Labour give up on Glenrothes

November 6, 2008

Benedict Brogan of the Daily Mail has said that Labour have admitted defeat in the Glenrothes by-election:

“By the way, Labour word is that Glenrothes is a lost cause.

“The SNP will take it by 1500, give or take 500.

“I don’t detect a Brown Central attempt to prepare a “shock” win. Instead they say that had they had a few days more it might have made a difference, and that without Gordon and Sarah Brown’s personal intervention the result would be far worse.

“So the good news is that defeat will be masked by the Obama euphoria.

“The bad news, as Team Dave will doubtless put it, is that the Novice won, and Gordon lost.”

The same bad admission by Labour is repeated by The Evening Standard:

‘Party insiders conceded that the contest was a “lost cause” despite evidence that the Scottish National Party’s lead in the seat had been narrowed in recent days.’

‘A No10 insider said that if the party had a couple more weeks to campaign, it could have pulled off a victory against the odds. “But we just don’t look like getting it.” A Labour source added that the seat was now a lost cause, though the SNP majority would be tight at possibly around 1,000 votes.’

Interesting that Labour think another couple of weeks would have helped their campaign. Of course no-one knows for sure.

The bookies though give a probability of a Labour win at around 25%, the SNP around 75%.

And interestingly, the Labour probability was falling and the SNP probability was rising over the last week.

It hardly backs up Labour’s perception of ‘just another couple of weeks’ to campaign, does it?

The media are already bracing themselves for another change of position on Gordon Brown.

As seen in The First Post:

‘Senior Labour party figures are braced for an election defeat to a strong Scottish National Party in today’s byelection in the former safe seat of Glenrothes. A heavy defeat could trigger renewed speculation over Gordon Brown’s ability to lead Labour to an election victory.’

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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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Conservatives and the Union

September 30, 2008

Just a couple of days after Gordon Brown was nicking SNP policies and passing them off as Labour policies in his conference speech, now the Conservatives do the same.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has just announced the Conservatives will introduce a freeze in Council Tax in England.

Of course, this successful SNP policy in Scotland was opposed by the Scottish Conservatives in the May 2007 Scottish election.

They argued for a reduction in council tax for pensioners instead.

Just how will they take the new Conservative policy in England?

And there is the rub.

No matter how much David Cameron says he believes in the Union, the Scottish Conservative Party and the UK Conservative Party are becoming more out of sync.

Of course, with devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland policy divergence between the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party (and for that matter the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party) and its UK counterpart is only to be expected.

And the longer devolution makes policy decisions that are only applicable to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the greater this policy divergence will become.

So it seems to me that it would be better for the Conservatives just to have done, and liberate their devolved partners and instead become the English Conservative Party.

This case applies more to the Conservatives who only have 1 MP in Scotland, and 3 MPs in Wales; than Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

That would leave the English Conservatives room to strongly argue the case for an English Parliament, or even ending the Treaty of the Union altogether.

It already has been the most dominant of the main parties giving proposals to try and answer the West Lothian Question. For example here and here and here and here and here are just some of the Conservative proposals. Yet English votes for English matters may just bring about the end of the Treaty of Union anyway.

And ditching its support of the Treaty of the Union could make an English Conservative Party the main party of Government in England for decades to come.

David Cameron may be against Independence for Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales now, but if the planned 2010 referendum in Scotland doesn’t end up with Scotland leaving the UK, he may find that Labour will once again regain control of the UK purely because of its Scottish and Welsh MPs.

And if the West Lothian Question has not been answered by then, the pressure on his party to change position may become unbearable.

Surely taking a long-term view it is better to change now whilst ahead in the polls and in a position of strength?

Right now, their professed support for the Union in words isn’t backed by their actions.

For example, their plans for a high-speed rail network that only goes as far north as Leeds.

Now David Cameron may say that he will run the line up to Scotland at a later date – he doesn’t say when – but I doubt it will convince Scots voters.

Again, a high-speed rail link was SNP policy, but obviously they planned for the service to go between Edinburgh and London.

The Conservatives need to come clean on their view of the Union:

They need to back up their words with actions.

Or will they steal another SNP policy? Independence?

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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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David Cameron and the Union

May 24, 2008

The Conservatives have only 1 Scottish MP. Their current electoral good fortune if projected to the next Westminster election may bring them a couple more in Scotland, but it is England where their real targets lie; and where it seems the current revival will push them forward to victory in that election.

What to do about Scotland then? For years it has sent down to Westminster a glut of Labour MPs propping up (or even giving) the Labour party victory in the Westminster election. Any Conservative election victory was in spite of their standing in Scotland not because of it. Although current polls suggest the Labour vote is now crumbling in Scotland, people are switching to the SNP not the Conservatives; making the 20 seat target at Westminster set by First Minster Alex Salmond now look pessimisticly prudent.

The Conservatives are a Unionist party. Yet David Cameron knows if he can get rid of Scotland, the Conservative chances of winning at every Westminster election will be markedly improved. If only he could look as though he is standing up for the union while simultaneously passing policies that lead to its breakup he could be in power at Westminster for a very very long time.

The first step in this process is English votes for English matters. This will sideline the Labour and Liberal MPs. SNP MPs routinely abstain in matters not affecting Scotland anyway as a point of principle. Cameron has already suggested this at the latest Scottish conference.

This will have 2 effects:-

1) To begin to quell any English resentment of Scotland. It will effectively end the griping over the West Lothian Question. Thus Cameron will claim that he is protecting the Union.

2) As all Scottish MPs will now be sidelined – remember that the Conservative party currently has 1 MP out of the 59 Scottish MPs – it means that it will be easier for Conservatives to pass their policies or vote against future Labour governments on English matters.

This answer to the West Lothian Question brings up various anomalies. For instance, it seems unlikely that a Scottish MP could ever again be Prime Minister of the UK. The current Prime Minister Gordon Brown would be banned from English votes in this setup. Could the Scots be happy to send MPs to Westminster knowing that they were denied the chance ever to be PM?

And once the Scots are excluded, what then of the Welsh or Northern Irish?

Tam Dalyell may very well be right that that devolution and the attempt to resolve the West Lothian Question will lead to the breakup of the Union.

David Cameron. The man who said he wanted to save the Union. The man who proposed policies to break the Union. The man who lessened Labour’s chances of victory in every subsequent General election. The man who could run England for a very, very long time.

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