Good to see Peter Jones back in harness in the Scotsman (or have I just not been reading it lately?) with the rigorous examination of technical economic issues that were so informative during the indyref. You sense his impatience with the distilling of complex matters into a self-serving sound-bite by those who must know better but prefer to hoodwink the voters.
He sighs in exasperation at the simplistic attempt by Labour to show Scotland is broke and would be deprived of Barnett consequentials under fiscal autonomy, leaving us £1300 each worse off.
I expect a similar analysis of SNP economics soon. Labour are, understandably, reaching for simple, damning slogans to sow doubt about their opponents but have developed a tendency to overreach as if they have come to believe the people they need to convince are gullible. I suppose on complex issues we all are susceptible to a con since nobody but an expert can truly comprehend all of the serpentine twists of macro economics.
Unravelling the patchwork fabric of UK finances which bind together Scotland and England has been the preserve of the insider all my life. It seems incredible that in 2015 there is no agreed format which shows if there is a net contribution in either direction. Unionism, including the media, is unequivocal that money only flows from London to Edinburgh and English taxpayers subsidise benefits in the North.
There is an equally powerful lobby with professional credentials saying exactly the opposite and, as ever, we expect the voters to grapple with this as well as their household finances and kids’ homework.
You can provide figures to support either view and it may be that we are so enmeshed financially that there is a constant flow of resources over the border making it impossible to judge without figuratively stopping it all at a moment in time and taking a snapshot.
In this case, Jim Murphy, to any right-thinking Scot, made a fool of himself by misunderstanding the process and drawing the wrong conclusions. But Jim Murphy used to be Secretary of State for Scotland, sat in Cabinet, has been an MP since 1997 and can debate on economic topics. Did he really just make a mistake? Was he wrongly advised by his Better Together team at Labour headquarters? They were after all prone to the same sleight of hand and information manipulation during the indyref. It worked then, why change now? Isn’t this type of Daily Mail three-card trick the hallmark of the No campaign which Murphy valued so much?
The truth must be that headlines work…Scots would be broke without Barnett…SNP’s Fantasy Economics…Scots Benefits paid for by English taxpayers…
and, however much revision is done, enough of the message sticks to make it worthwhile. Would that journalists writing the original copy had the professional interest to question it before it goes into print. (What am I saying? Time for my tablets).
I noticed our old friend Margaret Curran struggling again with that tricky politicians’ dilemma – that thing called The Truth. This time she is trying painfully to distance herself from an invite to an arms manufacturers’ hospitality event – as one does as a good Glasgow East Labour Socialist. From my understanding, it appears her name was on the seating plan – presumably because she had accepted the invitation. As one of her staff said: ‘We may at some point in the distant past have accidentally accepted the invitation…’ (You know how it is…you’re rushed off your feet fighting austerity when ADS, representing 900 arms and defence companies asks if you want to meet a ballistic missile maker over beef wellington and you can’t recall if you said Yes…)
She was invited and there’s a pdf from ADS with all 43 MPs who had accepted the invitation, a photograph of the seating arrangement, and her allocated place between the CEO of Raytheon and one of Nick Clegg’s special advisers.
A week ago she tweets simply: ‘I did not attend the ADS dinner.’
It seems she accepted and intended to be there but for some reason didn’t turn up. But why the mystery? Why so coy?
|Margaret Curran MP (@Margaret_Curran)|
|10/02/2015 22:44@The45Storm I didn’t attend the ADS dinner.|
The correct answer surely is the truth. ‘I intended to go because I regard it as my duty to meet the people who help to defend our country and who make a huge contribution to the economy and employ so many.’
She seems to feel under attack in dining with arms manufacturers while portraying herself as left-wing defender of working class values and finds it easier to elide rather than to weaponise the truth.
Didn’t she also tweet that she had voted against fracking in order to challenge the SNP when we know she did no such thing? She voted along with all other Labour MPs for a Labour amendment which failed. But she then abstained on the motion that allowed the Infrastructure Bill continue to Second Reading. Labour MPs were whipped and all did their duty so as not to prevent the government moving towards the approval of fracking.
Margaret’s tweet – I voted tonight to stop fracking. Do you agree SNP govt should use their planning powers to stop fracking now?
was disingenuous. She assumed the punters wouldn’t know there was a second vote or didn’t understand how the Commons works or just wouldn’t bother thinking for themselves…something of a mistake in this day and age.
But definitely something of a Curran trend. Do you remember her interview with me on Radio Scotland denying all knowledge of Denis Healy admitting Labour had downplayed the value of oil to deceive the Scots? She laughed that off by claiming ‘not to have been around’…
an argument brutally destroyed by Alan Smart. What do we make of politicians whose first instinct is to mislead and then to cover up? I simply can’t understand why, especially in a digital age, they think this will work. A version of the truth is more persuasive… ‘I was a Labour student in those days and even I don’t remember that being said. Maybe Healy played that game but I wasn’t important enough to be informed about it…’ There is any amount of formulations which can be defended but ‘I wisnae there’ isn’t one of them.
Here’s the thing. Are we hearing a constant stream of unbelievable assertions and fantasy economics from Nationalists? Are they constantly tripping over themselves in the rush to convince? Forcing policy ideas to breaking point? What was the last seriously challenged claim of the SNP? From memory it would be the NHS, in the indyref, being threatened by English privatisation which raised a storm, partly on grounds of accuracy but mostly on grounds of efficacy – it really worked. Ashcroft – The Yes campaign’s recent focus on the NHS also appears to have had an impact, with more than half (54%) of Yes voters saying this was one of the most important factors in their decision. It was also notable that the NHS was a bigger factor for women, half of whom said it had affected their decision, than for men, of whom 39% said it had made a difference.
It seems to reflect the state of the parties that the one madly showering the public with shaky scenarios, ideas and claims so questionable they verge on dishonest, is struggling while the one that can be characterized as getting on with the job is cruising (meantime).
The quote above comes from Lord Ashcroft two days after the referendum vote. In it he also says this: ‘By far the biggest single driver for Yes voters was disaffection with Westminster politics. Accordingly, the principle that all decisions about Scotland should be taken in Scotland was the most powerful overarching reason for a Yes vote…’
Westminster is the Maggie Thatcher of today’s politics – a detested, reviled and corrupt incarnation of the failed British State – a reason in itself to vote for the alternative.
Jim and Margaret appear to be the living personification of this hated system and doomed to share its fate.
Meanwhile I await Peter Jones ripping through the SNP manifesto.by