11 April 2010

GE 2010: A voter's view of Glasgow Central

As I've mentioned once or twice before, being a good nationalist and internationalist both, I now live in England, Their England, which I can report does indeed boast green and pleasant lands, pleasant pastures and whatnot. That said, I'm still a registered voter in the constituency of Glasgow Central for Westminster and for Holyrood elections I ballot in Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency of Glasgow Govan. That in mind, I thought I’d compose a bit of an in-depth look at the individuals who are standing here and between whom my fellow citizens and I will be choosing our Member of Parliament - linking to whatever online presence they might have and generally doing my duty as a quasi-local blogger and interested voter.

For those who know the city, Glasgow Central is a constituency composed of a wide geography and range of life orders. Although it has been a familiar part of the parliamentary landscape since 1885, the constituency’s present boundaries were only set after the 2005 dismemberment and compression of Glasgow’s Westminster representation, from ten seats to seven. In dim and distant days, when Glasgow voted Tory, it was the seat of fleeting Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law. Like an imaginary colossus straddling the silty Clyde, the constituency was formed from elements of Anderston, Calton, Govan, Southside Central and Pollokshields council wards, as well as Dumbreck, Govanhill, Strathbungo, Kelvingrove, City Centre, the Merchant City, Gorbals, Bridgeton and Dalmarnock and Toryglen. Its incumbent is, predictably enough, a Labour Party member - the “outgoing” Mohammed Sarwar. The reasons for the dubiety expressed by inverted commas will become clear.  Without further ado, here is the full roll of anticipated would-be Honourable Members for Glasgow Central for 2010...

Constituency: Glasgow Central 2010 General Election
  • Pirate, Finlay Archibald
  • Conservative, John Bradley
  • BNP, Ian Holt
  • Scottish Socialist, James Nesbitt
  • SNP, Osama Saeed
  • Labour, Anas Sarwar
  • UKIP, Ramsay Urquart
  • Scottish Green, Alastair Whitelaw
  • Liberal Democrat, Chris Young

Just a word or two to say on the whole list, before moving on to individual treatments. Firstly, you’ll notice that despite nine people running - there will be not a single women on the ballot paper. A choice of nine chaps, then. Although it is not plain from the list (names denoting no particular gerontic status) - this is also a young cohort of candidates, with hardly a grey hair among ‘em (and most of them are attached to Green candidate, Alistair Whitelaw). Given Glasgow’s well-kent and decidedly tedious habit of returning endless machine Labour politicians, running in Glasgow Central is a thankless prospect for the rest of the field. Save for the SNP (I humbly and impartially submit), none of the other parties seem to have elected to stand particularly robust candidates here, likely to force the Labour candidate to run for his money. As in much of the country, Glasgow Central is being played out as a contest primarily between Labour and the SNP. I wish my comrades the very best of good luck.

Anas Sarwar (Labour)

Sound familiar? Sarwar, Sarwar... I know I've heard it somewhere before... Supporters of the bridled continuity of invented tradition will look on happily as Glasgow Central observes the principle of heredity in this election. This dowdy dauphin is the youngest son of Mohammed Sarwar and hopes to graduate to his father’s seat with the smooth continuity of a natural inheritance. The age is long dead when office and position were regarded as legitimately tradable private goods and part of the family patrimony. Anas’ succession reeks to high heaven. But don’t let’s rush to judgement. We should give the younger Sarwar a fair hearing. Perhaps it is his multi-fold and multifarious talents and endowments which persuaded his local Labour branch of his worth? High judicious minds, no doubt they put aside his father’s clout and coin-bag, faced with the obvious wonders of his being. 

According to his biography on his personal site, Anas Sarwar is still clinging firmly onto the first phases of youth – only being born in 1983. He was educated in that bastion of bourgeois bumptiousness and smug mediocrity, Glasgow Southside’s fee-paying Hutchesons’ Grammar School. Much of his sagacity may be owed to his training as a dentist. Profoundly struck yet? No, me neither. It is hard to see what extreme youth, plus Hutchesons’, plus dentistry can do other than condense in an essentially vacuous candidate. One who you can be reasonably sure will hear the loud hailing voice of party instruction. He’ll do what he’s damn well told and be a good party fellow. Perusing the Dowdy Dauphin of Pollokshields site, perhaps the most curious thing I discovered was this piccy (above, left) in his gallery.  All the rest are your usual, flesh-pressing scenes of the candidate parping his potential constituents.  This, by contrast, is the juvenile likeness of the candidate  standing cheerfully beside a grinning Yasser Arafat.  A curious thing to gratuitously include in your campaign materials, I thought. Depressingly, this young thing is most likely to be returned by my fellow voters. I’m sure he can hardly imagine his luck. Needless to say, he won’t be inheriting my vote.

Ramsay Urqhuart (UKIP)

I can only assume that Ramsay comes from Edinburgh or the West End of Glasgow – or marched straight out of the pages of an Alexander McCall Smith novel – in which baptismal Kelvinside and Morningside ladies seem happy to give their sons and daughters surnames for first names. Although boasting this shortbread tin identity, there isn’t much going to tell us about Mr Urqhuart. From his callow youthfulness, one suspects that studentship still clings to him – or has only very recently come to its conclusion. He does seem (intermittently) to maintain the odd chirp on Twitter and the following page on the old Facebook.

Probably a fruitcake. Then again, he is in UKIP. So that is probably just a tautology.

Chris Young (Liberal Democrat)

Young (b. 1974) offers a tribute to ... er ... himself that rather made me cringe from its first breath: “unashamedly a bit of a character”, he says of himself over at his personal website. Note to Chris. Generally it is better to let other people pay touching testament to the vivacity and headlong quality of our characters. That said, he clearly has a bit more life to him than most of the dreary souls who stand in these things.

“He can frequently be seen performing in bars and venues around Glasgow as a singer, poet, actor, ventriloquist and storyteller. On a wider stage, Chris may also be familiar from appearances on television game shows such as University Challenge, Countdown, A Question of Genius, Are You An Egghead? and The Weakest Link (which he won in 2002, having made Anne Robinson crack a smile if not laugh). His writing has been broadcast on both local commercial radio and BBC Radio 7.”  

I’m even tempted to forgive that guilty law degree he went back to Glasgow University to acquire in the early 2000s.  He’s replete with all the social technologies which the media tells us this general election is primarily marked by. Equally, given the debacle over Stuart MacLennan earlier in the week, this Lad o’ Pairts clearly doesn’t practice that very necessary private/public alchemy much either. Although Chris may rest at ease – I shan’t be rummaging through his corpus for incriminating detail – it is interesting to see the extent to which some candidates consciously unify what “connecting” with them means.

James Nesbitt (SSP)

The Scottish Socialist candidate in Glasgow central is another young thing, at 23. Unemployed, Nesbitt’s clarion cries run along familiar SSP themes – and he blogs himself on and off over at the Scottish Socialist Youth site. A bit of a youtube rummage produced this mocked-up “campaign broadcast” by the candidate on the “shockin’” state of our country, barking “scrap and scrap! Capitalist pigdogs.” “Give Nesbitt one spiteful, malicious vote – Give James Nesbitt one desperate vote!” argues this young man, and  “Together we bring capitalism TO ITS KNEES!”

Alas, James, I fear I won’t be able to assist you this time round in coaxing the country into the particular socialist bend you are espousing. My redistributive yoga is a bit out of practice, I’m afraid.

Alistair Whitelaw (Greens)

Can’t seem to find any personalised internet material on this fellow, save for his jolly Santa Clause-esque picture. Clearly a regular Greenie candidate in past election rounds, Alistair has popped up in the lists in previous Scottish elections since 1999. The party roll over at Green010 has the following to say about him:

“Alastair Whitelaw has been a member of the Scottish Greens for nearly thirty years.  Professionally he is an university administrator.  He is an active trade unionist and stands up for public services (like many in the higher education sector his job is currently under threat).  He is also a member of several conservation and wildlife bodies and is an amateur classical musician.  He is married and has two children.”

No doubt a pleasant chap, as most of these woolly green fellows are. Obviously, a bit of an outsider’s bet for the seat, and an aged ornament to this young race.

Iain Holt (BNP)

Let’s leave the racist bastards to do their own schlepping, eh?

John Bradley (Conservative)

Clearly a bright young man, Bradley is festooned with qualifications from the Universities of Oxford, London and Edinburgh, and is reportedly still beavering away on a PhD thesis on International politics. Being a Tory in Glasgow these days must be a pretty thankless task. Perhaps to alleviate some of the vitriol doomed to head his way – and avoid becoming a human spittoon – Bradley describes himself as a “life-long moderate conservative”, whatever one of those is. Presumably a subtle lug-tug suggesting that he isn’t one of the John Redwoods of our particular political world. He also Tweets. In fact, we could regard his condensed statement of his beliefs as exemplary of the sort of tone Cameron is attempting to set across the country, believing in ...

“trusting people to make decisions about their own lives through less government interference, and more work in empowering people to help themselves. He is proud of the NHS, our welfare state and our country’s educational opportunities, but knows that these benefits are built on a rock of small business, entrepreneurship and enterprise. He is proud of Scotland, and knows that a strong United Kingdom is one with Scotland at its heart.”

Bradley is also much to be thanked for alerting me to the existence of this splendid picture of my favourite Glasgow Tory, Baillie Bill Aitken, wearing a body bag with his chequered paunch hanging out the front. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever!”

Finlay Archibald (Pirate Party)

Despite having no parrot, no eyepatch or even the whiff of a fetching rum-soaked doublet, Archibald seems to be the youngest candidate on offer in Glasgow Central. He lets out the occasional cheep, while the Pirate Party has this to say about him:

 “A maths student at Strathclyde University, Finlay Archibald (19) has been heavily involved in running the vibrant Scottish branch of the Pirate Party UK. Since joining the party, Finlay has founded the first Pirate student society in the UK. Finlay wants to engage with the people of Glasgow to give them an MP that they can be proud of, something which Labour has proven they cannot provide.”

Be still my beating sloop.

Osama Saeed (SNP) 

Predictably enough, and to end on a partisan note, I'll be supporting Osama Saeed and the SNP come election day. As those of you who regularly haunt the Scottish blogosphere will probably know, Saeed maintains his own blog which can be viewed here.  His campaign's facebook page also highlights the various other parts of the web in which Saeed is spreading the word and promoting the campaign. Previously employed by the Maximum Eck, Osama is amongst the most high profile of the SNP's candidates in this election. He is not swamped by dynasticism. He isn't a creature to be put to service by the Labour Party when it wants to ram through votes on nuclear missiles or to inflict whatever grand new theory of public administration it has determined is the way forward in England. His daddy didn't give him his constituency for his 27th birthday present. I absolutely disagree with him on Islamic schools. I'm sure our cosmologies diverge quite significantly. But this isn't an election about metaphysics.

In Scotland, it is an election where much of our policy is devolved, where we have to keep our eye fixed on the divided competencies of Holyrood and Westminster. Where we should think with our "reserved" hats on.  Where we, as voters, should ask ourselves fundamental questions about what sort of politics and society we want to work towards. Ask ourselves how we want to deploy the strength of the state, to better the state of the country. Where to spend, where to invest, where to focus our efforts. Having asked yourself these questions, having reflected on the increasingly brazen and degenerate Glasgow Labour establishment which both succours and facilitates the treatment of Glasgow Central as a family fief, I'd encourage you to consider supporting a viable, socially democratic alternative - and vote for the Scottish National Party and Osama Saeed come polling day.


  1. As an SNP member i sincerely hope we win this seat and smash the arrogant, murky Labour Party here. They think it a seat they can hand down - contemp for the electorate. However, like many other activists I will be going to Glasgow East.

    My main fear is for Nicola's seat afterwards in the SP election. I fear they will really target unseating her with the resources they need - though i know she will have the security of a list seat. But we really need to get cracking on the SP campaign the day after the General election.

  2. Anonymous,

    Its not a surprising move. Attempt to consolidate, in the face of your adversaries, the gains that you've already made. From the scuttlebutt I've been hearing, the eastward drift you mention seems pretty general among SNP Glaswegian activists.

    As to Glasgow Govan, I agree with you that it is a priority frontier in the West Coast, one that shall certainly summon me back for a bit of campaigning in the constituency. That, without mentioning the uncertainties resulting from the review of the constituency boundaries. I'm optimistic. Nicola is fierce, and fundamentally radiates integrity. People can't avoid noticing that.

  3. Cripes, that Lib Dem guy is cringeworthy! As are most of the candidates, blegh!

  4. A healthy crop of candidates and no mistake!

  5. Worryingly though is that we haven't had any leaflets to hand out yet except delivering a rather amateur DM.... Hope the agent sorts out leaflets soon... Getting ready to label the free postal communication tho...

    We can still do it. People are turning against Labour.

  6. I actually knew Chris Young at University. He is, most certainly, "quite a character". Interesting man to share a few pints with.
    Stood in Glasgow Hillhead in 2007 I think.

    The picture of the Tory candidate with David Cameron makes him look disturbingly eager. But then all of the identical PPC photos (presumably they had a line of PPCs who were snapped with their idol one by one, like a school photo) look rather otherworldly.

  7. You did? Actually quite a familiar tale to emerge from Scotland's universities, as folk age and graduate into public life. Rather terrifying in some respects, when I muse on the qualities of some my own contemporaries. A good many decent folk too, however, promising much for the future of our goodly country.

    Save for the expression you mention, - as chipper as a chipper chip is our young Bradley - the detail that particularly caught my eye in the Cameronian scene was the "casually" arranged newspapers and the cups of tea. Just a little touch of the Richard III about it, suggesting that the candidate and the dear leader had just happened to have been enjoying a chinwag over the weekend's headlines - and what luck - a photographer dropped by and discovered them. That is as good as it gets, in these secular days when being caught with a priest would look decidedly shifty. Rather less convincing, of course, when you see the same papers and cups pop up in every PPC's materials...