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Showing posts with label coalition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coalition. Show all posts

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Polls: Newsnight index and YouGov Nowcast - and average, April 9th 2015

Here’s the latest Newsnight Index poll and the YouGov Nowcast poll.

I averaged them, perhaps invalid, but polls are a snapshot with error margin, so probably gives a good idea of state of play.

Poll Ave April 9th 2015

Net out Sinn Fein and the Speaker leaves 644 voting maximum, so 323 minimum necessary for single party overall majority or voting deal combined majority, in coalition, confidence and supply or informal vote-by-vote, issue-by-issue basis.

Neither Ed Miliband nor David Cameron are remotely likely to have an overall seat majority as single party.

Any way you slice it – since SNP won’t do any deal with or vote with the Tories – Ed Miliband can’t ignore the SNP, whether Labour is the largest or second largest party.

If he leads the largest party, his choice is either minority government – with huge risk – or deal with SNP. If he’s not the largest party, his choice is either let the Tories in or deal with the SNP.

Quite simply, the SNP – with the help of Plaid and Greens as bloc - can make him PM on either outcome.

Since coalition is firmly ruled out, his options on an SNPbloc/Labour deal are therefore confidence and supplya pre-deal delivering support on negotiated conditions – or informal issue-by-issue, vote-by-vote haggling with SNP bloc.

Nicola has made her pre-deal conditions and voting intentions abundantly clear.  Stewart Hosie expertly analysed the various options today on the Daily Politics, eventually in the face of an increasingly agitated Andrew Neil on Trident/NATO aspect.

The Referendum and the opposition to Scotland’s independence has always centred on defence, (see link below) the nuclear deterrent and Trident, as I noted some years ago. We didn’t win our freedom on September 18th 2014, but now Scotland is playing the Westminster game on their ground – but fully democratically and constitutionally on our terms with our democratic voting independence.

It’s the nukes, stupid!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Westminster 2015 – politics, polls and possibilities: the current state of play

I thought I’d have a crack at updating my February blog – May 8th 2015 – when the hard bargaining starts

Polls are remarkably consistent in pointing to a hung Parliament – now virtually a certainty rather than a possibility. Again, I offer my understanding of the arithmetic and dynamics of this, but happy to be corrected on errors or points of detail!

CURRENT STATE OF PARTIES
Conservatives           303
Labour                       257
Liberal Democrat       56
Democratic Unionist   8
Scottish National          6
Sinn Fein                       5
Independent                 3
Plaid Cymru                  3
Social Dem & Lab.        3
UKIP                               2
Alliance                           1
Green                              1
Respect                           1
Speaker                           1

Total no. of seats  650

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 i.e. impose the democratic will of the Government on dissenting voices in the House and govern this increasingly Disunited Kingdom - a practical necessity and constitutional requirement - 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.

The party leader with most seats (but short of overall majority) gets first crack at forming a government

Last time, I used the first Newsnight Index – this time I’ll use the latest Skye/Thrasher poll projections of the hung Parliament possible seat outcome.

Sky Hung poll

Labour largest party on 283 seats  - way short of the magic 321-323 seats to give an overall majority - Tories 272, SNP 53, Others 23, LibDems 17, UKIP 2

Thee are 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! And they might just do that, worried by DUP influence (currently 8 seats, maybe 9 after May?)

There is the question of the Speaker (actually speakers, with deputies). The Speaker only votes on a dead heat, and then by tradition for the governing party, so theoretically that throws another one vote potentially in contention!)

On the Sky/Thrasher projection, Labour would be the party with most seats, but not enough to hit the magic 323. Ed Miliband can 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 Ed hasn’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!)

Ed has now decisively ruled out a Labour coalition with Tories, UKIP or SNP  (it was never a preferred SNP option) and appears to have ruled out any formal deal, e.g. confidence and supply, so he must either bottle it and call another general election or govern as a minority government.

But the stark realpolitik of minority government means that he must negotiate and do deals, otherwise he risks falling  at the first fence, e.g. a budget vote.

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 40 votes. For comfort – and to reassure Lizzie – he ideally needs more. The SNP can give him 53, LibDems 17, and Others 23 votes. UKIP can offer 2.

He says he won’t deal with UKIP or Tories: the  LibDems are proven carpetbaggers and will deal with anyone, delivering 17 votes – but,  of the 23 others, 6 don’t vote (Sinn Fein and Speaker) and of the remaining 17, he probably can  only deal with Plaid and Greens (and George Galloway ?). Even if he had all the Others (including Ulster Unionists?) he only musters 34.

(Breaking news is that DUP will deliver their 8 (9?) votes to anyone who offers them £1 billion. Now, who’s crying “holding the UK to ransom” now, Anna Soubry! Ah, they’re unionists!)

If Ed was mad, UKIP squeaks him another two, giving 36 but still leaving him four short of the magic figure, which in itself is a tight and risky margin.

Any way  it plays out, it seems inevitable that the SNP will be the key players, even if their actual seat fall short of the astonishing 53 seat projection.

Without going into the obvious numbers, on this projection, David Cameron has even less chance of usurping Labour as the largest party to form a government.

Of course there are other radical options, all centring round some kind of Government of  National Unity, i.e. keep the WMD, keep austerity and keep the SNP out of the power loop at any price.

My view is that such an attempt - apart from running a grave risk of triggering a schism in either the Labour Party or the Tory Party or both - would catalyse the spirit of Scottish independence dramatically and trigger an unstoppable popular demand for a  second independence referendum.

(There are even more radical scenarios than that, ones that I would not like to see provoked by such UK rashness.)

POSTSCRIPT: Alex Salmond ideas on Fixed Term Parliament Act manoeuvre

Friday, 30 January 2015

SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites after May 7th

SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites after May 7th NHS, Labour and privatisation -Labour, deeply divided into two camps on NHS - and many other key issues.

We already know what camp Murphy is in - the one inhabited by all his Blairite pals.
Scots have to choose between Labour and Tories/LibDems after May 7th, and we have to trust Labour, or least that Miliband wing of Labour that is halfway rational about the NHS, the economy, welfare and Trident. An SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites in his own party, and they include Jim Murphy.

Conditional trust only - for a price - in a confidence and supply arrangement, with a series of key conditions set by Nicola and Cabinet in Scotland through her team in Westminster. That's the new game ...

Monday, 5 January 2015

Coalitus and coalascere

Coalitus? Sounds painful – maybe an inflammation caused by household fuel? Or is it a fancy name for the food craving of some pregnant women?

And coalascere ? Something Il commissario Montalbano might order as a side dish in his favourite Sicilian restaurant?

No – coalitus is the medieval Latin past participle of coalescere, meaning fusion or a coming together and coalesce and coalition derive from it.

A coalition is an alliance of some sort between two or more parties for combined action in concert in certain defined circumstances, one that is usually intended to be temporary.

Used in a political context, it is often for the purpose of forming a government.

(I am familiar with it in a negotiating context in voting behaviours with individuals and groups,  and the mathematical horrors of The Banzhaf Dilemma that I used to frighten senior managers with on negotiating skills courses.)

COALITION GOVERNMENT

We have lived with a coalition government in the UK for over four years in the form of the pernicious Tory/LibDem Coalition of 2010, formed in the aftermath of economic, social and foreign policy shambles left by the Blair/Brown governments of 1997 to 2010.

If we go back to 1852, the Peelites and the Whigs formed a coalition headed by Lord Aberdeen. It lasted till 1855. The noble Earl had a rash of Lords and knights in his cabinet, but he also had one William Ewart Gladstone, a fellow Peelite, of whom rather a lot was subsequently heard.

There was another short-lived LibTory coalition right in the middle of the Great War after the Gallipoli disaster: it collapsed and was promptly replaced by another under Lloyd George. It fell apart in 1922 over scandals, notoriously the blatant flogging of peerages for hard cash by Lloyd George.

The coalitions of 1931 to 1940 preferred to call themselves National Governments because by that time the term Coalition Government had a bad name(!)

The Second World War brought a Tory-led coalition under Churchill (1940-1945). It was referred to as the War Ministry, and last until May 1945, when Churchill resigned after the war ended.

It was replaced by the Churchill caretaker ministry until July 1945, when the general election resulted in a Labour landslide and the Attlee Government.

One might therefore say that the record of coalition governments has not been a stellar one, with the exception of the War Ministry Coalition of 1940-1945.

I’ve been alive during three of the six of them, witnessed the end of two of them and hope to witness the end of another on May 7th 2015.

The question is – will we see another coalition government sometime after May 8th 2015 – and should we want one?

SNP Westminster strategy

The SNP’s core strategy for GE2015 is to contest all Westminster Scottish seats and get as many SNP MPs elected as possible.

Its preferred outcome for the UK-wide ballot is Labour as the party with the largest number of seats, but without an overall majority, and the end of Cameron’s Tory/LibDem Coalition Government.

This outcome would leave UK Labour with three choices -

govern as a minority government, with no formal arrangement with any other party, but making ad hoc deals to secure a majority on specific votes with any party or group of MPs it could secure

enter into a confidence and supply arrangement with a party or parties to offer committed support on agreed issues

form a coalition government with one or more parties and form a cabinet that included ministers appointed from those parties

It would however be a mistake to think that this would all instantly be Ed Miliband’s choice to make. As Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary involved in the 2010 untidy and acrimonious negotiations that led to the Cameron/Clegg Coalition, has pointed out on Sky News, things were not as straightforward in 2010, and are unlikely to be straightforward after May 7th 2015.

But if it is Miliband’s choice, and he chooses a deal rather than minority government, and if the logic of that deal centres on a new and impressive bloc of SNP MPs, what deal might he choose – confidence and supply or coalition ?

If I were in his shoes, and I wanted to neuter the SNP influence in Westminster, I would unhesitatingly choose coalition.

Why?

Well, for a number of reasons.

1. I would invoke the spirit and the words of Lyndon Johnson when faced with having J.Edgar Hoover in or out of his government – “I’d rather have them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

2. Having the SNP in government, in cabinet – and with cabinet responsibility -could be presented as de facto acceptance of the finality of the 2014 independence referendum outcome and embracing the Union.

3. If the SNP broke ranks in coalition, and breached joint cabinet responsibility for a policy decision or action, they could be presented as deeply irresponsible and unfit for government.

4. In Miliband’s position, I would rely on the seductive influences of ministerial office, the status and perks, and the illusion of acting on an international stage to blunt the edge of the SNP’s ambitions for Scotland and damage their reputation and electoral standing with their core constituency.

In a nutshell, if I were Ed Miliband I would do to the SNP what Cameron has done to the LibDems – reduce them to an object of contempt and an electoral rump of a party.

In contrast, governing UK as a minority government would be a far more risky enterprise than governing Scotland in a devolved Parliament was for Alex Salmond 2007-2011, and a confidence and supply deal would place him in the mode of supplicant every time a significant vote arose and crucially, at every budget.

SNP CHOICE?

The SNP’s current position – as I understand it – is that they hope for a Labour win with no overall majority, and a subsequent confidence and supply deal. If - as many thought – Stewart Hosie was flying a cautious kite for coalition, then it is for the SNP to justify such a course of action.

But can they – and more importantly – will they?

The SNP could argue that it cannot commit to what it would and wouldn’t do until the result of GE2015 is known. That is true up to a point, and the SNP - and Alex Salmond’s - legendary pragmatism card would be played. It takes two to tango, and this tango might include more than two, and shift towards a threesome - or a foursome reel.

However, the SNP has found no problem in specifically excluding any kind of a deal with the Tories or UKIP in stating its forward intentions for GE2015. There is nothing that I can see that stops them precluding a coalition with Labour either, but pursuing a confidence and supply deal.

My guess is that the SNP ministers, MSPs and the Parliamentary candidates have their brief by now on how to play this at the hustings and with the media, and it will be a stonewalling response – “impossible to say at this stage, situation will have to be evaluated after May 7th, wouldn’t want to tie the party’s hands, too much at stake …” etc.

The fate of Craig Murray over a vetting question will not have escaped the candidates, and I would guess they’ll be right on message on this hot potato. Not one will say they’re opposed on principle to a coalition.

Is this the right approach? Only the electorate can answer that. I’m opposed to a coalition, but even the SNP publicly stating they fully intended to pursue one wouldn’t stop me voting SNP on 7th May. But I’d be worried if they did, and I believe there are some former Labour voters who shifted painfully to the SNP, with many reservations and much personal agony, who might react differently.

As I said in a tweet on the day Stewart Hosie appeared to raise the coalition question – I want SNP arses on the green benches post-May 7th, but I don’t want them on the front benches of the Westminster Parliament we campaigned so hard to get out of.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Cash for access and influence–don’t forget the LibDems–the ‘squeaky clean’ party!


This is the party most distrusted by the electorate, reduced to a pathetic rump in Holyrood by the Scottish electorate last May, and who would be obliterated by the UK electorate if the Coalition fell tomorrow.

But they see themselves as squeaky clean …

This is the party that accepted “in good faith” a £2.4m donation from a convicted fraudster, Michael Brown, which they refused to repay to the people who had been defrauded when the facts became known because “the money was already spent”. (BBC report)

But they see themselves as squeaky clean …

Here they are at their conference in September 2011, allowing access for cash - £800 a head for lunch – with influential LibDem ministers to tobacco companies and God know who else. Here they are trying to prevent Channel Four News reporter Michael Crick from gaining access for truth.

Meanwhile, Tavish Scott bleated bitterly last year about how his party, not to mention his career, was blighted by the LibDem pact with the Tories. Tavish, throughout his feeble leadership of the Scottish LibDems conspicuously failed to distance himself from the UK party because of his pro-Union and virulently anti-SNP views. He now favours remaining in the UK for Orkney and Shetland - or UDI from an independent Scotland.

We have a LibDem, Danny Alexander as a member of the notorious Coalition sofa government cabal, the Quad, and Michael Moore, a LibDem, as Scottish Colonial Governor – and in Scotland, Willie Rennie

They are all – needless to say – deeply committed to remaining within the UK, and implacably hostile to their country’s independence …

THE TORY CASH FOR ACCESS SCANDAL






ALEX SALMOND - Letter to DAVID CAMERON


"Yesterday’s Sunday Times report regarding Peter Cruddas is a matter of substantial public concern.

One important aspect is that Mr Cruddas is reported to have discussed the issue of Scottish independence with you, in somewhat pejorative terms. I would like to know directly from you the details of this discussion.

The paper reports that Mr Cruddas personally was a major donor to the “No to AV” campaign, reportedly funding the campaign to the tune of £1.2 million.

You will also have noted that Mr Cruddas was willing to discuss accepting political donations with persons purporting to represent an overseas wealth fund, which of course is prohibited by law from making a donation to a political party in the United Kingdom.

As you know, the Scottish Government’s proposals for a referendum on independence in autumn 2014 set out clear rules about donations to the campaigning groups for the referendum. These rules are based on established electoral law, and our consultation document proposes that they would be rigorously enforced by the Electoral Commission.

Given the revelations in the Sunday Times and subsequent resignation of Mr Cruddas, I am asking you to agree that there is now even more reason to ensure that the terms governing the conduct of the referendum are determined by the Scottish Parliament, and are not dictated by Westminster – a threat that was discussed by senior Conservative Party representatives as recently as last weekend at your Scottish Party conference.

You will realise the importance we attach to holding a referendum which is beyond reproach and free of the sort of impropriety which is so clearly pointed to in the Sunday Times report."

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lamentable Labour and lamentable Lamont – and a master class from Alex Salmond in the economics of independence

This lamentable performance from Johann Lamont, with its laboured scripted one-liners and prepared insults, demonstrates why Labour is unfit to govern Scotland, and indeed has been for a very long time. She has learned nothing from the disastrous mistakes of her predecessor, Iain Gray, and seems locked in the same style and script.



The contrast with the First Minister's responses is painful. Alex Salmond delivers a master class in the economics of dependence on the UK versus the freedom from constraints that would come with independence, which would deliver the economic tools to liberate Scots from the economic stagnation and now near-collapse that Labour and now the Coalition have wreaked upon the UK.

The inherent contradictions built in to the dependency relationship between Scottish Labour, UK Labour and the Tory-led Coalition are evident every time Johann Lamont opens her mouth.

The Scottish people have recognised this in the May 2011 election, Scottish trades union members clearly must have recognised it also. UK trades union leaders are facing up to it, with some of the most damning indictments ever delivered by trade union barons against a Labour Party Leader and Labour Opposition, the voters of England recognise it.

But as yet, Scottish trades union leader cannot find the courage to speak up for their members, for severing the political link with Labour, for ending the political levy, and most of all, for throwing their weight behind the independence of their country.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Call Kaye? Not if you want to say anything that challenges the topic …

I have strong views on the public sector strikes – I also have strong views on the way the Scottish media have addressed this vital topic. So I  had some hopes for Call Kaye - a Radio Scotland vox pop morning phone-in programme that often tackles important and relevant topics.

I have only phoned this programme twice, to my recollection, and on each occasion, I got a hearing, so I had high hopes for this morning’s topic – the public service strike. But I had a reservation about how they had defined the issue in advance, essentially narrowing the debate to the teachers’ strike, and ignoring - in company with the rest of the Scottish media - an aspect that I consider central to the debate in Scotland, namely that it is arguable that one can support the grievances of the strikers and support the strike in England but not in Scotland.

So I duly Called Kaye at 9.00 a.m to try to get a slot on the programme. I gave my name and location to the person at the other end, then came the question – “And what do you want to say, Mr. Curran?” I knew the risk, and could have camouflaged my question, but decided to be upfront.

I think you are addressing the wrong question. Instead of asking callers do they support the strike, the question should be should those who support the strike be supporting it in Scotland, given the fact the Scottish government supports the public service workers, and has tried to resist pressure to attack their pensions. This strike will harm Scotland but have little effect on the UK Government.”

Maybe I imagined it, but I thought I detected a chill breeze coming down the line. Call Kaye didn’t call Peter back. I won’t be calling Kaye again.  But what I have to say about today’s programme is what I would have said even if had I got my shot on air.

THE PROGRAMME

The programme was determined to focus on the teachers, who are a minority, and to some degree an unrepresentative minority of the strikers. They are a comparatively well-paid group, with average earnings in excess of the average UK wage, with long holidays. It was abundantly clear that the programme producers had decided that this made them an easy target, and that this would produce a good debate, within the parameters that such programmes set for debate – not to illuminate to issues or the topic, but to produce lively airtime by feeding prejudices. In other words, the modus operandi of the tabloid press, now under national scrutiny.

Of course, Kaye Adams couldn’t entirely control the agenda – and doubtless would say she wasn’t trying to – and token recognition was given at various points to the wider issue, but when the a caller did manage to escape from the straightjacket Call Kaye wanted to keep them in, it was in spite of the rigid agenda.

The callers fell more or less evenly into two groups – those who predictably supported the strike totally, comprising actual strikers and or public service workers, or trade union officials or Labour MSPs, and those who were vociferously against it. The debate was entirely lacking in any nuanced comment.

Those who were against the strike seemed to harbour a generalised resentment of teachers – of their salary, their promotion prospects, their pension – and many seemed to think that the teaching profession was actually a child minding service to permit parents to work full time.

At one and the same time, they managed to disparage teachers and their worth to society while screaming blue bloody murder about the insupportable hardships even one day of withdrawal of teaching services did to their child minding expectations and to the children’s education.

They were talking about professionals, graduates in the main, to whom they entrust their children or their grandchildren to daily, who are in loco parentis, and who will have a profound effect on their children’s entire life, during and after their school years – on their understanding of life, of society, in their basic skills, in their capacity to earn a living, in their ability to function as members of a complex, deeply uncertain society in the challenging times ahead.

Yet they managed to believe that teachers were overpaid, greedy and selfish in bringing sharply to that society’s attention how much they needed them. Shame on these people, and to the plummy-voiced lady who mounted her vociferous attacks on striking teachers.

The conspiracy of wealth, power and unelected privilege that is the UK’s apology for a democracy, represented by the party of wealth and greed, stuffed with obscenely wealthy men and women, the Tory Party, and their compliant puppets, the supine, expedient, ineffectual Liberal Democrats, appear to have done a bloody good job of divide and rule, of setting a stereotype of the greedy public sector against the hard-working, virtuous private sector in the minds of ordinary people, or at least those who attacked the teachers on this programme.

Thank God, they do not appear to be representative of the public at large, if recent polls are anything to go by.

A society that is grossly unequal, resting on the commitment of all the major UK parties through three incompetent governments in the last thirty years or so to the market principle of free bargaining, of the naked pursuit of wealth and wealth creation any price, a society that allowed bankers and spivs and speculators to bring the United Kingdom to the bring of economic collapse by reckless gambling has been brought sharply to an awareness of what the public sector really means, and their response has been to protect their friends – the wealthy – and attack the poorest and the most vulnerable.

The Labour Party and its apparatchiks are deeply ambivalent about the whole affair, because they brought this about by failing in government, by failing the people they were elected to serve, by offering up their Great Leader, one Anthony Lynton (Call me Tony!) Blair,  a man with an untold fortune and an annual income assessed at £15m as a shining example of what unrestrained pursuit of wealth can do for a sharp political operator, a lesson well-learned by New – and Old – Labour politicians.

The trades union officials manage to do very nicely, thank you, out of their version of democracy and remuneration structuring, not to mention a route to Westminster on a gravy train of Labour patronage that offers even more loot, and eventual ennoblement to the lucky ones. No where is this more evident than among the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Trades Union hierarchy.

But in Scotland we have a party in Government committed to the ordinary people, to a vibrant private sector and to an effective, well-resourced public sector. The only thing standing between them and the full ability to realise a truly balanced society with human values is the structure of the UK, the Palace of Westminster and the self-serving venality of the Labour Party and its friends. (The Tories and the LibDems are now politically irrelevant to Scotland.)

This strike, valid and proportionate - and legal – was the right thing to do in England. It was the wrong thing to do in Scotland. It hurts Scotland to no purpose at a time of maximum economic vulnerability. It hurt a government and a society that – despite Call Kaye’s callers - values and supports its public servants.

That was the issue Call Kaye – and the rest of the media – should have addressed, instead of setting the teachers up as an easy target. The Scottish media, not for the first time, have failed in their role of telling the truth to power by superficial and glib analysis of issues. I can only hope against hope that they don’t do it again, because there’s more to come …



POSTSCRIPT

S4M-01440 John Swinney: Public Sector Pensions—That the Parliament recognises and appreciates the valuable work done by Scotland’s public sector workers; notes the importance of pensions that are affordable, sustainable and fair and believes that long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership; registers its strong opposition to the UK Government’s decision to impose a general levy on pension contributions and considers this to be a cash grab for the purposes of deficit reduction rather than a move to secure the long-term sustainability of public sector pensions; regrets the fact that UK ministers appear to be relishing the prospect of strike action, which will cause major disruption and inconvenience to ordinary members of the public across Scotland; condemns the UK Government’s threat to cut Scotland’s budget by £100 million next year alone, on top of drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget, if the Scottish Government does not implement the UK Government’s immediate levy on pensions contributions, and calls on the UK Government to reverse its short-term pensions cash grab.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The New Coalition – Labour Scots in league with the Tories against Scotland

Today’s Scotsman has decided the issue for me. Accepting that Alex Salmond being named Politician of the Year is a Herald award, the fact that the Scotsman gives it a meagre four column inches at the bottom right of an inside page says it all. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer is a maxim that can be applied to media, but the enemy has to matter. The Scotsman no longer does – I had as soon watch Fox News as read it - and I can pick up their token Nationalist articles online. The Scotsman no longer matters to Scotland and it no longer matters to me. After all, for 85p I can buy a newspaper …

THE NEW COALITION

As if the benighted and incompetent Tory/LibDem coalition wasn’t bad enough, we now have a New Coalition, one that is even more damaging to the people of Scotland – The Labour/Tory/LibDem anti-independence Coalition. Scottish Labour MPs, terrified of losing their jobs, their perks - and perhaps their Party - after Scotland secures its freedom from the UK, are engaged in a sordid alliance with their ancient class enemies, the Tories (the LibDems are irrelevant) to frustrate the aspirations of Scots to conduct a fair referendum on how they see their country’s future.

This contemptible, self-serving alliance is led from the Labour side by Margaret Curran MP and Willie Bain MP, who have now accepted Shadow posts as Colonial Government apparatchiks, (I’m trying desperately to avoid giving them the name they richly deserve) mirroring the Scotland Office, a body set up to preserve the Union and maintain the Scots in subservience. This is what the thing that was once the People’s Party has come to


From Drop Box

THE BENEFITS OF THE UNION ACCORDING TO MICHAEL MOORE

Scotland’s economic opportunities are larger

Scotland’s public finances are more robust

Scotland’s defence is stronger

Scotland’s influence on the international stage greater

Scotland’s welfare system more secure

Cultural and family ties (with the rest of the UK) are closer

(Michael Moore had to read from a crib sheet to offer even this meagre, self-serving little list at Scottish questions in the Commons on Wednesday: he referred to them as being just six of many reasons. Aye, right …)

I have the kind permission of Gerry Hassan to reproduce his eleven reasons for Scottish independence, quoted in a recent article by Gerry, a commentator who thinks deeply about Scotland, Scottish politics and Scotland’s place in the world.

Gerry Hassan's 11 reasons for Scottish independence.

  1. Britain, according to academic Danny Dorling, is the fourth most unequal country in the rich world. The only more unequal places are the United States, Portugal and Singapore. British economic growth is increasingly about a narrow segment of society – primarily concentrated around London and the south east.

    2. Britain, despite devolution, is one of the most centralised countries in western Europe. Then there is the travesty of Westminster governance, a critique of which was one of the main drivers behind Scottish devolution. Since the advent of the Scottish Parliament, Westminster has become even worse.

    3. The nature and direction of English public services: the current English NHS Bill opens up health to parasite American and foreign private companies eager to get their hands on public health monies. This is an extension of New Labour public sector reform.

    4. Then there is the character of British politics. There have been four periods of Labour government since 1945 and only one has succeeded in narrowing inequality: the Attlee government. The other three led by Wilson/Callaghan and Blair/Brown all presided over widening inequality.

    5. The scale of poverty, health inequalities and dislocation in Scotland requires fundamental change: one in four children living in hardship, the worst life expectancy levels in western Europe. Doesn’t the union have to take some responsibility for this? Isn’t there at least the possibility independence could aid the transformational change we need to address this?

    6. One wouldn’t argue for independence solely based on North Sea oil revenues, but a contrast between Norway and ourselves is salutary. The North Sea has oil reserves for the next 30 to 40 years; wouldn’t it be good to see some of its benefits directly benefit the Scottish people?

    7. Foreign policy and international affairs (without reference to Iraq). The British state has for decades become a problem child in the world, a troublemaker in Europe, slavishly pro-American, a hawk on foreign adventures.

    8. Defence: there is the controversy of the nuclearisation and militarisation of Scotland without the consent of its people.

    9. Europe: Britain’s Euroscepticism shrinks its influence in the corridors of Brussels. An independent Scotland would be seen by France and Germany as a Euro enthusiast, and allow us direct representation on key Scottish interests: farming, fisheries, the oil industry and much more.

    10. The Scottish public sphere has suffered in recent years with the atrophying of large parts of our mainstream media. Part of this is global economics and the internet, but part is the media regulatory framework. An independent Scotland would allow us to create an environment where our public broadcasting began to reflect and represent our culture.

    11. Tory governments: for as long as Scots vote Conservative in such small numbers, whenever we have majority Tory governments at Westminster, there will be a crisis of legitimacy. Devolution hasn’t sorted this; it can’t because it is a political, not constitutional issue.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The London riots - the Commons debate and the media

When events go wrong in a country, the government feels under pressure. If it is a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans in 2005, the government cannot be held responsible for the hurricane, but they are responsible for dealing with it, and not only their actions in handling the crisis can be called into question, but also their foresight - or lack of it - in preparing for it, not only in the period when it was known to be imminent, but in previous long-term preparations for ‘known unknowns’, the knowledge that there will be hurricanes and floods, although the exact timing cannot be predicted far  in advance.

When things go wrong that seem to be clearly linked to either the action or the inaction of government, for example the failure of an economic or social policy or programme - or the lack of one - or a diplomatic or defence initiative, or the lack of one, governments are subject to even greater direct criticism. To take an example that is half a century old - currently being dramatised in The Hour on BBC - Prime Minister Anthony Eden was criticised by the United States and the USSR for supporting Israel by bombing Egypt in the Suez crisis (The Tripartite Aggression) in 1956, and he resigned in January 1957. He would also have come under heavy criticism from allies France and Israel and from some sections of his own party had he not acted.

(The posture of the US and President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles was highly ambivalent, as revealed by subsequent unguarded remarks by Dulles.)

The measure of a government, a politician, or an industrialist - or indeed any man or woman - may be gauged by their willingness to take unpopular decisions, either to act or refrain from action. But refraining from action as a conscious choice is not inaction - the failure to act out of cowardice, political expediency or lack of imagination or vision most certainly is inaction.

GOVERNMENT DEFENSIVE ARGUMENTS

They can be summarised as -

No one could have foreseen this - it was totally unexpected.

This is caused by global factors beyond our control.

This was caused by the actions of the last government (when it wasn’t us) or, in the event that we were the last government, by the irresponsibility of our political opponents.

This is not representative - it was one rogue individual, company or group.

This is a failure of personal morality, family, schools, academics, i.e. anybody or anything but us, the government. Government policies and actions never lead to bad outcomes, except when our opponents are in government.

This was an act of nature - or God - and we now must deal with it.

THE WESTMINSTER RESPONSE

The Westminster response, from the headless chicken initial response of Cameron, Clegg and the Coalition  to the response of Parliament in the debate yesterday, with the political solidarity characteristic of a threat of war rather than an outbreak of civil unrest, contained elements of almost all of the above defences with the exception of global factors, and they would have thrown that into the  excuse pot if they could have got away with it.

The consensus analysis seems to be, in a classic exercise in doublethink, that the riots just happened, could not have been predicted, had no contributory causes that in any way could be attributed to government policies or actions, past or present, but nevertheless were the entirely predictable result of a long-term decline in family values, loss of parental control, marriage, personal morality, a failure of discipline at all levels, the Human Rights Act, social media - the list goes on.

I watched the first hour and a half of the debate, gave up in disgust, recorded the rest and sampled it. Here are a few of my increasingly exasperated tweets as the debate droned on.

TWITTER 11th August 2011 @moridura

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

It's the gangs - but why did young people join gangs? Always the same reasons: failure of government to provide jobs, hope, and purpose

It's all about crime and criminals - blame the culture, the parents, social media - everything and everybody except Government

Cameron/riots: Will the de-masking deal with religious masking?

Cameron catalogues what he will do - concentrating on compensation for damages

Police may remove face coverings - I agree with that - no one should be allowed to go masked in public - no one

Cameron/riots. What does a government do when public order fails as a result of their policies - attack human rights. And there will be more

Cameron: "The riots are not in any way representative of our country" Not representative but symptomatic...

 

Ed Miliband - usual preamble - true face of Britain, etc. Wait for the beef ... Where's the beef?

Get past the clichés, Ed - say something for god's sake ...

Ed M. Go out and listen to the people. Explain how their voices will be heard. Independent commission of enquiry - reaching out ...

Ed M: Deeper reasons - "To seek to explain is not to seek to excuse" Good one, Ed ...

Ed M: Will there be a cap on help fund?

The PM and the police cuts - will he think again? Swifter justice system - capacity of courts? Tough sentence deserved and expected.

Ed M: The Army? Funding of operational costs? Increased police presence? How long?

Ed M: Questions of hope and aspiration. Not about any one government. You're right there, Ed - it's about the 13years of Labour too

 

Cameron: Cosy regards to Ed - all sweetness and light - for the moment ...

DC: Tear up the manual of public order

DC: Not about resources - about deep moral issues. (Growls from House)

House starts to growl and mutter at police cuts. DC begins to face the flak

DC: Vague rabbiting on. Gets to operational costs - vague, evasive answers. Police budgets - cash reductions over 4 years - 6%!

 

Pompous old Scots git Malcolm Rifkind -

DC: Stonewall on police numbers - but it won't wash, David ...

Jack Straw: PMs repetition of Treasury lines about numbers not good enough

David Lammy: Lost homes -where were the police? PM must speak to Tottenham victims. Public enquiry - skirmishes led chaos

David Davis: Ethnic tension over young Asian deaths. Measures?

Wee Hazel Blears. Criminality, etc. Like the criminality of MPs over expenses? Where were the polis then, Hazel?

They're all sliding away from reality into denial of accountability of any government, any UK policy. I've had enough - lunch!

Oh, God! Nadine Dorris - water cannon, tear gas - the whole right-wing repression, dangerous crap. Go ahead, UK - attack the people!

Now more than 1.5 hrs into 'debate' - a cosy consensus between the parties - it was Blackberries, crooks, parents, morality, etc.

(At this point, the tedious sequence of predictable, formulaic contributions led me to produce a few stereotypes -)

Fragrant Tory babe Penny: "No moral compass, positive role models." e.g. Sir RS Likr, XBE, YBE, ZBE

Sir RS Liker,XBE, RBE, ZBE (etc), failed Scots Tory: "May I - etc. etc." Oh, God ...

Tory Babe: May I welcome - congratulate the PM - praise police - blame parents and Blackberries - demand the police are set free ...

Sir RightWing Nutter, KBE: Give the police flame throwers, grenades, napalm etc. These teenagers must be dealt with. Rule Brittannia!

 

Making political capital out of the riots. It is political, stupid - it's the bloody UK in operation

DC: Admiration for Strathclyde police. They'll be even better when Scotland is free of the UK - and you, Dave -

No real debate - Commons is the UK in denial and complacent conspiracy of silence. Why? Because the three main parties are culpable.

RW F.Luent Tory: Thugs, hooligans, etc. Compensate businesses.

Speaker reprimands Cameron!

SNP leader Angus Roberston is told PM not aware of any conversations with Scottish gov on riots, but Cameron praises police co-operation.

(At this point, I gave up in disgust, and went for lunch.)

THE MEDIA

A special edition of Question Time was scheduled. I looked forward to it eagerly - I should have known better. Essentially it mirrored the vacuity of Westminster, but with some flashes of real insight from Fraser Nelson, whose politics I don’t share, and whose persona is that of one of the kind of Establishment Scots that I can’t stand. But he does talk some very hard sense at times, and I delighted in his demolition of the increasingly ridiculous John Prescott, who lathered up with synthetic indignation in his plain-spoken, man-of-the people Lord Something or Other style, seemingly unaware that he was part of the group who are supposed to be governing the country.

Newsnight Scotland again was a deep disappointment - what can I say that I haven’t already said? They also missed the point completely on the Jimmy Reid Foundation and the Scottish Left, who apparently feel left oot!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

LibDems ready to press the self-destruct button …

Sir Menzies Campbell - Ming the Unionist - a very parfit gentil knight, a British establishment figure, waffles on about the national interest (by national, he doesn't mean the country of his birth, Scotland - he means the UK, the political entity that knighted him) dances around Jon Sopel's questions, but the reality of the present situation is all too clear - Nick Clegg is set to do a deal with Cameron, abandoning cherished LibDem principles along the way, and putting in power a Tory government that is anathema to Scottish voters.

If such a deal is done, the LibDems are dead as a political force, especially in Scotland. The feeble Tavish Scott is unlikely to stand up for the interests of Scots - after all, he rejected a coalition with the party he had most in common with - the SNP - because of his blinkered unionism.

There's still time not to press the self-destruct button, Nick ...