Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Politics and Equal Pay

Labour MSP Elaine Smith lost the Coatbridge and Chryston constituency in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections - a seat she had held since the inaugural Holyrood elections in 1999.

I think a big factor in Elaine's defeat was the role that Labour MSPs played in the fight for equal pay in North Lanarkshire which, as regular readers know, was 'worse than useless', as they say.

Instead of seeking to argue publicly in support of their constituents, Elaine and her Labour colleagues bravely declined to go up against the local Labour-run council which had operated discriminatory pay arrangements, right under the politicians' noses, for many years.

But Elaine, a self-styled socialist and feminist, made a comeback worthy of Lazarus himself because despite losing her constituency seat in the 2016 elections she was returned to the Scottish Parliament in the 'top-up' regional list section.

So to this day instead of making way for some fresh blood, perhaps even another feminist, Elaine continues to do good work in the Scottish Parliament, according to this BBC report by bringing forward a motion lionising Fidel Castro and Cuba as a "champion of global social justice" and "inspiring" example of socialism.

Now any sensible person would have welcomed the overthrow of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, yet that doesn't justify Castro replacing one tyranny with another or holding fast to a one-party state where free trade unions are banned to this day.

Elaine is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, of course, so I can't say I'm surprised that the Labour leader and his party are doing so badly in the polls.


Scottish MSPs in dispute over Fidel Castro legacy

BBC - Scotland politics

Image copyright - AP Image caption - Fidel Castro died on November 26 aged 90

Scottish parliamentarians have clashed over the legacy of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

The former president of Cuba died, aged 90, on 26 November.

Labour's Elaine Smith lodged a Holyrood motion hailing Mr Castro as "a champion of global social justice", calling Cuba an "inspiring" example of socialism.

But Conservative Ross Thomson submitted an amendment, calling the Cuban leader a dictator and slamming his human rights record.

Mr Castro led the Communist revolution which toppled the Cuban government in 1959, and became one of the world's longest-serving and most iconic leaders - but his legacy is a divisive one.

Ms Smith, who has lodged a number of Scottish Parliament motions praising Mr Castro over the years, put forward a glowing tribute which won support from Labour and SNP members.
'International solidarity'

She asked parliament to send its condolences for the loss of Mr Castro to his family and the people of Cuba, claiming that under his leadership the country "built world-class health and education systems and decreased poverty, respite suffering economically for decades under a United States blockade".

She also noted "Cuba's impressive record of international solidarity abroad" and "Fidel Castro's individual contribution as a champion of global social justice and his maxim of 'not an inch to imperialism'".

The motion closes by saying "his legacy and spirit will live on in the great many achievements of the small socialist state of Cuba, teaching and inspiring future generations and showing that another world is possible".

The motion was backed by Scottish Labour's deputy leader Alex Rowley and fellow MSPs Neil Findlay and David Stewart, and SNP members Colin Beattie and Richard Lyle.

Image captionLabour's Elaine Smith and Tory member Ross Thomson clashed over Mr Castro's legacy

An amendment was lodged by Scottish Conservative member Ross Thomson, who proposed replacing almost the entire text.

In it he said Cuba "became a one-party dictatorship" under Mr Castro, and pointed out that "Castro banned Christmas from 1969 to 1998".

He said a million Cubans had gone into exile since the resolution while "many others have been shot in their attempts to flee", before criticising Mr Castro's human rights record.

He wrote that homosexuality was declared a "deviation incompatible with the revolution' by Castro's regime", and said LGBT people were forcefully sent to "prison work camps".

Mr Thomson's amendment ended by saying that "admirers of Fidel Castro around the world have one thing in common, that they never had to live under his dictatorship".

He was backed by fellow Tory MSP Annie Wells, who said it was "appalling" to see left-wing politicians "lionise a man who jailed and murdered his opponents and put gay people in concentration camps".

Neither the motion or amendment have yet been selected for debate.

Good Call (07/05/16)

Image result for tip my hat + images

I tip my hat to the reader from North Lanarkshire who predicted that Labour's Elaine Smith would need 'good luck' to hold on to her Coatbridge and Chryston seat in the Scottish Parliament elections.

Because this self-styled feminist and socialist got well and truly hammered with a 25% swing to the SNP dumping her out of a seat she had held for 17 long years since 1999.

Now 1999 is the year that Scotland's councils (including North Lanarkshire) signed up to an historic 'Single Status' Agreement that was intended to deliver equal pay and sweep away years of pay discrimination against tens of thousands of female dominated jobs which had been undervalued and underpaid for years.

Jobs that most people are familiar with, jobs that make the world go round, in a good way: carers, cleaners, cooks, catering staff, clerical workers, classroom assistants and so on.

Yet for all of Elaine's self-styled feminism and socialism, I never once heard or read about her getting stuck into the local Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council for its appalling track record in relation to equal pay over the years.

Which is perhaps part of the reason that her 'luck' ran out on Thursday as local voters went to the polls in Coatbridge and Chryston. 

But just in case anyone is feeling sorry for Elaine, she has managed to make a come back from the political dead by winning a place (4th) on the 'regional list' for Central Scotland, a device which allows 'losers' in the constituency section to become winners all over again.

So Elaine can look forward to another 5 years at Holyrood even though she managed to lose, big-time, the confidence of voters in her local constituency.

Elaine is an enthusiastic supporter of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who for my money is a complete 'dud' although readers can make of that what they will.

In any event, none of this detracts from my admiration for the reader who nailed it perfectly with the comment that if the equal pay had involved a private employer, Labour MPs would have been 'screaming from the rooftops'.

Says it all, really. 

NLC Update (04/05/16)

A reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch with Elaine Smith who is standing as the local Labour candidate in Coatbridge and Chryston constituency.

Now I've written about Labour politicians on the blog site previously, both in Lanarkshire and elsewhere, and the reader's email makes a very telling point if you ask me.

Which is that if the fight for equal pay involved a private employer, Labour politicians of every stripe would have been screaming their support from the rooftops. 

As it happens, the worst offenders have been big Labour-run councils and because Labour politicians feel able to criticise their 'own side', in my experience anyway, many have pulled their punches and failed to speak out on behalf of local constituents.

So good luck to all those standing in the Scottish Parliament elections tomorrow because, as the writer of the email says, some will need it more than others.  

Dear Elaine,

Thanks for your reply.

I think the fact that you " hope " equal pay settlements can be made just about sums up Labour policy.

If it's private employer, you would be screaming it from the rooftops. The fact that it's a Labour run council may have something to do with that.

I see reports that Nicola sturgeon is looking at fines for local authorities who are behaving in this deplorable way. That's got my vote, though no doubt Labour run NLC will close a library to pay for it.

Good luck in the election, I think you'll need it.



NLC Update (14/04/16)

I managed to track down some contact details for Elaine Smith the Labour politician and Labour's parliamentary candidate for Coatbridge and Chryston, part of the North Lanarkshire Council area.

The information comes from the Scottish Labour Party's web site and Facebook. from which readers can see that Elaine styles herself as a hard working constituency campaigner on issues of importance to local residents.

Now I don't have a vote in this contest, but if you ask me, Elaine's claim to be a hard working local campaigner must have a hollow ring to all the workers still fighting for equal pay in North Lanarkshire.

In my experience, Elaine and her two former MSP colleagues (John Pentland and Michael McMahon) have been notoriously reluctant to criticise the local Labour-run Council and to speak up on behalf of their local constituents.   

So let's see what happens on polling day on Thursday 5th May 2016.