Why the UK coverage of this election is like this Armando Ianucci sketch

In less than a fortnight we’ll find out who will be the next Prime Minister of the UK but if you watch this election through the prism of the mainly London-based media you’d think it’s a straight fight between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. To an extent it is as only those two can become Prime Minister but seeing people talk of Corbyn as the great hope for ending tuition fees or stop the bedroom tax is frankly a tad irrelevant here in Scotland as these don’t apply. Fees were scrapped a decade ago and the Scottish Government mitigates the bedroom tax.

Many of the things Labour want in the UK is already being done or are being worked towards. True there’s more to be done, and the stuff that’s still reserved to Westminster (which is still most things) will still hurt if the Tories get back in, but in Scotland (and indeed, in all the devolved nations) we’re still at the mercy of Westminster.

As much as I wish Corbyn well in England, I don’t feel he, or his party, will work for me or for Scotland as his support for leaving the EU isn’t what Scotland, or indeed Northern Ireland, voted for. So for most of this campaign as I view it on social media is a bit like this sketch from the wonderfully but underrated Armando Ianucci Shows from 2001…

My thoughts on the local elections in Scotland, Wales and England.

Firstly, well done to Kim Long of the Greens for becoming a councillor for Dennistoun which is where I am for now. A good local candidate who’ll do the area well and with Dennistoun going through massive changes and gentrification (for those familiar with my blogs, it’s a bit like Stokes Croft from about 12-15 years ago) it needs people who’ll do the incumbent and incoming population well.

Secondly, well done to Plaid Cymru and the SNP for a strong showing in Wales and winning the Scottish elections respectively.

Now, those of you who voted Tory. What the fuck have you done? You’ve given the worst government in my life (which speaks volumes) a boost they don’t deserve because you think they’re ‘strong and stable’ or will ‘fight a second referendum’ or ‘fight for Brexit’ but you’ve fucked it up. So when your bins aren’t emptied, or the potholes in your street aren’t fixed, or your kids aren’t educated because schools are being run down or worse, remember, you voted Tory. This is on you. You own what’s coming. The Tories can’t hide behind ”Remoaner traitors”, ‘Nats’ or blame everything on Sturgeon, Corbyn or the Lizard People. They own the clusterfuck coming thanks to Brexit.

Of course you can change this. Look at the Tory polices. Look at what their record is. Look at what they promise. Look at the Tories elected yesterday and think do you want people like this to decide you and your family and friends futures? Look at Theresa May refusing to debate. Look at Iain Duncan Smith tumescent with excitement about imposing new cruelties upon the most vulnerable. Does that make you angry? Good. Get up then over the next five weeks campaign, and get people out to vote. Pissed off with the result today? Chap doors and get people out to vote. June the 8th get people out to vote. If you’re young and don’t vote you’re dooming yourself to decades of hell.

So vote. If people don’t make a stand next month against the Tories people will die. You will be sending people to an early grave and too many have went that road already. As said, a vote for the Tories means endorsing their policies so make your choice. Where do you stand?

A vote for the Tories is a vote for their cruel policies

That’s the simple fact in the elections coming up, both local and UK wide. Vote Tory, and you vote for their policies. You may think Ruth Davidson is all jolly hockey sticks and not like other Tories, or that Theresa May is a ‘strong’ leader.or if you want to ‘send a message’ about a second independence referendum, or block a second EU referendum so voting Tory becomes an option then remember what you’re voting for.

You’re voting for the party of food banks. You’re voting for the party that cuts PIP payments. You’re voting for the party of the bedroom tax. For the party of austerity.For the party that’s driving people to kill themselves rather than live in a country where the government makes their lives hell.

That’s what you’re voting for. You’re voting for a party with no sense of human decency. Consider that in the local elections in May and in the general election. Do you really want to give Theresa May the mandate to run riot with worker’s and human rights?

So, a simple choice. Vote for a party who’ll beat a Tory candidate or for a Tory who’ll back people’s lives being made intolerable. Make your choice.

Does the SNP and the Independence movement’s ”Scottishness” frighten people in the rest of the UK?

I was following a Twitter conversation the other day and it hit an interesting point.

I’ll explain what I mean but it does involve a bit of a read to get there so be warned…

Barring Labour supporters outside of Scotland angry they’ll never ‘win Scotland back’, there’s a chunk of people in England (and much of this is anecdotal on my part but it supports what others have found) who do look at the SNP (and Plaid Cymru in Wales) as something alien.

I spent 28 years living in England. Until the advent of the internet I could only pick up what was going on in Scotland via visits or more normally, though second, third, fourth, etc hand reports. Upon visiting Scotland in 1999 I was amazed there was any serious support for the SNP as although by this time my eyes were opened to the shitshow that was Tony Blair’s Labour, I’d shuffled over to nominally voting for the Lib Dems. The SNP for me, were ‘Tartan Tories’. Independence was a joke and barring the odd shining star like Margo McDonald the SNP were as much a threat as the Tories or Labour.

At this point I was a nominal supporter for the Union. True, I wanted full devolution, even a form of federalism, but independence seemed divisive as I truly felt the people of the UK worked better together. I had seen the slow destruction of Scotland continue on visits home (the sight of seeing the blue towers of Ravenscraig gone still shock me) but I was seeing the Tory destruction of parts of London, the Midlands and the South West. I thought the only way to fight the Tories was finding a UK alternative to them yet I never really included the SNP as part of that because I saw them as a ”Other’. They didn’t want solidarity, and the idea that cultural identity was as important as beating the Tories meant that had I lived in Scotland at the time, I’d be against the SNP.

For years I’d lived in England and never (bar one time in Staines with a drunken arsehole) had any xenophobic abuse. Yeah, there was banter with mates, but that was what mates do when they’re having a drunken session and it was both ways, not to mention it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t real, actual, xenophobic abuse. Around 2009 I had UKIP supporters in Bristol speak of Scots as a second-class race essentially. Then their bottom-feeders, the English Democrats, produced an election broadcast which was so xenophobic towards Scots that I complained to Ofcom. Everything changed & I blame a lot of that on UKIP. I no longer felt there was a level of equality in the UK, and my eyes were opened that for a section of people in England they clung onto a form of imperialism where Scotland was the property of an Empire. What I found equally extraordinary is that this wasn’t now coming from the right, but friends of mine who I knew were lefties were pushing a similar line.

Then the Scottish independence referendum campaign happened and the concept of even a Scottish identity in the UK was challenged. You didn’t accept a version of the UK where you plead fealty to the UK and suppress any lingering cultural identity of your own. For some on the left in England especially, multiculturalism didn’t extend to people from the UK as your identity as a Scot threatened the UK identity. That was the default as after all, as I’ve said, if you live in England you’re not exposed to the daily routine of Scottish politics and life. Sure, the advent of the internet meant it was easier to catch up with what was going on but you never experienced it first hand.

Last November I returned to Scotland to mainly recuperate from a stroke and deal with cancer. I saw the day-to-day life of Scotland. I saw ‘Scotishness’ first hand and some reactions were initially that some of it felt parochial however this was a relic of my thinking that the default situation for these islands is the UK. The SNP’s inability to conform to the default position and thinking of many in England antagonises people, in the same way some people are antagonised by Muslims wearing veils or speaking Polish in the street. It’s a failure to accept there’s other cultures in the UK and a reluctance to accept that Unionism (because this is what I’m really talking about) naturally involves crushing other cultures to be assimilated like some red, white and blue Borg.

So the SNP could be a right wing party that supported independence and promoted a Scottish identity separate from a Unionist one. They’d be equally despised by some. It’s the independence that rankles them because it challenges their own default identity. Their centre-left platform isn’t that much different from Tony Blair’s early days when he dabbled with social democracy but because they propose that there’s alternatives in these islands to Unionism (and everything that comes with it) they rile people up to the point of blind hatred. I’ve come to see independence as a political solution and a natural state for all countries to have, so although I won’t vote SNP (except in the general election as I think they’re the only way we’ll fight off the Tories in a Westminster election) I don’t see them as scary bogeymen any more.

And that’s where we are in this election campaign. Identity and culture will play a massive part of this election not just in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but across the UK as a whole because this is where we are thanks to Brexit. Corbyn’s Labour haven’t realised this, but Theresa May has hence why she’s called this election when a default position for many is a form of uber-Unionism that sees the UK as the centre of the world.That position may not be popular when the realities of Brexit kick in, so in Scotland I think we get what’s at stake here. Back in England any attempt to fight this solely on policies without dealing with Brexit (and everything that comes with it) hands the Tories an advantage. In this election identity is all, and it’s a straight fight between a hard/far right Unionist one and one Yes supporters offer. Make your choice.

Who to vote for in the 2017 General Election?

Some election thoughts on the cusp of what is going to be a hellish election campaign…

In Scotland it’s simple. Vote SNP, get that second referendum happening and then we go out and win it so we can break free of the Union and hopefully end the ideology of Unionism.I’m not an SNP voter. I’ll be putting the Greens at the top of my preferences for the local elections in a fortnight, but we need to break this cycle we’re in as well as rejoining a more socially democratic Europe than the increasingly far-right British state we’re in.

Wales-Vote for Plaid. Labour have let you down far too often. The Tories will laugh at you if you do and if you vote UKIP then Wales will rue the day you elected a UKIP MP.

Northern Ireland-Vote for the candidate who will beat the Unionist one. If that’s Sinn Fien, Alliance or SDLP, it doesn’t matter. The less Unionists NI return the less Tory enablers there are.

England-Dear god, England, you have issues. Don’t vote Tory but outwith of Brighton and Bristol voting Green won’t work. Voting Lib Dem means voting for Tory enablers as Farron’s rhetoric about creating a ‘soft’ Brexit only makes sense when you realise their unspoken tactic is hoping for a hung parliament and siding with the Tories.

This leaves Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. There’s an expression in NI-”vote til you boak” and I think in England, you’ll be boaking your guts out as Corbyn’s a Brexiter who’s enabled Theresa May throughout this process but you have no other choice. Voting Tory would be a disaster. I fear though the damage Labour constantly inflicts upon itself is too severe and they’ll take a pounding.

The Tories win this election and Theresa May gains the sort of power no Prime Minister should have. This will be the last cry of Unionism/Imperialism and the sort of ultra-British nationalism once thought to be unelectable but normalised through a media crying out for blood and a Westminster elite that have pandered to the worst for too long. We may have an escape route up here but fucks sake, whatever you do next month don’t vote Tory/UKIP/Lib Dem/Unionist or we’re screwed.

A word about the snap General Election

After writing this I thought things couldn’t get weirder or more scary. Then Theresa May calls a snap general election on the 8th of June and the arse falls out of any idea we might be hitting a phase of relative sanity.

Using the line The country is coming together but Westminster is not May obviously sees a chance based upon current polls to have the sort of majority that we’ve not seen since the Tony Blair years. May is essentially going to have to scrap the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act to hold this snap election which may well provide some more interesting snippets as although the Tories are putting on a united front, there’s a lot of Tories out there (Hi David Mundell!!) sitting on paper-thin majorities in areas that thanks to Brexit may well be facing unemployment in June.The Act was designed to stop PM’s doing just what May is doing which is hold an election when the polls are favourable.

Problem is polls can be read wrong. Take the Scottish independence referendum. David Cameron happily let the Scottish Government hold a referendum in 2014 the polls showed only around 20% support for independence. That changed over the campaign as more people became informed of the issues, so May’s taking a risk but this is a risk which if it pays off means she personally has an eye-watering majority (if the polls are accurate around 100) not to mention she intends to change the makeup of the Lords, while Brexit hands her the sort of power no Prime Minister should have.

So this is about Theresa May grabbing power. See all that bumf about ‘division’? That’s about creating a state where the opposition is muted and ineffective where it needs to be in Westminster. There’s also the matter of the Tory election fraud scandal which menaces the Tories and taints their 2015 victory, though as Michael Crick points out, this means the hard decisions are now in the hands of the CPS.

The question you have to ask yourself is what sort of future you want for yourself and for others? This is a general election where the future of the UK itself is up for grabs. If you want a future where Tory Prime Ministers have the sort of power where they can sail through whatever they want unopposed though Westminster then look to see where your vote belongs.In Scotland that means voting for the SNP, a party I reluctantly will give my vote to in June (I find their economic policies to be far too conservative) because their social policies are good and they’ll beat not just the Tories, but a hopeless broken Labour Party who’ve run up the white flag on Brexit.

Elsewhere in the UK its down to you to make the choice. I hope Corbyn’s smart and takes the offer of a progressive alliance Ed Milliband refused in 2015 but I fear the Labour Ultras won’t do that. I hope I’m proven wrong. Whatever you do make the right choice because we have a choice and if that choice is Tory (or UKIP) then we’re heading down the same path as Turkey, America, Russia and possibly France in having a hard authoritarian leader who stamps over human rights. Do we really want to be on the dark side in the years ahead?

A word about the Edinburgh Comic Con 2017

Last weekend I did my first comic con/mart in Scotland since 1994 at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, and even though I broke even, not to mention even made a bit of cash, my opinion of the Scottish comic convention scene was a tad tainted after the clownshow of the Barrowlands event.

This weekend is the 2017 Edinburgh Comic Con. Friends told me that last year the event had several thousand people and that as a show, it was actually fun, something most conventions/marts aren’t these days.Now my impression of the Edinburgh comics scene is somewhat tainted by the memory of several attempts in the 80’s and early 90’s to get events going there which ranged from stillborn to disaster.

So myself and a couple of friends left Glasgow Queen Street station (another first, as the last time I travelled from Queen Street was 20 years ago, and it’s also the last place in Scotland I threw up in a public place) at around 8.30am on a Saturday morning which is a time where Queen Street is one of the few places in Glasgow showing any signs of life. After a short, painless trip (last time I went on the train around three months ago I was in agony as my stroke recovery/slipped disc meant I was in agony) to Edinburgh Haymarket we disembarked, and headed towards the Edinburgh International Conference Centre; one of the better conference centres I’ve been in over the years. Remembering the last time I was in this part of Edinburgh it was 1987 and it was quite literally something from an Irvine Welsh book, I was a tad shocked by how obviously affluent this part of Edinburgh now is. Maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the relative poverty of Dennistoun, but this was like stepping into a much, much colder and windier Bristol.

Anyhow after a wee walk up the hill seeing cosplayers walk past us dressed as Spider-Men, stormtroopers and countless Harley Quinn’s, we joined a smallish queue around 9.30ism. We then realised there was another queue for early entry advance sales and that the ‘small queue’ we joined was now a long queue snaking round the corner of building and way, way back. Upon entering it was clear the venue was rammed, and we quickly entered into a very large hall full of stuff.

This was one of the more recent type of show based upon the San Diego/American comic con concept as opposed to the old school type of con where everything would be split up, or in the UK, would circle round the bar. As bottle of beer were a fiver here the bar was less than a focus, plus the fact there were so many kids with their families meant there weren’t many drunk creators/fans walking around.There was however thousands of people. So much so that my attempts to scout comics dealers, as well as buy cheap stock for my own business, meant it took me nearly three hours to see everything I wanted to.

In fact here’s a picture of the show at around 2pm, four hours after opening.

That’s from the ‘artists alley” entrance and as you can see there’s still a healthy number of people circulating in a hall that’s pretty huge. I couldn’t get the space to stand where I took this picture until around 2pm because it was constantly rammed.

I hooked up with John McShane and Steve Montgomery for a mini AKA Books and Comics reunion cup of tea (we are getting old) and a wee chat about the various comics we all bought (a nice old Charlton E-Man and some Adrian Tomine books in my case) before eventually I headed off back to Glasgow having had a perfectly cracking day out at a show I had low expectations for but left knowing that I have to get myself in there in the dealers room next year as all the comics dealers (bar one, but they’d priced comics on the back and were overpriced)  ranged from a few punters to being so busy it took me hours to get near enough to get a good shufty at their stuff. Some of the other stalls featured some good stuff as I picked up a few mini-comics from Neil Slorrance’s stall, and among the toys and merchandise there were a few people selling art. This ranged from being alright, to simply appalling and I wondered how on earth some people had the gall to sell what was piss-poor work.This is something that niggles me but right now there’s nothing I can offer as an alternative quite just yet…

All in all the show was well run, friendly, well-lit, clean and had a good cross-section of the ‘Geek Scene’ (I despise that expression and use it only under duress) of today though it had a clear and straight focus on comics which from my point of view was perfect. I could only manage the one day but as a two-day event this seems to be a case where good advertising, a decent guest line-up, and just making an effort paid off as I’m hearing today is nearly as busy as yesterday. This is what a modern comic convention should look like. Yes, I do long for the days where British cons were all about the bar, getting drunk, buying some great comics and meeting mates. With the cosplay element, as well as the increase of families some of the old drunken fun is gone but a new audience is coming through with an enthusiasm for comics that I knew was there. With Scotland also being a tad isolated due to geography it means these events will bring the crowds, if done right.

Next year I’ll be back and I hope to be selling this bright, young crowd all the comics (and other stuff) they didn’t even know they needed…