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.