David Cairns resignation

September 17, 2008

So David Cairns, the Minister of State for Scotland has quit.

His former boss, Des Browne, holds two positions in the cabinet: Scottish Secretary and Defence Secretary.

In practice, since Des Browne has had enough on his plate to deal with – with military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan – and many of our troops coming home in bodybags; David Cairns was ordinarily performing duties of a Scottish Secretary.

Although a lowly minister and probably not well known in the rest of the UK, he was well known in Scotland. He was very much Westminster’s man in Scotland. He once denounced the Scottish public and press as ‘McChattering classes’. He was never Scotland’s man in Westminster.

It is then a surprise to see him quit.

At the start of July this year he was backing up the Scottish Secretary, Des Browne, in his belief that Scotland never had it so good.

Only two months ago.

As he himself said in his resignation letter:

As someone who has never uttered a public word of criticism of our Labour Government, far less ever cast a vote against it in the years that I have been an MP, the concept of loyalty to my Party and our Leader is at the very heart of my political beliefs.

So he backed Des Browne in saying Scotland has never had it so good – in the middle of a global credit crunch and fuel and food prices through the roof! – and has never voted against Labour since he became a MP in 2001. You might say a career politican then.

So why would he resign?

Well, for one thing the office of Secretary of State for Scotland is about to be scrapped. He was about to be made redundant in any case.

He was also in charge of Labour’s gaffe prone election campaign in Glasgow East, where one of Labour’s safest seats in the UK fell to the SNP.

I very much doubt he wanted to be associated with losing the Glenrothes by-election too.

Losing that by-election – as looks likely – may well have finished his ministerial career anyway.

As his ministerial career under Gordon Brown looked to be finished anyway, it makes sense that he would leave now.

As one of the first ministers to resign and ask for a leadership election he may well be gambling that a new boss might pick him for the new team.

Even if not, he may be hoping that his actions to distance himself from the Labour Government might help him retain his Inverclyde seat at the next election. He has a majority of 11 000 but as Glasgow East proved no Labour seat is Scotland is currently safe. David Cairns is now no longer Westminster’s Yes man and that will surely help him retain Inverclyde.

The fact that he announced his resignation just before Iain Gray publically unveiled his new shadow ministers ensuring that press attention would be diverted to him, pretty much indicates his feelings towards the current Labour set-up.

I suspect he won’t be campaigning too hard in Glenrothes now.

A bad result may be the end for Gordon Brown.

That would be good news for David Cairns.

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Georgia on my mind

August 9, 2008

The Georgian President has just declared a state of war with Russia.

The region they are fighting over is South Ossetia, an autonomous region in Georgia which unilaterally declared independence from Georgia last year. Its declaration has not been recognised by any member of the UN as valid, as its referendums on the matter are not regarded as valid.

Russia holds the neighbouring region of North Ossetia.

Map of Georgia and neighbouring Russian regions

Georgian military moved into South Ossetia claiming the Russians have violated Georgian air space, coincidentally as the world’s attention was focussed on the Olympics instead.

Now the Russians have responded with air raids killing thousands. Around 30 000 Ossetians have fled.

It seems that Russian hackers have also crippled the Georgian .ge domain, making Georgian information from the internet extremely hard to find.

The U.S. educated Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has called for his troops to be removed from Iraq.

The Georgians are allies of America and Saakashvili has called for American support against Russia. There is a Georgian now representing the U.S. at archery in the Olympics.

America has so far just called for a ceasefire, so far unheeded.

Whether the Americans will actually enter the conflict is doubtful. They already have troops battling in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps the conflict can only be resolved by organising a UN organised referendum to the people of South Ossetia, with both Georgia and Russia promising to recognise the result. If the previous referendums are an indication then South Ossetia would be a free independent country.

However, both Russia and Georgia would be against this.

Georgia would lose territory and give impetus to two other autonomous regions in its borders Abkhazia and Adjara to follow the same route.

Russia would be concerned that an independent Ossetian state in the south, would ultimately lead to the loss of its region of North Ossetia wishing to join the new country. It would also give impetus to Chechnya and possibly other Caucaus regions to declare independence from Russia.

Meanwhile, the South Ossetians are caught in the crossfire between the war and politics of Georgia and Russia.

Literally.