Monday, 12 August 2013
Thursday, 8 March 2012
We’ve been in it for 305 years, it’s nice to be British – and we’re stronger together weaker apart. That appears to be about the sum total of the case for the Union so far – that, and a torrent of threats as to what rUK will do (the r in rUK stands for either rest or rump, dependent on how polite you are) if Scotland votes for independence. And if it’s not a threat as to what they will do, it’s a threat of what others will do, e.g. the EU, the UN, the rest of the world, etc.
As far as I’ve been able, I’ve captured this farrago of factoids in YouTube clips. It doesn’t just emanate from unionist politicians, it also keeps coming back like a very bad old song from the press and the media. Today, we have Michael Kelly at it again in the Scotsman. Where else, you may ask, since Michael’s glittering prose would be hard pushed to find a home anywhere else that values concise, elegant prose and coherent arguments.
His big insight today is in the title of his piece – Without the ability to change – Labour’s lost. Fancy that! Perhaps he’s been re-reading John McTernan’s back catalogue of What Labour Must Do articles, a theme with infinite tedious variations.
Michael is confident that the SNP will lose any “fairly conducted single question referendum”, but clearly entertains the fear that the referendum might not be fairly conducted and might contain more than one question. Michael also believed that devolution would kill the SNP stone dead, that the SNP would never form a government and that the SNP would never gain an overall majority in Holyrood. Bookies eagerly await Michael Kelly’s forecasts so they can shorten the odds on the other alternative – there are advantages in always being wrong ...
He thinks the arguments for ‘separation’ are either threadbare or wrong. I would love to be able to counter by saying that the arguments of the Union are likewise, except there aren’t any so far. He selects three aspects – the oil fund, the currency and Nicola Sturgeon’s statement that “the Union is a bad for the NHS”.
The oil fund and currency questions have been comprehensively answered by the First Minister, but Michael shares the inability to hear what he chooses not to, in common with most unionists. Nicola’s criticism was in fact much wider than the NHS – she said the Union was bad for the welfare state, which must be starkly evident to the unemployed, poor, sick and vulnerable in Britain – but Michael was particularly cack-handed in focusing on the NHS, since virtually every professional body in England and Wales agrees with Nicola, and looks with envy to Scotland, which thanks to this aspect of devolution, is not facing destruction.
He goes on to what has now become the favourite ploy of the unionist – to define what independence (he actually calls it independence for this purpose) ought to mean, i.e, the narrow, separatist, anti-English, economically unrealistic caricature that unionists present – one that ignores the realities of inter-dependence in the modern world for all independent countries, and is the exact reverse of the SNP vision.
I think Michael also doesn’t really understand what realpolitik means in accusing Nicola of a “shocking lack” of it in her plans.
realpolitik: politics based on realities and material needs, rather than morals and ideals.
The essence of the SNP’s appeal to the voters is that their policies are not based on realpolitik, but on realities, material needs and morals and ideals. The reason that Scottish Labour – and UK Labour – has so comprehensively lost the confidence of the people is the fact that for over half a century, they have lost their morals and ideals, and embraced realpolitik as their core philosophy. Perhaps the last Labour minister to recognise this was the late Robin Cook, who propounded an ethical foreign policy, and resigned over the ethical collapse of the Blair Government over Iraq.
The nuclear deterrence policy of Labour, together with all three major UK parties, is realpolitik incarnate. It is one of the prime aspects of the UK that Scotland wants to break away from. The policy of privatisation of the NHS is realpolitik: the attempt to make the poorest and most vulnerable in our society pay for the economic vandalism of the bankers and the last Labour Government is realpolitik. Remaining in Afghanistan rather than lose face, when it is patently obvious that the project has failed is realpolitik.
I am not shocked by the lack of realpolitik behind the Deputy First Minister’s plan, i.e. the existence of a plan informed by the very morals and ideals that civilised societies are supposed to espouse, I am delighted by it, applaud it, and would have been horrified if Scotland’s approach to its welfare state had been dictated by realpolitik. In fact, there would have been no welfare state at all if the Attlee Government had pursued a realpolitik policy in 1945. But their morals and ideals are now an embarrassment to the the thing now known as the Labour Party, and a standing reproach to their lack of vision.
Without the ability to change, Michael, Scottish Labour is indeed lost. What you fail to understand is that the change they must make is to embrace the independence of their country, Scotland.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
It seems unfair, among all the congratulation being heaped upon the Scottish food and drink industry today for their superb performance and growing international reputation, not to mention another small, but significant growth area – What Labour Must Do journalism. Two prime exponents of this new literary genre are John McTernan and Michael Kelly, with their principal market being The Scotsman.
Critics sometimes call attention to the repetitive similarities in the product range, and its lack of intellectual content, but this is mere carping in the face of the apparently insatiable appetite of the editor of The Scotsman and other newspapers for this traditional product. The spin offs, including television and radio punditry, are substantial.
The brand image is based almost wholly on the minor celebrity status of the two principal suppliers some years ago, when they were close to centres of power. The brand appears under various product identities, which are essentially variations of the core brand What Labour Must Do. Two examples, one yesterday and one today exemplify these variations - Scottish Labour needs to show a desire for change - John McTernan and Labour must take a breath - Michael Kelly, both in The Scotsman.
It is heartening and inspiring, that from the sad decline of a major political party into a confused, values-free, significantly corrupt, shambolic entity with no sense of direction or purpose, at least two entrepreneurs have managed to find a way to turn the situation to advantage, in the true, honourable journalistic tradition of exploiting the misfortune of politicians, a kind of schadenpolitik, if I may offer a German/Russian hybrid.
Michael Kelly’s article today says essentially – calm down, dears – no rush on the independence debate or a new leader, just stagger on under Iain Gray. Tom Harris is lauded for his ‘bravery’. But Kelly accurately characterises the refusal of Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander to get involved as fear of Alex Salmond and fear of damaging their Westminster careers. (As someone once said, that kind of Scotsman would do almost anything rather than damage his career. ) And he also says, without any sense of irony as a unionist, that UK Labour politicians see the Scottish Parliament as the second division, and want to play with the big boys on a world stage. Again, true to the form of this genre of political article, there is not a word about values, objectives, principles or policies – it’s all about political structure and tactics. Labour is now a mindless, power-seeking machine, and Scottish Labour is just a wee rusty cog in that blind juggernaut.
I made some reference to the John McTernan article yesterday, but let’s take a longer look -
J.McT contrasts Murdo Fraser’s boldness, characterised as a ‘nuclear option’ – an appropriate allusion from one WMD party to another – with the ‘resounding silence’ from Labour that followed the Tom Harris call for radical change. McTernan makes the trenchant point that every Scottish Leader, from Dewar through to Iain Gray, managed to become leader 'without having to define themselves intellectually or politically’. He goes on to pick Johann Lamont as his favourite, but asks what she believes in.
McTernan, a Blairite, has the chutzpah to quote Joe Hill, the legendary American Labour organiser. John, I have to say that Joe Hill would retch at the sight of the thing the Labour Party became under Blair, Brown, Mandelson and Campbell.
Nevertheless, John McTernan is right to ask what Scottish Labour and their bosses, UK Labour, believe in? But he offers no answer, because there isn’t one. Where belief, vision, values, integrity and a burning concern for justice and equity once existed, there is now an empty echoing hall, haunted by the ghosts of those destroyed by New Labour and Blair.
POSTSCRIPT – FACES OF LABOUR
Scottish white hope Tom Harris MP features in the i today – cover story MPs pay family members £3m a year – as one of the top group who pay family members more that £40,000 a year. Tom Harris employs his wife as office manager.
Sir Stuart Bell, MP for Middlesbrough claims £82,896 in staffing cost, his constituents complain he is impossible to contact, he has not held a constituency surgery in the town for 14 years, and has no office in the town. He conducts such business as he does from his home outside the town. He pays his wife £35,000 a year as office manager.
Margaret Moran MP will appear before magistrates on the 19th of September facing 21 charges relating to her parliamentary claims for expenses. Five charges allege forgery, a very serious offence at law.
Ah, The People’s Party – fearless crusaders for justice and equity for the common people, doughty fighters for the poor.
Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Billy Connolly may be an odd sort of Scot for a Scottish nationalist to quote, given his infamous “little pretendy Parliament” remark of yore, but I admire the man as a comic genius, with an ability to elevate the commonplaces of a Scottish working class life into high art.
Here is my recollection of one of his joke routines about his time in the shipyards, when the foremen were required to wear hard hats with their names on them. One such personage caught Billy and his mate skiving, and they gave him some cheek when he challenged them. “Do you know who I am?” asked the foreman, puffed up with self-importance.
Connolly and friend looked at each other in mock incredulity. “Here’s a guy wi’ his name oan his hat and he disnae know who he is!”
Much press and media coverage has been devoted since the Scottish Parliamentary election earthquake to the Scottish Labour Party’s loss of identity and confusion about who they are, and what they might do about it. The Scottish LibDems and Tories are regarded as already dead by the media, their corpses are therefore treated with patronising respect, and nobody wastes much time on thoughts of how they might be brought to life again. All that is asked of them is that they don’t smell too badly before being consigned to the flames of history.
The other dominant strand that has emerged from the profound emotional shock to the unionist mindset of the SNP's decisive electoral victory is an increasingly desperate attempt to define Britishness in the context of Scottishness. Only ‘British’ Scots appear to have this identity crisis, which they now want to foist on the rest of us: the English always knew that Britain meant England, and Britishness meant Englishness. And the English are right in this, and right to feel this way. Only in comparatively recent times has England feared to speak its name. Anyone who reads anything published before the Second World War (and quite a lot since) will realise that England was the Empire and Englishness was the nationality that defined it.
The kind of case being put for this, and for ‘Britain’ (for Britain read British Empire) is buried in gross sentimentality, as the vapourings of Rory Stewart and Michael Portillo on this week’s Newsnight Special so nauseatingly revealed.
Of course, sentimentality was the keynote of Empire while it was engaged in its worst colonial excesses: sentimentality is the cloying sugar coating on the deadly pill of exploitation and brutality, as history shows.
Heinrich Heine has devastatingly explored the link between sentimentality and brutality, as have others.
“Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.” Norman Mailer
"Think of the lamentable role of popular sentiment in wartime! Think of our so-called humanitarianism! The psychiatrist knows only too well how each of us becomes the helpless but not pitiable victim of his own sentiments. Sentimentality is the superstructure erected upon brutality…” Carl Jung
THE SCOTSMAN NEWSPAPER
The Scotsman should, in my view, change its title and its masthead to The Scotsman? or perhaps even to TheScotBrit, although that doesn’t really fit well with a quality newspaper, since the term Brit has come to be associated with the worst tabloid excesses, brutality, jingoism - and sentimentality.
The newspaper is all over the place politically these days, reflecting the same confusion of identity that has paralysed the Scottish Labour Party (insofar as such a thing exists) - and the Labour Party at Westminster, and it gives space regularly to commentators who exemplify this confusion - Allan Massie, Michael Kelly, John McTernan et al.
The first two on that list are featured today, and just in case the unionist message gets missed, we have an attack on the SNP by one Tom Miers, who is described as an independent public policy consultant, entitled ‘Fiddling while Scotland burns’, which in essence is the cry raised against the independence issue and the referendum before May 2011, that it was a deflection from managing the economy.
This of course rapidly changed to a demand that a referendum should be held immediately, after the unionists realised the scale of their defeat, while Alex Salmond calmly reiterated his manifesto commitment to a referendum mid-term so that he could concentrate on trying to limit the damage caused by the outgoing Labour Government and now being compounded by the shambolic ConLib Coalition.
To be fair, The Scotsman - or perhaps another title, The Occasional Scotsman but I’m also a Brit, does give regular space to Joan McAlpine, who is not at all confused about her identity and is an infinitely better journalist than any of the others, so there is some kind of balance, albeit a little lopsided.
Meanwhile, we must put up with articles such as Proud to Scottish … and English from John McTernan, former Labour Party adviser to Tony Blair, a Prime Minister easily moved to tears and deeply sentimental, one who launched an illegal and horrific war in Iraq, responsible for the violent death and mutilation of countless thousands of innocent men, women and children, and the involvement of the UK in the misconceived, decade-long and utterly pointless war in Afghanistan.
Or Allan Massie, with his article Labour must be bold and give Gray a second chance, with advice such as
“Instead Labour has to be true to itself, to assert that independence is unnecessary as well as undesirable, to say the Scottishness is compatible with Britishness, to insist that its values are shared by millions of people in other constituent parts of the United Kingdom. It should be unashamedly and indeed proudly Unionist, arguing that the continuation of the Union is in the best interests of the Scottish people, and defending the devolution arrangements as a settlement, not as a process of gradual disengagement.”
Wrong on every count, Allan Massie.
Independence is necessary, desirable and vital to Scotland.
There is no such things as ‘Britishness’, or ‘British values’ - they are false constructs designed to support an empire that has long since died.
The very reason that Labour is dying in Scotland is that it is “unashamedly and indeed proudly Unionist” and the Scottish electorate have recognised that at last, realised that it is incompatible with the interests of Scots, their ancient identity, their pride as a nation, and their common humanity.
That is why they rejected Labour and the other Unionist parties and embraced their ain folk on May 5th 2011.
No amount of jingoistic sentimentality, cloaking the essential amorality, corruption, brutality and incompetence of the UK Establishment and its successive puppet governments, currently on blatant display in the News of the World debacle, and the deeply questionable links, at the highest levels, of successive governments and the police to an unscrupulous and possibly criminal newspaper and media monolith, News International, can conceal that something is rotten in the state of the UK, and has been for a very, very long time.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
I now want to engage in a shameless display of self-delusion and misplaced vanity - please forgive me in advance …
From time to time, I notice that ideas and phrases I have used sometimes appear quickly thereafter by the media and politicians. This coincidence allows me to nurture the fantasy that they actually read my blog. An example -
I have used (and defined) the Hebrew word chutzpah in blogs passim and also very recently. It is not a term I have noticed much in use in the Scottish media or by politicians, (someone will doubtless correct me on this) in spite of the fact that our new First Minister is chutzpah incarnate. But Annabel picked it up, and used it yesterday in the Parliament.
I’m delighted, but have to advise her that if she decides to use a word, especially a foreign word that she has not used before, she should learn to pronounce it before uttering it in public. It is not chutt-spa, with the ch as in cheese, Annabel, it is choot-spa, with the ch rendered as in loch. But thanks for the echo …
THE SERIOUS STUFF …
Two weeks ago the Scottish electorate went into the polling booths and confounded the three major UK parties and their strategists, and surprised even the superb SNP campaigning team. Let me quote again the perceptive insight of Ferdinand von Prondzynski -
Referring to a BBC comment that Scots seem to have lost their fear of independence, he said -
“It doesn’t mean they voted for it when they voted SNP. But it means that they knew that, by voting SNP, they were making independence a live issue. They might still voice caution when polled. But they are there to be persuaded, and expect the persuasion to come. They are not yet all in favour, but they are no longer determined to be against.”
That penetrating insight, from a European new to Scotland and Scottish politics, said more about the reality of this extraordinary election, this pivotal moment in Scotland’s history - and about where the future might take us - than most of the heavyweight political punditry during the campaign and immediately after. I hope we hear more from Ferdinand.
In the immediate aftermath of the morning of May 6th, we have seen and heard a range of responses to the results, from those horrified and disappointed by them, from the risible through unrealistic denial and very sour grapes to sober, considered analyses that begin to define what the unionist contribution to the great debate will be. There was one to day that managed to be all three - risible, unrealistic and smelling of very sour grapes indeed.
MICJAEL KELLY in the Scotsman
This reaction may be exemplified by just about anything Michael Kelly says. Why The Scotsman gives column inches to this politician of yesteryear is a mystery to me. They might a least use an up-to-date photograph of the man at the head of his outpourings. But I understand why he wouldn’t want that …
(I should say that some voices in the SNP suggest that party supporters, especially in the new media, should project a new atmosphere of goodwill towards all men in the lead-up to the referendum. I regret that I cannot oblige, although I fully understand that they wish to avoid the worst excesses of abuse that disfigure some online comment, something I deplore and take all steps to kill on my blog and my YouTube channel, TAofMoridura)
Kelly is in typical form today in his piece, Glasgow faces new fight for top spot. He got that right at least. But by Glasgow, he doesn’t mean the great, vibrant city of my birth, and its wonderful, resilient people, but the gruesome excrescence known as the controlling Labour Group in Glasgow City Council that has failed the people of Glasgow for half a century or thereabouts.
Kelly attempts to conflate Glasgow and Scottish Labour with Celtic Football Club, mixing his metaphors and examples in a blatant appeal to ancient tribal political loyalties, while condemning sectarianism. I have little interest in football or indeed in spectator sport of any kind, and in this, I am wholly unrepresentative of my countrymen. But I do know the place Celtic holds in the hearts of its supporters, and I know the history of the club, because it was founded by Brother Walfrid, of my primary school in the Calton, St.Mary’s Abercromby Street.
(For the hardcore bigots out there, always keen to seize on names and schools to stereotype, let me say that I am an atheist, and was married in the Church of Scotland in Drumchapel village in 1960 to the love of my life, who came from a staunchly Presbyterian family. Make what you will of that, boys and bhoys …)
For the record, I believe that Celtic Football Club should exert every endeavour, while respecting its history, to escape from its associations with a specific religion, Labour politics and the Republic of Ireland, and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland, and that Rangers Football Club should break similar links. If either club wants to fly a flag, let it be the saltire - the flag of Scotland. If they want to sings songs, try Scotland the Brave, or Flower of Scotland, or Ae Fond Kiss (that would be something the hear!) or make some up that are about the club or the game.
Michael Kelly devotes his first column to football, to the degree that I thought I had strayed on to the Sports page. But it is in fact an extended Scottish cringe, presenting the Scots as inveterate losers, leading to the following first sentence of his last paragraph in column one - “Contrast this approach with that of successful nations, like, say, England.”
I will resist the temptation to examine England’s history over the last half century, especially the Blair/Brown years, but find myself agreeing with him that Scottish Labour, the Scottish Tories, the Scottish LibDems and Glasgow City Council do fit the description of losers - loser of values, of integrity, of direction, and of the trust of the Scottish voter and the Scottish people.
A few more gems from yesterday’s Glasgow politician -
“The party workers … who spent hours on phones being lied to by former Labour voters. The grass roots don’t fall for the pap that the voters are always right.”
“Rather, they ” the party workers “are angry that the voters are so easily fooled.”
Michael, let me explain reality to you - the former Labour voters were fed up being lied to by your party for two generations, and made a clear-eyed shift to a party they believe they can trust - the SNP. And the SNP will not betray that trust, as your party has done so cynically and contemptuously.
Michael is actually looking ahead to the local council elections next year, hoping that Labour councillors can look up from the trough long enough to see what’s coming to get them. More unintentional humour here -
“Labour has nothing to beat here. What has the SNP government done for Glasgow?”
It’s the way you tell ‘em, Mikey …
“And it was a friendly match - a no-risk election with voters taking out their frustration on Labour knowing that they were not voting for independence.”
Have a wee word with Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Michael - he’ll put you straight …
I could go on, but it would be like pulling the wings off a bluebottle - sorry, greenbottle …