The Mother****** of Parliaments

A little detail is being missed from the deluge of anti Scottish slime oozing from the establishment media outlets – England has an in-built majority in the Westminster Parliament, one that trumps everyone else, not just the hated Scots.

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The constant wheedling sound of English-orientated hacks about Scots (not just the SNP, mind) having influence over UK government policy overlooks the glaring point that neither the SNP, nor the Scots – nor even Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish combined – can ever outvote English MPs in any circumstance on any issue.

England has, and always has had, an automatic veto over every other nation in this ‘family of nations’ – ‘the greatest union in the history of the world’. At any time in any parliament, a matter of overriding ‘national’ interest to the English people can be voted through the Commons with such ease that counts and tellers and trooping through lobbies are rendered redundant. A simple show of hands will suffice and even vertically challenged John Bercow will see a forest of 533 arms aloft for England and, if the other nations combine, 117 against. That’s a majority of 416 for England (and St George) because England has 82 per cent of all the seats in the House, fairly accurately representing the distribution of population.

You can see why the English are moaning on about it not being fair, can’t you? Try this self-pitying paean to a lost utopia http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/27/election-english-nationalist-devolution-union

It must be obvious by now from listening to the anti democratic Unionists of all parties and reading the bigots in their media, that Scotland’s 59 MPs can easily outvote England’s 533, yeah? That’s the implication of their anti Scottish propaganda ground war, isn’t it? ‘There’s nothing we can do but complain and play victim as the awful Scots trample over our democracy…’ Yet to underline England’s supremacy, research shows that if all Scots MPs were removed since 1997 only 21 Commons votes out of nearly 5000 would have been different. (Distorting democracy, are we?) https://www.mysociety.org/2014/09/10/parliament-without-scottish-mps-how-would-it-have-looked-different-since-1997/ If England really is a nation of one mind and doesn’t want Scots having a say in government, are they are suggesting nothing can be done? How can you be held to ransom by someone whom you outnumber by nearly 10 to 1? If you hold all the cards, how can you be defeated and cowed by an opponent?

The same iron rule applies to English votes for English laws – if there is agreement among English MPs, they vote for what they want and they get it. Nobody can outvote them. Let the other nations do their own thing in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast but in England the English are sovereign, even if everybody else from other nations is in the chamber and votes against them. What the hell are they moaning about?

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Here is Labour MP Tom Harris saying something similar in Labour List. English colleagues should consider the reasons why Scotland demanded a Scottish Parliament in the first place: it wasn’t for reasons of nationalism or national identity; it was because it was patently unfair that our contingent of MPs could easily be outvoted on any issue by even a small fraction of English MPs. England could never, ever be in the same position. Even if every Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish MP wished to foist an unpopular policy on England, they could not do so unless they were joined by at least 209 English MPs. And the occasions when Scottish MPs have made the difference in policy areas affecting England have been so vanishingly rare, they hardly justify such a constitutional upheaval.

Now the problem here, as you will have spotted, is that English MPs don’t all share the same views and neither do their parties. But surely that is a political problem, not a constitutional one. The constitution, from an English perspective, gives total control of Parliament to them, should they wish to exercise it. The fact they don’t, and can’t agree among themselves, is their problem, not ours. We can’t stop them no matter how many SNP MPs we send south to their dining club. It is only because they disagree on most issues that they don’t combine to vote in England’s interest. To put it another way, there can’t be an overriding English national interest to vote for.

The idea of Tories, Labour and Liberals agreeing jointly on policy for England is laughable. They’d rather spend time tearing fur off each other. There is no English voice in Parliament – it’s a Daily Mail myth. There may well be growing all-England opinion among the voters…God, I hope so, it might stop their whiney voices…but in the Mother of Parliaments (apologies to Iceland’s Althing), it’s a joke. Oh, MPs like to sound indignant about it, it’s true, but in reality, they vote for party first and England second.

This is now another characteristic differentiating England from Scotland where there is a greater consensus on national questions to the extent that the opposition has to manufacture differences to appear relevant.

The answer to the undemocratic parties – who are inadvertently arguing against the very Union they claim to love – is that if England wants privatised hospitals, businessmens’ academies, outsourced services, nuclear weapons, immigration detention centres and even abolition of the Scottish Parliament and the Barnett Formula, they only have to vote for it. It’s theirs. If they want a Grand English Coalition of Tory and Labour, nobody can stop them. Nobody. Just stop moaning and blaming us, for pity’s sake. It’s not our fault your English democracy doesn’t exist.

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Is That All They’ve Got?

I listened to the BBC dredge up the satirical ‘quisling’ quotes in Nicola Sturgeon’s interview this morning and imagined the Labour spinners smiling with satisfaction. And so did I. There could be no clearer sign – that’s all they’ve got.

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As the despairing Big Two throw out uncosted, out-of-the-blue policies like dinosaurs clubbing each other to death, the SNP sails on regardless. The attacks when they come are contrived and threadbare like the ghost policy of Full Fiscal Autonomy – a faraway prospect – and a long-forgotten jibe made under a silly Twitter handle before candidate selection to a satirical site. Is that all they’ve got?

Dear Uncle Jim Naughtie harrumphed and noisily drew breath during answers on Radio Four to cover his failure to produce the killer line and was most animated during the discredited schoolboy game of ‘your candidate called No voters quislings’. It showed how low this election has sunk and how poor the quality of BBC journalism that they clung to the old ruse of searching through old tweets to find something – anything – that might hurt. It’s the hallmark of Labour spivs and spads, their equivalent of rummaging through the dustbins and, no doubt – if you can stand the imagery – McDougall and McTernan would hug themselves with satisfaction that the usual piss poor media would do the rest. But it leaves the question: Is that all they’ve got?

As a matter of fact, it is because over on Radio Scotland I heard Mhairi Black being given the same low-grade routine on GMS when Gary Robertson asked her three different questions about a quote she made relating to ‘gullible’ No voters. I couldn’t for the life of me see how that was a point of attack. After all, even Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown indicated as much the minute Cameron appeared at 7am on September 19 to announce EVEL. They had been duped, said Brown. Betrayed. That is a common Labour line in the campaign. Can there be any doubt that many No voters were lulled into it in the belief of benefits to come only to find their votes won’t count at Westminster? To say, as Black did, that ‘some’ No voters were gullible is an understatement. But, whoever dug it up, it was deemed a killer line of attack on GMS which she easily defended and another limp attempt at downing the Nats crashed and burned. It’s all they’ve got.

Danish Actress Sidse Knudsen meets Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Toby Williams

When you read of the tensions in Labour bursting into the open it rather confirms their failure, doesn’t it? Murphy hinting strongly that before he arrived Labour went to sleep is a straight pointer at Lamont but ignores the hard truth – Labour has lost ground since he took over. The doubts of nationalists and the unions are being confirmed day by day proving that Murphy was a mistake as he never had the popular or even internal support he liked to claim when he saw himself swimming as a big fish in the wee pond. This is not a temporary, localised problem but an historic failure which Scots have watched like a slow motion train crash. Still Labour don’t get it. Jack McConnell is laughably disconnected when he says the SNP rise is a protest vote since it turned into a tide under his leadership. Remember he was general secretary when Blairism was adopted by the Scottish party, he was instrumental in everything that happened when disillusion set in in the nineties and it was in direct opposition to his appeasement of London as First Minister that Scots voted, not for independence, but for a party that would stand up for Scotland. Labour’s failure has McConnell’s fingerprints all over it. His attitude is confirmation of a suicidal myopia that cannot accept repeated defeats as anything other than a short-term problem – a problem of the electorate, not Labour. ‘When will the people wake up and vote for us again?’

I don’t know how many seats will fall to the SNP, not as many as the polls say I doubt, but to me two dozen is a four times increase and anything higher is seismic. They will deserve it because it’s been an inspirational, people-based advance which showed maturity in defeat, deft footwork by the leadership and a modern leader who is now the effective front of progressive politics in Britain – an amazing 51 per cent across the UK chose her as the best leader in a Sky News poll. When the Labour machine and the media is reduced to student politics for its questions, we have the answer to the question – Is that all they’ve got?

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Oh! What a Lovely War

Today I salute the many thousands who fell on the beaches of Gallipoli, downed by Turkish bullets certainly, but just as surely by the incompetence and arrogance of the British command which treated their lives with unforgivable disregard. The following section is from Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson, coincidentally my current read during the centenary.

 

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 Rarely more than six or seven miles across, the peninsula runs northwards for some fifty miles before finally broadening out on to the European mainland. In selecting where to go ashore, the British could have chosen any number of spots along Gallipoli’s length where a ground force, once gaining the ridge line and climbing down to the opposite shore – a distance of less than three miles in places – would have split the Ottoman army in two and trapped any enemy forces positioned below that line. Of course, the best option might have been to sidestep the peninsula completely and put in at the Gulf of Saros at its northern end. An invasion force coming ashore in that broad bat would not only maroon all the Turkish troops garrisoned on Gallipoli but would then have a virtually unimpeded path through easy countryside to Constantinople, just 100 miles away. This was certainly the greatest fear of General Liman von Sanders, the German commander recently appointed by the Turkish government to over see the Dardanelles defence. In anticipation of a landing at Saros he had placed his headquarters and fully a third of his army there.

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The one possibility that Sanders tended to discount entirely was a landing at Gallipoli’s southern tip, simply because the most basic rules of military logic – even mere common sense – argued against it. Not only would a landing force there be vulnerable to defenders dug in on the heights above them, but completely exposed to whatever long range Turkish artillery remained operable in their nearby fortresses. And even if such a force managed to scale the heights and seize those forts, the Turkish defenders could then begin a slow withdrawal up the peninsula, throwing up new trenchlines as they went, neatly replicating the static trench warfare of the Western Front. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a worse landing site most anywhere on the three-thousand-mile-long Mediterranean coast of the Ottoman empire – yet it was precisely here that Med Ex (the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) was going ashore.

Along with condescension for the enemy, always a perilous mindset for an army, that decision was apparently born of sheer bureaucratic obduracy. Since the Dardanelles campaign had been conceived as a naval operation, the success or failure of the expanded mission would continue to be judged through the narrow lens of its original objective – clearing the straits – leaving its planners quite blind to the idea of trying a different approach that might ultimately achieve the same end. Incredibly, it seems Gallipoli strategists had less rejected alternative landing sites than never seriously considered them…

…At about 6.15 on the morning of April 25, SS River Clyde, a converted collier out of Liverpool, closed on a small gently arcing beach – codenamed V Beach – at Cape Helles, the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. Crammed below decks were some two thousand British soldiers. Coming in on the gentle seas alongside the Clyde were five or six launches likewise crammed to their gunwales with more soldiers. At about 100 yards out, the cutter skippers cast off their towlines and distributed oars so that their crews might row the rest of the way to shore. From that shore came no sign of life at all. It appeared, just as hoped, that the landing at Cape Helles had caught the Turks completely off guard.

A damn good thing too, for the slapdash preparations made for those going ashore at V Beach – and the notion of sending men on to an enemy beach in unarmoured and motorless boats wasn’t the worst of it – suggested trouble if they met any resistance. In an Alexandria shipyard workers had started in on a camouflage paint job on the River Clyde but had run out of time – as a result as the collier approached V Beach that morning its muted battleship grey was offset by enormous splotches of tan primer, making it stand out against the sea as if illuminated. Then there was the small matter of the Clyde being unable actually to reach the beach. The plan instead was to run her aground offshore and then manoeuvre several fishing boats into the gap, lashing them together to create a makeshift bridge from ship to shore. At that point the disembarking soldiers would emerge from four portals cut into t he Clyde’s bow, pass along two gangways to the fishing boats, then clamber over those until finally they reached the beach. It’s hard to imagine that such blithe preparations would have attended a landing against Stone Age Pacific Islanders, let alone against a modern army but such was the contempt with which British war planners held the Turks.

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As the cutters neared the beach the only sounds floating over the quiet bay were of boat engines and the dipping of oars, of men talking and laughing – perhaps a bit louder than normal out of relief at their uneventful landing. It was when the lead boats just yards off the beach that the Turkish machine gunners, secreted in strategic vantage points along the shoreline, opened up.

The men in the open cutters never had a chance. One after another, these boats were shot to pieces or capsized, the gear-laden soldiers within them drowning in the surf or picked off after becoming entangled in the barbed wire that had been strung below the water’s surface. Most of the very few who made it on to the beach alive were soon cut down by the raking machine gun fire.

Those coming off the Clyde fared little better. Time and again work crews emerged from the protected steel hull to try to lash the ersatz pontoon bridge together only to be shot down almost immediately or to similarly drown in the surf. When finally a bridge of sorts was established, the soldiers emerging on to the gangways were easy targets. Of the first company of two hundred men to go out of the portals, only eleven reach shore. Many of the early casualties on the gangways actually died of suffocation, pinned beneath the growing heaps of dead and wounded of those coming behind. Whoever did manage to make the beach huddled for safety behind a six foot high sand escarpment at its landward edge, scant protection against machine gun bullets. By late afternoon there were so many dead men in the water that, as a British captain on the scene observed, ‘the sea near the shore was a red blood colour which could be seen hundreds of yards away.’

By the end of that first day, the advance landing forces at Gallipoli had already suffered nearly four thousand casualties…So bewildered was General von Sanders by his enemy’s idiocy that for the next day he remained convinced the southern landing was a mere faint and that the main invasion force was still coming elsewhere…The first day objective of those landing on Cape Helles had been to secure a small village some miles inland and then to advance on the Turkish forts just above. Over the next seven months the British would never reach that village but would suffer nearly a quarter of a million casualties trying…

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But it wasn’t just the estimated half a million soldiers killed or wounded on either side of the trenchline who would fall victim to the consequences of Gallipoli. On the very day the British came ashore, April 25, the Constantinople regime ordered the round up of some two hundred Armenian intellectuals and business leaders who it accused to being potential fifth columnists for the invaders. It was the beginning of a brutal ‘cleansing operation’ against the Ottoman Empire’s Christian minority – a genocide in the view of many – that would result in the deaths of as many as a million Armenians and Assyrians over the next year.

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Scary Monsters

I was driving back from Troon and Philippa Whitford’s adoption do in Central Ayrshire with Burns country sparkling and fertile when I switched on the radio. A voice I knew but couldn’t place produced pinpricks of apprehension…words falling over themselves as they tumbled out in a stream…fear, concern, danger. It took me back to the appalling Better Together campaign and of course, it was Alistair Darling, hyperventilating as ever about Nationalists and Tories. Poor man sounds afraid and worried all the time…I imagined him bursting into the front room: Margaret! Margaret! I was going to make tea but there’s only enough water in the kettle for one cup which means we can fulfil just half of our tea promise – a 50 per cent failure! The danger is that one of us will go without unless we press for a solution. What can we do? This is a real threat to our tea drinking. I’d call the housekeeper but I suspect she’s a separatist. Remember how she bought that tartan tea cosy? Wait! I’ve got Blair McDougall on fast dial…

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Is this man really an elder statesman of the British state? He may be wealthy through it and no doubt ennoblement awaits, but I think he is broken by Westminster, a Scottish radical corrupted into ineptitude.

It was yet another facet of the nappy and rattle campaign by Unionists to deny democracy to SNP-voting Scots, a kindergarten version of It’s no’ fair.

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Embarrassing as this is for the whole idea of modern democracy and the fabled fairness of Britain, it does have an up side as there can be no Scot left in any doubt about how he is truly regarded by the majority opinion in the metropolitan capital after this Scotophobic* denunciation. It tells me that some people count for more than others, that some peoples’ origins are more important than others, that the franchise is qualified and when the chips are down, that our role is secondary to just about everyone else – including right wing, quasi-racist zealots and religious sectarians with historic links to paramilitaries.

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This is covered of course by the excuse that Nationalists want to ‘break up Britain’ – who wouldn’t? Unfortunately for those like the incompetent failure that is John Major, the democratic process has decided that issue, not forever, that’s certain, but for all practical purposes and to deny that is to deny the peoples’ will. They say: We ignore the result of the referendum. We discount the vote. We are now effectively re-running the campaign. Well, it’s an election and there are some very frightened politicians desperate for anything to save their skins, grubbing even for previously hated opponents’ votes as principle takes flight before preservation. All of this unedifying protest is designed to scare people into voting for them and, whatever they say, when the votes are cast, deals will be done and understandings reached and, one way or another, bankrupt old Blighty will hobble on pretending to be a World Power.

Labour, if the numbers work, will reach an accommodation with the SNP simply by moderating their policies to suit (which will make them appear more generous and popular) and by saying any gains for Scotland had previously been agreed by the Smith Commission (if powers go beyond Smith, who can be bothered arguing?)

For most voters, the fact that a government has been created will be enough. It avoids the horror of a second election and the same vilified Scots will again become a semi-extinct breed to be ignored as Westminster is consumed by its metropolitan obsessions. People will tire of the Tory-led outrage at nationalists propping up a government and make them seem like bad losers. Others may even grow to like the SNP and their rational left-of-centre approach.

The scary interlude is similar to Darling’s dismal and mendacious BetterTogether campaign. Remember how No was a vote to save the NHS? The same NHS now threatened by whoever might win the election?

There is one thing we can do, though and that is to understand how English minds are working because English people deserve explanations and reassurance rather than the Armageddon foretold by Britnat loonies in the Mail and Express.

In my experience, England sees Westminster as primarily an English institution with statelets bolted on. It is one reason why there is no widespread move for an England-only parliament – they’ve already got one. They have been told forever that they are pre-eminent in numbers and resources, that other nations were, in the ancient sense, conquered and therefore ‘theirs’ and that the prevailing hegemony of the UK is England’s. The whole spatchcock contraption of Union only stays afloat so long as England feels it can dominate but when there is regional insurgence it begins to lean and pitch dangerously, threatening to turn turtle.

So I think English people are entitled to wonder about the SNP and its motives. After all, we don’t normally believe politicians’ promises so why should they believe Sturgeon when she says she comes in peace? She does want to break up Britain, right? Her line is that she doesn’t want to do it quite yet.

There is a greater prize here because, if it does fall to the SNP to shore up Labour, they can demonstrate to the whole UK – and a wider Europe suspicious of independence – just how astute and adroit they are in playing the government game and producing sensible pro-British policies which in turn will soften English hostility. Understanding of Scotland and our national ambitions can flow from that and potentially ease the path to independence in future. Played well, the SNP bloc can be creator of a Westminster Enlightenment.

*Fear of the dark (apt) and Scots.

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The New Tory Leader

For the small amount of time I spend on BBC news these days, I should qualify for a licence fee rebate…never see oor Sarah at night, miss GMS during the week and would rather date Katie Hopkins than watch Sunday Politics. (I’m also scared to watch it because Andrew Neil keeps sending me angry tweets). But I do, when able to locate the dial from under the duvet, turn on Radio Scotland on Sunday mornings mainly because by the seventh day I’m ready for a relaxed, discursive tone and since I don’t buy the papers, like to hear what I’m (not) missing.

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Switched on sometime after nine today to hear what appeared to be a double-headed presentation of a programme called Good Morning Scotland although they were discussing the papers with two journalists as they used to when it was called…hang on, I’ll remember in a minute. Was it Crossfire? No…Headlines. Maybe…or was it What the Fuck Are We Doing to Sunday Mornings?

The managerial nincompoops at Pacific Quay have done more to screw up the Sabbath than Sunday opening at B and Q. Is it a plot to drive folk back to the kirk? (‘I’d rather sit on a hard pew sucking a pandrop than listen to this…’)

Why is it do you think that Radio Four, with whom we used to compare ourselves in the dim and distant days before the disastrous promotion of Jeff Zycinski to Head of Radio – still arguably the worst single appointment in Ken McQuarrie’s reign – come up with programme ideas and retain them, year after year, building an audience? What is the schizophrenic indecision of Zycinski doing to a once admired service that sounds as if it can’t make up its mind between couthy local radio shows and serious but accessible current affairs output?

I met an old friend from Scotland on Sunday yesterday at the SNP rally in Edinburgh who asked if I was glad I was out of newspapers. Yes, I replied, I escaped the madhouse. And I feel the same about Radio Scotland. I wonder how many others still inside share the sentiment. Good luck to them all, including the wise and witty Issy Fraser whose weekends are probably lying in ruins.

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The story that has me gasping is the Miliband interview in the Observer in which Ed offers to be the champion of unhappy Tories. Now he’s clearly appealing for any votes he can muster and fair enough, but it’s the quoted identification of ‘moderate Tories’ that jars. Just think what that message says in Scotland…he might as well hang up a Surrender sign over the Murphy campaign. Having slapped Jim down over spending cuts, he now kicks him in the groin with his Tory appeal. If you’re a One Nation Tory, you can safely vote for me, he’s saying. I’m not really left wing, but safely in the centre.

The contradictions this illuminates are many. For instance, Labour’s attack on the SNP is that they pretend to be on the Left but aren’t really distributive and vote against living wage and ending zero hours contracts – oh, the irony. Didn’t Ed directly challenge Nicola about bringing in a Tory government in 1979 (or was it 1870, can’t remember.) I’m pretty sure Ed was part of the Better Together campaign which specifically brought together Labour and the Tories. His chosen Chancellor may also have sat beside Osborne and told the Scots the currency wasn’t theirs.

An appeal to Tories to let him be their champion is the clearest sign that the game is up in Scotland because even in East Renfrewshire where Murphy faces the drop, he has to pray for Tory support, bleat for it quietly on the doorstep, but can’t possibly admit it openly.

Britain's opposition Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband speaks at the London Business School in London

Vote Labour, Get Tory. Labour – the party for today’s moderate Tory. Tories – My name’s Ed and I’m your man.

You know what…I bet Murphy knew nothing about this in advance…hadn’t a clue he would be dumped in it again and landed with another headache just when the polling evidence confirms the Flood.

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A Labour insider told me during the local elections in 2012 that an announcement by Balls that Labour would not reverse Tory cuts had come out of the blue without any warning because London hadn’t remembered Scotland was going to the polls. Luckily for Labour the tame Scottish media didn’t make the most of it but it was an example of what Lamont said: Scotland is a branch office. And here it is again…‘and I say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that if you are a right wing voter horrified at Scots influencing the government and perhaps a teensy bit worried about an EU referendum, you can safely vote for Labour. You won’t see the difference. I say to Tories everywhere – I represent you and everything you stand for. I’m Ed, the Labour/Tory candidate…’

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