I may have given an unintended impression in my piece on the GUU debate on independence yesterday, namely that that members of the two teams reflected their real political views in debate. I do understand clearly that principle of such debates, namely, that the position taken in relations to the motion does not necessarily reflect personal views.
My experience of formalised debating – as opposed to making my living from real life debating – is confined to one series of debates many years ago, jointly organised by the BBC and the local chamber of Commerce in Newcastle, and sponsored by the Newcastle Breweries(S&N). The debating teams included a BBC team, other media teams, lawyers, the University and the local debating teams, including the Wranglers, Newcastle’s oldest and most respected debating club, and other companies. We were offered an opportunity to form a team, but nobody expected much of a team of brewery managers. I was the team captain.
We won, defeating all comers.
The rules of that debate were that the team selecting the motion did not get the choice of either being the proposer of the motion or the opposer – that choice was given to the other team. It was therefore pointless choosing a motion that suited your personal views and strength since you might have to oppose it. This rule, I believe, is common in debates, but not universal. I have no idea how GUU set their rule or chose their motion and proposers and opposers.
My comments were about the nature of the arguments advanced, and the general atmosphere of the debate. However, I could not but observe that, however the choice was made, the team members of the anti-independence team contained three who were not eligible to vote in a Scottish referendum because of non-residency in Scotland, and that each team did seem to include individuals who tended to be identified with a viewpoint, e.g. Duncan Hamilton.
But I look forward to being proved wrong, and finding, say, Duncan Hamilton, Manus Blessing and Murray Pittock emerging as staunch supporters of the UK in the real life independence debate that is now raging in Scotland, and all the members of the GUU team who so vigorously opposed the motion on Saturday revealing themselves as passionate supporters of Scotland’s independence from the UK. They will then have shown themselves to be true devil’s advocates in debating terms.
Or maybe each team member actually passionately believed in what they were saying …
LABOUR AND TORIES – GUARDIANS OF THE PEOPLE’S TAXES
In their page 13 piece – Devine forced to sell flat to pay off debt – the Sunday Herald reminded us yesterday that in the wake of the expenses scandal. four Labour MPs, including Devine were jailed and two Tory Lords. As for the rest of the Labour and Tory house flippers, pornographic video renters, excessive claimants etc. the phrase by the skin of their teeth comes to mind.
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW
The spat between the UK Supreme Court and the Scottish Legal Establishment continues, with accusations being flung around, as senior legal figures, wigs askew and gowns a-flying, demonstrate that the law is not always above politics, especially where matters pertaining to the Union are concerned.
Cui bono? not to mention Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
They talk of little else in the working class communities of Dalmarnock, as ordinary people and small businesses contemplate the wreckage of their lives perpetrated by Glasgow City Council in the name of the Commonwealth Games and urban regeneration, with the full majesty of the law firmly behind the perpetrators and the obscenely rich property developers and their speculative gains.
And while this was going on, the complacent professionals of Glasgow – journalists, lawyers, academics - turned their heads the other way, with a tiny number of shining exceptions. I wonder how many attended the GUU debate?
As terrified European countries abandon democracy for unelected technocracy, we hear similar voices here in Scotland, in the letters pages and in statements from the Scottish trades unions.
The shipbuilding unions have played along enthusiastically with the new Labour/Tory/LibDem coalition tactics of scaremongering over defence jobs – the defence-as-job-creation theme – with special reference to shipbuilding. LibDem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore (new friend of Margaret Curran and Willie Bain, Labour) with his ever loyal little sidekick, David Mundel have been warning – i.e. threatening – Scotland that it would not be in the front line of defence spending if Scotland left the UK.
Kenny Jordan, regional secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions wants to meet Philip Hammond, successor to Liam Fox (remember him?) as soon as possible.
“We don’t have the time to play party politics with the situation,” says Kenny Jordan, “Our concern is for the future of our members’ jobs.”
When people say that they are not playing politics, they almost always are, and the politics are right-wing politics. So says Polly Toynbee of the Guardian, who is as close to left-wing royalty as one can get. And so say I, who am about as far from left-wing royalty as one can get …