The speed of light is big news, thanks to the particle physicists at CERN and the Large Hadron Collider. I had a bit of fun with the LHC way back, before it was switched on - large hadron collider – and now jokey variations on equations based on Einstein’s E = mc2 abound online.
A little know fact is that the Large Hadron Collider was responsible for the SNP’s landslide victory in May of this year. A new particle – the Unionist Bullshit Killer particle – was inadvertently created and, escaping from the tunnel of the Collider, it arrived in Scotland at just over the speed of light, just in time for the Holyrood election campaign. Lethal to some parties, it disabled the Tory Party, already severely wounded by the Thatcher Particle, almost destroyed the LibDems, and attacked what was left of the brain cells of the Labour Party.
The effect of the Unionist Bullshit Killer particle was wholly beneficial to the SNP, which most scientists attribute to the SNP’s relative autonomy and independence, and a quality known as Scottishness, which is a sort of Britishness anti-matter. However, some who belong to the New Labour school believe that an effective antidote to the particle is endless renaming of the Labour Party, in the hope that the particle – and the electorate – will be fooled into not recognising the party of Iraq, WMDs, economic incompetence and greed.
So far, this strategy has not worked, but many live in hope. A small, but significant minority believe that the new data on the speed of light mean that the May 2011 election can actually be re-run, thus relieving them from feeling that they are living in a parallel universe where Scotland’s independence is assured and the UK’s days are numbered.
THE HIGH ROAD TO ENGLAND
The Scotsman has been in hysterical headline mode since John Swinney’s budget, and the casual reader who thinks the Scotsman is still a quality daily reflecting the real world faithfully might be forgiven for believing that the world has risen up with a great cry of indignation and horror at the Finance Secretary’s budget, when in fact a number of vested interests have squealed, and the usual suspects have appeared with dreary predictability, e.g. Iain MacMillan of the CBI, crying woe. The Scottish Unions cannot be dismissed in this way, however, and we must remember that they are only doing what unions do, making a pre-emptive threat to protect their membership, something I have applauded them for doing in England against the Coalition.
But the problem with the Scottish trades unions has always been that many of their full-time officers are often more representative of Labour Party politics than they are of their membership, for the simple reason that the Party offers career progression and the high road to England for those who toe the party line. For many trade union officials, the Party and the union are a seamless whole, and they find it difficult to separate the two. While the unions, in the main, are affiliated to the Labour Party, this will continue to be true.
But of course, the high road to England has been the glittering prize for ambitious Scottish Labour Party politicians, and indeed all Scottish politicians with the exception of the SNP – a route to Westminster, ministerial office and ultimately the Lords, the final escape from democracy and the tedious need to get elected to make money. They have the shining Labour examples from the past to inspire them – Lord George Foulkes, Lord Martin, the disgraced former Speaker, Lord McConnell, Lord Watson, convicted of fire-raising in a Scottish hotel, Baroness Adams, once distinguished as having the highest expenses of any member of the Lords, despite having spoken in the Upper chamber only once (2009), Lord Reid, Lord Robertson – the list goes on.
However, the last two are interesting, since they were both Scottish Labour MPs who became UK Secretaries of State for Defence, and in Lord Robertson’s case, grasped the even more glittering prize of Secretary General of NATO. It is fair to say that no such exalted – and highly lucrative – posts would ever be open to a Scottish MP who decided to devote himself or herself solely to the interests of the people who elected them to Westminster, and are certainly not open to those who decided to become MSPS and serve the Scottish people in Scotland.
Now the most ambitious Labour MPs – and MSPs - grasp these essential facts very rapidly indeed, and at the earliest opportunity get the hell out of Scotland and as far away from the realities of the day-to-day lives of their constituents as possible. While Springburn crumbled into even greater dereliction and poverty than that which had been the legacy of decades as a Labour fiefdom, Michael Martin was siting in the Speaker’s chair, acting as shop steward for the MPs who were ripping off the taxpayer through the expenses system. George Islay MacNeill Robertson left Islay as fast as possible, and despite being elected six times as MP for either Hamilton or Hamilton South, moved swiftly to more exalted UK posts, and ultimately to NATO. He now bristles with directorships and consultancies.
John Reid, MP of Motherwell North and then Airdrie and Shotts soon saw the attractions of the classic route to power – Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Defence, and held numerous other Cabinet posts besides. A former Communist and a product of a very rough realpolitik Labour environment, he once described the Labour Party in 1983 as "Leaderless, unpatriotic, dominated by demagogues, policies 15 years out of date". Twenty eight years on, his description still more or less fits. But he saw the light and the road to power, prestige, wealth and a Lordship very clearly indeed, and the rewards have been substantial indeed for the Baron of Cardowan.
These lesson have not been lost on another ambitious Scot, Jim Murphy, and he was well on the road while the Brown Government was still in power, and had climbed on to the first plateau, Secretary of State for Scotland, courtesy of the voters of East Renfrewshire. But this happy progress was rudely interrupted by the May 2010 General Election, when Labour got thrown out of office, the realistic chance of the Rainbow Coalition of Labour, LibDems and nationalists that Gordon Brown hoped for being killed stone dead by John Reid in a television interview.
Jim has not given up, however, and clings on to the path as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence. Despite his acknowledged Southern Irish antecedents, James Francis Murphy is viscerally opposed to his native country, Scotland, achieving its independence, and is a stout defender of WMDs and the nuclear deterrent. In that, he echoes John, the Lord Reid, who according to George Galloway can sing - and play on guitar - an entire Irish songbook of republican ballads, something that must come in handy in the boardroom of Celtic Football Club, but is less acceptable on the terracing, courtesy of the SNP Government. John Reid is committed to multilateral nuclear disarmament, which means he is committed to hanging on to British WMDs till the tooth fairy appears on the international scene. He is of course, despite the Irish revolutionary songbook, totally committed to the Union, Trident, etcetera, etcetera …
Jim Murphy stars in a double page spread in today’s Scotsman, beaming from his office in Westminster, with Big Ben just across the road. The headline – My biggest regret: being sidelined by a tribal party – is intriguing. Who is this tribal party? Why, Scottish Labour, of course!
In case anyone is any doubt of where Jim’s priorities lies, here is what the boy from Arden has to say for himself -
He has ‘admitted’ that his greatest regret was to allow himself to be excluded from Labour’s Holyrood election campaign. Why? Because they might have won had he been involved. You’re too modest by far, Jim …
Labour failed to be one team, and the culture of tribalism between MSPs and MPs has to end.
He modestly insists that he will not consider being Scottish Leader for 20 years. (That relieves me of one worry for my declining years!)
He agrees reluctantly (David Maddox of the Scotsman says he grimaced) that it was “mutually agreed” that he stay out of the Holyrood election campaign.
But here are his killer-diller comments -
He insists that there is no problem with the ambitious and more talented members of the party in Scotland wanting to come down to Westminster.
In other words, the more ambitious and talented members of the party – among whose ranks he clearly numbers himself – will take the high road to England, and the rest, the MSPS who are the elected representatives of a devolved, soon to be independent Scotland, are the less ambitious and talented and should stay behind. Nice one, Jim – tell it like it is …
And on his own future?
Well, he might consider being Scottish Leader in 20 years time (once he’s rich, and assuming he’s not a Lord) but now now. “I’ve got a job to do, I want to be Defence Secretary.”
I’ll bet you do, Jim – think of the perks!