14 September 2009

Dispatches from Glasgow North East...

I’m sure in the course of the long, trudging campaign, the candidates for the Westminster Parliamentary seat of Glasgow North East experienced a flourish of relief as one Mr Kenneth MacAskill put on his red suit, donned an archery-target waist coat and proclaimed the sovereignty of mercy in Scotland. Cue furore, heated. With a nose for gluing the stories of the moment together, Scottish Unionist pointed out the less than consonant character of the SNP candidate David Kerr’s positions once juxtaposed.

On the 21st, Kerr argued:

“I don’t believe that Al Megrahi should have been released. He was convicted of murdering 270 people so I believe justice would have been best served if he had remained in the care of the Scottish Prison Service.”

By Tuesday 25 August, this had amended itself to the crisper: “The Justice Secretary took the right decision, and above all he took it for the right reasons.”

Obviously, don’t lets be too devilishly insistent that a soul must adhere to its past sins, when it yearns for repentance. Its alright for folk to change their mind. Indeed, the polling around the whole brouhaha seems to indicate that Kerr's developing sense of the rightness and wrongness of the move mirrors that of other Scots. There is, however, a wider point. Do we really believe Malcolm Chisholm was the only opponent of this measure who bums the Labour benches? Given the more divided general opinion in the population at large and among Labour member, this seems unlikely. Equally, how plausible is it that all 47 SNP members thought that in his trundle across the tightrope before him, MacAskill balanced himself unerringly correctly? How many in both tribes swallowed their private sentiments, donned the political war paint and marched for the chief? I’d be confident that the count of such tribesmen and women who made primary their party political calculations must at least amount to a decent clutch. So I agree, there is something that smells distinctly implausible about the neatness of these divisions – which might make us look on the apparent transformation of Kerr’s views with a critical eye.

Indeed, as the recess recedes, I anticipate a spidery battery of eyes will be shifting again to the Glasgow North East by-election. And on this point, via a fellow peat worrier – we’re a close fraternity and sorority – I have a few dispatches from the field by way of an informed source within the campaign.

I’m totally unfamiliar with the constituency myself – hence what follows it a bit of third-hand repetition. It does give an indicative glimpse into the cognitive processes churning away behind the scenes, however. It is anticipated that the writ will be moved sharpish when Westminster resurrects itself, resulting in a polling day of around the 12th of November*. On the campaign itself, apparently Kerr’s going down a storm among the more conservative, religious populous of the area – but there’s a fly in the proverbial ointment. In the more liberal parts of the constituency, which on the campaign intelligence, apparently includes Dennistoun, disquiet rumbles over precisely the same issues which might coax others into Kerr’s corner.

Along the lines of my argument, which insists that religious opinions are fair game when they inform political choices, it seems that this section of the populace may find the ominous Latin of Opus Dei a challenge to overcome, when mulling over where to put their enfranchised ‘x’s. As a consequence, I understand that the candidate’s messages are being finessed depending on the setting as an attempt to overcome the difficulties presented by the trumpet lobby of press coverage at the inauguration of the campaign. I’m a bit sceptical of all this sort of talk myself, including the happy but textureless labelling of places religious areas and whatnot. Indeed, I’d have thought the surest way these days not to communicate with your electorate is to talk to local clergy. Then again, its not just who can vote, but who will vote – and on this point, my own youthful, godless existence may not be typical of our greying electoral enthusiasts.

At any rate, these personal caveats aside, I thought you might be curious about the campaign related scuttlebutt…

* As the estimable Monsieur Burton pointed out in the comments below, the 8th of November poll date which I originally mentioned falls, as any lackadaisical examination would suggest, on Sunday. I suspect Monty's moles are stabbing far closer to the mark with their anticipation of a Thursday the 12th of November date - so have slyly amended the electronic record accordingly.


  1. As much as the secularists among us would welcome a polling day on Sunday the 8th of November.. my burrowing sources predict overwhelmingly a polling day of Thursday the 12th of November.

    There are several members of the SNP who didn't agree with the decision, however as evidence is released more and more, much as in the rest of the country have come to agree with MacAskill...

  2. Dear Sir/madam

    In an ideal world, everything wouldn't skip a beat.

    David Kerr has changed his mind; he was going with the status quo previously.

    Politics is a minefield for someone standing for election because you always wonder, are you saying the right thing?

    It is hard to be bold because the wrong thing said can be disasterous.

    And there will be no re run until the General election.

    David is a good candidate and this election is important in many ways to the people of Glasgow.

    I remember when John Mason made a few hiccups when he started out but people looked beyond them and he turned out to be a good MP.

    David Kerr will be good if he can convince the people that he is sincere.

    He is keen and so are the people supporting him in Glasgow.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird
    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University