Thursday, 13 May 2010

Oh Danny boy, being pals no substitute for policy

Walking across the College Green late last night, after feeding myself to the media beast that is Radio Scotland, it occur ed to me that darkness had returned to the little square of grass opposite the palace of Westminster.

For the first time in a week the lights, the monitors and the cameras on the ramparts of the temporary media village, around which the world had spun, were switched off. The story was over and the circus was packing up to move on. The battered bronze Henry Moore statue will have the grass all to its lonely ownsome for the time being.

It was leaning against the base of the Moore sculpture a couple of hours earlier that the large holes in this new coalition's policy attitude to Scotland became apparent.

The typing terriers of Caledonian press corps managed to corner Danny Alexander, the new Scottish Secretary, in the media encampment for a few minutes between television appearances.

Admittedly Alexander, who negotiated the coalition deal with the Tories over four days and nights and was only four hours into his new job, must have been as exhausted as we all were.

But - oh, Danny boy - he did not seem to have a grasp of his Scottish brief and had no priorities fixed for the nation. He expressed the naive hope that the “spirit of inter-party co-operation” would save Scottish Lib Dems from a savage backlash for propping up the Tory.

He said: “This government was founded on the spirit of co-operation and with a radical programme for fairness. That spirit of co-operation should animate our relationship with the Scottish government.”

Alexander insisted that people want to see politicians working together. The rule of the worm, the squiggling line of audience approval in the television leaders' debates, is that voters prefer political jaw-jaw to squabbling. However, the rule of the jungle is not to give any quarter to political opponents in the battle for votes.

The new Scottish Secretary’s first task in office was to phone the First Minister, Alex Salmond, and other party leaders in the Holyrood, for “amicable talks”.

But asked what his priorities were for Scotland he could give no timetable for the implementation of the Calman Commission on tax-raising powers for the Scottish parliament.

On the Barnett funding formula for Scottish expenditure, he said there was no fully worked-out agreement with the Tories to replace or update the system which is always a point of argument between the Scottish government and the Treasury.

He looked puzzled when we bowled him a question on the £200m fossil fuel levy which the Scottish government want released without the Treasury clawing the funding back from the Scottish block grant.

All he could offer was the hand of friendship, which rival parties have promised to bite hard on.

No comments:

Post a Comment