I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Twitter gives us a snapshot of all sorts of things we would never usually see. Take the chart above as a classic example. It came to my attention via a retweet from Billy Bragg. His view was that it offered yet more evidence of the slow and dismal demise of the Labour Party in Britain.
So I took a moment and enlarged the image.
And having given it a quick once over, I couldn’t disagree with Billy’s instincts.
I gather that Robert James Mitchell is an Edinburgh based Labour man. His Twitter feed is certainly dominated by tweet after tweet extolling the virtues of Ed Milliband and his half hearted army with the kind of blind zeal that ambitious Soviet apparatchiks once showed for Comrade Stalin.
Fair enough.
It takes all sorts I guess.
So what was Robert James Mitchell’s big play? What great Socialist dream had kept him up deep into the wee small hours lovingly creating his lovely colourful chart? In the long lost days of Kier Hardie when the Labour Party was born, the likes of Robert James Mitchell dreamed pretty big dreams. It was all about World Peace and free health and education and the chance to join a Union without getting your head stoved in. These were the dreams which enabled Clem Atlee and Nigh Bevan to steer Britain out of the wreckage of the Second World War into the sunlit garden called the Welfare State. Imagine the kind of charts Robert James Mitchell might have come up with had he been around in those heady days of the late 40’s.
But things have changed.
It seems there is no room for big dreams any more. Instead the party of Kier Hardie and Clem Atlee and Tony Benn has now kicked off its bid for power by creating a mug boasting of a tough line on immigration.
And instead of dreams there seems to be little more than bitterness and petty hatred.
The chart.
Oh yes. The bloody chart.
Robert James Mitchell’s soaring vision to rally the tired troops of Scottish Labour for the big push on May 7th.
And what a vision it is.
Basically do anything in your power to stop the SNP getting a single vote. Vote LibDem. Vote Tory. Vote UKIP. Vote Nazi. Vote Genghis Khan. Vote bloody anyone at all so long as it isn’t those hated swine who follow 'the most dangerous woman in Britain'.
What a complete and utter sad pratt. But let’s face it, being a Twitter pratt is hardly a thing to persuade the editor to stop the front page. Is Robert James Mitchell’s spiteful little chart worth getting hot under the collar about? Not really. 
From any kind of intellectual point of view, the chart proves that Robert James Mitchell has some pretty huge challenges.
Check the blindingly obvious maths. Whoever wins the most seats has first dibs at forming the next government. Maybe it will be the Tories, maybe it will be Labour. It certainly won’t be the SNP. So tactical voting for a Tory is a pretty dumb move in anyone’s book if they purport to support Labour. And then assuming Cameron squeaks in with the most seats, then he will look to cobble together another coalition. Where will he look first? Oh yeah. His pals from the last five years. Those good old LibDems. So that seems to make tactical voting for Clegg’s boys to be every much as dumb an idea to tactically voting for the Tories.
If on the other hand Ed Milliband defies all expectations and crawls over the line, then his one and only hope of hanging on to any semblance of power will be to make nice with the SNP.
So whichever way you look at it, Robert James Mitchell’s chart is very seriously idiotic. But of course Robert James Mitchell plainly has no interest whatsoever in anything as boring as seeing his party take up the reins of power. Instead all he cares about is indulging his childish hatred of the SNP. I guess he must have had a rough time of it during the Referendum.
So the playground pettiness of the chart fell a long way short of getting me wound up and thumping the keyboard. Instead it was the sight of the blue panel at four o’clock on Robert James Mitchell’s chart.
Dumfriesshire, Clydedale and Tweeddale.
OK. I know what some of you are thinking. This of course is the seat that is home to Scotland’s one and only Tory, David Mundell MP. And some of you might be aware that the aforesaid David Mundell has recently had a pop at me in the Scottish Parliament claiming I am a person whose words should be taken with ‘a pinch of salt’ due to my efforts for the ‘Yes’ campaign. Surely the idea of anyone suggesting mass Labour tactical voting to keep David living the life he had become accustomed to is the thing that has got my Mr Angry juices flowing. Were that the case, then I would be every much a part of the school yard as Robert James Mitchell.
The reason why the sight of Dumfriesshire, Clydedale and Tweeddale framed in blue has got be spitting mad has nothing to do with what the incumbent Tory had to say about me. Instead it has everything to do with the Labour candidate who is fighting the seat.
The Labour candidate is Archie Dryburgh and Archie is a mate of mine.
In every respect, Archie is the kind of throwback Labour man that Kier Hardie would have had no trouble at all in recognising. Archie didn’t follow the gilded path from a PPE degree from Oxford to a shoe in safe seat like Balls, Milliband and Cooper. He certainly didn’t study for nine tax payer funded years without ever managing to graduate like Jim Murphy.
Instead Archie left school for the Gordon Highlanders and cut his teeth on the mean streets of Northern Ireland through the hard years of the Eighties. Civvy St saw him become a union man with Unite. For years he oversaw the health and safety of the workers tasked with decommissioning the nuclear power plant at Chapelcross. More recently he has been one of the most energetic of our local Councillors. He is the ‘Veterans Champion’ for Dumfries and Galloway and he has helped loads of the guys who have come through our doors since we started our Veterans Project.
Archie always returns calls and I very much doubt if he has ever judged anyone in his life. As a soldier, union man and elected politician, he has spent the whole of his adult life serving in one way or another.
In every respect he is one of the good guys. More to the point, he is in every respect what a Labour politician is supposed to look like. He has done the hard yards and seem plenty of life in the raw. I wonder if anything in Robert James Mitchell’s life has ever come close to facing down a cascade of petrol bombs on a Belfast street? Without pulling the trigger?
I very much doubt it. And staying up late to design a silly chart has nothing to do with what Kier Hardie started in Cumnock all those years ago.
Archie gave up his job to become a candidate. A hell of a sacrifice and one which I very much doubt if I would ever make. For months and months he has been chapping doors and doing the hard yards. During the Referendum campaign, he stood out as one of the best of the ‘No’ guys. He made his case for the Union honestly and fairly and I never saw him descend into the kind of arrogant nastiness that so many failed to resist. Instead he did his best to highlight what he believed were the good parts of the Union he had once carried a gun for.
Fair enough. Democracy, right?
We locked horns in a debate in Langholm. For a couple of hours we knocked ten bells out of each other and then we had a pint.
The huge post referendum SNP surge must have come as a huge kick in the teeth for Archie. All of a sudden every man and his dog seemed to be signing on the dotted line for the Nationalists. Worse still, most of those men and dogs in question were Labour men and dogs. Many were old school. Campaigners. Leafleters. Door knockers. And now they were exchanging red rosettes for yellow ones.
Suddenly being the Labour candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydedale and Tweeddale was a pretty tough gig. Not that I noticed Archie taking any backward steps. When all is said and done, the battle of the doorsteps in the constituency is rather less daunting that the battle of the doorsteps was in the Ardoyne and Ballymurphy. Better to get a door slammed in you face by a pissed off voter than have the door explode in your face care of a couple of pounds of PIRA Semtex.
So Archie faces an uphill fight and I have no doubt he will fight it all the way to the finish line. And right now he has the task of cajoling reluctant his Labour troops away from the tele to get out and take up the fight against the surging Nats. Not easy I guess. I guess many will prefer to spend an evening watching yet another Celebrity cooking show to heading out into a wet, rainy night to knock a few doors.
It’s a tough place and a time for all hands to appear on deck and all that. A time to stand up and be counted. A time to rally round.
And what does so called Labour supporter Robert James Mitchell do to help? He sits up late in his Edinburgh bedroom to create his crappy little chart. And then he sends his spiteful creation out into the ether to urge Labour supporters to walk away from Archie and cast their votes for the Right Honourable David Mundell MP.
For spite.
You pitiful little cretin.
If you want to get out of your bedroom and see what an real Labour man looks like in the flesh, then get yourself on a bus and head down here. Try knocking a few doors. Try putting yourself in the line of fire. Try actually doing something rather than playing your pathetic little games.
I very much doubt if you have ever done anything in your life to earn the right to tell Labour voters to desert Archie in favour of a tactical vote for the Tories.
I suggest you disappear back into your nasty, poisoned little box and stay there

A Labour man Kier Hardie would recognise


  1. I am really saddened by this, Mark. I am sure he is a decent bloke, but voting for him is also backing the unprincipled, lying scum that now infest the Labour Party. Murphy, Curren, Lamont and the rest finished. me with Labour thanks to their enthusiastic collaboration with the Tories and the Orange Order, and now again with the Telegraph and the rerun of the Zinovieff Letter in the Mail.

    Even if I vote for him, and he wins, he will not be able to prevent the renewal of Trident or help make foodbanks redundant. I am voting for Emma Harper. Only the SNP can serve Scotland. I wish he would leave the party of Blair, Balls, Brown and Murphy, and come home.

  2. Fair enough. To be honest I almost always vote for the person rather than any party. In my case this is easy as the SNP candidate for my manor is Richard Arkless who became a good mate during the 'Yes' campaign. I had I lived where you live it would have been a tough choice. I met Emma recently and she seems a thoroughly good sort. In the end though I don't think I would have been able not to vote for Archie. a mate's a mate when all is said and done!