Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taking Kerrful Aim

It's official, then. With the Labour Government voting down the SNP attempt this afternoon to move the writ for the Glasgow North East by-election, the constituency is going to be left without Westminster representation at a time when job losses in the seat are at the top of the political agenda. Had the bid been successful, a poll could have been held on August 20th - long after the holidays had finished. Compare and contrast Labour's reticence and tactical disarray with their dash last summer in Glasgow East, or the impending contest in Norwich.

Consistent? Only in pursuit of what the Labour Party perceives to be its own best interests. Anyway, with lurid headlines about supposed 'meltdown' now wrapping chips and in the knowledge that we're in for a marathon rather than a sprint, it's maybe worth sharing some thoughts about the SNP candidate, David Kerr – a guy I've known for well over a decade, from when we were both in the Federation of Student Nationalists.



The first time I recall encountering him was at a meeting of the Federation's National Council in Dundee in the mid-90's. Right from the off, it seemed pretty clear that he was someone who was going to go places in life. Turned out in a suit while the rest of us slummed it in jeans and rumpled shirts, he reported on his role as a representative to the party Executive.

Speaking fluently and without notes, he held court for a good ten minutes, keeping eye contact with delegates all the time, making it seem as if he was speaking to every person in the room, rather than just a group. Issues had been long mastered, with their complexities distilled elegantly. Even the most pointed questions were handled with courtesy and a slightly wicked but genial humour. By the end of his stint, someone whom a fair number of those present had began by regarding with suspicion had the room eating out of his hand.

His integrity, personal charm and obvious ability ensured that he was held in the highest regard by all sections of the party, even in the old and unlamented pre-devolution days when being regarded as a 'fundamentalist' or a 'gradualist' still mattered. With his ability to communicate, it was no real surprise when he joined the BBC, and even less so when his name began to appear in the credits of Newsnight as the programme's producer.

The biggest surprise, at least for me, was that he 'broke cover' to contest the Falkirk West by-election just as network greatness seemed to be calling. He almost pulled it off as well. However, there's no second prizes in politics and despite his proven impartiality at the Beeb, the career options at the corporation for an unsuccessful SNP candidate were sadly limited. Reading the football scores – BBC Scotland's answer to Siberia - was to be his most public task for a long time afterwards.

I've no doubt whatsoever that David is a candidate whom Labour fear, which likely goes a long way towards explaining some of the nonsense we've seen in the papers over the past few days. They would be wise to do so. His ability to connect with people means he's as happy singing karaoke or calling bingo as he'd be debating the finer points of the Lisbon Treaty. In David, the SNP has a candidate of uncommon ability, who will have no difficulty keeping the focus where it should be – on Labour's appalling record in Glasgow.

As one lady of a certain age put it to me back when he was cutting his candidate's teeth in Falkirk, 'that boy's got it all'. He certainly has, and I can't help but feel it's not going to be to Labour's advantage to give him until November to prove it on the stump in Glasgow.

5 comments:

Jeff said...

Well put Richard, thanks for sharing.

For those of us who don't yet know David from Adam, it's nice to get a personal account of the man rather than have merely the press' dredging of his history to work with.

It sounds like David will have Team SNP onside and fired up very quickly indeed.

Wardog said...

An excellent post Richard and it would seem on the money, I've been very impressed with Kerr's reasoned and sensible approach to the slurs and smears whipped up by a rather desparate Labour Party before and over the weekend.

PS I've just finished 'Breaking up Britain' and really enjoyed your essay.... any chance you could contribute a blogpost to http://scotsvoices.eu

Your choice of subject.

You can email be at:

wardogbuckie@googlemail.com

dominic said...

Excellent stuff. I knew David at St Andrews, and I'd agree that he is indeed a talented fellow, and a man of principle and integrity and intelligence who deserves to go far. A most impressive candidate. May just end up as one of the finer orators in Westminster too, for what that's worth.

Anonymous said...

"His ability to connect with people means he's as happy singing karaoke or calling bingo as he'd be debating the finer points of the Lisbon Treaty."

Or sneering at lesser universities to an audience of St. Andreans with inflated opinions of themselves?

Well perhaps that criticism of him was unfair, perhaps if he was addressing the Cambridge University Catholic Society he would have made similarly disparaging remarks about St. Andrews, but let us be honest, since when were Strathclyde politics ever clean? Class war rhetoric has long been an established principle. And besides, the SNP have played on public prejudices when it has suited them the same as any other party.

I don't think your portrait of Mr Kerr is actually entirely favourable, he is of course a man who shares much of your political beliefs and of course that will give a different perspective to the rest of us. But when you wrote "Right from the off, it seemed pretty clear that he was someone who was going to go places in life. Turned out in a suit while the rest of us slummed it in jeans and rumpled shirts, he reported on his role as a representative to the party Executive" it made me think of the anonymous BBC source who is quoted as saying Kerr was "a bit arrogant....He thinks other people aren't as intelligent as he is."

There is certainly a whiff of the New Labour professional politician about him from what you have written, a highly ambitious young man intent on achieving power, is he really “as happy singing karaoke or calling bingo as he'd be debating the finer points of the Lisbon Treaty” or is it just that he knows he must do the former if he ever wants to seriously do the latter?

Perhaps he merely represent the kind of politicians we - i.e. Western politics generally - now produce, and perhaps that is a step up from the kind of politician that Michael Martin was, a loyalist time server quite obviously lacking ability and given a job beyond his capability.

I suppose at the very least he will never be heard girning about how it's his working class background they don't like!

Liberal for Life said...

Wasn't this the local SNP's second or third choice as candidate.

So lets all agree to Stop Nationalist Propaganda now lads before you sucker punch the Scottish nation with your half truths offered through those rose tinted specatacles you choose to wear.