Friday, 25 July 2008

John Mason MP

Well, what a fantastic result for the SNP in Glasgow East!

It is fast approaching midnight, we didn't get home until 4am this morning, we were up rather early to pick up the keys to our new house in Cumbernauld, and I have spent the rest of the day packing and moving boxes around. My feet still ache from yesterday, I am absolutely shattered, but I couldn't be happier.

The removal van is coming early tomorrow, and so I should head off to bed soon. But there is no way I was going to let these historic events pass without a wee comment on my blog.

It's hard to explain just how amazing it was in the early hours of this morning to learn that John Mason had won the Glasgow East by-election. I don't know if it was because I was so tired, or because my hayfever tablet was wearing off by about 1am, but I must admit to shedding a couple of tears when the news came through. It was a very emotional few hours.

The only thing that actually makes me feel a little sad is that the by-election is over! I have so thoroughly enjoyed campaigning in this by-election. I have met some fantastic people over the last few weeks - fellow activists and Glasgow East residents alike.

I blogged a few days ago about the lady who originally wasn't going to vote for John because he was too good a councillor. Well, on polling day, I was given her street to knock-up. I didn't get her in this time, but I spoke to her husband. He told me they had both voted that morning, and that he had been a lifelong Labour supporter. That's right HAD BEEN. He was now a committed SNP supporter and keen to see independence sooner rather than later. I mentioned to him that I had previously spoken to his wife. He gave me a smile, and said 'Yes, I know. She would never tell you this, but she DID vote for John Mason'. Yeah!

And this by-election has been full of encounters like this - meeting people who had always voted Labour but have switched to the SNP. Not just for this by-election either, and that's what really matters. Speaking to people on the doorsteps, it is clear that interest in and support for independence is growing. There are a huge number of people who are genuinely open-minded about independence, and that in itself is amazing progress. And the more contact they have with SNP activists, to answer their questions and lay to rest some of the outright lies told by the other parties the better things will be.

Labour are now suffering at the polls because of their complacency, their ineffective representation and often indifference to the people they have been elected to serve. I met so many people on the campaign trail who had met their Labour representatives a number of times because of various issues. A good thing you would think? Well, actually, no. The feedback I had from residents was that those who had met their Labour representatives were those most likely to be critical. The very last person I spoke to on polling day was particularly damning of his Labour MSP, who he described as treating him with contempt when he went to this MSP with a housing issue. This man had been speaking to John Mason and Nicola Sturgeon a few days ago, and had been impressed with what they had to say. He was voting SNP for the first time, and swore he would never vote Labour again. As soon as John Mason gets his constituency office up and running, the man I was speaking to will be straight along to see him.

At last, Glasgow East has a hard-working MP who really is on their side.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

John Mason - one woman's verdict

Yes, my blogging has become rather focused on Glasgow East of late and this post is no exception. However, I have spared you from having to view yet another cheesy photo of me on the campaign trail (no camera today).

I just thought I'd take a break from packing (moving a week today!), to share one story from this afternoon. I spoke to a lady on the doorsteps who was undecided who to vote for, and told me that she was specifically struggling with whether or not to vote for John Mason.

I asked her why she was not convinced to vote for John, and she told me that it was for 'selfish reasons'. I was intrigued. I asked what those reasons were. Well, she told me that she thought John was such a good councillor and had done so much for the area, she didn't want to lose him to London!

After explaining that most of the work an MP does is actually at home in the constituency, she was reassured that electing John was indeed also in her best interests. Yes, they have to go to Westminster for debates, committees and to vote but most of their work consists of constituency casework on local issues and helping local people with their problems. So, he would not be 'lost' to London, but rather he would have the opportunity to help even more people in the local area as an MP. And, the bonus would be that the area also had an MP fighting their corner at Westminster.

This is the first person I've ever encountered who was considering NOT voting for a person BECAUSE they were doing a good job! But she was a lovely lady, and we had a really interesting chat. And her sentiments about John's job as a councillor reflect the feedback I've been getting about him on the doorsteps. I knew John was a hard-working councillor, with integrity, and a nice bloke with it - but I had no idea just how popular he was in the local area.

I'm back out tomorrow, and again on polling day. I hope to get the chance to blog before then and soon after the results, but the house move will no doubt have a limiting effect on my internet access for a while.

I am optimistic about the result of the by-election, mainly due to the feedback I've been getting on the doorsteps and from other activists. Fingers crossed for Thursday.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Tales from the east

Well, I've been having a fantastic time campaigning in the Glasgow East by-election, and many a tale to tell. Too many in fact, so I'll just make a few observations.
The photos above were taken at the lunch time rally we had outside the SNP campaign rooms today. I arrived back from a spot of canvassing to find Alex Salmond and then John Mason addressing hundreds of SNP activists - and that was just the people on their lunch break! There were many more out chapping doors and delivering leaflets.
One of the things that I've noticed in this particular by-election has been the number of people very disillusioned with politics, and I've had a number of conversations on the doorsteps that are more than a little similar. The pattern has usually involved me knocking on a door, speaking to some one and them growling back at me about how all politicians are useless. (Shall I resist the urge to say, 'that's because they've all been Labour politicians...'?) But then when I've asked them what makes them think that, it is usually because they are disillusioned specifically with Labour - the party they have traditionally supported. It has also been on a few occasions specifically because of their experience of their Labour representatives, and often because of their inaction. I find it really frustrating that the Labour party has turned so many people off politics - the democratic process that is a vehicle to improving their lives. But, after speaking to people, and taking a note of the issues that they want dealt with - to pass to an effective SNP representative - I haven't quite changed their minds about politicians, but hopefully that will be happening as their SNP councillor or MSP gets in touch to help sort out their problem.
I have also noticed that there is a substantial group of traditional Labour voters who either voted SNP at the last election and plan to do so again on 24 July, and a lot who will be voting SNP for the first time in this by-election. Also very heartening is the level of support for independence, and a curiosity and open-mindedness in others. I have spent a lot of time so far talking to people about independence, and answering any questions they may have.
In fact, one of the last people I spoke to tonight was a lady trimming the hedge in her garden. She was very interested in independence, and felt that there was a lot of negativity about independence from the other parties - but not a lot of substance to back it up. Anyway, she remarked that I must consider her to be a social oddity because she was doing her garden on a Saturday night. I suggested to her, that a woman walking the streets with a clip board speaking to people about politics was in no position to judge! She agreed.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

By-election Update

I was out in Glasgow East again today, and this time I succeeded in getting Anne McLaughlin to stand still long enough to take a quick snap!

Anne is the campaign coordinator for the by-election, and she is doing a fantastic job. The media always refer to the SNP's by-election 'machine', and that machine is people like Anne, me and all the other activists that chap on doors to speak to people, post leaflets through letterboxes and climb up lampposts to put up posters (although with no head for heights I don't help with that one). Then there are the volunteers making sandwiches for all those returning to the campaign rooms for lunch and tea breaks, the people making up all the campaign packs, bundling the leaflets, blowing up and tying up balloons, inputting information, making calls, and too many more jobs to mention. And Anne's job is to coordinate the whole spectrum of campaign activity.

Anyway, enough of 'behind the scenes'. I had a great day campaigning today. Jamie and I met loads of people who are voting SNP, and pretty much everyone we spoke to knew about the by-election. There also seems to be a lot of people wanting to join the SNP, and so a fair number of membership forms are also being handed out on the doorsteps.

I'm not familiar with the parts of Glasgow that the by-election covers, and from coverage in the media you would think it would be quite bleak. It has problems, like most areas, but it also has a lot of positives too. One thing that really strikes me so far is just how friendly everyone is. I've met some great people on the doorsteps, and had some really interesting exchanges. Another thing I've noticed is the number of people who have met John Mason over the years as their local councillor, and there is a lot of goodwill towards him.

A few people have asked me what our chances are of winning this by-election, and so people are really aware of the potential to upset the Labour Party that has so badly let them down.

I think having John Mason as the candidate, a well-known and well-liked local councillor for a fair chunk of the constituency, the growing popularity of the SNP and a Labour Party in disarray may be a winning formula...

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Glasgow East By-Election

I'm sure I'll blog on this topic a few times over the next few weeks, but I just wanted to reflect briefly on the campaign activity today.

Despite the rain (I am just about dry now), I had a fantastic day campaigning with SNP members from all over the country. I spoke to some great people on the doorstep, and was heartened to meet many people who consider themselves to be traditional Labour supporters, but either switched to the SNP for last year's election or who have decided to vote for the SNP since the election last May.

Out again tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep now. Further campaign updates soon.