Let Glasgow Flourish

It’s a common – and often justified – complaint that Scotland’s mainstream media outlets focus disproportionately on Glasgow when deeming what’s worthy of ‘news’ status.  This time, however, the goings-on over recent weeks at Hollywood’s favourite Kremlin substitute have been entirely worthy of the headline treatment.  You’ll forgive me for treating the next sentence to a paragraph entirely to itself:

Labour is now a minority party on Glasgow City Council.

My first campaign as a bright-eyed newly paid-up SNP member was the 1995 Council Elections.  That resulted in our having 1 councillor out of 79, versus a monolithic 71 for Labour (election anoraks may like to know it would likely have been 1 from 90, had the District/Region set-up been retained).  The last time Labour were deprived of a majority in Glasgow, the Foreign Office were sending photos of dead bodies to Olympic athletes to dissuade them from competing in Moscow, and homosexuality was still a criminal offence. Other than a 3-year interregnum, Labour held total domination in the City Chambers for decades.  Until 9th February 2012.

That night the late-night political discussion programmes were treated to the spectacle of Labour’s Stephen Curran protesting that the day’s Labour budget had went very well for the party – as a majority of Labour councillors had voted for it!  You could almost hear Malcolm Tucker in the background, spontaneously adding to the Chambers Dictionary with a half-page of compound expletives.  Speculation that council leader Gordon Matheson had requisitioned all the city’s supplies of smelling salts remained, alas, unconfirmed.

More serious were the images of a tearful Anne-Marie Millar, until Wednesday a Labour councillor, alleging that implied threats had been made against her son’s continued apprenticeship should she side with the Opposition. Given historical precedent (cf. Bob Gould’s almost accidental exposure of ‘Votes for Trips’), the incident was sadly all too believable.  Millar’s leaving the party, taken with the resignations (de facto or deliberate) of five other councillors and Irfan Rabbani’s move to the SNP, leave what was once the citadel of Establishment dominance a hung council, Leader Matheson dependent on those outwith the Labour fold to maintain control between now and May’s elections.  On a council that but five years ago contained 69 Labour councillors from the 79.

Such loss of control is the inevitable culmination of a culture where any notion of political innovation was buried long ago.  A culture where what matters is the dynamic and powerplay within the group, not how best to move Glasgow forward.  A brief example; Thursday’s combined Opposition budget contained a proposal to erect solar panels on city primary schools, taking advantage of the stay of execution on feed-in tariffs.  The question then arises – why wasn’t this done years ago?  A proliferation of municipal property, a generous scheme of (effective) subsidy, and a small role in reducing council expenditure and carbon emissions.  A no-brainer, you may think; then think of the dead hand on the reins of power and reflect.

However the cards fall for myself and my fellow candidates of all parties on May 3rd, it seems desperately obvious that the things that have been contemptuously buried by decades of Labour rule – openness, accountability, a readiness to listen, an ability to consult, and the humility of power – are exactly those which should be celebrated as the way to start the process of harnessing the clout and talent within Glasgow City Council to make the case, rhetorically and practically, for progressive and inclusive politics alongside Glaswegians of all political colours and none.

The city deserves nothing less.

Comments (15)

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  1. Morag Lennie says:

    Excellent article. I wish I could come and campaign for all of you, but too decrepit, but will be sending all positive vibes, and some reiki too, to speed your victory.

  2. Tony says:

    Good read Jonathan. Was the solar panels our initiative or led by the greens?

    1. Obviously there’s crossover to the Greens’ policies, but solar panels/feed-in tariffs have been under discussion within Glasgow SNP previously,

  3. Dan Vevers says:

    I’ll be out campaigning for you as the “bright-eyed newly-paid-up SNP member” you once were. The cycle repeats eh!

    1. Morag Lennie says:

      Thanks Dan.

    2. I was 15 at the time, so incredibly bright-eyed! Sadly the tolls of life have been extracted from the pupils ever since 😉

  4. ljs says:

    Any one else notice that on friday while Stv news led with the bomb hoax and then spent a lot of time on the fallout from this, the bbc went with Craig whyte as the lead and ignored this story all togather?

    1. Albalha says:

      Yes noticed that to be accurate BBC Rep Scot devoted 15/20 secs to it but STV, as you say, gave a comprehensive account of the days going ons including the claim that a group of those who have been deslected may form some sort of independent Glasgow Labour Party, anyone know anymore about these plans? Having witnessed the eventual erosion of Labour’s stranglehold over the City of Dundee I hope the voters in Glasgow will get behind the SNP.

  5. carandol says:

    I can’t post what I wish to here …………………..

  6. Ross says:

    Excellent article, made for very good reading! This is great news for us all. I’m now going to be very childish and call my friend up to say “told you so” as he said just weeks ago that Glasgow would never be anything by Labour held territory and that they would never support the SNP. Roll on 2014!

  7. Ewanmc says:

    There is no doubt that governance in Glasgow needs to radically alter. I was as at City Chambers on Thursday and took great delight in seeing the difficulties Glasgow Labour were experiencing.

    I attended with carers for the Accord Learning Disability Centre which is being shut for Commonwealth Games with no ‘like for like’ replacement. We know about bullying from the Labour group with one carer being verbally bullied by a Councillor last year.

    Carers however are also concerned about the £10 million cuts to the disabled budget, something that was also included in the ‘alternative budget’. The wider story of cuts to the most vulnerable in the city is therefore buried.

  8. Scottish republic says:

    Interesting read – thanks.

    It’s difficult to believe Glaswegians just go out and vote Labour… Labour… Labour, even without the SNP agenda of independence. Forever, Glasgow has been inefficient to a degree that demanded Labour be unceremonously kicked out of office. I hope they will be – at least they’ll have bloodied noses.

    Lamont’s constituency is at the heart of the current Labour revolt – one is not surprised – she being so unpalatable at FMQs: point scoring with a false rape case; a tragic child homicide, grubby personal attacks on our FM; and this week attacking the SG for not giving Scottish steel makers a fair crack at tendering for Forth Crossing Bridge subcontracts. The embarrassing scene as the FM pointed out she didn’t even know the financial figures involved – he patiently explained – she read her next preprepared question and looked ridiculous. Not surprised her constituency is at the heart of the grimy undoings.

    I didn’t think it would be possible to get a worse opposition leader than ‘Gypsy Alma’, ‘Subway Warrior’ Gray… but she’s a lot worse and quite a sordid person going by her attacks on the FM.

    1. James Morton says:

      I think people voted labour largely out of fear of conservatives, but increasingly when there was no real alternative it was done largely out of habit. But I think this current breed of labour apparatchik have a sense of entitlement to the Scottish vote that beggars belief. It beggars belief because they are so bloody hopeless.
      Hopefully with people looking at the SNP as a real alternative for once, they are going to have the very foundations of their ivory towers brought down around their heads.

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