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Showing posts with label Scottish Budget 2011. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Budget 2011. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The People’s Flag is deepest - Red? Blue? Purple? Tartan?

 John McTernan, king of the What Labour Must Do? franchise, has accepted a post as director of communications to the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. Julia, a Labour Prime Minister has just turned fifty years of age. It would be ungallant to speculate on what the half century does to a woman’s judgement, so we must assume that she was either impressed by his former role as Tony Blair’s spin doctor, or she wants an antipodean version of McTernan’s franchise, What Australian Labour Must do?

But it’s nice to think of John sunning his bronzed body on an Australian beach, munching a Vegemite sandwich – a kind of Scottish Adonis. I wish you well, John. But then a dissonant note sounds – what if he plans to do the job from Scotland? After all, one can write a What Labour Must Do article anywhere in the world …

And perhaps Julia should take a long hard look at what has happened to the party that John devoted his communication and strategic skills to for so many years.

 

WHAT THE UK OWES SCOTLAND

The Nationalist Government of Scotland – nationalist means a government committed to the nation of Scotland - have been taking a long, hard look at the UK’s asset base, sending cold shivers down unionist spines. After all, given our significant contribution to the UK for over 300 years in technology, science, innovation, tax and oil revenue -  and blood - and the less than significant return, it is only fair that Scots tot up what is owed to them. In addition to the assets that are based in Scotland, we own a fair chunk of assets based in England. Since the unionists insist on using the analogy of a marriage (a shotgun marriage) a divorce and a separation to describe the Union and Scotland’s imminent independence, we may safely say that that divvying up the assets will be as protracted a negotiation after independence as many other aspects. But the break-up comes first …

 

THE BUDGET

The outraged squeals of vested interest groups over John Swinney’s budget, with the Scotsman conducting the cries in a kind a hellish choir, was followed rapidly by what we hoped might be objective third party analysis. Surely Glasgow University’s Centre for Public Policy and Regions would provided such a cool, objective look at the figures? The analysis by the CPPR’s John McLaren, described by Robin Dinwoodie in the Herald as “Ex-Labour special adviser and CPPR economist John McLaren” claimed that the budget would take an extra £849m in business taxes over the next three years. John Swinney, in a detailed rebuttal in a letter in yesterday’s Herald, says that this is misleading and is the result of double counting.

John Swinney’s trump card is of course that undeniable fact that Scotland is the only part of the UK where unemployment is falling and employment has increased. Union members like that, but union officials – and the Labour Party - don’t, masking their annoyance by attacks on the interpretation of the figures. I wonder why that should be? It could be something to do with the fact that the greater the degree of independence, the better Scotland works, and it could have something to do with four and a half years of competent SNP government, with a real economist at the helm.

But the Scottish Secretary has lurched on to the scene, demanding explanations. Michael Moore is “ … alarmed at the reaction that the Scottish Government’s Spending Review has provoked from the business community.” By the business community, he means the Big Business community - the one’s who extravagantly reward their directors with obscene amounts of money for pushing cheap booze and cancer sticks at the poorer sections of the community - and the ever-critical Iain MacMillan of the CBI.

The small to medium business community welcomed the budget, and the valuable check it places on Big Business to roll over small businesses, destroy competition and inflict near lethal blows on our once vibrant public houses. The Scottish Secretary, especially after the warm glow of the LibDem party conference, labours under the delusion that he, his party and his Coalition partners – the Tories - matter to Scotland, when in fact they are regarded as an irrelevancy, and inimical to Scotland’s best interest.

 

THE PEOPLE’S PARTY AND ITS TROUBLES

As what was once upon a time the People’s Party staggers into its conference, they are accompanied by Scottish headlines that must give them cause for alarm.

Can Britain learn to like Ed Miliband? (Scotland on Sunday) with the sub-header Seven out of ten people think the Labour Party are not fit for Government.

Labour told to forget about Thatcher – Alexander criticises party’s Holyrood election campaign strategy (Herald)

McAveety is held off Labour list amid probe (Herald)

Harris fear party could ‘stop being relevant’ (Herald)

This last one heads a report by Tom Peterkin and Eddie Barnes that also quote Harris as saying “Labour’s complacency could kill the Union.”  Tom Harris’s analysis is accurate of course, and he sees clearly what his party – and most metropolitan commentators have only glimpsed fleetingly, and in a glass darkly.

 

“We are on the brink of the biggest constitutional upheaval this country has ever seen.” (By country, he means the UK.)

“The idea that it’s business as usual in the Labour Party is going to kill us, and it’s going to kill the Union”

“I’m talking about standing up for Scotland. It’s Scotland first, the Union second, the Labour Party third.”

Nobody in Scotland – or the UK – is fooled by that last statement, Tom. You can’t hedge your bets- it’s too late to lay off the risk.

The scale of priorities has always been the careers of Labour politicians and trades union officials first and Scotland and its people a poor second. The Union is simply the necessary context for the Labour Party to pursue that naked self-interest. and your career, and those of every Labour MP, Labour Lord and Labour apparatchik depend on the continuance of this Union.

It has been ever thus in empires that exploit the people, and oligarchies masquerading as democracies. In their death throes, the politicians that depend on them will defend them to the death against the force of the ordinary people, as we have seen in the Arab Spring.  They have no choice but to go down with the thing they have supported.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Purple Gang – Labour looks for its lost soul

The Purple Gang operated out of Detroit, Michigan during Prohibition, running bootleg alcohol. gangsters and outlaws 

We’ve had Old Red Labour and New Labour, and Blue Labour, an attempt to recover something from the wreckage of the Party left by the Blair, Brown, Mandelson Gang. Now we have Purple Labour - an attempt to salvage the reputation and influence of New Labour, whilst accommodating itself to Ed Miliband’s view of the Party, which in an attempt to reflect his customary crystalline clarity, could be described as

“I hate New Labour, but the bastards are still around and rich, and my brother is one of them, and I‘d love to dump them, but I can’t, and I can’t go back to the old cloth cap Labour, so I’ll have to pretend to go back to Old Labour, but I’ll call it Blue Labour, because we’re closer to the Tories really, and we can’t apologies for our murderous, incompetent foreign and economic policies, but we must move forward, so maybe we should call it Purple Labour, just to give the idea that we’re somewhere between New Labour and Tories, but with a tiny, nostalgic bit of red in there for the proles, and I’ll get a former Home Secretary who was dumped for expenses scandals and porno videos – no, that was her husband – to front end it …”

I have done my best to paraphrase what goes on in Miliband Minor’s wee heid, which is not an easy task believe me.

In times like these, one must have recourse to Machiavelli, but this is always dangerous, because Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli has had a bad press over the centuries, and picking quotes invites others to cherry pick as well. Machiavelli was trying to stay afloat in early 16th century Italy, having lost his place as Secretary of the Republic of Florence when the Medici took power.

He was a true Renaissance man, literate, musical – a composer and playwright as well as a diplomat, and probably wanted to be left alone, but the Medici were not to be messed with, and Niccolò was not their pal. Having been tortured by the Medici by strappado – being pulled up on a rope affixed to his hands tied behind his back, and with Cesare Borgia around, not to mention his nice sister Lucrezia, whose Dad became Pope, Machiavelli had to be careful. Diplomat though he was, he could have used a spin doctor to get him a better press. A medieval John McTernan could have helped, by writing articles for the Florentian equivalent of the Scotsman along the lines of What the Medici Must Do!

But enough of this historical musing, let’s get to what the man said, and pick a quote or two -

“ … it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

Take heed, Edward – you number your brother among this group, and the Milibands have been about as familial as the Borgia’s of late. As for the New Labour Gang, well, they’re not going to lie down and die while the new Blue Gang muscles in on their territory, and the Purple Gang merger is not bonded by anything resembling values, principles or common humanity, just a lust for power at any price. And as has been observed, when red, blue and purples get mashed together on the palette of desperation, it tends to turn into merde – and the Merde Gang has even more unfortunate overtones than the others, however apposite the title might be.

THE BOOZE AND FAGS BIG FOUR

While we’re on the subject of Prohibition and the abuse of alcohol, we must remind ourselves that booze and fags are a major problem for Scotland. I support the responsible alcohol industry (I made my living from it for many years), and properly regulated public house and a properly regulated alcohol industry are important parts of our social fabric. Exports of Scotch whisky are of major importance to Scotland’s economy. But the abuse of alcohol is not an abuse significantly linked to the expensive blends and single malts  beloved by the connoisseurs – it is principally caused by the amoral marketing of cheap booze by the big supermarket chains, often by loss-leading on price.

Minimum pricing will soon have its positive impact on that, now that a principled government with a majority can legislate in the way that they were blocked from doing in the last Parliament by an unprincipled opposition, including the tartan branch of the Purple Gang. But while the damage persists, and its consequence have to be paid for, it is fair and just that the obscenely rich and profitable big chains who peddle the cheap booze and the lethal fags should contribute to limiting the damage they have done to our society. The cost to them will be about 0.3% of their huge turnovers, and the amount it will yield is only £5m more than the £33m combined salaries of the CEOs of the Big Four.

In fact if they want to avoid the tax, since they are already fabulously rich men, they can donate their salaries to the health and crime programmes required by the damage they have done. The remaining £5m can be found in the face of such a magnanimous and long overdue gesture.



Today, on The Politics Show on BBC, Kenneth Gibson patiently explained the rationale for the Scottish Government’s Tesco Tax on large retailers of booze and fags to a group of metropolitan numpties, including a PR front man for the industry by the name of Opie, and a former Blair speechwriter.

They wilfully misunderstood and misrepresented the purpose of the tax in their comments - or were just plain stupid - but were genuinely baffled by a government that puts its people and human values before the greed and cynicism of the peddlers of cheap drink and cigarettes who obscenely enrich their top executives, aided as always by the complicit and values-free London political parties.


That's why the Scottish people elected this government, you a******** - that's why they want out of the big money client state - the UK.