“This is no time for a novice” said Gordon Brown in his conference speech.
Those words came back to me when Ann McKechin, the new Scotland Office minister – having taken over from David Cairns, was trying to explain – on Radio Scotland’s Scotland at Ten – why Gordon Brown was talking about implementing policies in England, that are SNP policies in Scotland. It didn’t sound like she convinced interviewer Derek Bateman, nor anyone else listening I suspect.
Gordon Brown’s SNP-lite policies:-
“So our plan is next year to abolish all prescription charges for everyone with cancer.” That’s in April 2009. By that time, the SNP Prescription charge will be £4 to everyone, and those on extended care with PPCs will pay £38 per year. The scheme will further reduce costs in 2010 and be free to all in 2011. I think the SNP are ahead of the game here. Although everyone is playing catchup with Wales, where they are already free.
“Greater visibility for people doing community payback” That means offenders working in the community. Something that Kenny McAskill, SNP Justice Minister, has championed.
And the SNP have pointed out that Gordon Brown’s flexible GP surgeries are already done in Scotland under this SNP Government.
Likewise his carbon emission target.
And his financial help for the elderly. Its already free in Scotland. That was brought in by the previous executive, and maintained by the SNP Government.
Well they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Or is Gordon Brown just trying to steal the SNP’s clothes?
One thing is for sure. How Gordon Brown can come out and say that this will be a ‘British century’ with devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is extraordinary!
The SNP are in power in Scotland. Their popularity shows no signs of ending, and look favourites for the coming Glenrothes byelection.
They also plan to hold an independence referendum in 2010. Hardly a sign that Britain is united!
Plaid Cymru are jointly in control in Wales. A recent poll shows 70% favour devolution, with the majority of those wanting more powers.
Both Scotland and Wales provide powerful arguments to why Brown’s Britishness agenda is dated. Not to mention the demand for an English Parliament in England. Even Cornwall has a political party advocating self-government.
If the 21st century is to be a ‘British century’ it will surely mean that each nation will finally have its own voice.
In fact, as The Telegraph reported earlier this month, even his ‘British century’ idea is not new. Brown used it in the 2007 TUC conference as well.
No wonder I was bored with the speech.
And more especially here, for a nice picture of one of the Labour delegates at conference!
All in all, even the standing ovations reminded me of Iain Duncan Smith’s last Conservative conference in charge. He managed 17 in total then was hurled out on his ear!.
I don’t think Gordon Brown is fooling anyone. At best he has bought some time.
Even the Labour Party must realise it.