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Showing posts with label Falkirk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Falkirk. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The People’s choice –an ideal that fails against reality of Party?

JOHN ADAMS:

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This,  in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.

GEORGE WASHINGTON:

the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

POLITICAL PARTIES

The Founding Fathers of America were uneasy about them. Democracies the world over are stuck with them, for better or worse. Political theorists argue endlessly about them. PPE graduates talk glibly about them. What in hell are they?

Wikipedia offers general definitions -

WIKIPEDIA

A political party is an organization of people which seeks to achieve goals common to its members through the acquisition and exercise of political power.

A political party platform or platform is a list of the values and actions which are supported by a political party or individual candidate, in order to appeal to the general public, for the ultimate purpose of garnering the general public's support and votes about complicated topics or issues.

So there we have it. Simples? No - there’s an inconvenient reality for political parties, democracy.

In turn, political parties are an inconvenient reality for democracies.

How to get to the heart of the complex questions surrounding democracy and the role of political parties? A few simple ideas – all relating to Westminster elections.

1. Our UK democracy allows the citizen to vote for a candidate for the Westminster Parliament. Any citizen qualified by law (not by party!) may stand for Parliament.

2. A candidate may elect to stand under a political party label – if that party agrees – or stand as an independent. If the candidate stands under a party label, the party is identified on the ballot paper.

3. Political parties must have processes to identify potential candidates, nominate them for assessment, assess them, and decide if they are to be adopted as a prospective Parliamentary candidate.

Let’s pause here and look at the implication of the above three facts -

Democracy depends on named individual citizens being elected to represent defined constituencies. The voter gets therefore to choose between the candidates presented on the ballot paper – but not to choose which candidates are on the ballot paper in the first place.

Whether a candidate appears on the ballot paper is determined by one of two scenarios -

his or her decision to stand as an independent candidate in a parliamentary constituency.

A political party’s decision to allow them to stand – after evaluation and assessment - as the sole candidate for that party in that constituency.

In the first scenario, a citizen offers himself/herself for election by secret ballot to his/her fellow citizens.

In the second scenario, the voter is offered a candidate chosen by a political party.

The voter is both cases may evaluate the candidate against his/her own criteria by the means available – the candidate’s individual background, qualifications, experience, values, principles and objectives as offered by the candidate and by personal research.

In the second case – the candidate has also been approved by the political party’s selection process.

One might characterises this as being offered a meal cooked by the person offering it, or by a meal offered by a well-know restaurant chain – a unique meal or a branded meal. In the first case, knowledge of the individual is vital. In the second case, the reputation of the brand is crucial.

This brings us sharply up against the role of party in politics.

Imagine a Westminster Parliament convening for the first time comprised of nothing but independents – candidates who offered themselves to the electorate without the involvement of any party machine. 650 individuals, expected to collectively govern a United(?) Kingdom comprising four bits – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but elected by a much smaller group (their constituents).

A crucial decision has to be made immediately – say a decision to go to war, or refrain.

They could debate at once – if they could agree the terms of reference and when to start the debate.  Such a debate would make PMQs look like a Sunday school picnic.

They could then move to a vote – providing they could agree when the debate had ended. A truly democratic decision would be then be made, if the enemy had not yet launched their attack.

Let’s say they approved the war.

A whole set of new decisions would have to be voted on after lengthy debate. By that time, the United Kingdom would have either been overrun by the enemy or obliterated – or taken over by a military coup by impatient generals.

An extreme scenario – but a real possibility. The point is that, even in the absence of immediate crises,  such a Parliament would speedily have itself organised into factions of similar mind and rapidly thereafter into political parties.

Party is inevitable in democratic politics if anything is to be done – unless, as Frances Fukuyama points out, a fully functioning and powerful bureaucratic and military state under a rule of law was already in place before democracy ever emerged, and the elected representatives were either content to let it run things pro-tem – or were afraid to challenge it.

So, practically, nothing gets done without party, and a party - or parties - able to command a majority on key issues in a vote, i.e. to form a government.

What has all this got to do with recent events in and around Holyrood?

THE SNP and CANDIDATE SELECTION PROCEDURES

By the 2007 election, the SNP was a tightly-disciplined machine with a modest membership, significantly the creation of Alex Salmond and his key supporters and advisers.

But – a personal view – its candidate selection process for Westminster elections and in local council elections often produced abysmal results, notably in Glasgow. Some selections (no, I won’t be specific!) were only explicable by either rewarding of loyal time-servers, or seriously deficient selection processes – or perhaps even a lack of suitable candidates.

But despite these failings, the party machine in Scotland delivered - in Holyrood - two terms of government (second on a landslide 2011 victory), negotiated a legal referendum, and took Scotland to the brink of independence. These were formidable achievements by any standard.

The post-indyref events are even more astonishing – the fivefold membership growth, successive positive polls, the resurgence of the YES spirit, a vibrant, popular and respected new First Minister and the humbling of the opposition parties.

It was immediately evident that the spectacular growth in SNP membership post-indyref would offer huge opportunities to the Party, but also pose challenges. Nicola recognised this instantly, and responded rapidly by opening up the way for new members to offer themselves as candidates for the immediate challenge – GE2015 – and for Holyrood in 2016.

There can also be little doubt that this sent a chill down the spine of two categories of party members: long-serving,  worthy activists who had paid their dues to the party and aspired to candidate selection and the party favourites – talented activists, not necessarily long-standing members, who were being assiduously groomed for imminent stardom, many of whom had made their bones during the long referendum campaign.

It is probably fair to say of the second category that their backers were more than a little uneasy about the prospect of their protégés being challenged by the nouvelle vague.

THE TWO HURDLES

The process for vetting and selecting candidates (set out in full in the Appendix below) provides for -

A national register of approved potential parliamentary and local government candidates to be created and maintained by the SNP National Executive Committee

The individual SNP branch may only nominate, and its members select their parliamentary and local government candidates from this approved list.

So, before a candidate gets anywhere near the ballot paper and the electorate, he or she must leap two hurdles – a selection committee appointed by the National Executive, and then a vote of the constituency  branch members.

It is this first stage – and the appeal following it – that Craig Murray failed, and it is the conduct of the process and the alleged media briefings that he complains of, not the SNP’s right to vet him by such a process. His permanent blackballing as a candidate deserves closer examination.

Falkirk has been through all this relatively recently, with Jim Murphy and the Unite Union playing starring roles as competing villains  in the melodrama, with briefings and counter-briefings, against the flaming backdrop of the Grangemouth dispute.

Where do I stand on all of this?

For the record, if I had to choose between Craig Murray and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (I don’t know who the other candidates are) I would choose choose Tasmina.

Do I see an alternative to such a party candidate vetting and selection process – two relatively undemocratic processes before the polling station and ultimate constituency voter choice?

No, I don’t, even though I don’t like the way it sometime operates.

Do I think the SNP is any better or any worse than any other party, any more or less democratic in such processes?

No, I don’t – I simply want them to observe the highest standards with such imperfect aspects of democracy.

Do I think Craig Murray has always acted wisely in his comments and blogs, both before and after the vetting process?

No, I don’t. I respect his moral courage, as a British career diplomat, in challenging the injustices of the system, and respect his stated principles, but I feel he has been injudicious in some statements.

But I don’t know who is to blame for the potentially damaging media coverage this debacle threatens, or who released the cat from the bag in the first place. I think the SNP needs to be more transparent - as a matter of urgency - on candidate vetting and selection, and more careful in their press contacts on such matters.

God knows, the electorate of Falkirk deserves better than this.

 

APPENDIX ONE – extract from SNP - Rules and Standing Orders

Rules on Vetting and Selection of Potential Parliamentary and Local  Government Candidates

1. Introduction
1.1 The Scottish National Party will encourage a diverse range of members, with a broad mix of skills, understanding and experience, to apply for consideration as potential parliamentary and local government candidates. The vetting or assessment of members for consideration as potential parliamentary and local government candidates will be carried out by the Candidate Assessment Panel appointed by the National Executive Committee (hereafter referred to as “the Panel”).

A national register of approved potential parliamentary and local government candidates will be created and maintained by the National Executive Committee, from which branches will be able to nominate and members select their parliamentary and local government candidates. At all times through this process, the principles and practice of ensuring equality of opportunity for all will be promoted.

2. Mainstreaming Equality of Opportunity

2.1 The National Executive Committee shall establish and maintain a strategy to deliver equality of opportunity throughout the party, including in the selection of candidates for local government and parliamentary elections. The equality strategy will focus primarily on increasing the representation of women, ethnic minority and disabled members throughout the party, and will aim to ensure the SNP fields a more balanced list of candidates in future. Support will be offered to branches and other local organisations to ensure equality of opportunity at grassroots level. The equality strategy will aim to recruit and retain more members from underrepresented groups; to encourage active participation by these members at all levels in the party; to increase the number of candidates drawn from underrepresented groups; and to monitor progress on achieving these aims. As part of the equality strategy, the National Executive Committee shall agree a plan for each election, which may include the use of specific mechanisms, such as hard targets or other measures to deliver a balanced list of candidates. Any specific mechanism will require the approval of National Council before being introduced. Vetting of Potential Candidates

3. Candidate Assessment Panel Candidate Assessment Panel

3.1 The remit, conduct and procedures of the Candidate Assessment Panel will be established and amended from time to time by the National Executive Committee.

3.2 The Panel will be responsible for organising Assessment Centres for vetting of potential candidates.

4. Assessment Criteria

4.1 The National Executive Committee will set down the assessment criteria for potential parliamentary and local government candidates. The Panel will undertake assessment of potential parliamentary and local government candidates in accordance with the National Executive Committee’s guidance. The Panel will make recommendations to the National Executive. The recommendation can only be to approve or not to approve a member as a potential parliamentary or local government candidate.

4.2 The National Executive Committee’s assessment criteria shall, on the advice of the Panel, ensure that there is no discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, disability and/or religious belief.

4.3 The Panel, following a decision to approve or not approve a member as a potential parliamentary or local government candidate, will produce a feedback report summarising individual performance, including justification for the decision and proposals for personal development, if required.

5. Code of Conduct

5.1 Each member who applies to be considered as a potential parliamentary or local government candidate is required to sign a code of conduct, which will govern their behaviour as an approved potential local government candidate.

5.2 Each member who applies to be considered as a potential parliamentary or local government candidate is required to sign the relevant SNP Group Standing Orders.

6. Approval of potential candidates

6.1 The National Executive Committee will accept the recommendations of the Panel unless two-thirds of all possible members of the National Executive Committee decide otherwise. The National Executive Committee can only approve or not approve the recommendation of the Panel.

6.2 Any member who has been approved by the National Executive Committee as a potential parliamentary candidate will automatically be considered as an approved potential local government candidate. The member is required to satisfy the Local Government Liaison Committee (or body with responsibility for council elections) that they are eligible for nomination as a council candidate in that local government area as the law currently stands.

7. Appeal

7.1 A member who has not been approved as a potential parliamentary or local government candidate may appeal to the National Executive Committee’s Election Appeals Committee in accordance with procedures approved by the National Executive Committee. The decision of the Election Appeals Committee is final.

8. Register Register of Approved Potential Candidates

8.1 The National Executive Committee shall establish and maintain a single Register of Approved Potential Parliamentary and Local Government Candidates, listing in said register whether members have been approved as potential candidates for local government, parliament or both. This register will be made available on the members section of the SNP website.

8.2 The Panel will review the register on an annual basis in accordance with procedures and guidance approved by the National Executive Committee.

9. Removal from the Register of Approved Potential Candidates

9.1 The National Executive Committee may remove a member approved as a potential parliamentary candidate from the Register of Approved Potential Parliamentary and Local Government Candidates on the recommendation of the Panel, on the grounds that the member has either:

i) breached the Code of Conduct of an Approved Potential Parliamentary or Local Government Candidate, and/or

ii) breached the Disciplinary Rules of the Party. 9.2 and their removal is the recommendation of either:

i) a Liaison Committee, with responsibility for a parliamentary election, resolution passed at a duly constituted Special meeting, or

ii) a Constituency Association (or Constituency Branch) resolution passed at a duly constituted Special meeting, and/or

iii) in the case of 9.1 ii), the National Secretary, following a report of the Disciplinary Committee.

9.3 The National Executive Committee may remove a member approved as a potential local government candidate from the Register of Approved Parliamentary and Local Government Candidates on the grounds on the recommendation of the Panel, on the grounds that the member has either:

i) breached the code of conduct of an approved potential local government candidate, and/or

ii) breached the disciplinary rules of the Party.

9.4 and their removal is the recommendation of either:

i) a branch resolution passed at a duly constituted Special meeting, or

ii) a Local Government Liaison Committee (or body with responsibility for council elections) resolution passed at a duly constituted Special meeting, and/or

iii) in the case of 9.3 ii), the National Secretary, following a report of the Disciplinary Committee.

9.5 There is no appeal against the decision of the National Executive Committee on removal of a member from the Register of Approved Potential Parliamentary or Local Government Candidates. A member may be eligible to re-apply for consideration as a potential parliamentary or local government candidate on the guidance of the Panel. Selection of Parliamentary Candidates

10. Number of Candidates per Constituency

10.1 The Organisation Convener will make a recommendation to the National Executive Committee on the number of parliamentary candidates that will be nominated by the Party in each constituency at a parliamentary election.

11. Responsibility for Selection of Parliamentary Candidates

11.1 Constituency Associations (or a Constituency Branch) will have responsibility for overseeing the selection of Scottish Parliamentary candidates subject to National Executive Committee approval of the selection and subject also to the role of Party Headquarters in overseeing postal ballots and related matters, and to the provision which the constitution makes for the National Secretary and Business Convener to select candidates in specified circumstances.

11.2 Liaison Committees for elections to the United Kingdom Parliament (or Constituency Associations which have been given responsibility for Westminster elections by the National Executive Committee) will have responsibility for overseeing the selection of United Kingdom Parliamentary candidates subject to National Executive Committee approval of the selection.

11.3 The National Executive Committee will have responsibility for the selection procedures for the European Parliamentary elections.

12. Timetable for Selection of Parliamentary Candidates

12.1 Each Constituency Association or Liaison Committee with responsibility for parliamentary elections will agree a timetable for the nomination of parliamentary candidate(s) for the constituency which they are responsible for, in accordance with any procedures approved by the National Executive Committee.

13. Nomination of Parliamentary Candidates

13.1 The procedure for nominations shall be as determined by the National Executive Committee.

 14. Selection of Parliamentary Candidates

14.1 Only members who reside and are on the Electoral Register in the electoral constituency can vote in the selection of a parliamentary candidate(s) in accordance with the procedures approved by the National Executive Committee.

14.2 Only members who have maintained their membership for thirteen months prior to a cut off date agreed by the National Executive Committee are entitled to vote in the selection for a parliamentary candidate.

14.3 All selections of parliamentary candidates will be carried out on the basis of one-member-one-vote using the principles of single transferable voting. Members will be made aware of the Scottish National Party’s commitment to equality of opportunity and the need to ensure a broad mix of parliamentarians are elected to represent the diverse communities of Scotland.

14.4 The National Secretary and Business Convener, in using their powers to select a parliamentary candidate in the circumstances specified in the Constitution, shall do so after consultation with the Constituency Association, Constituency Branch or Liaison Committee concerned or, in the case of selections of European Parliamentary candidates, with members of the National Executive Committee.

14.5 A ballot of all members in a constituency will not be required in the event that a candidate is unopposed for selection in a constituency. The NEC will make rules to cover selection procedure in these instances.

14.6 The National Executive Committee will have responsibility for the selection and ranking procedures for parliamentary regional lists.

14.6 The National Executive Committee shall bring forward additions and/or amendment(s) to these Rules in order to specify processes for ensuring a balanced list of candidates, particularly in regard to gender, for each parliamentary election.

15. Deselection of Parliamentary Candidates

15.1 A candidate for the Scottish or United Kingdom Parliament, whether in a constituency or on a party list, may be deselected by the National Executive Committee on a vote of two thirds of those present, if acting on the request of the Constituency Association or Liaison Committee concerned. The National Secretary may delegate the function of assessing such a request to a panel of National Executive Committee members, who will then report their findings to the National Executive Committee for decision.

15.2 A candidate for the European Parliament may be deselected by the National Executive Committee, by a two-thirds majority of those voting, if acting on the request of the National Secretary and Business Convener.

15.3 If a parliamentary candidate on a party list dies, resigns or is deselected as a list candidate, or becomes ineligible to be an SNP candidate, then any other candidates below him or her on the list each move up one place in the rankings.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Independence, Grangemouth – and facing economic realities for YES

Grangemouth – and I mean the town, not just the plant – is saved. Can anyone not celebrate that? The answer unfortunately is yes – there are those who welcomed the good news with less whole-hearted enthusiasm. I am not among them – I am wholly in tune with the mood of the returning workers – ranging from infinite relief to ecstatic joy - at least as captured by this clip, which of course some will argue has been manipulated by the ever-Machiavellian BBC – the Union’s not-so-secret weapon. etcetera, etcetera.

The  Sunday Herald (27th Oct 2013) offered excellent coverage of the events leading up to the closure crisis and the subsequent deal, and Iain Macwhirter wrote an objective analysis that doesn’t duck the patent facts that many other commentators have avoided – that Unite the Union (aided by a chorus of ill-informed Labour and left-wing politicians and alternative media commentators) made an ass of itself and endangered, not only the livelihoods of their members, but the entire Grangemouth community and the Scottish economy. The management don’t smell of roses either …

I’d plan to say a lot more than this, but decided that, after the resignations of Stephen Deans, it would be counter-productive.

QUESTIONS

Was the management blameless?

Clearly, no.

Is it a good thing that the fate of hundreds of workers and a key part of the Scottish economy is in the hands of a global company with one dominant shareholder?

Again clearly, no.

Have trades unions - and specifically Unite the Union - a vital role to play in Scotland and in an independent Scotland?

Absolutely and unequivocally YES

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Scottish media, Falkirk, Labour and Unite – independence excised from coverage?

MY SUMMARY OF THE FALKIRK FACTS

I’ll be as brief – and objective – as I can.

A preliminary summary of events

Eric Joyce was expelled from the Labour Party for multiple instances of bad behaviour. He is still MP, but has stated his intention not to stand at the general election in 2015. (Had he resigned as an MP or been removed, there would have been a by-election.)

Labour and the Falkirk constituency selection committee must choose a candidate for what has historically been a safe Labour seat. The selection of candidates for safe seats is a matter of high significance for any political party – for a party in opposition 22 months from a general election, hoping to win and form the next government of UK, and facing a riven, inept Coalition in disarray, such a selection is crucial.

(N.B. The Labour Party must have concerns for the safety of this seat, not only because of Joyce’s past behaviour, but because, as MP for another 22 months, outside of Labour, not subject to the Labour whip, he is potentially a loose cannon politically.)

Labour policy was to have an all-woman shortlist (AWS), and members of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) were surveyed on whether an all-woman shortlist should be used. (The survey was paid for by Unite.)

Candidates who had already emerged were Linda Gow, former leader of Falkirk council and Gregor Poynton. Poynton is UK Director of Blue State Digital, adviser to Better Together Campaign and husband of Gemma Doyle MP, who is deputy to Jim Murphy MP, the shadow defence minister.

Then Karie Murphy appeared as a candidate. Karie Murphy, formerly Unison, now Unite Union, is Tom Watson MP’s office manager. Introducing Karie Murphy as a candidate was consistent with Labour’s policy of all-women shortlists (AWC) but Gregor Poynton’s candidacy was not.

A sudden influx of new members was recorded in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and it appeared that the Unite Union had recruited as many as 100 members. The CLP choose the Parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, not the total Labour membership. (The idea of holding primaries, elections in which the wider electorate are involved has been mooted before the Falkirk debacle, and is much debated since it commenced.)

Allegation began to appear that irregularities had occurred in the signing up of CLP members by Unite. The Labour Party was in essence created by the Trades Union movement (late 19th, early 20th centuries) to ensure Parliamentary representation for working people. The rules of the Labour Party permit trades unions to encourage members to join the party, and to pay their first year’s subscription. But it was claimed that Unite had signed up members without their knowledge, a very serious allegation if proven. The matter has now been referred to the police by the Labour Party.

THE POWER GAMES BEING PLAYED

N.B. From here on in, I don’t pretend neutrality, and only as much objectivity as I can muster, because I am of the Left in politics and I am also a Scottish nationalist – not a SNP member or member of any party, but wholly committed to a socially democratic independent Scotland.

Labour has a long history of fights with the trades unions. Unions are by far the Labour Party’s principal source of funds through the political levy (optional) that members pay, and unions apply the funds in various ways, including sponsoring specific MPs. In return for this, they not unreasonably expect the MPs and the Party to serve the interests of their millions of members in addition to serving the whole electorate. This has always led to tensions between Party and unions. Exactly the same practices apply on funding to all political parties, with the key difference that the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, for example, get their funds from organisations and individuals, a very much smaller group of large donors in comparison to the millions of small donors of the trades unions.

The key difference is that these corporate donors and individuals operate to a large extent behind closed doors in pursuing what they expect for their money – and they all expect something – whereas the union interaction tends to occur in a blaze of publicity.

To try and contrast the two systems in a nutshell – the trades unions, an imperfect but functioning democracy representing millions of UK workers interact with a much larger imperfect democracy in the Labour Party, whereas totally undemocratic organisations and individuals in commerce, industry, armaments and interest groups not confined to the UK interact with the imperfect democracies of the Tory and LibDem parties. Ultimately, in both cases, the trades unions interact with the over-arching and highly imperfect democracy of the UK Government.

The problem of the union conflicts with the Labour Party over the last half century (e.g. Clause Four) created  - or were alleged to have created – the problem of electability, and this was specifically what Blair, Brown and Mandelson set out to remedy after  Neil Kinnock had done some of the spadework. They 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.

Meanwhile, the trades unions were marginalised, and the benches of Westminster became increasingly populated by MPs who had never experienced the real, harsh world of Blair’s Britain, MPs who came directly into politics waving their PPE degrees through internships as SPADs, etc.

This great divide, this yawning chasm has widened between the trades union movement and the political machine for enriching politicians and their friends that New Labour has become. After being finally destroyed electorally, Labour was replaced by a Coalition that is almost indistinguishable in its right-wing practices from the right-wing Labour Party. As an opposition, Labour has been feeble and equivocal. The trades unions, having placed brother Ed Miliband at the helm, vanquishing ultra-Blairite brother David Miliband, have been bitterly disappointed in their choice. And now he attacks them, setting the police on Unite.

The Falkirk debacle is symptomatic of this – a war between the Blairites (led by the noble Lord Mandelson, who cannot conceal his visceral distaste for trades unions)and what is left of the Left in the Labour Party, which is mainly the trades unions – some of them at least.

SCOTTISH DIMENSION AND INDEPENDENCE

All of the above has been gone over with a relatively fine tooth comb by the UK/metropolitan media. They see the Falkirk Affair in a UK context, from a UK perspective. The fact that Falkirk is in  Scotland, that Scotland played a major role in the foundation of trades unions and the Labour Party is ancient, and mainly irrelevant history to them. This superficiality and parochialism is what Scotland has come to expect from London media. From time to time, Scotland intrudes rudely on their consciousness, and they are aware that Scottish voters are effectively disenfranchised and don’t get the government they vote for on occasion, but then, Scotland is just another region of England (sorry, Jock – UK!)

What is almost unforgiveable is that the Scottish media has swallowed this narrative whole, and conceives its duty done when they passively regurgitate it to Scottish voters. Consider the following examples -

To listen to this duo, one might think the Falkirk debacle had nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland's independence, and had no significant implications for it.
But these journalists accurately reflect a Scottish press and media that is either so locked in a UK mindset that they are oblivious to them, or are so caught up in editorial policies that don't wish to highlight them that they are hamstrung as professional journalists in telling the truth to the Scottish electorate by fully analysing a political event that is shaking up UK politics and is central in many ways to the great independence debate.

Here we have John Reid, who sure as hell knows what the battle is all about, and it has bugger all to do with Scotland, except incidentally -

John Reid: "a very important moment for the whole Labour Party"

The point at which the poisoned grip of Blairites like Reid could be loosened and the Party returned to the people it was created to serve.

John Reid:"It is at heart an ideological battle - a political battle..."

It sure as hell is - to free Labour from the men enriched and ennobled by Blair and his wars - like John Reid - while the people sink deeper into the slough of poverty and death created by Blair and Brown's ineptitude - widening the gap between rich and poor and bankrupting the nation. Men like Lord(!) Reid who deliberately wrecked the chances of a Rainbow Coalition to defeat the Tories after the 2010 election.

England struggles - and Unite struggles to give working people a real political choice with the forlorn hope that they can reform New Labour. Blue Labour, Lord Sainsbury's Labour, Progress Labour - call the beast by its many names, see its many faces - multi-millionaires Blair's and Mandelson's Labour - at best a centre-right party, but sliding towards something much worse in the global military/industrial complex that is raping the planet.

God help England - this is the only chance they have, but it is a forlorn hope.

But Scotland has a real choice - already exercised in the limited form open to it in 2007 and 2011 and yet to be made fully on 2014 - the choice of saying YES or no to an independent, socially-democratic Scotland.

The Sunday Herald had a major spread on Falkirk – comprehensive, albeit a mirror of London media analysis, despite their pride in having “broken the story …” From its front cover headline Lamont: Unite’s puppet? to its extensive coverage on pages 6, 7, 8 and 9, with Ian Bell on page 10 to its editorial on page 36, it took an almost exclusively UK perspective of the Falkirk issue, despite the reference to Lamont.  Only in the last half of the last paragraph on page 7 could I find any reference to another party that might just have an interest in all this – the Scottish National Party, the party that forms the devolved government of Scotland, elected with a massive landslide majority – the party that has delivered the referendum, the outcome of which will shake the entire UK power structure, perhaps end the 306 year-old union and remove nuclear weapons of mass destruction from Scottish soil, with ramification for Europe, NATO and the transatlantic alliance.

Here was my little exchange with Paul Hutcheon of the Herald/Sunday Herald on 4th of July. Paul was reacting to my criticisms of Scottish media coverage of Falkirk -

Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

  • @paulhutcheon It's time for Scottish Unite, Scottish Labour and trades unions to recognise where their real interests lie - in independence

    Paul Hutcheon Paul Hutcheon@paulhutcheon 4 Jul @moridura can't see the independence angle on a story about membership subs

  • Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

    @paulhutcheon It's painfully obvious that you can't, Paul.

  • And he demonstrated comprehensively his inability to see “the independence angle on a story about membership subs” in the Sunday coverage. Let me help you, Paul - and Tom Gordon and Ian Bell and the Leader Writer - to understand …

    Three political parties in Scotland – all from the left of the political spectrum, plus many other organisations also on the left, are committed to the independence of Scotland from the UK. Additionally, embryonic breakaway organisations exist of disaffected Scottish Labour members and Scottish trades unionists – including Unite members – who support independence. Some support the SNP, others don’t, e.g. Labour for Independence.

    A major think tank, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is active and influential on the left of the political spectrum (where else would it be bearing Jimmy Reid’s name?). At least one major union is not affiliated to the Labour Party, the firemens’ union. All of them are diametrically opposed to Blairism and all that it stands for. They are solidly anti-nuclear and pro-trades union. The STUC is well aware of this growing dynamic within its member unions and their lay members, together with a growing number of shop stewards, worker representatives and a few cautious full-time officers.To say that Johann Lamont is aware of this – despite laughing it off – would be a massive understatement. Effectively elected by the Scottish trades unions, I suspect it keeps her awake at nights.

    To suggest that the Falkirk issue, a frontal attack on a trade union – a civil war between the BlairitesBlue Labour, New Labour, Lord Sainsbury’s Labour, call it what you will – and the soul of the pre-Blair/Brown/Mandelson Scottish Labour Party is irrelevant to independence is, to put it at its lowest, a failure of imagination and good political journalism.

    I hope to attend a meeting of Trades Unionists for Independence this Wednesday in Edinburgh. Reflect on that title, Herald/Sunday Herald (and BBC Scotland) and on the keynote speakers – Dennis Canavan (former MP/MSP), Robin McAlpine (Jimmy Reid Foundation), Cat Boyd (PCS activist) and Sarah Collins (STUC Youth Committee) and think again about the nature of your coverage of Falkirk and Unite.