The following is an interview between Danielle Rowley (Labour MP), Douglas Ross (Conservative MP), Stewart McDonald (SNP MP), Owain (Convener of Libraries, Co. Editor-in-Chief) and Bethany (Politics Editor). It was conducted after the Freshers’ Week Show Debate, where each of the politicians were speaking.
We have split up the interview into three distinct segments; on getting into politics, on Brexit, and on Northern Ireland (since many of our members are from the province). We will release one section a week over three week, so make sure you like our Facebook page to be updated on the rest of the story!
The following views are not that of the Union but of the individual, or the party they represent.
Bethany: With current Brexit negotiations, what do you imagine the next 6 months will be like leading up to March 2019?
Douglas: Well, earlier on in the debate[ referencing the GUU Freshers’ Week Debate], I was called “Her Majesty’s Government”, which I certainly am not. Everyone’s opinion is going to be different on this; it is going to be extremely difficult, but, all I would say is: at every stage in the Brexit process, these people have said that the Prime Minister in the government will not get a deal, it won’t happen; and at the last minute the Prime Minister will be able to get a deal that is suitable for the European Union, and suitable for the government. And I hope she continues in that vein. It will take discipline in her party, which I think, as you have seen from Ruth Davidson today, being openly critical of people down South; that has to stop because it is very clear that the Prime Minister is trying her best to get a good Brexit deal for Scotland, for the whole of the United Kingdom, and if we fail in that, we will fail as a government and the electors will not excuse us for that. We will all suffer from that in the next election. And I think that it is important that we go into the remainder of this year and in March doing what we want to achieve for the UK. It is also important that the EU fully realises that there are problems that will befall upon the European Union if we cannot get a deal. And I think that it is important that both sides are aware of the difficulties that will exist and that is why I hope that everyone can get around the table and secure a deal that works for the UK and the European Union.
Danielle: I think that, as a politician, most people will come ask me: “So, what is actually happening with Brexit then?” And I have to say, you know, I am really sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have a clue because the government don’t have a clue! I think that there is not any kind of secret club where we all get told “actually don’t worry guys, it is all going to be ok”, it is as much of a kind of ‘no one knows what’s going on shambles’ as it seems. And, the closer we get to the exit day, the more we don’t know what is going on, and the more people really panic. You know, Douglas said that he’s disappointed that people in his party are potentially not getting behind the Prime Minister if she does get a deal. But, I think, as much as these people might not back her up, it crumbles and becomes absolute mayhem – at the same time, people have got to be principled, and go with what they believe is right, and if they think that it is going to be a really bad deal and it’s going to harm our country. Then, yeah, I think people should rebel and make sure that they are standing up for their principles rather than just following her.
Stewart: Well, look, let’s just look at what has got to be put in front of us: no deal is going to be as good as what we have as members of European Union. So, members of parliament will be asked to assess which is the least-worst option. Now, I wasn’t sent to parliament to vote for the least-worst thing to happen to people, I was sent to parliament to try and make better things happen to people. I think that there ultimately will be a deal. The government is doing a lot of talk about no deal planning; I think that’s just because the deal we will end up with is going be so terrible, that it is going to look better than the no deal scenario that they have outlined. But, there is only one government, there is only one party that has known what is has wanted throughout this entire process, and that is the Scottish Government, the SNP. We think that the best thing we can make of this ‘ham-fist’ is to remain members of the single market, members of the customs union, which would admittedly still order what it is that they would want to achieve, which is to leave the EU; I deeply regret that. But, on the back of all of this, at the back of my mind there is going to be a vote on Scottish independence, and Scotland will vote for independence and join the European Union.
Douglas: It is typical of the SNP to always revert back to independence and that is what Nicola Sturgeon did the day after the EU referendum, but we know what that did to 21 of Stewart’s colleges; they lost the next general election.
Stewart [interruption]: Yes, we won them, 35 of them, out of 59 (constituencies). I got 35 seats – 35 is greater than…
Douglas [cont.]: 21 of his colleges lost the general election because of Nicola Sturgeon being obsessed with Scottish Independence. And Danielle can say how terrible the plans from the conservative government. But the fact is, is that we are seeing nothing from the Labour Party, and if the labour party has such coherent plans on Brexit, they surely would be far ahead in the opinion polls; at the moment, the Conservatives still lead Labour in the UK opinion polls.
Bethany: What originally motivated you to get into politics, and what continues to drive you?
Danielle: Well, I think it is tricky for me to say why do you want to be an MP. I didn’t want to be an MP. I was elected in a snap-election where I didn’t think that I was going to get elected but I was very passionate about politics and really wanted to make a change and make a difference. So, I stood and here I am. But, I have got a fantastic opportunity now to represent people and try and make that change. So, I think just having a passion and wanting to do things – and I’ve worked for a lot of charities and you can help people within the current system, but by being a politician you can try to change the system and really make a big difference. So, that’s why I am where I am.
Douglas: For me it was twofold. First, I really enjoyed public speaking, particularly when I was younger, and I was involved in young speech competitions, which having just experienced the Glasgow Debating Society’s speech making, was totally different. We had no one in the chair and calling people different names. But, I always had this interest in standing up, public speak ing, and had an interest in politics. But, then I decided to stand for election, was elected a councillor MSP and MP, but it was always just for my home area. I was never interested in going down to England where I was told I could have got a safe seat, or going somewhere else in Scotland. It was very difficult in my part of the country to become a MSP, but, for me that was the most important thing for me: to represent your own area, where you had been to school, where you are bringing up a family, etc. So, it that link to the local community and as Danielle says, trying to help people that you have grown up with and who you know very well.
Stewart: The big thing that motivated me and actually to get involved in politics was the Iraq war, because I was so against it, so horrified by it. That was my big driver that kind of focused me on to politics. And then as you kind of assess yourself, and where you sit amongst all the parties, it made sense to me that I thought Scotland should be independent, so I landed in the SNP. But, like these guys, I stood in an election where I didn’t intend to get elected; I stood for the SNP in Glasgow; the SNP didn’t win Westminster seats back then! We always sent Labour MPs from Glasgow. But, there was obviously a big change in mood in 2015, that year for myself was the biggest majority in Glasgow for actually any MP. I think that as long as you think that you’ve got something to contribute, you should do it. And like Douglas says, I was never interested in growing up to move to say a safe seat area and standing there, I only wanted to stand in the place I live, the place where I was from, which is the South-side of Glasgow. And I will do it as long as I have something to contribute. The key thing is to know when your time is up. It is always better to be missed rather than forced out.
-Owain Campton, Editor-in-chief, and Bethany Howard, Politics Editor