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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Conversations With My MP: Willie Bain

The social media revolution has, in my opinion (never humble), created a number of problems.

The first is that many of us can feel the need to be 'linked in' for too many hours in the day just to be sure we get that one 'micro blog' that will aid our current understanding or make us aware of ever-changing news stories.

The second is that it may be affecting our ability to communicate effectively 'offline'. It seems some of us prefer the anonymity and barriers of online discourse. Only today 'writer, commentator and broadcaster' David Torrance admitted he was uncomfortable during an unexpected real-world encounter with SNP MSP Roseanna Cunningham; perhaps because he feared she might challenge him on the subtle poisoning of minds against the SNP he accomplishes in the media utilising his 'reasonable, uncommitted man' schtick. But he's not the only one startled by real conversation. One can easily imagine hordes of online daters taking laptops to the bars where they meet up with potential mates in order to communicate satisfactorily.

Additionally, there are severe privacy issues; particularly amongst the young who so readily submit personal information, tastes, likes/dislikes, affiliations and photographs to the corporate owners of Google, Facebook, Twitter and a whole range of other networks. Information, incidentally, that then becomes the property of those corporations and can then be used in a variety of ways - aggressive, focused marketing being amongst the least worrying. We are not consumers of these services; we are being consumed by them.

On the plus side, it does mean we can interact more with those elected officials and opinion formers who deign to engage with the ordinary citizen - sorry, subject. Whilst I would not wish to discourage them from doing so, I am aware that there are dangers for those individuals who utilise social media platforms. My own MP found himself in a little difficulty recently when he tweeted about the Parliamentary Labour Party's long-held 'principle' that it would never support Nationalist motions in the House - presumably regardless of how that might benefit society, the country or, indeed, his own constituents. The now infamous Bain Principle entered the Scottish political lexicon and Oor Wullie had earned his place in posterity.

Since then I've had a number of exchanges with William Bain MP. Perhaps because he's MP for a constituency which is one of the most deprived in the country and also has chronically low educational attainment, I've always felt a slight condescension in his tone. Something along the lines of, "You can't possibly know more than me about anything, so listen carefully, I'll talk slowly, and explain to you how things really are in the world." Fairly standard Scottish Labour fare then, I suspect some of you are thinking. Of course, this overconfidence does occasionally mean they get caught out spouting rubbish.

Today's Twitter exchange was one of those occasions.

Another 'tweeter' had challenged Mr Bain about the absurdity of Labour councillors entering into local coalitions with Tories when he (Bain) constantly tweets about Tory cuts on local services and the damage they do.

I responded in both their timelines that the #BainPrinciple prevented Labour from supporting SNP motions and policies but not Tory ones.

Mr Bain's response: 'No, on @NewsnightScot last night, was some agreement between us on how badly Osborne is messing up Scotland's economy'

My default position with regard to BBC Scotland programming is to avoid their manipulation of news and facts, so I hadn't seen the programme and wasn't sure who had joined in this agreement. I tried to get some clarification.

'ScoLabour and Tories!?! agree that Osborne wrecking economy so coalesce in LA's to fight Osborne cuts?' was my tweeted question.

You can imagine my incredulity that Tories in East Lothian, Aberdeen, South Ayrshire, Falkirk and Stirling might support Willie's views on Osborne's management of the economy and that could be a conceivable point of unity that allowed them to keep SNP councillors out of administrations. Of course, I knew this wasn't the case (or his suggestion); it was classic political obfuscation and I merely wanted to flush out the real reasons. His response was interesting to say the least...

He didn't respond. Instead he waited for my next tweet when I was responding to someone else who had asserted that Speaker of the House John Bercow had commented that there was little difference between Labour and the Conservatives. I wrote ' Bercow makes a fair point, I think. Should both just form a Union Party.'

Mr Bain replied, 'I know how it feels to be a little sore after poor election results, but you're incorrect on this point.'

Ignoring the jibe about election results - mainly because I was perfectly happy with them - SNP win most seats, popular vote and increase lead over Labour from 2007 - I responded, 'Poor defence of Labour-Tory council collaboration. Nice you both have to deal with your CT cut in Stirling though'.

Many of you may remember that the minority SNP administration in Stirling were prevented from passing a budget earlier this year by the combined forces of Labour and Conservatives who then joined to propose and pass a budget with a 1% Council Tax reduction. This saved householders pennies each week but cost the Council millions of pounds. The Unionists did so, spitefully, in the belief that a majority SNP administration post-election would suffer politically in attempting to provide council services on a reduced budget and, no doubt, introduce service cuts.

His response was where he, metaphorically speaking, fell on his arse. 'STV voting system means coalitions more likely than not - up to cllrs to reach agreement based on local circumstances.'

This was a strange one. Throughout the election we heard cries from Unionist party activists that the SNP were fighting a national campaign while they were fighting on local issues. This despite a plethora of election leaflets being produced with slogans like 'Save the Union', 'Don't Split Up the UK' and similar. And, when questioned by the media about the Tory-Labour coalition in Stirling (when SNP and Labour policy locally are largely identical) Labour Group Leader Corrie McChord stated he couldn't work with the SNP. 'It's the big question of separation,' he said.

Well, Mr McChord (and Mr Bain), as a member of the SNP Dunblane & Bridge of Allan branch which is part of the Stirling council area, I can confirm we have no local plans to separate from either the UK or the rest of Scotland. So, the reason you can't work with the SNP locally is because of a national issue? Or could it be that in the run up to 2014, with the symbolism of Stirling Castle, the Wallace Monument and Bannockburn, it was decided Stirling could just not be in SNP hands?

I tried to point this out to the (Honourable) Member. "I understand that. Local 'circumstances' though according to Stirling Labour leader was 'separation'."

Hours later, I have received no response from my MP. I don't expect one either. I know he's a busy man and probably had to run off somewhere. With his tail between his legs. Labour 'principles' exposed yet again. The Bain Principle intact.


  1. On Newsnight SNP and Willlie Bain agreed in the main on their views on Osborne. Tory speaker Mundell way off.

  2. If I remember correctly,Stuart Hosie said something along the lines of "thats fundamentally correct," .WB had just spoken about the cuts and its repercussions.