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Showing posts with label Tom Harris MP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tom Harris MP. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Last chance saloon for Scottish Labour leadership candidates–Newsnicht

Here they are for the last throw of the die - those who would lead Scottish Labour. A policy and ideas vacuum.

But of the three, it is clear that Ken Macintosh, on this showing, is the most intellectually able and articulate. If only he had something to say ...

Johann Lamont repeats her mantra of "better life chances for children". Who does she think was in power in Scotland for 50 years or so before 1997. Who was in power in the UK for 13 of the last fourteen years? Why, Labour of course! Who then destroyed their life chances in the first place?

Nobody asked that question, although a couple of questioners came close. Not even the redoubtable Raymond Buchanan, who was otherwise excellent and incisive, asked it.



Sunday, 30 October 2011

Scottish Labour leadership candidates–The Politics Show

There they are, ducks in a row – Johann Lamont MSP, Ken Macintosh MSP and Tom Harris MP.

What do they stand for? Well, they're all for fairness and equality - aren't we all - but they're against the independence of the country they want to represent, Scotland.

And by definition, they're

in favour of retaining nuclear weapons and WMDs in Scottish waters

against Scotland having an independent voice in the EU

against Scotland having a seat at the UN

against Scotland having its own foreign policy and its own defence forces

against Scotland having the right to decide when its servicemen and women are sent to die in foreign wars.

Do we really need to know more than this?


Sunday, 25 September 2011

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

McAveety is held off Labour list amid probe (Herald)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 September 2011

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, 8 September 2011

Scotland’s unsung growth industry–What Labour Must Do journalism. And some faces of Labour …

It seems unfair, among all the congratulation being heaped upon the Scottish food and drink industry today for their superb performance and growing international reputation, not to mention another small, but significant growth area – What Labour Must Do journalism. Two prime exponents of this new literary genre are John McTernan and Michael Kelly, with their principal market being The Scotsman.

Critics sometimes call attention to the repetitive similarities in the product range, and its lack of intellectual content, but this is mere carping in the face of the apparently insatiable appetite of the editor of The Scotsman and other newspapers for this traditional product. The spin offs, including television and radio punditry, are substantial.

The brand image is based almost wholly on the minor celebrity status of the two principal suppliers some years ago, when they were close to centres of power. The brand appears under various product identities, which are essentially variations of the core brand What Labour Must Do. Two examples, one yesterday and one today exemplify these variations - Scottish Labour needs to show a desire for change - John McTernan and Labour must take a breath - Michael Kelly, both in The Scotsman.

It is heartening and inspiring, that from the sad decline of a major political party into a confused, values-free, significantly corrupt, shambolic entity with no sense of direction or purpose, at least two entrepreneurs have managed to find a way to turn the situation to advantage, in the true, honourable journalistic tradition of exploiting the misfortune of politicians, a kind of schadenpolitik, if I may offer a German/Russian hybrid.

Michael Kelly’s  article today says essentially – calm down, dears – no rush on the independence debate or a new leader, just stagger on under Iain Gray.  Tom Harris is lauded for his ‘bravery’. But Kelly accurately characterises the refusal of Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander to get involved as fear of Alex Salmond and fear of damaging their Westminster careers. (As someone once said, that kind of Scotsman would do almost anything rather than damage his career. ) And he also says, without any sense of irony as a unionist, that UK Labour politicians see the Scottish Parliament as the second division, and want to play with the big boys on a world stage. Again, true to the form of this genre of political article, there is not a word about values, objectives, principles or policies – it’s all about political structure and tactics. Labour is now a mindless, power-seeking machine, and Scottish Labour is just a wee rusty cog in that blind juggernaut.

I made some reference to the John McTernan article yesterday, but let’s take a longer look -

J.McT contrasts Murdo Fraser’s boldness, characterised as a ‘nuclear option’ – an appropriate allusion from one WMD party to another – with the ‘resounding silence’ from Labour that followed the Tom Harris call for radical change. McTernan makes the trenchant point that every Scottish Leader, from Dewar through to Iain Gray, managed to become leader 'without having to define themselves intellectually or politically’. He goes on to pick Johann Lamont as his favourite, but asks what she believes in.

McTernan, a Blairite, has the chutzpah to quote Joe Hill, the legendary American Labour organiser. John, I have to say that Joe Hill would retch at the sight of the thing the Labour Party became under Blair, Brown, Mandelson and Campbell.

Nevertheless, John McTernan is right to ask what Scottish Labour and their bosses, UK Labour, believe in? But he offers no answer, because there isn’t one. Where belief, vision, values, integrity and a burning concern for justice and equity once existed, there is now an empty echoing hall, haunted by the ghosts of those destroyed by New Labour and Blair.



Scottish white hope Tom Harris MP features in the i today – cover story MPs pay family members £3m a year – as one of the top group who pay family members more that £40,000 a year. Tom Harris employs his wife as office manager.

Sir Stuart Bell, MP for Middlesbrough claims £82,896 in staffing cost, his constituents complain he is impossible to contact, he has not held a constituency surgery in the town for 14 years, and has no office in the town. He conducts such business as he does from his home outside the town. He pays his wife £35,000 a year as office manager.

Margaret Moran MP will appear before magistrates on the 19th of September facing 21 charges relating to her parliamentary claims for expenses.  Five charges allege forgery, a very serious offence at law.

Ah, The People’s Party – fearless crusaders for justice and equity for the common people, doughty fighters for the poor.