Thank you for so many kind messages after yesterday’s blog Tough Love. It’s quite moving to hear people express their thanks and say it is what they would want to write too. We really are in a mutually supporting movement. I appreciate it.
I see David Cameron was being supportive of Alistair Darling’s campaign leadership too. How could he not be? They are peas in a pod in this campaign and I’m sure the Prime Minister felt he was doing the diplomatic thing but this is all a world away from the real Scotland where Tory leaders heaping praise on Labour is the equivalent of handing a mop to the neighbour and saying: It’s your turn to wash the stairs.
There is already widespread dismay at the Lamont leadership. This is from last December…41% have no idea who she is, four times as many people liked Alex Salmond as liked Johann Lamont, 70% had no view on the Labour leader. Of those who said they either liked or disliked her, over 75% said they disliked her.
Among her own party supporters there is little sense of affection or loyalty. She is a head-below-parapet leader, emerging only when necessary and posted missing until dragged into the light. Her invisibility over the Falkirk constituency Unite fiasco – her party, her union – disappointed the local members, the wider union movement and Labour people looking for decisive leadership and a challenger to Salmond.
I’m even developing a sense that Iain Gray offers more than she does. Now there’s irony for you.
I haven’t heard either a Scottish Labour figure genuinely explain the strengths of Ed Miliband and why he connects with the Scottish working class and how he will serve them. Neither Ed nor Johann are rallying leaders whose very presence excites the followers and energises the movement.
My point is that Cameron coming to Scotland, as he absolutely should, does no favours to Labour whose backers recoil at the reminder of who they are in bed with and what he represents (not to mention who the backers are of the Tory Party and the Better Together campaign, sometimes the very same).
It has of course also reminded us that Cameron won’t debate with Salmond – oops – and now we know there is virtually no chance of legislation for more powers in the first Queen’s Speech if he wins the British election. Quite a result for Yes. This also plays into the theory – expressed here often – that there will be an anti-Scottish sentiment sweeping England after the next election which will make it difficult for any party to help out Scotland. If Cameron gets away with waiting a full four or five years, we will slip into oblivion again and all the complaining we can muster as Osborne’s next round of £25bn of cuts will count for nothing. ‘You had your chance,’ they say. And they’ll be right.
I was reading my Herald yesterday in the Gazebo of Hate (see above) when I fell upon Catherine Macleod’s latest efforts to dissuade us from doing what every other nation does and claiming our self-determination. I recommend this column. As I wrote previously, if you want to know what’s going on in Alistair’s head, read Catherine. Forget the quality of writing, focus on the content and it is revealing indeed.
For at least the past 25 years, constitutional issues have skewed the political debate while there has been a desperate need for any political energy to be expended on improving the economy and public services. To change the tenor of the debate in Scotland is another good reason for voting against separation.
Now I don’t know about you but that reads to me like a criticism of the devolution years and the build-up to the parliament. The debate was skewed away from what really mattered – the economy and services – so we could all indulge ourselves with devolution, she says. I don’t recall Donald Dewar saying that. Funnily enough, since her 25 years takes us back beyond his death, neither did John Smith. In fact it wasn’t the view of any senior or ground campaign Labour folk I dealt with at the time. Whatever cynicism nationalists have about Labour and devolution, I’m in no doubt that everybody I dealt with then saw it as the issue of the age and that it would help to drive the economy and improve services, both of which were proved right.
So, who in Labour circles thinks the devolution years were wasted pondering the constitution when there were bigger fish to fry? Who could Catherine mean? Well we could start with her other Unionist campaigner friend Brian Wilson whose putrid views on devolution pervade Labour. This is possibly his most revealing diatribe http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/brian-wilson-labour-cant-win-in-britain-if-it-doesnt-win-in-scotland-887144.html
In it, he berates Labour’s decision to legislate for a parliament, patronises Dewar and makes clear that Scotland to him is merely a platform for Labour winning at Westminster. Devolution it seems, is not a means to democratise Scotland and improve its government.
But remember too how Alistair Darling ignored calls for him to demand the release of cabinet papers from the Blair government when devolution was discussed? Over 30 files were held back from publication at the request of the Scotland Office because, it was said by a source, they were a gift to the SNP. What could they reveal that would be so contentious? Might it be Alistair arguing that there were more important issues than devolution, that it was ‘skewing’ the debate away from the economy and reform of public services, or that too much was being awarded to Scotland, that tax raising powers would reduce Westminster influence…? She knows what Alistair thinks and as she has written herself, a minister has to trust a spad… ‘absolute trust had to be at the heart of the relationship between us. I was his eyes and ears inside and outside the Treasury’… ‘An effective special adviser has to be close to the Secretary of State and crucially has to be seen to be close’….etc. There is a continuing strong relationship between them, so she opens up the idea that it isn’t just extra powers that Darling is worried about but that he believes Labour and the Union is in this pickle now because they didn’t listen to him at the time. Clearly, she implies we have to stop this obsession with Scotland’s constitution after a No vote. Does that sound to you like the basis for an improved Devo Max settlement? Let’s face it, the British state has been shaken to its core by this debate and will look for any means it can to prevent a repeat, by removing certain powers if necessary.
Catherine Macleod is peeling open the lid and I think we should all peer inside.
(Incidentally, anyone who thinks a No vote will make this go away, as she does, is living in denial. It is because the wish is never fulfilled that it remains constant. If you want people to stop bleating about powers, you vote for independence.)
On another point, the Lords committee report suggests that Scots MPs couldn’t represent the UK in negotiations, I think, rightly, as their obligation is to their constituents. I’m slightly surprised as I thought they’d say their loyalty was to Crown in Parliament or some such nonsense. But I think the message is also that they can’t be trusted to do the right thing by the British state interests if they inveigled their way into the rUK team. Bit of a slap down for the Britnat Unionist MPs, no?
But it also highlights what I mentioned a few blogs ago, that there is an element of trust required in the negotiators. I said there would be many Scots suspicious if they saw MPs, especially Labour, who had fought bitterly and with dubious assertion against independence invited on to a Scottish talks team. I absolutely believe Labour must be represented as the party is a key component of civic Scotland but it stands to reason that if you go out of your way to denigrate and belittle, that afterwards, doubts remain about your commitment to the cause you have just criticised. This was described as hateful by one John McTernan. Seems I was right, though, according to the Lords and Ladies of the Upper Chamber, whom I’ve always admired so much and feel such a natural affinity with. I think the message from the peers is: You can’t trust Scottish MPs! (But you CAN trust the unelected).
After the global sensation of the Gazebo, I include another shocking example of the dark side of nationalism…the Wheelie Bin of Hate!by