“I’m on the left” says Michael Connarty with an obvious degree of pride about his deep roots in Labour and the trade union movement going back to the 1970s.
First elected to Westminster in 1992 Connarty has lived through some of the great industrial battles of our times with a determination never to sit on the side-lines.
“I did a lot of work with the miners”, during the strike of 1984/85 he says. “I found ways, through local government, of helping the miners, ways of relieving the hardship of the miners during their strike.”
On the political front he took on the Thatcherite secretary of state for Scotland – Michael Forsyth – in 1987 for the seat of Stirling, losing out by just a few hundred votes.
A former teacher and council leader, Connarty says he’s happy for business to flourish, but with a proviso – only if it works for workers.
That’s a message which has gone right to the top of the Labour party in recent times, but something he has long fought for, describing “the rights of workers” as a big part of his “political compass.”
In his constituency– which takes in portions of both the Falkirk and West Lothian Council areas – it’s the future of the offshore oil and gas industry which dominates.
“A lot of industry is linked to the North Sea and the downstream that comes with it. A lot of employment here is based around Grangemouth, it’s the only oil refinery in Scotland.”
Connarty campaigned hard with Unite during the high profile industrial dispute of 2013 when Grangemouth’s owners arbitrarily threatened to shut the plant. “Big capital” he says “will join together across borders to beat worker’s rights.
“Trade union members and MPs must fight together to win back the losses in jobs, incomes and rights as members of one UK Labour movement.”
He makes the point that the recent fall in the price of oil has been a double blow, because there has traditionally been a good number of both onshore and offshore workers based in the area.
Fracking is also on his radar as is a worrying lack of GP provision, the rise of food banks, benefit sanctions and zero hours contracts. Labour’s manifesto pledge to tackle food banks he welcomes as “a big plus”.
He also sounds upbeat about Ed Miliband’s offer to the electorate, saying “I think we now have probably one of the most Left agendas and Left manifestos that I have stood on in the 23 years that I have been a MP.
“The present leadership of the Labour Party in Scotland has been forced to realise that the movement in Scotland must have a manifesto that is radical, left-wing and redistributive, one which challenges big business and capital.”
Connarty also has a warning ahead of the election: “If we are to win back the rights to tribunal access, NHS jobs and services; to decent apprenticeships and full time jobs for our local people, only voting Labour will deliver a Labour Government. Anything else will deliver the UK to the Tories.”