Sunday, 23 March 2008

Wendy's vision

Wendy Alexander has published her vision for the future of Labour. Should have gone to Specsavers.
I encourage everyone to read it. For those of us who are immersed in politics it's a pleasant diversion, taking time out to have a bit of a gentle laugh - the way you can humour a child who thinks she's driving a car. For people who are just looking for a bit of information about the parties active in Scotland, it's a cracking example of the poverty of ambition, paucity of thought, and putrefaction of intellect that so confounds the Labour party.

In the 28 pages that make up the document there is not one single proposal, policy or idea for the future - not one. It is a toom tabard.

Let me show you some of the highlights of this stream-of-consciousness muttering:

It opens with the stunning observation
We in the Labour Party have been fortunate to live in a time when politics in the English-speaking world have been dominated by three of the most gifted politicians of the centre-left – Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown.
Let's not start correcting the grammar, life's too short. In fact, let's leave the claim that these three are left-wingers hanging in the air and move on, because she then claims that these three have delivered some kind of economic miracle on these shores and on those shores (what shores? Thanks, I'll have a whisky if it doesn't cost too much).

This economic miracle has seen a bank collapse here and one over there, mortgages get tighter, the cost of living soaring, the Bank of England and the US Fed bailing out banks in a way never seen before, and the value of the Pound and the Dollar at historic lows. A few more economic miracles like that and we'll be destitute.

Wendy then has a long rant about what happened in the election last year (note to Ms Alexander - the SNP tagline was "It's Time" rather than the version you have. It's this lack of attention to detail that causes you so many problems), and says she believes in change now:
We want to change the institutions, the practices, the beliefs that hold our society back. If institutions are not working to make Scotland a better place, our job is to put something better in their place. If there are practices that are holding Scotland back, our task is to sweep them away. And if there are beliefs that are checking progress, our aim is to challenge and defeat them.
I think you'll find that the Scottish people did that on May 3rd 2007. Still, she's pledged that Labour will be the party of change, so I assume we'll see her changed before long.

Not content with a history lesson covering recent history, Wendy then goes back to the first world war and 'treats' us to a long, convoluted and incoherent history lesson and the lessons that she thinks Labour should learn from history. I'm sure some political historian will point out the inaccuracies, I was looking for what she was trying to say.

Into the third chapter, now, which opens with this:
What does Scottish Labour stand for? It’s a question people often ask us. Our answer to that has not changed. We stand for the progressive values of justice, equality, and community.
Damned fine question - meaningless answer. That might be one of the difficulties of always practising soundbite politics - she's forgotten how to put meaning into anything. Take this bit:

For many people of humble means the best you could hope for was to leave school with minimal qualifications, join a big company or an institution and, if you worked diligently, expect to remain employed with that organisation for the rest of your life and retire with an occupational pension.

You would expect better in a school essay on social history; to have this spouted by any national politician is shameful. It does not represent Scotland and fails to acknowledge the aspirations that Scots have always had and the egalitarianism of the Scottish people which does not deride those of 'humble means' but appreciates them for the people they are rather than valuing them according to the coin in their pocket. I knew that Labour was massively disconnected from Scotland, I didn't realise that Labour politicians thought they had the right to belittle people. Given her next comment that people from 'modest backgrounds' (her phrase, not mine) can go to university now and will change employers every few years, it would seem that she thinks she is lecturing imbeciles and none of us remember the damage that Labour has done to employers and pension funds over the past 11 years.

I'm just going to put this next paragraph up here and leave you to marvel at it:
Aspirations also change. Home ownership, car ownership, a foreign holiday, labour-saving appliances in the home, were once but distant dreams for most people. Thanks to Labour many have now achieved these dreams. Nowadays, families’ aspirations stretch to second home ownership, two cars in the driveway, a nice garden, two foreign holidays a year, and leisure systems in the home such as sound, cinema, and gym equipment. In short, social conditions change and people’s aspirations constantly rise. We need to be in tune with those changes, for if we are not in tune with them, we will be seen as irrelevant.
It's almost child-like: If only she had more fingers upon which to count the aspirations of the people ...

She goes on to give her ideas for policies on three big areas:

We need to lead the debate about how we should and can take responsibility for our diet and our own health, and to embrace radical ideas on how to take that agenda forward.
That's it, honestly, I haven't left any ideas out.
Scottish Labour must seek out ways to guarantee that all children leave primary education fully equipped for secondary school.
Higher Education (she included it in education):
finding real solutions is a tough challenge, but one that Scottish Labour must undertake.
Visionary, isn't it? Communities and People is the other area she touched on but she didn't even say this much there. She ends this homily with
These three examples – in health, education, and communities - show the directions in which Scottish Labour must travel. All of us have a duty to take part in debating and formulating the policies that will renew our connection with the Scottish people.
There is a common injunction in Scotland not to go drinking on an empty head. It should also apply to politics.

And so Wendy wends her weary way onto the constitution and another history peroration as well as another paean to Donald Dewar as if he were her patron saint. Three full pages before we come to the Independence Commission to be set up by the Scottish Parliament as a result of Labour's motion passing on December 6th 2007.

She doesn't realise that it's an Independence Commission yet, she thinks the Commission will just look at how to fiddle around the edges rather than come up with a real solution. Interestingly, she also thinks that the UK Government will bow to the will of this Scottish Parliament Commission - I take it that Gordon Brown has agreed to bend the knee, but has David Cameron? What an interesting idea to have a UK Prime Minister come to Edinburgh in supplication.

She argues for Scotland ceding power to London in this manner:
the Commission should also consider any reasoned arguments for the boundary moving in the opposite direction, for example in national security related matters such as counter terrorism and contingency planning.
For a woman who claims to have been at the centre of drafting the Scotland Act, she doesn't know much about it - national security is already reserved.

In support of the union, this document demands that we believe that the Scots would not have been an inventive race had we not been thirled to England. She raises the ghost of James Watt whose steam engine became an economically viable machine when he entered into partnership with a Brummie chap as being an example of why Scotland needs the union. She mentions Alexander Graham Bell in passing but doesn't seem to feel that she should comment on his collaboration with Americans - I take it she doesn't think that Bell is an argument for our absorption into the USA? Does she think, perhaps, that Glover is argument for us joining Japan?

She also manages to suggest that Scottish banks would not be as good as they are had it not been for the UK. In her words:

Other small European countries, which we are often invited to admire, do not have anything approaching that strength in financial services, a key industry of the future.
That's going to come as a big shock to Luxembourg!

The final chapter in this execrable essay is entitled "Change and the way ahead", but it doesn't talk about the way ahead, it talks about the past - again. Not with any coherence, either, take this bit:
Labour gave the Scottish Constitutional Convention momentum 20 years ago, led on creating the Scottish Parliament 10 years ago, and is, I believe, will now to lead on the next steps.
Answers on a postcard...

I'll leave you to have a read of her vision, but I think it's shameful that someone with so little talent and ability can claw her way to the top of any political party in Scotland. Labour really does have to be the party of change if it is ever again to be relevant in Scotland, and it has to start with changing its leader.

I would expect a third-year Modern Studies pupil to have a better grasp of Scottish politics than Labour's leader shows here. There's a dearth of analysis, an absence of original thought and a screaming belief that her saying it makes it true.

What really irritates, though, is the pulpit-laden preaching tone in which it is written, the holier-than-thou and the smug self-satisfaction. To be so poor in thought is sad enough, to not know it is even sadder.


ratzo said...

Truly a shocker by wendy. I think she revealed a lot more than she intended.

This history bit was pure toytown and I'm not really sure that she really wanted to confess so innocently that the experiment in British unitary centralisation from 1924 to 1997 was a failure.

More interesting was the grossly pretentious bit at the start about the essence of UK labour. She argues along with Brown that there is a convergent transcendental (or ideal) moral identity of party, nation, and state and that the manifest destiny of labour is to realise this. What's more this is the same ideal identity that must be realised all over the world (because people are the same, etc etc).

This is pretty scary stuff for the party that brought you the Iraq fiasco (Ein Volk!, Ein Reich! anyone?...anyone?) and a flat contradiction of her claim that 'Scottish' labour are not British nationalists.

skip said...

yes, its a poor show from Wendy. I'm not even a labour supporter yet i think i could identify their problems better than her. I also think I could target a few policy areas that should chime with most traditional labour voters in the scottish mould.

i think they need to ditch the top-down solutions... decided by gordon brown or wendy alexander and passed down from the top. instead they need to listen to the grass-roots and put practical things right.

Carson said...

Shouldn't the title be "Change is what WE urgently need to do"?

Thatsnews said...

I don't know what to say. I was -really!- tempted to print it out and get my editor's red pen out to correct all of the dreadful errors in it.

The bemused look on her face in FMQ, the fact that she sticks to scripted supplementary questions that bear no relation to the answer given. And now this!

It is so sad. She really is pathetic.

McChatterer said...

I hadn't realised how accurate a parody Private's Eye's 'Age of Change' was.

Anonymous said...

CASHLEY! Don't insult 3rd year Modern Studies pupils, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

She was scraping around for things to pass to the UK government - national security and counter terror are convenient bogies, so who cares if they're already reserved? The UK govt is unlikely to want power over civil contingencies back, considering that in England, it's just been passed to the new regional ministers.

But give the woman her due - she seems to be serious in wanting some tax powers passed to the Scottish Parliament. She has to say she'd like something taken back in order to relax the grip of fretful Brito-Unionist Labour members of the House of Commons.

It may be poor work, but it deserves encouragement. Remember - the arguments in a referendum campaign become much more straightforward for us if a viable devolutionist alternative to the SNP has been slapped down by London.