improve the housing of the area, he is the ideal person to represent the people of Greenock, Port Glasgow and Inverclyde.”
During his speech and question and answer session, Mr Brown attacked the SNP and the Conservatives, saying the Scottish nationalists have created resentment against the English and claiming the Tories had created the opposite feeling down south by pitting the English against Scots.
He spoke passionately about his party’s policies and described Labour as the only ‘real’ party of social justice on offer to voters, praising ‘excellent’ party leader Ed Miliband.
Mr Brown said: “The nationalists get up in the morning — you know this — thinking ‘how can we get independence?’
“We get up in the morning thinking how can we achieve social justice and that’s the real difference at this election, if you want to see an improvement in social justice, if you want to see poverty attacked, if you want to see youth unemployment dealt with, if you want to see the NHS invested in and if you want that to happen immediately then you need a Labour government. Not months of constitutional wrangling, which is what the SNP would offer.”
His visit delighted Mr McKenzie, who said: “He gave a really in-depth half an hour, he was great and inspirational.
“He laid all the policies out and touched upon the lack of policies from the SNP. He was great, I couldn’t have wanted for any more.”
So, Mr Brown came to Greenock. He went to the Waterfront Cinema. No advanced notice. No advertising. All guests were vetted, invitation only, the “Labour faithful.” The public were kept out. Just like when Alistair Darling came. And Johann Lamont. And Jim Murphy. And Ed Miliband. No word on how many were in attendance, or indeed which of the four screens hosted the former Prime Minister. You would think that a constituency which is Labour on all three tiers of government – Westminster, Holyrood and Local – would feel comfortable in letting the adoring public in to engage with such a mighty figure as the Iron Chancellor.
Sadly not. The question and answer session was exclusively for the people who were already voting for his party, and likely active campaigners. By the time the public was officially told of the former Prime Minister of the UK’s visit to Greenock, he was long gone. The people of Inverclyde didn’t get a chance to ask Mr Brown himself.
Big crowd greets First Minister Sturgeon in Greenock
Published: 5 May 2015 12:00
The First Minister was in Inverclyde to give candidate Ronnie Cowan’s campaign a final furlong boost ahead of Thursday’s crunch general election.
She was greeted by a large crowd of SNP supporters who had gathered in the town centre to see her during her helicopter tour of the country.
Ms Sturgeon declared: “I think that for this area it needs a strong, committed MP who will put this part of Scotland on the map much more firmly than generations of Labour MPs have done.
“And I think that’s what we can offer.”
Ms Sturgeon told the Telegraph: “It’s time for change and this is a chance to make Scotland’s and Inverclyde’s voice heard.
“Wherever you live in Inverclyde, Ronnie will be a fantastic MP for the area if people choose to vote for him.”
Ms Sturgeon was cheered as she strolled into Cathcart Square and was immediately thronged by hundreds of well wishers who wanted to have their photograph taken with her.
Children with pieces of cardboard embazoned with SNP stickers waited patiently for the party leader to autograph their handiwork.
Meanwhile, candidate Mr Cowan told how much the visit meant to him and local SNP activists who have been campaigning for weeks.
He said: “We’ve been ticking a lot of boxes and doing everything we can do to run a smart campaign.
“We’ve been working hard, working clever and hopefully today is vindication that we’ve been doing everything right so far.
“We’re close, we know that we are very, very close — so a visit like this will galvanise the troops and get us back on the streets doing the hard graft.”
Mr Cowan added: “I’ve got a slight concern that people think that this is done, but we haven’t won Inverclyde yet and I genuinely think that this is going to be really tight.
“We were ahead in the polls in the referendum with a week to go and it came back to bite us, so we’re taking nothing for granted.”
Of Ms Sturgeon’s visit, he said: “We’re buzzing. We’re absolutely delighted. Everyone wants a selfie, everyone wants to meet her.
“When the word went out that Nicola Sturgeon was coming to Inverclyde, it put a smile on everyone’s face.
“Everyone is working hard to win their individual campaigns. No-one wants to let the team down, so to speak.
“The more we get down there makes Scotland’s voice stronger and makes Inverclyde’s voice stronger.”
Not everyone agreed with the SNP sentiment and two men waving Union Flags staged what they called a ‘silent protest’.
But SNP voters Jean Morgan, 57, of Gourock, and Janice Sharp, 52, of Port Glasgow, were full of praise for Scotland’s First Minister.
Jean said: “Nicola Sturgeon talks our language, she has personality and the human touch. We don’t hear the same old rubbish from her.”
Janice added: “She’s a straight talker and she talks a lot of common sense.”
Nicola Sturgeon came to Greenock, too. Two days advanced notice. All over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. No vetting, everyone was invited, SNP or otherwise. The public was permitted.
And just how many people were in that “large crowd”? You tell me.
There was an agitated, angry man next to me in the crowd. He demanded to know what she was doing here, whether she was going to do a speech or just take a photo-op. I replied “she’s engaging with the electorate.” He then started demanding to know why she never came to his street… at which I could only reply “she’s here now. Why don’t you go talk to her?” He wandered off in a foul mood. I don’t know if he ever did talk to her.
I didn’t get talking to Nicola, or a selfie. My mammy did though, which was just as good.
Quite a difference, isn’t it? One political giant protected behind closed doors, shrouded in secrecy, and comforted by a compliant and dedicated audience, his every word embraced by a fawning media. Another right out in the public, confronted and surrounded on all sides.
Jim Murphy and Eddie Izzard were “threatened” by four clowns with a megaphone, equating it with the suppression of free speech and the “ugly face of nationalism.” One little girl stood defiantly beside a Combat 18 member who had previously been sentenced for making death threats.
That’s the difference between New Labour and the SNP: we’re not afraid. We don’t dive like a footballer at the first sign of dissent or aggression. We don’t cultivate phony sympathy. We don’t try to discourage our activists from participating in politics through fear of violence or aggression from our opponents. We get on with it. Even when we’re abused, or intimidated, or attacked, or injured, or assaulted, we carry on.
No fear. Only hope.