Before going so much as a sentence further, I really should point out that this blog is unlikely to be of any interest whatsoever to anyone other than ‘Yes’ supporters in Dumfries and Galloway. So there you go. Pre-warned is pre-armed and all that.
Yesterday my phone beeped at me to announce that a message had landed in the box from Richard Arkless. He is campaigning hard to become the SNP candidate for our region in next May’s General Election. The message said he was in the process of setting up his candidate website and he wondered if I might be willing to write a few words.
Well Richard, a few words are the very least I can do.
I can’t pretend to know Richard well, but for a few months in the crazy countdown to the Referendum vote we became fellow travelers in the cause of ‘Yes’. We had quite a lot in common as a pair of ‘Ordinary Joes’ learning as we went along how to deal with the hurly burly of politics.
It seems worth kicking off with one of the issues that stirred things up on last night’s Question Time. Are today’s politicians detached? Have far too many of them done nothing more than get straight A’s in school, the right degree in University and done the right amount of crawling as so called ‘special advisors’ and sycophantic tea makers?
Want a case study?
So here’s a case study.
Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Right Honourable Jim Murphy. Jim left school at 18 and took up a place to study Politics and European Law at
. He then studied
Politics and European Law at Strathclyde
University for THE NEXT NINE YEARS! Strathclyde
Well, as a fiction writer I would never dare to make this up but it is entirely true - Jim never actually managed to graduate. Nine years and no degree!
However Jim spent his nine years productively. He made a beeline for the National Union of Students where he duly ingratiated himself with the powers that be in Scottish Labour. Who needs a degree when a bit for frantic crawling can win you the chance of getting into the mother of all Parliaments despite neither having worked a day in your life?
Well Jim made it all the way to the big house and predictably he became one of Tony Blair’s most fawning acolytes. He actually made it all the way to Shadow Defence Secretary where he took every chance to hobnob with anyone with Afghan dust on their boots. My how tough he talked to the Taliban through the lens of the TV cameras, though he didn’t prove to be quite such a tough guy when his steadiness under fire was tested by an incoming egg.
Jim is hardly alone in riding the Parliamentary gravy train with a CV devoid of real life experience.
Check out Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper. A nice Hampshire girl who was top of everything at school. She then got a first in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford and was duly welcomed onto the gravy train with open arms. She did her bit researching for John Smith and Harriet Harman and was duly rewarded with the ultra safe seat of Pontefract and Castleford.
As in an Oxbridge nice girl from leafy Hampshire who has never done a proper job in her life being foisted onto people who once upon a time mined coal for a living.
As a Northerner myself, I can only wonder at how pissed off the good folk of that particular bit of South Yorkshire must have been to have someone like Yvette Copper parachuted in to become their voice.
The pathetic and infuriating life stories of Murphy and Cooper highlight the fact that Richard absolutely ain’t one of those.
Like I said, he’s an Ordinary Joe who has lived and breathed in the hard school of the real world. During the Indy campaign, he was always the one who was given the hardest job – it was down to Richard to explain all the unintelligible Economics stuff. He shelled out a couple of hundred quid or so to join up with Business Scotland and was duly rewarded by being given the job of explaining what GDP was to the good folk of Dumfries and Galloway. Time and again when chatting to people after meetings, they told me how amazed they were at finally understanding what GDP was for the first time in their lives.
I never failed to be impressed by Richard’s grasp of all aspects of the economy and the clear way he was able to explain it. Not once did I hear him resort to the comfort zone of jargon. I know this will annoy him, but the way he explains complicated stuff has much in common with Nigel Farage. Sorry about that Rich, but the ability to talk like a human being is not a thing to be underestimated!
For the last few weeks of the campaign Richard was out and about every night knocking doors and doing meetings. Sometimes there were 200 people in the hall, sometimes a mere ten. He didn’t get paid and I shudder to think how much his business suffered.
Nobody was left in any doubt as to why he threw himself into the fray with such wholehearted commitment.
Richard is a believer – plain and simple. He wants his kids to grow up in a country governed from a Parliament in
At times the campaign got pretty brutal. One night Richard and I found ourselves debating Russell Brown MP and Elaine Murray MSP in Moniave. At the 'Yes' table there was a charity manager and a Stranraer businessman. At the 'No' table there were two professional politicians with well over thirty years of experience under their belts. I think it is fair to say that neither of the full time politicos were in any mood to pull any punches that night! When Richard said that in his opinion the Scots were the greatest people on earth, Elaine called him a racist. Things got pretty heated. No quarter was asked and absolutely none was given. Richard never took a backward step and when economics were under discussion he ran rings round the supposed experts. It was genuinely tough gig.
Who won? Well here’s a clue. As we all know, the ‘No’ campaign won by two to one in Dumfries and
‘Yes’ only managed to buck the trend in the poorer places where people are
being hammered into the ground by the Welfare Reforms.
So what of Moniave? Well surely Moniave must have been a sure-fire bastion of ‘No’. A postcard pretty rural village with 40% of the residents being incomers from south of the border. Well folks, Moniave voted ‘Yes’. It was a heroic splash of red in an unrelenting sea of countryside blue.
I reckon that night in Moniave offers all the evidence required that Richard is the right guy to carry the torch for us next May. It is one hell of an ask for anyone representing the SNP to actually win the seat, but I would give Richard a fighting chance.
If any of these words have in any way, shape or form persuaded you to give the lad your backing then please share them around among the other 2000 folk who will chose who we send out to carry on the fight next May.