One day after he announced £100m of cuts and the loss of 3,000 jobs over the next three years, Glasgow City Council leader and A Thousand Flowers favourite Gordon Matheson strolled along to Saturday’s anti-austerity rally in George Square. It was the first time we’ve ever spotted him at this kind of demonstration – glitzy photo calls and dinners with the Orange Lodge are usually more his kind of thing – but it probably wasn’t unrelated to the announcement last week that he’s in the running for Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour. While this may be one of the most powerless roles in Scottish politics, the post guarantees a spot at the top of a regional list in next year’s Holyrood elections, an attractive proposition as Labour careerists scramble for the ever decreasing number of seats the party are likely to cling on to.
Sadly for Matheson, the organisers of yesterday’s rally failed to put him front and centre to deliver one of his shouty monologues and he was left to mope around the back of the square. It usually doesn’t take much for events to take a farcical turn when Matheson is involved so, of course, yesterday was no different, with it soon becoming clear that someone had gone to the effort of making a giant sign to welcome him. Ergo, the comedy council leader spent the duration of his short stay in George Square on Saturday being followed around by a man with a large sign calling him a cunt.
It’s a shame that Matheson didn’t stick around as, if he had, he would’ve heard not only from Rab O’Donnell, a worker at the council-owned SECC venue who was recently sacked for union activity, but also from the homeless caseworkers who have been on a solid all-out strike since 31st March, locked in a dispute with the council over their pay grade. With the strike having gone on for 13 weeks now, the only offer the council has made to the workers so far has been to sack a third of them. Matheson was accompanied at the rally yesterday by Councillor Malcolm Cunning, who heads up social care at the council and is a self-proclaimed “armed forces champion”. As for frontline homelessness workers, however, he would seemingly rather pay scab managers overtime than pay his workforce the right grade…
Elsewhere at the rally, everyone had a great time reminding themselves that austerity is bad and handed a lot of leaflets explaining this to each other. Far less than kicking off everywhere – which four or five years ago there was a genuine sense of – yesterday felt like a tame rerun, with its attendance staggered across a four hour static rally. Consequently, there was never more than a couple of thousand in the square at its peak, which avoided looking completely empty thanks to the many, many stalls on offer, each offering an exciting array of socialist literature. For those with a passing interest in #sectwatching, we can report that Solidarity have given up any pretence of being a political party, with selling flegs to the masses instead proving both more profitable and popular (although maybe Tommy is regretting spending his day at the enormously successful Bannockburn rally instead); that the FRFI contingent spent most of their time denouncing the PCS for complicity in benefit sanctions; and that the Socialist Party Scotland (or whatever they’re known as these days) are still calling for that elusive 24 Hour Public Sector General Strike.
As is the way in Scotland now, there was a lot of fleggery of the nationalist variety on display and the inevitable “Occupy” camp consisting of about four tents and a dozen V for Vendetta masks. After four hours of speeches, a few songs and endless vague calls for action, it was all over… until next time, deja vu fans!