It’s up to you to make a choice
The sun may not shine, but the town clock on the parish church steeple will go on ticking off the minutes and hours.
The tide will continue to wash in and out, back and forth from the Leven to the Clyde, lapping the walls of Dumbarton quay and the rocks at the foot of the castle. Come Friday it will be all over bar the shouting – and there will be plenty of that.
I am, of course, referring to the general election.
The world will not end with the result on Friday, no matter how outrageous or unexpected. I am not, however, going to break the ancient tradition of purdah and start speculating as to which party will be pouring the drams or popping the champagne corks.
People are entitled to a day free of local political opinion from the likes of me. I have had my say here and elsewhere – on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland – and now it’s your turn.
This down time is most definitely your opportunity to study the policies and personalities of the candidates. I have had a rake through the political archives though, and a few things caught my eye.
The Right Hon Tony Benn used to chastise journalists who asked about the who instead of the what. Ask what we are trying to do, he would say, not who is going to do it.
However, he kept posing for the photographers and handing out copies of his speeches (and his books) for that necessary publicity. His was a familiar face on every protest march worthy of the name – or of coverage by the media.
This included one on which I walked with him and celebrated other politicians to protest at the closure of the Plessey factory in Alexandria. One of Benn’s most famous quotes is: “The House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians” – New York Times, February, 1962. I like that.
Iconic President John F Kennedy was another politician who was seldom shy when the cameras were around. He was probably the first celebrity superstar president with a glamorous wife that newspapers and television stations adored and feted.
The political quote from JFK, which most of us remember (and often quote), is: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
That impassioned plea is from his inaugural address when he was elected to the US presidency in 1961. He added: “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolising an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change.
“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.
“And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still an issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
“To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures.
“To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required – not because we seek their votes but because it is right.
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request : that both sides begin anew the quest for peace. So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.”
These inspirational words were spoken by President Kennedy during an intense period of the Cold War 55 years ago. Many of us would like to hear them spoken again – but louder this time by modernday politicians.
The Cold War may have ended in 1991, 28 years after President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963. But too many of the issues raised by the great man remain to be resolved.
Our local politicians enjoy the limelight too, of course. Perhaps they could make use of this speech to take us forward.
The past few weeks have seen them at our doors, pushing their propaganda and their photographs through our letterboxes. Many of you will have greeted them warmly – or maybe not – as they canvassed for your vote.
Well, tomorrow (Thursday) is the big day. The choice is yours.
Vote early. Urge your family to get out and vote and please, please give an example of good citizenship. Go down to the polling station and place an X on that important ballot paper. It’s your civic duty to do so and your country needs you tomorrow of all days.
This down time is most definitely your opportunity to study the policies and personalities of the candidates