Political Spin of the Day!


A constituent has pointed out to me this classic bit of SNP spin from their Dundee website:
“Cllr Jim Barrie – SNP Candidate for Dundee West
Jim Barrie is well-known – and well-respected – as a Dundee Councillor. He has represented the West End since the Logie By Election in August 2000 when he won the seat with a large swing from Labour. He increased his majority in Logie in 2003 and in May 2007, was elected for the West End multi-member ward at Stage 1 with the highest number of votes of any of the candidates. “
Err … so what were the first preference votes of the four elected candidates from last year’s election?
Fraser Macpherson (Liberal Democrats) : 1693 votes
Richard McCready (Labour) : 1331 votes
James Walker Barrie (SNP) : 1326 votes
Donald Hay (Conservative) : 738 votes

Oh dear, SNP spin machine a bit faulty it appears!


Vote Dundee! And last word on election results …

Firstly, many thanks to the local resident who advised me about the new Monopoly game – click on the headline above to view more – and make sure Dundee gets included!
As her e-mail advises :
“We’re in 6th place just now and Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow aren’t even on the board! I was always very competitive when it came to Monopoly and this is just adding a whole new dimension!! Vote now!! Get anyone else you know to vote too!!! The closing date for voting is 25th May.”
Janet & I have good friends who live in the Burgess Hill area in Sussex and we note Burgess Hill is one place above Dundee!
And … a final word on the election results; further to my earlier blog entry saying I had spoken with the City Council’s Public Relations Department about the display of the election results for the City Council, there are now PDFs of the detailed ward results available for downloading at :

Council results again

I was speaking with a West End constituent yesterday who pointed out the relatively meaningless way the way in which the City Council election results are displayed on the Council’s website. These merely show the stage at which candidates were elected (and give no indication of the performance of unsuccessful candidates) – to take the West End Ward as an example:
WEST END WARD ….. Turnout – 49.55%
Donald Hay – Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Elected at Stage 8
Fraser Macpherson – Liberal Democrat Focus Team
Elected at Stage 1
James Walker Barrie – Scottish National Party (SNP)
Elected at Stage 1
Richard McCready – Scottish Labour
Elected at Stage 1
This really gives the reader no impression as to how the three candidates who were elected at Stage 1 performed in relation to one another, or how many first preference votes they received.
Yesterday, after a briefing for newly elected councillors, members were given a full breakdown of the results, and the following therefore gives a more meaningful impression of candidate performance in the West End.
It should be noted that, despite all the complications of surpluses transferred as candidates win or get eliminated (there were 8 stages of the Count in our Ward), in fact the four candidates at the top right at the start were the candidates finally elected. As one party (the nationalists) had more than one candidate here, I have indicated the winning and losing candidates.
West End Ward – First Preference Votes
Elected Candidates
Fraser Macpherson, Liberal Democrat FOCUS Team 1693
Richard McCready, Scottish Labour 1331
Jim Barrie, SNP (winning) 1326
Donald Hay, Scottish Conservative and Unionist 738
Not Elected
Chic Brodie, SNP (losing) 495
George Burton, Green 307
Luke Ivory, Solidarity 95
Angela Gorrie, SSP 69
I spoke yesterday to the Council’s public relations department and suggested that a link beside each ward result on the website to take you to a PDF of the full breakdown would be a helpful addition.
The list (and mug shots!) of all 29 new council members are now on the Council website and you can follow a link to this by clicking on the headline above.

Election Aftermath

During the election campaign, I always said it would be like getting our lives back after the election! So it was really good yesterday to have a day almost devoid of elections, politics and the Council. Our older son was off to Rome on holiday after wearing out much shoe leather in the run-up to 3rd May so having dropped him at Edinburgh Airport, we had a nice day out in South Queensferry (see picture!), where my late grandparents lived for many years. Great lunch too!

There was great hilarity in the Macpherson household yesterday morning when we read Steve Bargeton’s column in the Courier. He’d picked up the spelling error in the letter sent by my campaign to postal voters. I think anyone who has received the 60 FOCUS newsletters I have produced in the West End over the past 6 years knows that my spelling and grammar is pretty good; so just for the record, if you click on the headline above, you can see what was sent as a PDF to party HQ who were undertaking the mail merge to personalise the letter. Some ‘helpful’ party worker decided to retype it to convert the document to MS Word; unfortunately what was then produced was not exactly a faithful replication of the original! Such is life.

The reality of election campaigns is that, whatever party you are standing for, it is an exceptionally busy and demanding time, and mistakes happen in all campaigns. The Labour Party in Coldside Ward managed to produce a leaflet urging people to support “Cowan” on one side, but “Cowans” on the other. I do not doubt that Dave Cowan knows perfectly well how to spell his name!

In reality, there were more serious errors which simply didn’t help the electorate get to grips with the new STV electoral system. The Tory candidate in East End Ward (“a well known haridresser in Broughty Ferry” – we assume that is a hairdresser) made this amazing statement :

“The new method of electing Councillors by Single Transferable Vote means that you have three votes at this election … All she asks is that you give her one of these votes.”

Absolute rubbish and no wonder some voters put three Xs on their Council voting paper. I was speaking with a Labour councillor yesterday who (although he won comfortably) said how infuriating it was to see X against his name & that of his running mate, and with a couple of Xs on the paper, the paper was made void.

The information to voters was simply not done well enough. And although I have mentioned above the confusing messages from a candidate, fundamentally the official information was too late, too confusing and ultimately the fault of the Scottish Executive.

There were only 88 rejected papers in my West End Ward (but I can tell you that many of these were people genuinely trying to make a vote/preference, not just spoil their paper). In Coldside Ward, where the LibDem candidate was last to be eliminated and lost by a whisker, there were 256 “spoilt” papers.

Back to the Steve Bargeton column … Steve gets it absolutely right when he says the electoral administration across Scotland was “an absolute shambles.” Dundee’s election administration was probably the best in Scotland (our Count ran really smoothly and the electronic counting here did actually work) but even then I have some real concerns about the postal vote administration and have already been in touch with the Council’s Chief Executive about this. I stress the fault lies fairly and squarely with the Scottish Executive and their contractors DRS, not with the City Council. Indeed, here in Dundee, City Council officers saved the day in getting the postal ballots posted out.

There have been calls for the Council elections to be held on a different day than the Scottish Parliament. I do not agree with this. The voters are now asked to vote for local councillors, MSPs, MPs, MEPs and the occasionally referendum – it is all overkill. The problem was three different electoral systems on the same day :

First past the post for the MSP constituency members
Regional list vote for the “top up” MSPs
Single transferable vote for local councils

A single voting system (ie moving the parliament to STV) would mean that there would be two votes only & the ballot papers would be filled in the same way. It would also remove the “two classes” of MSP – it is difficult to defend the “regional members” system, many of whom are simply people who failed to get elected in the “real” election.

One last thing. I won’t weep at the departure of many of the minor “parties” from the Scottish parliament, but I do agree with John Swinburne of the SSCUP about the way in which “Alex Salmond for First Minister” appeared at the top the regional ballot paper. Swinburne says in the Herald yesterday, “If you saw Alex Salmond’s name on the top of the list you would presume that you’re voting for him, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. It’s sharp practice.” I am of the view that registered political parties should not be allowed to name individuals in any of the party descriptions they register for use on ballot paper. One for the Electoral Commission I think, but having had dealings with that organisation in the past, don’t hold your breath!

Recycling progress; Community Council

Today, had good news that the residents in Gowrie Street will be given the option next month to get brown (garden) and blue (paper) recycling bins.
Also, good to get promises that the lack of a street sign on the south side of Almond Place and the very worn sign on Almond Place’s north side will be addressed – I have been promised that these will be replaced within the next 4-5 weeks.
Well attended West End Community Council meeting last night where the new STV electoral arrangements were explained. Also strong support for saving the Botanical Gardens.