Dr Strangelove

Another bombardment of tough love is already skyward and heading our way this week as the independence-haters – what else can they be with such irrational, self-harming persistence – seek to hammer home their orchestrated line on no currency sharing. (I get images of Osborne astride a descending bomb like the major in Dr Strangelove)

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It would have been arm-round-the-shoulder week, like the boozy wincher, angling for a stolen kiss, no doubt turning nasty on rejection. Instead, through their own ineptitude, they are obliged to bludgeon us with ever more shrill insistence that they meant it all along. I notice, by the way, that Mark Carney has been quietly recruited by some as saying there would be no currency deal. He didn’t and wouldn’t.

We will laugh at their growing desperation but remember they aren’t listening to us, they are hitting the same target every time – the worried Don’t Knows.

I think there could be a problem in all this though and it’s already been hinted at by a senior Tory. Constantly telling anyone what they can and can’t do, especially on dubious moral authority, is the same mistake Margaret Thatcher and her nutty Scottish acolytes like Michael Forsyth made. They simply couldn’t grasp that free citizens – supposedly Britain’s real Tories – won’t comply with authoritarianism and lose their respect for their tormentor.

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I think that’s what lay behind Jackson Carlaw’s open admission that he would fight for currency union, if and after the Scots voted Yes. But he is rare. The rest of the party are repeating historical mistakes by assuming the position of master over servant. The effective declaration that ‘It’s our currency, our bank and our country, so fall into line’ is the message of the Thatcher years. Forsyth forced the idea of privatisation and the dismantling of local representation (‘municipal socialism’) on an unwilling population in the wide-eyed belief he knew better than those he represented. He even split and nearly destroyed his own party on Thatcher’s behalf. His bête noir was devolution which he opposed to the end – 1997 – when it was the only way his party was able to survive. No Parliament: no Tories. Fascinating to learn that the No Pound wheeze was promoted by the very man who worked with Forsyth and Thatcher on the Poll Tax, the Scot, since decamped to Sussex, Andrew Dunlop. See what I mean about never learning? And what do those Labour voters make of their new friend, Dunlop, those anti-independence, Labour folk who will never forgive the Tories for the Poll Tax?  Their main ally in Number 10, the man who got Ed Balls to share the platform, is the architect of the same tax. How much of this can real Labour people take?

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Unionists need to beware. They may egg on the sterling coalition for the sake of the campaign but what lies beyond the vote? What kind of Union is it that makes explicit the disempowerment of one partner and the total dominance of the other? The currency issue has become emblematic of future difficulties.  Like redundant miners and steel workers, the combined British No Pound declaration will be an historical icon and a constant reminder of our true role in the Greatest Union in History ©.

Now of course, again by ham-fisted campaigning, they have created a longer-term problem. By telling the world that there will be no currency deal, they face an uphill task implementing one if there is a Yes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are confronted by demands for a commitment to a UK-wide referendum on currency sharing, a commitment demanded before September.

Frankly, English voters would be quite right to demand direct input into this. After all, they’ve been told by their own government – and the opposition and the civil service – that this is against the UK’s national interest. If there are wobbles in government, as the leak clearly confirms, why shouldn’t the rest of Britain seek reassurance from a referendum? Their own ministers have made it a big deal and if the Scots have a referendum on independence and there is one promised on Europe, why not on currency? Yet, this is the last thing the Whitehall Mafia wants. They are more aware than anyone that they need currency union to keep a grip on the balance of payments and borrowing and to present a business-as-usual face to the world. But their electioneering has created a firestorm of opposition to the very idea they will be anxious to implement. A second, completely contradictory campaign explaining the virtues of union will be needed to convince an English audience this is, after all, the right thing. Why not just tell the truth in the first place? I know…it’s politics etc, but really, if they know it does make sense and helps retain a functioning part of their sacred union AND hands over a proportion of their stellar debt, doesn’t it beg the question? The outcome of their incompetence may well be no shared currency by default. Personally, I would welcome it as would many others and would make clearer than anything that Scotland tried for a deal and wanted to share the debt but democratically beaten by the sterling flag-wavers. I’m not sure this is a battle worth fighting.

 

 

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The Whole World’s Watching

You can tell by the response that it’s true. Low-level leaks without credibility don’t draw joint statements of denial like that of Osborne and Alexander. Inconsequential briefings don’t attract instant rebuttals from Number 10.

They have been caught, bang to rights, telling giant lies to the British people and it’s now a mad scramble to recover in case the truth takes hold. And, of course, it has taken root. Every Scot now knows that the men who run Britain will look him in the eye and lie to his face.

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What made the Nick Watt story in the Guardian so powerful was first, the detail and second, the way it fitted perfectly the scenario the critics outlined. The clue to understanding the campaign is to think of it as two parallel operations. The main one, the one we get pushed at us daily is the upfront, in-your-face fear programme. It is entirely focussed on winning a No, irrespective of content, effect or implication. And irrespective of aftermath…legacy doesn’t matter. This is confirmed in interviews with Blair McDougall where he talks about the constant attention to the Don’t Knows, especially the section who are known to be nervous and think of themselves as having something to lose. No doesn’t bother with No voters, nor does it take any notice of Yes people (one reason it is totally negative to us), but only and alone it is concerned with the several hundred thousand still wavering and the sub group who are malleable. They are the Worriers not the Warriors. Bank balance or Braveheart? No contest. That is the first strand of the campaign – unflinchingly concentrated on a No win, by a single point if necessary.

The second and deeper part of the project is what they will do after September 18.  As soon as the Scots vote Yes, a container-load of power shifts north. It is ours and it’s called the mandate. One more vote than No and the ability to prevent independence is snatched from London’s grasp, the moral authority is vested in Edinburgh and there is an urgent and unchallengeable need to resolve the Scottish question to our, as well as to their, satisfaction. No more lectures, no more insults, no more lies about the finances, no more synthetic emotion and obfuscation. The condescension stops and, the bit I like best, the whole world is watching.

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Every other country stays clear of internal national politics so long as no breaches of human rights and international law are concerned. But a legal binding, democratic assertion of sovereignty by the Scots puts us on the same footing as the British representatives. For the first time since the signing of the Treaty 307 years ago, the Scots will look the English in the eye and they will both know they are equals in the eyes of the world. Only it won’t feel like that for Cameron. This will be withering defeat for the man descended from William the Fourth who was the last Hanovarian King of the United Kingdom because the line ran out with him. Similarly, Cameron’s epitaph will be as the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

That mandate demands results. It can’t be ignored or delayed and the world community will expect action and fairness. One of Britain’s strongest cards is its soft power in the global community and, having taken such a monumental dent to the imperial paintwork, will be desperate to confirm its democratic credentials in handling Scotland. You can’t tell Afghans, Syrians or Crimeans they are ignoring international norms when you’re playing dirty with your own people.

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It is at this point, notwithstanding the tortuous negotiations, that Scotland and the rUK become partners again. The game is over and hands must be shaken. The damage must be minimised and that is best effected by appearing still to share so much. Look, we share a currency, cooperate on defence in NATO, vote together in the EU, live without a border, happily share our island as friends, trade easily, export electricity, aid each other’s carbon targets, support rUK’s UN seat and have even reached a controversial deal on nuclear weapons. As our anonymous minister said: “…. everything would change in the negotiations if there were a yes vote.” What that means is they will say anything- absolutely anything – before the vote and something entirely different afterwards. The door will open for Scotland on to a new world. London must hope they haven’t scunnered the Scots so much with their lies that the mood in the North doesn’t want currency, defence or any other kind of Union with people who treated us so badly.

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Pension Tension

Much rejoicing about pensions….Yes, they’re going to be more expensive. Hurray! People will be worried. And anxious. Three cheers for Europe….And that appears to be it from Better Together.

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But is the European Commission decision on funding of cross border pensions really all it seems? I’ve been reading the regulations, having grown tired of sticking pins in my eyes. The most striking aspect is that there is no provision for the situation Scottish independence would create. Like the wider question of Scotland’s EU membership, it simply isn’t covered by the treaties or regulations which means a compromise will be required to meet the aims of the legislation and at the same time to accommodate the needs of an industry serving millions of EU citizens.

The main purpose of the pension rules is to ensure that pensions are properly funded so they can guarantee to pay out to their pensioners. Any draconian requirement to have them funded immediately with money the companies simply don’t have and can’t  reasonably ask their members to provide could precipitate the collapse of funds, leaving millions without a pension…not quite the peoples’ safeguard the EU would like to pretend it is.

When the cross border rule was introduced in 2005, companies covered by it were allowed three years to meet the requirement to be fully funded. So there is precedent for the idea of recognizing the difficulty full funding creates and allowing an acceptable timetable for compliance. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the penalties for failing to comply with the EU regulations are…how can I put this…not crippling at £5000 per trustee and £50,000 per company. So if you were minded as a company to hold out for a better deal from Brussels, you wouldn’t exactly have sweaty palms awaiting sanction.

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Many companies did get their funding up to date, although it’s worth pointing out that by far the biggest group of such cross border pension schemes in Europe are based in the UK or operate in the UK, amounting to more than half the entire European total, so this is very much a British-based issue in Brussels’ eyes.

This is what the National Association of Pension Funds says: ‘The number of cross-border schemes remains static at 84 …There are 25 which are based in the UK and provide pensions for workers hosted in Ireland, then 14 that are Ireland–UK. The next most popular arrangements are UK-Netherlands (4 schemes) and Belgium-Luxembourg (3).’ It adds: ‘At a time when the EC is arguing that a new Directive is needed to promote cross-border pension provision, these figures provide further evidence of the lack of demand for cross-border schemes away from the UK-Ireland axis. The current system clearly permits the UK and Ireland to have some (albeit modest) numbers of these schemes; many readers will conclude that there is less demand in other Member States.’

The fact that this is a business model heavily concentrated in one member state may lead those with us conspiracy theory issues to wonder if our pro-British friends in the Commission are at it again. The entire pensions industry is puzzling over the reversion from the original position and it is just possible, is it not, that throwing another spanner in the wheels of Scottish independence movement – temporarily, until, say after September – would be worth the effort, especially if hardly any other country is troubled by it enough to complain. But that’s just my cynicism. Interestingly, I spoke to the National Association of Pension funds who think the Commission was subject to industry lobbying and, as this decision runs contrary to the intention of the plan and undermines all the associated reforms, that they will return to it in due course. And Kevin LeGrand, head of pensions policy at Buck Consultants and immediate past president of the Society of Pensions consultants, expressed concern that the debate over pension provision was becoming too heated.  There was unhelpful scaremongering (Who is Greg McClymont?) and he said it was “inconceivable” that the EU would not allow transitional arrangements for schemes.

The other option for companies is to split schemes along member state lines, exactly the opposite of what the Commission says it is trying to do – achieve uniformity across the community. Does this mean that smaller schemes like Scotland’s at maybe 10 per cent of a larger UK scheme would be poorer with higher charges and lower pension payouts?

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Not if you look at other smaller European countries. Let’s start with Denmark. Here in addition to a state pension as we would recognize it, there is also a compulsory additional scheme which operates like a private pension provider but in the national interest. It’s called ATP.

The employer pays two-thirds of the ATP contribution and the employee one-third. The maximum contribution for a full-time employee in the private sector corresponds to 1% of the earnings of an average full-time employee. Pension benefits depend on how long contributions were paid and accounts for a maximum of 41% of the state basic pension. The pension is paid out either as a lump sum if the balance is small or in the form of an annuity. ATP has benefited from scale economies and compulsory worker participation and has been able to operate with high efficiency and low costs. In recent years, it has been a leader among Danish pension institutions in adopting innovative investment policies and has enjoyed an enviable record of high investment returns and low operating costs.

Not enough for you? Well ATP is now so successful it is operating here in Britain. Not on a cross border basis but as a British-registered company and it’s cleaning up. They looked at the UK and saw one of the only countries in the developed world that has had a negative return on pensions. By contrast, their fund has average 10.3% a year. It was 26 % last year.  (This is an outfit from little Denmark, remember, showing mighty, broad-shouldered Britain how it’s done). The thing to bear in mind is that it isn’t, as the Unionists say, how big the fund is, it’s how big it is in relation to the number of pensioners it serves.

Here’s what Patrick Collinson of the Guardian said: ‘Now the government, via its new auto-enrolment regime, wants to throw the 10 million UK workers without pensions into private savings schemes. The old adage of throwing good money after bad comes to mind. It is unforgiveable that low-paid workers, clobbered by rising bills, should be expected to pay into a scheme with no assurances about the outcome. In Denmark there are guarantees. Its citizens at least know their money will grow and provide something decent in retirement. But British workers? We will have to rely on all those brilliant guys in the City to manage the money properly…’

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And we seem to have lost the idea that pensions are by definition long-term investments designed to accumulate steady interest. The Danish boss of Now:Pensions says our problem isn’t deep pockets but greedy investors who earn bonuses for short term profits by trading shares that would deliver a solid return over 40 years, the length of perspective ATP adopts. Another advantage over Britain’s ropey annuities industry, now being systematically destroyed by our own government, is that ATP also runs the annuities, not the fee-grubbing private sector.

Little Denmark is showing how a reformed Scottish pensions industry can not only provide higher pension returns for its own people but shine a light on the fast-buck mentality of City London firms whose object is profit, not pensions.

Which brings me to another pension issue that should not be lost in this debate…the UK government’s proud boast of allowing pensioners to do what they wish with their pension pot. Here’s what the people at ATP say about it. Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions: “There’s no doubt that the annuity market in its current form is out-dated and ineffective. Giving savers greater flexibility over how they access their pension pot is good news. But by handing them a completely free rein it feels like the Chancellor is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.’

In Australia where they already have the system Osborne announced, 75 per cent of retirees take the cash out of their fund instead of taking an annuity. So the pensions business is, like much of the Better Together case, built on illusion – that Big Britain can carry you home, the same Britain that is failing its own pensioners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Auld Sang Gang Wrang

Guess what I’ve been up to as the sun shines? Reading the British government’s legal advice on independence, of course. You know, one of those efforts we’re not allowed to know the cost of.

Here are some headlines I’d forgotten since its publication last year.

The Treaty of Union is irrelevant

Scotland ceased to exist in law

It was merged into an enlarged England

It has no international personality in its own right

It cannot revert to pre-1707 independence

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There you have it. Oh, did I mention that the rUK is continuator state as well and will inherit all the rights of obligations of international treaties and memberships…and Scotland might somehow manage to get back in if London and Brussels are charitable.

The work, paid for by you, and produced by James Crawford, Whewell Professor of International Law at Cambridge and Alan Boyle, Professor of Public International Law at Edinburgh, is one of those meandering, precedent-littered documents which takes us from Moravia via Panama and Syria to Slovakia in a (to me) bewildering trek of legalistic irrelevance. I’m sure it’s all terribly vital if you make a handsome living from mystifying others, and I think it’s not insignificant that both the learned gentlemen are also practising barristers at the English bar where spectacular effusions of legalistic formulations are rewarded with millionaire fees.

This looks like a classic case of getting what you pay for. (Not that we’re allowed to know how much). If the brief was to make a case for the defence of the British status quo, they got good value for our money.

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If they were looking at the modern-day reality of a democratic wish to form a new state, they failed. Although, interestingly, that reality of politics and the need to compromise and accommodate, can be found the further down the text. For example: ‘Whether the accession process could be varied in Scotland’s case, given that it is already subject to EU law as part of the UK, might be a subject for negotiations’

Or: ‘All this is not to suggest that it is inconceivable for Scotland automatically to be an EU member. The relevant EU organs or Member States might be willing to adjust the usual requirements for membership in the circumstances of Scotland’s case’

Our learned friends hedge their bets and trim whenever the cold reality of a Yes vote, legally acknowledged by the UK, is confronted.

Suddenly there are no certainties about international law at all. I remember making a programme about the subject and finding that there is such a thing as international law, it’s that it won’t apply uniformly to any situation you name. It is a chameleon which changes into different shades depending on what question you ask it. And when it comes to the EU, international law is merely a backdrop, not an iron code. The rules are made by the Members and are adjusted according to the wishes of the Members and to hell with international law.

There are clearly political rather than legal insights in the document. Thus the reunification of Germany can be neatly written off as an “internal reorganisation” although it brought 17 million people into EU membership. Why? Because the other Members wanted it to and Germany is too powerful to be stopped. And it helped smooth the way for the single currency. Pragmatism in action.

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Try this: ‘This is also not to suggest that EU law would necessarily no longer operate in Scotland unless it acceded as a new state…’

So although we would be taking ourselves outside the EU, somehow or other its laws would still apply while we’re out?

Then: ‘There are no legal rules within the EU that specifically govern whether it can automatically succeed to membership’. Throughout the long document, if you skip through the jargon, there are similar nuggets that make it clear Scotland’s position will be a matter of politics and expediency and the law is like the Highway Code – you read it and forget. What matters is: Can you drive?

Even our Unionist lawyer friends quote enlightened sources on EU pragmatism…. ‘A Scotland bent upon independence grounded in the clear democratic support of the Scottish people would create a moral and, given the international law principle of self- determination, probably a legal obligation for all member states to negotiate in good faith in order to produce such a result, but this solution lies essentially in the domain of politics, not law.’

Ironic, isn’t it? They’re supposed to prove that Scotland is hopelessly alone and excluded, yet the more you read their own words, the more it becomes clear that logic defies them. I had an email exchange with Professor Boyle where he distils his own work into one simple idea…that Scotland will have no difficulty entering all international organisations and… ‘The only matter in the advice that is of any significance outside a foreign ministry is whether, when and how an independent Scotland would become a member of the EU. That is a very problematic question as there are few rules, a lot of political decisions, and Spain to worry about.’

But my real beef with this stuff is the idea that our country doesn’t exist. What kind of message is that to give in a political campaign? ‘You’re so small and insignificant that you’re not real and don’t exist and the country you’re so proud of was absorbed into greater England and everything you’ve got today is courtesy of Westminster which can turn off the tap when it feels like it.’

Ok, then. I’ll vote No. We already know from the polling evidence that this Neanderthal electioneering is turning people off and still they keep it coming. It doesn’t matter for these purposes what the law of the ancients says, it matters what you want people to believe. It’s called politics. If people have been brought up to believe their country entered a voluntary union from which they have the right to extricate themselves, why on earth would you go to the trouble of constructing a highly dubious case to contradict them? What is gained? I doubt if more than one in ten Scots accepts the lawyers’ assessment. For example here are quotes from of our leading historians. First Ted Cowan, Professor of History at Glasgow: ‘The Treaty states that the two kingdoms of England and Scotland shall on 1 May 1707 and forever after be united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain. By my reading if Scotland goes so does Great Britain’.

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Then Dauvit Broun, also of Glasgow University: ‘The UK = Scotland + England. Take away Scotland, and there can be no more UK. I have not heard anyone explain why this should not be the case… ‘Britishness’ is not the same north and south of the border. For us, including the main currents of Scottish unionist thought and sentiment in the past, Britain was a partnership between Scotland and England. For the mainstream in England, though, it was (and is) assumed to be England in another form. It is assumed that, indeed, the English parliament continued (and with it the peculiarly English doctrine of the sovereignty of parliament). And, of course, we need look no further than the monarch’s numeral to see how deeply embedded this idea is: she is the first Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Britain, but persists in being Elizabeth II.’ He ends: ‘I fear that this mode of thinking about Britain among the English mainstream is so deeply embedded that they take it completely for granted. (It is, presumably, why England is in the remarkable position of being the only democratic nation with a football team but no parliament of their own–a statement they would not recognise because they regard Westminster as ‘their’ parliament, despite the third article of the Treaty of Union.)

There is a lesson in here for the Better Together strategists and they just don’t get it. Yes has been telling them since the start and they just don’t get it. The voters are now telling them and they just don’t get it. They need to get their knuckles off the ground and instead of paying lip service to optimism, actually try to find some. Here’s a suggestion. Reject the legal advice. Say it was a mistake. Say the government is not convinced it’s correct and it was insulting to say Scotland ceased to exist. Why? Because to say so is to deny the very thing they’re fighting for – the Union. I talk about what I call principled Unionism which works only if you accept your country is in voluntary partnership with England. Remove that concept and we become, as the lawyers indicate, little more than an adjunct to England. Not even a Unionist who claims to love Scotland can vote for that. The British might lose this Union because they failed to stand up for it.

 

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I Back Johann

Is the Labour conference over? I must have missed it. Actually I did miss it. Deliberately. Conference is great for diehards to get together but it’s dated, formulaic and dreary for anyone watching from the outside. I had my fill of them over the years and watched as they turned from policy-shaping events into quasi-American rallies. For those who talk about Salmond having acolytes, they should have seen the glow in the eyes of the Tories when Thatcher came on stage. (Not quite the reaction Kinnock and Blair got, nor I suspect Miliband). I also didn’t want to put myself through the Johann Experience. There are people you would leave the bar to hear…Heseltine, Sillars, a young Jim Devine…but I’m developing a cringe about Johann which leaves me somewhere between scorn and pity and it’s unattractive. I look for the strengths in politicians because it allows you to see them as their own side do and opens the door to their message, but what are her strong points? Her image is working class, she’s a woman and a trade unionist, but beyond that, what? Certainly the modern skill of communication would be listed under Work Needed.

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So instead of punishing myself by watching her, I read the speech for myself. And, do you know what? It’s pretty good. No, better than that. It’s really good. It is well constructed, it is driven by its own narrative momentum, it has killer lines, it drops in laughs and strikes a tone that Labour people and many outside but still on board will agree with. It excoriates the enemy (that’s the social democratic SNP by the way, not the public service-slashing Tories). It wants to tackle the wealthy and redistribute to the less well-off, questions a cut in business tax and it hints at decentralising to a local level. In Labour terms it’s a winner.

Or, it should be. Yet it was widely criticised and, predictably, ridiculed by nationalists. You don’t have to look far for the reason. First, it was presented by Johann. The principle here is that it doesn’t really matter what the message is if the audience doesn’t relate to the messenger. They don’t have to like or admire her, they just have to respect her enough to acknowledge her right to be up there telling them what’s what. If it’s a message they don’t want to hear, they will still take it from someone they think has earned the respect to a hearing. Equally, an English audience will pack out the hall for Boris Johnson even if he’s talking about a financial consolidation fund. Johann neither projects the patina of power that, say John Smith did when trying to get One Member, One Vote through, or the easy, if gormless, charm of John Prescott backing him. A Sturgeon or, classically, a Winnie Ewing can generate controlled passion. Johann generates anger. She doesn’t, I think, reach out beyond the hall to a wider Scotland, a talent that let Dewar tower above his opponents in the mind of voters across all classes and affiliations. In other words whatever her message, it misses the target because it is delivered by her, a terminal flaw in a politician and one that mirrors the Nixon/Kennedy debates in 1960 where those listening on the radio gave it to Nixon but those who could see him on telly compared to Kennedy, gave it to JFK. (Did I just put Johann in the same sentence as JFK?)

The other reasons the speech doesn’t work outside the hall is the relentless focus on her opponents which is a dead giveaway. It tells them more clearly than if she just announced that she was terrified of them, that they are a genuine and possibly insurmountable obstacle. She can’t beat them in debate so she is left to excoriate among friends when there is no one to challenge. ‘Patronising and cynical, dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful’ don’t chime with a public which was, as she spoke, giving the SNP a clear lead in the polls, an electorate which largely backs them after seven years in power, which puts Salmond and Sturgeon miles ahead in popularity and places her below David Cameron. You have

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to have a sense of what you know the public already believe and play with that rather than pretend

to know better than them. Far better to break away altogether from directly attacking the SNP. Just think how that speech would have been reported if she hadn’t mentioned the Nats once? She could have mentioned their policy decisions and their effect and made wry references to an opponent without ever using their name, letting the listener make that connection in their own mind…a much more powerful route to winning them over. How the media would have hailed her positive tone instead of shaking their head at her aggression.

The attempt to portray a left wing agenda based on family and community is exactly right. It’s just too late and too contradictory. Where has this been while Johann set up the Cuts Commission, gave us Something for Nothing and failed to nail Trident? It is simply unbelievable that Labour can claim ownership of an agenda they have mislaid for a decade, when they have resisted SNP initiatives including free school meals and alcohol pricing and moaned about a council tax freeze while the London leadership promises to continue the Tory spending budget, refuses to restore cuts, abstains over civil rights when job hunters are made to work for nothing and agrees to spend billions on new nuclear weapons. And if this is her agenda, why not wrap it all up in a devolution max envelope and put it to the people in the referendum? Cynical doesn’t quite cover it. (Did she consult on land reform with Donald Houston, who owns a chunk of Ardnamurchan and donates to BetterTogether?)

This is the speech she should have made on getting the leadership. She should have devised her own devo package and insisted it be put to the people. Instead its another pretendy reform which will never get a mandate just like Calman. Is it a manifesto or is it a wish-list? The trouble now of course is that every setback in the polls can be viewed as partly a judgement on her botched devolution plan, her speech and the “Red Thingy” so that when the Euro polls produce a lowered Labour vote, it will be evidence that her initiative is failing, just as a rising Yes vote says, in part, the same thing. The net effect is to create the impression of a leader who is a loser while the opposite effect boosts Salmond and one of the major advantages for Yes is the optimism that comes from momentum. As the vote rises and people see independence become more of a reality while watching Labour flounder with confused policies and an unconvincing leader, they feel the pull of success moving them to back a winner.

So, good speech, Johann, wrong speaker. Good content, wrong emphasis. Good intent, wrong time.

AND just to finish with the Brian Wilson “Bateman is a cybernat not a nice unionist” affair…I got a note from Twitter covering my last week of tweeting which showed I had 94.2K total views, 1254 retweets and 959 link visits. And guess what my most popular tweet was? The very one Brian complained about. ‘Marr is Naughtie lite. Expat denigrators who owe allegiance to the British state that promoted them. A self selecting elite on auto sneer’ with 14.3K views, 66 favorites, 21 replies and 135 retweets. If it offends Brian, it seems to be very popular out their in real Scotland. We shouldn’t be afraid of speaking the people’s language. This is social media not Brian’s corporate-controlled mainstream media.

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