Thursday, 28 May 2015
Saturday, 25 April 2015
Tuesday, 21 April 2015
I have seen and heard many political performances in my life, from the 1945 general election through to April 2015, including some great ones, but I have never witnessed a flawless one – until yesterday at the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre.
The contrast between Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party and the confused, panic-stricken, contradictory, fact-free, humanity-free utterances of Tory, LibDem, UKIP and Scottish Labour politicians could not have been more starkly evident. Her calm, informed, gently humorous and profoundly human outline of the SNP manifesto and her responses to a wide range of media question could not be really be described as a performance – it was a direct expression of core values, coming straight from an intelligent Scottish heart.
This was not a contrived media persona, but the true face of a warm, vanity-free Scottish woman who patently has no fondness for the limelight or political celebrity, but who endures both as a necessary part of realising the hopes and dreams of Scots, of all ethnic origins and backgrounds who have placed their trust in her and the party she leads. Indeed, it is a trust that now extends beyond Scotland …
Gaun yersel, Nicola!
Sunday, 12 April 2015
ANDREW MARR: "We are in circumstances right now, where during the lifetime of the Parliament at Westminster that we are about to elect, it's perfectly possible at least, that Scotland and England will finally go their separate ways."
Sunday, 29 March 2015
Angus Robertson MP and Stewart Hosie MP, the two stalwarts of the lonely advance guard of six SNP MPs, who have spent years as a tiny embattled group on the Commons benches, surrounded by the hostile forces of unionism, alternately abused and patronised, facing the full wrath and hostility of all unionist parties, including abuse from their fellow Scots in Labour, LibDems and Tory ranks, exhausted by commuting to and from their constituencies and demanding party duties in Scotland.
Here they set the scene for Conference and for Nicola, and calmly nail – hopefully once and for all(!) - the repetitive distortions and simplistic questions and soundbytes directed at us by hostile and often deeply confused unionists – on party leadership, on Westminster leadership and on Westminster strategy and the questions of a second independence referendum.
It is not a an exaggeration to say that no other political party has such clarity of policy, objectives and tight focus.
Scotland, the party and the massive new SNP membership owe them a debt of gratitude for their incalculable contribution to party strategy and the success of the SNP, especially to Angus Robertson, the modest hero of the SNP, the architect of so much of its success - our leader in Westminster. We owe so much to this man.
We won't forget - and after May, you'll never be lonely again, guys - massive reinforcements are coming!
There has never been a party conference like this. It let the world see what Scotland and Scots are really like - open and determined. There's a simple explanation for SNP's success and poll position - it understands Scots, Scotland and politics better than the opposition.
HUMZA: "We are nobody's branch office. Nobody puts Scotland in a box. No one puts Scotland in a corner." And so say all of us ...
If you're a lifelong Labour supporter (I was!) but increasingly realise that the SNP is the party that now represents your values - join us!
If you voted NO at #indyref but are having second thoughts, now's the time! Join the SNP - you'll be welcomed and immediately among friends.
Sunday, 22 March 2015
Salmond on Marr, Soubry on Salmond, Murphy in meltdown – just another day in Scotland-dominated UK politics!
SNP membership hits 100,000, polls couldn’t be better or more consistent – and Scottish politics seem so human, vibrant, cutting edge - and Westminster politics so tired, so contemptibly predictable, locked in the past.
Anna Soubry MP does a fine archetypal Tory woman impression of Ann Widdecombe in full expostulating, "end-of-Britain-as-we-know-it" mode.
I must give Anna full credit - she does synthetic indignation body language better than anyone littering the Tory benches today.
Stuffed full of John McTernan soundbytes, Jim Murphy falls apart under Andrew Neil's relentless professionalism - and the cold, hard facts of the polls.
Defensive, misjudging speed of delivery, lurching in typical fashion from Scottish Labour backroom brawler mode to cloying attempts to ingratiate - all in all, Murphy's painful swansong.
Thursday, 12 February 2015
I wrote this in 2009 after Michael Martin, Labour MP for Glasgow North East and the Speaker of the House of Commons had announced his decision on the 19th of May to resign, to forestall the imminent historic humiliation of being the first Speaker in history to be forced out by a vote of no confidence. I really believed that the electors of Springburn, a district I had known well all my life, would awaken from their fantasy that Labour was on their side.
Not only was I wrong in November 2009 at the by-election, but wrong again at the 2010 General election in May 2010.
Despite all that has since happened, including the ignominious defeat of the hapless Gordon Brown Government, leaving us with the nightmare of the Coalition, the Ashcroft poll shows that Springburn is still set to do it again, lemming-like.
But the SNP has a strong candidate in Anne McLaughlin this time, and perhaps the electors will finally learn the lesson that the rest of Glasgow has – Labour is no longer the people’s party.
Don't get fooled again, Springburn!
The 2009 Moridura blog
FRIDAY, 22 MAY 2009
I wondered just how long it would take for Alf Young of the Herald to decide that a general election would be a bad thing right now, and here he is on cue today saying just that.
For those of you unfamiliar with Alf's deeply coded messages, let me translate - if a general election was announced swiftly, Labour would be wiped out at the polls, the Tories would win in England, and the rickety United Kingdom would have a Tory government, making it completely unrepresentative of the will of the Scottish people.
The new Westminster government could not then deny the Scottish people a referendum on independence, which would happen around the time of the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2011, with the SNP being returned with a decisive working majority. The likely outcome would be a decisive vote for the freedom of Scotland.
This must not be allowed to happen. In the fantasy world of the Herald, the Scotsman and the Scottish Unionist, the general election must be deferred as long as possible, giving Gordon Brown's corrupt, incompetent, indecisive and rotten administration time - time to recover credibility over the next few months, aided by the full weight of the Scottish unionist press, more defence jobs bribery, more judicious patronage, as many distorted scare stories as can be mustered, and ideally a nice popular, winnable war against some far off country - the Falklands Factor.
But there's a worm in Alf and Labour's apple - it's called Glasgow North East, better known as Springburn, and a by-election is imminent. How imminent?
Well, it could be July, but if Alf's logic is applied, it could be deferred till September or October, and this would sit well with Gordon Brown's electoral cowardice and reflex procrastination instincts.
A recent Channel Four News report covered Springburn and Labour, gained great moral force by being presented by Sarah Smith, the daughter of Labour's lost Leader, John Smith.
Here are a few facts.
Under Labour for generations, and in recent times while its Labour MP, Michael Martin was one of the most powerful politicians in the land, Springburn has
about two and a half times the national rate of unemployment.
life expectancy 12 years lower than more prosperous parts of Scotland.
almost 12% more smokers, and 5% more deaths from smoking than the Scottish average
widespread deprivation and urban decline
The Channel Four documentary quoted an old Springburn joke - "You can't join the Labour Party in Springburn - it's already full!"
But most of the Labour voters questioned said bluntly that that old reflex loyalty could no longer be relied upon.
What Sarah Smith devastatingly stated as "the breach of trust between the party that is supposed to fight for the underprivileged and the people who need it the most" will be in the forefront of Springburn voters minds when they go to the polling stations.
Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University caught the echoes of the questions from last year's Glasgow East campaign - "What has the Labour Party ever done for this constituency? It's still as impoverished as it ever was ..." Glasgow North East is even more impoverished.
What was Michael Martin doing? He was living in a palatial palace as Speaker, and he was implicated in an expenses system where MPs were making claims related to luxury items of home furnishing when people in Glasgow North East were struggling to get basic, essential items, such as cookers and fridges.
Don't get fooled again, Springburn.
Don't be fooled by politicians who make snap appearances at old ladies's lunch clubs, smile and twinkle, then disappear in a chauffeur-driven hired limousine to grand civic functions and expensive dinners.
Don't be fooled by little successful interventions into small grievances when the main structural decline of your community and your life is accelerating unchecked.
This is not the Labour you knew for so many years, in opposition, fighting against the evil Tories, who could be blamed for everything - this is Labour who have been in government for 12 years, yet have frittered away the resources of the nation and the lives of Scottish servicemen and women in foreign wars, the party that is cutting the Scottish budget for essential services by £500 million pounds while spending fifty times that - £25 billion pounds - on outmoded. irrelevant weapons of mass destruction.
Don't get fooled again Springburn!
Vote for the party of your ain folk, the Scottish National Party.
Monday, 9 February 2015
The National gets better by the day: in today’s edition, it excelled itself.
From its eye-catching, ‘Russian Roulette’ front cover through its news items to its articles, analysis and readers’ letters, it provided a wealth of information on key topics for committed supporters of Scotland’s independence – and hopefully many others as yet uncommitted – that helps to make them the driving force in the best informed electorate in the world, despite the efforts of the rest of the mainstream media to misinform and mislead them.
And of course, there’s the regular Monday delight – the Greg Moodie cartoon, in my view one his very best to date. (My cartoon consumption goes back to the 1940s and includes the American funnies, sent to me by relatives in the U.S., and I was viewing the great newspaper political cartoonists from early childhood.) This one had a real story to tell, with the word balloons driving the riveting, graphic wedding narrative – the impending nuptials of Ed and the SNP.
The second part of Alasdair Gray’s series, titled Towards Democracy contained - among his musings on explosions in munitions depots and the nuclear risk, the following gem -
“Everyone wants to live as far from such things as possible, so the London Government has placed the most dangerous in Scotland.”
He also observes that “British and North American armed forces have been bombing and blighting foreigners in wars where a minority of British and U.S.A soldiers died, and this caused no explosions in their homelands before a suicidal guerrilla group destroyed the New York World Trade Centre.”
But perhaps Alasdair’s most interesting proposition was that Alex Salmond adopted the high-risk strategy of moving the SNP towards NATO membership – which almost split the party in 2012 – to stop Obama, the U.S.A. and its supporters from “directing a global blast against Scottish independence before the referendum.”
Alasdair Gray advances the idea that this was in fact counter-productive -
“As a result, President Obama spoke as gently against it as the Pope. I believe the strong blast Salmond feared may have given the Yes campaign a clear majority, because a lot of Scots were getting tired of being told they could not rule themselves ..”
Well, we’ll never know – but I, for one, think Alasdair Gray may be right. But in this, as in so many other vital, pivotal judgments, e.g. the currency question, I don’t envy Alex Salmond the agonising choices he had to make. Characteristically, he made them bravely, decisively and without equivocation, not as a gambler, but as the statesman he was - and is.
Alasdair is in no doubt, and has a view on what must be done -
“NATO will keep its bases in Scotland no matter how much an independent Scotland protests, but that is no reason the SNP conference should not return to its former policy of total nuclear disarmament.” and “Alex Salmond’s amendment is less than three years old, and can be scrapped.”
However, for me, the most insightful and immediately relevant article in this fine National issue was George Kerevan’s “Time to face up to reality about the role SNP MPs will play post-election”. Kerevan is one of the true political thinkers in the SNP camp, and unlike many Scottish journalists, is capable of getting right down to the structural heart of complex political issues that others shy away from.
Anyone who wants to understand the complexities of the Westminster situation Nicola Sturgeon and the new bloc of SNP MPs will face if they are returned in the numbers the polls suggest must read this article - and then read it again.
In the maze of options, from coalition (currently ruled out) to confidence and supply deals (not “supply and demand” deals as one journalist suggested elsewhere!) the voting behaviours of an SNP/Plaid/Green bloc will demand fine judgements, as Kerevan’s keen eye detects.
Yesterday, Iain Macwhirter, in an excellent Sunday Herald article In this era of Coalition, the political map has turned yellow addressed similar questions. But he used the language of negotiation (a language most journalists should take care to avoid, since they rarely have any understanding of the dynamics of negotiation) to describe the dilemmas facing the SNP Westminster bloc.
In examining the choices the new SNP bloc will face, the choices that Nicola will have to mastermind – having ruled out the possibility that Alex Salmond “could become the back-seat driver from hell”, he adopts what I believe to be a false premise, namely that Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out “playing politics with the Tories”
Leaving aside the fact that the SNP minority government of 2007-2011 only survived because Alex Salmond deftly played politics with the Tories to get his budgets through, what Nicola has ruled out – as I understand it – is entering into coalition or any confidence and supply-type arrangement with the Tories. To do either would clearly be political suicide for the SNP in Scotland.
But this cannot be extrapolated into saying that the SNP would never vote with the Tories on any issue. (If Nicola said this, I missed it!) One only has to illustrate by extremes, e.g. what if the Tories agreed to vote against the upgrading of Trident against a Miliband Government determined to do it?
Although such a scenario stretches the bounds of probability, it does illustrate that distaste for the Tories cannot overwhelm common political sense, where there are key voting issues on which consensus exists. Such a distaste for the SNP from 2007 to date led the Scottish Labour group in Holyrood into utter folly, directly contributing to the decline of their party.
So when Iain Macwhirter says of voting with Tories that “Remarkably, the SNP has chosen not to do so and make clear that the only party it will play politics with is Labour” I believe him to be factually wrong. He goes on to say that -
“Sturgeon has thus handed an extraordinary advantage to Ed Miliband. He knows that the SNP will go into post-election negotiations with with precisely zero negotiating clout”
I must disagree totally with this verdict of a journalist, Iain Macwhirter, for whom I have the highest admiration and respect. Politicians, lawyers (Nicola is both!) and journalists rarely have even a rudimentary understanding of negotiation, but Nicola Sturgeon is a unique politician, as is her mentor and close colleague and friend, Alex Salmond – and both, although rooted in fundamental political principles, are supreme pragmatists.
They will deal – when and how they need to deal – when the situation demands it, in the over-arching interests of Scotland and the Scottish people.
Sunday, 8 February 2015
I wrote this letter to the Herald on 17th of March 2003. I was then, at least still nominally a supporter of the Labour Party, as I had been all my life and as my family had been.
The war against Iraq began three days later on March 20th 2003 with the U.S. launch of the bombing raid on Baghdad - Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Never in my life have I more wanted to be wrong in a prediction, but what followed unleashed unimaginable death and devastation that lasted from 2003 –2011, beyond my worst imaginings - and, in a very real sense, is not over yet.
The long slow death of Scottish Labour began in March 2003, in significant part due to their moral cowardice at that pivotal moment in history. New Labour – the creation of Blair, Brown and Mandelson seemed to die in 2010, but the rough beast is stirring again, slouching towards Westminster.
My letter, published in The Herald, 17th of March 2003.
Seventeen and a half per cent of the UK population are children of 15 years of age or younger. (Source of data – CIA website)41% of the Iraqi population are children o 15 years of age or younger. (Source - CIA website)
Therefore in any “collateral damage” to innocent civilians, 41 children will die or be maimed in every 100. (My source for these statistics - CIA website).
To add to the misery of the Iraqi children already hurt by Saddam Hussein and our sanctions will be an international crime.
Much has been made of Tony Blair’s “sincere conviction” over his stance on Iraq. If sincerity of conviction was the touchstone, the actions of any misguided politician in history could be justified. I hesitate to offer a list of those who pursued policies destructive to justice and life who were “sincere” in their conviction, but produced horrific consequences by their actions.
This coming war is profoundly misconceived and unjust, and Tony Blair is profoundly mistaken to pursue it.
He has wrecked our relationship with our European allies, damaged our international status, weakened our democratic and parliamentary traditions, has perhaps delivered a damaging blow to the Labour Party, and will undoubtedly damage our economy and our security.
As for Scotland’s MSPs supporting Blair's action by their contemptible inaction – don’t look for my vote (Labour for more than four decades) in the May elections.
I now know where the politicians of principle are – a tiny minority in the Scottish Labour group, and a majority in the SSP and the SNP. My advice to the few MSPs of principle left in the Scottish Parliament is to cross the floor now.
Iraq has become the defining political issue of our time, and the question that will be asked of politicians (and all of us) is – where were you when there was still time to stop it?
Thursday, 5 February 2015
All the forecasts indicate a hung Parliament as a probability rather than a possibility. I offer my understanding of the mechanic and dynamics of this to those who perhaps have never examined the matter in any detail.
If you are already well-informed on such matters, pass on – what follows is not for you, you clued-up thing, you …
CURRENT STATE OF PARTIES
Liberal Democrat 56
Democratic Unionist 8
Scottish National 6
Sinn Fein 5
Plaid Cymru 3
Social Dem & Lab. 3
Total no. of seats 650
HARD ARITHMETIC OF FORMING A GOVERNMENT
After a general election, the leader of one of the parties has to demonstrate that he or she can command a majority of the votes in the House of Commons on major issues - e.g. the Budget, major legislation, decisions to commit the Armed Forces – in other words, impose the democratic will of the Government on dissenting voices in the House and govern the United Kingdom. This is a obviously a practical necessity and of course constitutional requirement, as the leader has to convince the Queen as Head of State.
If one political party has this capacity, its leader de facto becomes Prime Minister, subject to the Queen’s ratification, but if no single party has the requisite number of seats – even though one may have more seats than any other single party – then either
a deal has to be struck with another party or parties, or
the party with the majority of seats has to risk governing as a minority government, or
a hung Parliament effectively exists and another general election has to be called.
This situation existed in the hectic days following the last general election in 2010, and a fascinating spectacle it was.
There have been many projections of just how the seats will play out after May 7th, and there will be many more, as poll after poll offers its forecasts, but for the purpose of illustration of the arithmetic, I’ll use a slightly dated, but useful projection of the BBC’s – the first Newsnight Index - for no better reason than that I already have a graphic for it – and it may well be as accurate as any other that comes up!
With 650 seats in the House, a simple majority requires the aspirant governing party or parties to be able to command 326 seats (half of 650 + 1)– but since Sinn Fein doesn’t take up its five seats, that becomes 323 (half of 645 +1). Sinn Fein could of course put a green cat among the Brit pigeons at any time by deciding to turn up!
If we look at the Newsnight Index projection (it’s not the current one), Labour, on this projection, would be the party with most seats, but not enough to hit the magic 323. Ed Miliband could then choose to “do an Alex Salmond 2007” and elect to govern as a minority government – a high-wire act, with huge risks, which Alex was well-equipped to perform – requiring him to do ad hoc deals on every major vote with other parties or interest groups within and/or across parties. If he hadn’t the balls for this – or the Queen didn’t like it – he would then have three other options -
call for another general election, or
try to strike a confidence & supply deal with another party or parties – a kind of minority government with a pre-arranged support understanding, or
form a coalition government with one party or with more than one party - a Rainbow coalition
(Aficionados of the various Borgen series on BBC Four will understand all of this effortlessly, plus have an insight into the role of sex in government!)
Who will Ed’s likely partners in government be – if he chooses to have partners – and how would it play out on the above, or similar projections of a May 7th outcome?
To get to the magic 323, he needs 37 votes. For comfort – and to reassure Lizzie – he ideally needs more. The SNP can give him 33, Plaid two and Greens one. He definitely(?) won’t find his extra one from the Tories or UKIP, and thus is left to trawl among the LibDems, the Northern Ireland parties and the Others!
Perhaps George Galloway will see his way clear to support Ed, but probably at a price that would be unacceptable!
However it plays out, it seems inevitable, if present polling trends are accurate, that the SNP will be the key player.
But consider this possibility – the LibDem 26 plus 11 others – but drawn from where?
I haven’t had so much fun since the 1945 General Election, where I campaigned for Labour and Attlee as a ten year-old. Now, that was fun …N.B. The Speaker does not vote, except in deadheat votes, when the convention is that the speaker casts the tie-breaking vote in favor of the governing party.
Monday, 12 January 2015
Murphy seems close to adopting a heretical YES creed. But NO voters wink and tap their noses: he's brought in the Witchfinder General!
Murphy says Scottish Labour is open to indy supporters. How exactly does he plan to deliver it? By referendum? By recanting? By Irn-Bru?
The Scotsman does its best to explain Murphyism with a straight face
Jim Murphy inspires me - to throw-up, then laugh. He reaches the depths of expediency other politicians cannot reach - not even Nigel!
Even non-believers in Henry Jackson may join Murphy's New Labour. Anti-NATO? We have a place for you too! George Robertson is a donor!
Murphyism - the new health food for disenchanted Labour YES supporters. It's bland, non-nutritious, cooked up by our new chef McTernan
Enough of politics - an indy crossword clue! Politician with no beliefs and forked tongue. No entries required - no prizes offered.
New Murphy Labour - open to all! We'll adjust to anybody's beliefs because our new party has only one - believe in Jim Murphy's career
Jim Murphy - why not invite unilateral WMD disarmers to join your new creed? And flat-earthers, creationists, perpetual motion fans?
To say that Murphyism is a confused, contradictory, opportunistic creed is not to do it full justice. Anyone who swallows this is nuts
SCOTSMAN on Murphyism: "referendum has resulted in the party being overwhelmingly characterised as unionist" Fancy that! 100 towns? Irn-Bru?
Murphy says Scottish Labour is open to indy supporters. How exactly does he plan to deliver it? By referendum? By recanting? By Irn-Bru?
Saturday, 27 December 2014
A guid New Year tae ane an a’ when it comes – an’ mony may ye see!
Campaign for – and vote for – an independence-supporting party in GE2o15
**a YES party**
Monday, 1 December 2014
Lord Smith of Kelvin - self-deprecating and modest about his role - appeared before the media in the National Museum of Scotland at around 9 o’clock on 27th November - flanked by the politician members of the Commission and key advisors - to announce that a deal had been arrived at on more powers for Scotland.
The BBC lead-in to this at 9.03 quoted from the multitude of leaks, hyping up the impending revelations by describing them as “the biggest transfer of powers since devolution began 15 years ago”, a factually accurate statement, but also the key UK propaganda sound byte attempting to airbrush out the the starkly evident fact that the powers fell far, far short of the various versions of The Vow, which ranged from vague promises through devomax to home rule and near-federalism, depending on which “promise” the electorate of Scotland listened to, in the last days of the referendum campaign.
Let’s take a step back and take a hard look at genesis of The Smith Commission …
THE SMITH COMMISSION
September: a single poll shows YES Campaign ahead for first time and throws the Unionist parties, Westminster, the British Establishment and the unionist media, i.e. virtually all of the media, into blind panic.
The YES Scotland campaign could actually win! Desperate measures were clearly called for. Cometh the panic, cometh the lies, cometh the media - and the man …
Having opposed the second question and ignored the blindingly obvious lessons of polls throughout the entire campaign - that there was a solid majority of Scots and Scottish institutions that wanted far great powers but within the UK - they faced a dilemma: how to belatedly capitalise on this whilst retaining sovereign control over Scotland and avoiding giving anything of significance away that could strike at the very concept of the Union.
Their solution, albeit panic-driven - and ignoring the UK-wide impact on the rUK electorate in the run-up to the 2015 General election - was to make non-specific yet sweeping promises of more powers in a way that could be controlled, watered down, and ideally kicked into the long, long Westminster and Whitehall grass after a NO vote.
(I was tweeting suspiciously about devo max, Civic Scotland and more powers as long ago as July 2012)
The plan arrived at was crude – but it worked. The Scottish unionist parties already had positions on more powers, albeit differing widely. The big question was not what the parties individually wanted, but whether they could get their act together, then persuade their Westminster party masters to endorse something nebulous but seductive before 18th September.
A compliant media channel was required to act as cheerleader. What better one than The Daily Record?
Now all that was needed to administer a coup-de-grace to YES hopes (by convincing the wavering Don’t Knows and the soft NOes) was a blunt instrument, in the form of someone who held -
no position in Better Together
no Government position
no Shadow Cabinet position
- a powerful voice who had no authority to commit anything on behalf of anyone, and who could be safely repudiated if things went pear-shaped with the rUK electorate.
And there he was, growling, pacing and posturing in the wings, moral compass needle swinging wildly in all directions, desperate for a platform – banker of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, proponent of light-touch banking regulation and the architect of the collapse of the UK economy – Gordon Brown.
It worked. The Referendum was lost, Better Together won by a comfortable margin, and joy was unbounded in the British Establishment, the House of Lords, NATO, the Pentagon, the White House, the Ministry of Defence, the nuclear industry, hedge-fund managers and dodgy bankers and just about every right-wing European country – and perhaps even the Vatican?
But the piper, in the form of the electorate, had to be paid after a NO vote - the Vow had to appear to be fulfilled, since it was manifestly impossible to fulfil it without defenestrating the Union. But the plan was already in motion …
A respected Scottish figure had to be found, and a confidential approach was made to Lord Smith of Kelvin before the referendum. He accepted. The task was formidable, but the appointment was not a poisoned chalice, because if he succeeded in achieving a consensus recommendation from the Scottish Parties including the independence parties – no mean feat – Lord Smith could then pass the chalice to Westminster, job done and conscience clear.
Then, and only then, would the chalice contents undergo a transformation into a drink that would enter the system of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish electorates and run in potentially toxic rivulets through the constitutional structure and the very heart of the Westminster system, even the very concept of Union itself.
SMITH COMMISSION BASIS
The Commission was set up by Cameron to consult widely then attempt to broker a consensus between representatives of the five political parties in the devolved Scottish Government on what additional powers should be granted to Scotland following a NO vote. Their recommendations would then be to the three leaders of the main UK parties, who were pre-committed by the Vow (and now by the terms of reference of the Smith Commission) to take the recommendations set out in the agreement and turn them into law.
The five party representatives de facto formed two blocs – the pro-independence bloc (2) and the Unionist block (3) and to be present at all, they had to fully accept the terms of reference set by Government for the Commission: recognition that Westminster Parliament was sovereign and crucially, that nothing in the submission would disadvantage rUK.
Since the prime reason the UK opposed Scottish independence was the undeniable fact that Scotland leaving the Union would damage the UK in fundamental areas : its world status, the nuclear deterrent, defence, economic and social policy – if they persisted with the centre-right consensus policies of the three unionist parties and their concept of foreign affairs and strategic defence – the likelihood of new powers even approximating to the wild promises of the VOW was close to zero.
After all, wasn’t that exactly why the Second Question had been blocked by the UK Government?
SMITH: CHOICES FACED BY SNP/GREENS BLOC
In his foreword to his 27th November Report, Lord Smith reiterated what the purpose of the Commission had been.
Scotland voted ‘No’, but it did so with each of the three main UK parties promising more powers for the Scottish Parliament. I was asked to lead a Commission, working with the five parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, to agree what those new powers should be.
The words I have highlighted in red should, of course, have read
..to agree what we, the Scottish Parliament representatives, think those new powers ought to be, and then submit our consensus view to the British Government and sovereign UK Parliament in the hope that they will ratify them.
The reality of this for the Unionist bloc of three was that nothing could be submitted that hadn’t been cleared at every step of the way with Westminster, however that was done – overtly or covertly. The idea that the Commission would deliberate in monastic seclusion, only revealing their consensus to an admiring world on 27th November was always risible, as leaks and last minute events demonstrated.
The Smith recommendations required a UK imprimatur before they were released, not after.
The Commission was always going to be an adversarial multi-party negotiation, with Lord Smith as mediator. Whether the party representatives were equipped for such a complex negotiating process is an open question.
I will not speculate on what the Greens choice’s were, nor how they viewed them. But the SNP’s choices were starkly simple – they could boycott the Commission a la Calman or agree to participate. If they agreed to participate, they were agreeing to negotiate, and by definition, to surrender part of their best opening position, i.e.
The SNP continue to advocate Scottish independence, and believe that Scotland will one day become an independent country. But of course we accept the referendum result, which means that independence is not part of the Commission's considerations. We wish formally to associate ourselves with the 34-page set of proposals sent today by the Scottish Government, and which I enclose herewith
If such a seemingly inevitable set of compromises were made, the SNP/Green bloc was accepting that a deal had been struck and, subject only to the over-arching qualifier that they believed that “Scotland will one day become an independent country” they were honour-bound to stand behind any deal they made.
The clear alternative, implicit in any negotiation, was deadlock followed by breakdown and walking away from the table.
However the political choices made this seemingly simple strategy more complex. Let’s examine the possible scenarios resulting from this choice.
If the SNP had refused to participate in the Smith Commission, the Unionist block would simply have met, deliberated, and reached a consensus recommendation to Westminster. (It is just barely arguable that the three unionist parties might not have reached a consensus, and fragmented into a Labour versus Coalition deadlock. That would have been interesting …)
The SNP would then have been presented as bad losers, immature politicians, sulking on the sidelines of the new, post-referendum game.
In my view, they made the right choice – to participate, to play the game and accept La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir 1939).
However, the rules of the negotiating game also include the possibility of deadlock and breakdown, and a requirement that, faced with a bad deal and the failure of the process to satisfy crucial negotiating objectives, the SNP must walk out of the negotiation.
That scenario, albeit undesirable, was a viable one for the SNP. It was, after all, what most of the 1.6m YES voters expected from the Vow. It would not have surprised or shocked them. Nicola and the SNP Cabinet could have played a virtually identical hand to the one they did in fact play after the 27th November “deal” at FMQs and in the media – Powers inadequate, but they would be accepted and used, etc. There are obvious PR downsides to the scenario, but it has a certain integrity to it.
But the strategy – if there was one – seemed to be to work with the Commission, get the best deal on offer - in the full knowledge that it would fall far short of the Vow, of devomax, of federalism, of home rule - then criticise mercilessly the deal they had just made.
The major political upside of any deal that involved giving Scotland any new powers after a referendum defeat was that it would reopen the West Lothian Question in its new, nightmare reincarnation as EVEL – English Votes for English Laws – and leave the UK parties and constitutional arrangements in tatters in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
That has duly happened.
I don’t propose to offer a critique of the new powers – that hatchet job has been done expertly and acrimoniously by just about everybody.
On balance, I think the SNP – and the Greens – were right to join the Smith Commission, and right not to breakdown and walk-away. If I have a criticism, it is that they misjudged the post-deal tone, which offended the sensibilities of an old negotiator like me, specifically that if you make a deal, you accept your part in it and blame no one but yourself for its inadequacies.
But then, I am not a politician, and doubt that I ever could have been one. I’m something much more important in our new Scotland – an informed and vigilant voter – and there’s another 1.6m of me at the very least.
Tuesday, 7 January 2014
Scottish Better Together parties can’t deliver more powers to Scotland – and Westminster won’t. Devo negligible, zero or minus
As anyone who has followed my blog and tweets over recent years will know, I have argued every aspect of the devolution/more powers versus full independence arguments, and have expressed fears – and often astonishment – that the complex implications of the shifting currents of voter opinion and preferences on devo within UK, full independence, and the missing second question are being avoided or argued inadequately.
The way this argument is handled will impact crucially on the way the Scottish electorate will ultimately resolve this, faced with a simple YES/NO choice on September 18th 2014.
Although there seems to be a dawning recognition of just how this question will dominate the debate in the months remaining - and some evidence that both YES and No campaigns have at least grasped the essentials - there is still a flabby sogginess in the YES (and SNP) arguments, and continuing failure of media commentators and TV political news anchors to ask focused questions. This is allowing Better Together to pump out a miasma of vague promises to deliver more powers, without a shred of evidence of exactly how they could do this.
So let me reiterate again what I see as the fundamentals, with a plea that all parties to the public debate fully present and explore them, and that media commentators ask the key question again and again.
The Scottish Parliament exists only by the grace and favour of the sovereign UK Parliament under the Scotland Act, and its limited powers are in the gift of Westminster. They can be amended, curtailed or withdrawn at any time by the Westminster UK government. Scottish MPs can vote against this but have not got the power to block it, given the massive disparity in their numbers versus rUK MPs.
In the lead-up to the Edinburgh Agreement, all polls and virtually all expressions of opinion by Civic Scotland indicated a majority for more powers for Scotland – devo max, devo plus and other variant – while remaining within UK, i.e. with defence and foreign affairs remaining under Westminster. (There is an inherent contradiction in this preference on defence and foreign affairs with the Scottish electorate and Civic Scotland’s wish for a nuclear-free Scotland. A WMD-free Scotland cannot be delivered under such devolution.)
The Scottish Government was open to a second question in the 2014 referendum, offering not just a binary choice between full independence and status quo, but a question on more powers within the UK. Civic Scotland was highly vocal in support of a second question.
(There were formidable, but not insuperable problems in framing such a ballot paper – or papers – and even more formidable problems in evaluating the various possible vote outcomes. During this period of the debate, the political parties and the media showed a spectacular naivety and ignorance in addressing these complex issues.)
The 2nd question veto
The second question was effectively vetoed by David Cameron and the Better Together Parties, and their negotiator, Michal Moore, was mandated to treat this as a deal breaker in the Edinburgh Agreement negotiations.
The reason advanced by Cameron and the Better Together axis was that the will of the Scottish electorate had to be determined with absolute clarity on independence before any question of more powers could be addressed. This was a patently specious and self-serving argument, given that the will of the Scottish people seemed evident from the opinion polls and Civic Scotland.
The real reason – in my view – was that if a second question was offered and proved decisively to be the preferred option, the UK Government would be under major pressure to deliver more powers – and they had – and have - no intention of doing so.
The power realities of Scottish Better Together and Westminster parties
Scottish Labour, Scottish Tories and Scottish LibDems can have their little think tanks, commissions, etc. under various exciting and pompous titles, they can pass resolutions at Scottish party conferences, they can make recommendations to their London party masters, they might even conceivably reach a core consensus – but they cannot deliver such powers.
Only the Westminster parties can decide whether or not to include all or any of these recommendations in their 2015 general election manifestos – and they won’t, because to do so would be electoral suicide, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and God’s gift to UKIP.
Here’s my analysis again from a recent posting on Scotland-US.
The only mechanism by which more powers can be delivered, now or after a No vote, is The Scotland Act. It has already delivered a dribble of powers after the Calman Commission. The Scotland Act leaves absolute control with the Westminster Parliament over Scotland’s devolved powers: it created the devolved Parliament, it has the power to vary its powers by adding to them or subtracting them. It has the power to end devolution and dissolve the Parliament by vote in which non-Scottish MPs massively outnumber the 59 Scots.
In other words, until and unless it votes for full independence, Scotland is wholly dependent on the grace and favour of the British Parliament for its Parliament and any powers it has.
There are powerful voices in the Commons and the unelected Lords who have always bitterly opposed the creation of a Scottish Parliament, regarding devolution as the thin edge of a wedge that would end the Union. There are a growing number of voices in England, notably the local authorities who bitterly resent what they see as Scotland privileged status in the Barnett Formula
There are strong voices, encapsulated by The West Lothian Question – coined by a Scot, Tam Dalyell – that questions the ability of Scots MPs to influence English legislation on purely English matters by their votes in Westminster, while English MPs cannot influence devolved matter in the Scottish Parliament. There are moves to reduce the number of Scottish MPs in Westminster. There is growing resentment in England and Wales about what they see as Scotland’s privileged position under devolution.
To grant more powers to Scotland after a No vote, or even promise them before one would be greeted with outrage by the English electorate and the Welsh Labour voters. It would be political suicide in the 2015 UK general election for any party that promised or committed such powers.
The Scottish electorate do not trust the UK on promises of more powers after a No vote in a referendum, because they have already reneged on just such a promise in 1979 after a referendum – they have form!
But the decisive argument for Scots is that, had the UK Parliament and government any intentions to consider or grant more powers, they would not have opposed the second question in the Scottish referendum addressing the wish for devo max within UK revealed in poll after poll.
Alex Salmond and the SNP government were willing to consider such a question and option, offering a middle road between independence and the status quo. The resolute opposition to the 2nd question – a deal breaker for the Edinburgh Agreement – by David Cameron and all the UK Better Together parties – told the Scottish electorate all they needed to know – that a No vote, far from producing more powers, was almost certain to produce a clawback of powers and a £4 billion reduction in the Barnett Formula.
The Scottish electorate know that a No vote, in addition to attracting the astonishment and thinly veiled contempt of the world for a nation that rejected its chance to be independent, would result in either devo zero or devo minus.
Only independence will deliver to Scotland and the Scottish people the freedom they need to determine their future in this uncertain world and the challenging times ahead.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Monday, 15 July 2013
"Will it really be independence?" stuff still touted by those hostile to Scotland’s independence, by the fearful and confused – and by quite a few prominent journalists and pundits. (The latter group are either fearful and confused – or they’re being ingenuous…)
Clarity of thought is vital at this point for independence campaigners, so turn it around - anything that leaves ultimate control with Westminster won't be independence. (e.g. federalism or any one of the multiple variants of devolution being touted – devo max, devo plus, full fiscal autonomy.)
While the Scotland Act is in force, Scotland is not independent - everything is in the gift of Westminster, which electorally means England. And it can be modified or withdrawn at any time … The Union remains intact, dominant, with total control over Scotland.
If Scotland decides on its defence policy, its foreign policy - including when to engage in armed conflict - elects its own Parliament and Government and makes it own laws, it's independent. Anything less and it's NOT independent.
The core principle is fully independent within an interdependent world – independence that recognises the reality of interdependence in a rapidly changing and unstable world.
Independence is the freedom to choose, with no limits or constraints on those choices, except ones we freely make and enter into - and can freely unmake and exit from.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
The voice of the people of Scotland is heard at the ballot box, and if necessary, on the streets, e.g. the poll tax resistance. Listen to it
Beware of equating some of the institutions of Civic Scotland with the people of Scotland - some are the vehicles for powerful individuals.
Who are the real advocates of devo-max/devo-plus? Powerful corporate and financial interest groups with a heavy stake in perpetuating the UK
With a YES vote majority the UK has no choice but to negotiate the terms of independence. With a devo-max vote, Scotland must go cap in hand
The devo-max argument: if we promise to be nice and not demand our independence, will you be nice and give us a little more power? Please?
Federalism, home rule, devo-max and devo-plus are all euphemisms for continued UK control - the power to grant or remove power from Scots.
The Scotland Act is an instrument of UK power. It conferred devolution: it can take it away gradually or totally. Devo-max is a Trojan horse
Some advocates of independence favour gradualism. Vote for devo-max and gradualism may mean gradual claw-back of powers. Only independence!
The Scotland Act can remove powers as easily as it confers them. Devo-max is a trap - UK holds power over what to grant, what to take away.
Imposition of the Stamp Act by Britain led the American people to fight for independence. Scots are vulnerable to Scotland Act impositions.
Saturday, 11 February 2012
The following represents my individual understanding, as a voter, of some essential facts about the background to the referendum vote in Autumn 2014. Since I am not an expert in any of the subjects covered, my understanding may well be in error: it is undoubtedly simplified. I speak for no one but myself.
I have tried to exclude any personal value judgements from the details set out below – I believe them to be factual, and not coloured by personal beliefs or political orientation. I am happy to accept correction of factual errors, but please don’t offer complex interpretation, since my objective is to contribute as an individual to my Voters in The Village initiative, and I want to keep it simple – but not simplistic.
I would ask particularly that you do not offer legal interpretations or views: almost everything to do with the referendum is contested by legal and other experts, all highly vocal – and in some cases abusive(!) – in their assertion of the absolute rightness of their particular perspectives.
The dilemma of the referendum voter will be how to decide between alternative legal, political and ‘expert’ views in deciding how to vote. Faced with conflicting views and interpretation of ‘facts’, ultimately the voter decision will be based significantly on belief and trust.
That’s democracy - that’s life …
MY UNDERSTANDING OF ESSENTIAL FACTS ABOUT THE REFERENDUM
In early 1706, Scotland and England were two independent kingdoms with the same monarch and had been since 1603. (If Scotland becomes independent, Scotland and England would again be two independent kingdoms with one monarch – the Queen will be retained as constitutional monarch, as will her lawful successors.)
Following negotiations between England and Scotland, a Treaty of Union was agreed on 22nd July 1706. The English Parliament then passed The Union with Scotland Act in 1706 and the Scottish Parliament passed The Union with England Act in 1707.
The two acts took effect on 1st May 1707, and both the Scottish and the English Parliaments united to become the Parliament of Great Britain based in the Palace of Westminster. (The two Acts are referred to as the Union of the Parliaments.
Ireland, the third kingdom, was not included in the Union. Ireland was legally subordinate to England (until 1784) but had its own Parliament. It asked to join the new Union of Scotland and England, but was refused. It eventually was accepted into the Union (The UK) on 1st January 1801
Ireland was partitioned into two parts on 6th December 1922 by The Government of Ireland Act of 1920, Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, known as The Irish Free State.
For a very brief period, Northern Ireland was no longer part of The United Kingdom, but was given the right to opt out of the Irish Free state and did so on 13th December 1922. In 1937, The Irish Free state was renamed Ireland, then in 1949, The Republic of Ireland.
Wales was conquered by England in 1282, had a brief period of independence early in the 14th century, but then was re-conquered and under the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535-1532 became completely part of the English legal system and Parliament.
Scotland voted in a referendum for the creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Wales voted in a referendum for the creation of The National Assembly of Wales in 1999.
The Northern Ireland Parliament dates from home rule in 1920/22, and is now the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive.
Scotland has certain devolved powers under the Scotland Act but many power are reserved to the Westminster Parliament (The UK Parliament). The Westminster Parliament is sovereign, i.e. only Westminster can devolve powers and only Westminster can amend the Scotland Act. Westminster can add devolved powers or revoke those already granted.
A referendum is a direct vote in which the total electorate is asked to accept or reject a direct proposal, usually one of major significance. It is direct democracy, as opposed to elective democracy, where elected representatives then vote on issue in on behalf of their constituents.
Referendums are binding in some countries – in certain circumstance they can be mandatory - but not in the UK. In the UK, a referendum is neither mandatory nor binding, but the result is usually respected by government.
Only two referendums have involved the entire UK electorate – The UK European communities membership referendum in 1975 and The UK Alternative Vote Referendum 2011
A devolution referendum for the creation of a Scottish Assembly was held in in 1977. The vote was 52% to 48%, with 63.6% of those eligible to vote (the turnout) casting their vote. This meant that 32.9% of the electorate had voted yes, and since a condition of the referendum was that at least 40% of the electorate must vote, The Scotland Act 1978, designed to introduce devolution, was repealed.
The Scottish Parliament Referendum – the devolution referendum – was held in September 1997. 44.87% of the electorate voted and 74.3% of those voting voted for devolution. This means that 33.34% of those eligible to vote voted for devolution.
A referendum on the independence of Scotland will be held in the autumn of 2014. Autumn 2014 starts on the 23rd of September. The earliest date for the referendum is therefore 23rd September 2014, and the latest date is 20th December 2014.
The referendum will be a consultative referendum and will not in itself bring about independence. The Westminster Government and the UK Prime Minister have already confirmed that if the Scottish electorate vote for independence, the UK government will accept this outcome and will negotiate with the Scottish Government on the terms of independence. The negotiations are likely to take years to finalise.
The Scottish Government has an anti-nuclear weapons policy, and if the Scottish electorate vote for independence, nuclear weapons systems – i.e. the Trident weapons system - will be removed from Scotland and Scottish waters.
The anti-nuclear policy extends to any defence alliance committed to nuclear weapons. An independent Scotland will withdraw from NATO, but liaise with NATO through Partnership for Peace, a non-nuclear alliance involving other European countries.
An independent Scotland would have its own defence forces and its own foreign policy, and will participate in appropriate alliances and coalitions with other countries as circumstances dictate.
An independent Scotland will be a member of the European Union, but will not join the euro: it will continue to use sterling as a tradable currency, and will operate in a currency union. The Bank of England is independent of the UK government and sets its own interest rates and policy. England, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to accept the Bank of England in that role. Scotland will accept the Bank of England as the central bank in a currency union until such time as it decides to change to another currency. It is highly unlikely that this could happen within a decade.
Saturday, 4 February 2012
A series of comments I received from Holebender on my proposed ballot paper have proved a slow burn for me, and led me to review my ideas. But first, my ballot paper -
MY BALLOT PAPER ( Ballot blog )
Answer only one question - tick only one box.
If you answer more than one question, your ballot paper will be null and void. CHOOSE ONLY ONE OPTION - GIVE ONLY ONE ANSWER
I want a fully independent, sovereign Scotland.
I want Scotland to remain in the UK with no increased in current devolved powers to Scotland.
I want Scotland to remain in the UK with some additional powers devolved to Scotland.
I want Scotland to remain in the UK with all powers devolved to Scotland except defence and foreign policy.
N.B. If you have answered more than one question, i.e. ticked more than one box, your ballot paper will be null and void.
This is not the ballot paper I want - I want a single question on independence - but I believe that if the consultation exercise, plus perhaps the polls, shows a clear wish for other options to be presented, then as a democrat, I believe they must be offered in the referendum. I should add that I believe that devo max would be dangerous for the SNP, that it would be unlikely to be delivered after a NO vote on independence even though a majority of the Scottish electorate voted for it. Despite that, I still feel it must be offered if the electorate want it.
My ballot paper offers what I consider to be the maximum reasonable number of options, with only one option being selected. i.e. it is equivalent to a first past the post Westminster election ballot for an MP in a constituency - no proportionality, only one choice made, only one choice can win.
It has the following advantages, in my view -
1. It offers clean-cut choices.
2. It doesn’t allow double counting, resulting in a contested outcome, e.g. 51% vote for independence, 70% devo max.
How could double counting happen? Well, on a ballot paper that allows voting for one or both options, no voter who wants to retain the Union will vote for independence, but some independence voters might hedge their bets and also vote for devo max. For example, on a ballot of 100 voters: 51 vote independence, 49 anti-independence voters vote for devo max, but 21 of the independence voters also vote for devo max. Outcome = 51 indy, 70 devo max.
If all the independence voters also voted devo max, the risible outcome would be 100% for devo max, 51% for independence, and both sides would claim a win.
The various ways round this dilemma all involve some form of conditionality on the ballot paper voting instruction, all of which, despite strident assertions to the contrary by their proponents, involve potential problems of understanding, complexity, etc.
However, there is another argument (Holebender’s argument) against my methodology, and it deserves serious consideration. It involves a hypothetical outcome to the ballot - using my ballot paper - such as the following-
30% vote for independence, 20% to remain in UK with no further powers, 21% to remain in UK with some further powers, 29% for devo max, i.e all powers except defence and foreign policy.
On my methodology, independence would win, even though there is a combined 70% that want to remain in the UK. Such an outcome would clearly create a furore if independence was declared the winner, and it offends against all democratic instincts, including mine.
Yet this is the basis on which Westminster MPs are elected in a general election constituency election - it is called first past the post, and it was fought for in a bitter and divisive - and dirty - referendum campaign, with the ftp camp emerging as the winners.
Critics of my argument will point out that it is not, however, the basis on which governments are formed, where an ability to command an overall majority in the Commons must be achieved or demonstrated by a coalition agreement before the Queen gives her assent. Alex Salmond managed to form and successfully run a minority government by having the most seats, yet not having an overall majority in Holyrood.
But these are false parallels - a referendum is normally understood to be a choice between two options and is neither a constituency election for an MP, nor a Parliamentary election.
Is there an answer to the worm in my ballot apple? Yes, there is, but it is not one that I’m comfortable with it. It requires that the outcome must satisfy a minimum percentage vote for the winning outcome, e.g. 51% of all votes cast. While this is clearly required for a single question ballot paper, it takes us into dangerous areas when applied to multi-question papers - into the area of the rigged referendum, of requiring more than 51% of votes cast to qualify, or worse still, requiring a minimum percentage of the electorate to vote. In fact such dangers exist for a single question if more than a simple majority is required. The ghost of Gerry Mander stalks the scene …
But what if the above nightmare scenario - 30/20/21/29 - represents the actual balance of preferences of the electorate closer to the referendum period, as revealed by the polls at that time?
As a democrat first and a nationalist second, I must say that without a minimum percentage proviso, which would declare the referendum null and void, such an outcome could not be deemed acceptable and would be a recipe for conflict.
I wish I could say that I have confidence that somebody somewhere is coming up with the right answer, one that will be immediately acceptable as fair and workable and unbiased by all parties. At the moment, given the inane questions of the media and the politicised, polarised solutions of some nationalist and most unionists, that confidence has not yet been established.
And I have no answers, and must fall back on cutting the Gordian knot and returning to my instinctive first preference for a single question, and a simple 51% majority.
Democracy is a messy business, but what alternatives do we have except dictatorship and fascism?
Thursday, 15 December 2011
“Here is one man … selling Liberal opinions with his left hand and Conservative opinions with his right hand … That is an extraordinary spectacle …
“If such conduct were developed in private life or by politicians in public life every man and woman in the country would say ‘That is very double-faced. You cannot believe the two.’ … He would be regarded as coming perilously near a rogue.”
These extracts from a 1922 speech come perilously near describing the behaviour of the Liberal Democrats in 2011. They were made by Winston Churchill, MP for Dundee, in a speech to constituents at Broughty Ferry. It was directed at one D.C. Thomson, the proprietor of twelve newspapers, who had been attacking him in print. (Oor Wullie and the Broons were still a long way off in 1922).
It didn’t do Churchill much good – he lost the election to a teetotal candidate, which must have been the ultimate insult to Winston, who could bend an elbow with the best of them.
I have a shameful confession to make at this point. I was a lifetime supporter - but never a member – of the Labour Party until Iraq, and then spent four years in a political vacuum until voting SNP in 2007. I then joined the SNP. But they were the second political party I had been a member of, because I joined the newly-formed Social Democratic Party – the forerunner of the LibDems – in March 1981, as a founder member. I was into the middle of a major strike in the Newcastle Breweries in Newcastle, and I joined in a mood of frustration with Labour and with organised labour, so to speak.
My membership lasted a matter of weeks, with question marks forming after attending my first branch meeting in Durham, then dealt a terminal blow to my choice by attending a meeting at which David Owen was the speaker. The entire feel was one of expediency, and of a middle-class group with zero understanding of working people, and precious little concern for them, except as voting fodder. I never in my wildest nightmare thought that the Labour Party, especially the Scottish Labour Party, would reach the same point. I was still locked in cognitive dissonance over Labour’s proclaimed values versus the sordid reality of Labour in power as I had experienced it in Glasgow throughout my life there up till 1974.
The future is now a bleak one for ordinary LibDem voters who mistakenly placed their trust in this party. The politicians they elected have traded integrity and values for ministerial salaries, cars, and the illusion of power, and by God, what a hollow illusion it has been!
They cannot bring the Coalition down because they would face electoral oblivion in a general election. They have taken the toxic shilling, and they must play the game out to the bitter end – bitter for the people of England, and deeply damaging for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but not for Clegg and his team. If they can hold out for another three and a half years, the directorship, the consultancies and even the Lordships beckon – they’ll be OK.
So Clegg (already rich) and Huhne, and Hughes, and Cable, et al will be alright financially. The noble Lords Steele, Ashdown and Campbell, et al have already made their escape to the unelected, undemocratic, lucrative bolthole of the ermine. Only poor, bemused Danny Alexander, and the last Scottish Colonial Governor, Michael Moore, might have cause to regret flying too close to the Westminster flame
Of course, a membership revolt could change things, but LibDem grassroots members are not the revolting kind. But their leaders are utterly revolting, indeed truly disgusting in their betrayal of all that LibDems held dear, if indeed they ever held anything dear …
Thank God, Scotland had a choice, made it decisively, and now has an infinitely greater choice to prepare for, and to make equally decisively.