Thursday, 14 May 2015

If not Murphy, then who?

Daily Record column 14/05/15

Facing the most draconian trade union laws in a generation you might expect some Scottish trade union alarm.

There was nothing about Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s Thatcherite slingblade on Unison’s Scottish website.
Plenty about shooting down Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader though.

Instead of resisting the Tories after the annihilation of Scottish Labour, the mini-McCluskeys have turned inwards.
The case for Murphy going is that he lost. 

It’s doubtful St Mungo could have won for Labour in Glasgow, or anywhere else, against the faith-based economics of independence. 

Cries that Labour was not left-wing enough are hollow. The polices were popular enough to be adopted wholesale for the SNP manifesto.

The electoral test for parties was “How Scottish are you?” So Murphy didn’t lose on policy, he lost on identity.
As the pendulum swings to patriotism the arrival of 56 SNP MPs in Westminster should alter the landscape utterly. 

Everyone is looking for SNP-Tory conflicts, but the mutual accommodation that served both sides in the campaign is likely.

Cameron is set to concede to Sturgeon new powers beyond the Smith Commission. It has inbuilt policy contradictions that need ironing out.

It will not be Full Fiscal Autonomy, with the loss of the Barnett Formula.
“We will not make an offer they cannot refuse, that would do Scotland down,” a senior Tory told me.

With more powers won Sturgeon deftly avoids the second referendum she could lose, but still demand more.
Tempted by another yes-no vote, she can resist internal pressure to stage a referendum without Westminster blessing.

Cameron’s flipside deal, English Votes for English Laws, renders Scotland irrelevant for Tory majorities, keeps the SNP powerful and Labour emasculated. It suits both nationalist sides. 

The last Unionists in the room, Scottish Labour, cannot resist it even if a rearguard in the Lords does.

Sadly for the Union barons attacking Murphy made sure he stayed, and they have no replacement.
If not Murphy, then who?

Under another leader Labour would not just have been defeated last week, but killed stone dead.

Murphy, to his credit, never gave up and didn’t allow the campaign to become a debate on Labour’s implosion.

He has to deal with that now, but having been through hellfire he will hold the SNP to account in Holyrood.

They might have hated the results but the outcome is Labour’s talent is now back in Scotland, where it should have been a decade ago.

Skinner to the barricades

Once it was the SDP, now it’s the SNP.

The battle for Dennis Skinner’s seat begins in earnest when parliament sits for the first time.
I’m not talking about the Beast of Bolsover’s majority, which is solid, but the 83-year-old’s perch down the gangway from the Labour frontbench.

The rebels’ bench is traditionally taken by Labour’s awkward squad in opposition and by the Liberal Democrats when Labour is in office.

With the SNP 56 due to take the place of the Lib Dem phonebox pack, there will be manoeuvres on Skinner’s seat, which he has occupied for 40 years in opposition.

Skinner reserves his place each morning with a prayer card, the traditional way of reserving a seat.
It means being early every morning, which the Labour veteran cannot quite guarantee. 

“David Owen tried  to take it off me, but he wasn’t prepared for the long fight,” Skinner told me, as if the SDP was just yesterday. 

Of the SNP’s possible encroachment on his territory, he said defiantly: “I was there before them, and I’ll be there when they’re gone.”

Where the nationalists choose to sit in public isn’t half as telling as where they sit in private.

Away from the tv cameras my snout in the members’ tearoom tells me the SNP contingent has taken up residence at the Tory end of the room. 


For David Mundell MP, the new Scottish Secretary, it is a case of moving offices in Dover House where he was previously number two to Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael.

In the tradition of Labour’s Liam Byrne I’m told the departing Scottish Secretary left a note for his successor on the desk.

I’m guessing it reads: “I’m afraid there are no powers left”.

Sùil Eile

Mar as àbhaist, tha mi air a bhith a’ sgrùdadh na liosta de Mhinistearan ùra an riaghaltais fheuch a bheil Albannaich ann, neo iadsan aig a bheil ceangal ris a’ Ghàidhealtachd.

Uill, tha Daibhidh Camshronach ann, agus seall cho diofraichte ‘s a tha an sloinneadh aige nuair a sgrìobhas tu a-mach e. ‘S ann à Alba a bha athair.

Roinn an Ionmhais? Tha barrachd mhinistearan à Hertfordshire na Na Hearadh.

Daibhidh Mundell, an aon Tòraidh ann an Alba, mar Rùnaire na h-Alba.

Chunnt mi ceathrar eile. Tha Mìcheal Gove ann, à Obar Dheathain, agus Iain Donnchadh Mac a’ Ghobhainn, a rugadh ann an Dùn Èideann. Ach  bha iadsan ann roimhe.

Tha Ruairidh Stiùbhart a-nis aig DEFRA agus Steaphan Crabb mar Rùnaire na Cuimrigh. Tha freumhan aigesan ann an Inbhir Nis.

Tha nas lugha Albannaich anns an riaghaltas na bha bho chionn bhliadhnaichean, neo ‘s màthaid linntean.

Ach bu chòir fàilte mhòr Ghàidhealach a chur air Amber Rudd mar Rùnaire na Cumhachd ge-tà.

Gun ise cha bhi càball dealain airson tuathanasan gaoithe nan Eileanan an Iar. Sanas comhairle - cheumnaich i à Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann.

(Mile taing mar is àbhaist, Mairi Kidd)

English Translation

As usual, I have been scrutinising the list of new Ministers for Scots, or those who have a connection with the Highlands.

Well, there’s David Cameron, and see how different his surname looks in Gaelic (it means bent nose). His father was from Scotland.

The Treasury? More Ministers from Hertfordshire than Harris.

David Mundell, the one Tory in Scotland, as Scottish Secretary.

I counted four others. There’s Michael Gove, from Aberdeen, and Ian Duncan Smith, born in Edinburgh, but they were there beforehand.

Rory Stewart is now at DEFRA and Steven Crabb as Welsh Secretary. He has roots in Inverness.

There are fewer Scots in the government than there were for years, if not centuries.

But a big Highland welcome has to be laid on for Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary.

Without her there will be no interconnecter for the windfarms of the Western Isles.

My top tip - she graduated from Edinburgh University.  

(post script: seems, I missed Michael Fallon, who was born in Perth)

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