Monday, 11 July 2016

Don't wanna choose, I want them both

Today The Guardian carries an interview with Kezia Dugdale, in which she outlines her current thinking on the state of UK politics.  The interviewer attended a speech Ms Dugdale was giving on the lessons of the EU referendum, of which he says
The promising premise of Dugdale’s speech is undermined by her fondness for political cliche: “Here’s the thing”; “It’s in our DNA”; “Entering uncharted waters”; “It’s a wake-up call”.
Sounds like a typical Dugdale speech right enough.  Heavy on the cliche, not so much on the inspiring rhetoric.  At best her speeches can be described as 'workmanlike' and unlikely to scare any passing horses.

The interviewer then gets to the meat of his one-to-one interview.  First of all they discuss why she wanted the job of Labour in Scotland leader in the first place.  The answer seems to be 'out of a sense of duty rather than an overarching careerism'.  One has to suspect that she was voted in as being the most middle-of-the-road candidate, who offended none of the various factions within her party.  However, kudos to her for stepping up and grasping the poisoned chalice. It's not like there's  anyone queueing up to take it from her (at least not before next year's council elections).

Next she says that she believes that Labour can fight back in Scotland as 'they are the only party that believes in the redistribution of both wealth and power'.  I rather think she's wrong on that score, since the Greens and Scottish Socialist Party are also quite keen on this for example, but at least she's retaining some optimism, hard as that must be given their recent lack of electoral success.

Ms Dugdale then goes on to talk about the result of the EU referendum and how she doesn't want to have to choose between staying in the EU or staying in the UK.  One rather suspects she has come to this view as it's one that no-one else is espousing, and there's a very good reason for that.  Ms Dugdale says that we don't yet have the full picture of what we're faced with, and she can't therefore choose between them.  Unfortunately she's behind the curve on this, since we already know that the EU leaders have told Nicola Sturgeon that they can't negotiate with Scotland while it remains a member of the UK and that if it remains in the UK it will be out of the EU along with the other home nations after the post-Article 50 negotiations are concluded.  This being the case, the whole federalism idea that she and her party are pinning their hopes on is about to run aground on the rocks of real-politik.

Really the federalism option is the last stand of the Establishment to try and stop the UK breaking up, losing them power and money.  However, it's not going to gain much traction in Scotland I suspect, because we still remember how Gordon Brown already promised 'the nearest thing to federalism' back in 2014, and look how that turned out.  The Smith Commission turned in a very watered down set of powers in its reports, which in turn was further watered down in the Scotland Bill.  Why on earth should Scots believe them this time round?

Ms Dugdale is revealed in this interview as a perfectly nice person and as a not particularly talented politician.  One can see that she and her party will have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards an independent Scotland, assuming that they actually survive the current civil war within their own party.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Devo-not-quite-max

Now the dust of the Scottish General election is beginning to settle Labour are looking for a new role following their second humiliation at the ballot box.  The market place of Scottish politics is quite crowded now, with SNP (independence, centre-left), Tory (Union, right), Green (independence, left-wing/environmental), RISE (independence, far-left) and LibDems (federalism, errrrr help me out here).  Where are Labour to place themselves to stand out from the crowd?

The answer appears to be to become the party of the centre-left that supports full federalism within the UK.  The party of Devo-max.  Devo-max is generally agreed to mean that the Scottish parliament has all powers except for those over defence and foreign affairs and retains all money raised in Scotland, paying an agreed contribution towards defence and foreign affairs.

This would seem like a smart move for Labour.  It would give them a unique selling point to the voters, one which could get them back in the game, since it would almost certainly have been the most popular option had it been permitted on the referendum ballot paper.  But what is this we see?
[Anas] Sarwar, who is expected to take a senior frontbench role after winning a Holyrood seat on Thursday, said finding a middle way between nationalism and unionism was the “fundamental challenge” still facing the party.
[...] Sarwar’s intervention adds to growing pressure on Dugdale to agree that Scottish Labour should investigate home rule, a form of federal arrangement in which Holyrood has more control over taxation, welfare services and law-making.
Under that model, Westminster would chiefly control foreign policy, defence and perhaps some major spending areas such as pensions.
Dear god, it's the Smith Commission all over again.  Despite the fact that federalism/Devo-max has a generally accepted definition, Labour want to interpret it as a few more token powers that they feel like having, leaving most of them with Westminster.

Clearly Labour have still learned nothing from their precipitous decline.  And despite all the protests about how they will start listening to the voters, it's clear that they have no intention of doing any such thing.  They are still of the mindset that they know what's best for Scotland, so we needn't worry out little heads about it.

Mr Sarwar is widely tipped to be Ms Dugdale's successor, possibly after next year's council elections if their performance is as bad as this year's.  On the above evidence of his thinking, he may well be the last.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Turd polishing

This weekend has seen most of the commentary on last week's Scottish general election, and anyone unfamiliar with Scottish politics would be forgiven for thinking that Ruth Davidson and her party won it.  The Guardian, long regarded as a bastion of left-wing thought, is besotted with Ms Davidson, with article after article on her and the Scottish Tories.  Other papers and TV programmes are also giving us variations on the theme of 'Hail the Conquering Heroine Comes'.  It might therefore come as a surprise to many that Ms Davidson and her party came second, and by a long way behind the SNP.

Mind you, Labour being beaten into third place in Scotland is quite a story.  The most amazing sight during the election results was that of a Tory taking a seat from Labour in Glasgow, something that would have been quite unthinkable prior to the referendum in 2014.  How far are the mighty fallen.

One of the main reasons Ms Davidson won second place is by running a campaign almost exclusively on the topic of a second referendum on Scottish independence and how the Tories would oppose it.  They did have some other policies, such as bringing back prescription charges and bring in tuition fees, but there was very little mention of these in her coverage.  Instead Ms Davidson harped on and on about the subject of a second referendum and how she would be the chief defender of the Union.  Clearly this was a very successful strategy for her, since she evidently picked up the die-hard Unionist voted which might otherwise have gone to Labour, who vacillated on the question.  It was, however, a somewhat ironic campaign, in that she was demanding that the SNP respect the result of the last referendum and move on while dwelling on the constitutional question to the exclusion of everything else herself.

So now Ms Davidson is leader of the 'official opposition' (something which does not actually exist at Holyrood), with the right to ask the first questions of Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs.  This could prove a double-edged sword however.  For while Ms Davidson gets to question Ms Sturgeon on her government's policies, she will also have to defend the policies of the Tory Westminster government as they affect Scotland.  I suspect that will lead to more than a few embarrassing moments for her.

When all's said and done, Ms Davidson is a Tory, someone who believes in removing benefits from the disabled and unemployed, who believes in low taxes for the rich and who believes in every person for themselves.  All the plaudits from the press don't change this.  In fact the adulatory coverage from the press is simply a demonstration of that fact that, while you can't polish a turd, you can roll it in glitter.  However, it's still a turd, and glitter has a terrible habit of being shed.  One wonders how long it will take before the press fall out of love with Ms Davidson and return to business as usual.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Private dancer

Today the Guardian carries this video of Kezia Dugdale being interviewed by Owen Jones.  In it they discuss Labour's toxicity in Scotland, what it's like to be LGBT in Scotland and the perceived role of Brian Soutar in forming SNP policy.

Ms Dugdale attributes the Tories' toxicity in Scotland to 18 years of Thatcherism but seems at a loss to explain why Labour is becoming equally toxic in Scotland. In my opinion this is because of the referendum, not because they worked with the Tories in Better Together but because a lot more people became politically informed and began to question why, if Labour has been in power in Scotland for so many, many years, does Scotland still have huge problems with poverty and inequality, given her wealth of resources? Labour supporters will, no doubt, point out that they have not been in government in Holyrood for the past nine years, ignoring the fact that they still control the majority of local councils and therefore local spending and policy decisions.

With regard to the LGBT and equality issues Ms Dugdale raises, there is no doubt that more can be done on this front.  However, some credit should be given to the SNP for having a gender-balanced cabinet.  It was notable that Labour immediately copied this idea, for the first time in their history in Scotland, perhaps in an attempt to shift the perception that they are a party where business is done between men behind closed doors.

Mr Soutar seems to have become something of a scarecrow for Labour, dragged out whenever Labour want to suggest a shadowy conspiracy in Holyrood.  There is no doubt that the man holds some unpleasant views on LGBT matters, but to suggest that he is somehow the eminence grise of Scottish politics is a bit of a stretch.  It is also quite hypocritical of Labour, who have not always been very particular about their donors.

Ms Dugdale, to me, comes across as someone who talks the talk but doesn't really walk the walk. It's as if she knows all the steps but just doesn't have the natural talent to make a good dancer. She is in good company, however, as I don't see any of her colleagues as having any more talent than she does. The overall effect is that it gives what she says a certain air of insincerity which people are picking up on. This is one of their major problems, and not one that can be solved easily.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Marshmallow woman

STV's political editor Bernard Ponsonby is conducting a series of one-to-one interviews with the leaders of the parties fighting the Scottish General Election.  The most excruciating of these is the one with Kezia Dugdale.

She reminds me of someone who has brought a family-sized bag of marshmallows to a gunfight, with about the level of effectiveness you'd expect from such a scenario.  She doesn't have her facts at her fingertips and constantly relies on 'well that's what I've been told'.  Shades of Johann Lamont, whose interviewing style was equally hapless.  See, for example, this interview with Gordon Brewer regarding one of Labour's tax plansCompare and contrast with Nicola Sturgeon, who is generally well-prepared on the topic she's discussing and is therefore almost always able to think on her feet when challenged. 

This illustrates a fundamental weakness with Labour politicians in Scotland.  They try to reduce debate to the level of soundbites, and when the interviewer asks a question that departs from their script, they flounder.  One wonders if this is because any Scottish Labour politician with any talent is quickly moved off to Westminster, leaving behind the less talented for the Scottish parliament, which is to be regarded as the minor leagues.  This is key to understanding why Labour in Scotland are doing so very badly in the Scottish general election.

The SNP are very much a party for the people of Scotland, and this is illustrated by the fact that not all of their best politicians are hived off to Westminster.  Labour and also the Tories are perceived not to be interested in Scotland and its people, preferring instead to send all of their best to London.  The electorate are not stupid and can discern which parties are for Scotland first and which are for the UK first.

If Labour and the Tories in Scotland want to become serious contenders for the Scottish government, they will have to find some way to show the electorate that Scotland is important to them.  Almost inevitably this will mean them supporting federalism at the very least and probably ultimately independence.  So far this is not a step they are prepared to take, and they risk the very real possibility of being left behind by history if they are not prepared to change.


Monday, 11 April 2016

Shhhhh!

At the end of last week it was announced that 7,000 pupils in Edinburgh would not be returning to school today, as serious structural defects have been found at Oxgangs Primary School, where a wall collapsed back in January.  As the school was built under a PFI deal, all other schools built under similar arrangements have now been closed until safety checks can be carried out.

The reporting of this has been most amusing, if only for seeing the contortions that the newspapers have gone through to avoid mentioning who was responsible for letting the PFI contracts for the schools in question. And who was in charge at the time?  Well, Edinburgh Council was Labour-controlled, Holyrood was Labour-controlled and take a guess at who was in charge at Westminster.  Why that would be Labour!

As an example of the reporting, take this example from the Guardian, where the story is headed by a large picture of Nicola Sturgeon.  Labour supporters have been trying to argue in the comments that the story explains that this is not the fault of the SNP, but they are being somewhat disingenuous, as many people will simply skim the headline, see the picture of Ms Sturgeon and jump to an erroneous conclusion.  Event the Guardian seems to have felt some embarrassment, as their second attempt at the story was headed by a picture of the collapsed wall.  Notably, however, neither version of the story mentions the role of Labour in the debacle.

It was inevitable that at some point the papers were going to attempt to blame the SNP.  Step forward the Herald and the Scotsman, who are both running a story headlined 'SNP accused of refusing calls for school building checks'.  This turns out to be an almost verbatim retelling of a Tory press release from Liz Smith (yes, I don't know either).

Have we heard calls for a full public enquiry from Labour's own rentahonk, Jackie Baillie?  The silence is deafening.  Has Willie Rennie fired off yet another missive demanding a full investigation?  Strangely he does not appear to have deployed his pen, or if he has, he's not telling us about it.  How very odd, given their previous history of demanding enquiries at the drop of a hat.

Clearly the strategy seems to be that if they don't mention it, it'll all go away, with the voting public none the wiser.  I think, however, that it will have an unexpected side-effect, and not one they're going to like.  Many of the electorate will see this as an attempt to weasel out of taking responsibility.  And why, the voters will ask themselves, should we elect a party that will do anything to avoid taking responsibility for their actions?

In my local area recently, a phantom #SNPOuter with a sheet of stickers has been decorating the lampposts.  The stickers read

#SNPOut
Scotland Deserves Better 

Yesterday, when out walking my dogs I observed a hoodied youth on a bike stopping at each lamppost.  Curious, I went to see what he was doing.  He was using a black marker pen to obliterate the word 'Out' on each sticker so that it now reads

#SNP
Scotland Deserves Better

 He's right.  Scotland deserves far better than the current Unionist parties.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Kezia's amnesia and Wullie the White Knight

And so the attempts to smear the SNP go on, most recently with the story that Kezia Dugdale twice sought work experience as a researcher with the SNP when she was a student, was turned down on both occasions and subsequently joined the Labour party.  The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

So far so dull.  This particular piece of information has been bobbing about amongst Yes supporters for quite some time, so the Scottish Sun is somewhat late to the party.  The basic story seems to be that Ms Dugdale twice e-mailed Richard Lochhead to enquire about the possibility of an unpaid internship with him.  Note that it does not say anything about a job application, simply that an enquiry was made as to whether there were any opportunities.

Ms Dugdale herself says she has no recollection of making any such enquiry, which I find a little hard to believe.  I rather suspect that she has been advised to take this line, in which case her adviser has done her no favours.  A better approach would have been to own it and to say that yes, she did make the enquires but that it was a long time ago and she has subsequently found the Labour party to be a better fit for her political beliefs.  Job done, move along, nothing to see here.

However Willie Rennie seems to see this as his big chance to play the knight in shining armour, charging to the defence of Ms Dugdale by writing to the Data Protection Commissioner to demand an enquiry as to whether the whole affair has breached the Data Protection Act, which requires details of a job application to be kept confidential, rightly so as job applications contain personal information.  However, that's not what we're talking about here.  An enquiry as to whether there are any positions available does not constitute a job application.  Mr Rennie appears to be being somewhat disingenuous by conflating the two things, thus enabling another 'SNP Bad'.

Mr Rennie and Ms Dugdale seem to be developing a surprisingly friendly relationship of late.  During the leaders' debate on STV last week it was notable that, in the section where each leader was questioned by the other leaders, both Mr Rennie and Ms Dugdale were throwing each other softball questions, leading some people to wonder if there had been some collusion beforehand.  And now we have Mr Rennie rushing to the defence of Ms Dugdale over the matter of some ancient e-mails being leaked to the press.

Of course Labour and the LibDems have a bit of a history of friendly relations, as evidenced by their coalition in the Scottish Parliament prior to 2007.  One wonders if they may be hoping that, in the event that the SNP don't win an overall majority in the coming election, they could form a coalition to enable them to become the Scottish Government once more.  It's not looking likely according to the polls at the moment, but it may be their only chance of a sniff at power in the current climate.  Time will tell.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

To report or not to report?

Yesterday I had an interesting debate with someone on Twitter regarding the story published in The National about the latest scandal engulfing Natalie McGarry.  In essence the story is that the SNP's Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) is unable to properly account for £4,127.62 of its funds.  Ms McGarry's involvement is that she was convener of the GRA from 2011 until last year and, as such, was the main signatory on the association's bank account.  The money appears in the accounts under 'Other payments', but there are no receipts to account for the spending.  Ms McGarry is reported to be being unco-operative regarding the matter.

Essentially there were two grounds for arguing that the article should not have been published in The National:
1. That the story was unsubstantiated gossip
2. That by publishing the story The National was undermining the independence movement

On the subject of unsubstantiated gossip, the main argument was that no-one is named as a source in the article.  This is true.  However, the article is very specific in some of its details, such as the amount of missing money and how it is presented in the accounts, not to mention the fact that the GRA is mentioned specifically, which would make it very easy to verify the story.  Judging by the information given, the meeting at which the matter was discussed seems to have become quite heated, so it would be understandable if people did not want to be named, but were happy to speak off-the-record.  Finally one would imagine that The National would have run the story past their lawyers in order to ensure that they would not be liable to a charge of defamation by Ms McGarry.  All these things would suggest that there is some basis for the story and that there is therefore a legitimate public interest in it.

As for the second point, that The National is undermining the independence movement by publishing the story, this is very much a slippery slope.  This is essentially demanding that The National, as a pro-independence newspaper, should censor its content, on the basis that the Unionist media will be undermining the independence movement anyway, so The National should refrain from adding fuel to the fire.  But where do you draw the line?  Are members of the pro-independence movement to be given what is, in essence, a free pass from any wrongdoing on their part being reported to their supporters by pro-independence media?  The Unionist media would have a field day with that one, using it as proof of their narrative of the SNP as a one-party state which controls the media in Scotland.  And why should independence supporters be shielded from any less-than-stellar behaviour by pro-independence 'superstars'?  Is support for independence so weak that any hint that leading figures in the movement are less than perfect will lead to mass desertion?  I don't think so.

On balance I think The National were right to publish the story.  The independence movement has a right to know how their public figures are behaving, good or bad.  What we don't need is a pro-independence media which is a mirror image of the Unionist media, colluding with the Establishment to cover up bad news and scandal.  The independence movement wants to see a better, fairer Scotland, and that includes allowing the pro-independence media to hold political figures to account where warranted.




Sunday, 20 March 2016

How do you solve a problem like oor Kezia?

How do you solve a problem like oor Kezia?  After this week's car crash of a First Minister's Questions (which even had me face-palming for her), we now get her big speech to her party faithful at the Spring conference.  Well, I say conference, but it was held in Glasgow's IMAX theater which has a maximum capacity of 370, which tells you a lot about the plight that Labour in Scotland finds itself.

Anyway, in her big speech she gives us her vision for what will happen if Labour gets into power in seven weeks time, something which she herself doesn't think will happen apparently.  And what do we get?  Not very much as it turns out.  Even Severin Carrell seems to be struggling here.

The 1p rise in income tax?  Oh yes, that was the one that was going to involve some sort of council rebate to the lowest earners.  Quite how it's going to work is still a bit of a mystery, but they've got at least seven weeks to come up with the answer. 

A guarantee of every Scottish resident being able to see a GP within 48 hours?  But that's already a target of the Scottish government, hampered by the fact that there aren't enough GPs to meet that target due to difficulties with GP recruitment.  So how does Kezia intend to implement her guarantee?  We're not told.

Strict fiscal rules to stop Holyrood from cutting taxes and spending at the same time?  A decent principle, but principles have a habit of being changed once faced with the reality of their implementation.

And that's it.  The rest is just jibes at the SNP in general and Nicola Sturgon in particular, a strategy which clearly isn't working, but it's all they've got.  And Kezia seems to have a particular jealousy of the First Minister.

 I want Nicola Sturgeon's chair, her desk and the possibility of all the powers she has at her finger tips .
she says, managing to sound both megalomaniacal and envious at the same time.  I can't help but think that Kezia would find 'all the powers' to be rather less than she imagines if she were to actually achieve this.  After all, that's what the independence referendum was all about.

Jibes about selfies?  One wonders how often Kezia gets asked for selfies by the public.  That's the point she misses.  Nicola Sturgeon takes selfies with people because people ask her to, not because she offers.  It's a bit like people who tut at someone saying 'I'm on the train' into their mobile.  It's because the person on the other end has almost certainly asked 'where are you?'

Sadly I think Kezia is a fine example of the Peter Principle, and has reached the level of her own incompetence.  And that's a bad thing because Scottish politics needs a decent opposition for the SNP.

Will Kezia hang on as leader after May?  I suspect she will, until after the council elections in 2017.  After that, all bets will be off.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

We're wide awake

Yesterday Wee Ginger Dug published a blog that captures superbly how it feels to be an independista in present-day Scotland.  The sense of possibility and yes, of our own power to effect change has never been stronger.

It's an unintended side-effect of the referendum in 2014.  We learned to question, to cast a critical eye over what we were told, whether by politicians or by the media, to stop taking things at face-value and to look for the hidden motives.  These skills have served us well since September 2014. A sleeping giant is awake, and one that is not inclined to simply turn over and go back to sleep. 

Jim Sillars told us that
 Between 7am and 10pm on the 18th September we are totally sovereign.  We have power in our hands for the first time in our history.  Whether at one minute past ten we remain sovereign and powerful or at one minute past ten we've given it all away and we're powerless.
A very large number of us watched as the small majority elected to give it all away and become powerless.  And instead of accepting defeat, those of us who voted Yes decided that it was worth fighting to get that sovereign power back again.  Initially we were sad and we mourned, but that sadness very quickly turned to rage, a rage that continues to burn within us.

The Unionist parties fully expected that things would go back to normal, where they could play their political games without troubling much about the electorate except when it came time for voting, and even then it was expected that votes were an entitlement that could be taken for granted.  Aghast, they realised the folly of this belief too late and watched powerless as safe seat after safe seat fell to the SNP in the General Election.  It was one of the best nights in my life.

Even now, they don't understand the enormity of what the referendum created.  They don't understand that a large proportion of the electorate finally realised what power we have and we are not inclined to give that power up.  They don't understand that a major part of the appeal of the SNP is the possibility of effecting change, of getting rid of the tired old political system and replacing it with something different.  It won't be perfect, but it would better serve our needs than the current system.

History may well come to the conclusion that David Cameron's primary error was to allow the referendum in the first place.  The law of unintended consequences was never better illustrated.

Monday, 15 February 2016

The bold Kezia

In today's Daily Record there's an opinion piece by Kezia Dugdale in which she waxes lyrical about how the new powers coming to Scotland will enable a Labour government in Scotland to
be even bolder in the decisions we make to stop the cuts in Scotland and give young people a chance to get on in life.
Let trumpets sound and rejoicing begin!  Of course, as Ms Dugdale's chances of becoming First Minister in April are currently in the area of, er, zero, she can make these claims safe in the knowledge that she'll never have to make good on her promises.  Also, based on their record in government in Holyrood in the past, 'even bolder' isn't much of a stretch.

It's a piece filled with deep irony.  For example
It’s an amazing opportunity for Scotland to chart a difference course, if our politicians are brave enough to take it.
Surely the amazing opportunity was for Scotland to have voted for independence, no?  Then there would be no negotiations over new powers.  We'd have them all, and could use them as we think best to solve our own problems.  Tax rates could be freely adjusted, economic levers applied. But alas, Labour in Scotland weren't brave enough to grasp that particular opportunity. 

(There's further irony in that she claims the new powers will stop the cuts in Scotland, but omits to mention that Labour in Westminster opposed the cuts by abstaining from the vote, but I digress.)

There's also contradiction.  She says
Taking on responsibility for Scottish taxes means we should shoulder the risks but it shouldn’t mean losing the rewards we get from being part of the UK and the system that shares money out across the country.
Well, she can't have it both ways.  Either we're taking risks or we're relying on the UK to make sure that the risks aren't all that risky.  And we know that, since Labour in Scotland opposed independence, they're what can only be described as risk-averse anyway.  Can't cut off their access to the Westminster gravy train - that would be a calamity!

In short, this is a fine example of current Labour in Scotland thinking.  Confused, contradictory and unfocussed.  No wonder they're tanking in the polls.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Veni, vidi, errrr...

So the case against Alastair Carmichael came to an end yesterday, with the judges ruling that each side should pay their own costs, much to the chagrin of Mr Carmichael, who is now telling everyone that he is not a rich man and that the costs should be awarded to the winner of the case, clearly himself in his mind.  But was he?

I don't think we can say that Mr Carmichael was vindicated, since he was found against in two of the points and was essentially found not proven on the third.  Indeed, since the judge said that he had 'told a blatant lie', it can now be fairly said that he is a proven liar.

As for costs, he had asked that costs be awarded against the Orkney 4, and that he also hoped that a punitive element would be included.  But what exactly did he want punished?  Did he want punishment for calling him a liar?  Clearly that wasn't going to happen, since he is a proven liar as the result of this case.  Did he want his opponents punished for daring to question the validity of his election, 'pour encourager les autres'?  That would be a very dangerous path to go down.  Everyone is supposed to be equal before the law, MPs and constituents alike, so to discourage people from taking recourse to the law for fear of punitive damages if they were found against strikes at the very foundations of society.

All of this could have been avoided if either Mr Carmichael had chosen to come clean about his involvement in the 'Frenchgate' memo in the first place or if he had resigned as MP and run as the Lib Dem candidate in the resulting by-election, thus allowing his constituents to either show their confidence in him or to select someone else to represent them.  That, however, would have taken courage.

Mr Carmichael is an educated man, so you'd think he'd be aware that 'vindicate' and 'vindictive' may be near-neighbours in the dictionary, but they are not the same thing.  He certainly wasn't vindicated and has shown himself to be vindictive.  Not a good outcome for him.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The softly-spoken magic spells

On Tuesday we had a Guardian editorial telling us that the latest policy pronouncement by Labour in Scotland, the addition of a penny to income tax rates across all tax bands for Scots, together with a rebate scheme for the lowest paid, was 'a big, bold move'.  Oddly, the Guardian did not say the same when Willie Rennie announced a similar policy the previous Wednesday, so it would appear that the newspaper has reverted back to its traditional Labour-supporting stance.

The most interesting thing about the editorial was this sentence:
Alternatively it may shift nothing at all. Either way, it is high time that the SNP’s “best of both worlds” approach is challenged effectively.
When I first read it, the sentence jarred.  The SNP's best of both worlds approach?  Surely that was one of Better Together's slogans towards the end of the referendum campaign, first adopted by one G Brown and repeated ad nauseam?

The Guardian has a bit of a reputation, as far as Scottish politics is concerned, for simply taking Labour press releases and regurgitating them pretty much without question, so it would be a fair assumption, I think, that the use of the 'best of both worlds' approach came from such a press release.  An odd turn of phrase, perhaps a mistake.

On Wednesday the calls from the Lib Dems and Labour for the 1p increase to tax bands were rejected during the debate on the draft Holyrood budget, voted down by the SNP and the Tories. The debate was notable for the fact the Jackie Baillie, when questioned on how the rebate part of Labour's scheme would work, said that the details didn't matter, it was the principle that mattered.  It was also notable for the fact that Labour claimed to want to work with the SNP 'to end Tory austerity in Scotland', conveniently overlooking the fact that, had they campaigned for Scottish independence we would currently have been on the threshold of leaving the UK and therefore the very Tory austerity they rail against.

Then on Thursday we had First Minister's Questions, the weekly circus that really does no credit to most of our politicians.  Naturally Kezia Dugdale's question was on the 1p on income tax policy that had been rejected.  During her peroration she uttered the phrase 'The SNP and the Tories stood should to shoulder'.  Again, an interesting turn of phrase, one usually applied to Labour in regard to the fact they campaigned with the Tories against Scottish independence.

So, are we seeing the start of the next Labour strategy?  Clearly, it would seem the Labour thinking goes,  phrases like 'standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories' and 'best of both worlds' are at the root of their catastrophic loss of support in Scotland.  That being the case, let's apply them to the SNP and watch their popularity nose-dive.  Cause and effect, like a magic spell.  So obvious when you think about it.

It's not going to work though.  People are not stupid, and can remember the original authors or targets of phrases and the circumstances in which they were used.  Words are important, not least because they have associations.  Simply applying phrases to your opponents that were originally applied to you won't magically have the same effect as they had on you because of those associations.  It will be interesting to see if Labour continue in this vein.  If so, it implies a woeful lack of any real political talent in Labour in Scotland.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Fashion

The other day there was a report on Len McCluskey's speech to the first policy conference of the Unite union in Scotland.  In it he used a phrase which has become common parlance among Scottish Labour politicians, to wit:
The SNP stole most of the radical clothes that historically should have belonged to Labour.
Originally the Labour party chose policies that reflected the hodden grey of the working classes.  A fair day's pay for a fair day's work.  Paid holidays.  Sick pay.  The welfare state.  All excellent ideas and ones that Labour had succeeded in implementing during the 20th century, for which they deserve praise and recognition.  However, a funny thing happened.  Labour politicians spent much time at Westminster, where they noticed that the Tories had much more colourful clothes and, what's more, the wealth to afford them.  And many of them seem to have become dazzled by the Tories' designer gear and decided they want some for themselves.  So they have cast off the old hodden grey of social justice and borrowed the Tories' more dazzling clothes, since those clothes seem to be much more popular with the electorate in the leafy suburbs of south-east England.  Fashion (turn to the right).

Now if you have old clothes that you don't want any longer, you can hardly be surprised if someone else comes along and wears them.  After all, you don't want them any more.  The SNP have given the hodden grey clothes a bit of a tartan twist, but you can still see the basic clothes beneath them.  Fashion (turn to the left).

Now, with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, there are fashion wars in the Labour party.  Some want to hang on to the designer gear, some want to go back to hodden grey and yet others want a mixture of the two.   The current wardrobe wars are entertaining for the rest of use, but are doing real damage to the Labour party with the electorate.

The thing about ideas of social justice is that you can't copyright them.  Labour have no more right to exclusive policies on social justice than any other political party, and they need to realise this sooner rather than later if the party is to have any chance of survival at all.  They need the political equivalent of Trinny and Susannah.