The Devo Files: Willie Bain (Glasgow North East)

Willie-Bain-the-next-MP-f-002

Several polls show Willie Bain and Jim Murphy as among the only New Labour MPs who could hold their seats in May 2015. Do you think either man could have possibly believed such a notion in 2009?

And so we come to Willie Bain.

There comes a time when you can’t be sarcastic. You can’t muster up anything more than sheer contempt. Mr Bain exemplifies everything that is wrong with New Labour, and why they must not be allowed to represent their constituents any more. Anyone who would vote in favour of nuclear weapons when almost half the children in their constituency are suffering is an enemy of their own constituents. It’s as simple as that.

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The Devo Files, Indexed

As we move to the 2015 United Kingdom General Election, I start to realise that this could well be the most important general election in the history of the United Kingdom. This series has attracted quite a lot of interest, for obvious reasons: to make everything easy to find, I’ve started an index.

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The Devo Files: Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North)

JimSheridan

Far to the east of Inverclyde, beyond the dark waters of the Auchendores and the hooded mysteries of Craigmarloch, lie the lands beyond the sunrise that is… Renfrewshire!

Jim Sheridan is quite a shock to me. I may have been disappointed in Katy Clark. I may still greatly dislike Douglas Alexander. But Jim Sheridan? I’m astounded the man is still running. Strike that: I’m astounded he’s still in the party. No, strike that again: I’m astounded the man isn’t in prison.

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The Devo Files: Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South)

Ye though I walk through the Valley of Separatism, I shall fear no Cybernats...

Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Separatism, I shall fear no Cybernats…

I started the Devo Files with a specific eye to be as neutral as I think I could be as an SNP member, supporter, activist and general neer-do-well, with a strict aim not to be unduly harsh or critical of any given MP. There are a number of MPs who I sympathise with, even respect, but who I cannot bring myself to support simply because I do not believe they will put the interests of the Scottish people before the interests of their party – and in Westminster, the party is king above all else.

Then there are people like Douglas Alexander.

Part of me is somewhat disappointed that some MPs are simply too cowardly to put their money where their mouths are. Gordon Brown & Alistair Darling are both standing down, and not contesting the 2015 General Election, even after they gave their personal guarantees that they would see these new powers devolved to Scotland – it’ll be difficult for them to do that if they aren’t even in parliament in the first place. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m disappointed that they chose to retire rather than be defeated, to turn off the xbox before they were about to lose, to enjoy their extracurricular thousands instead of work for their “golden goodbye.” I would have felt a lot of vindication if the Leader of Better Together and Saviour of the Union were ousted – or even prevailed, if it meant they could be held to account over all the things they said and done during the referendum.

But then, we have Douglas Alexander.

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The Devo Files: Katy Clark (North Ayrshire & Arran)

Katy Clark

North Ayrshire is dear to my heart. I still regularly go down to Largs for an ice cream at Nardini’s, or to visit Vikingar, or to simply enjoy the remarkable little resort town. I visited Kelburn country park, and my Great Auntie Connel in Skelmorlie, the town where my mother spent her infancy. As a young activist, I helped prevent a road being built through the village of Fairlie. More recently, I took part in a canvass in Millport, which I’d like to think contributed to the successful election of Grace McLean in October last year. Through it all, the Largs Yes Shop has remained open even after the referendum has passed.

Katy Clark has served as North Ayrshire & Arran’s MP uninterrupted since 2005. She is one of those odd ducks – a socialist who’s still in New Labour even after the neoliberal Blairite coup of the 1990s (of which the current leader in Scotland was central). Unlike most champagne socialists, however, Ms Clark has the voting record to back up her rhetoric. Could it be possible for Katy Clark to represent North Ayrshire & Arran’s best interests despite being part of the New Labour party?

Well, you tell me, as we unpack the Katy Clark folder of the Devo Files…

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The Devo Files: Margaret Curran (Glasgow East)

Let's not be under any illusions as to which "nation" that is.

Let’s not be under any illusions as to which “nation” that is.

In the interests of 50/50, it seemed fair for the next edition of the Devo Files to focus on a female MP – and, acknowledging the core values of the 50/50 initiative, I won’t be treating female MPs any differently from their male counterparts. I have zero interest in making fun of any of our elected officials’ appearances, genders, orientations, or otherwise: nor do I wish to engage in wild rumourmongery or baseless speculation. This series is purely about assessing statements the candidates have made in the past, the votes they cast, and important events from their term.

Margaret Curran needs little introduction: she’s New Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, she’s one of the most prominent New Labour MPs in Scotland, former Minister for Parliamentary Business, former Minister for Social Justice, and former Minister for Communities. She was also MSP for Glasgow Baillieston from 1999 until its abolition in 2011. She unsuccessfully fought for the Glasgow East constituency in the 2008 by-election, but successfully took it from the winner (SNP’s John Mason) two years later in the 2010 general election.

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The Devo Files: Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde)

Red Tories Blue Tories

New Labour councillors and activists, celebrating the “overwhelming” No majority of 0.1% in Inverclyde’s count at the referendum… with Conservatives and Neoliberal Democrats. The New Labour MP Iain McKenzie is nowhere to be seen in this photo, despite being the most high-profile politician in Inverclyde. Why is that?

(This is very much a rough guide: with so much Hansard to read through, it’s easy to miss or misinterpret things. I endeavour to be as accurate as possible.)

You were off the hook last time, Mr McKenzie, but it’s only fair that I start with my own representative in Inverclyde.

Mr McKenzie has the pleasure of being one of the few New Labour MPs who can now boast that he has a voting record of 100% in favour of further devolution to Scotland – mostly because he’s only had the opportunity to vote on further devolution once, in a motion to devolve the regulation of  shale gas extraction in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament. Mr McKenzie’s parliamentary term is almost over, and although there are a few weeks left before the UK parliament is dissolved, we can glean a fair bit of what Mr McKenzie’s future prospects as MP might be from his record.

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An Open Letter To Inverclyde

Wednesday the 4th of February isn’t my birthday, but by gum it feels like it! Today, I learned that…

  • … the Conservatives are putting forward a candidate to contest the 2015 General Election, threatening to dilute the unionist vote who would otherwise have backed Ian McKenzie, even if they’d only take away a few hundred going by the last election
  • … hot on the heels on UKIP candidate throwing his hat in the ring, who also risks diluting the unionist vote – though to be fair, I can’t imagine them doing worse than 288 votes
  • … the devastating Lord Ashcroft poll shows the SNP ahead in 15 out of 16 New Labour and Neoliberal Democrat constituencies, and Inverclyde wasn’t even among those seats studied – presumably because it was no longer one with a “colossal majority” for New Labour
  • … New Labour have released one of the stupidest videos they’ve ever cut together
  • … Lego have announced a Jurassic World video game (wait, that’s not politics!)

… And to top it all off, the SNP have their candidate.

As readers of the site will know, I backed Ronnie to the hilt. This was, of course, with absolutely no intent of denigrating or undermining the other three candidates: I believed, then and now, that they will work hard and well for Inverclyde, and I look forward to working with them up to May and beyond. I said as much in a video endorsement:

I don’t doubt that not everyone will be happy at Ronnie’s selection, and I realise it might be easy for me to say since “my man” won, but the fact remains: Ronnie Cowan is the SNP candidate for Inverclyde. He will contest the constituency with the incumbent Ian McKenzie for New Labour, Michael Burrows for UKIP, and George Jabbour for the Conservatives: as of right now, these four people will be fighting for the people of Inverclyde’s vote. It is no longer a choice between four SNP members, but a choice between – as of now – four parties. Only one of those parties is Scottish; only one of those parties will fight for more powers for Scotland; only one of those parties could change the course of politics not just in Scotland, but the United Kingdom itself.

I realise that despite the polls showing massive SNP gains, not everyone is convinced of the case for voting SNP MPs to Westminster. Some might see fit to write Inverclyde off as an easy SNP win: it had the fifth highest percentage of Yes votes and was the proverbial fag paper away from being a Yes; the New Labour majority collapsed from 38.4% (14,416) to 20.8% (5,838) within the space of a single year, and that’s after the Tories were in government for a year; the Conservative, Neoliberal Democrat and UKIP voters – such as they were – seemed to have all but evaporated. Well, during the referendum, every single canvass we went on returned a Yes majority. Sometimes a massive Yes majority. And we know how that turned out.

So I’m writing an open letter to the people of my home.

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Monsters

palaeoart_John Martin_Book of the Great Sea-Dragons Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri Gedolim Taninim of Moses Extinct Monsters of the Ancient Earth 2

When prehistoric sea reptiles were first scientifically described, it was difficult for people of the time to conceive of these creatures the way they would a modern animal. It’s no coincidence that some of the earliest palaeoartists, like John Martin, were primarily known for apocalyptic Biblical illustrations – ancient animals seemed less like “real” animals, and more like the monsters of myth and scripture. Humanity has a habit of creating monsters like this.

Once upon a time, a monster dwelt in a river. It was a great and terrible beast: its broad flanks were black and smooth, like an ancient bull seal, large enough to rival even the mighty Stoorworm of Orkney. Yet despite its near five hundred feet of length, it was a silent swimmer, almost as elusive as the creature of Loch Ness – were it not necessary to breach the surface on occasion, one might not even know it existed. But its true danger lay not in brute strength, but the awful fire in its belly: within the beast lay the power to unleash an inferno miles wide, a poison with no cure or antidote that lingered for decades wherever it touched, and a light that blinds all who witness it from leagues away. This monster was not natural – it was created by the hand of man, and creatures of its ilk wrought untold horror in lands on the other side of the world.

The emperor of a faraway realm controlled this monster, but he did not want the beast to live near his subjects, or risk despoiling his hunting grounds and scenic landscapes. So he brought the beast here, closer to his enemy’s empire, to this land.  Our country did not yet have a leader to defend our interests, so the lord of our southern neighbours – who had long asserted their dominion over our lands under the guise of an “equal union” – parleyed on the matter of the monster. The lord wanted to imprison the monster in a great loch where few of our people lived, but the emperor insisted on keeping the monster closest to the most populated city of our realm – so that the monster’s guards could easily take leave and enjoy our hospitality. Despite the love our neighbour’s lord felt for our land’s grouse moors and castles – if not our people – he felt he had no choice but to allow the emperor to place the beast in a holy loch.

The monster dwelt there for a generation. The guards brought the beast out in chains to patrol the sea round the land, to impress and intimidate the rival empire to the east, and deter any would-be invaders to the realm. And all the time, the creature belched its poisonous fumes, corrosive bile dripping from its maw, into our pure air and crystal waters. The beast which was claimed to protect the land was destroying it. Some of the people rose up against it, seeking to drive the monster from our waters, but the emperor’s men were strong, and the lords of our southern neighbours did not want to risk his wrath. So the beast remained, roaring and rending the land, while the people waited anxiously for the horns which heralded the coming of its nemesis – and their oblivion.

Scotland is a land of monsters. We all know the mythic beast that dwells in Loch Ness – but Nessie is but one of the many creatures purported to lurk in the depths of Scotland’s waters. In the misty summit of Ben MacDhui, a being known as Am Fear Liath Mòr reigns supreme, a liminal creature guarding the gateway between worlds. Banshees, Bean Nighe, Bodachs, Bogles, Boobries, Each Uisge, Kelpies, Red Caps, the Nuckelavee. In modern times, humanity doesn’t have to imagine monsters lurking in the lochs, the moors, the shadows. Humanity creates monsters of our own.

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This Theatre of Dreams

Wings Over Scotland’s been getting a bit of flak on Twitter for his somewhat relentless exhibition of, well, basic facts in the case of prospective Gordon MP Braden Davy. A lot of people think it’s unfair to juxtapose the silly escapades someone got up to in their teen years with their more mature present. Normally I would agree, if this wasn’t a discussion about someone who seeks to wield enormous power over the lives and livelihoods of the people of Gordon, and by extension, Scotland and even the UK.

I feel compelled to (figuratively, gently and compassionately) slap some bloody sense into these people.

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