Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Crying wolf

Recently the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) carried out a review of the Scottish education system.  The report was largely positive and highlighted some improvements that have been made as well as showing some areas that still need work.  On balance, though, it shows that education in Scotland is in a reasonably good position when compared with other countries. 

The National reported on the review in a positive manner, but also highlighted the areas that need to be improved, as you would expect from decent journalism. Everyone would be happy you'd think.

But of course, Labour in Scotland are not happy.  They do not, as the old song goes, accentuate the positive but instead respond in Eyore-ish, glass-half-empty kind of way.  An illustration of this was discussed on Wings Over Scotland, which showed a screengrab of a tweet from Blair McDougall.  In it he pulls out every negative thing said in the report with no positives to counterbalance them.  The usual 'SNP Bad' stuff.   I have no doubt that other Labour MSPs will be banging the same drum over the next day or so, when they're not criticising the Budget.

Labour in Scotland really need to rethink their reflex to declare that anything the Scottish government suggests is bad because the Scottish government suggested it, and that anything negative said about Scotland by a third-party organisation must have the blame laid at the feet of the Scottish government.  They have got to the point now where a large proportion of the electorate simply ignore their pronouncements due to their relentless negativity.  This is bad for democracy, since the odds are that at some point Labour will be correct about something that the Scottish government has got wrong, but at that point no-one will be listening to them.  They will be like the boy who cried wolf.

To me an opposition's job is not to simply oppose anything that the government might propose, but is rather to look at a proposal and ensure that questions are asked to make sure that all possible outcomes or consequences have been considered and contingency put in place to deal with them.  Sadly, however, Labour in Scotland seem to be no more capable of this than they are of persuading people to vote for them.  For too long they had things their own way, so that they didn't need to develop the necessary skills for either task, and it doesn't look like they're going to master them any time soon, if ever.

Monday, 7 December 2015

It's no oor fault

Over the weekend there was a lengthy article in the Guardian by John Harris about Kezia Dugdale and Labour in Scotland more generally, and their chances of reviving their fortunes before next May's elections.

The first part of the article describes a First Minister's Questions session, which clearly took place some time ago since Ms Dugdale's question was about the police not responding to the crashed car containing John Yuill and Lamara Bell.  In it he says that Ms Dugdale has 'something of the rabbit in headlights about her', which is a fair description in my opinion.  Afterwards he asks her about FMQs and whether she enjoys it, and she says this:
Look, I’m acutely aware that I’ve just been an MSP for four and a bit years,” she says. “You know? I’m 34 years old. There’s a lot about life, a lot about politics, that I’m still learning. A lot of the things I’m doing as leader, I’m doing for the first time. But there are things I do know a lot about, and there are lots of things I’m incredibly passionate about: education, tackling poverty, female inequality. And on that stuff I’m 100% on my game. But I think it probably does take a wee bit of a while. She’s had 12 years more than I have.
Unfortunately this comes across as a slightly whiny 'it's not fair, she's had longer at this than I have', but it leads to an obvious question: if Ms Dugdale herself feels that she lacks experience and has a lot to learn, why did Labour in Scotland vote her in as leader?

The next part of the article goes on to describe conversations that Mr Harris has with various Scottish Labour stalwarts, including some ex-MPs, as to why Labour is doing so badly in Scotland.  Gemma Doyle, a former MP, thinks it stems from 2007, when the SNP first took power in Holyrood.  According to Ms Doyle it was Labour's failure to change their approach that is the cause of their decline, which has been caused by voters punishing Labour for not doing things differently.  Neil Findlay, on the other hand, ascribes the decline to the devastation of heavy industry in Scotland and the declining influence of institutions such as the trade unions and the church.  Oh, and also that the SNP hired some talented strategists and media-operators.  Oh, and furthermore Labour's siding with the Tories in the Better Together campaign was a big mistake.  Mags Curran, however, blames the use of social media, where the evil SNP would undermine all the fantastic doorstep work she was doing by talking to people on Facebook.

So what do Labour want now?  They want people to listen to them.  Fair enough, that's what any politician wants.  But here's the thing.  If you want people to listen to you, you have to have something they are interested to hear.  It's no good just repeating the mantra that Labour has used for decades - 'vote for us, we know what's best for working people, don't worry your heads about the details.'  In the age of the internet that is no longer going to cut it.  And the current strategy of 'SNP bad' isn't going to cut it either.  People compare what Labour are claiming with the reality of their everyday life and tend to find it doesn't match up to the Labour rhetoric.

Ms Dugdale herself claims to have seen Labour's catastrophic decline coming even before the referendum:
I was well aware that there would be a consequence for the Labour party,” she says. “I can remember speaking to a Times journalist at a lunch, saying that the rhythm of events I could see was: Scotland voting no, but then being almost angry with itself, despite feeling it was the right thing to do – and the way to articulate that anger being to kick out at the Labour party. That was before the referendum.
 So there we have it.  Scottish voters are basically using Labour as the political equivalent of kicking a dog to relieve their anger at themselves.  It's not the dog's fault, it just happens to be there.

Then we have something about Ms Dugdale's background.  There is one paragraph I found quite revealing:
I vividly remember going into my first class, on the Scottish legal system – 250 people in a lecture theatre, all banked up the stairs – and it just made me so conscious of all these privately educated kids. They all had their schools’ sporting gear on. I just felt hugely out of place. I knew within the first few weeks of starting that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.
 So let's see.  Ms Dugdale's current bee in her bonnet is about how the professions are dominated by those educated privately.  However, the fact that Ms Dugdale herself was accepted into a law degree at Aberdeen would suggest that it isn't a closed shop by any manner of means.  She seems to imply that she didn't want to be a lawyer because there were too many privately-educated students on her course.  One rather suspects, however, that the fact that studying the law requires attention to detail may have been her downfall, since she seems to be often lacking that sort of rigour in FMQs, leading to frequent embarrassment when she is yet again proven wrong on a point of detail, for example this week when she made a big song and dance about the environmental impact of the FM flying to a climate change conference, only to be told that the FM would be travelling by train.  Another example is this:
Because I think [Nicola Sturgeon]’s a bit of a late convert to feminism. I think it’s something she’s adopted at a late stage, having studied Labour history and heritage. What it actually means to be a feminist… well, affirmative action, for example, the SNP have a very poor record on.
So apparently appointing a 50/50 gender split cabinet doesn't count as affirmative action then?  And Ms Sturgeon has been a feminist for rather longer than Ms Dugdale would have us believe.

The overall impressions from the article are that Labour in Scotland are still trying to blame everyone but themselves for their current predicament, they still feel that they are entitled to Scottish votes by default and Ms Dugdale is probably a nice person but is seriously out of her depth being leader and is unlikely to survive as such if there is a similar wipeout of Labour MSPs in next year's Scottish elections.  I almost have the impression she was elected as the sacrificial lamb who can be easily dispensed with in that event.

Labour in Scotland are clearly still in serious denial about their decline in Scotland and may not even survive with the formation of RISE taking the far left-wing spot on the political spectrum.  Meanwhile all they can do is cry 'it's no fair' and 'it's no oor fault' and wonder why that isn't working and no-one is listening to them.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Defiance and morality

Tomorrow there is a vote on whether the UK should extend its current bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq to include Syria as well,  joining allies such as France and the US who already carrying out bombing runs against ISIS in Syria.  The current expectation is that the UK parliament will vote in favour of military action, especially since Jeremy Corbyn has announced that Labour MPs will be allowed a free vote on the issue rather than voting in accordance with party policy.

Mr Corbyn's supporters as hailing his decision to allow a free vote as the moral thing to do, hoping that the majority of Labour MPs will vote against.  To me it's a serious failure of leadership.  A survey of Labour party members showed that 75% of them were against airstrikes in Syria, which is a pretty clear mandate.  By refusing to use a whip, Mr Corbyn appears to be weak and ineffectual, almost a typical sandal-wearing, lentil-eating, Guardian-reading cliche dad, who doesn't discipline his children because they should be allowed to do the right thing of their own accord.  And we all know how well that works out.

Will the airstrikes stop ISIS?  I don't think so.  If you voted Yes last year, think back to how you felt on 19th September.  Did you just shrug your shoulders, think 'oh well, that's that then' and move on with your life?  Many of you, like me felt a range of emotions, but one that isn't often mentioned is defiance.  And that defiance has continued, as can be seen with the phenomenal success of the SNP in the past year and the continuing high levels of political engagement in Scotland.  Do you think the ISIS fighters will feel any differently?

As for the moral case for the bombing, ISIS live among the ordinary people of Syria.  Is there a moral case for bombing people who are not part of ISIS but who happen to live in areas that ISIS fighters also live in?  If your answer to that is 'yes', you need to take a long hard look at yourself.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Motes and beams

Over the last few days there has been a growing story about Women for Indy and some possible shenanigans with money which was donated to the organisation prior to its adoption of a formal constitution and 'robust and appropriate systems' back in March of this year.  It's been interesting to watch how the story has developed.

Let's take the Guardian as an example.  The first we hear of the story is on Monday morning in this article in which we gather:
  • there are significant discrepancies between the organisation's income from donations and its expenditure for financial year 2014/2015
  • the problem became apparent in late summer after an extensive information gathering and investigation exercise
  • that all possibilities of an explanation have been explored
  • that the matter has been handed over to the police for further investigation

The next article is in Monday evening, in which Natalie McGarry is linked to the missing money.  This is because Ms McGarry was alleged to be the only person with access to the Paypal account into which donations to Women for Indy were paid.  Aside from the above, the article consists of a rehash of the text from the earlier article, a short biography of Ms McGarry and a statement from Ms McGarry's solicitor saying that she will co-operate fully with any police investigation and giving assurance that she is not aware of any wrongdoing on her part.  The article also contains a quote from the SNP which simply says that they are of the situation but have not yet been given any details.  There is also an attempt to link the story to that of Michelle Thomson.

Today there is yet another article on the story, this time about Labour in Scotland demanding that Nicola Sturgeon take action over the matter, preferably by suspending Ms McGarry from the party.  This has been raised by the ever-sanctimonious Jackie Baillie (why not Kezia Dugdale, one wonders?).  Ms Baillie has sent a letter to Nicola Sturgeon making various demands.  For example, if Michelle Thomson's membership was suspended, surely Ms McGarry's should be too?  Of course, Ms Baillie is comparing apples with oranges here, but it's never stopped her in the past.  She goes on to adds that it would be a “very grave matter” if anyone within the SNP knew of allegations before May’s general election but failed to make them public.  Well, given that Women for Indy didn't become aware of any issue before 'late summer', why would anyone from the SNP know about it?  Either Ms Baillie is incapable of understanding that 'late summer' comes after May, or she's trying, with her usual lack of subtlety, to score points against the SNP.  The latter explanation is more likely, as she then goes on to point out that seven of the Women for Indy committee members are SNP candidates.  Of course, Women for Indy and the SNP are separate organisations, but Ms Baillie never lets facts get in the way of political points-scoring.

Labour in Scotland should, however, be somewhat cautious over this matter.  They aren't exactly squeaky-clean over financial irregularities.  Edinburgh Eastern constituency has recently reported the matter of £10,000 missing from their bank account to the police, after having waited for 18 months for Scottish Labour HQ to take action.  Many of the same questions that Ms Baillie is asking of the SNP over the Women for Indy affair could be asked of Labour over the Edinburgh Eastern affair.  Edinburgh East is the constituency that Kezia Dugdale intends to contest in May 2016.

If Ms McGarry is responsible for any wrongdoing then it is right and proper that she should face the consequences.  However, at the moment the principle of innocent until proven guilty should apply pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Incompetent

For the last few weeks Labour have been doing their best to plant the idea in voters' heads that the current SNP government is utterly incompetent.  Health services?  They must be hiding the truth from us.  Education?  The attainment gap between the richest and poorest is getting wider, the number of college places has been drastically cut.  Policing?  Making a single Scottish police force has been a disaster and it's all the fault of the SNP.  Week after week Kezia Dugdale chooses one of these subjects and accuses the SNP govenment of doing an utterly awful job.

It's becoming clear that Labour, backed up by their friends in the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, are going to make this the central plank of their election campaigning.  So far Ms Dugdale has managed precisely one policy announcement (which turns out to have more holes in it than the finest Emmental) versus weeks of 'SNP Accused'.

Will it work?  On the surface, you'd think so.  The modus operandi seems to be to take one unfortunate incident, such as an elderly man dying on a trolley in A&E after waiting 8 hours for a bed or Lamara Bell and John Yuill lying undiscovered in their crashed car for three days despite their car having been reported to the police.  These are, of course, unfortunate incidents, and everything possible should be done to try and ensure that they do not happen again.  However, the current Scottish opposition like to try and paint these incidents as commonplace and typical of the services.

That, I think, is where this strategy will fall down.  Scottish voters are not stupid.  They can see that, by and large, things are going pretty well here in Scotland.  The NHS is mostly meeting its targets and is much better thought of by those who use its services than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.  College places have indeed been cut, but the reality is that most of those places were for short courses that did not lead to a recognised qualification. Labour now claims that free tuition fees are simply a sop to the middle classes, which is a bit of a turnaround from 2011, when both they and the Liberal Democrats pledged to maintain free tuition.  Forming the 8 Scottish police forces into a unitary force has saved money on salaries for 8 chief constables and other senior management posts, and what Labour aren't telling people is that they pledged to create a unitary ploice force in their 2011 manifesto.

So far their strategy doesn't appear to be working.  The latest opinion poll shows support for the SNP running at 58% on the constituency vote and 52% on the list vote.  Given the relentless negativity of Kezia Dugdale, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, you'd think that lead would be declining by now. 
So why isn't it? 

For one thing, as previously mentioned, people can judge from their own experience of the various services.  No-one is saying that what we have is perfect, but it's a lot better than what we had under the previous Labour/LibDem governments.  For another thing, the three Unionist parties are continuing to band together to oppose their mortal enemy, the SNP.  This will not play well with a large percentage of the electorate, who see the Unionist parties as taking their orders from London and not standing up for Scotland, as amply demonstrated last Monday during the Scotland Bill debate.  And no amount of protestations about how Labour in Scotland are independent of UK Labour regarding policy is going to be taken seriously when everyone saw their attempt at an independent policy on Trident being slapped down by London HQ.  Finally, continually criticising the NHS, police and education sector is simply going to annoy those working in this sector, who are doing the best they can.

The SNP have no reason to be complacent.  There are issues to be addressed, and they must be seen to be taking them seriously.  However, the opposition needs to stop the relentless negativity and start coming up with credible ideas for solving the problems, or another tsunami will sweep through Scotland next May.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Aghast

It would appear that David Cameron has received something of a slap in the face, metaphorically speaking.  It appears that he wrote to the leader of Oxfordshire County Council last September to ask why so many cuts were being made to frontline services such as libraries, elderly day centres and museums.  Surely, he said, cuts should be being made to back-office services instead?  Weren't there spare assets that could be put on eBay to raise some cash?

The Conservative council leader, one Ian Hudspeth, replied with a 6 page missive outlining the realities of life at the council.  He gently explained, using simple terms,  that there are no spare assets, that they have trimmed as much as they can in the way of staff and salaries, so they are left with no alternative but to start cutting public services. 

Mr Cameron has offered the services of his advisers to see if some other way of cutting back can be found.  Clearly he thinks that the council are simply inefficient, or too stupid to manage their money.

This is yet another demonstration of the Westminster bubble effect.  Insulated from the reality of most people's lives, he sees no connection between the policies that he and his mates are imposing on the population and the realities of cash-starved councils and public services.  To them these are simply the implementation of an ideology.  Surely everyone must understand that?  It's not personal, and it is, of course, regrettable that some people are affected for the worse, but it's all for the best in the long run.  That's why we have seen Conservative backbenchers laughing at stories of people who are being badly affected by cuts to benefits, by being sanctioned, by being made to prove they are disabled enough.  They don't see that reality, so to them it's simply a story being put by the opposition to score some points in the great game of Westminster politics.

Have the Conservatives never wondered why they are nicknamed 'the Nasty Party'?  Of course they haven't.  It will simply be dismissed as coming from people who are envious of them, because they are the elite.  They're alright Jack.




Tuesday, 10 November 2015

It's only a game

Last night in Westminster six hours were devoted to debating the Scotland Bill, which purports to be the implementation of the Smith Commission proposals.  The amount of time seems rather restrictive for such a large topic, and indeed Angus Robertson was rudely cut off halfway through a speech.

It was interesting to note that the benches were largely empty for the debates, with the majority of MPs appearing whenever a vote was required.  There is definitely scope for a change to the Commons procedures to insist that those voting on a given matter must have attended the debate, which seems only fair.

One of the major events was that Labour MPs voted with the Tories in defeating an SNP amendment to the Bill which would have seen power over tax credits devolved to Holyrood.  Given that Labour spent last week hounding Nicola Sturgeon to say what action she would take to obviate the effects of the tax credit cuts for Scots, following Kezia Dugdale's announcement of her Big Idea (so far uncosted), that one has to marvel at the disconnect between the Scottish branch office and the Parliamentary Labour Party.

It appears that in Westminster, the Tories and Labour are engaged in what is to them a game, where points are scored by defeating your opponents proposals because they are your opponents and not because you think what they have proposed is necessarily a bad idea.  To them these games don't relate to anything in the real world.

To the ordinary punter on the street, however, this is their lives.  To them it will seem that Labour sided with the Tories in preventing Scotland from having control over tax credits, which could have protected Scots from the worst excesses of the cuts.  All the fine words in the world from Ms Dugdale and Jackie Baillie about 'mitigating the cuts' are going to sound like so much hot air.  Your average punter doesn't care about the points-scoring.

More worryingly, both Iain Duncan Smith and David Mundell (the latter asked a direct question by Mhairi Black) have refused to confirm that any compensatory payments from the Scottish government to people affected by tax credit cuts will not be immediately clawed back by the Treasury as 'additional income'.  Where does this leave Ms Dugdale's Big Idea?

Labour has, I think, written its epitaph in Scotland.  The proof will be at next year's Scottish elections, where I fully expect to see their vote collapse, much as it did in May this year, all because of the utter stupidity of their MPs, who can't seem to see beyond the Westminster bubble and the games they play there.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The greater basking Kezia

Yesterday Ms Dugdale received much applause and indeed standing ovations for her speech, much as would be expected for any leader at their party conference. However, on Question Time on Thursday, a similarly impassioned speech was met with silence.

According to a friend who was in the audience on Thursday, David Dimbleby told them prior to the programme that they should clap if they agreed with something one of the panellists said and remain silent when they disagreed. Mr Dimbleby also asked people to put up their hands to show which party they supported as he called out the names of the parties. According to my friend the audience seemed to show a diversity broadly in line with the current voting trends. The fact that her speech met with silence is pretty telling. Even the Labour supporters didn't feel moved to applaud. This should set alarm bells ringing at Labour in Scotland's HQ. The party faithful may be convinced, the voting populace not so much.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The internet remembers

Today at First Minister's Questions Kezia Dugdale again chose to pursue the matter of Michelle Thomson's business dealings.  She said:
Michelle Thomson’s company boasted that the increase in the number of people struggling to pay their mortgage during the recession was, and I quote, ‘a great opportunity’, and that if people were ‘emotionally distant’ they could ‘make a huge profit’.
So could I ask the First Minister – is preying on desperate people ever an ethical way to run a business?”

It didn't take an alert reader of Wings over Scotland long to find the original texts from which Ms Dugdale took her quotes, which paint a very different picture to the one Ms Dugdale was trying to portray.

So, very much business as usual for Ms Dugdale and the Labour party in Scotland.  Nothing of substance, no attempt to question the Scottish government on matters that would be important to their constituents, just smear tactics, and pretty hypocritical smear tactics at that.

The whole debacle tells us two things.  One is that Labour needs to wake up to the fact that pulling selective quote from articles on the internet will never work.  Someone will always find those same articles and prove that you have lied by taking things out of context.

Secondly, why is Ms Dugdale harping on about this matter at Holyrood when she is perfectly well aware that the matter is outwith the control of the Scottish government as it concerns a Westminster MP?  She would no doubt argue that it is legitimate to ask Nicola Sturgeon about this as she is the leader of the SNP, and there is merit in this argument.  However, Holyrood at First Minister's Questions is not the right setting, given that it is the opposition's chance to challenge the Scottish government on matters over which they have devolved control.  So, for the second week in a row Ms Dugdale has wasted an opportunity to hold the SNP to account over their record in government in favour of yet more smear tactics from the 'SNP Bad' school of politics.

The second thing also suggests that Ms Dugdale, despite her protestations, is still being controlled by Labour HQ in London, who don't appreciate the nuances of Scottish politics.

Clearly Labour HQ think that the way to avoid another wipeout at next year's Holyrood elections is to rely on good old-fashioned 'SNP Bad'.  However, like the boy who cried 'Wolf!', they will find that a large proportion of the electorate will have stopped listening to them, which is not going to help their cause any, especially if it turns out that they actually do have an alternative plan for governing Scotland in their manifesto.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Oh so subtle


It's Thursday so it must be First Minister's Questions at Holyrood.  Here's what happened:


Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson both spent their allotted time asking questions about the issue with Michelle Thomson, despite being told by the Presiding officer that it was inappropriate as does not relate the responsibilities of the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament. Both also referred to the investigation into the actions of Fiona Hyslop regarding a grant of £150,000 to the company who runs T in the Park.

Both Ms Dugdale and Ms Davidson behaved disgracefully and with all the subtlety of a flying brick, in a pathetic attempt to score political points.  Who exactly were they trying to impress? 

Ms Dugdale was playing host to Jeremy Corbyn today, who was visiting Scotland with the express intention of attracting voters back to the Labour party.  Does she really think that potential voters will be impressed by today's display of bitchiness?  Or maybe she thought Mr Corbyn would be impressed?  Quite frankly I would have thought he'll be on his way back to London despairing at the lack of talent in his party north of the border, and perhaps reconsidering his decision to allow Ms Dugdale a free reign to decide policy for the Scottish branch.

As for Ms Davidson, as Nicola Sturgeon pointed out, she represents a party who claim to be the party of law and order.  Why, then, did she drive a coach and horses through the presumption of innocence pending the results of an investigation?  Again, ordinary voters are not likely to be impressed by this little display.

I have not yet made up my mind on the Michelle Thomson case, or indeed that of Fiona Hyslop.  However, it's safe to say I won't be relying on most of the mainstream media to report the facts accurately, given that most of them display an apparently visceral hatred of the SNP.  Apparently, however, Ms Dugdale and Ms Davidson accept whatever the newspapers (or indeed their advisers) tell them, which is not a desirable quality in a leader one might think.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Come home to Labour

Yesterday the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell gave a speech to the Labour Party Conference in which he said that Scottish voters who are against austerity should 'come home to Labour'.  In support of this he said
Let's be clear, the SNP has now voted against the living wage, against capping rent levels and just last week voted against fair taxes on Scotland to spend on schools.
A damning indictment, one might think.  What more reason would people need to vote Labour?

As ever, the devil is in the detail.  It turns out that the things that the SNP voted against were amendments to motions being debated in the Scottish Parliament, which is not quite the same thing that Mr McDonnell implies.  Evidently he, like Jeremy Corbyn, is being briefed by people from the Scottish branch of the Labour party, most likely Kezia Dugdale and/or Ian Murray.  You'd think they might be realising about now that the information they are being given is not entirely accurate.  The problem they have, however, is the people in Scotland are more aware of such shenanigans than they might have been prior to the referendum.  Which bring us neatly to the second issue.

It's becoming clear that Labour in Scotland has not yet learned the lessons of indyref and the General Election.  They still clearly believe they are entitled to expect votes from the Scottish Electorate without doing anything in particular to persuade people of their case.  While the Labour party might once have been the natural home for Scottish voters because of its support for the working classes, those days are long gone, ever since Tony Blair and the 'New Labour' revolution.  Nowadays Labour is really the party of keeping the chosen few in a well-paid career, whether that's at council, Scottish Parliament or Westminster level.  And worse, it's become obvious to the Scottish electorate that that's the case.

Kezia Dugdale announced at the party conference yesterday that she intends her party to stand on a pro-enterprise platform in the forthcoming Holyrood elections, at the same time that Mr McDonnell was announcing a review of economic policies, including measures to shift the tax burden away from middle and low-earners and a 'Robin Hood' tax on financial transactions.  Clearly Ms Dugdale is sticking with the Blairite model of Labour, while Mr McDonnell is more of an old-fashioned Labour politician. I can't see how the two are going to square that particular circle, and it will be an interesting test of just how autonomous the Scottish branch of Labour will be permitted to be.

If Labour want to avoid another wipeout at the Scottish General Election they are going to have to learn how to actually campaign for votes, rather than just telling the voters to 'come to their senses' and 'come home to Labour' without actually providing a compelling set of reasons to do so.  Mr McDonnell said he was devasted by the results in Scotland back in May.  On current form, he should brace himself for more disappointment next May unless his Scottish branch office up their game considerably.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A house divided.

Following on from my review of the book 'Project Fear: How an Unlikely Alliance Left a Kingdom United but a Country Divided', I came across this article in the Guardian, which has an in-depth inside story of Jeremy Corbyns leadership campaign.  Reading it, I was very much reminded of the Project Fear campaign, as it appears to have been based on a similar foundation of winging it, chaos and Labour's habit of in-fighting.  Even now, one of the first things that Jeremy Corbyn mentions at the Labour Party conference is that he doesn't intend to be pushed out by his opponents within his own party and fully intends to become Prime Minister at the next election.  Confidence-inspiring it isn't.

Mr Corbyn was on the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC this morning giving an interview, during which he said that the SNP are responsible for privatising Calmac, privatisation of ScotRail, cutting college places and privatising services, all of which claims are expertly demolished by Wings Over Scotland.  Mr Corbyn admits that he doesn't know much about Scottish politics, but it might be a good idea if he didn't rely on Kezia Dugdale for his information, which always boils down to 'SNP Bad', as demonstrated this morning.

Ms Dugdale herself  is blaming the previous four leaders for Labour's troubles in Scotland.  She says that Labour's problem has been that it has listened too much to what the voters wanted but has not translated that listening into action, something which Ms Dugdale intends to remedy during her tenure as leader.  She intends that the party in Scotland should actually make changes that the voters want rather than just listening and doing nothing.  As evidence of this she points to
new conference arrangements giving more say to members, reopening regional candidate selections to bring in fresh talent, and reformed portfolios for her front bench team.
These are all very fine, but they are really of interest to political activists, not your average voter in the High Street.

All this talk of listening and acting is quite reminiscent of Jim Murphy in his 'policy of the day' phase during the General Election campaign.  This resulted in policies such as wanting to change the law which currently band alcohol at football matches and the like.

Really this goes to show that Labour still haven't learned their lesson in Scotland.  Rather than knee-jerk responses and vague sentiments such as
We stand for a Scotland where every young person can get on in life, no matter how much money their parents have. I will change my party so that once again, together, we can change our country.
they really need to start thinking about what they stand for and what policies they therefore need to implement to achieve that.  They also need to sort out their internal politics, whether by putting together policies they can all agree on or by splitting into two parties.

It's said that a house divided against itself falls.   Labour's current status is very much of a house divided against itself, and the fall will not be long in coming unless they can find something to agree on.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Book Review - Project Fear by Joe Pike

I've just finished reading Project Fear: How an Unlikely Alliance Left a Kingdom United but a Country Divided by Joe Pike.  This is Mr Pike's first book, and a very good read it is too.

The book covers both the Better Together campaign from the referendum and the General Election campaign which took place between the referendum and May 2015.  It features material taken from interviews with many of the key players in both campaigns and provides a fascinating insight into the shambles that was the Better Together campaign and the election campaigns of Labour, the Libdems and the Tories in Scotland for the General Election.

The overriding impression left by the section on the Better Together campaign is that it won the referendum more by good luck than anything else.  The organisation appears to have been akin to herding cats, with people like Gordon Brown insisting on doing their own thing regardless of what the Better Together campaign as a whole wanted to do.  To be honest it doesn't tell us anything we hadn't already inferred about the campaign, bur it is interesting to see how it was viewed by the participants. 

There was one anecdote about how, when the going got tough, Jackie Baillie would send out for an order of 60 cakes from a local bakery to cheer everyone up.  On reading this, the first thought that popped into my head was 'I wonder how many people she was buying them for?'.  Does that make me a bad person?

The Better Together campaign seemed to be to be overly reliant on focus groups, polls and spin doctors,  pretty much overlooking the grassroots campaigning that was the hallmark of the Yes campaign.  They won on the day, but not by nearly as big a margin as they had expected.  I think this is at the root of their constant calls for reassurance that there will not be another indyref any time soon.  It was too close for comfort, and subsequent events have made another win for the Unionist side look iffy to say the least.

The second part of the book covers Jim Murphy's disastrous spell as Labour leader in the period from the end of 2014 to May 2014.  To be fair to Mr Murphy, he did have an uphill struggle to deal with, and the fact that he failed is not entirely of his own making.  However, the book does demonstrate that Labour in Scotland were in deep denial about the erosion of their support since 2011, hence their utter shock when they lost 40 of their 41 seats in the General Election.  Even now, I think that many of the senior Labour faces are still in denial, and employ phrases such as 'when the voters come to their senses'.  This is, I think related to the fact that many of them had grown so used to people voting Labour by default over the years, they had no idea how to run a campaign and instead relied on the fact that they had spent so much time being the local MP.  Many of them had no plan for losing their job.  Margaret Curran had a plan apparently - she said she wanted to open a gay bar on Ibiza named 'Margaritas'.  Be interesting to see if she actually does it.

Overall I very much enjoyed reading this.  There was a hint of schadenfreude, but it was also fascinating to see that many of the things that Yes side had inferred about the campaign were true, and sometimes were even worse that we thought.

Highly recommended.  I would be very interested in a similar book about the Yes side.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

And they're off

Judging by the latest announcements, the race for the Scottish General Election next May has begun.  Yesterday Kezia Dugdale announced that The Labour Party in Scotland should have a discussion about whether Labour MPs and MSPs should be free to campaign for independence in the event of another indyref.  Then, today, Willie Rennie has said that senior Liberal Democrat MPs will be free to campaign for independence next time around.

It's an interesting move from both.  Last time around both parties were heavily involved in the Better Together campaign, on the basis that they supported the Union.  Where does this latest move leave them?  One would think it will be very confusing for their supporters if some of them are campaigning for indy and some are campaigning for the Union, never mind for the public at large.

It's a very interesting move.  They have evidently been paying attention to the recent polls, some of which have shown a slight majority in favour of independence if another indyref was to take place tomorrow.  There have also been polls that show that a majority of Scots want another indyref within 5-10 years.  Taken together, Labour and the LibDems can clearly see which way the wind is blowing and want to hop aboard the bandwagon in the hope of avoiding another embarrassing wipeout next May.

Meanwhile the SNP are following a rather interesting strategy.  Nicola Sturgeon has been actively pushing for Scotland to take Syrian refugees, to the point where some refugees, when asked which countries are likely to help them, names Scotland amongst others.  The SNP have also called for Scotland to have its own representation within Europe, something that is not likely to be looked upon with favour in Westminster.  Evidently one of the lessons learned from the last indyref was that in the international arena, Scotland was not well-understood to be a country in its own right rather than just a region of the UK.  This, of course, puts an entirely different light on the situation in comparison with, say, Catalonia.  By raising Scotland's profile as a country, the SNP appear to be aiming to get better international support the next time around.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Hope Over Fear Rally 19/09/2015

Fantastic day, met many old friends, enjoyed the speakers and the bands.  The atmosphere was joyous and friendly, lots of happy smiling faces.

Some pics from the event:

These were taken around 12 noon.  Even then, there were a few more than the 1500 claimed by the BBC







A selection of flags were flown...




...including two Union flags, which you can just about see at the back of this picture.  They wilted in the face of mass saltires being waved at them.


People came in all shapes and sizes


The fashion for traffic cone headgear is becoming a thing amongst Glasgow statues




And the prize for best placard of the day goes to...




Finally, with a roar like a primordial beast that echoed round the Square, Bikers for Yes


Friday, 18 September 2015

Happy Yesmas!

One year on.  It doesn't feel like it, not for the Yes supporters.

I remember the excitement I felt this time last year.  Voting day was finally here!  I had been going to meetings, taking part in online discussions and even taken part in some events, such as the Margomobile tour.  I felt involved.

The day before the referendum felt like Christmas Eve.  There was an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement, and all for a political event.  Scotland was changing.

The day of the referendum was foggy and damp, but the mood of the campaigners was buoyant.  I spent fifteen hours that day representing the Yes campaign outside a couple of polling stations.  By the end of it my feet and back were aching, but I still felt great.  We had had so much positive response from voters I was convinced that we would win.  When the results started to come in, I felt crushed.  How could we have lost?  How could my feeling that we would win have been so wrong?  Were there really people who didn't want their country to rule itself?  I couldn't understand it.

The next day was awful.  There were tears, I'm not ashamed to say.  But that day a small flame of defiance came into being.  Yes, we lost, but not by much.  And we had the experience of the referendum to learn from.  We will learn the lessons, and next time we will win.

The Unionists won, and responded by instigating a riot in George Square.  There was that note of triumphalism so often shown by the British Establishment.  A saltire was ripped from the hands of two young girls by grown men.  The flame of defiance grew.

One year on, and the Unionists may have won the referendum, but they have lost the political fight.  Their greatest fear is of another referendum, judging by the column inches and broadcast time spent calling for Nicola Sturgeon to confirm that she will not instigate another referendum.  That is not the behaviour of the winning side.  That is the behaviour of the side who won the battle but who can see they are losing the war.  A side who are not confident they can win another battle.

The flame of defiance still burns, even more fiercely than before.  I believe I will see Scottish independence in my lifetime, and I will work to see that it happens.

Happy Yesmas!





Thursday, 10 September 2015

Victorian values

Yesterday Queen Elizabeth became the longest reigning monarch in UK history, surpassing the previous record set by Queen Victoria.  Cue outpourings of a sycophantic nature, general flag-waving and hurrahs all round.  Personally I find the monarchy of no relevance whatsoever, but I appear to be in the minority on that one.

So, how are we Elizabethans doing compared with our Victorian ancestors?  To be honest it looks pretty comparable.  In Victorian times we had the concept of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor.  The 'deserving' poor were the 'poor but honest' people, with a respectable reputation.  The 'undeserving' were the feckless, the lazy, the drunkards.  Sound familiar?  Iain Duncan Smith is doing his level best to put anyone claiming benefits into the 'undeserving' category, even those who have a long-term illness or disability.  There he diverges from the Victorian view that the sick and disabled were in the 'deserving' category, and helping them was seen as a religious duty.  IDS seems to be bent on returning us to long before Victoria's reign to the Middle Ages.  He forgets, however, that in the Middle Ages there was no income tax to support the political class.  Does that make him a benefit scrounger too?

What about the role of women?  Surely we have moved far beyond the Victorian ideal of the little woman, confined to hearth and home and concerning herself with running a household?  Sure, women can now have a career if they want one, expect to get maternity leave if they want a family and face no barriers to the professions.  Progress indeed.  However, there is a more subtle psychology at play.

The ideal Victorian woman was a fragile creature, unable to cope with the hurly-burly of the outside world and in need of special protection.  Oddly enough, we seem to be reverting back to this view.  What is the purpose of all-female shortlists for political positions if not an implicit statement that women can't compete with men in the world of politics and need special treatment.  It doesn't bode well for the female candidates.  How will they cope with Westminster or Holyrood?  Will they require all-female debates?

This week I also received an invitation to a women's social/political event, consisting of various stalls and talks by female MPs.  The stalls consist of jewellery, clothes, chocolate, candles, a nail bar, a weight-loss company and some sort of dietary supplement sellers.  Really?  All you need are stalls selling pink dye and shoes and you pretty much have the complete set of cliches about women's tastes.  And note the irony of having both a chocolate stall and a weight-loss stall at the same event.

I'm a child of the sixties, who grew up with feminism.  Now being a feminist appears to be to pander to self-indulgence, to police your body shape and to avoid men altogether.  Where finding a wealthy man to marry (eg a WAG) is seen as a valid lifestyle choice, if that's what you want to do with your life.  Where judging another woman is seen as oppressive.  Where all women are supposed to think the same as each other, and to avoid anything challenging.  It's as if Germaine Greer or Naomi Wolf needn't have bothered.

Well, I'm judging.  It's time to move away from Victorian values, which were predicated on a rigid class system and knowing your place.  It's time to get away from telling people that whatever they choose to do with their life is empowering, even if that choice to is be an exotic dancer or a kept woman.  Does that make me old-fashioned?  Probably.  But not nearly as old-fashioned as the society we seem to be becoming.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Irony

Irony doesn't seem to be something that Kezia Dugdale has a grasp of.  Today she has called for 'an end to control freakery at party conferences'.  She says that
Labour should not be afraid of its members' views - whether they want to debate the future of Trident or welfare reform
 Meanwhile we have the omnishambles that is the Labour leadership contest, with people being denied votes, despite having paid their 3 quid (non-refundable), being trade union leaders or indeed Labour party members.  No control freakery there then.

And where did Kezia get her wizard wheeze from?  Could it be Jeremy Corbyn?  Surely not!  Don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, do we Kezia?

She also says that
The days of conference control freakery in all political parties in Scotland must come to an end.
Quite how she knows what goes on at other party conferences I'm not sure.  I can speak from experience when I say that any SNP member can propose a motion to their branch for consideration for conference.  If the branch votes in favour of putting it forward it is then passed to a committee who consider all the incoming proposals and select the ones for conference, presumably weeding out similar ones in the interests of time constraints.  When it comes to voting on conference motions, a delegate's branch may mandate how they are to vote on a particular issue, or the branch may allow their delegates to vote as they wish.  If the vote is mandated, it will be as a result of a vote taken in branch  prior to the conference.  Last time I attended as a delegate, we had a free vote on all issues.

I have no idea how any of the other political parties organise their conferences, and I rather suspect Ms Dugdale doesn't either...

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Rage, rage...

In today's Sunday Herald this is a story that made me angry.  Very angry.  It seems that call-centre workers  who deal with applications for Universal Credit and who have to call unsuccessful applicants to inform them of this are being given guidance on how to deal with people who threaten self-harm or suicide.  The guidance includes a pink laminated card to be waved above ones head when dealing with a suicidal person, like some grotesque game-show.  It includes questions to be asked, such as how the person intends to self-harm or commit suicide and when they intend to do it.  To what end?  So that the call-centre employee, who is not a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, can make an assessment of the degree of risk.

The very fact of this guidance being issues demonstrates that the government are well aware of the consequences of their all-out war on benefits claimants.  They are applying a sticking plaster to the gaping wounds so that, if questioned later, they can claim they did all in their power, but unfortunately person X took their own life.  So sad.  We will of course, offer counselling to the call-taker.  Well here's an idea.  How about not applying sanctions to people, often for the most bizarre of reasons?

This week also saw a report on the working conditions at Amazon, where staff are managed by fear.  Fear of losing their job.  Staff are constantly ranked on their performance, with those in the lowest ranks 'let go' on a regular basis.  Where staff are encouraged to 'inform' on their colleagues.  Where a medical condition or even having a family are simply things that get in the way of profits.  Had to go to hospital?  Didn't answer an e-mail sent at 1am?  Clearly you're not trying hard enough and deserve to be 'let go'.

What do these things have in common?  A very obvious disconnect between those at the top of the tree and those beneath.  I myself work for a large multi-national company, and the disconnect between the management layer and those actually doing the work is very evident.  Edicts are issued from on high that bear no resemblance to the day-to-day reality of doing the job the customers actually want and pay highly for.  There is constant talk of redundancies, almost always tpo be taken from the layers of those doing the actual work and not those supposedly in charge.  They are insulated from the realities by using weasel words - 'sanctions', 'right-sizing', 'efficiencies'.  Employees are not 'people' they are 'human resources'.  Running out of human resources?  Just send to the Job Centre for another batch.  As long as the bonuses keep coming in and the shareholders are happy, minions are unimportant.

How did we come to this, an uncaring, selfish society?  It's easy to say 'because the Tories are in power', but that ducks the real issue.  People voted for this.  Other people did not bother to vote against it.

Last year Scotland had a political awakening.  More people than ever became interested in politics, became politically active, joined a party.  We even have a new left-wing alliance being formed, RISE, which will be launched in Glasgow next Saturday.

The rest of the UK is now also beginning to wake up - just witness the rising popularity of Jeremy Corbyn and the utter hysteria and panic evident in the Labour party management layer.

People are beginning to realise that they are not powerless, that things don't have to be this way.  Let's be angry, and channel that anger into change.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Descent into madness

The Labour party's descent into madness and chaos continues.  Today thousands of people have been informed that they will not be permitted a vote in the leadership election because they are not supporters of 'Labour values'.  Some have impeccable Labour credentials you would think, such as being a trade union rep and Labour party member.  Out, out impure spawn! 

Just why someone has been denied a vote is hard to say, since those who have enquired are being told that they will have to become a full member and pay dues to find out. At least one thinks it's because she retweeted something by Ken Loach, presumably critical of the Labour party.  The witch hunts are in full swing, and none shall escape.  It really reminds me of Clypegate, where the social media accounts of 'cybernats' weree scoured for words like 'traitor' and denounced. Do we detect an influence from Blair McDougall/John McTernan here?

And what are the Labour values that people are being checked against?  It's anyone's guess.  My guess is that there is no checklist, just 'feelings'  or reports from other people that such-and-such might be a ringer.  And we all thought McCarthyism was dead.

This chimes in nicely with comments from Michael Kelly, the Lord Provost of Glasgow yesterday that the voters are acting irrationally in Scotland and need to come to their senses and listen to Labour again.  Nice.  If the people won't vote for you, insult their intelligence until they do.  That'll win them back.  Not.  Or, if you're UK Labour, just stop people who are intend to vote the 'wrong' way from voting at all.  Job done.

One of the problems Labour has is that they still haven't come to terms with the internet.  If this had happened a decade ago there might or might not have been a small story in the newspapers, which would have probably been overlooked by most people.  Nowadays, however, the rejected voters are taking to Twitter and other social media and finding our just how many of them there are.  Check #Labourpurge for details.

The vote rigging had now become unashamedly blatant. It's only a leadership election however.  Does it really matter?  Yes. Yes, it does.  The very principle of democracy is at stake.  Just how far down the slippery slope do we want to go?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

I'm glad I wore my corset

... for I think my sides have split.  In today's Guardian John McTernan has provided his insight into how Kezia Dugdale can win back victory for Labour in Scotland.  It was the best laugh I've had all day.  Let's take a closer look.

“Mission: Impossible has a happy ending, right” tweeted Kezia Dugdale when she was elected leader of the Scottish Labour party. That gives you an insight into her genuine strengths as a politician: being witty, self-deprecating, at ease and, most of all, realistic.
Nice try Mr McTernan, but not entirely convincing.
 Kez knows as well as anyone that this is the second-worst time in history to be the Scottish Labour leader. (The worst was on 8 May, when Scottish Labour were reduced to one seat in Westminster.) But like all great politicians she is an optimist of the will and of the intellect. And like her colleague and friend Edinburgh MP Ian Murray, the one Labour MP who survived the tartan tsunami, Kez is a street fighter.
Ms Dugdale is a street fighter?  Her CV would suggest otherwise.  Daughter of teachers, career spent in the Labour political bubble, just when did she acquire her street-fighting abilities?  I have never heard of her making a speech to the general public or even, like her ex-boss, taking to the streets with an Irn-Bru crate.  Unless it was playing Tekken on her Playstation.  'KEZIA DUGDALE WINS!'
 Kez is the Scottish Labour party’s sixth leader in eight years. The job has taken the scalps of great Labour figures such as Wendy Alexander and Jim Murphy, so what does Kez need to do to still be standing in 2020?
Um, great Labour figures?  Really?
In the words of the old Labour party slogan: “The victory of ideals must be organised.” Dugdale has to grip the party organisation, project a modern version of the Scottish Labour party’s ideals, and plot a path back to victory.
I understood all the words, just not the sentences.
First, the party. Dugdale’s mandate was overwhelming – 72% of the vote. She must take that as an endorsement of a leadership that should run unchallenged until the next UK general election. The hard left, backed by Unite, succeeded in tearing down Jim Murphy – Kez’s predecessor.
She garnered just over 5,000 votes.  Hardly a ringing endorsement.  And Jim Murphy succeeded in bring down Jim Murphy.  Something to do with that embarrassing General Election result wasn't it?  Oh wait, I forgot.  Labour people are never responsible for failure.  Outside forces are always to blame.
They were unable to stop her and had no credible candidate to run against her, but they will constantly try to undermine her. Kez will need total control over the party machine to crush any attempt to destabilise her. The selection process for next year’s Scottish parliament elections have been reopened and her priority has to be to ensure that every single MSP elected next year is of the first rank. Look at the Scottish Parliamentary Labour party today, and that is simply not true. A team of all the talents needs to start with talent.
Watch out for the Kezinator - she'll be back!  As for the selection process for the Scottish elections being re-opened, there are a number of ex-Westminster MPs looking to hop back on the gravy train, but I'm sure it's completely unrelated.  And good luck with the talent thing.  No, really.
Second, Kez has to have a powerful policy platform. And those Labour policies have to be symbols of distinctive values. Scottish Labour’s holy trinity should be localism, pluralism and equality.
Doesn't quite trip off the tongue like 'libert√©, fraternit√©, egalit√©', but you have to make do with what you've got.  Not at all sure what it means, but no doubt all will become clear.
Kez has already been clear on localism – she wants to see more powers given to the Scottish parliament, but for those powers to then be dispersed more locally and not be retained by the Scottish government. Many of the new powers the Smith Agreement determined should be devolved to Holyrood could, and should, be given to local councils. The Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Programme, for instance, should be run by Scotland’s cities – they are best placed to know their own labour markets. And schools should be run by heads, parents and councils not micromanaged by the Scottish government. Localism is a direct challenge to the centralism of the SNP who want to control or co-opt every part of Scottish life.
Any why would this be?  Because there are many Labour councils at the moment.  If you can't win at Holyrood, see if you can shift powers to where you do have influence.  Not exactly subtle. And dependent on making a good showing at the Scottish Council elections in less than two years, which is by no means a given.
Debate and dissent are to Nicola Sturgeon what holy water is to a vampire. That’s why Kez must promote pluralism – a voluntary sector, for example, free to criticise the SNP government, able to point out their appalling track record on inequality. Kez Dugdale made her name as a politician putting the issue of educational inequality on the agenda.
 I wasn't aware that a fiat had been issued preventing the voluntary sector for criticising anyone they want to.  Ah, they're not complaining, so it must be that they are being prevented of course.  Couldn't be that, all things considered, they think the current Scottish government are doing a reasonable job with the resources they have.  Still have no idea what this has to do with 'pluralism' however.
Only a handful of working-class Scottish children get grades good enough to go to elite universities. Bad enough in itself, this is a scandal from an SNP government that likes to swathe itself in social democratic rhetoric. Localism, pluralism and equality – the foundation of Kez’s politics and the basis for a profound critique of the eight years of actually existing nationalism.
This is just utter bollocks.  'Nuff said.
Third, Kez needs to show she has a route back to victory, however long – and it will be long. That route cannot avoid independence. The British Election Study showed that Scots who voted for the SNP in May did so because they support independence, not because they oppose austerity. Until the case for separation is truly dead and buried Scottish Labour can never fully recover.
Looks like Scottish Labour is a terminal case then.
So, making the economic case against independence is critical and Dugdale is good at it. She must make the case forensically in Holyrood while preparing to fight and win a second referendum. That will be hard but she will be successful, and defeat in the second referendum will be an existential crisis for the SNP and the foundation of a Labour victory.
At this point I guffawed.  Ms Dugdale good at making the case forensically?  Well unless she ups her game considerably, this ain't gonna happen, as a perusal of any of First Minister's Questions since December will demonstrate. Ms Dugdale is the mistress of the badly-researched argument and is easily flustered.

Mr McTernan would have us believe he is some sort of dark genius of politics.  This demonstrates that he has more in common with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz than Voldemort.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Time warp

Today Gordon Brown was wheeled out to give his statesman-like views on the current contest for UK Labour leader.  While careful to mention none of the candidates by name, he made it very clear who Labourites should NOT be voting for.

He explains the rise of nationalism in Scotland and Greece by saying that people are feeling 'uncertain and unmoored', thus displaying his total lack of understanding of what happened during the indyref.  And if he has failed to understand what motivated people to support independence, he will also fail to understand why people are supporting Jeremy Corbyn in their droves.  Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

I have to say I feel I am living in a time warp at the moment. First we have Project Fear 2, with everyone screaming about how Jeremy Corbyn will make Labour unelectable.  Last week we had the 'vile Corbynats' stage, with demands for Labour supporters to cease and desist from vitriolic online abuse.  Now we have phase 3, wheel out Gordon Brown for a barnstorming speech.  This is all so very familiar.  Now if things run true to form, we should find that Mr Corbyn will lose, and there will be all sorts of conspiracy theories regarding electoral fraud and the like.  Only a month to go until we find out.

In other news Kezia Dugdale has been elected leader of the Scottish branch office of the Labour party, with Alex Rowley as her deputy.  This will prove interesting, as Ms Dugdale did not want Mr Rowley to win that position.  They have very different views on policy on matters such as Trident, for example.  Both are MSPs, so this could mean interesting times at Holyrood.

Overall, the leadership elections look like they are not going to resolve the growing factionalism within the Labour party, what with talk of a 'coup' to depose Mr Corbyn immediately after his victory if he wins, and Ms Dugdale and Mr Rowley at odds over policy.  Any hopes for a recovery in time for next year's Scottish General Election must be fading fast.  Ms Dugdale was elected on 72% of the votes cast, which was somewhat surprising, given that the polls suggested a much closer contest for the position of leader.  However, this turned out to be just 5,217 votes, which does not inspire confidence.that Labour will be in a position to run an intensive campaign next May.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Goldfish

Today Kezia Dugdale, in an interview on Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland, was heard to declare that
I and Jeremy Corbyn share the same views when it comes to trying to build a fairer more equal economy, in trying to build a welfare state in a system that is fair and protects people who need our help
All very nice, except it's just over a week ago that Ms Dugdale was complaining that if Mr Corbyn wins, Labour will be left carping from the sidelines.  Then again, a week is a long time in politics, and I'm sure her change of heart has nothing to do with the latest polls that place Mr Corbyn firmly in the lead.  Actually I'm lying.  Could you tell?

Meantime, Ken Macintosh, Kezia's one and only opponent, has also had a change of heart about Mr Corbyn.  It turns out that he is campaigning for the same things as Mr Corbyn, just not, you know, the left-wing policies.  But no, really, they are best buds in this regard.

Meantime the Tories are taking a leaf from Scottish Labour's playbook and are blaming the SNP (and Labour, to be fair) for the increase in unemployment in England and WalesThis despite the fact that unemployment has actually fallen in Scotland this month.  Evidently the Tories have also contracted SNPBADitis.  Well, it saves you from having to think about where your own policies are going wrong.

Is it just me, or are the current crop of politicians the most stupid in history?  More transparent than a pane of glass and with all the subtlety of a flying half-brick.  They seem to think that we all have the memories of the proverbial goldfish, so whatever they say this week has always been true.  Hmmm, that reminds me of a certain well-known dystopian novel about a totalitarian state.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool

... than to speak out and remove all doubt.

As readers of this blog will know, I'm not a big fan of Kezia Dugdale.  I'm sure she's a very nice person, but I don't rate her political skills highly, and she doesn't appear to have much ability in the realms of strategy and tactics either.  For these reasons, I thought Ken Macintosh might be a better bet for the leadership of Labour in Scotland, although the difference between Ms Dugdale's proposals for the branch office and his are barely detectable.

However, I now seriously doubt if Mr Macintosh would actually be any better.  Apparently Mr Macintosh thinks that no more powers on tax, welfare and spending should be devolved to the Scottish government because it might not take progressive decisions.  What if Scotland voted for a reactionary government in 20 years time and had those powers?  No, better to leave those powers with Westminster, which has a great record of not having reactionary governments.  Oh, wait...

His argument seems to be that, because in the past Scotland was not seen as a progressive nation, due to its endemic racism, sexism, homophobia and sectarianism, it can never be trusted to make progressive decision, unlike the cosmopolitan London.  Change, in Mr Macintosh's world, is impossible.  At this point I have to wonder (a) if Mr Macintosh actually lives in Scotland and (b) if he ever reads the newspapers.  I'm not denying that the Scotland of 30 years ago was a less tolerant place, but it was no worse than any other place in the UK at the time.  Things have moved on since then, and while intolerance hasn't been eradicated by any manner of means, things have improved and it's a work in progress.  As for cosmopolitan London, the endless stories of the corruption and paedophilia in Westminster and its environs hardly inspire confidence in it as a beacon of progressive thought.

More interestingly, Mr Macintosh seems to be 'warming' to Jeremy Corbyn.  Mr Macintosh claims that, while he doesn't agree with Mr Corbyn's left-wing policies, he does want to offer the Scottish branch office the same thing as Mr Corbyn, ie integrity.  Marvel at that statement for the moment.  'I don't agree with what you say, but I am offering exactly the same as you.', as Evelyn Beatrice Hall never said.  If nothing else, the mental contortionism skills inherent in that philosophy are impressive in their own right.  It would seem that Mr Macintosh can see the way the wind is blowing in the UK leadership contest, and has decided to stack his chips on a Corbyn win.  Politics at its finest.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

We can

This week there have been some pictures and articles of the crowds attending Jeremy Corbyn's speaking engagements.  People have been turning out to see him speak in unprecedented numbers in a country where 34% of the population didn't even bother to vote in the recent general election, and giving Mr Corbyn a rockstar reception by all accounts.

Meantime Project Fear rises again, as Labour MPs put themselves forward to say that they won't be a member of a Corbyn Shadow cabinet, and people like Kezia Dugdale complain that they think that, with Mr Corbyn as leader, Labour will never manage to be elected, and they don't fancy spending their careers 'carping from the sidelines'.  Good to clear that one up - their careers are the most important thing, with actually having some principles a very poor second.

Doesn't this all sound very familiar here in Scotland?  People turning out in droves to attend political meetings?  Scaremongering about what will happen if we don't just stick to what we know?  The rest of the UK may be waking up, and that thought is what is scaring the cosy Establishment rigid.  After all, we can't have the little people voting for policies like free education and public sector investment.  How's that going to help the movers and shakers in the city? 

It looks like the awakening in Scotland wasn't an isolated occurrence.  Along with Podemos and Syrizia, we may be experiencing a European Spring.  There are only a few green shoots at the moment, but there is a huge feeling of potential, especially if England is now also seeing a political awakening.  I await the outcome of the Labour leadership election with great interest.

Speaking of movers and shakers in the city, George Osborne has sold off the first tranche of RBS shares at a loss of something like 1 billion.  This is the man who is running the UK economy, but who apparently hasn't grasped the basics of buying and selling, that the principle is to sell something for more than you bought it for.  After all, it's not like buying a car - shares don't depreciate.  Granted the price can rise and fall, which means that you sell when they're high.  I'm no economist, but I know this basic principle at least.  There are only two explanations for this.  One is that Mr Osborne is an idiot that you wouldn't trust to run a jumble sale, or the other is that this was done deliberately to allow traders to make an easy profit at the expense of the taxpayer.  As to which is correct, I couldn't possibly comment.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The party of the party

The game is up.  John McTernan has finally confirmed what we all suspected about the Labour party - that it doesn't care what the grassroots supporters want.  We must therefore conclude that all the Labour party is interested in is power for its own sake, and it will do anything and say anything to get it.  Not that this is surprising.  We've all thought that this was the case for some time.

 Of course, this will not go down at all well with the Labour supporters in the rest of the UK as well as the few who remain in Scotland.  They're all just the little people after all.  No-one cares about them.

I'm not a strategic political thinker by any manner of means, and even I can see that, as politics goes, this is as stupid as it gets.  Plotting a coup against a leader who hasn't even been elected yet?  Alienating your core vote by telling them that their hopes and wishes don't matter?  I'm beginning to think that a dead ferret would have more cunning that the current Labour 'hopefuls'. It would certainly be considerably more entertaining.

What a tragic end to a party that was created to stand up for the working man.  A long drawn-out suicide, starting with shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly and working up from there.

Mind you, this does explain a lot about their strategy for dealing with the SNP, which basically consists of shouting 'SNP Baaaad!' at every opportunity without committing themselves to an alternative strategy for solving political problems.  After all, if the point of the Labour party is to be the Labour party, they must assume that it's the same for all the other parties.  Power for power's sake, that's the ticket.  So much easier than actually trying to solve our problems with some original thinking

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The wrong sort of voter

The Labour party continue their very public disintegration.  Over the weekend there were calls for the UK leadership contest to be put on hold while 'bogus' voters for the leadership were weeded out.  And why do they need to do this?  Because they've suddenly realised that letting anyone pay three quid to have a vote on their next leader might not be such a wizard wheeze after all, since the people who pay their money might not, dare we say it, be entirely sympathetic to the Labour party and their policies.  The vote can, in fact, be rigged.  As proof of this, the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is currently in the lead clearly shows that both Tories and the hard left are signing up in droves apparently.  Panic ensues.

Now it is entirely possible that Mr Corbyn's support is indeed being inflated by Tories (who think his leadership would make Labour unelectable) and the hard left (who see his policies as a step in the right direction).  Or it could be that ordinary Labour supporters, tired of the shift towards Tory-lite, are voting for change.  There's no way to tell.  However, Labour, with their customary political deftness have pretty much said that they don't want the 'wrong sort' of voter, which kind of gives the game away.  As excuses go, it's up there with 'the wrong sort of snow' and 'the wrong sort of leaves', as trademarked by the railway companies.

Meanwhile David Cameron has declared that the SNP will not be entitled to hold a second referendum within the current parliament.  I suspect he is employing a bit of reverse psychology here.  Telling Scots that they can't do something is a surefire way to prod them into do it, crying 'Oh ye think so?' as they do it.  And why would David Cameron want the Scots to have another referendum?  Because rushing into another one gives the Unionist side their best chance of winning.  The polls have seen some small movement in favour of independence, but it's not yet large enough to be confident of winning a Yes vote. The No side, however, would prefer another referendum sooner, on the basis that if they win a second one, it effectively puts the issue to bed for at least a generation.

The SNP are biding their time until the polls show a regular majority in favour of independence and they are wise to do so.  Waiting until the time is right is the correct strategy in the circumstances.  For David Cameron, a Yes voter is the wrong sort of voter, and we need many more of those if we are ever to gain our independence.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dreams of glory

On yesterday's Guardian there was an article on Mhairi Black and her criticism of some of Westminster's outdated traditions.  In it were listed such things as politicians who are out of touch with ordinary people's lives, not being allowed to applaud and having to make odd noises instead to show approval, the long working hours and the outdated voting system.  Nothing particularly controversial you would think.  A look at the comments below the article is instructive however.

There are hundreds of anti-Scottish comments, of a type we have become used to and which boil down to 'sponging racist English-hating Jocks who all live off benefits that we English pay for'.  I find it amusing that such people are all about how Scottish nationalism is bad, while being apparently unaware that they are indulging in British nationalism.  Either nationalism is bad or it isn't - you can't have it both ways.  The stupid thing about it is, that if such people really want to UK to stay together,  they have chosen a very odd means of going about it.  Why would Scots feel positively about the Union if they are constantly belittled and treated with contempt?  I don't think people think this one through.

A fair proportion of the comments also fall into the category of 'Mhairi Black, she's only 20, what does she know anyway?', along with questioning how she was 'imposed' on Westminster.  Of course the fact that she has a degree in politics might be a bit of a clue as to what she knows, and being elected by your constituents, same as everyone else is the obvious answer to the second point.  And how did she get elected?  By knocking on doors and speaking to people in her constituency, something which some other members of Parliament might want to try, as an aid to being more in touch with ordinary people.  Oh, hang on, maybe not.  Some honest opinions might not go down so well with some of the millionaire MPs.

So far Ms Black seems to be doing a good job as an MP.  She, along with the other SNP MPs, have an excellent attendance record at the House of Commons, as can be seen on the TV broadcasts from Parliament. Long may that continue.  However, it's unlikely that Westminster will drag itself into the 21st century any time soon, preferring instead to cling on to its dreams of a glorious past and the outdated traditions that go with it.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Labour red in tooth and claw

The UK Labour leadership contest is hotting up, and the gloves are off, revealing the unedifying spectacle of public in-fighting and dirty linen being washed.  The latest Yougov poll gave Labour a shock when it showed the left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, in the lead by 6%.  Such a big shock that one of Labour's big beasts was wheeled out to put everyone right on the way they should be voting.  Shades of the referendum and the deployment of Gordon Brown when the polls weren't going the way Better Together wanted.  Is this a new entry from Labour's Ladybird Book of Tactics?

Tony Blair duly gave his speech, which essentially boiled down to 'you want someone like me really', and included an incomprehensible reference to Star Trek and its being old-fashioned. 
“We lost in 2010 because we stepped somewhat from that modernising platform. We lost in 2015 with an election out of the playback [sic] from the 1980s, from the period of Star Trek, when we stepped even further away from it and lost even worse. I don’t understand the logic of stepping entirely away from it.”
 I don't understand the logic of that passage at all, since all the Star Treks were set in the future, but I digress.

According to Mr Blair anyone whose heart leads them to vote for Mr Corbyn 'needs a heart transplant', which is quite amusing coming from someone who appears to have no heart himself.  For Mr Blair it's all about how to get power, and he and his followers seem to be willing to run after whatever populist notion their focus groups throw at them in order to get it.  Principles are clearly for the weak.

Today Liz Kendall, trailing badly in the aforementioned poll, rejected the suggestion that she should drop out of the leadership contest in order to try and prevent Mr Corbyn winning by allowing her supporters to vote for another of the anti-Corbyns.  She seemed quite annoyed by the idea, even though she has only about 4% support according to the polls, and has reacted by sticking a metaphorical boot into Mr Corbyn and his left-wing views.

Then we had several MPs proclaiming that they would not serve in a Shadow Cabinet led by Mr Corbyn: step forward Liz Kendall (again), Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna.  This is being referred to as a 'potential exodus of talent', although it seems that the major talents in question are backstabbing and character assassination.

Labour has always had a reputation for factionalism and internecine warfare, but rarely has it been quite so public.  No thought seems to be being given as to how the electorate will be viewing this embarrassing spectacle.  If they keep this up they may well find that UK Labour is headed down the same path as Scottish Labour.  Time to get their act together and start acting like grown-ups, or they may find that the next few elections see them sent to the naughty step located somewhere in Siberia.