Thursday, 30 October 2014

Labour's Scottish solution

Daily Record column 30/10/14
Lobbing stun grenades through the exit door provided a good smokescreen to cover Johann Lamont’s departure.
Lamont is a tenacious politician and Labour's ineptitude in handling its Scottish personnel created a handy narrative of "London control" that diverted from real concerns about her leadership.

Reluctant as we are to admit it, there are darker spices people require of their leaders.

These include elements of ruthlessness and enormous self-belief, talents Johann can be thankful she does not possess.

Gordon Brown has the requirements but with him Labour would not be forced to look in the mirror. The answer to every problem would begin and end with the word "Gordon".

Whoever the next leader is will have to face these "challenges", the word of the week to describe Labour's crisis of opportunity.

The first real-time problem is being the back-marker in the Smith Commission on devolution.

Labour’s low tax-raising offer, reasoned as it is, makes them look like reluctant home rulers, allowing the SNP to frame the general election on who will deliver more for Scotland.

By squaring off on the Smith Commission the new Labour leader can ask the real 2015 question - who governs, Labour or the Tories?

Then, there is the talent issue. To look like a capable Scottish government the leader needs A-list candidates for the 2016 campaign. That includes the powerful symbolism of Labour MPs leaving Westminster for Holyrood.

Obviously the leader must hold the SNP to account, to remind voters that Nicola Sturgeon’s vision, decisively rejected by voters, looks threadbare.

The SNP’s big consumer offer is populism, like free tuition fees for the middle class dressed as a universal benefit. This avoids the difficult choices facing true social democrats. 

This is the Labour leader's hardest challenge and moving left might provide strong core messages, but not policy answers. 

In good news for the party, voters don't care any more for its management structure than they do for Tesco’s. 

It would be just nuts for Labour to turn a showcase of talent in the leadeship campaign into a squabble between London and Scotland

Scots like Labour’s values of social justice, that's why the SNP preach left while governing right.

On the referendum doorstep voters kept saying one thing about Labour - they want the party to be better than it is. 

In that sense Labour is a great Scottish brand, it just needs a leader to match.

The asylum of the sea 

Immigration is becoming the dark and perfect storm of the political winter.

Natacha Bouchart, the  mayor of besieged Calais, said illegal migrants on the French side of the Channel are  "prepared to die" to get into the UK because of our attractive regime of benefits.

Compared to the kicking they get as they cross Europe, £72.50 a week that an asylum-seeking couple would get here makes the UK look like an El Dorado.

What draws migrants to our shores is our world-conquering language, English, and our stable migrant communities.  

But feeding the fear and loathing around immigration is a Home Office losing contact with thousands of asylum seekers refused the right to stay.

On top of that Tory Minister Nick Bowles says the UK can never avoid heavy immigration because freedom of movement is fundamental principle of the EU.  

Telling the truth is not exactly helpful to a Prime Minister trying to kow-tow to the UKIP anti-immigration agenda. 

And Ed Miliband has his own problems as UKIP polling clams that half of Labour voters in the Rochester by-election are crossing to the anti-immigrant party. 

But the migrant problem is not in Calais, or in Westminster, or in Rochester.

It is in the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean where thousands of refugees risk their lives to cross from Africa to Europe.

It is there that the UK government this week refused to fund any future search and rescue operations on the basis that saving drowning people only encourages  more to attempt the dangerous crossing. 

That should fill us with anger and shame. Where is our common humanity when the asylum we want to offer is in the sea?

Halloween offer
Are you stuck for a Halloween idea? I've checked online and they do still sell Alex Salmond party masks.
A terrible thought, I know, turning up to a party as the most divisive politician in Scottish history.
But buy now as most of the stock has been sold to Lib Dems in the Gordon constituency who are going out tomorrow night frightening the voters with the idea of the politically dead rising again.

Scales of tolerance 

Post-referendum the right-wing Scottish commentator (they do exist) Iain Martin provocatively asked: "just how much more Scottish wingeing can the English take?" 
The outrage from online nationalists was laughably predictable. 
But the science tells us there is no limit to English tolerance.
A poll for the London Evening Standard showed  only 25 per cent of Londoners were less likely to support Andy Murray at Wimbledon despite his backing for Scottish independence.
How annoying, they like is whether we win or lose. 
Sùil Eile

Chan eil buidheann de luchd-bhòtaidh ann am Breatainn cho cumhachdach ri dràibhearan.

Nuair a bruidhinn riaghaltas Làbarach air cìsean a thogail a rèir nam miltean a bha dràibhearan a' siubhal, bha uiread de dh'fhearg ann agus nach cuala guth air an leithid a-rithist.

Nuair a thig e gu cìsean peatroil, 's e a' cheist dè cho àrd 's a leumas luchd-poilitigs airson dràibhearan a chumail riaraichte.

Mar sin tha e mar ìognadh gu bheil Riaghaltas na h-Alba air a dhol cho fada 's gu bheil iad air camarathan astair a chur air rathad mòr an A9 idir. Cha chaomh leis an riaghaltas seo a dhol an aghaidh ghuthan làidir.

Ach chan eil rian nach eil feum air na camarathan.

Tha iad air an A77, agus tha tubaistean air a rathad chunnartach sin air tuiteam an darna leth.

Tha dà cheud tubaist air an A9 a h-uile bliadhna, còrr is trì fichead bàs thairis air còig bliadhna.

Tha e duilich argamaid phoilitigeach a dhèanamh an aghaidh fhigearan mar sin.

English translation

There is no group of voters in Britain more powerful than drivers.

When the Labour government talked about raising tax according to the miles drivers travelled, there was such fury that the we never heard of the likes again.

Then it comes to taxes on petrol, it is a question of how high do politicians jump to keep drivers satisfied.

So it is surprising that the Scottish Government has gone so far as to put speed cameras on the A9 at all. This government does not like to oppose strong voices.

But there is no doubt that the cameras are needed.

They are on the A77, and the number of accidents on that dangerous road has fallen by half.

There are two hundred accidents on the A9 each year, over sixty deaths over a five year period.

It is hard to make a political argument against figures like that.

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