My summary of Edinburgh North and Leith’s candidates

Warning, long post ahead.
I spent my lunch hour reading all the bumpf that’s been shoved through our letterbox while the cat fought for attention by shedding hair on the leaflets (she didn’t like the Tory leaflets, that’s for sure… Must remember to tell Tory-boy…). I thought I ought to list the key point the candidates are trying to sell to us, mainly because I have to vote for them to represent my needs/desires. Tony, Howard and Charles don’t get a look-in ‘cos I think they’re just lying through their fake tans, make-up and ‘charming’ personalities anyway. A summary of salient points made in local leaflets, followed by brief, uneducated thoughts:

Scottish Conservatives

Candidate: Iain Whyte
No. of leaflets / direct mail: 1 / 4

First off, I have no idea how the Tories got hold of my name and address. I may be on the electoral roll, but I specifically requested not to be on the public register. Perhaps they BOUGHT my name and address from some dodgy bank. Wherever they got it from, could they please remove it? I really don’t want any chummy letters (see below) from anyone associated with Nick Bois (he of the “What bit of ‘send them back’ don’t you understand, Mr Blair?” infamy).

The first leaflet was a poor photocopy, headline: “The choice is clear”, with the thrust of their main argument against their perceived failings of Labour:

  • NHS waiting lists are up over 9,000
  • attacks on school staff are up 900% with an assault every 12 minutes of the school day
  • over 270,000 failed asylum seekers are still in the country
  • a crime is committed every 78 seconds
  • and tax has gone up by £5,000 for the average household, including a council tax rise of 39% in Edinburgh

Their promises include: reform of the NHS to provide genuine choice, swifter treatment and more locally provided health services; allowing teachers to permanently expel disruptive and violent pupils; controlled and fair immigration; police on the streets deterring and detecting crime; criminals in prison; lower taxes. And a ‘direct quote’ from Mr Whyte: “The last eight years of Labour in Government have been eight years of failure. All over the constituency people tell me about the impact of these failures on their daily lives. This General Election is a time to think long and hard and imagine five more years of Labour. The choice for people in Edinburgh North and Leith is clear. I believe that local people are ready to make that choice.”

One of the direct (junk) mail leaflets is full of photographs of Councillor Iain Whyte with:

  • David McLetchie MSP, opposing road tolls
  • Trinity councillor Alan Jackson, discussing proposed housing development
  • Stockbridge councillor Michael Dixon, campaigning for improved facilities in Inverleith Park
  • Random campaigners at a march/rally to support Scottish regiments

To my partner, they sent one you can turn into a pro-Tory poster (nae chance), and which claims that “Tories close in on Labour”, with a bar chart from the 2003 council election results to back it up. In Edinburgh North and Leith, Labour garnered 28% of the total vote, compared to 25% for the Conservatives, 19% for the Lib Dems, 16% for the SNP, and 11% to others. (I’m not sure local election results are transferable. At the 2003 election, most folk I know split their votes for the MSPs and local councillors. GEs are usually quite different,as local issues, particularly in Scotland, take a backseat to national issues like tax, immigration, defence, healthcare and that war. Also, see below.)

To cap it all, this morning we received two pseudo-handwritten letters from Mr Whyte. If I had a working scanner, I’d use it. But I don’t, so I’ll just have to type it all out:

Dear Friend,
I am writing to thank you personally for the warm response I have received while meeting local residents and discussing the issues that matter to them.
I know what a great place Edinburgh North and Leith is as I was born and brought up locally and have served the residents of Craigleith as their councillor for ten years.
New boundaries make this constituency as close contest for the first time in years. I believe I have a strong record of successful campaigning on the issues that affect all our daily lives. Working as your member of parliament would be an enormous honour and I want to be a strong local voice in the House of Commons.
I very much enjoy working with local people. With your support on polling day, together we can make Edinburgh North and Leith an even better place to live!
(signed)IAIN WHYTE

You’re right on one thing, Mr Whyte. My choice is clear. I will definitely not vote for a party that will dump ‘troubled youths’ out of school and on the streets, where they will, no doubt, be detected and deterred by heavy handed police, and unceremoniously chucked into prison, plus, on their release, be quite unable to integrate into society. Besides, if you want to keep crims in prison, and provide ‘genuine health choices’, won’t that cost the taxpayer more? Or are you planning to sneaking in a few cuts here and there that will have the most adverse impact on those least able to cope? As for that pal-ly letter, I really don’t deserve any of your thanks as I have never spoken to you personally, nor written to you, nor given you any sort of warm response that you are thanking me for. Really. Don’t. Additionally, the three instances of ‘local’ and variations therein make me feel very uncomfortable, given that I’m not local and thus can’t shop in the “local shop for local people” (to the strain of the League of Gentleman).

Scottish Greens

Candidate: Mark Sydenham
No. of leaflets / direct mail : 0 / 0

As the Greens haven’t published a hard copy of their manifesto (Good on yer, guys… I’d never have read it anyway), they seem to have followed through on campaign leaflets. So I’m going to be really lazy and copy/paste the following from Mr Sydenham’s website:

Mark will work to

  • replace the council tax with a much fairer Land Value Tax;
  • make sure that all new developments benefit the local community, not just landowners and developers;
  • expose the proposed Leith Bypass as a traffic generator, not congestion reducer, and highlight its tragic consequences for all those living in North Edinburgh, from Granton to Portobello;
  • campaign to reduce heavy lorries and choking traffic on North Edinburgh’s streets;
  • support and promote local shops and services over massive supermarkets.

Mark says: “The Green Party came second in Edinburgh North and Leith in the last election. For the first time in any General Election, a Green vote will count. We have shown what having seven Green MSPs can do in Holyrood, and with the “main” parties all merging towards the same bland policies, now is the time to give other parties a voice at Westminster.”

Gosh, I didn’t know the Greens came second in this constituency in the last election (which one though?). (See below.) Other than that, all good. Where’s the stuff about healthcare and … stuff?

Scottish Labour

Candidate: Mark Lazarowicz
No. of leaflets / direct mail: 1 / 2

No idea how they obtained our addresses. We’re not members of the party, and we are not on the public electoral register. Maybe it’s the bloody council…

The Labour leaflets arrived later than the others (I think it was Lib Dems first, then the Tories, SNP and SSP.), but we won’t hold *that* against them. Mark Lazarowicz was the serving MP for Edinburgh North and Leith in the last sitting of Parliament. And I’ve commented on his voting record in a previous post.

Mark Lazarowicz believes that our local community, like the rest of the country, has benefited from a Labour government, the UK economy is now one of the strongest in the world, we have low unemployment, low mortgage rates, and the lowest inflation for decades. (Long list my fault, not his. I’m lazy.) And he goes on about how more money has been spent on doctors, nurses, teachers, hospitals, schools and pensioners. He promises to do more to benefit more pensioners. Oh yeah, he also mentioned that youth unemployment in our area has been virtually eradicated. (I had to laugh.) Other achievements include: campaigning for a safer and fairer world, helping to found Scotland’s campaign for world development more than 20 years ago (Scottish Education and Action for Development), tackling climate change and environmental issues. As examples of happy customers, we have a Dean Village Pensioner, an Inverleith Resident, and a Broughton Parent. (I’m keeping shtum on working families ‘cos lots of others have bitched about that.) Shall we continue? Mr Lazarowicz has worked with local residents on local housing issues, supported campaigns for flood prevention, campaigned against post office closures, spoken out for consumer rights, campaigned for road safety, supported trade justice and international development, backs Labour’s 0.7% target for overseas aid, voted against the Iraq war, and been an all-round active backbencher.

There is also a none-too-subtle chart reminding Labour supporters that since the boundaries have changed, with 15,000 added votes, “the Tories are now much closer to Labour” in the new constituency. (No statistics provided or quoted.)

The salient points from another “election communication”:

  • Child Trust Funds for 2,600 local children
  • Giving children the best start in life; 8 new or refurbished local schools thanks to Labour
  • Investing in high-quality public services; 14,000 more doctors and nurses in Scotland
  • A safer and fairer world; Labour will increase aid to 0.7% GDP
  • A fair deal for pensioners; £109.45 minimum income for every pensioner
  • (There’s more, including helping to launch Edinburgh Fairtrade City, increasing number of police by 5% in Lothian, 3,500 local pensioners benefiting from pension credit and more than 12,000 receiving winter fuel payments.

The final leaflet reminds us that Labour has invested £4 billion in Scotland’s public services, and the Tories are coming!

My partner and I had a mini half-drunken (him, not me. I was stone-cold sober.) discussion about the economy thing last night, and I checked the rankings on GDP. The UK is behind the US, China, Japan, India, Germany and France. I like some of the things Labour has tried to do, like improving the lot of pensioners, but I suspect that I’ve missed out on the argument about the way pension plans and contributions for us younger people are going to disappear (I’m as yet unaffected, but on our return from the States, who knows?). And I was hoping to get some personal assurance that this whole points for immigration debacle isn’t something that the Labour die-hards will stand for. (I’m not holding my breath; I am no fan of the HO and have never been impressed by the way they’ve dealt with me…) And I definitely dislike the way I’ve been reminded that the Tories are close behind. It caught me unawares; the Tories have always come third whenever I’ve voted in Edinburgh (the ex-Pentlands seat has always been an exception), and here I was really contemplating ticking the box for Labour, just in case. I don’t like being manipulated.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Candidate: Mike Crockart
No. of leaflets / direct mail: 3 / 0

The first bumpf through the letterbox was not a leaflet, but a full-blown 8-page tabloid. As it’s not directly about the candidate, I think I should leave it for now. I reserve the right to talk about it later though. 🙂

The next piece was the “Focus” newsletter, which only half-counts as it devotes half the back page to Cllr Ponton’s annoyance over the Edinburgh Traffic Management plan (Feel for you mate, really do… Only I don’t drive much in town ‘cos you can a. walk, and b. get the bloody bus.) Back to the leaflet, where Mike Crockart’s campaign starts with “Trams must stop at the Western”, which is one of the main hospitals in Edinburgh, and where I spent 4 happy years of my life.

So the only proper bit of campaigning makes the following points:

  • Making our area safer. Lib Dems would scrap the ID card plans and use the savings to employ over 10,000 more police officers across the UK. (Mr Crockart is a former policeman and understands that crime is a serious concern.)
  • A fair deal for pensioners. Mike Crockart and the Lib Dems will fight to end Labour’s degrading mass means testing of pensioners by increasing the state pension by £100 a month. Their ‘Citizens Pension’ would be linked to earnings.
  • Delivering on health and education. Lib Dems in the Scottish Parliament have helped to abolish student tuition fees, and helped to introduce free personal care for the elderly, with free eye and dental checks on the way. (Plus a bit of blurb about how Mike Crockart and his family live in Edinburgh, and as a father, he knows the importance of local schools.)
  • Protecting our environment. Mike Crockart wants the local and global environment protected for future generations, and will fight to make tackling climate change a key political priority at the national level. Locally, he will oppose development on the greenbelt, resist a second runway at Edinburgh airport, and campaign for improved bus and rail services to provide alternatives to cars.
  • And as for local issues, stop closures of local Post Offices, replacement of council tax with income tax, and the truth on the war in Iraq.

We are also given some background information on Mike, and how he lives locally, works for a life assurance company, was a policeman, and is a dedicated father. We also have a timely reminder that only the Lib Dems can beat Labour in Edinburgh North and Leith. The Tories and SNP can’t win. (Eh, I think you’ll find that the Tories disagree. See above.)

Hmm. I agree about the whole crock about stopping development on greenbelts, and improved public transport. How about some subsidies to help people move to more fuel-efficient cars? In England, there is a rebate for buying a Prius, which is something we didn’t qualify for when we bought ours. I guess I also agree on the other points he makes, although I don’t think you can consider not spending on ID cards as “savings”. My grasp of economics is slim at best, but I really don’t think politicians should use wishy-washy phrases like “saving money”. Finding it hard to dislike the guy though. And what is it about EVERYONE and his dog coming second in the last election? Recurring theme or what?

Scottish National Party

Candidate: David Hutchison
No. of leaflets / direct mail: 1 / 0

A yellow leaflets from the SNP, asking: “Does Scotland matter to you?”. David Hutchison tells us: “Scotland matters to each and every one of us. At this election, we have the chance to show how much. The UK parties ignore Scotland. They are campaigning on policies that don’t apply to Scotland. I put Scotland first. The SNP puts Scotland first.”

My problem with the SNP is that they’re gung-ho for independence, and campaign purely on that. The SNP like to remind us that Ireland, Norway, Finland and Sweden are successful small countries. I agree. And unable to think of a snappy rejoinder for now, I say: “But their football teams don’t suck!”. (I’m flagging, can’t you tell?) However, I like the current headline on the party website: “SNP pledges to impeach Blair” (Plaid Cymru is also in on the act). Mua ha ha.

Scottish Socialist Party

Candidate: Bill Scott
No. of leaflets / direct mail: 2 / 0

Makes the point that the 6 current MSPs in Holyrood have put forward the following bills:

  • Scrap the unfair Council Tax
  • Provide nutritious free school meals
  • Abolish prescription charges

We are also reminded that all 6 SSP MSPs (try saying that without getting the computer screen wet) donate half their salaries to the “socialist cause” (quote marks mine), and that Mr Scott also pledges to live on a worker’s wage if elected.

We’re informed that: “The SSP is FOR socialism, independence, equality, peace, civil rights, trade unionism, a clean green planet, welcoming refugees, ending poverty at home and abroad, protesting against G8 exploitation.”.

I was particularly taken with the back of the leaflet, where the SSP have kindly provided a list of 6 questions to help us decide who to vote for:

  1. Do our pensioners deserve a £160 basic state pension, index-linked to earnings? Yes/No/Don’t know
  2. Should the minimum wage be raised to £8 an hour for all workers, including young people? Yes/No/Don’t know
  3. Should we create a more equal society by taxing the rich and redistributing wealth? Yes/No/Don’t know
  4. Should our railways and other basic services be publicly owned for the benefit of the people? Yes/No/Don’t know
  5. Should Scotland become an independent republic that spends money on hospitals and schools rather than nuclear weapons? Yes/No/Don’t know
  6. Should our troops be brought home now from the killing fields of Iraq? Yes/No/Don’t know

If you’ve mainly chosen ‘No’ on the questions, they advise you to stick to one of the two Tory parties – New Labour or the Conservatives (I like that touch. And if you’re mostly unsure, they suggest you throw your weight behind the fearty parties (Oooh that smarts!). And finally, if you’re shouting ‘Yes’ out loud for every question, then you’re on their side, and they’re on yours.

Wow. Good case of gentle suggestion used there. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work on me, as my answers were: yes, yes, no (too simplistic), no (again, too simplistic), no (now you’re being silly), no (gosh, no! that’s irresponsible). Sorry guys. I like your leaflet, but I can’t vote for you. I’m not sure if your ideology is compatible with the complexity of real life.

Brief bios for all the candidates can be found at the Almanac for Scottish Politics. So, in summary, due to boundary changes, it would be unwise to assume that the 20% advantage Labour had in the last election is safe. And that seems to be the main focus of the two main alternatives. There’s little difference between Labour and the Lib Dems, with the Lib Dems saying that Labour simply hasn’t done enough. The Tories are scaring me slightly, ‘cos they obviously have the foot-soldiers to personally write our names and addresses on envelopes and deliver them. The SNP is trotting out their usual: “Scotland can do better without England.”, which I don’t think is sustainable (find some economist to tell you why, I’m using my gut feeling, me…). The Greens and SSP are well-meaning, and I applaud their convictions, while still feeling they should go away and think some more about things other than socialism and the environment (‘cos even I have to do that sometimes, green and ethical or not…). So, down to the usual suspects then: Labour or Liberal Democrats. Now, if only I could look into a crystal ball to see how many people are likely to vote Tory…

This is what backblair.co.uk had to say about our constituency:

Your constituency is
Edinburgh North & Leith

The candidate most likely to win is:
(Labour)

The candidate in second place is:
(LibDem)

Seat Status
Safe

This is a safe Labour seat, so we’d advise you to vote for (LibDem) although this may not affect the outcome in this constituency. At the same time we’d like you to raise awareness of the issues with Tony Blair’s leadership. Furthermore, if you have friends in other constituencies, please make them aware of this campaign.

The question is, can I trust these folk to have guessed correctly, boundary change and all? Then again, others have obviously thought long and hard about this and come up with the following rebuttal: Vote Lib Dem, get Conservative? and For Tomorrow (I) – 126 as a limit.

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