‘Dead Cat’ holds Glenrothes

November 7, 2008

So the Gordon Brown ‘Dead Cat’ bounce has held Glenrothes for Labour.

Its probably bought a few months of air fresheners for the ailing Gordon Brown Government. And probably keep Gordon Brown in his job till the forced General Election in 2010.

But I suspect the public will notice the cat is still dead is due course.

No amount of air fresheners can cover up the decay.

So if that’s Labour what about the SNP?

By-elections give momentum, and although the SNP increased their vote and ate substantially into Labour’s 10 600 majority, many pundits expected them to take the seat.

So the SNP’s blistering momentum from the Glasgow East victory has been slowed.

Still going forward but at a more steady pace.

Alex Salmond has said that his party needs to take a look at how it can combat Labour’s negative campaigning.

I agree, but surely there is only one way to go?

That’s to become even more positive.

Once you become mired in negative politics then not only do you demean your party – and play into the hands of your opponents – but you switch off the voters. Labour does negative campaigning well; they need to – their backs are against the electoral wall, and they lack any vision of where New Labour is going. Although the SNP ran a positive campaign, perhaps they should have killed the negative Labour stories faster.

I think the last thing Scotland needs in its politics is the negative campaigning usually seen in the U.S. The Unionist parties and press are halfway there already, I’d hate to see it get worse!

As Barack Obama shows a positive campaign with the right message can achieve fantastic results.

The SNP dusted off their 1997 election slogan ‘Yes we can’ after Barack Obama’s historic victory in the United States.

In hindsight, they should have used it much earlier when they saw the polls favouring the Obama campaign.

It might have got them some decent press for once.

Then on Obama winning they might have had their own bounce.

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HBOS merger could end Treaty of Union

October 20, 2008

I thought it was interesting listening to Jim Spowart, founder of Standard Life and Intelligent Finance, on Sunday’s The Politics Show on BBC Scotland.

He offered the view that if the HBOS merger with the Lloyds TSB happened it could break the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England.

Spowart has been a long-time advocate against Scottish independence, so his views should be taken as a warning to Unionists over the proposed bank merger.

He estimated that around 100 000 jobs in Scotland, primarily in the central belt, could be lost if the proposed merger happens.

That figure includes jobs from businesses indirectly linked to the HBOS headquarters in Scotland, as well as the losses expected from HBOS themselves.

An absolutely huge figure.

The merger is seen as supported by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and even caused by his mismanagement of the economy in the first place.

So if 100 000 people did lose their jobs in the central belt I doubt they would have much incentive to vote Labour.

The fact that Labour’s heartlands in Scotland are in the central belt, especially in the west, probably won’t have escaped many Labour councillors, MSPs, MPs etc.

And as witnessed in the Glasgow East by-election those voters will predominately switch to SNP en masse.

The HBOS merger might just lead to Labour meltdown in Scotland.

And bring Scottish independence that much closer.

For all that, I doubt the SNP are cock-a-hoop wanting this merger to happen to finally realise their dream of independence. Independence could happen with any number of political scenarios; I very much doubt the SNP want Scotland to lose 100 000 jobs to achieve it.

Why pick the worst option to achieve independence when there is something inevitable about it happening anyway?

Any number of political scenarios could bring about independence for Scotland. The challenge for the Unionists is that each scenario they have to win; nationalists only have to win once: can anyone name a nation who once democratically free and independent actually wanted to go back to its old imperialist masters? That fact alone suggests that independence must be the best way forward for Scotland.

I don’t see Ireland wanting to be back in under UK rule, or Iceland – even with its current financial troubles – wanting to be back under Danish rule.

Independence will happen anyway. It would be a shame if it happened like this.

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Burying bad news

September 28, 2008

It seems that Jack McConnell has been plunged into a gay rights row in Malawi. The Malawian Gay Rights Movement MAGRIM are desperately awaiting his arrival.

Jack McConnell in his pin-striped kilt

A spokesman said: “We are anxiously waiting for the arrival of Jack McConnell. He supports gay rights and we believe he will use his influence as High Commissioner as well as his close working relationship with President Bingu Mutharika to put in place friendly legislation for homosexuality.”

As I have commented before on this blog, Jack McConnell is due to take over from Richard Wildash when he leaves his post on January.

That means there is pressure on Jack McConnell to quit as a Scottish MSP to allow a suitable handover to take place.

Now it seems that Labour are considering holding a snap by-election in Jack McConnell’s Motherwell and Wishaw constituency on November 6th.

The same day pencilled in for the Glenrothes by-election.

The date of November 6th, being two days after the American Presidential election, is already seen as a good day to bury bad news; as the media will be focussed on the new American President.

Having two by-elections on the one day may also split the SNP campaign activists. Labour activists were vastly outnumbered by SNP activists in the Glasgow East by-election.

Gay rights is a hot topic in Malawi. Homosexuality is banned in the country.

One politician Aden Mbowani MP of the Malawi Congress Party, dismissed any change in the law, saying:

“This man you call McConnell, he will not influence any policy in this country”

I think he must have studied Scottish politics! As First Minister of Scotland even fellow Labour MPs did not know his name.

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Glenrothes – mining new depths

September 25, 2008

Well, it seems that the media are now convinced that the date of the Glenrothes byelection will be November 6th. The date, it is supposed, will be so close to the US Presidental election, that it will limit the damage to Gordon Brown.

Glenrothes, originally envisaged as a mining town, would have been a safe Labour seat in the past.

Not so today.

Labour’s own canvassing put the SNP 5000 votes up, and a recent poll of Unite trade union members resulted in a majority of those votes going to the SNP. Of course, Unite members will be affected by the proposed takeover of the Bank of Scotland by Lloyds TSB. Labour activists are preparing for a voter backlash against Gordon Brown’s handling of the economy that led to the collapse of the Scottish bank.

It seems that Labour are banking on the memory of John MacDougall, their previous MP, to shore up their vote.

John was, by all accounts, a popular MP who died of an asbestos related condition. He was though suing the Labour Government for refusing to pay him compensation for his illness.

The Fife Labour Party have set up a condolence webpage for his memory.

But as Jess the dog points out, it looks like the Labour Party are willing to use Glenrothes constituents that leave a message, as targets for their electioneering.

Something that Guido Fawkes noticed happening in the Crewe and Nantwich byelection too.


At least it’ll save those stories about Labour’s dodgy election software and database that couldn’t handle those pesky Scottish flats in Glasgow East.

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Labour turn on Gordon Brown

September 19, 2008

The Independent conducted a poll taken from those members of LabourHome, a site that provides a home for Labour’s online supporters.

They found that 54% of them wanted Gordon Brown to step aside for someone else.

Understandably the paper bigs up its own poll. See Grassroots turn against Brown.

What I find extraordinary is that the number against Brown is only 54%. It suggests that Gordon Brown’s conference showing might well be crucial – either to get his support in the Labour Party to increase with a good performance (and try get over 50% of Labour membership to support him), or on a bad to so-so performance see the numbers against him rise to a tipping point.

Especially when you look at the ratings given by Labour supporters to the Labour cabinet published on LabourHome.

Sept ’08: Only 8 members of Labour’s cabinet have made pass marks. The highest mark being Alan Johnston’s 6.18 out of 10.

And the bottom four:

Des Browne: 4.31 / 10
Gordon Brown: 4.3 /10
Ruth Kelly: 4.12 / 10
Alastair Darling : 4.07 / 10

Even among his own supporters Gordon Brown can’t get pass marks.

The lowest score Alastair Darling shows what a mess Labour has made of the economy. Even Labour supporters – presumably those that would argue that everything’s global and its not our (Labour’s) fault! – can’t even hide the fact that the chancellor is doing particularly badly.

(The Independent’s figures for this are slightly different, I guess because they took a snapshot over just 3 days.)

Motivation to campaign for the Labour Party is now at 4.8 / 10.

Something perhaps borne out last night when the SNP won the Baillieston by-election for Glasgow City Council, a council ward in the Glasgow East seat recently won by the SNP.

New Zealand to follow Scottish devolution model?

August 20, 2008

The Maori tribe of Tuhoe is currently in talks with the New Zealand Government seeking self-rule reportedly based on the Scottish model of devolved Government.

The Tuhoe tribe or iwi are based in the central eastern North Island of New Zealand and are known as the Children of the Mist. Unlike many Maori iwis they have a certain geographical isolation living in a remote region, to the north of Napier and the fantastic wine area of Hawkes Bay, and have a very strong sense of identity.

The Tuhoe flag

The Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe is the Tuhoe political party leading the negotiations on self-rule with the New Zealand Government, and both parties are reluctant to say to the press how the negotiations are proceeding; but they have just signed a forestry deal together.

I particularly liked the traditional Tuhoe greeting – a hongi; pretty much a precursor to a headbutt – that their controversial activist leader Tame Iti gave the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Michael Cullen of the New Zealand Labour Party.

Tame Iti and Michael Cullen in a hongi

I can just see Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown do this!

Maybe not. I guess Gordon Brown wouldn’t be too keen:

Wasn’t the Glasgow East result a Glasgow Kiss to Gordon Brown already!

Cui bono?

July 27, 2008

If the Labour Party are still reeling from the political earthquake that was the SNP Glasgow East by-election victory and shuddering to think about the coming General Election in 2010, perhaps they should take a step back in reflection.

One country that goes to the polls next year is Malawi.

In the last Malawi General Election in 2004, electoral voters rolls figures were inflated. Obviously this gave opportunity for the election to be manipulated, but it was charitably dismissed as just a shambles rather than a devious ploy to get elected.

This time round, the Malawi Government has put more money in to this election to try and prevent any such errors.

But there are worrying trends from neighbouring countries that are seen as stifling democracy. Foremost among these is Zimbabwe with its leader Robert Mugabe, whose party activists have been torturing and killing supporters of the opposing party.

Kenya has seen around 1500 people killed in its recent election.

And Malawi is not short of political tensions. Bakili Muluzi, ex-president was arrested after accusations that he was trying to stage a coup on President Bingu wa Mutharika. They both belonged to the same party (the UDF) but Mutharika left to form his own party (DPP).

So it has come as no surprise that the British High Commisioner to Malawi, Sir Richard Wildash, has added his weight to calls that the 2009 election is seen to be fair.

‘Nothing can so thoroughly undermine democracy as bad elections.”

Such calls can be seen as international pressure on Malawi to run its elections properly. As Malawi is a Commonwealth country, Britain’s voice remains important.

But Sir Richard Wildash is leaving his post in January 2009 at the latest.

Scheduled to take over is the ex-First Minister Jack McConnell.

What should normally happen with a changeover is that there would a short handover period. Jack would normally leave for Malawi now or in the autumn (at the latest) for this to take place.

Will it happen this autumn?

Probably not – despite Malawi’s calls that any gap in the High Commisioner role would be unacceptable.

Despite the Westminster all-party Foreign Office Select Committee demanding that Jack McConnell be sent to Malawi soon.

With such a delicate General election taking place in 2009, it is vital that the new High Commissioner is in place when Sir Richard Wildash leaves.

So why the delay? Why has Jack not left or indicated his timetable?

Its obvious that the Labour Party want to delay Jack’s departure as they feel that they won’t be able to win the Motherwell and Wishaw seat; again putting pressure on Gordon Brown and his Labour Government.

Its a clear example of Labour putting its own party interest over that of the UKs and that of Malawi.

If the SNP won the seat, Holyrood parliamentary arithmetic would mean that they would then only need 1 other party’s support to implement its policies.

Although the ex-First Minister’s seat is looked on as rock solid – so was Glasgow East; in fact it was more so. In view of that the SNP would really fancy their chances at another upset.

Motherwell holds special significance for the SNP as it was the area that gave them their first seat to Westminster in 1945, held by Robert McIntyre who was later to lead the party. They would really be up for the challenge.

It may not be just the prospect of another SNP by-election triumph thats holding back Jack McConnell.

Sir Richard Wildash seems to be of the old school of British diplomats, always ready with a handy Latin quote.

In one speech to the Malawis, the number of Latin quotes were flying thick and fast:-

“As Seneca wrote:

“Non scholae sed vitae discimus” – that is, “We do not learn for school, but for life”.

As Horace wrote:

“Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem”; that is, “Remember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even”.

As Cicero wrote:

“Cura nihil aliud nisi ut valeas”; that is, “Pay attention to nothing except that you do well”. ”

There was many more quotes from Churchill to Bunyan to the French Renaissance essayist Montaigne.

Obviously something that the Malawis have come to expect from the British High Commissioners. A classical education from a public school no doubt, in true British Foreign Office style.

I may be wrong but I doubt Jack as an ex-maths teacher is versed in his Latin. Maybe that is holding him back from going!

Never mind. I’m sure his Malawi tenure will be more secure than that of most Labour Party MPs come next election:

Hodie adsit, cras absit.

Glasgow East and Independence

July 26, 2008

There has been a lot of talk regarding the Glasgow East by-election win for the SNP.

Most commentators seem to agree that it says nothing about the support for Scottish independence.

I disagree:

One report in the course of the campaign struck me.

It said that SNP activists were extremely encouraged by the number of Labour voters in Glasgow East – whether they switched or not – who wanted Scotland to be independent.

It also said that Glasgow East constituents gave the highest percentage of ‘Scottish’ as nationality on their last census return forms:- 96 % ; compared to only 4 % who thought of themselves as British.

People vote for political parties for a number of reasons.

For Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to assume that people who vote for them don’t want an independent Scotland are living in cloud cuckoo land.

(The reverse that all the SNP voters don’t want independence is true as well. Only a vast vast majority want independence! In the Glasgow East election for instance they no doubt picked up votes from unionists wanting the discredited London Labour Government out.

If unionists really believe that the SNP is a single issue party then they would need to believe that all the SNP voters want independence.

If not, maybe those who have actually read the SNP manifesto and discovered it wasn’t just one page long with the single word ‘Independence’ then maybe they would realise that a referendum is probably the best way of finding out true public opinion.

Of course, the convention given by unionists is that the SNP need at least 50% of the Scottish MPs in Westminster or a majority of MSPs favouring independence in Holyrood to make independence happen.

Whichever happens first – by weight of numbers or by referendum – is fine by me!)

Ah but what about the polls they say – clutching to some selective polls that says that Scots don’t want it.

Equally nationalists are just as guilty of clutching to their polls that say Scots do want it.

As with most polls on independence it depends on how the question is phrased. Here’s a guide to the poll results.

The truth is until that question is asked formally in a referendum we won’t even have a real measure of public opinion to go on.

Look at the dodgy polling results for Glasgow East for instance.

The last one from Progressive Scottish Opinion only four days before the result put Labour on 52% and the SNP on 35 %.

As you can see that poll was utter rubbish, given that the SNP have just won the seat!

Polls are wrong a lot of the time. Its a fact. If they weren’t we wouldn’t have expensive elections in this country – we’d just phone up a few hundred folk in the constituency and then appoint the appropriate MP, MSP or councillor. No need for hustings, election budgets, PR etc. but just a small dent in the phone bill.

Glasgow East shows that there is now no safe seat for Labour even in its west central Scotland heartlands.

The fact that residents considered themselves Scottish not British, and that many Labour supporters favoured independence made switching to the SNP all that easier.

For that reason alone, given a bit of good fortune and a SNP impetus to change things for the better in Glasgow East, it gives the nationalists a great chance to secure the seat in the next Westminster election.

Labour must now fear a domino effect in Scotland that could decimate them politically.

One of the reasons the SNP wanted a referendum in 2010 was to show just how well they could govern Scotland. Now that was a prime reason for the vote switch; a popular Scottish SNP Government versus an unpopular London Labour Government.

Now that the SNP have succeeded in Glasgow East, a former Labour stronghold held since 1922, it shows just how popular this SNP Government is.

Part 1 of the plan accomplished.

Part 2 is the referendum.

And all this unionist claptrap of neverendums is just that. Claptrap!

They quote Quebec as a place of neverendums. Quebec has had two referendums for independence in its entire history. Once in 1980 and again in 1995. That’s it. Neverendums? Claptrap!

They quote John Mason when he said “When you are asking someone to marry you, sometimes you have to persist.” on his view on referendums – if – and thats a big improbable if – the SNP lost the 2010 referendum.

What do they think he was going to say?

“Oh well, we’ve lost a referendum, might as well disband the SNP!”

Cloud cuckoo land again by the unionists.

All that would mean is that the SNP and the other independence parties would need to try harder to convince people.

The issue might be kicked into the long grass for a while, but the political football will always return to the field of play so long as there are nationalists on the park.

But that’s all conjecture.

Right now, the nationalists are cruising the political match, banging goals in for fun. Unionist team captain Gordon Brown has done nothing but score o.g.s!

Glasgow East has seen another unionist red carded and time is running out.

SNP win Glasgow East

July 25, 2008

Yes. The SNP have won Glasgow East.

It might be a shock result but is anyone surprised?

I’m not going to go into Labour’s terminal decline in Scotland today.

I’ve already posted quite a bit on Labour’s slapstick election campaign too.

No. Today should be about celebrating the SNP’s magnificient win.

A justified result for the SNP’s brilliant campaign team and candidate John Mason.

A win that delivered the promised ‘political earthquake’. (Yet another SNP promise delivered!)

An earthquake with tremors felt around the world:-

The USA: New York Times and Time magazine
Canada: The National Post
India : Top News
South Africa : News 24
Australia : Sydney Morning Herald
France: France 24
Spain: EITB 24

to name but a few countries coverage.

Now thats what I call putting Scotland on the world stage!

To do it permanently, independence is the next step.

Bring it on!

The tipping point

July 23, 2008

I am reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point where he argues that once a certain percentage is reached then it catches on and becomes an epidemic.

His tipping point theories can be applied to almost anything. Fashion, the Internet, Crime, Poverty, Politics.

For any idea or thing to become a phenomemon, he argues, you need the right personality types in place – only a few might do – and for the idea itself to be ‘sticky’ i.e. simple, easily understood and passed on.

Once these personality types convince a certain proportion of the population, it can then become an epidemic.

That brings me to the Glasgow East by-election.

The very constituency epitimises Labour’s stranglehold on west central Scotland. If the SNP do well here then the subsequent political earthquake that Alex Salmond predicted may well happen.

I think Gordon Brown will try and ride out the storm.

But the SNP winning the seat or coming so close may just create a situation where public opinion catches onto to the perception that Labour is desperate and the SNP are on a roll. That seems to have a lot of stickiness in the current polls.

The question now is not so much has that tipping point been reached for Labour. You would be hard pushed to find anyone outside of the Labour Party who thinks they will win the next election. Even some Labour MPs think they’ll lose it.

The question now is have the SNP come near to their tipping point? Because when that happens independence will be inevitable.

Like it or not, independence has Gladwell’s quality of “stickiness”. Its easy to understand and furthermore it has lots and lots of independent countries around the world that provide motivation. That motivation is an obstacle for unionists to try and push their own tipping point the other way. Why is independence good enough for other countries but not for Scotland? Its a tough argument to counter morally.

Gladwell, an American, offers the example of Paul Revere; the man who organised American resistance to the British in the American War of Independence.

He says Revere was a ‘connector’ – a man who knew the right people.
Revere was also a ‘maven’ – a man who had the right intelligence.
The other category is ‘salesman’ – obviously someone who can persuade people. And if those people have motivation and can see a multitude of success factors, its an easier sell.

Once these three types are on your side then The Tipping Point can be reached.

I’m sure both nationalists and unionists can identify people in their camps that are one or the other or even all three.

But the main problem I see for unionists is that their message lacks Gladwell’s stickiness.

For one thing, unionists aren’t even agreed on that message. The Liberal Democrats want federalism, the Conservatives are toying with English votes for English matters, Labour may want more powers or the status quo, depending on who you speak to.

Without that ‘stickiness’ of consensus from the unionists, all the connectors, mavens and salesmen of the unionists haven’t a hope of stopping the independence bandwagon reaching that Tipping Point.

Meanwhile, the connectors, mavens and salesmen of the SNP are given a free run towards that 2010 referendum.

Glasgow East might not be the Tipping Point.

But its as near as it gets.