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Showing posts with label LibDems and the Union. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LibDems and the Union. Show all posts

Saturday, 17 September 2011

More from the Cold Fried Labour franchise?

What does a Scottish journalist or commentator do when real thoughts about Scotland’s exciting and demanding political scene desert him? Why, he writes a ‘What Labour Must Do’ article with one hand while flicking TV channels and playing with his iPhone with the other. Fire it off to Bill Jamieson at the Scotsman – he’ll print anything in that genre.

So has Gerry Hassan, a commentator of real perception and depth on Scottish affairs, joined the McTernan franchise, paid upfront for the secret recipe and embarked on a career in fast crap journalism? No, he hasn’t - appearances to the contrary - even though he offers us a new variant on the title - Scottish Labour owes us an exciting, new story  Read it – he has something relevant and useful to say.

But his closing paragraph asks Labour to recognise that Scotland has changed, the SNP bogeyman story won’t wash anymore and Labour must “reach out and tell a modern Labour story of Scotland”. Unfortunately, Gerry, that will require powers of invention far beyond the capacity of Scottish Labour or the UK Party. And to tell a real story, you must have a soul …

Sarah Boyack gave the game away in her car crash of an interview with Raymond Buchanan on Newsnight Scotland. In his introduction, Raymond Buchanan encapsulates the problem facing Scottish Labour -

Labour is used to being in power in Scotland, so some of its Scottish members are still coming to terms with not being in control of anything bigger than a council.” In the lead-in to the superb introductory video piece by David Allison, RB describes it as the dilemma facing “what used to be the People’s Party.” How I love that phrase, one I have used repeatedly since I started blogging …

Jim Murphy talks earnestly outside John Smith House (oh, how the greater Labour leaders of the past silently mock the thing their party has become) about reorganisation at grassroots level, changing constituency boundaries, plans for an elected leader “from all our parliamentarians” and he claims that this is “really putting energy into the party, totally transforming it and giving a kinna set of structures that kinna don’t belong to the era when they were built, which was in 1918, but bringing us right up to date so that we can not only strengthen our party, but stand up for Scotland and win a referendum when it comes.”

Despite the fractured Lord Prescott syntax, I know what you mean, Jim. If I may paraphrase – you don’t trust the Holyrood MSP group to deliver a leader, so MPs must be included, you’ll dump the antiquated 1918 structure and bring in a new one, and having failed to stand up for Scotland while in power and throughout the SNP period in government, you will now do so by “winning a referendum”, i.e. persuading Scots to stay in the Union.

A quibble – the referendum is not an election, it is an attempt to determine the wishes of the people on a single issue, the status of a union they entered into voluntarily (more or less). A referendum is not ‘won’ by a political party, but is a decision of the people to which political parties, among many others, contribute by rational, persuasive argument. If the Labour Party had any political values, vision or programme for Scotland beyond the preservation of the Union, they would understand that, but they don’t.

What would become of the Murphys, the Harrises, the Alexanders et al if the Union ended? Look for a safe seat in England? Take the long, hard, low road back to their native land? To be welcomed with open arms by MSPs who had stayed to fight the good fight in Scotland, willingly standing down to make way for the big boys from Westminster? Aye, right …

And so to Sarah Boyack, who spent the summer reflecting on the election in May. Let’s twist again like we did last summer – ah, that summer of 2011. How we reflected!

 Scottish Labour is now “totally focused on winning back in the future, and we think devolving ourselves, giving ourselves a stronger leader, giving support to that leader to make them able to do the job.” Something is sort of left hanging there – the ghost of Prestcott delivery – but we know what she means. Not a word about what Labour are for – it’s all structure. As Brian Taylor says, the Scottish people are many things – but they not daft …

In the interview that followed, Sarah Boyack walked straight into the elephant trap in her opening remarks by referring to “our vision of Scotland”, to be instantly challenged by Raymond Buchanan as to what exactly that vision was.

Sarah’s vision – “a fairer Scotland, a Scotland of solidarity ..,.” (an unfortunate choice of words Sarah – shades of a real socialist, Tommy Sheridan) “to make sure that we invest in the vital public services that people need …. big plans for creating jobs, modern apprenticeships …” While Labour was saying these things, Sarah, the SNP Government was actually doing them, while Labour’s obsession with the Union obstructed them at every turn. But do go on …

We’re now going to devolve our party …” Twelve years after devolution and the Scottish Parliament, the penny has finally dropped in the empty pinball machine that is Scottish Labour.

Raymond Buchanan is unimpressed by the talk of structures. He’s keen on the policy.

RB: You talk about Labour being a party of fairness, of solidarity, of public services … you could be describing the SNP. What’s the difference?

The Vulcan death grip. Sarah writhes. “Well, the SNP tried to camp on some of our historic territory …”

RB: And it’s worked, hasn’t it?

It’s all down hill for Sarah from there on in.

Now What I think Labour Must Do is … I’ll write an article in my sleep and submit it to the Scotsman. Or do I need to sign up under the McTernan Labour Cold Chicken franchise? Look what happened to a real McDonald when he challenged a giant franchise! Caution, caution …


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Scotland – then and now … 1972 and 2011

My son sent me this little gem from YouTube – the introduction to the Eurovision Song  Contest of 1972 in Edinburgh. introduced by Tom Fleming and Moira Shearer. It accurately reflects the Edinburgh and the Scotland of almost 40 years ago.

 

Tom Fleming was a fine actor who had a distinguished broadcasting and  theatrical career. He died last year. He is remembered with affection and respect, including by me, because his beautiful voice was woven almost subliminally into my life through his broadcasts and commentaries. His contribution to theatre, both in his native city, through the Gateway Theatre, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Scottish Theatre company and during his time with The Royal Shakespeare Company was a significant one.

It is fair to say that he was the Scottish voice of the British Empire and the Union that he formed a seamless part of – he played Lord Reith in a BBC production, he was the voice of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo for over 40 years, and was honoured by that Empire with an OBE and as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. He epitomised a view of Scotland’s place in these isles - and in the world - that has now gone for ever. Those of my generation who are glad that perception of Scotland has at last dissipated, as the Scottish people look at the unvarnished truth of their long subordination in a corrupt political system, can nonetheless remember Tom Fleming as a good man who loved Scotland, contributed to its cultural life, was a part of our history. He probably wasn’t much interested in politics, but I think be would have been dismayed at the changes in the political scene – but who knows? He was a man of his time, and a voice of his time, a time now past.

Friday, 2 September 2011

One of the many faces of the Union – a YouTube comment

I pre-moderate comments on my blog and on my YouTube channel, TAofMoridura. Many are too abusive, foul-mouthed (I’m no angel myself, but favour the asterisk!) or would place me at risk of being sued. But I like to let to odd one through to illustrate one face of the Unionist argument. I am all too well aware that we have faces of the Nationalist argument that are abusive and foul-mouthed, but they usually have a basically logical structure to the abuse.

The one reproduced below came by email intend as a comment on my YouTube video Scotland's independence - Newsnight debate – the Rory Stewart one on Britishness. Unfortunately, I could not get the publish link to YouTube to work – but here it it, with all your original invective and deeply confused logic preserved, david21085.

What can I say? What can anyone say? I would like to find a way of engaging with people who think in this way, because there is a cry of pain in there, but since it is on a no-reply basis, I can’t – and I wouldn’t know where to start.

 

EMAIL RECEIVED TODAY AS YouTube COMMENT

david21085 has made a comment on Scotland's independence - Newsnight debate:

Scottish independence is fucking retarded! Would we have 2 immigration systems, that would be retarded? What would happen to the British dependencies like the falklands? It's not fair on Northern Ireland fighting for almost 100years to remain with the Union then Scotland kicking them in the balls. What about our history, fighting side by side thats enough of a reason for me to stay in the Union. It won't be long till Shetland seeks independence from Scotland...

This comment requires your approval. You can approve or reject it by visiting the comments page.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

The smell of the newsprint, the roar of the racks

I went into the paper shop this morning, and the newspapers stared at me reproachfully from the rack. “You’ve betrayed us,” they seemed to say plaintively, "we’ve served you for decades, and now, when we’re at our most vulnerable, you attack us … You’ve had circulation problems yourself, you should know how it feels.”

I tried to resist the seductive smell of the printer’s ink as I reached down for my Sunday morning supply, and sent a subliminal message to them – “You’ve betrayed the Scottish people – but I live in hope …”

I crossed the road, in what passes for a sprint these days, with the Scotland on Sunday and the Sunday Herald (among others!) under my arm, firmly in what I call car jack mode.

(Carjack mode refers to the old joke of the motorist who gets a flat tyre on a lonely country road late at night. He finds he has no jack to change the wheel, and heads for a lonely farmhouse to see if he can borrow one. On the way up to the farmhouse, he reflects on the hostile reception he will get from the farmer, wakened by a stranger in the middle of the night. He knocks on the door, an upper window opens, the farmer looks out and says politely “Can I help you, sir?” The motorist looks up and shouts “Stick your ******* jack up your ****!”)

I have good reason to be in car jack mode over The Scotsman’s shameful week, where every story, however flimsy, was converted into an attack on the First Minister. But I am falling into the old trap of thinking of Scotland on Sunday as simply a Sunday clone of The Scotsman, when it patently is not, with the key difference being Kenny Farquarson.

I skimmed the headlines and got rapidly to KennyFarq (see @KennyFarq on Twitter – always thought-provoking and relevant), ready to shout “Stick the UK up your ****, Kenny.” But I am instantly confounded, not to say dumfounded, by a brilliant, visually arresting cartoon on a Glasgow zombie theme by Brian Adcock and beneath it, an attention-grabbing headline – Home truths for the new Unionist party with Kenny’s pic and by-line beneath it.

My normal approach to Kenny’s pieces in SoS of late could be categorised as hostile dissection. But this piece speaks clearly and utterly authentically for itself and says something that has never been said in quite this way, although many turgid analyses have infested the media lately on this theme.

So I have nothing to say, because Kenny Farquarson has said it superbly and concisely, and he deserves to be read, not quoted. Go out and buy Scotland on Sunday for this article and this cartoon.

Brad Pitt – eat your heart out! Sorry, Brad – it’s the other way round, isn’t it?

Monday, 11 July 2011

This and that …

So far today no burning issues have got my adrenalin pump going and I will seize the opportunity to ramble inconsequentially.

PEDANTS CORNER

The ugly and inaccurate usage obsessing over continues, including from respected Scottish journalists who should know better. Obsessing over makes as much sense as fascinating over, i.e. none whatsoever. Usage trumps all, so if this continues, the OED will eventually capitulate and offer it as an alternative usage, and an important word will be lost in its real sense to the language. It equally bad twin is bored of, a usage beloved of youthful chavs everywhere, and a few not so youthful.

HALF SCOTS

A few email correspondents have taken me to task for describing Rory Stewart MP as a ‘half Scot’. For the record, on the Newsnight debate, Rory Stewart said “I’m half-Scottish, half-English, like many people in this country …” so half-Scot is genealogically accurate. In the interests of perspective, let me say that I am a half-Scot by birth (my mother was Scottish, my father Irish) and since all my grandparents were Irish, I am a quarter-Scot. If I have an ethnic identity, it is Celtic. (My wife is a half-Scot - her mother was English.)

But I used the term for Rory Stewart, and for others of his class and background, not as an ethnic or genealogical description, but in terms of allegiance. I owe 100% allegiance to Scotland and the Scottish nation, not to the hybrid state of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Rory Stewart, in contrast, owes 100% allegiance to that hybrid state, whatever his vaguely nostalgic ethnic Scottish leanings.

(Despite my Irish ancestry, I owe no political allegiance whatsoever to The Republic of Ireland nor to the province of Northern Ireland.)

I have contacts who are entirely English by birth  and ancestry, but who have made their lives in Scotland, owe allegiance to Scotland, vote Scottish nationalist and  eagerly await Scottish independence. These are political, social and economic loyalties, not misty, nostalgic ones. I am absolutely certain that is true among the many ethnic minority groups in Scotland.

For the moment, however, we must accommodate ourselves as best we can to the ugly realities of our unwilling membership of the British state and subservience to the British Establishment, and the legal and constitutional demands of that failing state, as must the English and Welsh peoples.

(The people of Northern Ireland have their own complex problems and relationships to deal with, and nothing I have to say can contribute anything useful to that debate.)



GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

I recognised GBS from early childhood as a wise old man with a long, grey beard and a twinkle in his eye: he popped up in the newspapers and on the newsreels. He died, age 94, just as I left school. My teachers at St. Mungo’s Academy, Marist Brothers in the main, thoroughly disapproved of him - he was Irish, but an atheist and a radical Socialist!

As far as I know, he was the only person ever to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and a Hollywood Oscar, for his adaptation of his own play, Pygmalion for the cinema. It of course later achieved even greater fame as on Broadway as My Fair Lady. I knew the film, as a compulsive filmgoer in the fleapits of Dennistoun and Calton, and also the film (1945) from his play Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) which a member of the Wranglers debating society in Newcastle told me  proudly in 1976 had first been staged in the city in 1899.

This film, together with Pygmalion, which I had seen much earlier, led me to borrow Three Plays for Puritans from Dennistoun library and read Shaw for the first time. I recognised his socialism and his deep feeling for the ordinary man, but was riveted by his accessible style. I then read a fair amount of his work, but it was not until my mid-twenties that I came across his collected Prefaces in a very bulky volume from Clydebank Public Library, a work that I read and re-read, borrowed and re-borrowed. (I now have my own copy.)

Then somehow I forgot Shaw for a long, long time, until a few months age I wandered into a charity shop in Corstorphine, glanced briefly across the rows of rubbish books that now form their main stock. But in a corner, quietly and inconspicuously waiting for me on the shelf were a number of volumes in the 1937 Constable edition (1950 reprint) of some of Shaw’s works.

After the briefest glance at the titles, I grabbed the lot and bought them for £2 apiece. When I began to put them on my shelf next to my other Shaw books, noticing ruefully the duplicates, one caught my eye, because of its odd title. - London Music in 1888-89 as heard by Corno Di Bassetto. I had never heard of this work by Shaw, but as a musician of sorts, I recognised corno di bassetto as the basset horn, and a vague memory came to mind that Shaw had briefly been a music critic for a London newspaper, The Star.

Up till that moment, I regarded the funniest prose works in the English language as being P.G. Wodehouse and the Irish RM stories of Somerville and Ross. But now they had a rival, and I have succeeded since in annoying my family by laughing out loud at regular intervals, and boring all and sundry with the words of Corno Di Bassetto, which are about as contemporary as one can get in style, and terrifyingly knowledgeable about music in all its aspects, with savage and hysterically funny criticism of the operatic and concert performers of the day.

More to come …

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The UK Supreme Court, the judges–and the Union’s future

I an indebted to an email from John Higgins for prompting the following reflections on the UK Supreme Court debacle.

I mustn't murmur against the judiciary, but with all due respect to the rule of law, it has never achieved the ideal of entirely standing outside of politics, nor has any judiciary in any country or kingdom or empire at any time in history. By the very nature of the ancient concept of judges, the process of appointing them is not, and never can be truly democratic (it doesn’t for a moment pretend to be in Britain) nor can it ever be free from the culture and the political climate within which it exists.

Of course the supporters of the UK Supreme Court and its recent human rights judgements argue that this is just what they are trying to do – stand outside politics - and that the Scottish Government and Alex Salmond are the nasty, sordid face of politics trying to pervert that aim. But then, they have that UK in the title of the Court to contend with. One only has to look at the most vocal supporters of the Supreme Court to realise that most – but not all - of them come from an anti-independence, unionist position, and that their opposition is in fact highly political. Last Thursday’s FMQs demonstrated that fact unequivocally, despite all the high-minded rhetoric – and unintentional low comedy.

(There was a documentary on the BBC Parliament channel  some time ago on the formation of the UK Supreme Court that I recorded - but now can't find – that referred to the mysterious process of selecting and appointing judges, and I must track it down.)

The bottom line is that Scottish Law and the Scottish judiciary exist within a complex and confusing legal structure created by the Union of 1707, and the creation of the devolved Parliament and Assemblies, and membership of the EU has multiplied that complexity exponentially.

The UK Supreme Court is in effect UK law, yet there is no such thing as UK Law - this is the contradiction that Alex Salmond sees, and he is determined to highlight the dangers that he sees flowing from it.

The most jaundiced interpretation of the situation is that the UK Supreme Court was created to keep the devolved nations in check. The less extreme interpretation is that it was created with totally honourable and high-minded intentions, but that its purpose may be perverted by politics. If this happens, it will be the politics of the dying empire - the UK - that does the perverting. Failing empires do not go quietly into that good night – they rage, rage against the dying of the light. (My apologies to Dylan Thomas!)

One only has to look at how United States Supreme Court judges are appointed - a highly political and polarised process - to realise that not even the most exalted, altruistic individual is free from political influence or pressure. And remember, judges were all members of the legal profession before they were appointed, a profession that  is heavily represented in the Westminster Parliament.

The break-up of the Union threatens the entire British Establishment - the aristocracy, the Monarchy (in its present dispensation) and the military/industrial complex, and the ramifications reach into European and American foreign policy. 

The judges, however principled, cannot detach themselves from the society within which they reach their judgements and of which they themselves are a part,  nor can they stand apart from great historical and constitutional movements - and we are in the midst of one right now.

I am not a lawyer, and have no legal training, so what the hell do I know? What I do know is that if a citizen cannot question the law, in all its aspects, then what is the point of law?

As the old Chinese curse goes - may you live in interesting times! And we do ...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Tavish the Evasive - no principle is sacrosanct if a coalition deal is on offer.

Although the Gaelic forename and surname belie it, it has occasionally been suggested that Tavish Scott had some Viking blood in him, presumably because of his Lerwick roots and launching his candidacy for the LibDem leadership among a group dressed as Vikings at Up Helly Aa in 2008.

I must say that, as a short-legged and once black-haired, wee Glaswegian, I would not have been in the least intimidated if Tavish had jumped off a longboat and ran up the beach at me in a horned helmet in days gone by. The instant assessment of the opposition required by a Glasgow east end childhood and young manhood would have instantly classed him as big safty - nae problem, Jimmy …

He’s a nice big guy, but niceness is something I value in people only if they don’t have difficult decisions to make that affect my life, in which case I readily sacrifice niceness for decisiveness, integrity, principle, and bluntly, cojones. And so to Tavish Scott, faux Viking and putative coalition member in the post May 5th Holyrood.

I never know whether to attack the LibDems or not, in these confusing political days we live in, since some evidence suggests that disillusioned Scottish LibDems are shifting their allegiance mainly to Labour. Presumably the closet Tories among the Scottish LibDems are not disillusioned, and are rather like CofE people creeping towards the Church of Rome in search of ultimate certainties. But who knows?

What adjectives come to mind in describing Tavish? The ones that jump to my mind are nice, diffident, ineffectual, vulnerable, uncool, lacking in street savvy. But he got elected and leads his party, you say - he must have qualities other than these? Well, maybe not, since these are the very characteristics that define a certain kind  of LibDem and presumably appeal to a certain group of LibDem voters.

I don’t like pulling the legs off flies, or watching them being pulled off, and my toes curl when I watch Tavish’s attempts at humour in Holyrood, reading his laborious jokes and bon mots intently from his notes, flanked by equally nice, nodding colleagues, smiling bravely as their Leader dies the death, but with no hook coming from the wings to drag him offstage. Alex Salmond tries not to make it look too effortless as he swats him away at FMQs.

But here he is on Newsnight Scotland with Gordon Brewer, who is only too happy to pull the wings off anything that moves, and regards Tavish as light exercise, a limbering-up before the main bouts with other, more worthy opponents.

The LibDem leader deploys his limited arsenal of pea-shooter and water pistol against the Brewer Magnum, with the inevitable result - the diffident smile, the engaging laugh, the please-don’t-hit-me-again body language and the self-deprecation are no match for the Brewer neo-Paxman assault.

But unlike many of these often sterile encounters, this one actually illuminates an essential political truth of LibDemmery in the Coalition era - nothing is sacred, expediency is everything, and every value and principle may be sacrificed, every promise broken on the altar of power in coalition. Tavish will do what he has to to get into the big boys’ gang, just as Clegg, Cable, Alexander, Martin and the rest did.

Just tell me what I must do to join the club …

Of course, a pretence of Scottishness must be maintained. The beaming Tavish, on the studio backdrop image, sports a saltire badge, and in the interview he claims his independence of Westminster - “I'm not one of them …”. Nonetheless, he lists the Coalition ‘achievements’ that “didn’t happen under Laaaybah …” And so Tavish ducks and weaves, and dances round the ring on tiptoe until Gordon Brewer is ready to hit him, and then the principles fall, one by one.

Brewer asks, in essence - what are the deal breakers? Give me one policy, one principle, one value that you won’t trade for a place in government. “Can you give me a single Liberal Democrat policy that you would commit tonight - personally - that you would not sell in a coalition deal?”

The opposition to tuition fees, or any form of student charge, dies painlessly under the questioning, and incredibly, so does the refusal to rule out a coalition with the SNP despite the heretofore implacable opposition to Scotland’s independence. Tavish’s desperate and feeble attempts the throw up a smokescreen over the Scottish Government’s ‘failure’ to present an independence bill (to witness its inevitable defeat by the united unionist opposition presumably) is blown away effortlessly by Brewer pointing out that independence is going to be central to the SNP’s campaign.

So Tavish goes off home to don his Viking helmet with the marshmallow horns, make fierce faces at himself in the mirror, and dream of coalition after May 5th with - well, anybody, really …