I suppose it’s called democracy. Politician totally changes position on policy in light of voters’ opinions. Or is it cynicism, self-preservation and manipulation…
Today, according to the briefings swallowed whole by the media from Jim Murphy’s campaign team, he will indicate his support for full devolution of tax powers (or at least he will mangle the language to hint his lack of concern should Smith suggest it).
‘Even before the Smith Commission reports, we should agree to the full devolution of income tax to Scotland, if that is what emerges,’ is his quote.
Yet only three weeks ago, this was reported in the Times: ‘Jim Murphy took a major gamble in his attempt to become Scottish Labour leader by rejecting the prospect of full devolution of income tax yesterday, despite the majority of voters calling for the power to go to Holyrood. The MP said that by voting No in the independence referendum, Scots had endorsed the Union and the cross-border tax system. His concerns about more powers echo those expressed by Gordon Brown — that full devolution of income tax would drive a wedge between Scotland and England.’
Right. So, that’s clear…Murphy is first AGAINST tax devo and now he’s FOR it…just weeks apart. Why?
Perhaps one reason is a sidebar story in the same edition which reads: ‘Labour faces near wipeout in Scotland next May in a setback that could cost Ed Miliband the general election, according to a new poll for the Times. Mr Miliband’s personal ratings have also plunged since the referendum seven weeks ago…’
Polls showing the SNP anything from low 40 per cent to over 50 per cent have terrified the life out of the Branch Office, just as polling did two weeks before voting in the referendum and panic has set in. Panic on a level that all common sense and patience can be jettisoned as behind the scenes the party hacks seek a Houdini escape from the electoral fish tank. How to get free from this straightjacket…perhaps if we just agree to anything like we did on the referendum, the Scots will cut us some slack.
So Jim, notably not the other candidates, is given the script to read which will sound like he is the true champion of Home Rule while the pragmatists are left floundering because they realise the potential bear trap of Scotland supported mainly by a single tax power, piling the eggs into one leaky basket. (This is precisely why independence is the answer – control over all the levers of the taxation and economic system, permit policy to be tailored to national need).
It is a reminder of another Labour leader whose U-turn was more of a backward flip with twist and double pike.
This from Iain Mcwhirter in the Herald, March 2011.
‘The SNP are particularly peeved about Iain Gray’s dramatic U-turn last week on tuition fees. The Labour leader cheekily challenged Mr Salmond at the weekend to back Labour’s commitment to free higher education. Yet only a few months ago, Labour were saying the present system of tax payer-funded higher education was not sustainable and that a financial contribution from graduates was inevitable. Not any more. Labour realised that losing a couple of hundred thousand student votes in May was even less sustainable. They have now declared themselves the belated champions of the democratic intellect by ruling out any price tag on learning for the duration of the next parliament.’
You see, when the politician’s mind is focused by the prospect of losing votes, anything becomes possible, even eye-watering reversals of policy with nary a backward glance.
Which raises further intriguing questions. What happens if Trident truly emerges as a keynote issue as some left-leaning Labour types might decide to make it…the polling evidence is clear. Within the Union, a poll last year had opposition to nuclear weapons at 66 per cent with only 15 in favour. Both Boyack and Findlay, as nuke objectors – in principle at least – can outflank Murphy on the Left which is not what his campaign message is supposed to be as he ingratiates himself with the Scottish core vote.
Therefore – you see where I’m going – is it conceivable that Murphy, Labour’s Dr Strangelove, could abandon not just a Westminster career but a dogmatic adherence to the nuclear deterrent? If it meant the difference between winning and losing in what is the gamble of his political life, I am convinced he would denounce Trident. Or he may renege on its replacement in the biggest boomerang of a U-turn so far.by