Monthly Archives: March 2014

It could be Hammond


So who leaked the piece at the weekend to the Guardian?

Which Government source stated that there would be a currency union?

I think it’s a Mr P Hammond, Minister.

phammond

If it’s Hammond, then we have to consider internal party politics at work here. Hammond may be making a play for the Tory Party leadership. A pragmatic, no nonsense approach could actually see him build a measure of support.

The coalition with the Lib Dems is poison to some parts of the Tory Party. It’s not popular with the grass roots. He’s no fan of Danny Alexander and probably resents him. It would be to his personal advantage as Hammond would see himself on the Right of the Tory Party, with concerns about Europe and Defence.

If he sets himself up as a pragmatic opponent of Cameron’s dithering on Scotland he could endear himself to a late flowering of English nationalism within the Tory party. To the grass roots Hammond could paint a picture of a UK that has lost it’s way and requires reinvention. Scottish Independence, in a strange way, allows this to happen. Any number of positive pictures can be painted if one has the courage.

Break up becomes reinvention, a new place in the world for England. A shared currency becomes a shared market, with opportunities for investment.

The loss of Scottish Nuclear Bases becomes a realignment of Defence requirements, a reinvestment in traditional defence capabilities. This fits with current US thinking.

The loss of the UK becomes the gain of traditional English values and a reawakening of a long dormant English national consciousness.

England is rediscovered with the Tory Party and Hammond at the helm.

The Wickedness of Danny Alexander, the Ravening Wolf of Badenoch


I believe that at a fundamental level Danny Alexander has displayed the behaviours of a deeply unpleasant person.

How to paint a picture of Danny Alexander and where to start?

Let’s start with this.

In a piece dated 30 July 2013, Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, proudly announced his congratulations to Highland Foodbank. He devoted a page on his official web site.

http://www.dannyalexander.org.uk/news_detail.asp?newsID=319

Let me just state that again.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey grasped a photo opportunity at a Food Bank. This is Scotland in 2014. Does Mr Alexander look sad or disappointed to be doing this? On the contrary, he looks chuffed to bits.

foodbank

This isn’t the first time that Danny has courted controversy, far from it.

In March 2011 Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury decided to conduct a windfall tax raid on the North Sea oil sector which netted £10 billion for London. He descended on Scotland’s natural resources like some modern day ravening Wolf of Badenoch, then went home to London with his pockets stuffed with Scotland’s cash, to hand the money over to his Tory boss George Osborne and presumably a “Well done,” with a pat on the back.

Those that were critical of this tax raid at the time included Scottish CBI director, Iain McMillan, Statoil, the Norwegian state oil company, Valiant Petroleum and Scottish Gas subsidiary Centrica.

Danny Alexander ignored all criticism, both political and from business leaders.

Scotland was, suddenly, the poorer for this tax raid.

Now Danny had a choice, a clear grown up choice to make. Allow the tax to remain where it was, uncollected or raid it for his London bosses? As a Scot and a politician, Danny will be completely aware of the stresses that bedevil Scottish society.

Child poverty for instance.

Child Poverty Action Group states that 1 in 5 children in Scotland live in poverty. That is a chilling statistic.

http://www.cpag.org.uk/scotland/child-poverty-facts-and-figures

Danny Alexander, had an opportunity to do something powerful and good for the children of Scotland, he could have used his position in the cabinet to lobby for positive action on behalf of Scotland’s children. I can’t imagine a stronger message that could have been sent out that said, “Hey Scotland, the London Government cares about you.” Danny’s stock would have risen and the result would have been a win-win for the Unionist camp and tens of thousands of children.

An opportunity lost.

Alternatively, Danny, with one eye on a possible historical constitutional change could have kept the tax uncollected by London and potentially available to a future Scottish Government.

Danny decided to hand it over to London. He even boasted of this. He was proud of what he did.

Danny, of course, walked willing into the Lions Den of Coalition Government.

When it comes to the small matter of the Referendum, Danny has been to the fore when it comes to putting Scotland down. I cannot recall a more dispassionate person when it comes to making statements and creating policy designed to put Scotland at a disadvantage.

This weekend is a case in point because we have witnessed a report, apparently from a reliable source within the Westminster Government which said Scotland could share the pound with the rest of the UK after a Yes vote, despite the Coalition repeatedly saying it was impossible. An anonymous Coalition minister was quoted saying that “of course” Scotland would have a formal currency union.

The bombshell forced Chancellor George Osborne and Danny Alexander to issue a statement insisting a currency union would not happen. “Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong,” they said. Danny was quick out of the blocks, apparently keen as mustard to put Scotland down again.

So why is Danny Alexander doing this? What possible gratification does he receive from seeing the country of his birth robbed, put down, lied to and deliberately subjected to high levels of child poverty?

I put myself in Danny’s shoes and attempt to view the world from his perspective and I struggle to see it a favourable light. I can only arrive at one conclusion and one which not only damns Danny Alexander, but doubly damns him.

In the three party Westminster system, it is natural to assume that there is clear blue water between the parties political visions. A Lib Dem will wish to follow a narrative that is different from a Conservative. I would expect this to be just as clear while in Coalition Government. The evidence would be policies that were easily seen to be compromises between to different starting points. With Danny Alexander, you do not see this. On the evidence of what we have seen and experienced Danny Alexander sits on the same cardinal point of the political compass occupied by David Cameron and George Osbourne. He is a Right Wing politician, with deeply held Conservative convictions, economic and constitutional. London comes first and Scottish children are necessary collateral damage in his warped vision of a Neo Liberal future.

And some of you believed his bullshit about being a Liberal Democrat?

 

Send in the Clowns


So Labour are all over the place with their latest Devolution plans.

clowns

Please see Wings Over Scotland for the details of the stramash.

http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-devo-nano-policy-explosion/

Here’s a very brief summary of the what has been said (we think).

Richard Baker, Labour MSP, in answer to a series of questions on Labour’s (wickedly named) Devo Nano proposals, has framed a situation where you could have completely free tax competition between Scotland and the UK, across all tax bands. The only restriction would be that if Scotland cut or raised taxes relative to the UK, it would have to do so across all bands simultaneously.

This is the pertinent part, lifted from his reply to a Wings reader;

On income tax, we believe that the changes made by the Scotland Act 2012 are significant, but there is scope to go further.

The Scottish Parliament could, using the powers of the Scotland Act 2012, and our extension to their scope, choose to lower income tax, below the UK level, across all income tax bands.

Equally, it would be possible to use the same power to increase tax, above the UK level, across all bands.

But that isn’t what Johann Lamont said in an interview to Gordon Brewer.

So what is going on?

Confusion within Labour ranks?

Stupidity?

I don’t think so.

Labour in Scotland are willing cannon fodder for the Union. It’s understood and accepted within the Labour Party at Westminster that the Scottish branch are lacking in the required skill set. They are simply not up to the job. Labour MSPs just cannot cut the mustard. It was never remotely imagined that Labour would find itself in this position, in opposition, facing a referendum, with the Yes campaign gaining momentum.

So what do you do in this situation? Well you look at it with dispassion and take meaningful decisions. In this case you adopt a position of the lowest common denominator. You act stupid.

It’s all they really can do and to be honest, why not? It’s not as if there is scrutiny on Holyrood Labour.

It’s going to be up to Messrs Darling, Alexander, Murphy, Davidson and the assorted Brit Nat big hitting loyalists at Westminster, along with their colleagues in the British Establishment, to secure a No vote.

Johann Lamont could turn up in a clown suit and talk about devolved taxation powers for Scotland and it wouldn’t make a ripple in the polls. Nobody within Labour’s intended audience is remotely interested and Labour know it.

I say this because you have to give them some credit. They may not be top drawer politicians but they will have a high degree of self awareness. They know they are not up to it. So they fall back on a position where they can afford to be deliberately confusing. In Scotland you can get away with this approach. Labour’s grass roots don’t watch Newsnight Scotland or watch the Lamont interviews. Labour are not going to be surgically disarticulated in front of a vast audience. So they can relax and bullshit until the cows come home because, to a degree, they will get away with it.

In addition, while they are spinning more yarn than the entire island of Harris, they can sit back and watch their on-line foes spend vast amounts of energy trying to make sense of it all.

The truth is, we don’t need to make sense of it. That’s not the point of Labour’s exercise. They don’t care. The whole point is to waste time and energy doing as little as possible. Hold the line, make suitable noises about devolution, more powers, throw in soundbites about social justice, family and Keir Hardie and it’s soon time for bed. Keep doing this every day up to the referendum and keep your fingers crossed that you’ve got away with it. Job done.

The Union is important to Scottish Labour; it provides employment and careers for Labour wannabees. It allows Councils to be corrupt with taxpayers money. That engenders loyalty and an unbelievable willingness to bend over backwards, to do anything to keep the status quo. To keep the Union.

From another perspective it looks an incredibly risky strategy, but considering the circumstances it’s actually sheer genius. Effectively, Labour are using the best of their ability for the maximum benefit. They don’t have ability and are doing nothing with it.

They are doing it deliberately.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest liar of them all?


You’ve been deceived. You have been lied to. In fact the wool has been well and truly pulled over your eyes.

man-looking-in-mirror

But let’s talk about other things first.

I know that you still hold dear the core values of the Old Labour Party, the commitment to be democratic at all levels within the party, and society in general, to help the poor, weak and disadvantaged. To look out for the vulnerable.

You really do want people, all people, to get a fairer crack of the whip and to re-distribute wealth in a fairer way in society. This society, the one we all share and are a part of.

You believe the state should provide welfare on the basis of equality, it should be widely available to the whole population and that it should be financed via taxation.

I also know that you identify with the relationship between state and society. You see in education, social security and welfare the foundations for a caring society.

There are other ideals that you hold true.

Redistribution is one of the ideals – it means that wealth is evenly distributed amongst all citizens via higher taxes? Yes, that’s right.

If you are honest, you don’t like taxes, they are a necessary evil but you really don’t mind paying them if you know that the hard earned money is going to a good cause.

The poor, the weak and the vulnerable.

Do you remember Collectivism? The Unions are still here. They provide the glue that can bind ordinary working people together within the workplace. It was a hard-one right that our forefathers struggled to see put in place. Are they still doing the right thing by their members?

You are lucky, you have a job. That’s a precious thing in this era of Tory Government and austerity cuts. You don’t share the values as embraced by the Tories. You know what they are; Neo Liberal economic policies, a Casino Finance Industry, tax dodgers, hitting the poor when they are down. What Political Party with an ounce of humanity would even consider implementing policies like that?

There used to be dream of Nationalisation of Industry. Sadly no more. Don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure you will agree, but there is a place, a very important place, for Privatisation. But where this means that the Government becomes more open to the privatisation of certain areas of state enterprise such as the NHS, then a red line has been crossed. We both fundamentally disagree with that approach.

I guess we do have to face up to the modern world, for instance in our society more and more people want a free-market economy as it tends to generate more wealth for society as a whole. Nothing wrong with that as long as people don’t lose sight of those core values. The core values that anchor society to what is fundamentally right.

Talking of what is right, I know you still think very strongly that there are fundamentals that should be adhered to; reduce unemployment, have a mixed public and private sector economy and a comprehensive welfare system. Did I mention that already? No matter, it’s still worth highlighting. Thatcherism started the rot. What we could have done with a succession of governments that could have reversed that sickening ideology. Chance would be a fine thing *laughs bitterly*

Do you still believe in unilateral nuclear disarmament? You do? Excellent! Old beliefs die hard. That’s the spirit.

I’m going to get all high-brow now, but stick with me and I’ll try and unravel what’s in my head.

The trouble we have these days is this blanket Liberal Conservatism that everyone has adopted. It is simply an extension of Thatcherism inasmuch as it is no different from Thatcherite attempts to blend traditional conservative and classical liberal principles. Take for instance the traditional Right Wing views regarding education, the family and welfare, then Liberal Conservatism is simply a progression of Thatcherism. Out with the old and in with the old again, although this time it’s even more extreme. That’s the Tories for you

They are incapable of maintaining what they regard as the dynamic, innovative and efficient aspects and advantages of a liberalised economy without avoiding the painful consequences such as social fragmentation. It really takes a heart of stone to follow this path willingly, but, let’s face it, they are all following it, every last one of them. These London based career politicians are cruel and only looking out for themselves.

 

We both hold dear to our hearts the interests and needs of the working classes, the unemployed and the poor, not for us the concerns and the interests of consumers, especially those in what they call middle England. Just because they have a level of prosperity these Middle Englanders have become concerned less with economic issues than with the quality of their lives. That’s the voters the Tories are chasing.

Middle England, an ultra free market and privatisation of all former publicly owned services that aren’t tied down. That’s the Tory approach.

Anyway, I waffle and go off on tangents as usual. You know me. Where was I? Oh yes!

You know that awful Bedroom Tax, well on 11 February 2014, there was a Westminster debate, which called for the tax to be scrapped, it had been organised by the Labour party itself. Anyway Gordon Brown, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander didn’t even vote and that new Deputy Scottish leader Anas Sarwar, so much for him. He didn’t turn up either.

A couple of days ago, again in Westminster, they agreed by 520 votes to 22 to back the £119.5 billion ceiling on welfare spending in 2015-16 announced by that Tory George Osborne in his Budget the week before. A bunch of Scottish Labour MP’s voted in favour of the Tory benefit cap by George Osborne. I kid you not. Who? Well Margaret Curran for starters and Darling, Greatrex, Willie Bain, Anne Begg…yes Ann Begg! Ian Davidson as well. I could go on, yes Alexander, Harris, Murphy. The whole lot of them.

Where did we start. Oh yes, You’ve been deceived. You have been lied to. In fact the wool has been well and truly pulled over your eyes.

Malcolm Chisholm; I’m disappointed


I’ve always thought that Malcolm Chisholm had a bit more going for him than your more average Labour MSP.

He’s had a meaty career, been an MP and to his credit stood down from Westminster to become an MSP.

Regarded by some as a bit of a Left Winger, some in the Independence campaign have speculated that he may be a closet potential Yes supporter.

BjMgOU0IYAAtIS6

Malcolm and Better Together friends 20 March 2014

 

I used to think that as well, but on the basis of this image we must conclude that Malcolm is just another British Nationalist, happy with Scotland being bled dry by a Neo Liberal political elite in London. You see, you can’t have your cake and eat it. You cannot be a Left Winger in the Labour Party while your Party embraces policies that target the vulnerable. Resigning and sitting on the back benches simply isn’t good enough. The UK political system equates with Right Wing policies and Malcolm, you are providing the support that they need. Shame on you!

Where now for Johann Lamont?


After the bitter and hate filled speech delivered on 22nd March to the Labour faithful it is worth considering “Where now for Johann Lamont?” As well as pondering this question I will also try to unravel the reasons that I believe lie behind the weekends extraordinary, distasteful events.
To do this one needs to understand what the Labour Party actually is and where it sits in the greater context of the British Establishment.
The Westminster Political Establishment is nothing more than a way to make money for enterprising individuals. The MPs and Peers who haunt the various parts of the Westminster Parliament all belong to a very elite class. It’s nominally there to represent the ordinary people but British politics has become so sick to the core with corruption that it’s best that we don’t kid ourselves regarding what Westminster would like everyone to think it is. We know exactly what it is.
It is a well used cliche, but it is easiest to imagine the Westminster system as the Octopus, with it’s tentacles spreading throught society, controlling, manipulating, pulling the strings and pulling in the cash. The network spreads out from London and when they reach the border they take on the red hue of Scottish Labour.
In this system of patronage and chronyism, loyalty is expected to move both up and down the chain of connected people. In Scotland it manifests itself with a Labour Peer or a Labour MP, employing an entourage, opening metaphorical doors for others to profit from connections. As you go down the food chain you will find Special Advisors, Journalists and Councillors all making a crust from this system. In Labour controlled councils you will find relatives popping up in 3rd party businesses that supply services to the council. You will find dodgy land deals masquarading as council legitimacy. Arms length businesses are created to run council services, willingly staffed by loyal retainers who may be relatives, or they may not be, but they will be Labour Party members or supporters. Mothers employ sons, sons help out cousins. Parliamentary seats are passed down from Father to Son as if they were cherished heirlooms. The newspapers, TV and Radio look on and accept this without as much as an investigative poke with the toe of a shoe, but then the Journalist is involved, he or she is a Labour Party member and will be keeping an eye on the latest vacancy for a well paid Special Advisor post when Ed wins power, or perhaps there is a little earner in the running from a juicy seat on the council.
All of which brings me to Johann Lamont’s little outburst at the Labour Conference.
Just to remind you, Johann had a very unsubtle go at Mr and Mrs Salmond and their lack of children. At first I believed it was just down to sheer unpleasantness on the part of Johann Lamont. Actually it was due to unpleasantness; you don’t deliver words like she did without being a basically nasty person, but there is more to it than that. A lot more.
Johann’s speech would have been a collaboration between individuals within her inner circle. Most politicians employ speech writers and in these days of total control this particular speech will have been drafted, redrafted, checked, peer (no pun intended, although it probably was checked by a Peer) checked and signed off at a high level. Think Murphy, Alexander, Foulkes or even Ed.
But what message were they trying to convey and why? It wasn’t simply an insult, or a petulant outburst designed to make the faithful happy. There was a very carefully considered sub text to the jibe.
Let us go back to our Octopus and those tentacles, and let us look at what is happening at the coal face (never was a term so inappropriate to describe modern Labour, but hey ho) of the Labour Party business machine.
Due to the majority that the SNP enjoys in the Scottish Parliament, it has been able to put in place various local government initiatives that effectively choke off the oxygen of corruption. The major losers in this have been Labour councils and their nets of patronage. One need only look at the threats from Labour councils to leave COSLA to see the effect that this is causing. Of course the original idea was to make Councils run efficiently for the benefit of the hard pressed local communities, suffering under Tory led public spending cuts, but try running that logic past the cousin or friend who sees the cash flow drying up from a previously compliant Labour council.
Urgent, panicked message will be travelling up that foodchain to the Labour leadership and those messages will be invoking a claim for loyalty to travel down the way. Of course, the people at the top; Murphy, Alexander and Lamont herself will also be looking on with alarm as doors start to creak slowly shut on their ambitions.
The message will have gone out; “Independence must be stopped!” But how to do it. Labour cannot rely on a compliant media and dyed in the wool loyalty from it’s grass roots support alone to win the day. Democracy and playing by the rules don’t have a look in where this particular game is concerned, at least as far as Scottish Labour is concerned.
What I believe the intended message was supposed to convey was this;
To Alex Salmond:
“Back off Salmond, wind your neck back in, start compromising on Independence or else!”
The rest of the sub text can be translated thus;
“We will not allow this to happen, our very existence as a money making vehicle for enterprising members is under extreme stress. The whole framework of the British Establishment, which we have capitalised and benefited from both personally and financially over the last 50 years is about to be torn up by the Yes campaign. Start talking to us about a middle way that will preserve the British patronage system that the Labour party continues to see as it’s natural born right to profit from or things will move from insults to unspecified actions. We have at our disposal the full might of the British State and we will not hesitate to use it.”
To our colleagues in the British Establishment (including Cameron’s Government):
“This is what we are prepared to say. It goes beyond what is characterised as fair but we believe it displays our determination to preserve the Union and that it displays our utmost loyalty to the British Established Order and the British State. You had better be prepared to back us up.”
Now back to my question; “Where now For Johann Lamont?”
Well, anywhere that gets the job done. Preserve the Union and you preserve those nice little earners for Labour career politicians, from the Non Executive post on the board of the Multi National Company, to the £300 a day expenses for that Socialist Peer of the Realm, from the MP with her eye on the prize, to the Special Advisor who went through such trials and hard work gaining that Degree in Politics, Economics and Philosophy. From the Councillor with the 2nd cousin who’s taxi business desperately needs the Council business, to the son and his wanna be aspirations to be just like Mummy and make decisions at the top table in the City Chambers.
Johann will do anything to ensure the above continues to function, even when it comes to “Non Specified Actions.”

The Dark Heart of Johann Lamont


I feel sad. 22nd March, 2014, a day that will live in……. great sadness.
Today was the day that Johann Lamont reached an unbelievable low.
Johann made a speech to the Labour party conference which has been interpreted as an attack on Alex Salmond’s private life. Mr Salmond is married but has no children.
I quote her words here as follows;
“But there is one thing which the First Minister has discovered this year. Women give birth to children. Then they look after them. So when his focus groups tell him women don’t like him he discovers childcare. It wasn’t exactly the same as Fleming discovering penicillin. Splitting the atom it was not but I suppose the First Minister learning anything about how real Scots live their lives is some sort of progress. I’m not going to give any theories about why the First Minister has a problem with women. But let me offer this thought. The huge issues which women face here and abroad are deeper than any constitutional arrangement and they must be addressed with political will regardless of what the constitutional settlement may be. I know that not one step on the road to greater equality for women was ever delivered without a battle so whatever happens in the referendum this September it will not mean that women’s lives will be better. The argument for greater equality must always be made and won on its own terms. We will continue to highlight inequality and demand change. But let me be clear. If there is to be any progress for women there has to be a connection between ambition and practical delivery. It is not enough just to describe the challenges which women face, there has to be a commitment to change.”

These words are painful, perhaps not to Alex Salmond and his wife, Moira, but to those of us who actually look beyond the September Referendum to a better Scotland.
I regard these words of Lamont’s to be bitter, angry and carefully crafted with the intention to cause maximum insult and hurt.
The problem with Johann Lamont is that not everyone wants to get so dirty and personal in this debate (I know, I run a blog that ridicules Scottish Unionist politicians, but I’m not a politician). As ordinary Scots we want to hear the arguments from both sides. I’m a Yes supporter, but I’m keen to hear positive, rational arguments for the Union from the No side. It makes for good democracy. I’m yet to hear them, but it strikes me that it isn’t that difficult. I could make a good attempt at a positive case for the Union. True, it would involve a lot of rearrangement of the current British Establishment and power sharing web that is dragging the UK down. So why cannot Lamont? Why fall back on bitter personal attacks on Mr and Mrs Salmond?
I believe that it reveals a dark heart at the centre of Johann Lamont.
The hatred enshrined in Lamont’s words is a visible example of the bile that fuels and drives Lamont. It is shocking on many levels. That a professional politician could draw on this to make a point during the most important point in the history of Scotland and, indeed, the UK, is disappointing. What does it say about us to the wider world? Thankfully, I suspect that Scots will not be tarred with the same bitter hued brush.
But what does it reveal about the darker thoughts of Johann Lamont and her closest circle? What is going on in there? Has her view of the debate on the future of 5 million people really been distilled down to one all consuming thought; “I hate Alex Salmond?” I suspect that it has.
This is actually dangerous, because Johann Lamont has the ear of very influential people. What is she advocating? At what point in the polls does the hatred reach a tipping point and we see Lamont cross a line? It is now March when I write this, with 5 months to go to voting day. What happens when, for instance, in April, there is further momentum towards Yes. What dark thoughts of Lamont’s will manifest themselves in actions more reprehensible than what we witnessed this weekend?
I strongly suspect that we require to be very vigilant. It only takes a rant from Johann Lamont to willing ears within the British Establishment and we could be witnessing something extremely sinister.
There is a further question from this episode that needs to be asked? Why is this nasty behaviour able to manifest itself within the Scottish Labour Party? Is there some ingredient within their collective make up that prohibits reasonable thought?
On the evidence that I have seen there is a clear lack of morality. It is not there. The Labour Party in Scotland has now recast itself as a party of hatred.
As someone who sees themselves on the Left of Centre I look at Johann Lamont and I see a dangerous person. Someone who is so bitter, so full of hatred that she is capable of anything. We should be worried, we should be vigilant and we should expect the worst.