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Showing posts with label Scottish Labour Party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Labour Party. Show all posts

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Johann Lamont’s resignation–reflections

Johann Lamont has resigned as leader. Inevitable, and maybe overdue, given the flak she has taken from her own party. I wish her well, despite the inevitable bitterness she roused during the long referendum campaign by her ill-judged and often factually inaccurate  performances at FMQs. She never understood her role, and worse, never understood the sea change that had occurred in Scottish politics.

Undoubtedly she was badly advised, and the victim of that unique brand of back-stabbing Labour politics with its roots in the smoke filled backrooms of Glasgow and Monklands.

I was well-disposed towards her before and immediately after her election as leader, and more than willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I was wrong, and my assessment of her (and of Henry McLeish!) proved to be way off beam.

Here are some of my views from back then…

Saturday, 17 December 2011

An open letter to Johann Lamont

Dear Johann Lamont,

Congratulations on winning the leadership of your party in Scotland. I hope that your win gives you a clear mandate among all Scottish Labour supporters, and that it is perceived as a valid mandate to lead the main opposition to my party, the SNP, who received a very clear mandate to govern Scotland last May. It is vital that your mandate is seen in this way not only by Labour supporters but by the Scottish Government, by the SNP, by the other opposition parties and by the Scottish electorate.

The only way to ensure this is to publish as soon as possible the full, detailed breakdown of the votes cast in the leadership election, in the interests of transparency in Scottish politics. (I am confident that you will wish to do so, indeed, by the time this blog comes up, you may already have done so.)

I listened to your acceptance speech closely, because as a committed SNP supporter, voter and party member, I believe that the existence of an effective opposition in any Parliament is vital to democracy. I was a Labour supporter for most of my life, and I will never return to Labour because of the depth of the betrayal of all my hopes and expectations over decades by the Labour Party as constituted up until this election.

But I do believe that you, and at least some in the Scottish Labour Party want to make a new beginning and to place the interests of Scotland first. You outlined in your acceptance speech a vision statement for Scotland. Few Scots of any party would disagree with the bulk of its content, and for that reason, it could have been made by any party leader, at any time, in almost any country.

I don’t want to appear to suggest that it was an empty ‘motherhood and apple pie’ statement – I do believe that you are committed to these ideals and broad objectives, and so am I. And I am delighted that you and Scottish Labour appear to have rediscovered your Scottishness.

But given this consensus on what we all want for Scotland, it is evident that what gives our respective parties their identity is the means by which these objectives are to be achieved. If my memory serves me accurately, you and other members of the Labour Party have accused the SNP of stealing your vision. That was unfair and inaccurate – we have closely similar visions because we are both social democratic parties, committed to a strong, effective public sector and a vibrant, entrepreneurial private sector.

In a certain kind of Scotland, the SNP and the Labour Party could recognise a shared vision while differing vigorously on key aspects of achieving that vision. We both recognise that the Tory vision as presently exhibited in all its uncaring, incompetent awfulness, is inimical to the interests of Scotland, and indeed the peoples of the UK. The LibDem vision has been badly – perhaps fatally – compromised by their poisoned and supine alliance with the Tories in Coalition.

But there is a great yawning gulf between your vision as outlined today and the Scottish National Party’s vision, and that gulf is created by your commitment to keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom. At this moment, this profoundly mistaken policy – the only real one you have at the moment – is main barrier to your achievement of Labour’s new Scottish vision.

The reasons for this are plain to see, and the Scottish electorate understood them plainly last May, and voted accordingly. I accept that not all of that vote was a vote for Scotland's independence, but it was decisively a vote for Scotland holding all the economic levers necessary to transform Scotland, indeed the the pressing need at the moment is to have them to enable Scotland to survive the cold, cold global wind that is blowing.

But there are other great barriers between us while you and Scottish Labour are committed to the UK – they are nuclear weapons, i.e. weapons of mass destruction, foreign policy and the unelected, undemocratic House of Lords, now perceived by many Scots as the lucrative bolthole for failed politicians, including Scottish Labour politicians.

While Scottish Labour is committed to the UK, it will be seen by many Scots as the party that supports illegal or dubious wars that kill the flower of our young servicemen and women, the party that is committed to ruinously expensive WMDs that endanger Scotland by their presence - and pose an ever-present threat to world  peace - and the party that is committed to the undemocratic House of Lords, whatever hollow statements about reform, never acted upon, may say.

A great watershed in Scotland’s history is approaching – the referendum on Scotland’s independence – a pivotal moment in our history that will shape Scotland and the other three countries of the UK for a generation and perhaps for ever.

As we approach that fateful day, it is vital that all parties with a core shared vision for the people of Scotland approach the great debate that will be continuously conducted from now on with objectivity, with facts, with some degree of mutual respect, with the common objective of allowing the Scottish electorate all the information they need to make their great choice.

That need not – and will not – inhibit vigour in debate, but if we can draw on the great intellectual political and social traditions that have always characterised Scots and Scotland, we can offer Scottish voters a real, rational choice.

I wish you and your party well in this new and critical era. I cannot of course wish you electoral success in local elections next year, nor in the referendum when it comes.

from one Weegie tae another – awra’ best,

Peter Curran

Scottish Labour Leadership Results
December 17, 2011 2:59 pm

Leadership result:

Deputy Leadership result:

MORIDURA BLOG November 23rd- 2011

Johann Lamont at the moment looks like the favourite to win the Scottish Labour leadership contest. It’s either her or Ken MacintoshTom Harris is naewhere.

If I had to choose from what is available, I would choose Johann Lamont, because I think I see a kind of integrity there, the kind that has always existed in the Scottish Labour Party, but which usually gets buried alive in that self-serving sea of mediocrity and careerism. (I’m talking about the Labour politicians and the union leaders, not the long-suffering Labour voters and lay party and union members utterly betrayed by them for over half a century.)

Let me say that she is not First Minister material, but that would not deter the Scottish Labour Party if Scotland were ever unfortunate enough to have them in power again in Holyrood. After all, London – i.e. UK – Labour elected Ed Miliband, who is not Prime Ministerial material.

The long-running gravy train that is the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t want a people’s choice – they want to foist a candidate on the people who will stoke the boiler, oil the wheels and grease the rails for the high road to Westminster for its politicians, and to safe party sinecures for its union officials.

But if they do elect Johann, they may find that she is not as committed to that auld conspiracy against the electorate as they hope – she shows distinct signs of being a realist, and being her own wumman. However, her priority is to get elected, so she must be circumspect for the moment, as she reads the wildly conflicting signals from senior Labour figures such as Alexander, Murphy and Harris, who show signs of beginning to hedge their career bets as the prospect of an independent Scotland becomes ever more real. The strange noises being made around the Scotland Bill and devo max illustrate this clearly. (I do not include Henry McLeish in this. I respect him, and I think Scotland matters more to him than career, more perhaps than anything else. )

But on Monday night, she was pretty evasive and obscure, sent signals on devo max, but was caught flatfooted by Glenn Campbell on two questions –devo max, and the $64,000 question – could Labour deliver their objectives more easily in an independent Scotland?

She revealed more by what she didn’t say than by what she said, but my judgement is that she is keeping her options very much open on this possibility, having taken her cue from Alexander, Murphy, Auld Uncle Tam Harris and all … She is “not going to let Alex Salmond define devo max”. He agrees with you, Johann – he has been trying to get Labour and their Tory and LibDem pals to define what they mean by it for some time now, and ideally participate in a cross-party discussion about it.

As for the smooth lizard on the rock, Macintosh – who Kens?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Tories, Labour careerists and old–and young – Lefties and nationalists

ONCE A TORY, ALWAYS A TORY

When Iain Duncan Smith was leader of the Tory party, he seemed to me to combine in his person archetypal Toryism and LibDem ineffectual wimpishness: he was a kind of harbinger of Nick Clegg, the Labradoodles of politics. But when he lost the leadership, the ‘quiet man’ found a cause – Easterhouse in Glasgow, and was accepted by a man for whom I have unqualified admiration, community worker Bob Holman. In pursuing this new vocation, Duncan Smith seemed to exhibit genuine empathy with and concern for the poor and deprived.

But the nasty party sets the genes, and Tories always revert to type, in an atavistic lurch into their primitive prejudices and convictions. Iain Duncan Smith has  proved no exception. In a decade, he has moved from his great recognition of the plight of the poor to blaming them: the reflex action of Tories in trouble. It’s all their fault, caused by their excessive consumption of alcohol, their laziness – it’s the family again, the lack of traditional family structures and values and poor parenting skills. At a stroke, the Tory sonic screwdriver of blame – also much used by the Labour Party – absolves this benighted Coalition of any responsibility for the havoc they are wreaking on the lives of the vulnerable.

Dorian Gray is dead, and the picture in the attic has come to life and claimed its rightful place in the power structure – or hopes to …

ILL-MET BY MOONLIGHT – THE SCOTTISH LEFT?

Going in search of Scotland's identity

It is a strange little piece, set up as a dialogue – which it patently is not – and both Gerry Hassan and Douglas Alexander start with the mandatory parade of working class credentials to exhibit their backgrounds as humble men of the people. (There was a television comedy sketch some years ago where two men tried to outdo each other in itemising the horrors of their early life.)

As an old lefty, I can play this game expertly, with the edge of having lived through times that Gerry and Douglas can only imagine and reflect vicariously through their parents.

(My early life as a torn-ersed Glaswegian, soon to be a blockbuster movie of the unrelieved misery genre: born in the 1930s in a Dennistoun slum tenement, unemployed and tubercular father who died in 1940 at the start of a terrifying war: brought up by my mother, who spent her time trying to scrape up an income of sorts from low-paid cleaning work while nursing a sickly child in pre-NHS days, being bullied and patronised by the apparatchiks of the primitive social and benefits system of those days, and patronised by the families around us who had working fathers in exempt occupations – mainly munitions - and had avoided military service. My values and political awareness were formed from the brutal realities of grinding poverty and ill-health, and by the wonderful working class men and women of the Labour party of that era, especially the Barras soapbox orators. How’s that for misery, Gerry and Douglas.? Your move …)

From the perspective of my childhood, both Gerry and Douglas were privileged children: both had working parents, in Douglas’s case both professionals, both received an education that I could only dream of, and neither of them have ever experienced anything remotely like real poverty or deprivation. But that doesn’t deprive them of their right to speak, so what are their themes?

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER

Douglas refers to his “growing consciousness of the Scottish dimension” of his politics, Thatcherism, and says that “it felt like a struggle for Scotland’s soul”. Unfortunately for Scotland’s soul, Douglas’s epiphany was occurring at a time when the Labour Party was well on its way to losing its soul, culminating in the Blair/Brown governments who did more damage to the UK, Scotland and the world than Thatcher could ever have dreamed of.

He invokes the ghosts of Donald Dewar, John Smith and Robin Cook, probably the last Labour politicians of stature with any real values, but couples them with the living spectre of Gordon Brown (another son of the manse, but with a seriously defective moral compass), and has to go back to 1997 and the Scotland Act to find anything admirable in Labour. At the end of his first section, Douglas jumps speedily into one of the the two Labour boltholes – he is “more interested in abolishing poverty than abolishing Britain”, a glib unionist slogan that avoids the stark fact that it is the conspiracy of wealth, power, privilege and the concentration of power and wealth – of which he and Scottish Labour politicians are embedded tools – that creates and sustains poverty and deprivation in Scotland. (The other Labour bolthole is its phoney ‘internationalism’ which reached its bloody nadir in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

GERRY HASSAN

I am not a fan of Douglas Alexander (you’ve already guessed!) but I am an admirer of Gerry Hassan. I don’t agree with some of his analyses, but I have never read anything he has written that is not cogently argued and doesn't contains key insights that matter fundamentally for Scotland’s future, whatever it may be. He is, and will continue to be a serious voice in the critical years ahead of us. His commitment to Scotland’s independence is beyond question.

In a number of telling phrases, he captures what is wrong with Scottish Labour, but also sees another dimension to Scottish society, one that is little recognised, but vital.

For example – “Scotland is a social democracy for its middle-class professional interest groups. The system of government and public spending work best for those most entrenched in the system.”

By God, I recognise that reality, and fulminated against it as the Glasgow professional classes, blinded – and bought – by the glitz and glamour of Big Sport and the Commonwealth Games - and the Scottish Government - ignored and betrayed the vulnerable people and small business of old Dalmarnock, and the mothers of the disabled children of the Accord Centre, .

He refers to the “profound absence of responsibility” among Labour politicians as they “closed their eyes to the mediocre services the party offered” and to the “pronounced Scottish Labour entitlement culture” in Labour for the last half century.

But he also inveighs against a straw man, “the romanticising of our history” among a sector of nationalist support that denies the reality of the problems Scotland faces. Gerry is above making the tired old Braveheart taunt, but that’s what he means, and he must know that although this exists – and will continue to exist – among a minority of less informed nats (and a few well enough informed to know better), it has not been a defining characteristic of the party for many years now.

Like many intellectuals of the Left, Gerry is sometimes unaware of his own romanticisation of the potential of a new Scotland - a kind of Left-wing, cloth-capped Mel Gibson fantasy of a Scotland that will fearlessly condemn oppression across the globe, will turn away in disdain from the grubby business of trying to persuade amoral capitalists - and sometimes questionable regimes - to invest in or trade with Scotland, and will bring about the long-awaited collapse of capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

As one of my Barras soapbox orators of the 1940s used to say, fixing his admiring audience with a glittering, roving eye – “Aye, that day will come comrades, but it’ll no' come the morra, or even the day efter …”

Gerry, of course, can cloak all this when he chooses in dense prose and arcane economic theory, but the essence of the auld socialist cry is there – the Great Left Rapture, will assuredly come, when Scotland will be lifted to an ineffable state of social and economic morality. Unfortunately, for a century now, this has produced the Great Left Rupture, and the dream has turned to dust again and again, as economic reality, blatant careerism, money grubbing and realpolitik intruded, not to mention event, dear boy, events …

Gerry distrusts the pragmatism of Alex Salmond, and doesn’t like his economic vision. At this time of international economic and social turbulence, with the beast of neo-fascism, unbridled corporate power and religious intolerance slouching towards Bethlehem again, I think our only salvation is exactly Alex Salmond’s ebullient pragmatism, to secure jobs, futures and a life worth living for Scots young and old. But we need voices such as Gerry Hassan’s to balance that pragmatism with core values that still matter and are always, always under threat.

But we do not need the voice of Douglas Alexander, a career politician in the thing that the Labour Party has become, profoundly irrelevant to the future of Scotland – unless he and the Scottish Labour Party can shake off their obsession with the Union, abandon their fake internationalism, and embrace the independence of their truly internationalist country, where, in the immortal words of James Connolly - Séamas Ó Conghaile – that internationalism begins with nationalism.


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lessons from Canada: Michael Ignatieff says Scottish independence is coming – one way or another …

Illegal voting, illegal campaign spending, both sides bending the rules to meet their own advantage in a referendum?

A forecast of things to come in the Scottish 2014 referendum? No, Glenn Campbell describing the two Canadian referendums on Newsnight Scotland’s Canada feature last night.

Jacques Parizeau, the leader of the unsuccessful nationalist campaign for independence in 1995, for Quebec Premier chillingly said they were beaten by money and the “ethnic vote”. The latter, Canadian government fast tracking of immigration applications to pack the electorate has no relevance to Scotland, but big money will certainly swing behind the UK unionist campaign, and from very dubious sources once it gets its act together.

The military/industrial complex, the armaments companies and their complicit politicians and M.O.D. people headed for the revolving door to lucrative directorships and consultancies have a lot to lose if Scotland achieves independence. And there are a lot of right-wing industrialists with a primitive, neo-conservative, not to say neo-fascist agenda with big bucks to put behind the unionist campaign.

The fascinating thing about the current Scottish climate is that the non-SNP independence-supporting left, together with a significant sector of the trades union movement are now alive to this risk, and this poses a real problem for the Labour Party at UK level, and a painful dilemma for Scottish Labour. I have been arguing that this is one reason why the SNP will have to think again about their deeply misguided attempt to sanitise and justify NATO membership for an independent Scotland. A YES vote cannot be delivered without this crucial constituency of left of centre, social democratic values.

The spectre of the Canadian Clarity Act hangs over the Scottish referendum – here’s what I said in November 2011 -

EXTRACT – November 2011 blog

Here are what I consider some essential facts about Quebec, its referendum, Canada and the Scottish/UK parallels, with quotes from Alan Trench, with the intention of pointing my readers towards his vital extended observations and arguments. Devolution Matters

BRIEF CALENDAR OF EVENTS

The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, a centre right party with roots going back to 1867, were the government of Canada from 1984 to 1993, when they lost out to the Liberals, who replaced them in government.

In 1994 the Parti Québécois (PQ) won the election in the province of Quebec, the largest province of Canada by area and the second largest administrative division. Since they are a party advocating the independence of Quebec, this had similar repercussion to the SNP winning the May 2011 elections in Scotland.

They launched a campaign that led to a referendum in 1995, with a badly-worded and confusing question, which produced a very narrow No (just over 1%) to independence.

The federal government promptly launched an aggressive programme to promote the idea of the federal government in Quebec (roughly equivalent to the UK government promoting the UK in Scotland) which led to a major political scandal, Sponsorgate, that eventually brought down the Liberal Government, who were replaced by a Conservative minority government in 2006.

However in the period between the referendum and the fall of the Liberal Government – 1995-2006 – a number of interesting things happened in the legal and constitutional areas.

The federal government mounted a challenge through the Supreme Court to the Quebec Government’s right to unilaterally secede from Canada, but they didn’t get the result they had hoped for.

The Supreme Court held that -

Quebec did not have a unilateral right to secede from Canada, either under Canadian or international law.

It did have a right to hold a referendum

Providing a clear question had been put in the referendum and providing it produced a clear vote in favour of independence, the federal government would be compelled to enter into independence negotiations which it would have to undertake in good faith, i.e. no stalling, or attendance at the negotiating table but with a refusal to discuss the terms of independence..

This left hanging the question of what constituted a clear majority. (It seemed that the Supreme Court thought that 1% was not enough, but no figure was recommended or specified.)

The Canadian Government responded to the Supreme Court judgement by introducing a bill – Bill C-20 – which was enacted as The Clarity Act in 2000, defining the conditions under which it would enter into negotiations on the independence of Quebec. Effectively, it put this decision in the hands of government, rather than the courts, and this politicised the issue. What infuriated the Quebec independence party and most Quebecers was the requirement that all ten provinces of Canada be involved multilaterally in the negotiations. (Roughly equivalent to the argument that all four parts of the UK be involved in negotiations on Scotland’s independence.)

Quebec promptly responded by passing its own Act, asserting the sovereignty of the Quebec people to assert their right to self-determination under international law, and arguing that any dispute that arose between the Clarity  Act and the Quebec one should be resolved by the courts.

Alan Trench, in his blog Devolution Matters comments trenchantly as follow -

“What in a Canadian context looked like a rather aggressive and partisan move would look ten times as much so in a UK context. And that in turn would invite the SNP to question the outcome of any referendum if they wished. Far from bringing ‘clarity’, it would risk bringing yet further confusion and rancour to the debate.

“The second issue is to ask at what stage a ‘clarity provision’ should be included. There is clearly some pressure to include it in the Scotland bill. That sort of provocation would be a good way of ensuring that the Scotland bill did not get legislative consent from Holyrood, forcing the UK Government either to drop the bill or impose it regardless of the Scottish Parliament’s opposition.”

SUMMARY

The Canadian experience will have been closely studied by Alex Salmond and his key strategists, and we can rely on them to draw relevant inferences from it, while clearly recognising the key constitutional and historical differences and the limits of the parallels that can be drawn.

We can also rely on the fact the the UK Government under Cameron and Osborne - a shaky Coalition comprising a LibDem Party in a state of utter demoralisation and electoral irrelevance, and a deeply-divided and accident-prone Tory Party (Cameron has already lost Coulson and Liam Fox in scandalous circumstances and may lose Theresa May) that may not survive much longer – will be highly aware of  the Canadian experience and will inevitably draw all the wrong inferences from it, and be at least as cack-handed as the previous Canadian Conservative government was.

What is certain is that the Canadian experience will significantly shape our great debate over the next couple of years. Scotland could conceivably be dealing with a different UK Government in the lead-up to the referendum.

Friday, 16 September 2011

What happens when the wheels come off the Glasgow Labour machine?

Back in May of this year, I asked the following question -

What happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world?

The City of Glasgow, my native city, was not far from my mind when I asked the question. (see blog extract below). I was thinking ahead to the local elections of 2012. The wheels have begun to come off the Glasgow Labour machine even earlier than I thought they would.

First we had The Scotsman on 13th September, with the headline Labour split over plan to ‘devolve’ the party with a sub-header of Angry backlash as Westminster accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Nationalists. (That could as well have been worded as UK nationalists accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Scottish Nationalists.)

Then on the 15th of September, The Herald carried the headline Labour faces backlash over shake-up of councillors.

(Among those being ‘cleared-out’ are former City Treasurer James McNally and former licensing chief Stephen Dornan.)

Their attempts to clear out what they see as deadwood councillors has understandably not been received well by the dead wood. I’m a dog man myself – I have two Westies, Angus and Dougal – and I was interested to see that the Deadwood Clearer-in-Chief, aka Brodie the Beagle Jamie Mallan, also seems to be a dog man, at least according to The Herald.

The idea that some elected officials in Glasgow City Council are deadwood seems to be either an affront to democracy, or a recognition of what some have always alleged, that the Glasgow voters would vote for the equivalent of the Hartlepool Monkey if it ran on a Labour ticket. Hartlepool notoriously hanged the monkey, but so far Glasgow Labour have not proposed such a draconian penalty. However, I conceive of other possibilities. In my blog (below) of May 2011, I identified the possible categories that could exist within a rotten borough, which of course, post-Purcell, Glasgow may not be …

Within the central structure of a rotten borough there are three groups -

honest employees and politicians

dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices

those who are all too aware of what has been going on, but who have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

Now, assuming that those conducting a clearout of alleged deadwood – such as that being carried out in Glasgow - had insider knowledge of which group each councillor was in, and assuming that the possibility exists, however remote, that they were not all as honest, public-spirited and dedicated to those who elected them as I hope all Glasgow City Councillors are, the $64,000 question is then – which group would they target?

Logically, it would be the dishonest ones, but for that to be true, those conducting the clearout evaluations would have to belong to the third group, those who were aware of what was going on, but had not blown the whistle. Since by definition, apparent incompetence and corruption go hand-in-hand, the reason for clearout can then safely be advanced as incompetence.

However, if those conducting a clearout in this imaginary rotten borough (there is no current evidence that GCC is a rotten borough, at least since Purcell) were in fact complicit in dodgy goings-on, the logical strategy would be to clear out the honest politicians who were not aware of what was going on, but not those who knew, but didn’t participate, since this might induce them to blow the whistle belatedly.

I fervently hope that Glasgow is not, and even allowing for Purcell, never has been a rotten borough, but in a city council and administration of the size and complexity of Glasgow, with all the temptations inevitably involved in the placing of lucrative contracts, the granting or withholding of planning permission and licenses, the insider knowledge of large-scale development projects such as the Glasgow East Regeneration and the Commonwealth Games projects, it would be nothing short of miraculous if no elected official or salaried employee had ever yielded to such temptations.

In their position, I would be as angry and apprehensive as the group of Glasgow councillors who have been categorised as ‘deadwood’ clearly are under these circumstances, because of the inevitable potential damage to their reputations and because not only their competence is being impugned, but a dark cloud of suspicion will inevitably accompany them if they go quietly. In their place, I certainly wouldn’t …

Colin Smyth, Labour’s Scottish General Secretary, has a job and a half on his hands. Perhaps Tom Harris, MP can help.

MORIDURA BLOG 26th MAY 2011

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ENTRENCHED REGIME LOOKS LIKE LOSING POLITICAL POWER?

Let’s look away from Glasgow for a moment, and consider what happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world.

I will use the term used by Private Eye, that indispensable publication that covers the ground that mainstream media are either too lazy, too complacent or too scared to address - rotten boroughs. Private Eye regularly publishes the sordid details of such rotten boroughs across the UK, where blatant corruption, the self-interest and the personal profit of councillors reign supreme over any concern for the people who have the misfortune to be dependent on them.

The mechanics of such corruption of local democracy across the UK are always the same - the award of contracts in disregard of best practice, failure to declare interest by councillors, nepotism, insider knowledge of land development, so-called consultancy and training contracts, lucrative sinecures for councillors on quasi-independent bodies, revolving door appointments to organisations that have benefited from council largesse. The necessary links with external organisations created by the giant budgets controlled by councils creates a potential for influence that should work for the good of the people, but all to often operates against their interests.

But like all political power, when the continuity of the hegemony is threatened, those external organisations whose relationship with the political power brokers  has been less than transparent begin to get jittery, and a process of disengagement begins that is deeply worrying to the politicians involved.

And within the central structure there are three groups - honest employees and politicians, dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices, and a crucial third group, those who are all too aware of what has been going on, have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

It is this group who begin to break their silence when the power structure begins to look shaky, anxious not to be caught up in a scandal that they have never profited from. Once those first cracks appear, the honest group, often comprising senior professionals, becomes uneasily aware of what has been going on under their noses, and begins to probe the weakest parts of the edifice of corruption.

Soon thereafter, panic sets in among the truly corrupt. Having no allegiance to any person or principle other than that of expedient self-interest, they begin to try to distance themselves from what may be coming their way. At that point, the dam begins to burst- auditing bodies, professional organisations, the police, national government and the media acquire a sudden interest.

SUMMARY

I make the above points as general observations about corrupt organisations. Glasgow City Council may be entirely free of corruption, especially since the end of the Purcell era, which may itself just have been the personal failings and the personal tragedy of one man. If this is so, then in the Dalmarnock case, they have been simply deeply misguided in the way they pursued otherwise laudable objectives in relation to the regeneration of the East End of Glasgow and the huge opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Games,  displaying professional callousness and a total lack of empathy towards an entire community of ordinary working people, and a highly selective view of the law as it relates to compulsory purchase and the acquisition of land for development purposes.

Tom Harris, Calman – and toppling elected dictatorships …

My piece on Calman yesterday had an interesting sequel. Tom Harris MP - Westminster’s answer to the danger’s of a Scottish Labour UDI - having formerly opposed the Calman Commission, is now in favour of re-establishing it on a permanent basis  -  I quote Kate Devlin in the Herald – “to constantly review the devolution settlement, even if it recommends handing back some powers to Westminster”. Tom Harris says he wants to ensure that Scotland is not forced to undergo major constitutional upheaval every decade or so.

Modesty doesn’t inhibit me from saying that Tom Harris was clearly impressed by my definition yesterday of the Calman Commission as a Commission set up by a unionist opposition to defend the Union and to limit and inhibit the elected Scottish Government, and has belatedly realised the value of establishing such an instrument of colonial control on a permanent basis.

I feel he should go the whole hog and nominate himself as the chairman of the new commission, a post he would hold together with his leadership of the new Scottish Labour Party. There may be some niggling constitutional quibbles over such a dual mandate, but this solution is better than simply announcing Michael Moore as head of the new commission. To celebrate the New Scottish Labour & Unionist Party’s birth, Tom Harris should be presented with a bound copy of John McTernan’s Collected Essays, What Labour Must Do. The new party and the new Commission will of, course, need a spin doctor – one will do for both – and although a token recruitment procedure will be undertaken, there can be no doubt of identity of the successful candidate. (I offer my condolences to Lorraine Davidson, The Times and the Sunday Post.)

If I may offer a word to Tom Harris …

Scotland won’t be undergoing “major constitutional upheaval every decade or so”, it will be independent. It will achieve its independence democratically in a single referendum in which only Scottish voters will participate. I’m sure you understand that, Tom – we wouldn’t want David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy to have to intervene to ensure that Scots achieve their democratic freedom from a corrupt and unrepresentative dictatorship of wealth, power and privilege masquerading as a democracy, one that was trying to manipulate their democratic rights, would we? Or would their notorious expediency and partiality  in which dictatorships they chose to topple come into force?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Michael Moore pose 6 questions–but I have only one for him …


Examining Michael Moore’s voting record, (Voting record) I see a principled man – or at least one who voted as I might have done on most – but not all – key issues. Then I remind myself that most of this voting was done in opposition, when the LibDems had – or claimed to have – liberal, democratic principles. All of that, as we now to know, vanished when they entered the Coalition, and the thin veneer of principle was rapidly stripped off, revealing the rotten Tory woodwork underneath.

And of course, there’s nothing like a ministerial car, salary and perks, not to mention the hollow trapping of being a colonial governor, to erode principle and give free rein to a natural inclination towards pomposity. But, as a leading member of a party that has welshed on its manifesto commitments, betrayed those who voted for it in May 2010, and which has reduced the party in Scotland to a pathetic little group in Holyrood, Michael Moore entertains no self-doubt about his right to lecture the Scottish Government, elected by a decisive mandate by the people of Scotland, who also gave the LibDems and Tavish Scott two fingers in May 2011.

If he had taken the trouble to read Your Scotland, Your Voice Nov. 2009 he would have found most of the answers in a document almost two years old, produced as part of a conversation with the people of Scotland. And of course, that thinking has been developed and refined and is the subject of on-going research and development within the party in the lead-up to the referendum on independence.

But Michael Moore’s imperial mind has been focused by the prospect of losing his plumed hat and his white horse when the Scottish Office becomes redundant and is consigned to a sordid footnote in history (except for Niall Ferguson, who may wish to publish several tedious volumes on its glorious past) and by the fact that if a general election was conducted in the next year, his party would face UK-wide obliteration, and even the border voters of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk might wish to think again about their MP.

What does the Scotsman have to say about all of this? Michael Kelly, in an article on sectarianism and the deeply non-productive and unfortunate comments by Paul McBride, QC has, for once many considered and important things to say, and I am in broad agreement with him – a first for me! But Oor Michael cannot risk being thought to be in favour of independence when he rightly criticises McBride’s doomsday scenario, so he has a little disclaimer in his second paragraph. I quote -

I am as keen as the next home rule unionist to prevent the creation of a state, socially, economically and politically inferior to the one we have in which we currently enjoy living.”

The state “in which we currently enjoy living” – the UK – is the one that is nearly bankrupt, bleeding itself to death with foreign wars and interventions, corrupt in its Parliament, in its institutions, in its banking, and in its unelected power and privilege.

This is the state that for over 300 years has exploited Scotland, its people and its resources, a state that is still being disproportionately funded by Scotland, not only in economic terms but in the blood of its servicemen and women, who have consistently sustained a casualty rate, proportionate to population, higher than the rest of the UK. Their reward has been to be called heroes – which they are – and to have their ancient regiments eliminated, merged, in a sustained attempt to remove their Scottish identity, to be inadequately equipped by an incompetent M.O.D. Ask Rose Gentle, a Scottish mother whose 19-year-old son, Fusilier Gordon Gentle, was killed in Basra in 2004.



Scotland’s reward for the rape of its people, talent and resources has been poverty, poor housing, destruction of its industrial infrastructure, and a lower life expectancy for men and women than the rest of the UK. This lethal colonial ravaging of Scotland has only begun to be ameliorated by the Scottish National Party, who in just over four years of government - most of it in minority government, blocked at every opportunity by a cynical and expedient unionist opposition – have given news spirit and new hope to the Scottish people, who have rewarded them with a giant vote of confidence.

Michael Kelly’s party, in contrast, presided over the decline of Scotland for half a century, until their dead and cynical hegemony was successfully challenged by the SNP in 2007. Before the Scottish Labour Party we had an equally dead hand, that of the party of empire, blood, death and privilege, the Tory Party, now an irrelevancy in Scotland.

And what of the Scotsman lead article? It has the front to talk of honest answers. Under its present editorial team and proprietorship, it rarely asks honest questions – they are loaded unionist propaganda - and even more rarely provides honest answers. In its instincts it is Tory, but recognises the death of that party in Scotland. It is now in a dilemma – it is anti-Labour, but pro-Union, but the only hope for the Union is Labour. It was forced, in a fit of realism during the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary campaign, to recognise that the SNP had the only managerially competent politicians in Scotland, so it backed them, but was emphatically not backing an independent Scotland.

It was utterly taken aback by the election results, and now is in an even greater dilemma, trying to balance the twin threats of declining circulation caused by its progressive irrelevance as a voice for Scotland, and its irrational and emotional attachment to the Union. It gives occasional – and very welcome - space to real Scottish voices such as Joan McAlpine, but the balance is never in doubt, with columnists such as Alan Massie, Michael Kelly, et al, and of course the consistently unionist voice of its editor, Bill Jamieson. The Scotsman has never really recovered from Andrew Neil, Thatcherite and Unionist par excellence.

So let me close with a message to Michael Moore. If you care for Scotland, resign from your post as Scottish Secretary, ask Willie Rennie to stand down as leader of his tiny group, and lead your party in Holyrood. God knows, the Scottish LibDems need a leader, after Tavish Scott - and now Willie Rennie. They will welcome you with open arms. The spirit of Joe Grimond will be with you, instead of the ghost of Jeremy Thorpe. You can keep the plumed helmet …

Meanwhile, stop asking stupid questions – you can render that service at least to your adopted country.





Friday, 26 August 2011

Latest Brad Pitt blockbuster–“Last Tram to Hell”

If you were a zombie extra in Glasgow recently, and are wondering where your career will take you next, look east, and shamble off to Edinburgh, where the new Brad Pitt movie blockbuster is scheduled to start soon.

Last Tram to Hellthe story of a great city destroyed by tramcars.

The only qualification for a zombie extra is allegiance to either the Labour, LibDem or Tory clans. Anyone supporting the SNP clan will be disqualified, since they have opposed the project since its inception. Glasgow zombies who support Glasgow City Council will be regarded as automatically qualified because of their previous zombie extra experience.



Brian Adcock - "I see the Glasgow Labour vote is turning out" Labour zombies


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Scottish Labour Leader–a new title needed? Gauleiter?

The Labour Party don’t have a Scottish leader – what they have is the Leader of the Labour group at Holyrood, whose only function has been to keep his MSPs on message and in line, on behalf of his London master, Ed Miliband, and the UK Labour Party.

But now Labour wants a Scottish Leader – a kind of gauleiter. (I will use a more apt and charitable name for the regional leader of a national party if there is one – suggestions welcome from Labour supporters.) Why do they want this? Because they lost the last two Scottish Parliamentary elections. 2007 could be dismissed as an aberration: 2011 was a rout.

It has been an ill wind, one that has blown little good for Labour, although it has provided a role - and presumably a nice little earner - for John McTernan, who has produced a seemingly endless series of articles telling Labour how they got it wrong and what they must do to put things right. More of the same today from John in The Scotsman. He looks south for inspiration, i.e. Westminster and a Labour MP.

Scottish Scots have been no bloody good – the ‘high-road-to-England’ version are what is needed. Of course, John McTernan has never submitted himself to the democratic process – to my knowledge - by running for Parliament. Instead he has been special adviser to just about everybody in the Labour Party. He is of that strange breed, a political strategist for a party whose political strategy has failed utterly in the UK and in Scotland. He blogs for The Daily Telegraph, exactly the right newspaper for a member of the Tory Lite Party, once known as the Labour Party.

John McTernan sniffs the wind carefully, and yesterday a breeze was blowing from Tom Harris MP, who on radio and on Newsnight Scotland threw his hat – well, sort of sneaked his hat – into the leadership ring, such as it is. I know all I need to know about Tom Harris, MP. He supported Blair, strongly supported the Iraq War, supports Trident – and, of course, he supports the UK.

Quote from today’s Herald: “I do not believe there is any great contradiction in looking after Scotland’s interests and the UK’s interests.” Tom Harris.

Tom Harris has already attracted the support of Louise Mensch, a Tory MP, and David Torrance, the Tory blogger and commentator and former Parliamentary Aide to the Tory Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell at Westminster. Louise Mensch was positively gushing in her delight at the prospect of Tom Harris’s candidacy. By their friends shall ye know them, as they say …

A seasoned politician, Tom Harris confessed to Gordon Brewer last night on Newsnight Scotland that he knew nothing of the mechanics  of electing a Scottish Labour Leader. Well, the Westminster village does that to a Scot – the state of his native land becomes a faint rumbling way up North – not to be taken seriously unless career is threatened or an opportunity presents itself. Tom, a man steeped in journalism, media and PR, scents both possibilities.

So Scottish Labour may have yet another Iraq apologist, Trident/WMD enthusiast and staunch Unionist as gauleiter. Well, they are all in the job specification. But we could have done worse – it could have been Jim Murphy


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?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Inverclyde - UK and Scottish politics

Despite the inclusive blog title above on these topics today, I have virtually nothing to say, since Ian Bell has said everything I want to say in today’s Herald, and infinitely better than I could ever have said it.

Pyrrhic victory for Labour 

His piece illustrates the real difference between a truly professional political journalist and a blogger like me. Regrettably, his depth of analysis, prescience and perceptiveness is rarely matched by other Scottish political commentators, with one or two exceptions.

I take issue with Ian Bell only on his closing remarks on the death of the Scottish Labour Party, that “we (I take him to mean all Scots) do not yet own an alternative.”

If he means a party of the left that is internationalist in outlook and values, yet deeply committed to all the people of Scotland, especially to the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, we do own such a party - it is the Scottish National Party, and he is wrong.

If  he means a party that is all of the above things, but that is also committed to the Union and hostile to the independence of the people of Scotland, then he is right.

And there will never again be such a party, because its time has irretrievably passed.

Friday, 27 May 2011

My message to John McAllion (Where Now for Scottish Labour?) on Bella Caledonia

John McAllion - Where Now for Scottish Labour

I was a committed Labour voter for 50 years, John - Glasgow east end, bred-in-the-bone Labour. The core values we held were an internationalist outlook - the global brotherhood of humanity - concern for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, a profound distaste for militarism, rank and privilege and undemocratic institutions, and Aneurin notwithstanding, an anti-nuclear stance.

I watched Labour abandon everyone of these core values over half a century, culminating in the horror of Iraq. And I came to see that what was rotten in the state of Labour was what was rotten in the state of the UK.

You used the phrase "the Labour Party itself has never been fully at ease with the devolution of political power away from its spiritual home in the Palace of Westminster". I would take issue only with the term spiritual home - there was nothing spiritual about it - it was a cynical obsession with the Westminster village as the pinnacle of its power base, with Scotland as the taken-for-granted underpinning of that power base.

Scottish Labour is irretrievably lost, together with its values, its humanity and its Scottishness. I know the visceral shift that has taken place among my friends and colleagues, old and new, ranging from the solid gold Glasgow working class to the professional and managerial classes. That shift involved real pain, the residual feeling of a betrayal of old, albeit misplaced loyalties. These people will never return to Labour, anymore than the brutally dispossessed ordinary people of Dalmarnock will ever return to the party of their oppressor, Glasgow Labour-controlled council.

I will never return to Labour. You should make the quantum leap, John - it's not a dyke but a giant leap across an intimidating chasm, but you can do it. You must do it.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The human cost of the Commonwealth Games - the destruction of Dalmarnock’s people by Glasgow City Labour Council

The election has been decisively won - the people of Scotland have spoken, dismissing the Tories and the LibDems as irrelevant to their lives, and dealing what I hope is a death blow to the long dominance of the Labour Party in Scotland.

Scottish Labour is in utter disarray, and is frantically attempting to place the blame for the end of their hegemony on any scapegoats they can find, and sedulously avoiding the real reasons for the decline in their fortunes that began with the SNP’s election victory in 2007. They are a party in denial, and this denial is being consolidated by their defenders in the media, some openly partisan and other trying to pretend that they are objective political commentators engaged in a dispassionate analysis of what went wrong, and how the party may reinvent itself and present a new face to the electorate.

At the heart of Scottish Labour’s problem is the city of Glasgow and Glasgow City Council,  a Labour fiefdom for decades that encapsulates all that is rotten about Labour at most fundamental level of government - self-serving machine politics that have been inimical to well-being of the people of Glasgow for two generations.

And now a spectre looms, that of next years local elections, when they face the prospect of losing control of Glasgow and much of their traditional heartland besides. 

There are many reasons why Scottish Labour supporters at last realised just what they have been voting for all these years, and shifted allegiance dramatically to the SNP, but one example epitomises the uncaring cynicism with which they treated their loyal supporters - the brutal and unfeeling clearance of the Dalmarnock area of Glasgow for private development and for the Commonwealth Games.

The Jaconelli Case, appalling enough in itself, was simply the most visible example of what was done to many families and small businesses in this travesty of justice. Margaret and Jack Jaconelli have repeatedly stated this fact to anyone who would listen - that they were not alone in this injustice, but simply one family who had been thrown into the media spotlight by the juggernaut of municipal and legal brutality rolling over them. Not one of them to my knowledge has received a penny in compensation or any interim payment. For most, this has been going on for eight years or more.

If anyone who followed the case has forgotten just how the City of Glasgow and the Glasgow Labour Party brutalised its own people, click the link below and watch the Scottish Sun video from inside 10 Ardenlea Street on that awful morning. For anyone unaware of the final denouement of the story, this is a must-view.

The Scottish Sun's horrifying video of the eviction - inside the house

(I have appended some of video clips and blog comments at the end of today’s piece.)

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ENTRENCHED REGIME LOOKS LIKE LOSING POLITICAL POWER?

Let’s look away from Glasgow for a moment, and consider what happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world.

I will use the term used by Private Eye, that indispensable publication that covers the ground that mainstream media are either too lazy, too complacent or too scared to address - rotten boroughs. Private Eye regularly publishes the sordid details of such rotten boroughs across the UK, where blatant corruption, the self-interest and the personal profit of councillors reign supreme over any concern for the people who have the misfortune to be dependent on them.

The mechanics of such corruption of local democracy across the UK are always the same - the award of contracts in disregard of best practice, failure to declare interest by councillors, nepotism, insider knowledge of land development, so-called consultancy and training contracts, lucrative sinecures for councillors on quasi-independent bodies, revolving door appointments to organisations that have benefited from council largesse. The necessary links with external organisations created by the giant budgets controlled by councils creates a potential for influence that should work for the good of the people, but all to often operates against their interests.

But like all political power, when the continuity of the hegemony is threatened, those external organisations whose relationship with the political power brokers  has been less than transparent begin to get jittery, and a process of disengagement begins that is deeply worrying to the politicians involved.

And within the central structure there are three groups - honest employees and politicians, dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices, and a crucial third group, those who are all too aware of what has been going on, have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

It is this group who begin to break their silence when the power structure begins to look shaky, anxious not to be caught up in a scandal that they have never profited from. Once those first cracks appear, the honest group, often comprising senior professionals, becomes uneasily aware of what has been going on under their noses, and begins to probe the weakest parts of the edifice of corruption.

Soon thereafter, panic sets in among the truly corrupt. Having no allegiance to any person or principle other than that of expedient self-interest, they begin to try to distance themselves from what may be coming their way. At that point, the dam begins to burst- auditing bodies, professional organisations, the police, national government and the media acquire a sudden interest.

SUMMARY and APPENDICES

I make the above points as general observations about corrupt organisations. Glasgow City Council may be entirely free of corruption, especially since the end of the Purcell era, which may itself just have been the personal failings and the personal tragedy of one man. If this is so, then in the Dalmarnock case, they have been simply deeply misguided in the way they pursued otherwise laudable objectives in relation to the regeneration of the East End of Glasgow and the huge opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Games,  displaying professional callousness and a total lack of empathy towards an entire community of ordinary working people, and a highly selective view of the law as it relates to compulsory purchase and the acquisition of land for development purposes.

SOME PREVIOUS BLOGS AND YouTube CLIPS ON GLASGOW AND DALMARNOCK

Rotten boroughs - Glasgow City Council -

The desperations of GCC's shills

Reflections on the brutal end to the siege of Ardenlea Street

GCC Jaconelli misinformation

St. Patrick's Day 2011 - but forced eviction for the Jaconelli's?










Monday, 9 May 2011

The Scottish referendum - Lorraine Davidson being objective?

Lorraine Davidson, former Labour spin doctor, biographer of Jack McConnell, former Labour First Minister of Scotland ('Lucky Jack'), now a Times journalist, offers an objective assessment of the SNP landslide and the referendum.

Or is it? Judge for yourself. A journalist and commentator has a right to take a position - balance is not always objectivity. But when a journalist has formerly been so close to a specific political party and viewpoint, it pays to be careful. Lorraine is initially critical of the Labour campaign, but then ...

Lorraine Davidson

People in Scotland instinctively want to be part of the Union, but Alex Salmond’s game now isn’t the game the SNP played in the 70s and 80s – with one great leap we’ll be free.

What Alex Salmond wants is independence by stealth. There are already going to be extra powers in the Parliament – they’re going through at the moment – he’s going to beef those up further. His referendum I would bet will also contain an option of full fiscal autonomy, so by the time you get to the independence thing, further down the road – he’s playing the long game … He wants to take the view that nobody in Scotland’s going to matter when you put in the last piece of the jigsaw.”



The Times, according to Angus Macleod, chief political reporter in Scotland, favours no party or political viewpoint, but reports objectively. He exemplifies this approach, and as a result, his analysis and prediction of the Holyrood elections was the most accurate and prescient of all the papers.

Lorraine would do well to remember this, and watch out for that old danger in reporting - the use of coloured terms, i.e. pejorative adjectives, adverbs and appellations. I would like to feel that she is now free of old, reflex, in-denial Scottish Labour and unionist attitudes, but I often fear she is not.