Licence revoked

STRATHCLYDE’S finest will, I trust, be on the lookout for a truck driver seen blatantly breaking the law this afternoon in Shettleston Road in the constituency of Glasgow East. This individual was driving a white open-top truck with one hand while holding a microphone – into which he was shouting – with the other.

That he was promoting the SNP candidate in the by-election is neither here nor there, of course: not only was he breaking the law but he was also putting at risk the lives of pedestrians and other drivers.

This little anecdote reveals a truth so far overlooked by the media: SNP activists aren’t nearly as numerous on the ground as they claim. Why send a single person out on loudspeaker work in the first place, knowing that in order to do the job single-handed he’s going to have to break the law and risk generating bad publicity for the campaign if he gets caught?

And I’ve yet to encounter an SNP canvasser who was accompanied by a single other activist.

The Labour campaign, on the other hand, has been extremely well-supported by activists, as well as enthusiastic and motivated.

Oddly enough, when the lone driver/loudspeaker user drove past today, I was in the company of Alan (now Lord) Haworth, with whom I did some loudspeaker work in the Kincardine and Deeside by-election in November 1991. The campaign was nearing its end, there was no more press work to be done (I was still employed by the Labour Party as its press officer in Scotland at this point) and Alan, unable to sit still for long, asked if I wanted to take microphone duties in one last tour of the Aberdeen end of the constituency. So he drove while I ranted.

Soon, we passed Winnie Ewing campaigning in a local street. I decided, probably rather unwisely, that my Sean Connery impression was called for. Now, I am the first to admit that my Sean Connery voice sounds more like me than Sir Sean, only more nasally and slurred. Still, it amused me to shout “This is Sean Connery – I’ve changed my mind and decided to support the Labour Party…” as we passed Winnie’s entourage.

We came fourth. Anyway, the point is: how desperate must the SNP be if they’re willing to tolerate one of their volunteers risking lives – and his licence – to promote their candidate?

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14 Comments

Filed under Media, Politics, SNP, Whimsy

14 responses to “Licence revoked

  1. Richard

    Well, given that you’ve drafted in every single Labour MP, regardless of whether they have any Scottish connections and are bussing in activists from England it’s not hard to guess why you’ve got more people on the ground than the SNP who have to rely on Scottish volunteers from a party that’s a fifth the size of New Labour.

  2. An election to the UK parliament, but only Scottish activists should take part? How about restricting it further, say, to activists from Glasgow?

  3. Jim, Swad

    Reminds me of the burk from VERITAS who ran around with his son in a car shouting about how “Labour has betrayed you all” and such.

    He got… 2 votes or something.

    Mind, there was an interesting article by Brendan Perring from the Times the other day, while he notes SNP activists were about he reckoned the SNP is also hurling resources at the constituency.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4362917.ece <– Full article.

    Mind, I find it odd that, during such a thing they need to bus people in from the other side of the border of all places, Labour is still undeniably popular in Scotland and always struck me as a “Safe area” for the Reds. Plus Glasgow East’s unemployment rating means there’s no shortage of able Labour voting bodies ready to help….

    Well, was anyway.

    Dunno how the “Workfare” will go down, but I’ve heard it’s being played down, much like the 10p was, smart move in overal terms, but will it work in a place as dependant as Welfare as Glasgow East?

    What do you think, Tom?

    Love the blog, by the by, got it via Iain Dale’s. It’s good to see a chap ready to shove his opinion out there, especially a government minister of all folks.

  4. Andrew

    I don’t know how the Labour party arranges canvassing but an SNP canvasser is given a printed list of houses to call which covers the whole street.
    Therefore you’ll only see 1 person at a time unless it’s the candidate or another high profile person who are always accompanied by somebody.
    Before computers we used seperate cards for each house and you would have several canvassers in one street with one person in control of the cards.
    The Labour Party seem to go round in groups of up to eight which must be very inefficient as large numbers of people will be covering the same ground between houses.

  5. Auntie Flo'

    How fast was he travelling, Tom, your truck driver, about 5mph?

  6. Not sure. Why, is it legal to use a handheld phone while driving provided you’re going at 5 mph? Actually, I can answer that: no, it’s not.

  7. No Tom, it’s not legal. But compared to the allegations against the former MP. It’s small beer. The strategy behind a swift by-election is now all too clear.

  8. nuttyxander – so that’s all right then.

  9. So those who bus people in are desparate, eh?

    But what’s that I spy in the Western Mail?

    “Plaid Cymru meanwhile has been assisting its sister party, the SNP, in campaigning for the Glasgow East poll.”

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics-news/2008/07/24/labour-s-desperate-mission-to-keep-glasgow-stronghold-91466-21393976/

    Yet even with this extra support from Wales, the SNP still have to resort to one bloke driving their bus – and breaking the law at the same time!

  10. Gordon

    Hi Tom,

    On matters legal or not, what’s the story about David Marshall’s daughter and the use of a constituency office address for business purposes.
    You see, I’ve no doubts that there’s nothing to answer for, but Mags Curran seemed a bit evasive about it when questioned by Michael Crick yesterday.
    If there’s nothing to hide, why was she avoiding the question?

    Now there’s no question that driving and trumpeting through a megaphone is stretching the law beyond the breaking point (as i believe was once said of Mr Blair and the truth vis a vis the ‘dodgy dossier’), but your comments smack of a little desperation.

    by the by, do you still feel that we’ve “never had it so good?”

  11. Gordon – why did you put “never had it so good” in inverted commas, as if to suggest that’s a quote from me? I do hope you’re not relying on media interpretation of my comments instead of actually reading what I said.

  12. Ban White Van Man? Certainly Not!

    On the day in question I was driving a white transit-style van using a microphone in Shettleston Road. Although it was not a ‘white open-top truck’ as you suggest Mr Harris, ‘Big Shuggie’ (who was probably who you saw) does not have the internet at the moment (cat chewed through the cable) so I will blog on his behalf.

    As an SNP activist I normally find myself laughing at Labour blogs rather than replying to them but as ‘Strathclyde’s finest’ may be attempting to trace the perpetrator of this most heinous crime I feel I should save them the bother by exposing yet another Labour MP who is clearly out of touch and very possibly, if another election is called, out of office.

    The vans in question were fitted with PA systems (that’s Public Address to you and me) and fist microphones (CB style mics). A quick read of ‘The Amendment of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986’ (which by your mention of mobile phones in the same thread is the legislation to which you are alluding) confirms that PA systems are exempt from this piece of legislation. (In fact it is perfectly legal to use a CB radio whilst driving).

    In Section 110 Paragraph (4) of the above legislation it states:

    “A device referred to in paragraphs (1)(b), (2)(b) and (3)(b) is a device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data”.

    A PA system clearly does not perform an interactive communication and although it transmits (amplified voice not radio waves) it does not receive. Therefore Section 110 Paragraph 1 (b) does not apply to PA systems.

    Check http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2003/20032695.htm
    for further details.

    Mr Harris, let me educate you. When it comes to things like eating, smoking, applying make-up, map reading (and using fist microphones), they are not against the law although drivers could be charged with careless driving or not being in proper control of their vehicle. What it boils down to is that it comes down to the discretion of the police. On the day (and week) in question I must have passed at least 30 police cars and (including the ones that waved at me) none saw fit to stop me at any time. What does that tell you Mr Harris?

    Are you saying that all CB users, taxi drivers, ambulance drivers, police officers who use a hand held mic are criminals?

    Of course a quick reference to the particular legislation which I am supposed to have broken (paragraph & subsection) would suffice?

    Finally you claim that the SNP must be desperate if they’re willing to tolerate one of their volunteers risking lives etc. Putting your melodrama aside for one minute what you witnessed in the last few weeks was an efficient and well-oiled SNP campaign machine at work. Record numbers of SNP activists turned out for this by-election. On the other hand Labour had to bus in 100’s of activists from the North of England.

    Fortunately I am a very good, experienced driver and never had so much as a missed signal in the
    last few weeks campaigning. In fact the only time my driving was distracted was whilst being subject to verbal abuse from your very own Labour activists in Lightburn and Bailieston. Mind you they HAD travelled far and were probably VERY tired.

  13. Ban White Van Man? Certainly Not!

    Thanks for pointing out my typo which should have read:

    ‘The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003’

    (The hyperlink was correct although the text was not).

    As you say this has been superceded although upon checking I think you will find that the link you give primarily refers to mobile phones. Note 1 does say ‘or similar device’ but in your context you are being non-specific. By checking Section 26 of the Road Traffic Act 2006, which the article refers to, the full term is ‘or other hand held interactive communication device’.

    I would suggest that a fist microphone or CB style microphone is, in itself, not a communication device. Furthermore it is not interactive, in that, it is part of a PA system and only is capable of one-way communication (of amplified voice and not radio waves).

    As previously stated it is not illegal to use a microphone of this type and it is up to the discretion of the Police as to whether or not careless driving has taken place. I would suggest that it has not as a CB style mic is the safest to use, in that, you simply press a button and talk. It is the ‘lesser’ of the other types of devices which are permissable by law. There is no ‘return’ conversation as with a two way radio which as previously mentioned IS legal to use.

    Furthermore I am convinced that by not being stopped by the many Police that saw me, my arguement is further strengthened.

    Maybe this is a ‘grey’ area that your Party could look at strengthening although I feel that after 11 years of Labour being in power it’s another case of ‘too little too late’.

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