Monday 10 December 2007

A look around the islands

Look you now, here's a few wee bits and pieces that just need tidied away.

Firstly, Gordon Brown's speech to the Newspaper Society gave a signal that he wasn't about to allow devolved governments the power that they need to be competitive. The Belfast Telegraph reported him ruling out allowing Stormont any control over Corporation Tax - and that's before the Varney Review.

That kind of cuts right across Wendy Alexander's Magic Commission since Brown appears to be ruling out the transfer of fiscal powers to the devolved nations. That, coming on top of one of her councillors in Edinburgh criticising her scheme for its elitism, can't be helping her to ease the hurt any.

Now that more and more people are looking closely at donations, there are questions being asked about all kinds of things like why a business organisation like the Scottish Industry Forum, supposedly free of all party political affiliation when it commissions political opinion polls gave Wendy Alexander £10,000 in November 2002 and another £2,000 four months later. Some are also asking why this organisation which is or was quite obviously politically active was never registered as a 'third party' with the Electoral Commission. It hasn't been heard of for a couple of years - has it gone, will it be brought back to life whenever Labour needs an 'independent business organisation', or was it just a front in the first place?

There's also a problem which will continue to grow for Labour in Scotland, and it's not easy to pin it down, but I'll give it a go. Scotland has a minority SNP Government, and the voters see that Government as doing a decent job, so they are prepared to give that Government and the SNP the benefit of the doubt.

That means that they will give us a bit more leeway than they would a party that was in majority Government, and it also means that they'll defend us because we are standing up for Scotland. The most obvious examples have been canvassing after the two defeats the Scottish Government has suffered - on trams and on a devolution commission. On each of those occasions, we received a better welcome than we were expecting in Edinburgh North and Leith.

Switchers to us are in fairly healthy numbers in any case, but after these two parliamentary votes they were in even finer fettle. I don't for a minute believe that great numbers of people sit glued to the reporting of Holyrood (I'll be delighted if I'm wrong), so I take it that the news comes out through the usual media channels. If we're getting people who used to vote Lib Dem telling us that they're supporting us immediately after the party they supported has been part of a coalition that defeated us in a vote, what does that tell us? I suspect that it's simply that the 'ganging-up' required to defeat us leaves a bad taste in Scots' mouths - beating up on a minority Government and registering victories which leave the electors feeling like Pyrrhus isn't helpful to any of the opposition parties. I suspect the Conservatives picked up on this after the trams vote and that's partly why they've been so reluctant to engage in the tomfoolery of Wendy Alexander and Nicol Stephen.

Making that mistake today was David Cameron, jumping in where he can't see and doesn't understand. On his tour of this northern wilderness we call home he told us that "We must confront and defeat the ugly stain of separatism that is seeping through the Union Flag." He wants to be Churchill, that one. He went on to say "Better an imperfect Union than a broken one. Better an imperfect Union than a perfect divorce." Better to sit in a car with no engine than to get out and get where you need to be?

As people across Scotland look at what can be achieved by a minority Government which is short of the power it needs but truly believes in its nation, they're not seeing any ugly stain, they're getting a glimpse of how their country could be if it retook its independence. The other parties are now all playing the SNP's game now, to some degree or another, but they don't understand the rules - it's not hyperbole that brings converts, nor does it become a politician talking about the future of our nation to seek to impose their will on us.

Perhaps they should look to a unionist whose credentials as a unionist are most certainly not in question, a young fella by the name of Ian Paisley who is reported to have said today that "The First Minister of Scotland has views on the future constitutional position of Scotland and of course they are well known. Those are entirely matters for him and his party to take forward with the people of Scotland. Scotland has a right to decide for itself and if that is the way it wants to decide, it is not our business."

Speak up Rhodri Morgan, let's hear you!

So with that wee sojourn around the other parts of these islands, let's take a fresh pair of eyes to Scotland and the inhibitions facing the opposition here.

Adding to all the problems that have beset Wendy Alexander over the last wee while was the withdrawal from party funding of one of Labour's biggest Scottish donors, Willie Haughey, and the police investigating a senior member of her constituency party after he was sacked by Glasgow Council. It never rains but it flings in doon in massive sheets.

With those problems at their heels, it's not surprising that Labour MSPs are looking shell-shocked and Labour MPs are approaching open revolt. With absolutely no intentional wrong-doing on their part they look like heading into some torrid times ahead.


Andrew said...


I could swear I criticised the "National Conversation" for being elitist as well :-))


Calum Cashley said...

Aye, but you were wrong on that one!