Monday, September 26, 2016

Going, Going, Gone, high profile former Westminster Candidate Braden Davy defects to the Scottish Conservatives citing the Labour Party is ‘weak’ on Scottish independence, after Kezia Dugdale said she could support independence voters left, activists don’t want to come out and key donors aren’t funding the party, I think that could be classed as a major mistake which will come back to further haunt the party

Dear All

During the EU referendum, I fought on the side of the Vote Leave campaign; in fact I attended the launch in the Central Station Hotel in Glasgow where a UK Government Minister gave a brief talk.

The event was reasonably well attended considering it was setup on the hoof, there were a couple of other speakers, Tom Harris, the ex Labour MP was the person in charge in Scotland for Vote Leave.

Prior to the launch taking place, I had been campaigning in Glasgow helping to found and setup the Glasgow Street stall, I was specifically asked to attend this event because one of the core people wanted my input as a campaigner.

The first day, I turned up, the work rate went through the roof, previously years ago I used to be; Glasgow SNP’s top activist, I was pretty well known as a campaigner. Afterwards, I gave the person running the event my take on what they were doing, what needed to be changed and future ideas for the stall on Buchanan Street; I was doing most of the talking at that meeting. Later on after the meeting ended the person who asked me to help thanked me for my efforts, both on the day and the advice afterwards, because it wasn’t their speciality. 

Once up and running, the Buchanan Street stall churned out thousands of leaflets each week to the Glasgow public, new people turned up to join in, and the event was gaining momentum. In fact the biggest success story of Leave Campaigning in Glasgow was the street stall which one PhD student who had campaigned in Kent said was much better run and more professional.     
At Buchanan Street stall, the press popped by in various guises from home and aboard, the public certainly did, and so did the opposition in the shape of the Labour Party and the SNP. In areas were people adopted my campaigning methods in the City of Glasgow, the Vote Leave share was over 40%. My area of Pollok had the second highest Leave vote in Glasgow at 40.8%; for the most part I did all the heavy lifting myself but I did organise and plan a day for some visitors. In other areas where people didn’t follow my methods of campaigning, the vote hovered around the 30% mark and even dropped as low as 20% in Glasgow North. 

So, you might ask why the difference?

At the Glasgow launch, I stood up to speak, where I pointed out the stark realities of life, there was a lack of time, people and resources, therefore I suggested that a traditional campaign wouldn’t be possible and that to generate the highest vote possible, certain activities which had a low yield of contact with the voters might need to be abandoned. If you check the results and percentages you will see….. George Laird right again!

Incidentally politics isn’t that hard to do, I find it quite easy when it comes to campaign planning, referendums aren’t the same as elections and to that end you have to treat them differently, for a start there is no ‘candidate’ in a local area. Next up you find that pre-organisation is generally lacking which means no ground operation until what is termed the short campaign is up and running. Depending on the issue; you maybe thrown together with people who any other day of the week you would be politically attacking on a whole range of issues!

Vote Leave had people from the Labour Party, SNP and the Scottish Conservatives’; Ukip weren’t included which led them to run their own operation in Scotland. Then you have other organisations such as Leave. EU which really did understand what I had been trying to get across to Vote Leave at the Glasgow launch.

The Assistant Director of Vote Leave in Scotland was Braden Davy, he was a previously a staffer for the office of Anne Begg who was a Labour MP in Aberdeen. As well as being a staffer, he stood against Alex Salmond in the Gordon constituency. One of the things that political parties like to do is ‘try’ people out in no hope constituencies and see how they do, no surprise but Braden Davy lost.

So, after a really bad Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish Labour Party found itself in the nightmare of Westminster 2015, lost all but one seat in Scotland. Then comes Holyrood 2016 election, another disaster of biblical proportions for the party and to add a cherry to the cake, 23rd June was the Brexit vote, Labour was on the wrong side of the argument again.

Having done Brexit as Assistant Director of Vote Leave in Scotland, Braden Davy has decided to ditch the Scottish Labour Party and defect to the Scottish Conservatives. Davy has cited party’s perceived softness on independence, which might be a reference to Kezia Dugdale saying she could see herself vote for Scottish independence. This comment which she might have seen as a way to reach out to Labour voters who backed indy was to backfire rather badly on her. Unionist Labour voters dumped Scottish Labour and voted Conservative which is why there are two Conservative list MSPs in Glasgow now.

Oh and the ‘biggie’, the Scottish Labour Party is now the third party in Holyrood.

So, is there any silver lining for the Labour Party out this defection to the Scottish Conservatives?

Before I forget, Braden Davy said that there are more people in Scottish Labour who are going to defect to the Scottish Conservatives, I have seen no evidence if that is the case, and generally I would say at a push given what are the elected representatives at present, don’t see any of them jumping ship unless it is to the SNP! 

If there is any crumb of comfort from this wee story, it is that Braden Davy isn’t a very good political campaigner or strategist in my opinion. During the Vote Leave campaign, Davy wanted to enact a system for data collection which was so ‘time consuming’ to be a fool’s errand. If you don’t campaign, let me fill you in, a typical day of campaigning is a two hour slot, if you go canvassing you may if lucky manage to talk to about 20 to 30 people per hour and that is really pushing it to an extreme. So, in a session you might talk to 40 people over the two hours which isn’t very many in the way of contacts or even having a meaningful conversation. At Buchanan Street stall, one person managed to hand out about 900 leaflets in a three hour period, basically one every 12 seconds.

If you do the arithmetic, what is better, maybe 60 people in a three hour stint or 900 people in the same time frame?

When Braden Davy decided he wanted to push ahead with his voter id nonsense, the people on the ground in Glasgow and elsewhere weren’t happy, it was independently decided by some groups to dump voter id as a means of campaigning. I would also say to go back to something I wrote earlier, in areas where people used my campaign methods the vote was over 40%.

It seems that Braden Davy hasn’t been happy with Scottish Labour for sometime, and given the state of the party at present, perhaps he sees no chance electorally of getting into public office, especially at Westminster and Holyrood level. Earlier this year, the Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale was rejected by the voters in her area by a rather large margin, in Pollok former Labour leader was rejected by voters by similarly a rather large margin as well. 

When Davy stood as a candidate his election leaflet said:

“Only Labour can stop the Tories.”

It also stated: 

“In Gordon, the only way to make sure the Tories don’t form the next Government is to vote Scottish Labour.”

Its just rhetoric that you get on election leaflets which is why so many people get turned off when they get a leaflet pushed through their door.

One tweet which he stuck up on twitter was a tad risky; he tweeted next to a picture of Labour-supporting transvestite Eddie Izzard sarcastically:

“I just don’t understand why Labour can’t connect to the working class anymore.”

Personally I don’t think the reason is anything to do with Eddie Izzard more to do with a perceived lack of representation by those who were put into power who subsequently failed to hold up their end of the bargain when a constituent sought help. If you piss off a lot of people don’t be surprised when they turn their back on you when you need their help in return, what goes around comes around. 

To return to the Scottish Independence question, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale was rightly criticised during the campaign after saying it was “not inconceivable” she could back independence if it secured Scotland’s place in the EU.

What possessed her to say this is beyond me, but there have been consequences which haven’t stopped rippling yet, the party ended up fighting a losing battle to hold onto second place at Holyrood and also helped the Tories who benefited by a huge margin which wasn’t down to anything other that the mistake by Kezia Dugdale.

A Ratner’s moment! 

Just as the voters have done a runner, so have other people, such as members failing to come out and be activists, but also there might be a cash crisis down the line as people like Alan Massie, a party donor have said Dugdale has to “do more” to back the Union.

Kezia Dugdale has since written a piece in a daily newspaper opposing a second independence referendum but is that enough, if you are saying you stand for one thing and the next minute you change your mind, people wonder about your credibility. As I said in earlier posts, Kezia Dugdale made a mistake backing Owen Smith, she then made a mistake saying Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t win an election; she has since backtracked on this statement in a short period of time as well. And then she has her own troubles as the momentum crowd in Scotland want her gone as leader, if she does badly in the Council elections in 2017, the pressure will be on for her to step down as leader.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said:

"The message sent to Labour during the Scottish election was clear, they are very much now a bit-part player. Now, with more people leaving Labour to come to us, we're in a better position than ever to be the strong opposition people elected us to be."

I don’t know about you but I would think that Scottish Labour should seriously think twice about rejecting me as a candidate for public office, I seem to have the uncanny knack for getting things right. This isn’t a sales pitch to those Labour members who read the blog or the staffers who may or not trot by scanning the blog for information on the George Laird view; I would say it is about facing reality.

The reality is this, there isn’t much difference between the Scottish Labour Party, the SNP, the Scottish Conservatives or the Lib Dems which is why people can so easily move from party to party. 

After being rejected by Scottish Labour, I have had two offers of help if I wish to stand for public office as an independent, one organisation previously supplied people to help Labour candidates. The other offer is to be involved in the setting up of a group for people who wish to stand as independents for Glasgow City Council in 2017. 

Apparently I am if I wish to be, the campaign director and a candidate of this new organisation, this is a real dilemma, do I stay as a Labour Party member delivering leaflets or do I take a campaign director's role and candidate’s position?

Finally, the Scottish Conservatives may think because Davy has a good CV which ticks several boxes, middle class, uni, staffer, assistant director, Royal Navy Reserve etc etc and that they have picked up a 'bargain', actually the reality is that they haven’t, yes, folks it is really is pig in a poke time, but they just don’t know it yet. 

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University 


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

great piece really enjoy your take on the Scottish political scene as always George, on the money, it is a shame that mistakes are making the Labour Party into such a mess and they are losing people.

Look forward to see you stand again for election in 2017 in Glasgow.

Have you gave any thought to where you want to stand?


Al C said...

It's not much better in England as far as I know, George. A Labour man defecting to the Tories shows that, this country (Britain) DEFINITELY needs a new and better left wing or left-of-centre party.