Monday, 30 November 2009

Political credibility relies on displaying good judgement

At a time when politics and politicians are widely discredited it is vital that those seeking to rebuild the reputation of politics demonstrate good judgement in order to prove to the electorate that they are capable of representing them honestly.

I met up with Jackson Carlaw MSP and Bill Aitken MSP yesterday with every intention of taking part in the STUC's march and rally against racism in Scotland. Make no mistake, after our participation in the impromptu march against the BNP a fortnight ago, Scottish Conservatives are more than willing to stand up and be counted in the political coalition against racism. However, on our arrival in St Andrews Square it became apparent to us that many of those attending had their own very personal agendas that had little to do with protesting against racism in Scotland.

In particular my comment relates to a banner displayed for all to see at the front of St Andrews Square stating "Boycott Racist Israel" (seen being carried as part of the march between 1 minute 8 seconds and 1 minute 11 seconds of the STV news item at This had nothing to do with the advertised purpose of yesterday's march and rally, as explained in the glossy literature distributed by the STUC to political parties and community organisations, and has everything to do with a political agenda pursued by people who are far from engaged in seeking peace between an Israeli state able to live within secure borders and a viable Palestinian state. Indeed it is often possible to directly link this sort of public statement to anti-Semitic activities in the UK by the minority of mindless idiots who pursue hate based on the Jewish religion or the existence of the State of Israel.

So without hesitation Jackson, Bill and I decided that participation in yesterday's march and rally was inappropriate as it would fail to register our objection to this banner and the sentiment it expressed.

Imagine then our astonishment as we watched the Secretary of State for Scotland and the General Secretary of the STUC set off on the march not 6 feet from, and with a clear view of, this banner - for me an astonishing lack of judgement from the Member of Parliament who represents the largest Jewish community in Scotland.

And that is not the only demonstration of a lack of judgement from our erstwhile MP over the past week.

The Internet is a wonderful forum for communication but must, as with the electorate, be treated with respect.

Today we find that Jim Murphy has had to remove comments from his website after receiving a letter informing him that if he did not remove the item, or if he repeats the claim made in it, he will face defamation action, (read more at

By making statements about your opposition that are untrue all you do is bring politics into further disrepute and the claims Mr. Murphy was making about a split between Tories on schools admission policy could not have been further from the truth.

The truth is you will not find any difference between Conservatives on the issue of St Ninians admission policy. We believe the Council, with a view to future expansion of East Renfrewshire, is right to redraw the catchment area and that this should preserve the principle of East Renfrewshire schools first and foremost for East Renfrewshire residents children. After all it is the East Renfrewshire council taxpayer who paid for the school to be built and who pay for it to be maintained. So committed to this position are we that we included this issue as part of a full page advert in this weeks Eastwood Today before Mr Murphy's claim was made.

But instead of stating his own position, so that the electorate can judge him accordingly, we found East Renfrewshire's MP claiming a split by deliberately misattributing a statement made by Paul McBride QC who represents the Conservative Party in Scotland on law and order issues.

Far from having stated it was "completely unacceptable" to redraw catchment boundaries Paul actually used the words in relation to the way the consultation exercise has been instigated and conducted having been asked for his professional opinion on the facts. Paul is senior counsel to a number of Scotland's newspapers and his opinion, as well as that of another non-partisan QC who has reviewed the legality of the Council's position, is that the process has not been conducted in line with our Council's own policies and guidelines and that this has left the Council taxpayer of East Renfrewshire exposed to potential financial loss. Paul's concern is that consultation should be fair and that the taxpayer should not be asked to waste money settling expensive legal action where it is entirely predictable and avoidable. East Renfrewshire Council has already had to back down on one Court of Session action and I am informed settled legal costs at our expense. This is surely unacceptable at a time when our Council is having to look for voluntary redundancies and COSLA are warning of even deeper cuts and financial hardship to come.

So let's be clear, Conservatives support the case for redrawing catchment boundaries for St Ninians in anticipation of East Renfrewshire's increased population as developments like Greenlaw are built and inhabited but this must be done properly and it would be "completely unacceptable" if this was done by exposing the Council taxpayer of East Renfrewshire to financial loss.

Demonstrating good judgement in the way we live our lives and in the campaigns we fight is the only way for politicians to excite and reengage the public we seek to serve. I hope to demonstrate I am ready to serve the people of East Renfrewshire by the decisions I take and the campaigns I fight. Whether the same can be said for my principle opponent only time will tell, but until then I think the evidence of his lack of judgement is clear for all to see.

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