Unionists voice is broken

October 24, 2008

Is the Unionist argument finally maturing?

David Cameron's new book

David Cameron declared today that:

“Of course it is possible that Scotland can stand alone – that is true”

Could this be the beginning of the end of the Unionist scare stories about Scottish independence?

Have the Unionists begun to realise that their constantly negative ‘can’t don’t’ attitude is a turn off to Scottish voters?

If so, nationalists may for once have a real fight on their hands.

It seems that the Conservative leader has realised the correct argument for the Unionists to take:

“I don’t think we’d ever succeed in saving the Union by frightening Scots to say you couldn’t possibly make it on your own.”

In other words, ditch the negative agenda and promote a positive one.

Of course many parties in Scotland support independence:- the Greens, the SSP, Solidarity and of course the SNP. There is also an independent MSP – Margo Macdonald – that supports independence.

Such is the size of the SNP, they are the main drivers for Scottish independence. They are the dominant party of Scotland:- in Government at Holyrood, on the rise in Westminster, and have the largest number of councillors compared to any other party. They have a clear voice to the Scottish public.

The Conservatives though have currently 17 MSPs in Holyrood and 1 Scottish constituency MP in Westminster. They don’t have a great platform in Scotland.

So can they persuade the other Unionist parties – Labour and the Liberal Democrats – to follow their positive agenda?

I doubt it.

Labour are so far stuck in a negative agenda that their MPs and MSPs should be kept in a darkroom! Witness Jim Murphy’s Arc of Insolvency slur towards Iceland, for example.

And the Liberal Democrats with their federalist ambitions are hardly the best bedfellows for the Conservatives.

The three have just about managed to keep the Calman Commission afloat, all paddling in different directions! Without Kenneth Calman at the helm it would have perished on the rocks a long time ago. And even the Calman Commission is looking into more powers for the Scottish Parliament, so its more of a soft nationalist approach in any case.

So if the Conservatives alone argue for a positive case for the Union, their voice will just confuse with Labour’s negative case for independence and the Liberal Democrats case for federalism.

In short, the voters will switch off to the Unionist message.

Leaving the clear SNP positive message to take centre stage.

I have previously argued that unless the Unionists argue with a coherent message, then it would always lack ‘stickiness’. Something that the independence message doesn’t lack.

‘Stickiness’ is the vital quality before achieving the political Tipping Point; the backing for Scottish independence amongst the voters. And if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book you’ll realise that the Tipping Point is usually well before a majority; its just an equilibrium point – after which the product or message reaches everyone.

The course is clear for Unionists. To save the Union both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have to follow the Conservative’s lead.

And have a grown-up debate on the matter.

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Comings and Goings

September 13, 2008

Congratulations to Iain Gray and Johann Lamont who were elected Labour MSP leader and Labour MSP deputy leader respectively.

Both won their nominations with around a 60 – 40 split.

Iain Gray will be the third Labour MSP leader to take on Alex Salmond since the SNP leader became First Minister in May 2007.

Also today Gordon Brown is meeting Margaret Thatcher for lunch at Chequers. No doubt the beleaguered Prime Minister will be asking her advice on how best to stay in power leading a disaffected party and public.

Margaret Thatcher was unceremoniously kicked out of Downing St by her own party in 1990 when poll ratings began to slide.

I did think that that meeting at Chequers would overshadow the Scottish leadership contest of the Labour MSPs.

But the fact that several Labour MPs have now been writing to Downing St demanding a leadership contest at Westminster again putting Gordon Brown’s tenure as Prime Minister in doubt has stolen the spotlight.

Under Labour rules there needs to be 1/5th of the Labour MPs to call for a leadership election before it can automatically happen. Currently that means there needs to be 70 Labour MPs calling for a contest.

Downing St says that only a handful of Labour MPs have formally asked for a leadership contest.

Guido Fawkes has compiled a list of 39 Labour MPs – as it currently stands – that would be expected to demand a leadership contest.

Not the 70 yet but it may be the start of a bandwagon.

It will really depend on how Gordon Brown plays the situation, and also how he performs at the upcoming Labour conference.

Iain Gray and Johann Lamont must be very disappointed at the way the Westminster agenda has stolen what should have been a good news day for Labour.

With a Prime Minister again lunching with Margaret Thatcher and open speculation among Westminster Labour MPs about his future they must surely be thinking that a stand-alone Scottish Labour Party must be the way to go.

They can’t do anything about headlines from other parties.

The SNP have announced Sir Angus Grossart will run the Scottish Futures Trust.

The co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Robin Harper MSP, has decided to stand down. He is now backing the election of one single leader of the Scottish Green Party.

That leaves the Conservatives as the only party not to have changed their Scottish parliamentary leader under the SNP Government. Should Annabel Goldie be worried?

The Liberal Democrats are also today beginning their UK conference in Bournemouth. Plaid Cymru are also finishing their conference in Aberystwyth today.

Labour have just elected two new Scottish MSPs to lead the party but its Labour’s own desperate Westminster headlines that have swamped the media.

Not a great start for Iain Gray and Johann Lamont and its not even their fault!

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Is England softening on Local Income Tax?

September 8, 2008

As the argument in Scotland rages about LIT, it seems that there is softening in England over the Local Income Tax policy.

First of all, Michael Portillo, former Conservative minister has come out in favour of LIT.

“Having thought hard about local government finance, I am convinced that an income tax supplement must be part of any equitable local tax system. I admit that earners would pay more and high earners much more, but greater social justice is not a powerful argument against it.

More importantly, raising the money in that way would enable local government to grow in scope and importance. By comparison with almost every country I know, we suffer from chronically weak local government and from central government that is too powerful. Decisions are made remotely, national policies are imposed although they are inappropriate in most localities and terrible amounts of public money get wasted.”

And now even Labour bloggers are starting to argue in favour.

And even some Greens argue for LIT.

And if English bloggers are starting to favour LIT for England, could this tempt Gordon Brown into another U-turn?


Sub sea cables and double standards

August 17, 2008

It seems the Scotsman has a story of the SNP being ‘slapped down by Westminster’ over attempted talks to create a Scotland to Norway subsea cable.

At the heart of the matter is Westminster wanting to enforce the Scotland Act of 1998 which forbids the Scottish Government to have any international relations and any involvement of the generation and supply of energy.

Why this is an issue for Westminster now – with an SNP Government – is a mystery.

They seemed to be happy with Scotland’s unilateral involvement with aid for Malawi.

They seemed to be happy with Scotland promoting Tartan Day in the U.S.

They seemed to be happy when the 2006 Scottish Executive funded a feasibility study into running subsea cables from the Western Isles and the Orkney and Shetland Isles to the Scottish mainland.

They seemed to be happy when the 2006 Scottish Executive were considering plans to run subseas cables to Ireland and Norway.

Yes. You guessed it. All initiatives started by the last Labour and Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive.

All breaking the terms of the Scotland Act.

Previously not an issue.

But now when all the SNP Government want to do is talk, its strange that Westminster is hiding behind the terms of the Scotland Act in trying to deny them a freedom of speech.

The law should be the same for everyone; no matter which Government – it can’t be overlooked when your pals break it.

Otherwise its a bad law and needs to be revised.

The fact that all parties in the Scottish Parliament – SNP, Greens and Independent for independence; and Liberal Democrat, Labour and the Conservatives in the Calman Commission (with the blessing of the Westminster Government) – want the powers of the Scottish Parliament increased, changing the terms of the Act – agree on revising the law, all imply the latter conclusion: Its a bad law.

The mature approach then from Westminster would be just to let those breaches pass – as it did in the past – before the Act itself can be changed; instead of enforcing a law that has the agreement of no-one.

Enforcing it now seems petty, small-minded and just plays into the hands of the SNP.

And just reeks of double standards!!


Glasgow East – SNP landslide!!

July 8, 2008

It seems that James Purnell, the Works and Pensions Minister, has been defending Labour’s dreadful record in Glasgow East; a constituency that has infamously one of the lowest male life expectancy rates in the Western world. All of this on a Labour MP watch that’s lasted decades.

A Conservative MP, David Gauke, said that the Labour Government’s record of trying to get people back to work had failed certain areas – and said Labour has “Let down the people of Glasgow East”.

It really comes to something when the Conservatives can so easily attack the Government on their policies to tackle poverty.

It really shows just how far to the right the New Labour Party are.

James Purnell is about to publish a Green Paper, designed to get people back to work whether sick, disabled, lone parents or drug addicts – and of course the unemployed will be targeted in a new ‘work for dole’ policy.

Will such a move be popular in Glasgow East? Will it help save the Labour vote where 50% of people of working age are out of work for one reason or another? Where 63% of children are in families on benefits? How will those people react to Purnell’s Green Paper? Will they just see it as a measure to help them or a threat to their benefits?

Meanwhile, Labour has formally declared Margaret Curran as their candidate. Frances Curran has just been on Newsnight Scotland saying their similar names may lose the SSP valuable votes! So at least that may give the Labour Party some more votes. That’s the best news the Labour Party has had in their disastrous campaign!

The Green Party has also announced their candidate as Dr Eileen Duke, a retired GP and co-convenor of Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Its not a seat where the Greens are expected to do well in.

Back on Newsnight Scotland, Tommy Sheridan said that he wanted the SNP to win and admitted all the other parties were fighting for third place.

With honesty like that its incredible he has been accused of perjury!

Alex Salmond predicted a ‘political earthquake’ result in Glasgow East earlier.

As I mentioned before Labour has fewer than 200 members in the constituency; a ridiculously low number given its one of Labour’s safest seats in the UK. One Glasgow East card-carrying member of the Labour Party interviewed on Newsnight – he even showed his card on screen – said that there was no way he would vote Labour after the disappointment of the Blair and Brown Governments. If he is typical of the local members then Labour has a huge fight on its hands! The morale amongst the party must be rock bottom.

Channel 4 has revealed that out of around the 200 members only about 3 dozen are active in the Constituency Association. That’s only 36 Labour members – at most! – willing to chap doors, leaflet the public and defend their policies to the Glasgow East public. No wonder Scottish Labour has demanded that all its MPs and MSPs help out – they’ve hardly any activists in the constituency!

Virtually no activists! Virtually no money! Virtually no hope!

The SNP may only predict an earthquake.

A landslide is more likely!!!


David Davis resignation

June 13, 2008

Its a win – win situation.

David Davis has made one of the shrewdest political gambles of his career.

In resigning from Parliament after such a contentious Labour win aided by the Democratic Unionist Party, and fighting as a candidate in the subsequent by-election, he now appears as a man of principle.

As Shadow Home Secretary you may have fought that he was in the right job to influence people’s minds on the 42 day detention, but although he may have won the moral argument in the Commons the vote still went against him.

Labour have been arguing that the public are behind them but as David Cameron said that doesn’t make it right.

Now standing on a civil liberties platform in the coming by-election he can give Labour a public vote that might just change the popular views in the UK, and destroy Labour’s public argument.

I fully expect David Davis to win his seat.

His closest rivals last time were the Liberal Democrats and as they support David Davis’ stance on civil liberties Nick Clegg has refused to put a candidate up against him.

Now it is up to Labour whether they will stand.

If they refuse, it will look as though they have been scared to test public opinion.

If they accept, odds are they will be humilated.

Its win – win for David Davis.

The public like politicans of principle. You may not always agree with them but at least they stand a corner and fight for their beliefs.

That’s why people like Tony Benn are so respected. His socialist views may be a thing of the past for New Labour but his views give us a true distance of how far this New Labour Government has travelled to the right.

You could argue that democracy needs this shading to work well.

The talk is that Labour won’t stand in the by-election and try to marginalise David Davis.

If that is the case then Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun, has said that he will probably run, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s money and press.

Now a News International campaign against David Davis will certainly make the by-election more interesting.

I suspect though that Davis will still win against Mackenzie. It would take some sleaze or corruption angle by News International to make it a close race. Something which they will no doubt be looking into just now.

Much as I’d love Kelvin Mackenzie to win the seat and become an MP – everytime he speaks his anti-Scottish diatribe, the nationalist vote in Scotland soars. He’s a one-man Recruiting Sergeant for the SNP, SSP and Greens. In a political war he could be even described as a fifth-columist for Scottish independence! – the vote has got to go with Davis.

We have too few principled politicans in Westminster to afford to lose him.

Speaking of lack of principles let us turn to the Labour Party. They have bullied, dealt and perhaps bribed their way to win this vote.

There was media talk today of Gordon Brown offering would-be rebels: ‘What do you want in your constituency?’ and offering Labour MPs sitting on marginals safer seats come election time. One radio report said one Labour MP was offered the Governorship of Bermuda! Even bribes were suggested!

But it is the deal offered to the DUP that is the most interesting. The SNP will be watching with interest to see if Northern Ireland accrues any benefit from this deal, as this negates the Government policy of acting in the interests of the UK over a devolved administration. Labour couldn’t use that argument to argue against a Scottish oil fund for instance.

The Lord Advocate of Scotland, Elish Angelini, has said that she sees no circumstances where this law to come into effect in Scotland. The previous Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, a Labour Peer no less, has agreed with her.

Given that any such extension to 42 days detention without charge in Scotland would need to be granted by the Lord Advocate then it can be seen that the law will be operationally defunct here in Scotland in any case.

If it comes into statute at all. There is enough opposition in the Lords to suggest that this bill will never make it to law. It will also be challenged on Human Rights laws if need be.

Which makes Gordon Brown’s posturing on this all the more remarkable.

He seems to have lost his leadership of the party somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle.

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