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Showing posts with label The Cuts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Cuts. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Alex Salmond bluntly tells Cameron the Cutter to go home …

From Cartoon by Alisdair Smith

SNP surging ahead in the polls.

The First Minister is realistic and honest about working towards achieving manifesto commitments. An independence referendum within the life of the next Scottish Parliament..

Re the cuts, David Cameron tells the Scots they've never had it so good.

The First Minister says rubbish - Scotland is bankrolling the UK with £13 billion pounds of Scottish Oil revenues.

Alex tells Cameron the Cutter to go home - and think again ...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Edinburgh Trams – a Labour, LibDem and Tory shambles

The Edinburgh Trams project, misconceived and doomed to fail.

The previous Labour/LibDem coalition conceived this folly.

The SNP vigorously opposed it before they were in government and after.

The Tories compound the Labour/LibDem folly by refusing to back the SNP   government on cancellation of the project.

Now we have a high-profile resignation,(David Mackay) and a train wreck of an interview of Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, LibDem convenor of the ill-fated project, who can offer no explanations, no figures, no completion forecasts, but is resolute in one thing only - he won't resign.

God Help Scotland if we let any of these people - Labour, LibDem or Tories - back into government in Holyrood in 2011.

Labour wrecked the UK economy while in government.

The ConLib coalition are busy compounding their failure by their ill-considered and economically lethal savage cuts programme.

Vote SNP again in 2011 and save Scotland - and your future and the futures of your children and grandchildren.

Friday, 29 October 2010

David Dimbleby fails to recognise or understand the Scottish voice–again …

Question Time, under the chairmanship of David Dimbleby, is uneven in its standards as a prime political discussion forum on a public service broadcasting channel, the BBC, and its failing are particularly evident in its treatment of Scottish affairs and Scottish nationalist viewpoints.

The composition of its panel – one supposedly objective panellist, e.g. an academic, someone from the Arts, the occasional comedian, one representative of the governing party, two representatives of opposition parties, and one right-wing ranter, often a tabloid journalist, but occasionally a businessman/woman – is supposed to provide both political balance and entertainment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

David Dimbleby himself is supposed to be an impartial chairman, above party politics – which he usually is – but he in nonetheless rooted in the establishment values of monarchy, empire and the UK. He is the son of the broadcaster who epitomised these values, Richard Dimbleby, and he is very much his father’s son. (The other brother, Jonathan, has a much more liberal and questioning approach to British and world affairs.)

Last night’s Question Time exhibited all of the vices and few of the virtues of the QT format, and was, to put it mildly, partial and sometimes unfair in relation to Nicola Sturgeon and to Scottish affairs in general.

The historian was Simon Schama, now government guru on how to best inculcate an historical perspective in our children that will best reflect Establishment views and keep the Union together. Of course, Simon Schama would not recognise such a description of his role, and would not have accepted the poisoned chalice if he had – he is an honourable, likeable man. But he too, is imbued with deeply rooted Establishment values, as his endorsement of the simplistic viewpoint (Hugh Hendry) that terrorists were evil demonstrated.

Terrorist do things in pursuit of what they believe in that have appalling consequences, and are often young, idealistic, and shockingly - as we now know from Wikileaks - sometimes even mentally subnormal or disturbed individuals. The people who manipulate their ideals and send them to their deaths can fairly be described as evil, but we should remember that powerful states such as the US, the UK and Israel wreak even greater devastation, including the mass murder of innocent people, men, women and children, under a cloak of so-called democratic values.

Neither evil justifies the other – they feed on each other, and are locked in a deadly embrace that may destroy our society and even our planet.

But since this Question Time was in Glasgow, let’s come back to local matters and the state of the economy. David Dimbleby is fond of pointing out that Question Time is a national, i.e. UK-wide programme and addresses  the whole of the UK. While this is true, it is also a fact that when it is located in a city, region, or devolved state of the UK, it recognises the special interests of its host population.

Last week in Middlesbrough, it rightly and properly gave prominence to local issues, such as the fate of steel works and industry in general in the North East, and at no point were panellists restricted in addressing these issues. When Question Time is in Wales, or Northern Ireland, Dimbleby has no qualms or compunction over allowing local issues to dominate, indeed, he would be eaten alive in Northern Ireland if he were rash enough to attempt to do so.

But not so in Scotland, because as every diehard unionist knows, the real threat to the survival of the UK - in its present enfeebled form as the rump of a faded empire, attempting vainly to prosecute wars in foreign parts and strut its stuff on a global stage when it is unable to run its own economy successfully, and the poor, vulnerable and powerless are about to pay the price of the shambles created by Labour and now being compounded by the ConLib coalition - comes from Scotland, governed by a party that was elected by the people, the Scottish National Party.

The British Establishment has a visceral distrust, hatred and fear of the Scots, especially of their internationalist and humanitarian values, and because the drums of empire no longer resonate in this small but proud and profoundly European country, a country that has punched above its weight throughout its long history, intellectually, scientifically and economically.

Dimbleby therefore allowed the coalition spokesperson, Ed Davey, a minister, unlimited licence to speak without interruption, yet interrupt others, but radically curtailed Nicola Sturgeon every time she tried to address specifically Scottish matters. This did not stop him from quite gratuitously introducing the question of the Megrahi release decision, a topic on which he allowed others to offer their verdicts on a decision that politically and constitutionally was solely Scotland’s and frankly, none of their damned business, although Nicola was too polite to put it quite like that.

As best I could, I timed the total discussion contribution of the panellists, a tedious task in which it was difficult to be precise, because of interruptions. Here is my analysis.

Out of 43 minutes panellist discussion time, Nicola Sturgeon was allowed to speak for just under six minutes, that is, just under 14% of the time. The remaining five averaged well over eight minutes, with Ed Davey, for the ConLib government, allowed over nine minutes and the hedge fund manager, Hugh Hendry, allowed well over ten minutes.

Another way of putting is that, under the impartial chairmanship of Dimbleby, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon - in Glasgow - was allowed to speak for only 60% of the time given to an unelected businessman, a Scot, based in London.

(If you want to challenge these timings, get your stop watch out and do your own sums – you’re welcome to it.)

Hugh Hendry is the Glasgow-born, London-based, manager of “a multi-million pound hedge fund that makes its money from failing businesses”, as Dimbleby described him. He is a very rich man.

A hedge fund is a fund that is usually open only to a limited range of professional and very wealthy investors. They trade in derivatives, dealing often with high yield rating and distressed debt. The packaging of debts, such as excessive loans to people who manifestly could not afford to repay them, in the US and the UK by hedge funds led directly to the near collapse of the world’s banking systems. In the UK, such loans and investments led to the near-collapse of Northern Rock and the UK’s first run on the banks in generations. (I was one of the investors queuing apprehensively outside Northern Rock in Edinburgh on that fateful first day.)

I have no idea of the nature of Hugh Hendry’s fund, Eclectica Asset Management, nor of his or its ethical base. What I do know is that Hugh fancies himself as a deep political thinker and commentator, but is a little sensitive about the public’s view of him.

A quote from Hugh, speaking in The Telegraph -

Hugh Hendry: 'We Hedge Fund Managers Are On Your Side'

You don't know me; we've never met. But I fear you are being encouraged to dislike me. Let me explain: I'm a speculator. I manage a hedge fund. Apparently I profit from your misery. Accordingly, our political leaders are keen to see the back of me.

Well, that about sums up my view, Hugh. But now that I know a little more about you, from your Question Time performance, I’m even less inclined to like you or respect your views, which appear to include a distrust of all politicians, Europe, Scottish nationalists and a willingness to defend torture by “our boys” in pursuit of those you see as the bad guys.

Your view point, to me, is startlingly unoriginal, and can be heard in any saloon bar from right-wing Tories. I would guess that when relaxing with friends from the finance industry, your favourite song is My Way, that maudlin anthem beloved by complacent, middle-aged, self-made men who think they have achieved something in their life, and confuse material success with a real contribution to the society of which they are a part.

But I was painfully aware that some of the Glasgow audience appeared to like you, and found your views acceptable. I’m sure if a British Tea Party ever gets going, you can rally the British equivalents of Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell to your cause.

However, in the interest of true democratic fairness and balance, I have clipped and grouped some of your statements on the Question Time panel, so that others may judge. You make me want to vomit, Hugh, but doubtless I would have the same effect on you. But I do it my way and you do it your way…

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The gentlemen - and gentlewomen - of the Press: Joan McAlpine and The Scotsman

I have held the view for many years now that The Scotsman spectacularly failed to live up to its title, that it was blindly unionist and establishment-biased, and that objective journalism had gone oot the windae a long, long time ago, subservient to proprietorial values rather than journalistic ones.

In fairness, as a west-coaster, I also had a long term loyalty to the Herald, even though its ancient journalistic traditions (the oldest English language newspaper in the world) had become subservient to Labour and New Labour values. I stuck with it because its Letters page was - and is - the glory of the newspaper, superior to any other British newspaper that I know.

The Scottish nationalist views and perceptions were fairly presented there, even though it was as likely that they would get a fair exposure in news and opinion features as the prospect of The Soldier’s song being voiced by an Ibrox crowd, or No Surrender rising from the terrace of Parkhead.

But I continued to sample The Scotsman, buying the paper in addition to the Herald a couple of times a week, and regularly looking at the online edition – and in the last week or so, it has frontally challenged my negative expectations on a number of occasions. Yesterday, it exceeded my most hopeful ones.

An article by Joan McAlpine headed It’s time to get angry and get ahead of the pack instantly caught my eye, because the headline and the sub-header encapsulated exactly how I was feeling about the challenges facing Scotland now, and in the future. I would love to reproduce it verbatim, but it is categorised by The Scotsman as premium content, requiring a subscription to read it in full (I bought the paper!) and if ever an opinion piece deserved the title of premium content, it was this one.

So you’ll have to either get a copy of Wednesday’s paper or subscribe to get it, unless some less scrupulous blogger has put up a bootleg copy.

In 800 or 900 words, it tightly, economically, cogently and passionately said all that I want to hear said about Scotland today, articulating the core ideas that define my late, but passionate nationalism. It was so well written that - as a writer of sorts myself -  it would have commanded my respect even if I had fundamentally disagreed with the viewpoint expressed.

This is the kind of journalism Scotland needs at this defining moment in our history, and we rarely see it.

I have never met Joan McAlpine, and have had no contact with her until today (an email of congratulation and thanks for her piece from me.)

The Scotsman surprised and delighted me today, and I will now buy it daily, in the hope that at least one quality Scottish newspaper is now prepared to exhibit journalistic and editorial balance across the parties, a balance that was never needed more than it is now.

I fully expect that an avalanche of mail, some of it hostile, some supportive will hit tomorrow's Scotsman letters page, and that there will be some real debate, red in tooth and claw, of the type that Scotland needs today.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Scotland treated with contempt by Cameron and Blunkett at PMQs

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): In a few weeks’ time, the Prime Minister will decide whether he will close RAF Lossiemouth, in addition to closing RAF Kinloss, which would lead to the biggest loss of jobs in Scotland since the Tories closed manufacturing industry in the 1980s. As a consequence, that would mean that Scotland would have fewer service personnel, fewer military bases, aircraft, vessels and Army battalions and less defence spending than all our independent Scandinavian neighbours of comparable size. Will the Prime Minister explain why he is concentrating defence spending in the south and cutting defence spending disproportionately in Scotland?

The Prime Minister: We are going ahead with the aircraft carriers, which are being built in Scotland. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that if we had an independent Scotland, he would not be flying planes but flying by the seat of his pants.
(My thanks to Conan the Librarian for the Hansard text, not quite verbatim, as Conan pointed out.)

Note the glib, contemptuous, Oxbridge-debating society style with which this rich Tory dismisses a serious, well-formulated question that affects the lives of thousands of Scots.

Scots, for God's sake, get your hands off your forelocks, and recognise that Westminster and the UK don't give a damn about Scotland. The Unionists parties (Labour, Tories, LibDems) can't and won't help you - only the Scottish National Party has your real interests at heart

Vote for Scotland - vote for your ain folk - vote for independence - vote SNP.

A former Labour minister attacks the Scottish and Welsh settlement at PMQs and compares them with Yorkshire. That's what Scotland is to the London-based parties - just another subordinate region of the UK, to be treated with either envy or contempt as the mood takes them.

But they can't win -

Blunkett achieves the triple whammy of upsetting the Scots, the Welsh and the English in one ill-considered question, reinforcing the belief of the Scots and the Welsh that they should be fully independent, and making the English feel that they too should have their own Parliament and recover their country from this poisoned Union, and stand again proudly as England - an ancient, proud nation.

Vote in May 2011 for Scotland - vote for your ain folk - vote for the only party that can deliver what Scotland needs - the Scottish National Party. Vote SNP.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Theft and squandering of Scotland’s oil revenues–Norway and ‘Diomhair’

Watch, and weep for what might have been ...

Norway's far-sighted use of its oil revenue compared with the UK's frittering away of the oil revenues stolen from Scotland.

Joseph Stiglitz and Scotland's oil

Prof. Andrew Hughes Hallett

See Part Two for the Diomhair revelations about that shameful theft of Scotland's resources.

Saor Alba!

Diomhair clip - YouTube

Diomhair revealed the full details of the conspiracy to defraud Scotland of its oil revenue. How any Scot can watch this without feeling a sense of betrayal and burning resentment is beyond me, especially when one considers what Norway has has done with its oil revenues.

Saor Alba!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Scotland’s Three Stooges–Scott, Gray and Goldie

The Hollywood Three Stooges were funny - these three are not ...

What are they stooges of? Why, Westminster and the London-based parties, of course - a term they hate, because it's true. Nuk,nuk,nuk!

Send them all doon the Forth of Firth (sic: Tavish Scott) on a raft wi' nae paddle.

Alex Salmond interview: Jo Coburn aspires to the Kirsty Wark rudeness crown

Kirsty Wark, in her appalling interviewing of Alex Salmond some time ago, set the template for this performance by Jo Coburn. This is not political interviewing, it is simplistic, aggressive questioning, devoid of courtesy or indeed any forensic interviewing skills - frantic metropolitan-media type bullying. Contrast it with the effective style that follows it. (Isabel Fraser)

When will Scotland be rid of these Southern media types - or when will they learn their craft, and some manners.

(The technical incompetence on the screen display in the second section is embarrassing. Did nobody at the BBC notice that the bottom section of the picture had moved to the top - like the vertical hold problems on old tv sets?  If they did, why the hell didn't they correct it? Get a grip, BBC Scotland!)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

SNP close the gap on Labour

The undernoted is a straight lift from the SNP site. It boosted my morale – I hope it will do the same for those who have not already read it. Polls do usually lift after a party conference, but let’s be confident that this lift is the beginning of an accelerating trend leading to victory in May 2011.   2010-10-21

The SNP has significantly closed the gap on Labour following the launch of the party's 2011 election campaign at its annual conference last weekend.

In a Yougov poll, published in the Scotsman, of 1,405 people across Scotland taken  between the 18th and 20th October, just after SNP conference, the party saw its share of the Holyrood vote increase by 5 points across both constituency and regional vote.

Labour’s vote has flat-lined and the LibDems vote crumbled to its lowest level in over nine years, as people across Scotland chose to work together with the SNP to make Scotland better.

The SNP is polling at a higher level than at the same time prior to the 2007 election. 

Since September the SNP vote has increased to 34% of the constituency vote and 31% of the regional vote – a 5% increase in both cases.

The poll puts the SNP on 34% in the constituency vote, against 40% for Labour, 14% for the Conservatives and 8% for the Lib Dems. 

On the regional vote, the SNP has increased to 31% against 36% for Labour, 15 for the conservatives and 8 for the Lib Dems.

 SNP Campaign Co-ordinator and Moray MP Angus Robertson, commenting on the poll, said:

"The SNP has fired the starting gun on the election campaign and these results show voters across Scotland are choosing to be part of better as we close the gap on Labour.

“Voters will not allow Labour to escape from their responsibility for the economic mess and the cuts coming Scotland’s way and it is clear the LibDems are paying a heavy price for backing the Tories.

The SNP is the only party offering an alternative with the financial powers to manage Scotland’s economy and a fair deal for Scotland’s households by balancing government efficiencies, pay restraint and management cuts with a focus on frontline services , freezing council tax and abolishing prescription charges.

“And as we work towards the election next year we will continue to hear the priorities of the people of Scotland, their concerns, and ideas for the future as we work together people and politicians to make Scotland better.

With Scotland’s only credible candidate for First Minister people are putting their trust in Alex Salmond and the SNP team to protect the things Scotland holds dear in the face of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem cuts.”

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Danny Alexander – “cruel and illiberal” cuts?

Jon Snow to Danny Alexander, Channel Four News, 20th October 2010

Nevertheless, the point of all this is that you have to realise £2 billion out of this programme, and that means, quite possibly, some quite severely disabled people are going to have to be got to a point where they are not able to work and will not get any income.”

Alexander babbled feebly about fairness, getting ‘our’ public finances in order, and the back-to-work scheme.

Jon Snow:

But when you keep talking about fairness – and my goodness, we’ve heard that word a lot today – your office sent me a graph of what you’ve done today, and if you look at the weight of what’s been done today, the biggest quantity of it falls upon the poor. That’s hardly Liberal Democrat excellence, is it?”

More ConLib jargon came from an increasingly uncomfortable Danny.

Jon Snow:

Let’s take another very quick one. Where you have a disability allowance – you’ve got a mobility allowance within that, and if you actually have either the misfortune or the fortune to be housed in a home, in some kind of supportive environment, you lose the mobility allowance. A rather cruel and illiberal thing to do, is it not?”

Let’s take a closer look at this tall, red-haired, rather diffident Scotsman and ask how he came to be the instrument of Tory millionaires in visiting cruel and illiberal cuts to income and vital services to the poor and disabled.

He was born in Edinburgh then spent part of his boyhood on Colonsay. 38 years of age, he was educated at Lochaber High School then gained an honours degree at St. Anne’s College, Oxford in politics, philosophy and economics – the PPE degree that I have commented on in a recent blog, the preferred choice of the career politician. (Click here for PPE blog)

St. Anne’s College has impeccable liberal (with a small L) credentials, originally set up as a place for emancipated women. Here’s what it says about its values on its website -

St Anne's values

St Anne's has always set its outward face towards the world. It has always been driven by its sense of connecting the ideals of the University to those who have not previously had the chance to encounter them – originally it was women, then women too poor to come to Oxford otherwise, and latterly a confident, tolerant, diverse and multicultural community of women and men.

One can understand why a young, perhaps idealistic, aspiring Liberal Democrat might choose such a college. One might expect that it would pursue academic excellence but not at the price of a wider awareness of society and its original ideals. Again, in its own words -

“… it is implacable in the pursuit of academic excellence, but does not see this as setting it apart from contemporary society.”

How could a product of this background and this education produce someone who, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was the main number cruncher of savage cuts falling mainly upon the poor and the disabled, “cruel and illiberal” cuts?

The politics and the economics components of the PPE degree seem to have been assimilated – what happened to the philosophy part?


His career has been entirely in communications, and almost entirely in politics, except for a brief period (2004-2005) when he was Head of Communications for the Cairngorms National Park Authority. He has been Shadow Just-about-Everything with the LibDems, and, very briefly, Scottish Secretary in the ConLib coalition, until David Laws’ abrupt exit from the Treasury catapulted him into the role for which he will become famous or infamous – make your own prediction.

This career path is exactly what the PPE degree equips its holders for - it is the modern day version of the government or colonial administrator’s career in the bright summer of the British Empire – someone with little or no empathy with the lives of ordinary people, with no hard, tangible experience of commerce or industry, but nonetheless destined to make decisions that impact cruelly upon those they float above, wholly insulated from the pain, suffering and economic misery they are destined to inflict on millions.

But you can redeem yourself, Danny, and in the process, make a real and fundamental impact on the corrupt Westminster and UK Establishment values that have brought you to this point.

Resign, and make a public statement that you are revolted by what you have become a part of, and the way your liberal and democratic ideals have become betrayed by the company you were induced to keep. Commit yourself to work for the very people whose lives your policies will impoverish and destroy. Then you will stand alone and above the heaving, mendacious mass of Westminster careerists, lobby fodder, like swine at the trough.

Ideally, recognise that you can really only make an impact on the land that I believe you love – Scotland – by joining the fight for Scottish independence. Then you will really be a Scottish liberal and a Scottish democrat.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Who wrecked the economy? Who is to blame for the Cuts? What Scots think …

Most Scots know where the blame lies, except for the 1 in 8 Labour diehards who are oblivious to what was done to them under the thirteen year New Labour regime.

We have a real choice in Scotland in May 2011 - to choose again the party that stands outside this corrupt UK power structure of ConLibs and 'New Generation' Labour. The English have no real choice, but we do have one.

Cut through the fog of lies and misinformation that Labour and the ConLibs will spread over Scotland before the Holyrood elections - reject those that brought us to this pass, Labour and the ConLibs, and vote for the SNP.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Ken Loach vs Heseltine on the Poor, and their fate under the Cameron/Clegg gang

Michael Heseltine and Ken Loach go at it, head-to-head, on the impending cuts and their impact on the poor of the UK – the undeserving poor, a  brutal concept from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which mercifully died in the 20th century under the intellectual force and human values of the Webbs, Beveridge, and what used to be the People’s Party, Labour.

But the idea of the undeserving poor never died in Tory hearts, and now it has been insidious revised by Cameron - aided by the political Quislings that used to be the Liberal Democrats under Clegg – under the cloak of the nonsense about The Big Society.

Heseltine starts in his usual opening mode of calm reasonableness, but under the relentless, gentle force of argument from Ken Loach, descends rapidly into hectoring, aggressive name-calling.

Michael Heseltine will be remembered by posterity – if he is remembered at all – for brandishing the Mace in the Commons and for being an ally of Margaret Thatcher as she destroyed jobs, whole industries and communities leaving the way open for unbridled greed and self-interest in the 1980s, and paving the way for what Ken Loach accurately called Tories LightNew Labour under the Blair/Brown Gang.

Thatcher at least only fouled up Britain – Blair and Brown fouled up the world and are responsible for, at a minimum estimate, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions.

Heseltine is probably the archetypal self-made Tory, as contrasted with the ancient land-owning class, a man described contemptuously by another Tory minister – Alan Clark - early in his career, as “a man who who bought his own furniture”. He made his money by property speculation, buying and selling hotels.

Loach is a highly-committed, crusading dramatist and filmmaker, with an unrivalled body of television and film work to his credit, including some of the most – perhaps the most – memorable and effective social documentaries of the 1960s. He never succumbed to the blandishments of Hollywood. He is a great artist, and will always be remembered for his work and his commitment to the poor and the most vulnerable in our society

Watching them debate, in a short, but riveting seven minutes, I saw all that is great and all that is contemptible in modern Britain, in its rotten political system, and its Establishment.

Heseltine said, in response to Loach’s simple, but devastatingly accurate observation that a tax of 5% on the top 10% of the wealthy  would wipe out the deficit, that the ‘wealth creators’ would leave the UK and go elsewhere.

If only they would, including the bankers and speculators who got us into this mess.

For God’s sake, go go! 

Let Scotland escape from the cynical, unequal UK before it is too late.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Holyrood 2011 – the big questions

In the spring of 2011, Scotland goes to the polls to determine its representation in the Scottish Parliament and who will form the next government in Holyrood. The outcome of that election will depend on a number of factors, but significantly on the answer to the question -

Will the Labour general election surge in Scotland repeat itself in the Holyrood election?

There is no doubt that a majority of Scots, faced with the prospect of a Tory Government at Westminster, defaulted to their traditional allegiance. In 2007, disenchanted with the appalling Labour Government  record of betrayal of their core supporters over ten years, two needless wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the abandonment of every traditional Labour value, they felt that there had to be something better.

Many of them clearly shifted their allegiance to the SNP, returning a party committed to the ultimate independence of Scotland,  but it is probably also true that  a large percentage of socially-aware Labour voters, disenchanted with the Blair/Brown/Mandelson gang but not ready to vote SNP, voted LibDem.

I suspect that both groups will either return to Labour or vote SNP in 2011. Any way you slice it, it will be a Labour vs SNP contest.

What worries me is that the essence of Labour - old Labour - is that it is a movement with a social conscience and an appeal to the emotions. I feel that some of that essence is returning to Scottish Labour, just as it is being lost by the SNP under the mundane pressures of government. The Party needs to re-create the sense of belief and the excitement that characterised the Glasgow East victory.

I have to say that in spite of all the worthy time and effort devoted to grassroots communication and democracy, they have lost their mojo to some degree. In an understandable attempt to present themselves as serious politicians - which they undoubtedly are - geared to serious and challenging times, they have become dull, something a nationalist movement cannot afford to be.

The Scottish electorate, indeed any electorate, are only coldly rationale in part - there is an emotional quotient, one that Obama successfully captured and exploited to achieve his historic victory, and one which he is now dissipating to some degree under the pressures of office.

The extent and impact of the opposition to Osborne’s savage cuts, with his nodding, red-haired Scottish LibDem poodle, Danny Alexander at his side, will create political currents - and perhaps a political tsunamai - the ramifications of which are difficult to predict.

Will Scottish Labour voters recognise the responsibility that lies with Blair, Brown and the last Labour government for creating the situation that led to this?

Do they realise that senior Labour politicians, notably John Reid and Douglas Alexander, destroyed the fragile Rainbow Coalition negotiations by their public comments, leading directly to the ConLib coalition that is now inflicting this misery on us?

Do they remember that Alex Salmond repeatedly and consistently attacked the economic sense of the cuts and the attack on Scottish public services, in the face of baying Labour opposition in Holyrood? 

Will the Scottish trades unions, in their fight against the attack on Scottish living standards, remember that the the Labour Party destroyed the economy and bottled the chance to rectify their mistakes by a rainbow coalition?

If we have the autumn of discontent that the TUC conference seems to point towards, in opposition to the cuts - and I hope we do - then if the new leader of the Labour party plays his cards in support (which David Milliband won't do but the others might) it will probably alienate middle England from Labour but galvanise Scottish Labour voters.

To those complacent middle class families who are tut-tutting about the renewed union militancy, in the profoundly mistaken belief that they themselves will be immune from the impact of the cuts, I say  - remember the enduring words of John Donne -

And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

(I was tempted to quote Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement, the “then they came for me…” one, often described as a poem. But the wording is so contentious, and has been distorted, adapted and bowdlerised by so many special interest groups that I decided not to.  John Donne captured the essence of our common humanity in his words for all time, and it has never been better expressed.)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The English Trades Unions wake up to the Labour betrayal – when will the Scottish Unions do likewise?

The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival 2010 has been taking place this weekend. The Politics Show was there to take the temperature of the unions over the impending cuts. On the ground, the message was clear – a deep suspicion of the LibDem coalition and its plans to ‘reduce the deficit’, code for attack the living standards and amenities of those least able to afford it, and entirely blameless of ruin of the economy by the Labour Government and the banks.

Quote -

“At least back in the eighties there was a state to dismantle. At the moment, we’ve only got the precious things left – the Post Office, the Health Service, the schools, the education service, and they’re coming for it.

Quote -

Nobody should be under any illusion whatsoever – the 1980s were awful, and this government is far more right wing in our view. I tell you, the battle is coming very shortly and it’s going to be massive. The trade union movement has got to come together, and cannot rely, unfortunately, on our allies that we’ve had in the past.”

That last remark, in my view, is trade union code for “we cannot rely on the Labour Party ---“ and the interviewers comment, “maybe the Labour Party as well?” and the nod that followed it confirmed this.

Both these quote were from Communications Workers’ Union representatives. The interviewer moved on to a lady from the National Union of Teachers.

In response to a specific question about the Labour Party and the Trade Union leadership, Rachel Thomas replied -

I don’t think we can put our hopes in any of the major parties – they’ve proved, time and time again, they’re the parties of big business – they’ve given billions and billions to the banks, and we want some of that for public services --- I think the trade union movement – the TUC – needs to get some rocket boosters – in order to fight back.“

(The comments on Lord Mandelson’s memoirs were wisely censored as “not really printable.”)

We then move back to Jon Sopel and his guests in the studio, Fraser Nelson and Jackie Ashley.

Jackie Ashley – Mrs. Andrew Marr - is a television newspaper reporter and New Statesman and Guardian columnist. She fought her way up from humble beginnings as the daughter of Jack Ashley – Baron Ashley of Stoke – and a grammar school and Oxbridge education.

Fraser Nelson, a Scot (born in Nairn) and educated at Nairn Academy, Dollar Academy, Glasgow University and City University, London. A historian and journalist, Fraser Nelson is also editor of The Spectator, and has a healthy media career as a panellist and commentator.  He is a right-wing conservative, a board director of The Centre for Policy Studies. He is described as an economic libertarian, or neoliberal.

Before you try Wikipaedia  on the term neoliberal , I should warn you that the definition there is ‘contested’. By whom and why, I leave you to judge for yourself.

The BBC and The Politics Show presumably selected these two guests as offering some kind of political balance in the great question of the moment, namely, who f****d up Great Britain and what should be done about it?

How qualified are these privileged, comfortable and possibly very rich people to consider the plight of the low-paid, the elderly and the sick people who will suffer the impact of the cuts, the bankers’ greed and recklessness and the Labour Party and Gordon Brown’s ineptitude in government?

One thing is for sure, they will both be totally insulated from the draconian cuts to come, indeed they may confidently anticipate even more lucrative media appearances as they survey the wreckage of our society and pontificate on it.

They have the task of trying to question Bob Crow of the RMT – introduced by Jon Sopel as “one of the most prominent, some would argue militant figures in the Trade Union movement.

Since the formidable RMT man understands what his role is very clearly, and is unafraid to cut through cant and the special pleading of the rich and powerful by concise and blunt statements of fundamentals, this is no easy ride for our privileged duo, not to mention Jon Sopel.

I leave to you watch and listen to Crow as the media trio trot out their feeble and predictable mantras. He makes them sound like Marie Therese, wife of Louis IV commenting on the plight of the starving poor - “Qu'ils mangent de la brioche …

It all reminded me of a freezing February morning in the late 1970s, when my MD decided to address a large group of truculent draymen in Newcastle about the need for retrenchment. He jumped up on to the back of a lorry, and said “Gentlemen, we must all make sacrifices …”

There was a long, icy pause, then a voice from the throng shouted “What f*****g sacrifices are you going to make then?

The MD hastily jumped off the lorry and handed the meeting over to me, but I had no answer either …

The English members of the trade union movement are at last realising the depths of Labour’s betrayal, and the horrors facing them from the LibCon government, and they intend to do something about it. They had no choice at the general election, but the Scottish electorate did have a real choice – the SNP, yet voted Labour again, in increased numbers.

Among that electorate were many trades unionists. When are you going to wake up, Scotland?