In keeping with my previous blog post about focussing on the ward and the city, I’m not going to add my voice to the cacophony of comment about the “Events” of the past week and the febrile and hysterical atmosphere that is prevailing at Westminster. Other than observing that if I was a Labour councillor in England who had lost their seat this week I would be sick to my stomach at the thought that I was paying the price for parlimentarians greedy mistakes and self-serving egotistical spasms. It looks like a long hot summer of political drama – oh, to be a political journalist and have all this ready made copy falling from the skies…Anyway, I’m prompted to post about the Drumchapel/Anniesland by-election , not just because we won, but to give a perspective of why and what this means. Yes, it was one our safest seats in the city and we were expected to win the fourth seat in the multi-member ward when Bill Kidd stepped down – not that the SNP press release on announcing his giving up of the two job mandate recognised that. A very bold statement was made to the effect that this would be a referendum on Steven Purcell in his own backyard and particularly on our education policies and school mergers. Also that the SNP councillors would be very active on the ground in the ward, campaigning on this issue. If that was the plan, then it went sadly awry as the SNP councillor bloggers themselves have revealed by their posts about how they were campaigning in their own wards for the European elections – we were on the ground every day and ended up having a daily “Spot the SNP councillor” sweepstake. Given that they knew Bill Kidd was stepping down and had time to prepare, their first piece of election material was woeful – anyone can be caught out with the odd typo, but 14 spelling mistakes in one newsletter ? Also, a very odd message about their candidate not always seeing eye to eye with the MSP ? Not understanding that this was the wrong ward to be attacking us on schools and not having a positive message of why to vote SNP was also puzzling – surely the line should’ve been, you have 3 Labour councillors , why have 4 out of 4 ? It was a real back to the future campaign , relentlessly negative and petulant, and sending a pledge letter to one of our sitting councillors in the ward on eve of poll suggests there wasn’t a great degree of local knowledge in directing activities. Much has been made of the swing in the result, but to call a loss a “fantastic result” is really taking spin a step too far. In the current circumstances, holding that ward with 48 % of the vote is a real vindication of the local Labour party and the sitting councillors. I find it offensive and insulting to voters for opposition apologists to use the “monkey in a red rosette” argument to explain away the result here and in Coatbridge and Bishopbriggs. The fact is we are well aware that we have to work hard all year round and campaign effectively to win seats – we won because we had a good local candidate with solid roots in her community, we had a good track record in that ward of hard working councillors, we took nothing and no-one for granted and worked our socks off in the campaign. The times have changed, there isn’t a tribal vote anymore, the voters aren’t sheep, they do know what they’re doing, I’m not under any illusions about where we are as a party right now, probably in my own ward the Labour share of the vote would mirror the national picture right now on 23 % ( I’m the sole Labour member in the Partick West ward elected on 29% of the vote in 2007 in one of the most electorally diverse wards in the city) and Sunday’s Euro results will be grim – but to hold 3 council seats in by-elections in Scotland this week is swimming against the tide ..and only the most rabid members of the opposition won’t recognise that.
Have taken time out from blogging for a while, and I notice that some fellow councillor bloggers have done this as well – no doubt they experience the same difficulties as I do , ie; what is the best use of our time and what is the blog for ? Tempting though it is to weigh in on national and party politics, our focus is inevitably local and most of the positive feedback I’ve had about this vanity publishing exercise is about the value of local information about what’s happening in the ward, rather than any partisan party political comments or attempts at being a manque political reporter. So, notwithstanding all the upheaval in the body politic at present , I hereby pledge to keep this to Partick news from now on – and another reason I was wary of blogging this year is the Bridezilla effect, as my main topic of conversation is wedding plans and was concerned that might spill over onto the blogsphere.. So – the main news this week is the Big Lottery have finally come through with the grant for the second phase of improvements to Mansfield Park -over half a millon pounds, £677,743 to be precise , announced on Tuesday. I had an anniversary last week, on Friday 7th May it was 10 years to the day that I was first elected. One of the first meetings I had was with the director of the local housing assocation , who pointed to the derelict area outside their offices and said “Can’t you do something about that ?” . Better late than never…
Tha Comhairle Baile Ghlaschu air spionnadh a thoirt do dh’iomairt gus an sianal didseatach Gàidhlig, BBC Alba, fhaighinn air Freeview nas luaithe.
Bhòt comhairlichean gu h-aona-ghuthach airson na h-iomairt aig coinneimh Diardaoin.
Sgrìobhaidh iad a-nis gu Urras a’ BhBC a chur ìmpidh orra an sianal a chur air Freeview cho luath ‘s a ghabhas.
A rèir poileasaidh an Urrais aig an ìre seo, cha thachradh sin gu 2010 aig a’ char a bu luaithe.
An-dràsta, chan fhaighear an sianal ach air Freesat agus Sky.
Thuirt tè de na comhairlichean, Aileen Colleran, gun robh daoine air an glasadh a-mach.
“Tha daoine a phàigheas cìs a’ chead air an glasadh a-mach, nuair a tha còir aca a bhith comasach air a h-uile prògram fhaicinn,” thuirt i.
Or in .. depending on whether keeping young people in school during lunch times is an answer to the problems of chaos and litter in streets around secondary schools as the pupils pile out of school to hit the nearest chippy/takeaway – with the consequential effects on their health as well as degrading the local environment. One of the interesting aspects of teenage litter fall-out is that all the years of eco-schooling and environmental education is that for a minority this doesnt always translate to personal behaviour..not to mention first flat syndrome as some students and young people who may, in all probablity consider voting Green, are unable to undertake the tedious chore of bagging their refuse and putting it in the communal bin shelters…So, as an attempt to address the school meals issue, the Labour group agreed yesterday to pilot a project that proposes keeping first year pupils in secondary schools in at lunchtime. Hopefully the full council will agree to try this – and the fact that St Thomas Aquinas Secondary is one of the pilot schools was welcomed by Jordanhill Community Council last night. I do remember my own school days (ok, not yesterday)and will admit to trips to the City Bakeries for fried egg rolls and Eiffel Towers or pineapple cakes washed down with a can of Irn Bru and an additional dessert course of Mars Bars and Creme Eggs…but just because I survived on a diet of saturated fats and e-numbers doesnt mean it was right…!
Bit light on the blogging front this week, mainly because I’ve been reading rather than logging on, and spending some time in my own ward, which is nice – getting the 62 bus west instead of east.. Am reading “Shopped” and “Bad Food Britain” by Joanna Blythman, as well as “Toast” by Nigel Slater. Books about food and our shopping and poor cooking culture that have really got me thinking again about what we eat and how it affects us. The debate about health and obesity is quite focussed on individual behavour and all the health promotion messages place a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility – which is understandable, but, I wonder, maybe a bit simplistic and missing a key aspect the key cause of poor health – bad diet and how that’s related to the type of food we have easy access to ? The amount of fast, processed and takeaway food we eat in Britain is way beyond what other countries in Europe consume. Rather than blame the punters though, perhaps we should ask , how easy is it for us to buy those fresh, locally grown vegetables, meat and fish that should make up our diet ? Have planning policies and the almost unrestrained growth of supermarkets made our food culture the cheapest but most impoverished in Europe ? I feel very strongly about this – almost because my ward is one of the few areas of the city where you can still shop in local fruit and veg shops, butchers, fish shops, delis, and a farmers market twice a month. It still takes a conscious effort to remind yourself that buying a gigot chop in a local butcher is better than a microwave ready meal of substandard gloop , and that it’s as quick to microwave a fillet of fish with lemon juice and butter than phone the takeaway , but at least I’ve got those choices. I’ve blogged about this before, but Paris is a city that has a healthy retail mix – supermarkets for the boring stuff (cat litter, loo roll , washing up liquid..) , but small interesting shops for fish, meat, cheese and bread (oh, what I wouldn’t give for the enquivalent of the bakery in the Rue Monge , with the best croissants in the known universe and a blackcurrant and almond tart to die for) . There’s a real inequality in that it’s really only in certain parts of Glasgow that people have access to those diverse food retail options – the West End, parts of Dennistoun and Shawlands – in other words the more aspirational and affluent parts of the city. It’s not that Mums necessarily want to shop in I*****d , but sometimes, that’s all there is.
Which brings me nicely to Tesco and the on-going saga. Well, as I announced in the blog a few months ago, they’ve got their foothold in Partick, on Dumbarton Road. However, the Beith Street megastore is on the back burner as they don’t own all the land to make their planning consent granted by the Scottish government happen- and in the meantime, Glasgow Harbour have a pending application for a superstore (brand unspecified) in South Street in Whiteinch , which should be heard sometime in the New Year.
As to the Farmer’s market, it should be returning to Mansfield Park on Saturday December 13th – I haven’t blogged about the quiet re-opening of the park, and we deliberately didn’t have a big wow let’s jump up and down about the fact that a multi-million pound investment in the ward has come to fruition – but it’s looking good …
Otherwise known as the walk back from Caledonia Primary – congratulations Councillor Andy Muir , and never has a candidate been more deserving of winning but the real winners will be the people of Baillieston ward. Hard working and intelligent and a librarian – a winning combination… and it’s been a good night in terms of results for the Labour party in Scotland , but we all recognise that it’s only by really engaging with people and working hard and not just listening, but acting, on their concerns, that we win the trust of the electorate. No triumphalism, no singing of everything’s coming up (red) roses, but let’s get serious – and work it.
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion
Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs
Don’t you know
You better run, run, run…
Oh I said you better Run, run, run…
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ bout a revolution
Which I’m not of course - but Born in Bolton doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.. Obviously this is one of those pivotal nights in history, and the closest thing to heaven for electoral anoraks. The Bruce Springsteen song that entitles this blog post is quite poignant and was often misinterpreted as a strident pro-American rallying cry by those who didnt listen to the lyrics. It’s one of his bleakest songs about the disillusionment of a Vietnam vet who feels betrayed by his country, only equalled by Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road”. However, whether the experiences of John McCain as a Vietnam vet have the emotional resonance to appeal to a tribal (and possibly racially divided) “patriotic” vote , or whether America is ready to move on and there’s been a real cultural and generational shift, the next couple of hours will tell
Well ,the past hour was a bit nervous and it did seem as if the pundits were well out when landslides were being talked about but the projections for Pennsylvania now look good , as do the early returns from Florida. It’s still not clear but the trend does seem to be towards Obama.
Waiting on Ohio (whoah, just called for Obama .. Could this be it ?!) and Colorado – the latter being one of my favourite states in America (and the home of my football team, the Denver Broncos). I’ve been lucky enough to have done a bit of travelling in America, mostly on coach tours in the west, with amazing experiences along the way, such as a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon and a balloon trip over the desert in Arizona and Monument Valley – and speaking to many people along the way – and it’s a more diverse and tolerant country than we sometimes think and maybe tonight will provide the proof of that.
It’s 2.30am and it looks as if we’re getting to the moment of truth – this time four years and eight years ago I was off to bed with a very heavy heart – but this is feeling very different and the images that stay with me are the long lines of people waiting for hours to vote -can you imagine that happening here, although the complicated verification process is a factor.
3.30 am and what the heck.. the champagne’s been chilling for far too long and don’t think it’s pre-empting the result now ..a change is going to come (Sam Cooke , and maybe that shouldve been the blog post title..)
4am : Incredible, but true, it’s happened – it is possible for hope and idealism to be part of politics.
Which was the first guess of the Primary 6 class in Broomhill Primary , when I asked them what they thought my former job connected to books was .. Along with editor, poet and journalist. The seventh guess was librarian !I was invited to take part in their Book Week and read from my favourite childrens book – a bit of a dilemma. How to choose an age appropriate book that was genuinely a childhood favourite that would be of interest to young people today ? (No point in choosing Harry Potter as I could hardly claim that as a book from my young reading days).
I read from “The Lion the witch and the wardrobe” by CS Lewis , which has always been an enchanting story – with allegorical undertones but as with the Lord of the Rings , also works as a good story well told.
I’m passionate about reading , especially as a way of empowering yourself as a child and young person – to read for yourself, instead of being directed by well meaning adults.. It’s about taking charge of your own education and making your own mind up. I was an obsessive reader , almost destined to be a librarian , resenting any activity that took me away from escaping into a book. That’s why picking a favourite from childhood was almost impossible – from Beatrix Potter to Thomas the Tank Engine to Wind in the Willows to Enid Blyton ( I know , but if we’re being honest..) to Arthur Ransome, Antonia Forrest, Roald Dahl, Elinor Brent Dyer.. Not to mention a crossover into adult fiction at an early age (for some reason the novels of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen were on my library ticket before secondary school) – I do miss the serendipity of discovering books the way I did when I worked in the libraries (being paid to read..)but books are still very much part of my life and I find the charity shops in Partick are good for that – recently picked up David Niven’s “The Moons a Balloon” – an autobiographical classic that’s now out out of print.
The Partick West area committee had a meeting today- this is the council committee that brings together the councillors and community council reps to discuss issues relating to the ward, and also has a small budget for grants for community groups. When I was chair of the previous areas committee I started a process of annual agenda setting , so that instead of just receiving reports from departments and services, we could pro-actively ask for reports on issues we wanted to discuss, and scrutinise the work of each council department in the ward (and some external organisations).
Not surprisingly, the hot topic that we’ve asked for a report on and discussion about at the next committee is the outcome of the consultation on parking. Traffic management and road safety issues are also high on the agenda, as well as cleansing issues (recycling and bulk uplift), access to community facilities , especially the use of school premises and the issue of charges for community groups. Planning developments – not just City Plan 2 , but also a strategic overview of major developments in and around the area , and a report on the impact of the credit crunch.. Information about the ward and services and facilities is also an issue – in other words, how can people be better informed about their local area, and recognising that the internet isn’t always the be all and end all for this – after all, not every website is easy to use to find out what you need to know , always assuming you have access in the first place. Quite a lot to be going on with (and many more issues too numerous to list were floated) but if anyone is accessing this blog that lives in the ward and would like to add their suggestions for issues … ?
We also had a report outlining the council’s Gaelic language plan which is out for consultation, and a report on Victoria Park that we’d asked for , outlining when and how a park management plan will be developed – next spring , and everyone at the meeting agreed this was a good idea as it’ll enable eveyone to have more say in what they’d like to see happen in the park and how it can be improved and maintained as one of the best parks in the city.
When the cleansing issue was discussed, the subject of abandoned fridges was raised, and am not sure that everyone believed me when I said there’s a website dedicated to the Fridges of Partick – here’s the proof http://partickfridges.blogspot.com/
Someone has a mordant sense of humour – and I can’t think of a better illustration of the bulk uplift problem that has only been exacerbated by the council policy of having set days for bulk uplift from the street – I’ve moaned about this before and will continue to do so – inviting people to clutter the streets on set days just gives carte blanche to on street dumping every day of the week .. this must change !
- Area Committees
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- General Election
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