SNP politician Christine Grahame’s proposal to contest the Berwick constituency at next year’s General Election has been ruled out.
Ms Grahame, who represents Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale in the Scottish Parliament, had previously expressed her willingness to be a candidate in the English seat currently held by long-serving Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith.
She felt it would secure the SNP leadership a place in any UK-wide television debates to be screened in the run-up to May. That way the SNP could claim to be standing right across the UK because it would have candidates in England as well as Scotland.
However, the idea has been rejected by the SNP executive.
Ms Grahame said:
“I am disappointed but not surprised that the SNP’s governing body has rejected my offer. I, of course, accept the ruling.”
The idea sparked debate among voters on both sides of the border.
The proposal certainly captured the imagination south of the border, with some predicting she could collect a significant numbers of votes from disaffected Berwickers.
While she was never likely to win a seat that is seen as a two-horse race between Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Liberal Democrat Julie Porksen, an SNP candidate might have been able to pick up support from voters disillusioned, most recently, by the failure of the coalition partners to commit to dualling the last 25 miles of the A1 up to Berwick.
Ms Graham’s proposal also received a favourable reaction from the North-East Party, which seeks greater devolution for Berwick and the north east of England generally.
“I have contacted Hilton Dawson, of the North-East Party, offering to assist them in their campaign if they think that would be helpful.
“But to stand in Berwick to promote devolution for the north east and to lay to rest the scare stories about Scotland cutting itself off from England in the event of independence (I am English born) I required approval from my party’s executive.”
Ms Grahame is no stranger to Berwick’s political scene.
In September she took part in the BBC’s pre-referendum ‘Scotland and Us’ debate at The Maltings, arguing that Scotland breaking away from England would be good for the area and would stimulate the case for devolution of powers to the north of England.
And in the run up to the 2008 general election she lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to “return to the fold” although politicians warned it would be too complicated and would cause major upheaval.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 12 Dec 2014
SNP politician Christine Grahame insists that she is serious about contesting the Berwick seat at next year’s General Election and says she has had “loads of supportive messages”.
The level of interest can certainly be verified by the Berwick Advertiser – over 4,500 read the story online in one day and a Facebook link to it received over 3,500 likes.
Ms Grahame initially came up with the idea of contesting the Berwick seat as a possible way to get SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on to the national platform in the run up to the general election and taking part in the televised leader debates.
Last month the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky jointly wrote to David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage inviting them to take part is a series of multi-platform party leader debates. The directors of BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sent out separate invitations to the main political parties in each nation to discuss setting up general election debates.
The Berwick seat is currently held by Sir Alan Beith who is standing down in May. First elected in 1973, he is the longest serving Lib Dem MP and, in 2010, he had a majority of 2,690 over his Conservative rival.
Ms Grahame told the Advertiser:
“I await consideration by the SNP of my proposal which is a serious suggestion to reflect the similarities between the requirements of Berwick and its near neighbours in the Scottish Borders.
“I would, as always, be campaigning to win the seat but would continue in my role as MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.
“I know the good that devolution can do and would fight to bring this to Berwick and the north of England. In addition I believe we need to ensure that good cross border relations continue.
“My focus is, as always, on social justice and democracy which, of course, crosses borders.”
The Conservatives have the Berwick seat in their sights with the retirement of Sir Alan, and their candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan said this week:
“I believe that all voters should have the opportunity to vote for the person and party of their choice, and I know from my own doorstep canvassing, that there are some Berwick residents whose views resonate most closely with the SNP.”
Liberal Democrat candidate, Julie Porksen, was a little less welcoming of the idea of Ms Grahame as a rival candidate:
“For the SNP to stand a candidate in the Berwick constituency in order to get into the leader’s debates is a publicity stunt and does nothing to improve the lives of those living in north Northumberland.
“The real choice facing people here in the next election is between Lib Dem action on the A1, local health services, jobs and education, or the Tories whose policies, like regional pay, would do great damage to Northumberland.”
Jeremy Purvis, a Berwick native and former MSP who lost his Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat to Ms Grahame in 2011 and now sits in the Lord as Lord Purves of Tweed, said:
“It seems a remarkable move from someone who worked so hard to become a Borders MSP,
“If anyone was looking for evidence that the SNP is an anti-English party, then sending Christine Grahame to Berwick should do the trick.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 27 Nov 2014
An SNP politician has offered to stand for the Berwick seat at next year’s general election in a bid to help her party earn a spot in the nationwide TV leaders’ debates.
Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, says broadcasters have no plans to include the SNP leadership in any UK-wide debates to be screened in the run-up to May.
Her solution? To offer to stand as a candidate south of the border.
That way the SNP could claim to be standing right across the UK because it would have candidates in England as well as Scotland. Ms Grahame believes that would justify a place on the national stage for new SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon when it comes to pre-election leader debates.
Ms Grahame said:
“I have offered to stand in Berwick as a candidate so we can get equal coverage on the television because we fight throughout the UK.
“I can still keep my seat in the Scottish Parliament but then they would have to say we stand all over the UK, we should have all our leaders in these debates.”
And this isn’t the first time English-born Ms Grahame has set her sights on Berwick, where she took part in the independence referendum debate in September.
Speaking at the BBC’s pre Scottish referendum ‘Scotland and Us’ debate at Berwick’s Maltings Theatre, she told the audience that Scotland breaking away from England would be good for the area and would stimulate the case for devolution of powers to the north of England.
And in the run up to the 2008 general election she lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to “return to the fold”.
Politicians warned it would be too complicated and would cause major upheaval, and afterwards Ms Grahame, said: “It was a semi-light hearted referendum but I think everyone was quite surprised what came out of it.
“Everyone seemed to find Scotland quite attractive.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 20 Nov 2014