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.