Andy Morrison is an accountant and is Parliamentary Candidate for Glasgow East.
It is here where my journey so far in politics began: ConservativeHome, and the constituency in which I was born, bred, raised and shaped in the Conservative mould, Glasgow East. Back in 2008 when the Glasgow East by-election took place, this website approached me for an overview of the constituency ahead of the contest. And now, here in 2015, I find myself the proud candidate for the area for the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party.
It goes without saying that Glasgow East is similar to the great English northern cities in that it’s not natural Tory territory. But there are two significant differences between now and the 2010 General Election which mean that I should be able to increase our support this time around.
First, the Scottish Conservatives have a groundswell of new members coming forward, and those people are coming from a wider mix of backgrounds. Just last weekend, we held a street stall with our Party Leader, Ruth Davidson, in the centre of Glasgow which attracted over 40 activists. Whilst not every passer-by was wild with enthusiasm, the fact that we were able to get a decent reception shows that a lot has changed for us in Scotland over the past few years.
Ordinary hardworking Scots are looking for a new home, especially those who are looking for a sure bet to stand up for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. Labour’s failure to be unequivocal about not working with the SNP means that they will pay a price amongst pro-Union voters.
In constituencies such as Glasgow East and Glasgow North East, candidates such as myself and my colleague Annie Wells are products of the environments and communities which we are seeking election to represent. Yes, we do have mutual aid programmes but, on the whole, our campaign teams consist of young men and women who live in those constituencies. When you get door-to-door, being able to talk about your personal experience of living in the area, especially amidst some of the more notorious communities, gives you a credibility none of the other candidates can offer. In my case, neither the Labour nor the SNP candidate lives in the constituency.
The second significant difference is that our present leader Ruth Davidson MSP has been successful in detoxifying the Conservative brand in Scotland, especially in Glasgow – the whole of which forms a single constituency for her Scottish Parliamentary seat. The independence referendum campaign was overall good for Ruth’s image, and that has in turn been reflected warmly onto the image of the Party.
When I wrote that overview of my home constituency those eight years ago, I recounted that the average male life expectancy in the specific council ward in which I lived in was lower than that of Bangladesh and the Gaza Strip, and that the Easterhouse estate was included within the constituency.
Easterhouse is famous as the housing scheme which prompted Iain Duncan Smith to set up the Centre for Social Justice, the findings of which have been translated into government policy over the past five years. The transition of communities where most people depend on welfare to communities where most people stand on their own two feet, whilst it has aided government finances against the backdrop of the economic recession, was always the ethical thing to do.
The welfare reforms that we are making, the sense of pride that we are giving communities such as Easterhouse and elsewhere across the East End, is not a mere austerity exercise – it is nothing short of a moral crusade. In Glasgow East alone the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance is down by almost 40 per cent. There are over 174,000 more people in work across Scotland since 2010, and naturally a high number of them are in Scotland’s largest city.
It doesn’t matter how you cut it: Glasgow East is very much the flashpoint of all of the ideological battles we face with the Labour Party during this election campaign: living standards, poverty levels, employment prospects, the welfare system, and inequality. I am the candidate very much on the front line of everything that will decide which way swing voters turn.
Each charge put to us in terms of our record on the poor, the weak, and the needy resonates no more loudly than it does in Glasgow East. I am proud to be going into this election knowing that my constituency is the ‘litmus test’ of whether we are doing right by the most vulnerable in society. We have delivered improvements for the East End of Glasgow and, with a growing economy, would continue to do so with five years of a majority government.
Putting that strong, growing economy at risk with Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in charge would mean that those who depend on public services the most would be hurt the greatest. Just look at Greece: it is always the poor who feel it most when a nation has to spend more servicing its national debt than it can spend on welfare, healthcare and other public services.
I doubt I will be there on 8th May to ensure Nicola Sturgeon is sent homeward with a blank dance card to think again. I doubt I will be there to ensure we remain committed to a long term economic plan which is delivering for the whole of British society. But what I can do is work hard to ensure Glasgow East sends David Cameron ‘a wee nod and a wink’ and, in doing so, give both the Labour Party and the SNP a ‘Glasgow Kiss’.
I am encouraging my supporters to stay with us, rather than succumb to the temptation to vote tactically against the SNP, since the best thing a Unionist could do is vote Conservative and demonstrate we share the same values, the same broad political outlook, and of course the same economic recovery, as our brothers and sisters south of the border.
If we can get that vote up – heck, even save our deposit this time, for we polled a mere 4.5 per cent here in 2010 – we can show those who still wish to separate our nations that, even in the most deprived constituency in Scotland, we are moving in the same direction of travel as the rest of the United Kingdom. For that is the best long term plan to stop Sturgeon and the SNP.