Back to the Future

October 4, 2008

So Gordon Brown has took a trip back in time in his new cabinet reshuffle.

Back to the Future

And the shock recall has been the EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson as Business Secretary.

Peter Mandelson, a serial resigner from Cabinet in the past, will become a Lord to take the role.

Just how desperate is Gordon Brown? Appointing a controversial arch-Blairite with a history of trouble to his cabinet. Why??

Is Mandelson to become the new fall guy in the Cabinet, taking the heat from the Prime Minister?

How long will he last this time? And how will the public react?

Hill Valley Headline

Jim Murphy is appointed the new Scottish Secretary, taking over from Des Browne who was also relieved of his Defence portfolio. Des Browne was offered the Scottish Secretary job after sacked from Defence but felt the job was an ‘insult’.

So once again the Scottish Secretary is a full time job, as it was in the past.

Although it had been rumoured that the job was to be merged with the Northern Ireland and Wales job, as I hinted at in a previous article it would have been better for the Unionists to keep the jobs separate to try and thwart the nationalist advance in Scotland and Wales.

Definitely a case of the Labour Cabinet’s man in Scotland, not Scotland’s man in the Labour Cabinet.

Just in time to preside over the Glenrothes by-election and Motherwell and Wishaw by-election then.

To me, Jim Murphy’s voice just sounds like the Rev I.M. Jolly; especially when the minister had been partaking on the whisky. Its not what I would call upbeat!

So I look forward to hearing him explaining away the forthcoming by-election results.

Rev. I. M. Jolly
“Ah’ve had a helluva year!”

Even if Labour somehow manage to win them both, his voice would send Labour activists jumping off the Erskine Bridge.

In another reshuffle, Alistair Campbell, former Press Officer for Tony Blair, returns to the Labour Government as external advisor.

So its back with Campbell and Mandelson then. The only person missing is Tony Blair and we’d be right back in the Nineties again. Of course, regular readers will recall I pointed out that Labour activists were calling for his return only just recently.

Re-elect Goldie Wilson

We couldn’t get any more ‘Back to the Future’ if Gordon Brown had arrived at 10 Downing Street in a De Lorean.

He must feel like Marty McFly fading away on stage, awaiting for the public to embrace the New Labour message.

Its a pity for him that we’re on the same trip as he is. Lightning won’t strike that clock tower twice!

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Tony Blair for Glenrothes?

September 14, 2008

It seems the Labour Party are beginning to self-destruct before our very eyes.

Now even those at LabourHome, the Labour Party’s blogging site, are calling for Tony Blair to be parachuted into Glenrothes and then taking over from Gordon Brown.

Its hardly a vote of confidence for the Prime Minister or for Labour’s candidate, Lindsay Roy, in the Glenrothes by-election.

Almost like David Miliband’s words have come back to haunt him: “People will be saying ‘wouldn’t it be great to have that Blair back because we can’t stand that Gordon Brown'”

And after fifth-columnist George Foulkes announced that the election of Iain Gray is similar to Tony Blair’s leadership victory, he could have hardly predicted Labour members calling for Tony Blair to be parachuted into Glenrothes for a real Scottish ‘Tony Blair moment’!

Was he doing it delibrately?

Meanwhile as Labour rebels line up to put the knife in Gordon Brown’s back, other Labour MPs have called them idiots.

Des Browne, the Scottish Secretary, has made the point that they have no candidate yet for a leadership election.

The Mail on Sunday has made the case for Jack Straw to be the stalking horse. A case also examined at SNP Tactical Voting.

What must be Iain Gray be thinking as he looks around the wreckage of the party?

Maybe they should take this advice and forget the navel gazing. From his acceptance speech:

“Labour is best when we look outwards and align our values with the people’s aspirations. Not just listening but hearing.”

That phrase struck me.

“Not just listening but hearing.”

Surely it should be the other way around? I would have thought that ‘listening’ implies a more attentive action than ‘hearing’:-

I heard a blackbird sing.

I listened for a blackbird’s song.

That sort of thing. Am I being too pedantic? I know Iain Gray was previously a teacher, surely not an English teacher!

It implies that all the times Labour have claimed to be ‘listening’ in the past they didn’t hear anything.

Then again, I doubt Gordon Brown will listen to his rebels either.

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Longevity of Gordon Brown’s premiership

August 3, 2008

Longevity records of modern Scottish Prime Ministers are not great.

Since the days of Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the early 20th century, there have only been two Scottish Prime Ministers from Scottish constituencies (discounting Tony Blair, who was born and schooled in Edinburgh but represented Sedgefield; and similarly Ramsay Macdonald who was born in Lossiemouth but represented Aberavon and then Seaham as PM) until Gordon Brown came on the scene.

And the two Scottish Prime Ministers in question, Andrew Bonar Law and Alec Douglas Home, weren’t even born in Scotland!

Andrew Bonar Law was born in New Brunswick in Canada and left at the age of 12. His family were Scottish and he moved to Glasgow and remained there, regarding himself as Scottish. He started and ended his political career at Westminster representing Glasgow constituencies.

Bonar Law was in fact a compromise candidate as Conservative leader. When the two frontrunners Austen Chamberlain and Walter Long divided the party they both agreed to withdraw from the leadership for the party’s interests. After a bout of ill health he resigned as Conservative leader and Chamberlain took over.

But the coalition government of David Lloyd George was in trouble. Both Chamberlain and Lloyd George resigned and Bonar Law became Prime Minister by default in Autumn 1922. He later won a General Election but his continuing ill health – he had throat cancer and eventually could not speak in Parliament – forced him to resign in May 1923. He died that year in October.

As you can see from that summary Bonar Law only managed to get the top job from the failure of the coalition government, and the Conservative leader Chamberlain resigning.

Alec Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair, London but was heir to the Scottish Earldom of Home which he inherited in 1951. He took up various roles of Goverenment in the House of Lords.

When Harold Macmillan resigned due to prostrate trouble in October 1963, the Queen had to choose the next Prime Minister as there was no party apparatus in the Conservative Party at the time to annoint a successor. She chose Alec Douglas-Home.

Believing that he could not reasonably function as Prime Minister in the Lords, he renounced his peerage using the 1963 Peerage Act that Tony Benn had used and later fought and won a by-election in Kinross and West Perthshire. (The 1963 Peerage Act also allowed all Scottish peers entry to the Lords; previously only sixteen were elected. English peers had no such restrictions.)

Unfortunately for him the Conservative Government was already damaged by the Profumo Affair and he lost the subsequent General Election in October 1964.

Again Douglas-Home can also be seen as fortunate to get the top job.

So there are only two Scottish Prime Ministers based in Scotland after Bannerman and before Brown.

Both fortunate to land the role of Prime Minister.

Both Prime Minister for a very short time.

Brown himself as not been elected, taking over from Tony Blair when he resigned. Brown has been Prime Minister now for over a year, but his time in office has not been easy.

He has been accused to having a ‘Scottish Mafia’ by the English press.

And since devolution the West Lothian Question is often quoted against Gordon Brown being Prime Minister. He can exert laws on Health and Education on England that don’t apply in his own constituency. Thats not too popular in England.

As you can see Scottish Prime Ministers holding Scottish constituencies look like there are fated to short premierships. The current speculation of Gordon Brown’s leadership and his position in the polls seem to suggest that Brown’s reign will also be short.

Could it be that England does not want Scottish Prime Ministers?

And if the Conservatives enact the proposal of English votes for English matters, will there ever be a Scottish Prime Minister of the UK again?

In which case what incentive is there for Scots to seek representation at Westminster? Their MPs will be second class citizens by default. In such a scenario the end of the Union between Scotland and England will be a certainty.

Gordon Brown may be the last Scottish Prime Minister of the UK from a Scottish constituency.

But he can cheer up in the knowledge that his reign has already outlasted that of Andrew Bonar Law and Alec Douglas-Home.

And if he manages to last till the summer of 2010 he’ll even beat that 2 yrs 5 months record of Campbell-Bannerman’s premiership.

Home-based Scots have such short and infrequent reigns as Prime Minister in modern day politics that its already clear that this Union is not a true partnership.

Brown may have another predictable short Scottish reign as Prime Minister.

The longevity of the Union looks even shorter.

8 out of 10 cats

July 21, 2008

The Daily Mail has a piece on Gordon Brown’s survival.

They state that 8 out of 10 Labour MPs think Gordon Brown should go. Reminds me of that Frankie Boyle joke: “Gordon Brown looks like someone’s drawn a sad face on a scrotum… Does George Bush even know who he is? He must’ve thought Tony Blair put on weight and had a fucking stroke.” Thats the sort of remarks he can get away with on 8 out of 10 cats, I guess.

Three quarters of the Prime Minister’s cabinet think Gordon should go too.

Thinking of it, one of the very few who would want Gordon to stay is Frankie Boyle. He’s probably got a million routines all based on the Prime Minister’s scrotum face.

Maybe like Mike Yarwood sinking fast from trace once Harold Wilson and Ted Heath disappeared from public life, Frankie Boyle might suffer the same fate with Gordon Brown’s demise. Or just start on a new jokebook.

Celebrity status is a double edged sword. The whole point of it is that people recognise you and talk about you. Celebrity and gossip magazines fly off the newsagents’ shelves into the arms of an eager public.

But the other side is when your image is ridiculed. For politicians this is especially dangerous.

Think of Michael Foot wearing that donkey jacket on Remembrance Sunday. Neil Kinnock falling in the sea. John Prescott punching protestors. Currently, Margaret Curran’s slapstick election campaign for Glasgow East.

All suffered a loss of credibility.

At least it was their actions though.

Now think of David Steel on Spitting Image, a tiny figure sitting on David Owen’s lap. Margaret Thatcher with those mad eyes or a grey skinned John Major eating peas.

Satire is at its best when it reflects a public personna; the caricatures providing an insight to the actual people themselves.

At some point though these images seem to become real.

Tony Blair was always framed in the role as Bush’s poodle but this perception was reinforced when George W. Bush called out to him ‘Yo, Blair!’ at a dinner for heads of state.

And so it is with Gordon Brown. So unpopular has he become that comedians can now throw any insult at him and the public won’t be offended.

Calling the Prime Minister a ‘scrotum face’ and saying he looks like he had a stroke, in times past would have resulted in a ton of letters at the televison channel’s door.

Its a reflection of how poorly Gordon Brown is regarded by the public that Frankie Boyle’s comments were unedited.

Its also why there is almost nothing – barring a political miracle on the scale of Gordon Brown launching himself in Afghanistan and Rambo-style bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice singlehandedly! – that Gordon Brown can do that will prevent Labour from losing the next General Election.

The die is cast. Labour’s rating has fallen to just 16% in the new poll by the Metro newspaper – behind the Liberal Democrats.

The 8 out of 10ers are right. Gordon should step down.

The future of the Labour Party and Frankie Boyle’s new jokebook depend on it.

Labour’s animal cruelty in Glasgow East

July 19, 2008

Another day, another gaffe by Margaret Curran.

This time its over fire service response times in the constituency.

Margaret Curran publicly backed a campaign to try and save Parkhead Fire Station from closure, saying that the station should not close unless fire service response times were bettered by its replacement.

But, oh dear.

It was Margaret Curran and the Labour Party who voted for the Fire Act (2005) which scrapped guaranteed response times.

A fact that was not lost on the firefighters.

“She seems to have forgotten that she is partly responsible. It really is hypocritical of her now to talk in this way.” one said.

Just why is Margaret Curran walking into gaffe after gaffe after gaffe in this campaign? Can’t someone in the Labour team – if they have anyone – stop her from injuring herself? She badly needs one of those medical collars you give to dogs to stop them opening their wounds…

Perhaps Margaret Curran needs a medical collar?

She is an experienced politician, local MSP and at one time one of the frontrunners to lead the Scottish Labour group of MSPs.

Could it be that she just isn’t that good?

Many commentators have noted that there is no real political talent on the Labour benches at Holyrood. This became immediately apparent on Wendy Alexander’s resignation – there just wasn’t anyone who was immediately obvious who would lead the party; in the same way that Gordon Brown was the obvious choice when Tony Blair stood down.

Her television performances so far have been poor. In each one she looks nervous, rattling off 500 words to the minute and obscuring any points she has been trying to make.

In contrast, John Mason’s performances have been assured – even relaxed, to the point where Glenn Campbell’s trap of bringing out an old letter from an SNP adversary was so successfully brushed aside it made Glenn and the Newsnight team complete fools into the bargain.

There is no doubt in my mind that a neutral would have said that John Mason is the experienced politician, not Margaret Curran.

Is there any reason why the Labour campaign is so lacklustre? Why is it that journalists are asking why Margaret Curran is behaving like an underdog in the campaign?

Is it part of a strategy that people always support an underdog? Is it an attempt to win votes?

If so, it seems a dangerous strategy for Labour to take. They should by rights be the favourite in the seat – as mentioned before the Labour Party (and sometime Independent Labour) have held Glasgow East since 1922; it is one of their safest seats in the UK – a public image of being an underdog is one of their fortress stronghold constituencies is being projected around the UK, and around the world.

What sort of impression does that give of Gordon Brown’s Government? One that is deeply unpopular must be the answer; and hanging onto power by the skin of its teeth.

Although purposely planned as a short byelection campaign in an attempt to save the seat, Gordon Brown must be despairing over Labour’s chaotic campaign.

Because even if Labour do manage to hold the seat – and that is a big if – the perception is now reinforced around the country that this Labour Government is a dying government.

This Labour Government and the Glasgow East underdog campaign need to be taken to the vets to be put out of its misery. Its the kindest thing.

Buddy, can you spare £24 million?

July 11, 2008

The Labour Party continue to sink to new lows.

One minute Gordon Brown is telling us to avoid food waste, the next he is tucking into this menu at the G8 conference in Japan.

Let them eat cake!

Meanwhile the Labour Party are £24 million in debt.

Desperate to make a fist of the Glasgow East by-election, the Labour Party last night prostituted itself at a gig at Wembley last night.

Want to become a character in a Alastair Campbell novel?

Tennis with Tony Blair?

Dinner with John Prescott?

These prizes and much, much less were all up for auction as the Labour Party tried to stave off bankrupty; banned as they are from selling peerages!

Apparently Alistair Campbell has been phoning up the rich and famous trying to sell tables at the event with not much success.

But he’d be hard pushed to do a worse job than Charlie Gordon, Cathcart MSP, and the ex-Scottish Labour MSP leader Wendy Alexander.

Not only did Wendy admit to breaking the law on donations but her attempt to pass the blame to lowly clerks has now unravelled too.

Its just as well she already resigned.

How much would she fetch in the auction?

Don’t tell me. £995!

I knew you would say that.

Labour’s Soviet decline

June 1, 2008

The Labour Party’s vote seems to be melting faster than snow from a dyke.

I believe Tom Devine, the Scottish historian, has recently compared the speed of the decline of the Labour Party’s fortunes to that of the collapsing Soviet empire.

The Soviet empire. One minute standing firm against capitalisation, the next the Berlin Wall is down and there is a McDonalds restaurant in Pushkin Square, Moscow.

As quick as Tony Blair and New Labour scrapped the old Clause Four then! Here it is, a reminder of what Old Labour used to stand for, all those years ago:-

“To secure for all the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry of service.”

With that change Tony Blair killed off Old Labour. And New Labour was born. But what of his successor Gordon Brown? He shows no signs of changing New Labour. And New Labour’s popularity is at an all time low and still sinking.

The latest opinion polls in the Telegraph makes grim reading for Labour MPs:-

UK Poll of voting intentions for the Westminster Government (YouGov).

Conservative 47 %
Labour 23 %
Liberal Democrats 18 %
Others 12 %

Obviously thats UK wide showing the Conservatives in a clear lead. That wouldn’t be replicated in Scotland.

Taking only the Scottish section of that Poll the voting intentions are as follows:-

SNP 41 % (43 Westminster seats)
Labour 25 % (7 Westminster seats)
Conservatives 19 % (4 Westminster seats)
LibDems 13 % (5 Westminster seats)
Others 2 (0)

41 seats would more than double the SNP target of 20 Westminster seats! It would also beat the halfway total that many a unionist Westminster MP has quoted as being needed for Scottish independence.

Referendum not needed then!

But that ratio of seats will probably never occur. This Scottish section was a small sample. Polls also have a habit of being wrong at the day of the election. Nevertheless it does show the Labour vote is falling spectacularly and they face a real fight on their hands for their Scottish seats.

When the Soviet empire crumbled and various independent countries took its place, the Communist vote struggled in Russian elections. Their high point in democratic elections was the 2nd round Presidential vote [3 July 1996] when they achieved 40.3 % (still second to Boris Yeltsin). But that seems a blip on an otherwise downwards path. In the recent Russian Presidential elections [2 March 2008] the Communist Party polled 17.72 %. Once an empire collapses, it seems its gone for good.

1996. That was the same year of Tony Blair’s manifesto “New Labour, New life for Britain”.

2008. Barring a miracle, it seems the New Labour project is in its death-throes. By the next election New life for Britain will be under a Conservative government. How long Scotland tholes that will be seen at the referendum.

Archaeologists need not worry though. I’m sure Hadrian’s Wall will be safe!

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