Monday, 31 March 2008

It's like Eurovision - your points please

Dearly beloved, Wendy Alexander's speech to those who should respect her has been published on Labour's website. If you want to read it you should do so - I've already done so.

Politicians should not bring their children into their speeches - like all other children they should be allowed to grow and develop their own politics whether those politics suit the parents or not. I will not comment on nor refer to Wendy's repeated references to her twins, except to say they are not a prize to be displayed and their mother should think to protect them rather than use them - as most political parents do. That sounds pompous, but it's as accurate a comment on protecting politician's children as I'm likely to be able to make.

Rara temporum felicitas, ubi sentire quae velis; et quae sentias, dicere licet

Let's look at the speech. I'm ignoring her praise for the outgoing General Secretary - that's an ecumenical matter ...

Some people will remember that her pet scribe advised her to adopt the style of JFK or Martin Luther King. Whether she emulated Dr King is a matter of opinion, but her attempts at doing JFK came early in her speech:
Conference, I was born on the 27th June 1963.Harold Wilson was leader of the
Labour Party. John F. Kennedy was President of the USA.And in a Manchester hotel room, those rather more famous pop stars, John Lennon and Paul McCartney had just finished writing She Loves You - a song that would herald a whole new age of popular music.
It was just the beginning of a ramble through her memories which you can read in the full text. I'm delighted she has these memories - I'm just not sure what the relevance is.

If you carry on through the reverie you come to this chat about the demolition of Gorbals tenements:
Of course as a small child, I did not really understand what was going on – but looking back - what stayed with me was the knowledge that things never stay the same – that this is a world of constant change.

Now, as a youngster I wandered through demolition sites in Dundee - some were huge expanses created by dead jute mills, some were tenements coming down, but nothing gave me the impression of constant change. If anything, clearing buildings and rebuilding gives you a sense of immediate change and no constancy.

Since Spence was commissioned in 1959, the tenants started moving in in 1965 and Wendy was born in 1963 - can she remember the demolition as she claimed? Is she suffering a "Tony Blair" "St James' Park" "Jackie Milburn" moment? Oh, ask a Geordie, I did...

Back to Wendy:
As the Prime Minister said yesterday Labour’s cause is not only the cause of ordinary working people everywhere but the cause of -
Fighting poverty
Supporting the vulnerable
And speaking up for the voice.

Labour is the cause of fighting poverty? Does that mean they caused the poverty families across Scotland have been suffering? I would accuse them of that - I never thought they'd have the honesty to accuse themselves.

Then there's "speaking up for the voice" - what in the name of all is that? What voice is she talking about? Most people who claim a voice of this nature claim more than one ...
“Scotland” is not a political philosophy.
“Scotland” can just as easily be Adam Smith as it can be John Smith.

Maybe I've missed the point here, but surely Scotland is neither one nor the other nor, indeed, a combination of both. Scotland deserves more respect than being reduced to individuals - especially just after you've claimed that Scotland isn't a political philosophy. It's more likely to be me than John Smith - and more likely to be any of my compatriots than Adam Smith - because we're alive and living here and contributing to Scotland's current and therefore future being - I know Wendy doesn't like looking at the future but it will come to her as surely as it will come to anyone else - and I'm not a predeterminist.
But of course this wasn’t what we were promised last May. The SNP promised to be more Labour than Labour itself.

No we didn't - we put forward our policy proposals which were most unlike Labour's and we won the election. A party trying to claim a policy area as their's is an indication of a party that has ceased to think and is looking to rest on past glories - all about the past, nothing about the future.
Who could not be moved this week by the brave youngsters in Aberdeen - many once homeless themselves – sleeping rough all week in sub zero temperatures - to stop the next generation of Aberdeen’s vulnerable youngsters having nowhere to go – because the SNP and Liberal led council is slashing funding to the Cyrenians.

You know - that's a real tear-jerker. So I looked for someone who might have reported it. Not the local newspaper, the Press and Journal: not the local Cyrenians although they're organising a protest starting 27th May, ending 5th April: not even the local Labour party. I think she's a liar.
It is no longer enough that everyone is guaranteed a decent education to sixteen. In future every school leaver, with the qualifications, should have the right to a place at university, or at college or a modern apprenticeship.
I'm delighted she has realised that a decent education has only started to become a reality with the SNP. That will take some time to have an effect though. University or college will now be without tuition fees, but tradesman (craftsmen as I would have said in my younger days) tell me that the Modern Apprenticeship isn't worth the candle - in spite of the money they get from Government. We really must look at that anew.
We will give the new Literacy Commission an ambitious target. How to make Scotland the first country in the world to eradicate illiteracy.

Leaving aside the fact that she had eight years to try- has she not missed the boat by a few years?
I recently visited Carnegie College’s School of Engineering and Technology at Rosyth. They told me about CR Smith who advertised for one apprentice joiner and had 300 applications.
So Scottish Labour will provide a guaranteed modern apprenticeship for every qualified 16-18 year old who wants one. Skills are Scotland’s future.
Maybe I have this wrong - 1 place at CR Smith with 300 applications and rather than looking to make sure that these people have an apprenticeship with the possibility of a job (like the one place offered by CR Smith), she thinks we should force every passing punter to take on an apprentice.

I remember the good old days when you got congratulated for becoming an apprentice - happy days.
We are today in the Highlands – a part of Scotland where over the last decade Labour has built stronger communities and created better chances in life for everyone who lives in them.
We achieved it by handing back the land to the people. Gigha, Uist, Knoydart, Colonsay.

Here's a funny thing - I'm pleased that the SNP played a part in this, but I've never thought that party politics was ever very strong in it. I've had the privilege of having a wee holiday on Gigha. They're delighted to own their island at last and acknowledge that the legislation was Scottish Parliament law, but they don't thank any particular political party for it. I imagine the same applies elsewhere in Scotland

She then goes on to talk about dead people again.

Far be it from me to offer advice, but may I say to Labour members - you know your grip on Scotland has gone, but you still have a chance to make a valid contribution to Scotland before Labour goes entirely - get rid of Wendy Alexander and give us a Labour leader who will do something worthwhile.

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