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Showing posts with label Alistair Darling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alistair Darling. Show all posts

Friday, 8 August 2014

Curran’s Core Concepts on Currency!

This is my perspective as a Scottish voter, neither currency expert, economist, politician nor banker, but very definitely a nationalist, a left-winger and a professional negotiator. Read it in that context, please!

THE CURRENCY QUESTION
THE RATIONALE FOR A NEW CHOICE

PRESENT STATUS
Pre-negotiation phase, forty days and forty night to go. Scottish Government’s position based on Fiscal Commission reports (and TWO) and White Paper, Scotland’s Future.

Fiscal Commission identified four main options -

MONETARY UNION with rUK – STERLING

MONETARY UNION with EU – EURO

NEW SCOTTISH CURRENCY - Fixed exchange rate

NEW SCOTTISH CURRENCY - Floating exchange rate

(N.B. The New Scottish Currency options includes either using sterling (‘the pound’) as the new currency or designating a new Scottish unit of currency (e.g. ‘the groat’)

The currency option can be presented alternatively as -

Monetary union with rUK – the pound

Monetary union with EU – the euro

New Scottish currency, floating or fixed – the groat

Continuing to use the pound, floating or fixed – the pound on sterlingisation)

The recommendation of the Commission was -

MONETARY UNION with rUK - STERLING

The Scottish Government declared this to be its choice of currency arrangement and announced its intention to negotiate the terms of monetary union with rUK after a YES vote.

The UK Government has declared this option to be totally unacceptable, in a variety of forums and statements from the PM, the Chancellor, senior advisers and Better Together leaders.

PERSPECTIVES
This UK position can be viewed by the Scottish Government from two main perspectives, and response options developed accordingly.

Perspective One
It is not an outright rejection, but a referendum campaign tactic to influence the Scottish electorate into voting No (the UK’s primary objective in the pre-negotiation phase)

If this fails as a referendum tactic and there is a YES vote, the tactic is converted to an anchoring statement aimed at enhancing UK negotiating team’s response to the Scottish Government’s opener of a currency union.

Perspective Two
The UK Government really means it: they will not - under any circumstances - accept a currency/monetary union with an independent Scotland.


PRE-NEGOTIATION PHASE:

THE CURRENCY QUESTION: THE RATIONALE FOR A NEW CHOICE

RESPONSE OPTIONS
On both Perspectives One and Two, the same three responses are available -

Hold currency union position till the referendum

or

Adopt a new  plan of Scottish currency/sterlingisation and withdraw plan to negotiate a currency union

or

Adopt a new plan of Scottish currency/sterlingisation but reiterate continued willingness to negotiate a currency union

TENTATIVE EVALUATION

Move to  Scottish currency under sterlingisation plan – withdraw plan to negotiate a currency union

POSITIVES
Immediate media brief, maximum publicity, most supporters happy, many non-SNP YES people much happier. Electorate in the main probably relieved and supportive.

Scottish currency perceived as greater independence, more Scottish control.

Control shifts to SNP Government (no longer dependent on negotiation - anticipates control after YES vote and independence)

Opposition on backfoot, panicked, reactive. Immediate plans activated to prepare for Scottish currency, civil service briefed, etc.
 
NEGATIVES
Presented as a retreat by UK, ‘fallback to Plan B’, cave-in under pressure, etc.

New attack on alleged negatives of Scottish currency option - expert negative arguments (e.g. Carney) mined for negative critical analysis

Share of national debt occupies centre stage, claims of  reneging, defaulting, etc. 

Spotlight on the new institutions and regulatory framework cited as potential weakness.

Pegging to sterling categorised as powerlessness, dependency.

TENTATIVE EVALUATION

Adopt a Scottish currency-sterlingisation plan but reiterate continued willingness to negotiate a currency union

POSITIVES
As under previous option, but with advantage of being seen still open to preferred option, flexible, displaying concern for rUK interests and relationship.

Even if UK cautiously enters currency union negotiations, powerful Scottish fallback already in place.

NEGATIVES
Potential of frustrating expectancies of YES supporters and non-SNP parties already on board for Scottish currency.

Danger of pressures building to force Scottish Government to abandon negotiation on currency union. Uncertainty for those contracted to new Scottish currency institutions.

SOME PREVIOUS BLOGS

17th February 2014

30th March 2014

16th November 2013

30th April 2013

You will also find an abundance of video clips on the currency argument, from every conceivable perspective, on my YouTube Channel – simply enter search term ‘currency’ in box

 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Labour and Iraq

Extract from my 2013 blog –

Blair, Brown and Mandelson created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history.

Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably.

And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

And now, in 2014?

We have the key figures in the Blair Government that led us to war – Gordon Brown, John Reid,  Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy, et al leading the war against Scotland’s independence.

Iraq has exploded into chaos and near-collapse of the Iraq‘democracy’ set up by the United States and the United Kingdom

What of the report of the Chilcot Enquiry? Delay in publication, talk of redaction of major conclusions and fact.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

David Cameron panics, wraps the Union Jack around him – and Alistair’s naebodies Darling …

Scottish Labour's partner and pal in Better Together, David Cameron, terrified by the polls, by today's Spectator article, and by the prospect of debating with Alex Salmond, clutches at the straw of the 2012 Olympics, Team GB and Britishness, and plans to wrap himself in the Union Jack. It may prove to be his political shroud.

"Oh, Danny Boyle! Help me with another spectacular! Can we have Alistair Carmichael in a kilt parachuting on to Lord's Cricket Ground, singing Rule Brittannia? A couple of Royals? Maybe another baby? Are there muffins still for tea?"

The other Alistair is now nobodies Darling. Derided by his own side, a joke to YES campaigners, he seems set for the dustbin of history. Maybe Johann "wee things" Lamont can help, if she can escape the mud flying from the Unite/Falkirk debacle?

May you live in interesting Scottish times, Dave - Eton was never like this...

And a couple of golden oldie flag-wrapping disasters!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A YouTube comment on my channel from an anonymous ‘Gordon’, attacking Wings and Newsnet Scotland

I received this as a pre-moderation email on my YouTube channel for a video in response to a comment by Geoff Huijer who is not anonymous. I thought it warranted being posted on my blog for a wider audience.

It suggest a Better Together spinner, and a No campaign that’s getting very worried by the success of YES online, especially the fine job being done by Wings over Scotland and Newsnet Scotland. The idea that the prompted any-indy outpourings of the Treasury somehow have intrinsic validity and objectivity is laughable.

YouTube comment

Gordon

+Geoff Huijer You write that as if it's somehow an open and shut case that independence would make us better off economically.
The McCrone report was written in 1974 and has no relevance at all to economic predictions about what independence would achieve in 2014, particularly as UK oil production peaked about 15 years ago. Two of the other sources you've listed here are essentially mouthpieces for the Yes campaign: Wings Over Scotland, a blog run by someone who made his name writing about computer games on the Sinclair Spectrum, and Newsnet Scotland, a hopelessly biased pressure group masquerading as a neutral attempt to inform the public. Neither of these sites have any economic standing and you could just as easily point at organisations that do have genuine economic credentials, such as the recent reports by the Treasury, or the report by the IFS which stated the exact opposite (that we'd be worse off after independence) - and I'm fully aware you'll no doubt find these biased as well, but they're at least in the ballpark of being neutral assessments. To compare them with a random blog set up by a video games journalist is pretty nonsensical.
The truth about the economic case is that nobody really knows whether we'd be better off or not. The Yes side seem to think that you can win that argument by just pointing at tax revenues relative to expenditure and claiming we'd have more money to spend as an independent country. That's flawed for several reasons:
1. It ignores transition costs, which can effectively write off any gains from independence for decades. Even if independence was in our long term economic interest, a short 3 year period where we have to eat transition costs could push those gains back by as much as 30 years. That's been demonstrated conclusively by academics like Robert Young (who has nothing to do with the independence campaign and wrote the bulk of his research long before a referendum was even on the agenda) yet nobody sees fit to mention it.
2. It ignores the benefits of pooling resources and makes the baseless assumption that secession is a zero sum game where one side necessarily benefits more than the other. No economist of any standing would accept that.
3. It ignores issues such as the rate of interest we'd pay on our debt, given it's fairly reasonable to expect a country with a smaller backstop to guarantee its debt will have to pay a higher rate of interest on its government bonds (and if we don't have the Bank of England acting as lender of last resort in a currency union then that would be exacerbated even further).
4. It ignores issues such as pensions, where on current trends we'd be expected to pay more due to our population ageing faster.
We could list countless other examples, but the key point is that you can't simply point at taxation revenue relative to public spending, ignore every other relevant factor, and claim that there's a clear economic case for independence.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Cybernats – Eat your heart out!

I feel that cybernats are having their undeserved reputation for bad behaviour seriously challenged of late. Here are some of my favourites from my pre-moderation inbox of YouTube comments. PvPGodz Uk is my current favourite.  I really feel his (her?) formidably elegant powers of articulation of the Project Fear core arguments deserve a wider audience, and I commend them to Alistair Darling and Alistair Carmichael.

(Sadly, YouTube has been classifying them as spam of late, and despite their tickable boxes, I have no way of either deleting them or showcasing them to a wider public – except this.)

PvPGodz Uk

Why shouldn't we vote for independance? We are that busy thinking about we're gonna be the greatest nation in the Universe, but we are really gonna be bankrupt, we get food imported from other countrys, and some include the EU countrys we're getting the food from! We're getting threatened that if we go independant we won't be in the EU anymore, and where we gonna get half our food, eventually we'll run out and we'll be full of poverty! And if we get the 'Stirling Pound' tooken from us what we going to use, and to make factorys to produce money in scotland, or make another currency, it'll cost money to do that! Alex Salmon has no idea what we are gonna get ourselfs into, I'd borde the first train to England if they take the money! The Queen's brining in lots of money to 'Britain', and it won't be shared amoung us if we go independant, and we rely on the money we get from the Queen brining in money from tourists, and England will have the money, the currency, you name it! And we'll have nothing! 
NO TO INDEPENDANCE!

Michael Cawood

Dear Salmond, first you need to learn to run a piss-up at a brewery

Debra smith

If Scotland go independent, that means they are not British anymore, ergo they can't have our bloody currency!!! Let em have the euro and see how that works for em.
Vote for independence Scotland please, then you might stop your bitching about England , and how mean we are to you.

karezza777

How to be Scottish: 1. Eat deep fried Mars Bars. 2. Wear a skirt 3. Hunt Haggis 4. Believe in the Loch Ness Monster 5. Blame everything on England 6. Speak unintelligibly 7. Enjoy bagpipe noise 8. Say "Och aye the noo" 9. Drink nothing but whisky 10. Enjoy dreek weather

amicusalba

This is a shit video that tries to propagate the Nationalist Separatist agenda by Kim Il Salmond. Posted by an idiot for an idiot. Only 30% of Scots support this tit.

Adi B

A big part of Scotland economy is Edinburgh which is big financial city and most of the large private sector employers are financial businesses but when Scotland get independence forget AAA rating they will be a new small economy so will be counted as high risk so their rating will not be good. This will badly effect Edinburgh as financial business rely a lot on good rating like AAA but after independent most likely lot of the financial businesses will move their headquarters out of Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Who ****** the UK economy 2007-2008?

CRASH CHRONOLOGY and GOVERNMENT CULPABILITY

Labour in UK Government 1997-2010.
Gordon Brown: Chancellor 1997-2007, PM 2007-2010
Alistair Darling: Chancellor 2007-2010
Labour/LibDem coalition in Holyrood 1999-May 2007.

SNP minority government under Alex Salmond: May 2007-2011

Northern Rock crisis and run on the banks -  Sept 2007 (SNP, Alex Salmond in minority devolved government for less than four months.)

RBS and economic meltdown 2008

Which party, which PMs, which Chancellors of the Exchequer, which politicians do you think ****** the British economy?

And a blog of mine from 2012 on the ineffable Alistair Darling, champion of all things British and enemy of Scotland independence - DON'T TRY TO REWRITE HISTORY, ALISTAIR!

The Herald carries a page two article today Darling lays into Salmond over his RBS judgment, and a featured interview with Anne Simpson and Darling on page 12. To say that Anne Simpson’s introduction to her piece is a little partial is probably to understate the case.

“ … Alistair Darling is not someone given to social affectations. Candour not coyness defines him. Yet why is this proud Scot, former chancellor of the Exchequer and committed fiscal Unionist so reluctant to spearhead a campaign against the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?

“So far Alex Salmond has steered the independence argument exactly to his liking. Meanwhile those who disagree with the First Minister’s plan for radical amputation are without a central figure whose gravitas could pull together a robust opposition.”

"... the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?"

What, Anne – no approving words on the First Minister’s candour, no plaudits for him as a proud Scot? No recognition that in every word, every policy statement, every media interview, the First Minister makes it clear that his vision for independence and a social union with the rest of the UK after independence is the very reverse of a ‘radical amputation’?

Well, moving on, let’s take a look at ‘candour not coyness’ Darling on ABN Amro -

In 2007 ABN Amro was acquired, in what was at that time the biggest bank takeover in history, by a consortium made up of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Fortis bank and Banco Santander. Here’s what Alistair Darling said in his memoirs about what happened at the end of 2007, just before 2008, the year when the world’s banking system fell apart.

Extract from memoirs - "time to start worrying"

On a Saturday morning, just before Christmas 2007, I answered the door at my home in Edinburgh. There on the doorstep was Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of RBS, holding a gift-wrapped panettone.

Although it would mean not having my private secretary with me, I felt entirely relaxed about seeing him alone, at home. I was also intrigued. I had seen other CEOs of the banks alone in the past – none of this was abnormal – but I knew that his asking to see me in private could only mean that he was worried about something.

I had a great deal of sympathy with what Fred Goodwin was saying, but I asked the question: why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern? His answer was that they felt RBS didn't have sufficient capital. I asked whether he was comfortable that RBS did have sufficient capital, and his response was that he felt that it did. And yet I was worried. It occurred to me that Sir Fred had not come just as a shop steward for his colleagues. He would not admit it, but I sensed that RBS, which until that time had seemed invincible, its directors and senior staff exuding confidence verging on arrogance, was in more trouble than we had thought.

Does this sound like a new Chancellor who had anticipated anything bad in relation to RBS? His pal Fred Goodwin, the CEO of RBS. “which until that time had seemed invincible had just popped in with a panettone. He asks Fred the Shred “why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern?” Suddenly, the presence of neighbour Fred and his gift-wrapped panettone worries him.

This is the man who criticises Alex Salmond for supporting the ABN Amro deal. One might reasonably assume that Alistair Darling had a helluva lot more information about the ABN Amro deal and his pal Fred than Alex Salmond did, but in December 2007, the end of the year in which the deal was concluded. just before the world fell apart in 2008, he gets belatedly worried about Fred, RBS and his gift-wrapped panettone?

As the SNP commented after Darling ‘criticisms’ -

This is a laughable attempt to rewrite history by Alistair Darling. He was the Chancellor responsible for banking regulation and its failure at the critical time, and he was the Chancellor responsible for the signing off of the ABN Amro deal.

“Labour gave Fred Goodwin his knighthood, and Mr. Darling’s contacts with Fred Goodwin were far more extensive than the First Minister’s. Fred Goodwin was an adviser to Alistair Darling as chancellor, and was still a member of a key Treasury body advising Labour months after the banking crisis and quitting RBS.”

Here is ‘proud Scot’, ‘candour not coyness’ Darling talking to Isabel Fraser very recently. Judge for your self - Alistair Darling -- naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?

As for Darling’s defining quote, the one used to headline the Anne Simpson interview -

Separation means that once you go, you go. You can’t come back.”

Leaving aside the banality of the statement, it is undoubtedly true – and none of the countries who ‘separated’, or rather secured their independence from Britain over the centuries have ever shown the least signs of wanting to come back …

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The YES Campaign, Newsnight and Emily Maitlis

Yesterday’s television news coverage of the YES Campaign launch in Edinburgh was - to me - reasonable in scope, coverage and comment. From the brief morning coverage on the BBC News Channel, eclipsed by the Leveson Enquiry, through the lunchtime and evening news bulletins, both on BBC and STV, there was effective and balanced reporting.

Since it was Friday, there was no Newsnight Scotland, and I did wonder if Newsnight would cover it at all. But they did, and in thirteen and a half minutes, managed to confirm the deep suspicions of the legion of SNP BBC bashers that the BBC is institutionally and consciously biased against Scotland independence movement. I do not share that view, but this programme betrayed at the very least very poor editorial judgement, and at worse, a distinct anti-independence bias by the presenter, Emily Maitlis – or by whoever structured and scripted her approach.

She set the tone of the report in her opening remarks.

Sunlight and blue skies is about the best advert the nationalists could have hoped for today as they linked arms, fixed grins and launched their campaign for independence. But the Scottish Government doesn’t want to hold the referendum until 2014. And two years is a long time to hold a smile.”

The Allegra Stratton report that followed the cue, opening with a display of union jacks, plangent music and “It’s often called the most successful union the world has ever seen …”

It is indeed often called that, mainly recently, and almost exclusively by strident unionist propagandists. Not that that the rigorously impartial BBC would ever call for such a person to script Allegra’s lines, but as the intro went on, I had to fight down that ignoble suspicion. The First Minister’s opening remarks were briefly shown, then a quick segue to the Save the Union Campaign’s YouGov opinion poll. Allegra noted that the Save the Union Campaign were not yet up and running, but she and Emily were clearly going to remedy that by doing their job for them – all in the interests of balance, you understand.

So they ran their poll slides for them (note the base – source: YouGov pro-union campaigners). Do we really need the  Save the Union Campaign when we have the BBC, Allegra and Emily? Such a question would be churlish, and as a defender of the BBC, I would not dream of raising it. More slides, with a voice-over clip of Nicola Sturgeon on the currency and the decision to keep sterling.

Another Union Jack, shots of Westminster and more criticism of a monetary union, with a lot of “some say that” negative comments, then Professor Jim Gallagher is trotted out with much doom-saying about monetary union during the split up of Czechoslovakia. What Professor Gallagher’s position on independence is unknown to me, but I feel one might get a clue from the posts he has held (see Wiki link above).

Another clip from Lewis Goodall of the Institute for Public Policy Research on corporation tax. Allegra then re-enters in voice-over, with the faintly astonished comment that “The SNP have their own facts and figures.

It should be noted at this point that the YES Campaign launch was not – and was never intended to be – an unveiling of policies and arguments: it is the beginning of a two and a half year campaign where arguments for independence, already well-ventilated, will be fully fleshed out and presented to the electorate, and those arguments will come not only from the SNP but from a wide range of political views and organisations committed to Scotland’s independence.

However, instead of covering it as such, the BBC – or at least Newsnight - has clearly decided fill the gap created by the confusion and tardiness of the Save the Union Campaign by attacking policies before the debate has even begun. This was the whole thrust of the programme.

Allegra Stratton is clearly baffled as to why the Union is not being saved and what the hell is holding them back. She has been provided with an answer by the Labour Party, which she duly delivers. Alex Salmond is due to testify before the Leveson Enquiry in June. Great revelations will then occur which will create feelings of revulsion among the Scottish electorate over Salmond’s relationship with the Antichrist himself, Rupert Murdoch. This, of course, according to Allegra’s Labour script was what caused the SNP to “do badly in the local elections”.  The fact that there is not a shred of evidence for this Ladybird Book of Scottish Politics nonsense reveals the shallowness of the London BBC’s understanding of Scottish affairs and Scotland, which only periodically intrude into their metropolitan consciousness.

What it reveals about the Save the Union Campaign is that it will be Labour-dominated, locked in Labour’s old and failed smear-and-innuendo and incident-obsessed opposition politics (e.g. Megrahi) that have served them so ill in Scotland. Far from taking heart from this, it should worry nationalists deeply, because it will debase and degrade the great debate that must take place in Scotland.

Allegra Stratton’s report closes as it began, with a forest of Union Jacks and a saltire lurking in the bottom corner. But the worst was yet to come from Emily Maitlis

Emily acts as an essentially passive feed and prompter for Alistair Darling – on the poll, on the currency, on devo max and on the referendum timing - allowing him to preview his Save the Union Campaign arguments, such as they are, ahead of the June launch.

Then to Stewart Hosie MP, the SNP Treasury spokesman who is subjected to a very different agenda and style of questioning. Emily Maitlis puts Alistair Darling’s allegation that the Scottish people were being asked “to take unqualified (sic) risks at the most uncertain economic time”.

Stewart Hosie patiently explains the role of the Bank of England as the central bank, both for rUK and an independent Scotland, and makes the vital distinction between fiscal policy and monetary policy. But this doesn’t wash with Emily, who gets animated over the question in a way noticeably absent from her passivity with the admittedly soporific personality of “the former Chancellor”.

Emily gets excited over the European example and “ … it might not be a great idea to try and shoehorn two economies into one currency!” To her chagrin, Stewart agrees with her. She interrupts in a panic – “But you don’t know what would happen – you wouldn’t be able to make those decision independently.”

Emily returns to the poll – the Save the Union Campaign sponsored poll – and, voice and expression loaded with scepticism, says “Doesn’t it tell us a lot about your campaign that it’s [the referendum] not even on the table for two years?

As Stewart Hosie, a man of considerable dignity, intellect and restraint, comments on polls in general and “strange, skewed questions” in this one,  Emily Maitlis interrupts him -

The truth is if somebody offered you devo max, whatever that constitutes – a bit more power – the SNP would be pretty happy with that, wouldn’t they?”

Stewart Hosie:The SNP stands for independence, the SNP is campaigning for independence, and the campaign was launched today, Emily.”.


Monday, 12 March 2012

Zip your lip, Darling! Don’t try to rewrite history …

The Herald carries a page two article today Darling lays into Salmond over his RBS judgment, and a featured interview with Anne Simpson and Darling on page 12. To say that Anne Simpson’s introduction to her piece is a little partial is probably to understate the case.

“ … Alistair Darling is not someone given to social affectations. Candour not coyness defines him. Yet why is this proud Scot, former chancellor of the Exchequer and committed fiscal Unionist so reluctant to spearhead a campaign against the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?

“So far Alex Salmond has steered the independence argument exactly to his liking. Meanwhile those who disagree with the First Minister’s plan for radical amputation are without a central figure whose gravitas could pull together a robust opposition.”

"... the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?"

What, Anne – no approving words on the First Minister’s candour, no plaudits for him as a proud Scot? No recognition that in every word, every policy statement, every media interview, the First Minister makes it clear that his vision for independence and a social union with the rest of the UK after independence is the very reverse of a ‘radical amputation’?

Well, moving on, let’s take a look at ‘candour not coyness’ Darling on ABN Amro -

In 2007 ABN Amro was acquired, in what was at that time the biggest bank takeover in history, by a consortium made up of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Fortis bank and Banco Santander. Here’s what Alistair Darling said in his memoirs about what happened at the end of 2007, just before 2008, the year when the world’s banking system fell apart.

Extract from memoirs - "time to start worrying"

On a Saturday morning, just before Christmas 2007, I answered the door at my home in Edinburgh. There on the doorstep was Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of RBS, holding a gift-wrapped panettone.

Although it would mean not having my private secretary with me, I felt entirely relaxed about seeing him alone, at home. I was also intrigued. I had seen other CEOs of the banks alone in the past – none of this was abnormal – but I knew that his asking to see me in private could only mean that he was worried about something.

I had a great deal of sympathy with what Fred Goodwin was saying, but I asked the question: why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern? His answer was that they felt RBS didn't have sufficient capital. I asked whether he was comfortable that RBS did have sufficient capital, and his response was that he felt that it did. And yet I was worried. It occurred to me that Sir Fred had not come just as a shop steward for his colleagues. He would not admit it, but I sensed that RBS, which until that time had seemed invincible, its directors and senior staff exuding confidence verging on arrogance, was in more trouble than we had thought.

Does this sound like a new Chancellor who had anticipated anything bad in relation to RBS? His pal Fred Goodwin, the CEO of RBS. “which until that time had seemed invincible had just popped in with a panettone. He asks Fred the Shred “why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern?” Suddenly, the presence of neighbour Fred and his gift-wrapped panettone worries him.

This is the man who criticises Alex Salmond for supporting the ABN Amro deal. One might reasonably assume that Alistair Darling had a helluva lot more information about the ABN Amro deal and his pal Fred than Alex Salmond did, but in December 2007, the end of the year in which the deal was concluded. just before the world fell apart in 2008, he gets belatedly worried about Fred, RBS and his gift-wrapped panettone?

As the SNP commented after Darling ‘criticisms’ -

This is a laughable attempt to rewrite history by Alistair Darling. He was the Chancellor responsible for banking regulation and its failure at the critical time, and he was the Chancellor responsible for the signing off of the ABN Amro deal.

“Labour gave Fred Goodwin his knighthood, and Mr. Darling’s contacts with Fred Goodwin were far more extensive than the First Minister’s. Fred Goodwin was an adviser to Alistair Darling as chancellor, and was still a member of a key Treasury body advising Labour months after the banking crisis and quitting RBS.”

Here is ‘proud Scot’, ‘candour not coyness’ Darling talking to Isabel Fraser very recently. Judge for your self - Alistair Darling -- naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?

As for Darling’s defining quote, the one used to headline the Anne Simpson interview -

Separation means that once you go, you go. You can’t come back.”

Leaving aside the banality of the statement, it is undoubtedly true – and none of the countries who ‘separated’, or rather secured their independence from Britain over the centuries have ever shown the least signs of wanting to come back …

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Alistair Darling – naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?

Alistair Darling has been an MP for 25 years. He served in the Labour Cabinet continuously from 1997 to 2010, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer for three years. Among the other post he has held are Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Sec. of State for Work and Pensions, Sec. of State for Transport, Sec. of State for Scotland and Sec. of State for Trade and Industry.

He is widely touted to lead the Campaign to Stop Scotland Becoming Independent, although he would prefer to call it Keep Scotland in Britain. (Since Britain has been an island for between 180,000 to 450,000 years, short of a drainage and infill plan for the English Channel, Scotland will remain part of Britain.) The campaign is, of course the campaign, to Keep Scotland in the UK, a political, not a geographical entity.

Given Darling’s curriculum vitae, one would expect him to be in command of his brief for an appearance on the Sunday Politics Scotland, a hugely influential news programme at this critical juncture in UK politics, not to mention European politics. Additionally, he was facing the programme anchor, Isabel Fraser, perhaps the most formidably effective political interviewer Scotland has produced, with a trained legal mind and forensic interviewing skills.

Watching his performance yesterday with increasing incredulity, I concluded that there were only three possible explanations for his lamentable performance -

1. He was politically naive. I think this can be safely rejected, except perhaps in the arcane area of negotiation, which politicians, unless they have a diplomatic background, are usually inept.

2. He was disingenuous. This seems the most likely partial explanation, namely, that he had been given (by who?) a brief to block questions about just what the hell David Cameron, his boss in the Campaign to Stop Scotland Becoming Independent - disorientated, full of Quaker Oats and full of emotional **** – meant when he delivered his jam-tomorrow ultimatum to the Scottish electorate – Vote No to your country’s independence and we might just give you some unspecified additional powers.

3. He was woefully unprepared. Whatever his state of mind or brief (1 and 2 above), Darling was undoubtedly woefully unprepared for the interview, both in factual terms, in strategic and tactical terms and above all in behavioural terms. (Half an hour with a bog-standard presentational skills consultant before the interview would have mitigated the disastrous consequences.)

THE INTERVIEW

Alistair Darling opened with what became his broken record theme, one that echoed the Prime Minister – the question “Are we staying in the United Kingdom or are we leaving” must be answered by a referendum “- sooner rather than later -” and must be answered first, then you decide what the consequences are. He also stated that tax raising powers had to be fundamental in any further devolution of powers.

Isabel Fraser: If what you are seeking is clarity in the debate, then isn’t it entirely reasonable that voters go into this referendum debate knowing exactly what you are proposing because here, today, you’re saying we could have more tax powers, they could be income tax powers …  I mean, within that, before we just leave that concept – are you talking actually about the rate of income tax or the threshold? Could we vary the threshold? And equally, if we have income tax powers, there's no point in having that if you want to be fiscally coherent unless you have borrowing powers which allow you to offset any fall in income tax revenue?

Alistair Darling: You could – but I mean, look -

Isabel Fraser: Are you saying all of that is up for discussion?

 Alistair Darling: Look, I don’t think anybody would argue that the status quo – what we have at the moment, erm – is satisfactory. It was fine in 1998. Things have moved on – the constitution is always something you need to look and see what’s best. But the first question you’ve got to ask before you get on top any change at all, is – Are we staying in the UK – or – are we going to leave? If we’re going to leave, a whole lot of other questions then arise: if we’re going to stay, then we can look at what further we need to do.

But I honestly cannot see for the life of me why we’ve got to wait till 2014 before we can actually answer that question. Why don’t we get on with it – we could easily have this referendum –eh – next year and decide that and then decide if – if we’re going to stay, then let’s look at what more we can devolve – what more powers the Scottish Parliament can have  - and I think, y’know – most people, I mean, y’know – David Cameron – in actually a welcome step for the Conservatives has said – look – he’s moved from the position of being – y’know – the traditional Tory position of being outrightly against any change to that there could well be change – and equally on the nationalist side … You know, if they’re going to leave the United Kingdom, then let’s look at some of the consequences of that …

Having just transcribed this rambling statement –which confirmed in spades my initial impression of it in the broadcast – I look again with incredulity at Darling’s c.v. above. I would have expected such fractured syntax and confusion of ideas from John Prescott, but from a former Chancellor of the Exchequer? Note the transition from ‘we’ when initially talking about the referendum decision to ‘they’, as in “You know, if they’re going to leave the United Kingdom ..” That confusion of identity is going to dog the Campaign to Stop Scotland Becoming Independent throughout. The Scottish electorate know who they are – the unionist coalition do not.

But back to the interview …

Isabel Fraser: But Mr. Darling, it would seem that what you’re proposing is a one-sided debate. I mean – why do we have to wait for the alternative? This is going to be the most important vote in 300 years of Scottish history. What you’re saying is – trust us, and we will deliver. You’re requiring this enormous leap of faith. Why, if you accept now the status quo is no longer an option, why not spell out clearly what the alternatives are so the people can make an informed judgement about whether we stay within the United Kingdom – or not?

Alistair Darling: Well, isn’t the first question you have to ask is – Are you staying or are you going?

Isabel Fraser: But people are already asking the other question. Is the fact that you’re not raising the possibility of further powers a concession that actually Labour in Scotland have been completely out of the game on this – you are so far behind the curve? Why don’t you seize the initiative and outline a coherent and positive case where people can make a judgement about whether what you’re proposing is what they want or not?

Alistair Darling: Well, actually you know – if you look at, erm – in the pipeline there are changes being made – the Calman Commission, and so on, which we set in train, but what – what, what I do think is that the way in which you address the question of whether we’re staying in the UK or whether we’re leaving is – is got to be a positive case, it’s got to be what is best for Scotland: and my answer to that question is – the Scotland will derive huge benefits from the strength of the UK, just as the UK has huge strengths about – eh, through being in the European Union. You’re part of a bigger – eh – country, you’re part of something that’s much stronger, that benefits can flow from that …

Now – the first question you’ve got to ask so far as the current debate is going on is – are we staying in the United Kingdom or are we leaving? Now, we could easily have that question decided far, far sooner than Alex Salmond wants. I understand why he wants to put it off – because he doesn’t think he can win at the moment. We need to answer that question now, and then once you’ve decided that,  then you decide – if you’re staying – well, what more, eh, powers does, eh, the Scottish Parliament need – that is best for Scotland. If you’re leaving, then – you know, you then have to ask all sorts of difficult question, to which at the moment, there are pretty vague answers. You need to get that discussion now!

Isabel Fraser: If, as you want, Scotland says no to independence, what kind of political leverage do you really imagine Scotland would have in going to Westminster and asking for more powers after a No vote in Scotland? It would have no leverage at all.

Alistair Darling: No, it – I think it would – because there is – you know, in a way that, eh, would have been unimaginable even a year ago – I think there is a consensus amongst all the political parties, and more importantly in some ways amongst Scotland itself, and, y’know, other parts of the UK that, that, that the settlement reached in 1998 – eh is – is not what we want at the moment – we need to move on from that. People fully understand that – and of course there’s going to be a lot of debate as to what you devolve or what you don’t, y’know, and what the arrangements might be … But the first question – I’m sorry to keep going – coming back to this is that – I understand fully well the nationalists don’t want – eh – they want to another option on the table to sort of muddy the waters here. Let’s answer the question – Are we staying or are we going? Once you’ve answered that question then, you know – then there does need to be, y’know, an immediate debate about what further powers the Scottish Parliament needs, and so on. 

And remember whilst all this is going on, an awful lot of people in – in Scotland are facing losing their jobs, who are worried about their children or their grandchildren – and so on … y’know, its the economy, that’s the thing that actually matters – these are the big questions. But let’s get this constitutional question decided one and for all -  it’s being raised now – let’s put it to the people and let the people decide, and then you know, the politicians have to get on with it And – and do what they what they need to do as quickly as they can.

Isabel Fraser: So, Mr. Darling, what message does Johann Lamont as leader of Scottish Labour have to give to the Labour conference in a few weeks, then? Fairly briefly, if you don’t mind – and clearly. What’s the message she has to get out?

Alistair Darling: Well, I think the message is very clear  - it’s got to be about – y’know, it’s about all the difference a Labour administration can make at the local authorities which are coming up for election in May – the difference that the Scottish Parliament already have in relation to training, in relation to education, in relation to our universities and so on. You know, this is a very powerful message – Labour can make a difference. and on the constitution, y’know – yes, we have moved – and yeah, we needed to move. Eh, but on the fundamental, question, we are much, much stronger – we will be a far better nation, eh, within the United Kingdom than we would by breaking ourselves apart from that. It is a very powerful message, and I’m quite sure she’ll make it.

Isabel Fraser: Alistair Darling, thank you very much indeed for that.



MY VIEW: Anyone who thinks Alistair Darling would be the right person to lead the Unionist campaign after this showing needs to think again. Coherence and charisma were notable by their absence from this  performance.

ANALYSIS

I can offer a negotiator’s summary of the situation  -

There is going to be a referendum in 2014 on Scotland’s independence. It cannot be stopped by the UK Government without risking a political upheaval, and they have, de facto, accepted this.

The UK don’t want Scotland to leave the UK.

The UK didn’t want a referendum at all, but since there will be one, they want it as fast as possible, with one question only.

The Scottish Government intend to hold a referendum in 2014 on Scotland’s independence. The SNP as a party want full independence, but opinion polls indicate that a substantial number of the Scottish electorate (and a body called Civic Scotland) want greater powers for Scotland but want to remain in the UK.

The Scottish Government, as the government of all the people of Scotland, are obliged  to ascertain what questions and what options the electorate want to see on the referendum ballot paper. This will be determined by a large-scale consultation, now underway.

No unionist (UK) political party has set out their views of what extra powers – if any- they envisage being granted, and no comprehensive arguments for remaining in the UK, other than vague emotional ones, coupled with the assertion that Scotland is better in than out, have been offered.

The UK Prime Minister has offered only tentative commitment to as yet unspecified powers, but only if Scotland votes no in the referendum on a singe YES/NO question to independence.

No agreement exists between the UK and the Scottish governments on -

1. The timing of the referendum.

2. Its legality.

3. The wording of the independence question.

4. Additional question on the ballot paper.

5. Votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

Since the referendum is a consultative referendum, a YES vote to independence would be followed by negotiations on the mechanics of implementing independence.

A NEGOTIATOR’S RECOMMENDATIONS

There are two negotiations in this situation, one of which has already started – which I will call the pre-referendum negotiation – and one which will start after the referendum result is known, which I will call the post-referendum negotiation.

The pre-referendum negotiation will be a prime determinant of the referendum negotiation, which negotiators sometimes call the context and agenda negotiation. It is critical from a power dynamics situation, since failure to reach agreement at this stage can result in unilateral action by one or both parties.

Political negotiations take place in a very different context to commercial negotiations because of the media spotlight and the information needs of the electorate. In this negotiation,  the Scottish Government is the change agent and the UK Government represents the status quo. The Scottish Government derives its mandate from the Scottish people, but within a devolved settlement controlled by the UK Government.

To use a very old negotiating classification, this is a conflict of interest, not a conflict of rights under UK law, although international rights do exist. Conflicts of interest are settled by agreement or by power: conflicts of rights under existing agreements are settled by negotiation or by law.

Essentially, the context is one of negotiations between nations, i.e. diplomacy, even though the Scottish Government is not yet independent. In the case of any nation seeking independence, the subordinate nation has to behave as though it were independent before that independence actually exists, i.e. it has to emphasise its capacity to act unilaterally even though the status quo does not theoretically permit it to do so. This is why much of the legalistic discussion that rages is peripheral and essentially meaningless.

The implicit unilateral action here is that the Scottish Government will hold a referendum on its terms and on its timing, with or without the permission and imprimatur of Westminster.

This has in fact gone beyond being implicit – it is explicit, and, de facto, has been accepted by Westminster, because the alternative would be civil unrest on a scale that would make the poll tax riots look like a tea party. Everybody in Scotland knows this – few are willing to publicly acknowledge it.

It is therefore vital that the UK Government gets its act together for the pre-referendum negotiation so that the referendum itself can be conducted in a national climate of consensus about its purpose, if not about its outcome.

The outcome of the referendum has to be accepted equally by those who voted YES and those who voted NO – and perhaps those who voted for other options on the ballot paper or papers. Only then can the negotiations that follow a vote for full independence – the post-independence negotiation – take place in the right atmosphere.

Only then can the negotiations – if any – that follow a vote for remaining in the UK be meaningful. Whether those negotiations take place at all will be determined in part by the balance of the vote, and critically, by whether or not choices other than straight independence, e.g. devo plus, devo max or devo something are offered on the ballot paper.

I therefore offer the following recommendations to the parties -

To the UK unionist parties and anti-independence campaign

Drop the pejorative, emotional language and concentrate on setting out the factual benefits of remaining in the UK

Stop pretending that Scotland being a free sovereign state within the European Union would be the same thing as being a devolved, non-sovereign part of the sovereign state of the UK. In the first case, it would be a free association of inter-dependent cooperation between nations: in the second, it is being a subordinate region of a sovereign nation within Europe, with no place at the European table and no capacity to influence the agenda.

Exactly the same recommendations in respect of the United Nations, and to membership of NATO or Partnership for Peace.

Stop trying to influence the outcome of the independence referendum by vague, unspecified commitments to offering a little more power conditional upon a No vote.

To the SNP and pro-independence campaign

Sharpen the vital democratic distinction between the SNP, as a political party and the party of government, and the Scottish Government as the Government of Scotland.

Make it clear that the SNP does not want anything other than independence and a single question referendum, and that this is the party’s unified consensus.

Make it clear the the Scottish Government will only include a devo max or devo plus type question in the referendum ballot if the consultation exercise clearly demonstrates a wish for such an option, and that if it doesn’t, no such option will be included, regardless of the views of Civic Scotland or any other non-democratic body.

Set an early deadline for the conclusion of the pre-referendum negotiations on the points of disagreement. i.e.

1. The timing of the referendum.

2. Its legality.

3. The wording of the independence question.

4. Additional question on the ballot paper.

5. Votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

A negotiation without deadlines is an endless negotiation – be prepared to call time if negotiations fail, and unilaterally state the Scottish Government’s position on items one to four above. (It is probably a bridge to far to unilaterally commit to votes for 16 and 17 year olds.)

Publicly acknowledge and reiterate at every opportunity(it has already been stated at road shows, meetings etc.) that the independence of Scotland is a bigger question than the manifesto of any single party, nationalist and unionist, and that how Scotland is governed - and by which party or parties - after independence will be the decision of the Scottish people in democratic elections.

 



Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Ed Miliband's speech - Blairite reactions

As Miliband the Younger criticised the Blair/Brown regime's record on the economy, - on civil rights, on freedom, etc. - the camera panning across the audience lingered hopefully on brother David. But just behind him sat Alistair Darling and Jim Murphy, both giving the powerful impression of sitting in an abandoned nest in their still-warm, but rapidly cooling excrement. Douglas Alexander looked much the same.

I didn't see Iain Gray, but then, no judgement could have been formed, since Scotland's would-be next First Minister always looks that way.