Season’s greetings and good wishes to all – Yes, Don’t Know and No’s (but I’ll never forgive you).
I suppose we’re meant to be despondent as the year of opportunity passes and leaves us where we started…as a region of a country where all the major decisions affecting our lives are made by people for whom we are not a priority.
But I just can’t do it. My default mode is confidence and optimism, my only regret is that we didn’t leap free cleanly and decisively. But I am now part of something bigger, something creative which is weaving a serpentine pattern on our democracy and subtly rearranging it into shapes we didn’t previously imagine and leaving us uncertain of the final picture.
It’s clear that we won’t stay the same, that the earth tremors continue as aftershock, unpredictable and disconcerting. For example, I find it hard to believe the Scotland opinion polling giving over 40 per cent to the SNP will remain firm in a British election campaign. I just can’t. All my life experience has been that Labour commands an unshakable influence over generations of working class Scots many of whom voted out of peer-imposed obligation rather than support for policy. Sometimes it seemed to be a force of nature that drove staring-eyed followers to the polling station – 2010 when Cameron (sort of) won in England, the SNP were the Holyrood administration and yet in Scotland Labour ended up with exactly the same seats from 2005 (41).
And yet…even Professor Curtice is endorsing the numbers to the extent that they may be disguising an unusual blip which shows disillusion with Labour higher and deeper in strongly Labour areas which (follow me) means that the uniform swing may actually work against Labour holding seats, whereas normally it doesn’t allow for the individual character in some constituencies. If this holds true, then there is nothing to stop the dam bursting and places where even the local opposition are perennially sure of defeat will change hands. What then?
Here’s another. I have conflicting views of Labour’s chances across the UK because 1) when the heat is on, most voters follow the taste principle and forget all about policy, party and the past and simply have a sniff and a wee sip of the leader’s elixir. Is he fit for it? Will he do? And I am convinced Ed won’t do – in fact neither Ed will do.
2) I’m begining to think the Tories are now so extreme that even some of their own support might desert them. They have flipped from the green and consensual to the greedy and censorious. They are truly toxic again and have taken the bash-the-poor policy too far for what the Telegraph would call decent British people. How do these two ideas play against each other in the polling booth?
I think whatever shape Westminster government takes, there will be much talk of separatism and division – caused by infuriated English opinion with anti-Scottish and anti-European undercurrents. We will find out next year just who the real separatists are. Throughout the indyref any mention of England or English people was met with demands to know: Why do you hate the English? And You’re Anglophobic! Well, get ready for a torrent of nakedly anti-Scottish sentiment to make a ScotNat blush.
I believe we can finally wave farewell to the Lib Dems in 2015 – at least as any credible force because if those that survive enter an agreement with the Tories again (especially since they are now denouncing their Tory partners as extremists). I fear it will bring forth a new working class militancy which could rupture Labour and may well instead feed UKIP in the absence of any political home, while in Scotland feeding more fodder to the SNP beast.
Just how an SNP deal with Labour as biggest party would operate to their advantage is tricky because you become closely identified with the governing party and their worst policies and what may seem logical at the start can quickly become a liability. When votes of confidence arise you can be propping up not just a government but some pretty odious policies too. Mind you, it would keep Jim Murphy in a key role, if he stands again for Westminster and if he wins. He would be a key go-between for Edinburgh and London, a role he would relish as it keeps him in the public eye.
Since it is now five days ago I should say I tweeted about Murphy during the George Square tragedy because I found my hackles rising as I read he was being interviewed across the media about an accident he wasn’t involved in. He was on television and in newspaper online pages and appearing on Twitter so much I couldn’t get past his name to the story (or so it seemed). I don’t care what party he is, there is a gift in owing when politics is irrelevant and counter productive and in knowing what you’re role is and what it isn’t.
As far as I could see he was a minimum of 100 metres away and probably twice or three times that in a different street with no view. When he tweeted about it happening it was a full hour afterwards, leaving the question: What was the purpose of the tweet? The first thing it does of course is alert the media to his proximity. (This may not have been his intention which was to alert members of the public and express his concern). But it would be naïve of him not to anticipate a media reaction. What then should have been his response? Should he have agreed to interviews or should he have demurred on the grounds he wasn’t present, wasn’t in government, didn’t represent the area and had no locus?
Who has locus? Well, Gordon Matheson for sure as council leader, the transport or local government minister certainly, either FM or deputy FM or the local MSP/MP…all could reasonably have something meaningful to say.
The politicians who got this right in my view were Willie Bain who had walked through the square 15 minutes earlier and who gave a grave and respectful interview but didn’t place himself in the story as such, and Ruth Davidson who was quick to tweet from, I think Argyle Street, commending the emergency services and expressing sorrow but not heading to the area to get in the way.
I went on to the Herald site and the first story said roughly: Jim Murphy was carrying a load of Christmas presents in Buchanan Street when…(the crash happened). I found that unbelievable given the real story. This type of irrelevant detail is for a retrospective piece recalling what happened, not within hours of a mass tragedy. But it speaks to the symbiotic relationship Murphy enjoys with the media, as if he has a media identity larger than an MP. It is almost as if he has his own persona that transcends relevance and indeed so it proved with Sky News who billed him as the First Minister.
I don’t doubt for a moment the genuine human concern that a decent man like Murphy feels in this case, but there is a tendency for some to imagine themselves at the heart of public life irrespective of the occasion and to think that because reporters ask them, they must therefore seek out the microphone. This is a mistake as Alex Salmond will aver. Was it not the Unionists like Murphy who berated him for camera chasing? In his desire to dominate the airwaves, Jim Murphy must be careful not to outstay his welcome. No doubt in a day or two we will also discover what his favourite book of the year was or his recipe for brownies as the Hogmanay papers scrape the barrel.
The public quickly tires of the perennial publicity seeker. Still, a prosperous (but not too successful) New Year to him and to all of you. I thought 2014 was to be our year but it turns out it may be 2015 instead.by