Friday 28 May 2010

Is Labour bankrupt?

Leaving aside the question about moral bankruptcy, is the Labour party bust? It was twelve million quid in the red at the end of 2008 having sold assets and brought union contributions in early to reduce its massive structural problems. Given that it spent around £25 million on the 2005 campaign and that it had a bigger fight on its hands this year, it's a decent guess that its 2010 election spend was over £20 million (it's a party known for irresponsible spending, after all). Given that it only brought in £5 million during the campaign, it's a decent question to be asking - is Labour broke?

If, as I suspect, the answer is "awfy broke" and it is now out of power without a single leadership candidate looking like they'd be a credible alternative Prime Minister any time in the next decade, thereby affecting the possible business donations, will it have to fold? If it does, would that leave each of its members liable for a proportion of the debt as members of an unincorporated association?

If the Labour party is scooshed, how will it fight the next election?

Mind, now!

Jack's back!

Remember Jack McConnell? You might have thought that he had fled these verdant shores for pastures new and exotic given that he had his eye on a diplomatic post in Malawi (what do you mean he should leave diplomatic posts to diplomats?) - a post that his big buddy Gordon Brown had secured for him. He had the opportunity to copy his muse, Helen Liddell, and nip off to warmer climes and less intrusive politics - or so he thought. It all went wrong when Labour realised it didn't want a byelection in Motherwell and told him to stay as an MSP - part-time, of course.

It was thought at one stage that he'd step down at next year's election and take up the Malawi posting, even chatting up the Conservatives to try to secure himself a deal in spite of having already eyed up standing again and taking another pop at leading the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament. Now he's making sure he's noticed again, with public pronouncements and the 'human being, honest' revelations of this week. Why would he be seeking the limelight so blatantly now? I think it's straightforward, he thinks that Labour is in trouble, dispirited at its plight, that members and activists will drift off, and that there is little chance of Labour winning an election in 11 months' time.

I think Jack McConnell is positioning himself for the leadership battle when Iain Gray steps down after losing the election. Ironically, he's using the same tactics as Iain used when he sensed a weakness in Wendy Alexander. Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem.

Mind how you go!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Charlie Kennedy MP to join the SNP

Charles Kennedy (he prefers the proper name; he's a highlander) will join the SNP in the next couple of weeks. He hasn't said so yet - and probably hasn't considered it yet - but remember you heard it here first.

Priorities, priorities, priorities...

In spite of Lib Dem promises to the contrary, another child has been seized and incarcerated at Dungavel - a baby in prison - eight months old and a failed asylum seeker - quite clearly a threat to this great nation, eh?

Immigration Minister Damian Green said they hoped to "have plans agreed within the next few months" to stop putting babies in prison. See how fast this new UK Government acts? They have, of course, already allocated the grace-and-favour houses and stately homes that their Ministers will luxuriate in.

Priorities, priorities, priorities...

Friday 14 May 2010

Lib Dems duplicitous? No, surely not!

Chris Huhne, Lib Dem MP and Energy Secretary in the Whitehall Government, has already started breaking Lib Dem election promises - he's signalled that he'll give the go-ahead to new nuclear power stations. The Lib Dem manifesto, though, said Liberal Democrats will reject a new generation of nuclear power stations (pages 58 & 59 - the list of pledges). Those much-vaunted principles sold for the chance of a Ministerial salary and car - most politicians want to get into power to use the offices of state to implement their policies - it's a sad thing to see politicians using their policy as bargaining chips to get into power. I presume we'll be in for a long shift of these u-turns and back-tracks as policies are tossed overboard like ballast in an attempt to keep the Libservative coalition flying.

Ach well, back to the barricades, mind how you go!

Thursday 13 May 2010

Oh Danny Boy ...

Secretary of State for Scotland - Scotland's man in the Cabinet or the Cabinet's man in Scotland? Does the SoS work for Scotland in the Cabinet or for the Cabinet in Scotland? I find myself from time to time wondering, if this United Kingdom is the wonderful and cohesive place we're so often told it is, why does Scotland need a man or woman in the Cabinet and why does the Cabinet need a man or woman in Scotland.

If you take the opportunity to read the piece written by John McTernan that appeared in the Scotsman today, you might be forgiven for thinking that the last Secretary of State was Labour's man in Scotland. John McTernan was Jim Murphy's Special Adviser, he advises that
Your press team will be your Praetorian Guard. Listen to them.
How telling that statement is. The Praetorian Guard was consolidated by Augustus to protect him from the wrath of the people he ruled as he turned Rome from a republic into a monarchy. Politicians viewing press officers as a shield against the wrath of the people could be taken to be an indication that the politicians have lost touch with the people they purport to represent - not that I would draw such an inference, of course, with my innocent and accepting demeanour ... If the press office is the Praetorian Guard, though, we'd be quite entitled to ask quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Our good friend and guide to the internal workings of the Scotland Office continues with his sage ponderings:
You must make the case for reducing the deficit – it's in the national interest, will deliver economic stability and is what the voters wanted – while passporting the responsibility for unpopular decisions onto the SG.

SG is his abbreviation for SNP Scottish Government. How sad it is that he thinks that it is an appropriate use of a Cabinet Secretary's time to be using his publicly-funded office of state for party political purposes, never mind making it his first priority. Knocking the Scottish Government and trying to blame it for the failings of the UK Government shouldn't be the job of the Scottish Secretary, making the relationship work and serving the people of Scotland should be the number one priority. That attitude, though, might help to explain the strange and sharp rise in marketing spend by the Scotland Office as soon as the SNP won the Holyrood election up from £114,826 in 2006-07 to £161,328 in 2008-09.

He's not finished yet. Talking about implementing the Calman recommendations he says:
it must draw a sharp dividing line with the nationalists. You need a consensus that isolates your opponents.

Strangely, I had thought that the debate was about how to best serve Scotland and her people. It had been whispered to me that the other parties might be involved in some petty political point-scoring but I couldn't believe that of these fine, decent upstanding people who just happen to disagree with me on the best way forward for Scotland. Mr McTernan has destroyed my illusions, though - ah, woe is me!

We're not through yet, though, he advises that a presentational strategy is required and says:
Achievement is 25 per cent perspiration, 75 per cent promotion

This may explain why Labour never managed to do much, the obsession was with what was in the papers rather than with what was being done and it indicates the dearth of analysis and the poverty of ambition which so bedevils Labour. Dare I say that this country may have been better off if it had had a Scottish Secretary who was pulling for us over the last few years instead if trying to knock our Scottish Government?

Our whirlwind tour of Labour's attitude to the Scotland Office ends with Mr McTernan's advice that
You need to put country before party at every stage, and to be seen to do that.

It's ironic that he's just spent the rest of the article saying exactly the opposite, is it not? Ah, Labour, Scotland's Janus, advising Scotland's Novus Homo of the Lib Dems on how to aid their Conservative partners - Scotland's Caligula (whose Praetorian Guard, of course, assassinated him). We can only hope that the SNP will not turn out to be Scotland's Cassandra.

We have a new Secretary of State for Scotland, a man whose career so far is unparalleled, he has been:
  1. A student.
  2. A press officer for the Lib Dems
  3. A press officer for the European Movement
  4. A press officer for the Cairngorms National Park
  5. An MP for five years (this is only his second term).
  6. Erm, that's it.

We could have had a real heavyweight in the shape of Charlie Kennedy. I know the Lib Dems stabbed him in the back, but he'd serve if he was asked. Perhaps he'd overshadow Clegg, but that's a price worth paying! If not Charlie, then what about Alistair Carmichael - not quite in the same league as Kennedy but still streets ahead of Alexander, he's a former solicitor, a former Procurator Fiscal Depute, a former hotel manager and he's a third term MP. Or what about Michael Moore? In his fourth term as an MP, he was a successful chartered accountant before he fell amongst thieves and became a Lib Dem MP. Malcolm Bruce maybe - 27 years an MP, a previous successful career in publishing as well as experience in other businesses?

It may, perhaps, be a little uncharitable of me, but I think that in Danny Alexander we have been given not Scotland's man in the Cabinet, not the Cabinet's man in Scotland, but Nick Clegg's man in the Cabinet. I hope that I will stand corrected at some future time but it appears to me that this is not an appointment based on ability but on that most base of purposes - cronyism - that Danny Alexander has been appointed because he will cause no trouble for Clegg and Clegg will never have to doubt his loyalty. I find it difficult to picture Alexander holding his own against George Osborne in arguing for Scotland's budget, getting points in Scotland's favour made to William Hague before the Foreign Office takes action, making Scotland's case to Ian Duncan Smith, or getting a fair deal on defence for Scotland out of Liam Fox. That's before you come to the picture of him squaring up to Ken Clarke Justice Issues.

I hope I turn out to be wrong but I cannot but suspect that Scotland will pay a heavy price for the appointment to the Scotland Office of a man who aspires to be a featherweight. Scotland faces an uncertain time when we will need a collective will to protect our country from the worst when the legionnaires of Whitehall cry 'Havoc' and let slip the dogs of war, we must gird our loins for the task ahead, civic Scotland will have to defend her again. This time, though, we have a Scottish Government on our side.

Mind how you go!

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Well, that was fun!

Right, years of campaigning, months of pounding the streets, thousands of pounds spent, hundreds of episodes of Coronation Street interrupted, dozens of dinners burnt, scores of shoes worn through and hundreds of exhausted activists and we've got exactly the same result as in 2005 across Scotland.

It's like jogging on a treadmill so it is. Still, plenty politics to come in the next wee while, cheer up there, sit up straight at the back, stop telling those dreadful jokes, and mind how you go!