Friday, 8 August 2008

The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters

Much tickled in the park am I by Labour's teenage angst, but I promise not to mention it except to say *ahem*:

Iain Gray on introducing mandatory ID cards to curb under-age drinking. If Mr Gray had bothered to ask anyone who had worked in an off-sales he would have been told that the majority of alcohol drunk by under-age people is purchased for them by people a couple of years older than them, few off-licences are plagued by young people seeking to purchase. How do I know? I used to be such an employee.

Iain's comments include these:
"It would also help protect retail workers who have to make difficult judgments about age and face disciplinary action or even the sack if they get it wrong."

Well, actually, prosecution for a criminal offence for selling alcohol to a person under 18 years of age - or for selling alcohol to a person who you can reasonably suspect of being intent on supplying it to someone who is under 18 years of age. Policing the second of these is what gives retailers and their staffs such difficulties - and one of the reasons why raising the age to 21 will help shop staff since 21 year-olds will be allowed to purchase for 18 year-olds but are most unlikely to get involved in supplying alcohol to anyone more than those three years younger than them. Unfair on 18 year-olds? No more unfair than any other restriction we put on people in our society.

Let's not go into the ID card debate itself at the moment, we can love that later. I hear that Iain had his website bought in November of last year as he prepared a leadership challenge. Don't say I didn't warn you.

In the same edition of The Herald, Tom Harris, one of Gordon Brown's Ministers laid out why he thought that Iain Gray, should he win his current battle, shouldn't have any more oomph than Wendy Alexander had. Let's have a wee laugh, here's a few bits:

Under such an arrangement, Labour MPs at Westminster would owe allegiance not to the Prime Minister but to the Scottish leader, and would, presumably, be mandated to support policies on reserved matters that were developed, not on a UK basis, but entirely in Scotland.

Apart from my immediate wish to say "remember the days when Labour MPs owed allegiance to the people who elected them", which I will, of course, resist, is this an admission that Labour's policies, developed 'on a UK basis', don't take Scotland into account? I've often said this was the case but it's better when Labour admits it.

By framing all policies, and not just those which are devolved to Scotland, at a Scottish party level, we would be undermining the very institution that we, the Labour Party, created in 1999.

I'm the kind of chap who thinks that it was the Scottish people who created devolution, but even if we were to give credit to politicians, surely all of those politicians who campaigned for a "yes yes" can take credit - and certainly the Lib Dems? The real point, though, is how would a change in the internal workings of the Labour party undermine the Scottish Parliament? Labour's sheer contempt for the democratic processes of this country is shocking, and this particular view is another indication of the way in which Labour politicians regard Scotland as their property - one of the reasons Glasgow East was won by the SNP. Scotland will, I hope, continue to punish politicians who show contempt for us.

Relations between Labour's MPs and its MSPs have never been healthier. MPs, still in government at a UK level, are nevertheless in no doubt that their own political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of our Holyrood colleagues, and share their determination to make sure that our current state of opposition is a temporary one.

A state of denial which will damage Labour, quite possibly consigning Labour in England to a generation in the wilderness. In Scotland it will be far, far worse - it quite possibly signals the end of the Labour party in Scotland. It's been teetering for a while but the tumble has started now and it will gather pace - unless Labour has the foresight to move away from being the least devolved of all the UK parties operating in Scotland and divorce the Scottish wing of the party from what's left down south.

Labour appears, if I may quote a chap who grew up on a croft called 'Loot', to be "in office but not in power". It's not that Labour MPs' political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of Labour MSPs, it's that the MSPs were the first to feel the judgement of the Scottish people.

As I said before, Brown must be dreading becoming Labour's John Major.


common sense said...

''Unfair on 18 year-olds? No more unfair than any other restriction we put on people in our society.''

Calum for someone who usually talks sense this is a very Tory like comment.

There are many better ways of tackling alcohol abuse. Prohibition only creates more demand.

Jim said...

There are plenty forms of ID that are very acceptable for use when buying age restricted goods.

'Mandatory' ID cards are really not the way forward.

As for banning the sale of off license alcohol to under 21's. I really don't think it will help. Yes, the pilot schemes have had good results, but we are not told about the considerable amounts of extra police resources that are said to have been used in tandem with them.

The Scottish Grocers Federation have some useful views on this.