jimtoggleJim O’Neill says SNP candidates avoiding hustings has become endemic and points to a worrying problem in our politics.

 

What is happening to the SNP constituency campaign? We are hearing of their candidates not turning up for arranged hustings, most recently in Paisley and Coatbridge. In my own Cunninghame South constituency, the SNP candidate called off the biggest hustings at the last minute, going to hospital allegedly with chest pains, but being released two hours later.

Chest pains are often a sign of serious cardiac malfunction and almost always result in an overnight stay in hospital for tests and monitoring. However, the SNP candidate was fit enough to be in Irvine Town Centre the following Saturday giving away kids toys like windmills, balloons and flags. Not a policy leaflet in sight.

This is important in that the hustings was to be recorded by our local community radio station and broadcast to a wider audience than those who could attend. Irvine Beat pulled the programme, citing concerns that it would not be balanced without an SNP voice. The SNP put up no alternative.

Now we hear that their candidate has pulled out of the last major hustings, run by UNISON, apparently sending the 10th place candidate on the list, someone who has no connection with Cunninghame South. Once again the SNP candidate has run away from responding to constituents face to face, in this case important in that she has been instrumental in diving through many of the job losses in North Ayrshire as a result of SNP austerity. UNISON members were wanting to ask her: why?

It was recognised in the last Holyrood parliament that the SNP members were little more than a bunch of Stepford wives, programmed to respond with the same answers as passed to them by SNP high command. That became even more clear in last year’s Westminster election when the candidates were forced to sign a pledge that they would not criticise any SNP policy, no matter its effect on their constituency, nor criticise colleagues nor the SNP High Command. This Stalinist approach to Party management has also been applied to their conferences where they are not allowed to discuss difficult issues such as fracking.

Surely this cannot be good for Scotland’s democracy. SNP-supporting papers regularly attack the Labour Party on the basis of individual members’ statements, as if they have opened up a massive rift in our party policies. Most recent examples are Mary Lockhart on Scexit and Frank Field on Brexit. Both of these are not new positions and are very much in the minority in what is a remarkably policy coherent Party. Anyway, that is how we develop policy in the Labour Party, through open debate rather than through Nicola’s diktat. Many people are now turning away from that and we are definitely seeing a resurgence of our support across the country. Kez needs to embrace this approach, as I am sure she will, and our Party will be the better for it.

Finally, I cannot end without mentioning the bravery of the families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at Hillsborough. They suffered shocking and scurrilous attacks from such as the Sun and Boris Johnston but they stuck to their campaign and finally won the unlawful killing verdict their loved ones deserved. Maybe it is time for an apology from the Sun and from the rest of the Murdoch rags, but I am not holding my breath. What about an investigation into the behaviour of the SUN (Prop: Rupert Murdoch, Editor: Kelvin McKenzie) as to the quality of their reporting, by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (former prop: John Whippingdale). Don’t think that will happen either. All I can say to the families, and to the people of Liverpool is “You’ll never walk alone”.