A British century?

September 24, 2008

“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.

I wasn’t the only one. Check here. And Here. And Here. And Here.

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.

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Gordon Brown and the internet

September 23, 2008

So it seems that Gordon Brown will unveil an internet connection programme that will apply in England but not in the rest of the UK?

Is this part of the plan to get the UK higher up the world broadband league table where the UK sits 13th?

But its strange that this programme will take place only in England. Not Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

Because England leads the UK in broadband takeup!

So because the UK Government is refusing to give Barnett consequentials to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the rest of the UK misses out.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather Barnett was scrapped and Scotland had full fiscal responsibility instead (I’m sure the Northern Irish and Welsh have their own ideas) – but while we’ve got the system, it should be seen to be operating.

Otherwise it can only fuel Plaid Cymru and the SNP in their bid for independent nations.

So the nation with the highest broadband takeup in the UK gets all the money, and the rest of us gets nothing! Wasn’t Barnett supposedly based on need?

Wales broadband takeup is only 45%. Northern Ireland is 52%. Scotland is 53 %.

Broadband takeup in Glasgow is 32%. I have already posted a blog comparing Glasgow’s internet reach with the Glasgow circulation of the Daily Record and found the newspaper is marginally ahead of those that read news on the internet.

What that means of course is that more people get exposed to the Daily Record’s Labour propaganda than get their news from the internet.

Indeed the whole Internet Connection Programme can be seen as politically motivated in Labour’s interest. It keeps Labour strongholds like Wales and Scotland’s public free of any dissenting Labour voice and also in England promotes freedom of expression where Labour is weak and also tries to quell any demand for an English Parliament at the same time.

Of course, some Labour bloggers may find this a good idea, given they say a leaning on the internet of nationalist blogs in Scotland.

They fail to realise that its precisely because the public have little newspaper or media support backing their aspirations of independence, that they have had to take to the internet to try and get their views heard! Again, that’s something I have blogged about before.

Incidentally, this blog has just had over 25 000 page views since I started at the end of May. (Thanks to everyone that reads!)

I think that’s not bad, since I still don’t know what I’m doing!

Thanks to Gordon Brown’s ‘not Scotland’ policy, I guess all the Scottish bloggers will be disappointed that the Scottish internet take-up will remain stagnant. (The same goes for Wales and Northern Ireland.)

Another Union dividend.

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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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