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.