Why I’m backing Gordon Murdie

I don’t often agree with Alan Cochrane of the Telegraph, but the state of Edinburgh these days is one of those cross-party cross-politics cross residents things:

Given the state of things nowadays there’s very little possibility of many councillors being elected, certainly in Edinburgh, without the backing of the four major parties.

Gordon Murdie is standing as an independent in Southside/Newington. I haven’t lived within what are now the Southside/Newington ward boundaries since 1986: I’ve been a Leither ever since.

I have a personal interest in securing equal representation and influence of women – and I would very much like to see a 50-50 council after 3rd May.

I’m not that impressed with any of the candidates in my own ward of Leith, though I will of course be heading down to the polling station on 3rd May to vote.

I am particularly massively unimpressed by the Liberal Party, which appears to be so little interested in the Scottish council elections that they do not have a page about them on their website nor do their candidates produce election leaflets or appear at hustings.

I think Labour, LibDems, Conservative, and SNP groups on the council all have a set of big questions to answer about the trams, the privatisation of services scheme, and the statutory repairs scandal. I’d like there to be new people on the council after 3rd May, not tainted with these past scandals, leavened with a substantial proportion of councillors who won’t have to defend their predecessors out of party loyalty.

That points to the Scottish Greens, and while I’ve never joined a political party, the Greens are probably the only party I would join if I did. I certainly hope they become a larger bloc on the council.

In 2007 and in byelections since, nobody’s won a seat on Edinburgh council who wasn’t a party member. Independents tend not to stand much chance. Even printing the election leaflets is expensive, and delivering them takes volunteers.

I first became properly aware of the Edinburgh tenement council tax (the statutory repairs scam) in early January: but Gordon Murdie, managing director of a Quantity Surveyor firm, had been receiving calls for help for some time from homeowners receiving grossly inflated bills.

I wrote on 9th April:

Whether Gordon Murdie really stands a chance as an Independent in Newington/Southside pretty much depends on him. The results in 2007 were thoroughly mixed – the Labour councillor got in at round 7 and the Conservative, LibDem, and Scottish Greens all three got in at Round 9 of the count. He’s got a Faceboook page and a newsletter and he’s on Twitter as @GordonMurdie – but what would win it for him if anything does is being able to make his case in person.

Murdie left a couple of comments and a link to his election leaflet at my blogpost, and I read an interview by Alastair Tibbett for STV-local where Murdie answered a cynical question I’d raised about whether this was an advert for his firm:

The actual truth is that I’m running dry. I can give you a dozen cases and emails today from people that I’m helping for nothing. There’s fire in the belly. This is so deeply wrong.

“There are people who have lost their homes. There are apocryphal tales of attempted suicides, people have had to put holidays on hold. People are unable to sell their houses.

“This work has cost me my business. And I’ve committed body and soul to this because nobody else was that bothered. People think I’m charging thousands of pounds for my involvement in this, but I haven’t charged a fee this year.”

I met Gordon Murdie over coffee and sandwiches in Eteaket earlier this week, and I was impressed. If he gets elected – and I hope he does – I doubt he’ll vote how I would if I were a councillor (Me “Well, I’m a lefty feminist gay rights activist.” Murdie: “Well… I’m not!”): but perhaps more important than one vote on a council of 58, I think he’d be someone who’d ask solid questions when presented with the kind of glossy sell that dismissed people’s concerns about the trams and privatisation and a rising, rising statutory repairs bill.

I can’t vote for Gordon Murdie. I volunteered to run his blog.

You’ll find it at GordonMurdie.wordpress.com. (Budget? What budget? This is a campaign being run on a lot of hope and a shoestring.) Opinions expressed there are his, just as all opinions expressed here are mine.

I may be blogging a bit more lightly here till 3rd May. I haven’t changed my mind that Edinburgh Council should have more women – but the only woman standing in Southside/Newington is Margaret Lea, representing the Liberal Party, who doesn’t appear to be doing any campaigning and who got eliminated in the 3rd round with 156 votes in 2007. Realistically I can’t blame anyone for not voting for Lea: if her own party doesn’t care enough to devote a webpage to the Scottish council campaigns, why should anyone vote for them? So there’s that.

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