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Showing posts with label Tom Gordon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tom Gordon. Show all posts

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Glasgow, Labour, the SNP, and carpetbaggers …

I have had my moments with Gerry Braiden of the Herald, mainly over the reporting of the Dalmarnock outrages directed against the Jaconellis and other families, businesses and of course the shocking callousness of Glasgow City Council over the closure of the Accord Centre for disabled children.

But I believe in crediting good, objective journalism when it makes its rare appearances in the Scottish Press, and Gerry Braiden’s exclusive yesterday – Labour axes ‘old guard’ – was an example of that.

It reflects the inchoate panic of Glasgow Labour as it faces the terrible prospect of its control of Glasgow City Council being wrested away from them in next year's local elections, a fear that must be exacerbated by  the recent Ipsos MORI poll on Scottish Public Opinion and voting intentions.

However, Labour might take a crumb of comfort from alleged infighting among SNP Glasgow councillors, if Tom Gordon’s piece Fresh blow for SNP bid to take over Glasgow in today’s New Sunday Herald is accurate.

I can forgive my party many things, but if they blow their chances to remove Labour from the GCC, and wreck the last best hope of the people of Glasgow, I will find it hard to swallow. Maybe someone will reassure me …

MURDO FRASER and DAVID MUNDEL

I have had some fun on Twitter over Murdo Fraser’s plan for a new Scottish Greed and Privilege party -

moridura Peter Curran

Murdo Fraser's New Unionism sounds a bit New Labour-ish. Could he not have called it New Imperialism? New Jingoism? NeoConism? Naechanceism?

moridura Peter Curran

Murdo Fraser will outline plans to "kill independence" and "break the SNP" at his campaign launch next week. Who, the Tories? Aye, right …

 

However, Rosanna Cunningham calls for due seriousness, in case he is on the ‘right’ lines, to coin a phrase. David Mundel, on BBC News today, looking even more rabbit-in-the-headlights than usual over a grainy, out of synch link from Skype, clearly doesn’t like Murdo’s big idea. The virtual death of his party is as nothing to him compared to the fact that, as the sole Scottish Tory MP in Westminster from a party contemptuously rejected by Scots, he nonetheless is taken seriously by the big boys, and thinks he plays a significant role in government.

I have always found David Mundel to be faintly risible, and he did nothing to dispel this today. Quotes -

Membership of the Union ---- is a very strong suit in our armour ---“

A new party is not a silver bullet that turns the problems round …”

Wearing a suit under your armour is not to be recommended, David, although if anyone can carry it off, you could. Silver bullets are for killing werewolves, and they were used to great effect in recent years at the ballot box to kill off a great threat to the Scottish people, namely, the Scottish Tories.

Back to Scottish Labour, who, if the Glasgow SNP can get their act together, will face a hail of silver bullets at the 2012 local elections. Murdo Fraser’s New Unionism leaves the way clear for Scottish Labour to re-brand itself as The Scottish Labour and Unionist Party, under the leadership of one or another of the carpetbagging hacks from Westminster. The name change would simply formalise things, for this is what they have been for some time now.

For those not versed in American history, the carpetbaggers were cynical and opportunistic politicians who move from the North to exploit the South. Labour is busy reversing the compass in this respect.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Scotland on Sunday - on Easter Sunday

The haar has lifted, and our back garden on this late April day is gloriously sunny.

Whan that Aprill with his shoures sote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote and bathed every veynein swich licour of which vertu engendred is the flour

I quote the great English poet, because he was an Englishman, one with a great love for his country and its language, which he immeasurably enriched, and because I love the Canterbury Tales, especially its Prologue. And I love him because I am not an Englishman, nor am I British - just an unwilling, and I hope temporary citizen of a disunited kingdom that Geoffrey Chaucer would not have understood. But great art transcends all national and global boundaries in its profound humanity, which is why it is deeply distrusted by tyrants everywhere, in every age, and why the Arts are their first targets when money is tight and the rich and privileged must be protected at all costs.

But art is politicised, and artists must engage with politics, because politics is life and failure to engage is a denial of the Zeitgeist. But that engagement must arise from the artist’s vision, and must not be distorted by being pressed into a politician’s view of Art. That way lies the art of the Third Reich, and that alliance of art and politics defines fascism.

But I must return to the mundane, indeed to the quotidian. Carpe Diem, and the diem that must be carpied is Sunday the twenty fourth of April 2011.

The news today is good, and a continuation of the good news that has built like a great, unstoppable (I hope!) wave over the last week or so. The Scotland on Sunday YouGov poll graphically illustrates the Gray Nightmare - a Holyrood seat projection of 61 for the SNP (+14), with Labour at at 42 (-4). With a Green projection of 8 (+6) that gives a potential SNP/Green coalition or working arrangement of 69 seat out of 129.

No room for complacency, however, because the unionist press are offering increasingly desperate advice to Labour about how they might recover some ground, advice which can be summarised as go negative, attack Alex Salmond and talk up the independence agenda.

(I’ll bypass The Sunday Herald for once, who are also in  the ‘rehabilitate Iain Gray’ mode. But one comment, on Tom Gordon’s piece, Glad to be Gray. His opening paragraph is -

Iain Gray is a paradox. His back-story is far more vivid than that of civil servant turned bank economist Alex Salmond, and more obviously dedicated to public service, yet it’s impossible to tell.

Leaving aside the blatant bias, any journalist with such an uncertain grasp of syntax really needs to take advantage of one of Iain Gray’s ‘pledges’, as listed to the right of the piece - a zero approach to illiteracy. Tom, one question on your second sentence - ‘impossible to tell’ what?)

I choose to focus on Kenny Farquarson’s piece, What Labour needs is some six appeal. Why Kenny Farquarson? Because, based on his previous output, and significantly on his Twitter contributions (@KennyFarq), I believe him to be committed to Scotland and the Scottish people, open to civilised debate, and generally a valuable and informed member of Scottish society. But he is a unionist, and employed by Scotland on Sunday, and neither of these things come without obligations.

So how does Kenny Farquarson address the now urgent priority of giving artificial respiration to Iain Gray’s campaign?

Well, his sub-header, Scots appear to be unimpressed with the SNP record on almost every policy area, appears to signal that it is not only the Labour Party that has retreated from an uncomfortable reality, because in the light of the polls, if that risible statement was accurate, Scottish voters have taken leave of their senses. But we’ll move swiftly on to the body of his article.

Kenny offers six ways for Labour to ‘defy all predictions and ‘win back the lost ground’.

1. Talk up independence.

By this, Kenny means frighten unionists who may vote for the SNP by reiterating the tired and entirely unsuccessful argument, trotted out and regularly demolished by Alex Salmond on almost every media channel, that the SNP is somehow marginalising the independence question. If anything demonstrates how remote the Scottish Unionist parties and their media supporters are from the mood of the electorate, it is this argument. In spite of being peddled by a range of media gandy dancers and railroad men for well over a year, the voters seem unmoved - or rather, moved towards the SNP rather than being put off by it.

If I may celebrate the Auld Alliance in a phrase, Kenny, the Scottish NATIONAL Party’s raison d'être is the independence of the Scottish nation by the free democratic choice of the people of Scotland, a choice that will be offered to them during the life of the next Scottish Parliament, the electorate and May the 5th permitting.

2. Don’t let up on the message that Scotland needs Labour now that the Tories are back in power at Westminster.

Labour voters swallowed that argument briefly after the general election, until they realised that -

a) there would have been no Tories in power if John Reid, Labour power-broker par excellence, hadn’t deliberately wrecked Gordon Brown’s attempt to form a rainbow coalition with the LibDems and the nationalist parties.

b) there would have been no Cuts necessary if Labour hadn’t wrecked the UK economy.

c) that Alex Salmond and the SNP had, week after week in Holyrood, warned of the impending ‘£500 million’ cut to the Scottish settlement by Alistair Darling, a fact airily denied and dismissed by Iain Gray when his party was in power at Westminster, and hastily re-discovered when they were thrown out.

c) that none of it would have happened if Scotland had been independent and/or in control of its own finances.

and

d) the financial crash would have passed Scotland by - as it has Norway - if the UK Government hadn’t stolen its oil revenues.

Scottish voters also realised, after Ed Miliband’s Labour Party Conference speech in Glasgow, that Miliband Minor wasn’t up here to fight the Scottish election, he was here to shamelessly use the puppet Scottish Labour Party and its puppet Leader to fight the next UK general election.

The Scottish electorate didnae come up the Clyde oan a bike, Kenny …

3) Go for the SNP’s record  in government.

Well, do so, by all means, Kenny - it is precisely their record in government that has inspired the confidence of a series of major Scottish business figures and the electorate.

4) It’s the economy, stupid …

Yes, it is, Kenny, and since Labour wrecked it, the ConLibs are looting the wreck, and the only hope Scots have is the SNP and Alex Salmond, the polls show that the electorate are not stupid, even if the unionist parties believe they are …

5) Wheel out Laura Norder

Wheel out is right, Kenny - in a broken pram on its way the the steamie, after Andy Kerr, Richard Baker and Iain Gray’s nonsensical statistics have been comprehensively rubbished by a series of unimpeachable organisations, including those they were misquoting. Laura Norder, a painted fraud who has little to do with justice, is the last refuge of scoundrels.

6) Finally, for goodness sake, do something about Iain Gray …

As Mae West once said, goodness has nothing to do with it. It would take a back-to-the future time machine to do something about Iain Gray, i.e. don’t elect him as Leader in the first place.

But then, what did the sea of mediocrity that is now the Scottish Labour Party have to offer? Iain Gray was thrown up, in every sense of the word, by a party bereft of values, ideals, vision and, above all, bereft of talent.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday, Sunday and the gentlemen of the Scottish press

Let’s start with a couple of laughs, because there’s not many to come …

The long-running lethal farce called ‘The Coalition’s War against Terror in Afghanistan’ descends even further into the absurd as a top Taliban honcho, Akhtar Mohammed Mansour meets President Karzai and top Nato commanders. This is it, the tipping point, when the tide will turn, the West will be vindicated, the light at the end of the long dark tunnel of death and futility shines brightly, and Western values and culture will at last prevail in this benighted land.

The secret negotiations take place, the Mullah is feted, and leaves carrying oodles of goodwill cash. The world will soon be safe for democracy, Nato/US style.

But there’s bad news for Barack Obama and David Cameron. The Mullah wasn’t the Mullah after all, but The Conman from Quetta (in Pakistan) – a grocer - and he has simply vanished with the cash. The real Taliban fall about laughing in their hideouts in the mountains, Karzai, safe amidst his own mountains of coalition cash, shrugs philosophically, and the American military commanders utter unprintable - and most unchristian - oaths as they reflect on their future career prospects.

The Sunday Herald’s Tom Gordon, scratching around for anti-SNP stories to fill the gaps left by the dearth of real journalism at the Herald and the Sunday Herald - twin house organs of the Labour Party in Scotland - lights on the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill and a ‘story’ about the sybaritic highlife enjoyed by Scotland’s prisoners, already lying on beds of down, attended by maidens bearing grapes, soothed by soft music as they revel in the luxuries of incarceration in Scotland’s jails.

They are going to get flat screen TVs with built-in DVD players. This is bad enough, but – shock, horror – the Freeview tuners will be able to access the many porn channels now available. Why does this matter? Why will it be a gift to Richard Baker, Labour’s justice spokesperson, starved of raw meat since the Megrahi release?

Delicacy inhibits me from being too explicit, especially on a Sunday morning – let me just say that, for those with a long memory, it has something to do with rhyming slang and a film maker from the heyday of British filmmaking – J. Arthur Rank. I look forward with keen anticipation to Richard Baker putting his little mouth in gear at precisely the same moment that he puts his brain in neutral on this most sensitive of subjects. Perhaps he will link his indignant assault with the dangers of prisoners going blind. I think we should be told …

Bill Aitken, MSP has predictably already sounded off on this weighty matter – there is never a shortage of Tory rent-a-mouths to comment on justice matters.

Of course, the cold facts of the matter are safely tucked away at the end of the article, remote from the rabble-rousing and misleading headline and opening nonsense, something that has now become the Herald’s signature style, seamlessly replacing the objective investigative political journalism that used to characterise one of the world’s oldest English language newspapers. When Labour and the Union are threatened, anything is admissible.

TVs have been the norm in Scottish prison cells since 1999: this is simply an upgrade from CRT sets to the new, cheap flat screens with built-in DVDs as a routine inclusion. But with that money, Labour and the Tories could have bought whips, birches, thumbscrews, pincers, tongs, perhaps even budget-priced racks! It’s an outrage!

FISCAL MATTERS

The strange ways of the Sunday Herald with hard news is demonstrated clearly today over fiscal matters – the tartan tax row and the Calman proposals – or what’s left of them.

Contrast the approach taken by Scotland on Sunday with the Sunday Herald -

SoS lead article today -

‘Retreat’ on new Scots tax powerstwo levies not included in next Scotland Bill

Eddie Barnes’ opening paragraph encapsulates what has happened -

Two tax powers that were destined to be handed to MSPs will not now appear in ground-breaking new laws designed to create a stronger Scottish Parliament.”

On page two, Barnes develops the theme under the sub-header Scotland Bill to leave out key Tax powers. The tax powers are “less ambitious than first proposed”. The SNP position and comments is fairly and objectively reported, with the Party claiming that the proposals fall far short of what is needed, that they are half-baked and damaging to the Scottish economy.

In other words, this  is Calman minus – a hollow and ominous echo of Tavish Scott’s vainglorious posturing about Calman Plus.

But in the Sunday Herald? Buried away at the bottom of page four, we have a small headline Bill to give Holyrood new income tax powers, and a couple of hundred words which grudgingly include the following, by Tom Gordon Scottish political editor.

The Scotland Bill will omit several Calman ideas. including devolving the aggregates levy, which could raise £50 million a year, and air passenger duty, which could raise £100m.”

Well, not a lot on this fundamental issue for Scotland, Tom, but then you had to save your energies for a full-blown attack on the SNP and John Swinney (backed up by a Leader article) – The Week it all went wrong on page 20. Here, our heroically objective political editor, in what is an opinion article in the guise of political analysis, devotes an entire page to a non-issue – the tartan tax – and the attempt at the political lynching of a decent man of high integrity that disgraced our Parliament last week.

Here are a few choice examples of Tom Gordon’s objective journalism and political analysis -

After what I can only describe as a faintly contemptible lead-in referring the John Swinney’s three-week old son, Gordon opens with -

Within 48 hours, he would be denounced and vilified, and within a week he would be forced into a grovelling apology at  Holyrood.”

You got it right about the denunciation and vilification, Tom – a sad hysteria that Patrick Harvie had the good grace to try to offset by  his genuine tribute to the Finance Minister, as he belatedly realised that he had become part of a political lynch mob. Describing John Swinney’s dignified and clear apology as ‘grovelling’ is a patent distortion of the facts, as anyone who watched and heard it knows. (I have the clip and I will post it on YouTube).

First Iain Gray, in probably his finest turn as Labour Leader, accused Swinney …”

If that was his finest turn, God preserve us from his worst performance.

In the last column, there is a long list of what the Sunday Herald sees as the sins of the SNP government, then this, from Tom Gordon -

Suddenly the gilt is peeling off the administration, and the opposition sees it.

‘This raise the whole issue of competence,’ sighed one senior SNP source. ‘It all came across as shabby. We’re supposed to have a team you can trust, but they were keeping people in the dark’ “

Ah, the ubiquitous ‘unnamed source’, Tom. What would your brand of political reporting be without it.

Well, two can play that game, Tom …

My unnamed source Holyrood Unionist opposition politician says “Even by our standards of desperately trying to marginalise the government elected by the Scottish people, regardless of their real needs, this was a new low in gutter politics – an attempt at the political assassination of a good man with the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people at his heart.



CALMAN

Let’s look back in time for a moment and remind ourselves just what the Calman Commission was. Here’s what I said way back in the summer of 2009 -

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Playing Unionist politics with Calman

The Calman Commission, an invention of the Unionist Opposition Parties in Holyrood, specifically set up to strengthen the Union and frustrate the progress of the Scottish People towards full independence, has made its report.

Anyone who doubted the thrust of the Calman Report only had to look at who commissioned it (the Unionist Opposition Parties) and the composition of the Commission itself.

Its fifteen members included -

Two Knights

Five Lords

One MBE

Three CBEs

One OBE

The three non-ennobled, knighted or gonged members included -

A youth activist and former member of the Scottish Youth Parliament

A professor of Islamic studies from Glasgow University

The Chief Executive of the Telegraph Media Group

 

CONSULANTS

I do go on a bit about the monumental waste of scarce taxpayers’ money by government on consultants. Well, I made my living for about twelve years as a freelance management consultant and trainer, and before that, as a senior manager and director, negotiated with consultants, so I’ve seen the game from both sides of the table.

But nobody in government seems to want to listen. I wonder why …

Today, the trams project is in trouble over consultants, and TIE says that they underestimated their consulting budget spending by a factor of 25 times. Yes, well …

Here’s a little fact to chew over -

The average industrial wage is somewhere around £21k, and that is also the watershed at which the pay freeze for public sector workers commences. Let’s allow a little licence and call it about £400 a week.

About the lowest day rate a consultant will charge these days is £500 a dayyes, a day … This would be the low end of individual freelance consulting rates, with £750 probably being more typical, and £1200/1500 quite common. But charge-out rates for the large consulting firms can easily be double these figures or even more, with £1000 a day being very much the low end.

Reflect on this. The bottom end trainers and consultants earn in a day one and a quarter times the average industrial wage. So their weekly earnings are six and a quarter times those public service workers who by current wage restraint figure highly enough paid to have their earning frozen, with no increases – in the national interest. And that’s the bottom end of consulting rates.

But the big consulting firms charge from twice to four or five times that as day rates, giving a multiplier on the £21k public service worker of twelve and a half to twenty five times their earnings.

Consultants and consulting firms can – and will – legitimately argue that they have overheads – office, pensions, holiday, other costs and benefits – and that not every day is a fee earning day. This is true, but it is grossly overstated. A generous allowance to cover all employee benefits would be 20/25% for an individual freelance consultant.  There is cold calling and marketing when no fee is being earned, and this does bear on the freelance. But they do very nicely, thank you, in spite of it all …

A net working, fee earning year of about 150 delivery days (as against say, a working year of  about 230 days for an employed person) would deliver £75,000 gross. Not bad for many of those at that end of the market, given their experience, qualifications and skills base. Most freelances would gross from £100k to £150k per annum , some much more, especially if they can get long periods of continuous fee-earning days from large public service organisations.

As for the big boys – well, the holy grail for them is to bill more fee days per consultant than there actually are in the working year – a holy grail that is regularly found, but rarely acknowledged. And many of them do not in fact maintain large numbers of salaried consultants on the payroll – they sub-contract out to freelances, but charge the client often as much as three times the day rate being paid to the freelance. (I myself have worked for many large organisations on exactly this basis.)

It’s called the fee law of thirds – the day rate paid by the client represents something like three times the rate they would have to pay to hire someone with equivalent qualifications and skills to do the job in-house, including all overheads.

What am I arguing for? Not for stopping the use of consultants – there are many ethical, competent and capable consultants and consulting firms, delivering value and charging reasonable fees. But there is also gross incompetence in resourcing consultants, in the failure to use competitive tendering, in the negotiation of fee and in the management of consulting contracts and delivery. If private industry is guilty of this, hell mend them – they should know better. But when government does it, it’s our money – our taxes – and it has to stop.

There are other malpractices in the use of consultants, some of them bordering on corruption – the use of consulting contracts as political patronage, of cronyism, of revolving doors, of jobs for the favoured boys – and girls.

But they are a matter for the National Audit Office and where appropriate for the polis!