Saturday, 28 February 2015

We're fluffy really

Yesterday Nigel Farage made a speech to UKIP's party conference in Margate.  Why is this relevant to Scotland?  Because UKIP intend to stand around 40 candidates in Scottish constituencies in the coming general election.

Unfortunately Mr Farage didn't have a manifesto to promote, as the party hadn't got it ready in time,  so instead he called on his party to take a positive line on immigration, by which he means promoting the benefits of his party's proposed points system, based on skills and similar to the system in Australia, rather than blaming immigrants for all of the UK's ills.

It's a nice thought, but not one that his adherents seems to be prepared to follow as yet.  From the article above:
Steven Woolfe, the party’s migration spokesman, used his speech to suggest the rising population caused by immigration could put pressure on food security, water and the sewage system.
“Schools are full, hospitals are troubled, healthcare – it is difficult to be seen in many areas of this country,” he said. “Roads need to be built. We need to look after the way we feed ourselves because we’ve got a growing population. What about our water and sewage systems? All of these matter.”
Stuart Agnew, Ukip’s agriculture spokesman, said that 3 million extra immigrants over the next 10 years could put food security at risk and the “terrorists would know it”, leading the country to buckle.
So not quite there with the positive message on immigration then. But they weren't the worst.  Apparently UKIP have a Christian group now, who were heard to proclaim that schools were to blame for
allowing the sexual grooming of our primary school children for same sex attraction
and said "the LGBT' were trying to recruit more children because
such people cannot reproduce their own kind
Swivel-eyed lunacy is alive and well within UKIP then.

One thing Mr Farage did say was quite interesting, though not for the reason he thought.  He said
UKIP wants an “amicable divorce” from the EU, wants to “re-embrace the Commonwealth”
Substitute 'Scotland'  for 'UKIP, 'the UK' for 'the EU' and 'Europe' for 'the Commonwealth' and it pretty much sums up what Yes supporters want.  Mr Farage was against that for Scotland, but it's apparently OK for the UK. Somewhat hypocritical one might even say.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Book review

I have finally managed to finish '100 Days of Hope and Fear' by David Torrance.  It consists of his diary over the period of the referendum, and it's a bit of a turgid read.  If you want to know where Mr Torrance had breakfast, lunch and dinner and with whom over the referendum period, then this is the book for you.  If you're looking for incisive analysis, not so much.

Most annoying was the constant name-dropping and the condescension ('Had a quick drink with Adam and a bright Labour activist called Cat Headley', 'Allan Price from BBC Scotland (very bright and now producing Jim Naughtie')).  It certainly gives the impression that Mr Torrance has a guid conceit of himself.  Most amusing was Mr Torrance constantly being butt-hurt that people want to invite him on TV panels as a No voter, since he himself says he has been studiously neutral.  However, given that he constantly refers to 'Yes propaganda' and 'lines from the Yes playbook', one can't imagine why the inviters would think that he's on the No side.

To be fair, the book does give a good impression of what that period was like for the politically active, and does capture something of the energy of that time.  The Kindle edition could do with a good editor though - 'dough-eyed', really?

In summary, not a book I would recommend unless you are suffering from insomnia.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Mony a mickle

Today's big news story is of the two MPs who were secretly filmed discussing payment for using their influence for what they thought was a Hong Kong-based company.  Former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw (Labour) and Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) have both been suspended from their respective parliamentary parties and are being investigated.

I have to say that my first reaction on hearing about Malcolm Rifkind was to think 'Is he still an MP?  I thought he retired years ago'.  Well, as it turns out he seems to think he retired too, given that he says that he doesn't get a salary, something his constituents in Kensington and Chelsea might beg to differ about. He was recorded saying that
I am self-employed – so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income.
The £67,000 a year plus expenses he gets from his position as an elected MP clearly just slipped his mind then.  Mind you, he thinks that expecting MPs to live on 'just £60,000 a year'is 'unrealistic'.  Well, yes, there are unrealistic expectations there, but I don't think it's the electorate who have them.  £60,000 a year would be a huge increase in income to a large percentage of the population.  Cry me a river Mr Rifkind.

Mr Rifkind also says he has plenty of free time, which he spends reading and walking.  Glad to hear his employer is quite lax then.  If I tried that, I'd get the boot pronto and would be down the Job Centre with no time off for good behaviour.

Mr Straw has taken a different approach and is employing the Scooby Doo defence - 'I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for you skillful journalists'.  He is mortified at having fallen into the trap apparently.  That is, he's embarrassed at having been caught.  He says he suspended himself from the parliamentary party, but one has a feeling it was a case of he fell before he was pushed.

Both Labour and the Conservatives did not need a scandal of this nature so close to a general election, and I think we can expect to see a lot of spin and noble speeches over the next few days about how Westminster is going to clean up its act, probably by insisting on a large pay increase for MPs to prevent this sort of thing.  You've got to pay suitable salaries to attract the best talent, they'll cry, shoving their snouts even further into the trough.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Enter, stage left

This week has seen the Scottish Conservatives' annual conference in Edinburgh, and the gloves are off.  First we had a speech by David Cameron, in which he said that:
The SNP and Labour are halfway up the aisle together already. They’ve picked out the wedding list. They’ve booked the honeymoon, probably in North Korea. They’ve set up the joint account – unlimited overdraft, obviously.
 The we had David Mundell, who said that:
Let’s face it, Labour and the two Eds are a real and present danger who threaten all this country has achieved.  They would plunge us back into the dark days – our worst nightmare.  Or so we thought, but just when you thought it was safe to return to the polling booth, enter stage left Alex Salmond, the self-styled puppet master.  He’ll be pulling the strings of both Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband.  And I say stage left because the dangerous economics of socialism are shared by Miliband and Salmond.
It's clear from this that the people the Tories are most scared of in the coming General Election is the SNP.  Why should that be?  After all, they won the referendum, albeit by a smaller margin than they anticipated.  However, they got what they wanted - one big happy family of nations together.  So what's the problem?

One factor in this is that Labour and the Tories no longer have a great deal to differentiate them.  Sure, Ed Miliband tinkers around the edges, with his promises to stabilise energy prices and so on, but fundamentally they're both singing from the same hymn sheet.  Austerity is the only way forward.  Labour feel really bad about the people who are suffering from the effects of these policies, the Tories less so, but hey, what can you do?   Enter Nicola Sturgeon, with an anti-austerity agenda shared by Plaid Cymru and the Greens, and no fear of expressing it.  We can't have that.  It gives the lie to everything the two big parties have been saying for the past few years.  Got to discredit her before the proles catch on.

Then there's the apparent opposition to Scotland having any form of power within Westminster.  There have been Scottish minsters in the past, usually Labour party members, but they knew how the game worked and wouldn't upset the apple-cart.  A large block of SNP members would definitely upset the apple-cart and frighten the horses into the bargain.  They are going to be looking after the interests of Scotland first, UK second, thus threatening the cosy life to which Westminster MPs have become accustomed.  Next thing their constituents will be insisting that their MPS start looking after their interests, and then where will party politics be?

Finally there's the actual bogey-man - Alex Salmond.  Despite the fact that Mr Salmond resigned after the referendum and has rarely made the news since then, he still scares the living daylights out of the other party leaders.  Thus, they paint him as the evil genius, the man pulling all the strings to bring about the ruination of all they hold dear.  Next thing they will be telling us he eats babies for breakfast and slaughters kittens and puppies on a whim.  Coming to a front page near you soon - 'Alex Salmond ate my hamster'.

People dislike change and it's understandable.  Big changes are stressful and mean learning new behaviours.  Our brains prefer what we know as it takes less effort to process things we have dealt with in the past and know what to expect.  It's a problem that becomes more apparent as we get older, and explains things like lack of success in dieting, going to the gym and so on.  Your brain is your own worst enemy when it comes to changing habits.  Voting Labour or Tory in a General Election is a habit, and it will probably prove hard to break for many people.  After all, better the devil you know.  Labour and the Tories have a long habit of running Westminster and have things off to a tee.  It's no wonder then, that they are trying to scare people off voting in a new way this time round.  For them, change is scary, and we're going to see a lot more of them trying to frighten voters away from doing something different.  This is just the beginning.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Facts and figures

It's not been a good week for Labour.  First we had Jim Murphy and the disappearing video on NHS waiting times.  Then yesterday we had Kezia Dugdale making a schoolgirl error during First Minister's Questions when attacking the SNP government on its record in childcare.


There's been a distinct carelessness in Labour pronouncements this week.   Maybe all their researchers have gone on holiday at once.  Maybe they've decided that any publicity is good publicity.  Maybe they just get overexcited when they see something they think they can attack the SNP with.

It's almost as if Labour have given up on this election and are aiming towards next year's Scottish General Election.

Meanwhile, the SNP made a error of their own, when they stated that Sir David Gararrd had donated £1,570 to Jim Murphy's leadership campaign, when in fact no such donation had been made.  However, as it turns out,. the truth is fairly complex and it's easy to see how the mistake was made.  The SNP reacted by issuing the following statement:
The SNP press release incorrectly said that Sir David Garrard had donated to Jim Murphy’s leadership campaign. The online version has been amended, and we apologise for the mistake.
 Compare and contract with Labour's mistake on NHS waiting times, where sorry appears to be the hardest word, and blaming your mistake on your opponents is the way to go apparently.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Omnishambles

And things just get worse for Labour in Scotland, with today's news that Mr Murphy has had to remove a video from YouTube and delete a tweet on the subject of Scotland's NHS having a cancelled operations level four times that of NHS England.  They have statistics to prove it.

Except it isn't and they don't.  It's all been a giant misunderstanding.  Some stupid minion didn't read the statistics properly and now Mr Murphy has egg on his face to match his shirt.  No doubt the minion is currently on the receiving end of a size 9 propelling them towards the door.

And then there was the 'Yes for Labour' fiasco.  Having told the Sunday Herald that he wanted to turn Labour into the party of Yes, and having registered several domains for it in January, it is now being swept under the carpet.  Never happened.  If you trying looking for the domains you'll find most of them have been suspended.

Labour in Scotland really need to get to grips with this new-fangled internet thingy.  They need to realise that deleting videos and tweets doesn't mean that they disappear and no-one any the wiser.  Perhaps they should concentrate on things like policies designed to appeal to the voters and canvassing, rather than these inevitably embarrassing stunts.  Or maybe that's just a step too far?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Fashionistas

The other day at the gym I met an acquaintance, a retired man and a passionate supporter of independence.  We got to talking about the upcoming general election, and he was very vehement on the subject.  Having been a Labour voter all his life, he will be voting SNP in the forthcoming election and in every other election in the future.  His anger against Labour was almost palpable.  He feels that they have utterly betrayed the working people they were supposed to represent, and the final straw was them teaming up with the Tories during the referendum.  In this he is typical of what seems to be a large number of ex-Labour voters.

I have also this week been trying to get through David Torrance's '100 Days of Hope and Fear', and am finding it hard going.  It's in the format of a diary covering the period of the referendum campaign.  Normally I can get through books fairly quickly, even if they turn out to be not as interesting as they sounded.  However, this one I am struggling with.  Mr Torrance comes across as a middle-class lad (although probably not by birth) with a penchant for name-dropping.  The use of the word 'bright' to refer to people he appears to consider his social inferiors is a bit of a giveaway.

What has this to do with my angry pensioner friend?  Mr Torrance's entry for Sunday 15th June contains a throwaway sentence which I think holds the key to the anger. He attends a debate between Michael Forsyth and Jim Sillars, and he says this:
Predictably, the debate - although engaging at times - didn't lead anywhere terribly useful.  Both Forsyth and Sillars are undoubtedly big beasts, albeit from a bygone age, but banging on about socialism and 'Great' Britain belongs in the 1980s.
And there, I think is the crux of the problem.  Jim Sillars came from the working classes and had direct experience of the working and living conditions of the working classes, hence his passion to do something about it, a passion he has never lost. 

During the late 70s and early 1980s I was a student at Glasgow University.  I remember well how fashionable Labour politics was in the Thatcher era among students, especially middle-class students.  They would organise bus tours around the poorest parts of Glasgow (poverty-porn has a long history) and would endlessly debate about the finer points of political theory.  It was the same at most universities at the time.  Think Rik from The Young Ones.

Now those same students are leading the Labour Party.  But for them, the working class struggle is at one remove.  They sympathise, they try to empathise but they have never experienced it directly.  For them, a change in the policy direction of the Labour party is simply a change in political theory, and there is a level of incomprehension as to why the working classes can't understand that.  The Labour party is simply seen as one more route to a lucrative career in politics.  Whether you choose to go the Tory route or the Labour route is purely a matter of taste.  And socialism is so 1980s, darling.

This is, I think,  why Labour have lost a large amount of support in Scotland - the party was taken over by a bunch of Riks.  The SNP have gathered up that disaffected support because they have actually done some things to help all of Scotland's people - free personal care, free prescriptions, no tuition fees.  And actions count for a hell of a lot more than fine words and political theories.


Friday, 13 February 2015

Jimmy Murphy and the Difficult Problem (part 2)

 Professor Snip opened the second box, took out the creature within and placed it on the plinth.  It was a dark creature, much larger than the nicolasturgeon and had a rather lugubrious look to it.

'Now,' he said, 'this is an alexsalmond.  Can anyone tell me anything about it?'

Kezia's hand shot into the air once more.  Professor Snip looked all around the classroom then said, with a sigh, 'Yes, Miss Dugdale?'

'Please sir, the alexsalmond originated in the far north of the country, but migrates to the far south every few years before returning to its native habitat.  It has been known to reshape the landscape in the past, but it's currently back in the far north, looking to take over new territory.'

'Very good, Miss Dugdale.  You omitted to mention that, while it's generally even-tempered and quite approachable, it can also be quite savage.  Now, let's see, who shall we have to try and banish it?'

'Ah've beat wan o' they before,' said a voice from the back of the classroom.

'Really, Miss Curran?  And when would that have been?'

'Last year, sir, ah'm sure it wis.' said Mags.

'Well, Miss Curran, according to your records for last year this class has not previously attempted to banish an alexsalmond, hence today's lesson'

'Oh.  Oh, hang on, it wis a frack so it wis.  Ah defeated wan o' they.'

'Miss Curran, while I agree that your class did indeed attempt to banish a frack, your records show that you were absent that day.  Now, shall we get on?  Let's see, Mr Murphy, you have been very quiet this lesson.  Let's see what you can do'

Jimmy stood up, a tall, slender boy with a scar in the shape of a crate on his cheek.  He pointed his wand at the alexsalmond.

'Irnbrutality!' he said, and ducked. The alexsalmond chuckled.

'Mr Murphy,', said the professor, 'why did you duck?'

'Sir, I've heard alexsalmonds throw eggs at their opponents.'

'No, Mr Murphy.  While it has been claimed before, it has been proven that alexsalmonds do not throw eggs.  Try again.'

Jimmy stood there, his mind a blank.

'Whatsyourplanb', whispered Alastair, who was sitting behind Jimmy.  The alexsalmond frowned, then chuckled again.

'Mr Darling, I'm sure Mr Murphy is quite capable of coming up with his own ideas.  And in any case, that curse, while quite effective in the past, has proven less so recently.  Come on Mr Murphy, we haven't got all day.'

Jimmy raised his wand again.

'Votelabournottory!'

'Again, Mr Murphy, that curse has lost its effectiveness. Any more ideas?'

'Voteanyonebutsnp!'  The alexsalmond guffawed.

The professor sighed.  'Come now, surely you can come up with something better than that.'

Jimmy thought for a moment.  'Enaitchessimus!'

'Mr Murphy, given that Miss Dugdale tried that one against the nicolasturgeon and failed, what on earth made you think it would work here?  Do try to have a thought of your own.  Last chance.'

'Keepieuppie!'

'Yes, well I can see we're not getting anywhere, are we?  You tried that one against the frack last year, and it wasn't successful then either.'

Professor Snip picked up the giggling alexsalmond and put it back in its box.

'Well, that's the end of this lesson.  For homework I want you all to think of at least five ways to oppose the alexsalmond and the nicolasturgeon.  And I do not want to see any copying or plagiarising.  If I find any evidence of this, you will be expelled.  Class dismissed!


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Jimmy Murphy and the Difficult Problem

It was a bright winter's afternoon at Fogwards Academy of Political Campaigning.  Jimmy Murphy and his friends stood outside the classroom, waiting for Professor Snip to arrive.  They had double Defence against the Dark Party this afternoon, and no-one was looking forward to it.

The professor arrived and opened the door.  They all streamed into the classroom and began to take their seats.  Professor Snip put down the two boxes he was carrying and turned to face the class.

'Mr Murphy,' he said, 'Why are you still not seated?'

'Sorry sir, I can't decide which seat would be best', said Jimmy.

'Well, you have the choice of that large chair over there, or the small one at the front.  If you can't make up your mind in the next three seconds you will be standing outside for the rest of the lesson.'

Jimmy quickly chose one of the seats and sat down.

'Today we will be looking at how to defend against two creatures from the far north of the country,' said Professor Snip. 'I have two specimens here.  Let us begin.'

He opened the smaller of the two boxes and produced a small creature with something of the terrier about it.  It had well-groomed blond fur and lots of sharp teeth.  He placed it on a plinth.

'This is the nicolasturgeon', said Professor Snip.  'It looks like a fluffy creature, but don't be fooled.  It has quite a bite.  Now, does anyone know anything more about it?'

Kezia's hand shot into the air.  Professor Snip looked all around the room before finally looking at her.

'Yes, Miss Dugdale?'

'Please Professor Snip, it comes from the west coast of the region, and is well-armed with facts and figures.  You really shouldn't try to fight one unless you're equally knowledgeable.  Also it can be found forming packs with leannewoods and nataliebennets'

'Very good, Miss Dugdale.  No doubt you think you are suitably prepared.  Please demonstrate how to defeat it.'

Kezia raised her wand and said 'Enaitchessimus!'  The nicolasturgeon leapt from the plinth and began to run in circles around Kezia's desk, barking out facts and figures as it went.  She tried again, pronouncing it slightly differently this time.

'Enaitchessimus!'

The nicolasturgeon continued circling her desk.  It appeared to know all about her house's record and was barking out statistics about it.

'Not much success there Miss Dugdale,' said Professor Snip.  'Miss Davidson, perhaps you might try?'

Ruth stood up and pointed her wand at the nicolasturgeon and said 'Andymurraywinnerus!'

'Nice try, Miss Davidson.  Attempting to distract it.  You'll find, however, that these creatures aren't easily distracted.  Who else would like to try?'

He pointed to a small boy at the back of the classroom.

'You, what's your name again?'

'Willie Rennie sir,' said the boy in a small voice.

'Very well, Mr Rennie.  Do your worst.'

Willie stood up and pointed his wand at the nicolasturgeon, which showed no signs of tiring, and mumbled something.

'You'll have to do better than that Mr, er, Rennie was it?.  Try again.'

Willie tried again, speaking very slightly louder.  The nicolasturgeon glanced up, barked a few facts in his direction, then went back to circling Kezia's desk.

'Not covering ourselves in glory here, are we?  None of you seem to have done your homework.  10 points from each of your houses.'

Professor Snip picked up the nicolasturgeon and put it back in its box.

'Now,' he said, turning to the other box, 'Let's have a look at a much more wily creature'

(To be continued...)


'

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Election Campaigning (Labour-style)

1. Guilt-trip the electorate
'Vote SNP, get Tories'.  Somewhat undermined by the 'Vote SNP, get Labour' meme that the Tories are touting.  Also undermined by the fact that Scotland voted Labour last time and still got Tories. 

2. Anything they can do, we can do better
Famously tried when Jim Murphy said that Labour would provide 1,000 more nurses than whatever the SNP provided.  Of course, this pledge can't be implemented unless Labour win the Scottish General Election, since the claim is actually that Labour will provide 1,000 more nurses than the number they inherit from the SNP.  So this is actually irrelevant to the current General Election campaign.

3. Assume that anything to do with getting money from the English will be popular
See the 1,000 additional nurses above, to be funded from the proposed Mansion Tax, which is thought will mainly affect homes in the south-east of England.  See also the proposal to tax banker's bonuses to help get young unemployed Scots into work, a tax which again mainly affects the south-east of England.  After all, the Yes voters were all about sticking it to the English, weren't they?

4. Ride that bandwagon
For example, opposing the building of a women's super-prison (don't mention that it has long been campaigned for by Women for Indy and the Howard League) and calling for a commitment to ensuring that major sporting events are shown on terrestrial TV (not mentioning that the SNP have campaigned for same for the last 7 years).

5. Develop some policies that people will want to vote for
I've taken it too far, haven't I?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Lag monster

Today it has been revealed in the Sunday Herald that Jim Murphy is going to try to turn Labour in Scotland into the party for Yes.  Their target is the 190,381voters who voted for Labour in the last general election but voted Yes to independence.

As an aside, how exactly are they going to contact this very specific number of voters?  Can they actually be identified, or are they proposing to doorstep anyone and everyone in the hope that they speak to them all?  The former case would be pretty chilling, and the latter an unenviable task, given the scarcity of boots on the ground for Labour in Scotland.  But I digress.

It strikes me that Labour in Scotland are always one campaign behind.  They fought the referendum as if it was a general election, and now they propose to fight the general election as if it was the referendum.  Possibly they need their connection to reality rebooted, although I doubt it will improve their ping.  What they really need is a new strategy, consisting of policies they believe in...hang on, what am I saying?  Labour in Scotland lost their principles long ago, and now their policies are designed, chameleon-like, simply to keep their MPs in power.

In many ways, a rout for Labour in Scotland in May might be the best thing that could happen to them,  It would allow space for a new party or parties to arise from the ashes, to provide credible opposition to the SNP.  One that would not have the tremendous drag of London holding them back, and which was truly independent. So maybe the answer is not for them to fear a massive defeat but to embrace it, regroup and regrow.  Under their current leadership, however, I can't see this happening.  Not while there is power and an expense account at stake, which their MPs have become accustomed to and consider a right.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Lyin' eyes

Yesterday saw an opinion piece by Dougie Alexander in the Daily Record about how Labour values are worth fighting for.  Aside from outlining his canvassing schedule for the next week, it contained very little that was new.  The final few lines are a case in point:

It is a simple fact that the single biggest party after the election get to form the government.
And it’s simple arithmetic that every one less Labour MP in Scotland makes it more likely the Tories become the largest party after the election.
That would be a terrible outcome for Scotland – but it’s what might happen if Scotland votes SNP.
The first line is a flat-out lie, as has been proved already, but which is being parroted by Labour candidates in Scotland ad nauseam. The second line is predicated on the first and at first glance makes sense.  But if you give it a minute's thought, you'll realise that Scotland voted Labour in the last General Election and we got a Tory government, which rather undermines the argument.  The third line is based on a maybe.  We might get a Tory government, we might not.  We might get a minority Labour government, who need to do deals with other parties to form a government.  And if my brother had had breasts he'd have been my sister.  The fact is that we generally get whichever government the English electorate votes for.  Very rarely has Scotland made a difference to the government the UK gets.

The thing to notice about the previous paragraph is that there are a lot of links to information.  The internet forgets nothing, and Google can quickly get us the information we need.  This is something the Labour in Scotland need to get to grips with if they are not to look even more foolish than they already do.

Take, for example, Margaret Curran, who claimed she had voted against fracking.  And yet, in the recent vote on the moratorium on fracking, Ms Curran's name doesn't appear on the lists of ayes or noes - in other words, she abstained.  It took me less thank five minutes on Google to find that out.  And there's is a lot of information out there on Ms Curran's record - take a look a TheyWorkForYou  or PublicWhip.  Even Hansard, the official record of business in the House of Commons, is available online, as are details of MPs expenses.

In the past, before the internet, politicians could claim whatever they liked, on the basis that no-one would check as getting access to the information to prove or refute their claims would have been difficult and time-consuming.  Now, however, anyone can find what they want to know in a short time.  It might take a bit of effort, but nowhere near as much as it used to.  So if Labour are going to make claims on their past record, they better make damned sure that their past record backs up their claim, or they will be left with egg on their face.  And we know how much their leader likes that happening.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Robbing Peter

Today in The National there is an article by Jim Murphy giving the Labour view of yesterday's Ashcroft poll.  It's entitled 'We must unite to remove the Tories', so he's still banging the same old drum, and we don't need to go over why this is nonsense again.  However, there was an interesting paragraph in it.  He said
Scottish Labour is offering radical change for Scotland.  We will use a Mansion Tax on homes worth more than £2 million across the UK, mainly in London and the south east to find 1,000 extra NHS nurses in Scotland.  We will also tax the bonuses of the bankers in the City of London to get young unemployed Scots back to work.
 This just goes to show what a tin ear Mr Murphy has for what's happening in Scotland.  His great suggestions boil down to 'we're going to take money from England and spend it on the Scots'.  Really?  Really???

One of the names we were called that was most resented during the referendum was 'subsidy junkies'.  I and many others on comment threads grew heartily sick of explaining yet again that Scotland is not dependent on England for money, that our GDP is in fact pretty similar to the UK as a whole.  Nevertheless, we still had English people coming back time and again with accusations of Scots benefiting from English largesse to fund things like free prescriptions and free university tuition.   And here we have Mr Murphy wanting to make that accusation actually true.

What Scots want is to have control of the money that they earn.  We want to keep our earnings in Scotland, to be spent in the way that best suits our needs.  Any shared services with the rest of the UK we would obviously pay our share of, but most of the money earned here should be spent here.  It's really not hard to understand - unless you're the Labour party in Scotland that is.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

It's logic Jim, but not as we know it

Jim Murphy's reaction to Lord Ashcroft's constituency poll, released today, was as follows:
But in the end the only people who will benefit from these polls are David Cameron and the Tories.  It is a simple fact that the single biggest party gets to form the next government. The more seats the SNP get from Labour, the more likely it is the Tories who will be the biggest party and David Cameron will get into government through the back door. That would be a terrible outcome for Scotland but it's what might happen if Scotland votes SNP.
So it's our old friend 'Vote Labour to keep out the Tories' in essence.  Let's examine that claim a little.

The claim here is that the only way to keep the Tories from winning a majority is for Scotland's electorate to vote Labour.  No pressure then.  But wait.  We voted Labour in 2010 and what did we get?  A Tory government.  So I'd say there's a fair chance that if we vote Labour this time round then, given the current state of the polls on UK voting intentions, we'll get a Tory government again.  Logically then, voting Labour in Scotland guarantees nothing about which party will form the next government.  During the referendum it was comprehensively proved that the way Scotland votes very rarely affects the outcome of the UK General Election.  Generally speaking, the UK gets the government voted by the English electorate.  Not really surprising, since the English account for about 85% of the votes.

Given the above, we really have a choice between voting for a party that isn't really interested in Scotland so much as the UK (new tartan paint job notwithstanding)  or voting for one that will stand up for Scotland, the SNP.

Let's extend this further.  Suppose Labour gets the opportunity to negotiate a coalition (and getting more seats than the Tories but not enough to form a government doesn't guarantee this).  The SNP have already said that they would be prepared to enter a confidence and supply deal with Labour. but not the Tories.  So, if the electorate outside Scotland vote for Labour, and we vote for SNP, there's a reasonable chance that Scotland's voice will be heard at Westminster.  If we vote for Labour, there's a good chance that they won't be forming the next government, and Scotland's voice will not be heard.

The implication of this, then, is that we should vote for the party we think will best represent Scotland. That, for many people, is the SNP.

Jim Murphy's response is really that of a branch manager who's been given an overambitious sales target and who can see his bonus slipping away before his very eyes.  And managers who don't meet their sales targets tend to have a pretty short shelf life.

Cruising for a bruising

Today sees the publication of the results of the latest poll by Lord Ashcroft, which shows that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are on course to crash and burn in Scotland in the General Election.  On the evidence of this poll, people like Douglas Alexander and Danny Alexander are slated to lose their seats and by a considerable margin.

The polling was done in constituencies that either voted Yes or showed strong support for Yes in the referendum, so results showing a large swing towards voting SNP should not really be a surprise.  However, it does show that many of the Labour heartlands are likely to be lost to the SNP, and this will not help the apparent panic in the Labour ranks in Scotland.

Why do I think Labour is panicking?  Because they have reverted to the tactic which they think won them the referendum - wheel out Gordon Brown and get him to promise more powers for the Scottish government.  It might have been a sound move were it to have happened closer to the election.  My personal opinion is that last time, the tactic worked by giving soft yesses an out - 'I can vote no and it will be OK as we'll get more powers anyway'.  See how well that worked out.  This time, however, people can see the consequences of the last vow (the feeble Smith Commission outcome) and can extrapolate for themselves the likely outcome of this one.

The SNP have no room to be complacent though.  A similar poll taken in No supporting constituencies might provide very different results, and I would be interested to see such a poll.

Meantime, expect to see more flailing around by Labour in Scotland, as they try to find the magic bullet that will kill off support for their mortal enemies, the SNP.

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Big Beast returns

And he's back.   Gordon Brown has been wheeled out by the Labour Party in the hope that he will work the same magic that they think he did during the referendum.  Today he and Jim Murphy will be sharing a platform to announce that Labour will grant more extensive powers over welfare to the Scottish Government should they be elected in May.  This will cover areas such as child benefit, pensions and housing benefit.

Sounds great, doesn't it?  Except that the powers in question will allow the Scottish government to top-up UK benefits, not implement new rules of their own.  Power devolved is power retained once again.

Mr Brown will say
We will go further by ensuring that the final say on benefit levels remains in Scotland by giving the Scottish parliament a wider power to top up UK benefits. This will ensure that Scotland is protected from Tory welfare cuts – there could never be another bedroom tax in Scotland – and from benefit cuts caused by a fall in Scottish funding due to, for example, the collapse in the oil price, the inevitable consequence of the nationalists plans for full fiscal autonomy.
Oh look, it's 'too poor' again.  They're back to peddling the myth that an independent Scotland would be reliant on oil receipts, when in fact any income from oil is a 'nice-to-have', not a necessity.  And there's a more subtle message, which is that all the Scottish electorate is interested in is benefits.  Score another hit on 'subsidy junkies' too.

Mr Brown is also slated to announce that there will be a separate Labour manifesto in Scotland.  Given that Mr Murphy's autonomy is limited to matters that are already devolved, this should make an interesting read, since the major issues such as Trident are UK level.

It's an interesting development, but if I were Mr Murphy, I'd be somewhat miffed by this.  If they're wheeling Gordon Brown out already, a man who won't be standing for election, it doesn't show an awful lot of confidence in his leadership by his own tribe.