…of (Inver)clyde. Just back from a coast-to-coast day trip to chip in at the Inverclyde by-election. Caused by the untimely death in his forties of Labour MP and ex-priest David Cairns (who changed the rules so an ex-priest could even be an MP) this was no-one’s first choice as a turn of events. David’s death was a real loss to Labour, the SNP are staring at a 14.416 majority to overturn. Neither Lib-Dems nor Tories relish the prospect of another trouncing, such as they received here just one month ago.
Nothing fazed, a packed National Council filled Crawfordsburn Community Centre and was treated to roaring speeches both from Alex Salmond and the candidate Anne McLaughlin who hammered home that she was from there, having gone to Greenock High school. Then everyone decamped to the campaign HQ at Unit 4, 10 Carnock Street, Greenock, PA15 1HB. Veteran as I am of umpteen by-elections, I still wasn’t prepared for the scale and level of professionalism the SNP exhibit these days—reception, delivery dispatch, canvass dispatch, return processing and a catering section with piles of decent sarnies and enough room out of the rain to socialise with old friends.
My squad took three deliveries up Lyle Hill (note for those coming over: Greenock is all hills) to the ‘birds’ estate, with great views over Fort Matilda across the Tail o’ the Bank to Helensburgh and the jumble of bright green/soft grey (depending on the highly variable rain) hills of Argyll. We made base camp on Grieve Road but needed sherpas to prep a forward camp on the East col of Wren Road where we switched to oxygen…
Actually, it wasn’t that bad but I have never seen so many stairs outside of city tenements. After four hours, my rectus femoris and other thigh muscles felt pumped. Mostly friendly reception from the locals, the most awkward moment came when I tried to find fruit or fruit juice amidst two coolers of fizzy drinks and acres of snack foods in the corner shop at the summit of Wren Road. If there are any vegetarians living on Lyle Hill, they must grow their own or they’d have starved to death long ago.
Coming home, it was good to see cranes still operational along the Clyde and Ferguson’s shipyard at Port Glasgow doing a bit of business. But, despite new malls and superstores, the area had a feel of one that has slipped from grace—the fine stone but roofless Central Station, the elegant town hall steeple contrasting with nail salons and advocacy bases. Well past time for Inverclyde to rediscover itself again.