As General Election 2024 looms voters in deprived Glasgow East deliver damning verdict on parties

It's threatening to turn into a nice day in Glasgow's east end - and Annemarie Ward is taking us down the street where she grew up.

In the constituency of Glasgow East, where the SNP and Labour are scrapping for votes ahead of July’s general election, signs of deprivation aren’t hard to find.

We see battered blocks of flats with cracked walls and weeds growing out of them. An overgrown grassy square with a derelict tarmac area that, once upon a time, was a playpark.

Outside her old house on the edge of Parkhead, I asked Annemarie what’s changed in the 40-odd years since she lived here.

“I can just see how neglected the area is compared to when I lived here in the 80s,” she said. “Back then, it was still Thatcher’s Britain when I left school and there was unemployment, there was poverty. But I just see it as being 100 times worse now.”

Annemarie has become a powerful drugs and alcohol campaigner - leading the grassroots Faces & Voices of Recovery UK (FAVOR) charity and helping to drive proposed Right to Recovery legislation at Holyrood.

Also joining us is Scott Richards, who runs the East End Walk and Talk group - a support network for locals struggling, whether that’s from addiction, mental health or just the pressures of life.

Annemarie Ward
Addiction campaigner Annemarie Ward tells the Record: "We've given up on politicians." -Credit:Ross Turpie / Daily Record
Scott Richards
Scott Richards says demand is through the roof for his support group East End Walk and Talk. -Credit:Ross Turpie / Daily Record

Scott - who, like Annemarie, endured traumas during childhood and later faced his own addiction battle - has been clean and sober for three years, and set up his group while working full-time as a cabbie.

He told the Record: “Within about six weeks of being a taxi driver, people all over the east end started opening up to me about their issues and it kind of rocked me how many people were struggling.

“How people in this day and age are still in the depths of poverty and addiction and using alcohol because they don’t know any different… they live in constant survival mode.”

Now, East End Walk and Talk has “caught fire” with huge demand, Scott said, with a men’s group and a women’s group each meeting twice a week.

In the face of failing local services and inert politicians, these are two east-enders who both decided to do it themselves for their community.

For the parties and candidates vying for their votes on July 4, they have a simple and stark message.

“We’ve given up on politicians,” said Annemarie. “We know they just don’t care - we have 40 years of evidence of that.”

Scott said: “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t need to rely on any politician. They don’t matter to me.”

east end glasgow
The Record's Election Special Correspondent Dan Vevers met Annemarie and Scott in the neighbourhood they used to call home. -Credit:Ross Turpie / Daily Record

In Glasgow’s sprawling east side, there’s always been more than meets the eye beyond that unfortunate reputation for poverty, drugs and violence.

But there’s no doubt in the fight for Glasgow East on July 4, issues around deprivation, the cost of living, health and housing loom large.

It remains one of the least well-off constituencies in the UK. Wages are lower than the national average. Child poverty is higher. Life expectancy is lower.

Voters here have every right to wonder - after decades of inaction, why should they trust the politicians now?

Outside the Forge Shopping Centre, locals weren’t shy in telling us what they thought of the upcoming election.

Baillieston mum Vee Mac backs the SNP but told us: “Very little has changed in the east end of Glasgow and in Scotland as a whole.

“You’ve got the Tories and the SNP and Labour and it’s just a total mess - I would get rid of them all and start afresh.”

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Vee Mac from Baillieston is voting SNP but sees nothing getting done about issues like poverty. -Credit:Ross Turpie / Daily Record

Retired George Monteith, from Bellshill, is a Tory voter but said: “They’re all full of promises, aren’t they? We’ll do this, we’ll do that. It’s the same crap.”

Susie Wilson from Carntyne said: “It’s same old, same old. Is it going to make any difference?”

Glasgow East has seen a fair bit of political turbulence in recent years.

For decades, this was a Labour heartland - as safe a seat as they come.

Then in 2008, the unthinkable happened. The SNP’s John Mason defeated Labour’s Margaret Curran in a by-election in one of the great political upsets.

We can see now it was a sign of things to come.

In 2015, Labour was swept aside in Glasgow East and virtually everywhere else by the SNP tsunami and the Nats have dominated here ever since.

That’s even despite the SNP’s representative from 2015 to 2017, Natalie McGarry, falling into disgrace after being jailed for embezzlement.

Her successor is David Linden, a trusted figure in the SNP and their social justice spokesman at Westminster.

Glasgow East MP David Linden
Glasgow East MP David Linden -Credit:Daily Record

An East End lad and father-of-two, Linden made a name for himself in the Commons by championing causes like extending paternity leave for new dads.

He told the Record: "I'd like to think in my seven years I've been an MP that myself and my case work staff have actually worked really hard with constituents and with community groups as well.

"Ultimately, this election is about the cost of living crisis - and what's on offer from Keir Starmer and his pro-Brexit Labour party, or Rishi Sunak, is pretty tepid."

One policy he raises is Labour’s failure to commit to ending the Tories' hated two-child benefit cap - which charities say could lift hundreds of thousands of kids out of poverty.

Labour’s candidate, Glasgow lawyer John Grady, understands the concern. He said: “We want to lift people out of poverty. That's our record in the past, that's what every Labor government has done…

“What we’re not going to do is make promises we can’t deliver. A critical thing that we're doing is being honest with people. The country is in a really difficult place at the minute financially.”

Grady said voters understand that - and that things might take “a long time to fix”.

Linden knows he has a real fight on his hands in this election.

Polls now have Labour consistently above the SNP in Scotland and they will fancy their chances of turning the city red once more.

Given Glasgow East’s electoral heritage, if Labour were to win here it would be a strongly symbolic moment. But whatever rosette their MP wears, it may be that people here are now past caring.

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