Come In, Kezia…

….Your time is up. I appreciate the world hasn’t exactly been straining for my judgment on the new Scottish leader of the Labour Party but nevertheless here it is, belated or not. You’re out of your depth, Kezia. The election is lost.

I don’t mean to be rude but I’ve waited since her elevation to give her some time to produce a new tone, an idea or, indeed a strategy…waited for her to hitch herself to the opening provided by the Corbyn phenomenon perhaps to position herself in the Scottish Left to reach a wide, young and working class constituency…waited for a wee twist in my gut that she might be turning folk back to Labour and building towards a revived showing next May. It’s like waiting for Godot.

She’s had a go, to be fair, by suggesting her party can, as individuals, embrace independence and by allowing nuclear subs to rise from the depths and surface at the Scottish conference as a debating issue. And while I have no problem with the Branch Office having distinct policies from the UK HQ, it’s surely self-defeating to have both ideas effectively crushed by the Corbynistas. The failure of the UK leadership even to get Trident on its own party agenda signals a fear of confronting a tricky question and, as Tim Reid of the BBC, pointed out, renewal was endorsed in an over-arching policy document adopted by conference. So a nuclear weapons upgrade is quietly supported while an open debate is stifled, leaving any decision either way in Scotland stillborn. Indeed, a vote against Trident in these circumstances could leave Scotland looking doubly impotent. A branch office.

As for Labour types openly campaigning for Yes, chance would be a fine thing. It looks the surest way to a quick suicide in a party whose real leader gives every impression of cleaving unquestioningly to Union, blinded by a failure to comprehend what the bloody Scots are on about. (Apologies: he doesn’t do nasty and personal). This is where Kezia comes in (not). Corbyn hasn’t a clue about Scotland except to grasp that things are different here, like all Labour leaders before him. The difference is that Kinnock, obviously Smith, and Miliband had a selection of senior party servants they could call like butlers in the state dining room for sage advice to be guided by. Poor old Jeremy has Ian Murray and Kezia, neither of whom would rise above the status of junior barista in Café Nero. There should be an immediate inquiry into who is furnishing Corbyn with his attack lines which have for days now been a source of online fun and parody. Forget Calmac and Scotrail – ask him about Whisky Galore and he’d blame the Nat’s maritime policy. This is where the local knowledge and voice of reason should come into play when the grave Scottish leader is asked for clarification. Dugdale needs to give the impression Jeremy is busy with other issues and is leaving Scotland to her…and here’s my definitive line.

While Kezia and Neil Findlay try to breathe progressive life into the Caledonian balloon, their party calmly votes to endorse the austerity charter of the most vicious right wing Chancellor engaged in a real class war. So much for attacking the Nats on the Left.

The trouble of course is that without a political conviction of her own – having been schooled by the idiotic Foulkes – Kezia doesn’t know which way to turn. She would just head Left, if she thought Jeremy was in front leading. But when he compromises and trims his ideas to suit the bulk of the payroll vote, she can’t be left stranded, so has to rein herself back – jerked this way and that. The unfortunate image is a puppet on string.

This is hapless, chaotic Labour still struggling to sort itself out before it has any chance of being trusted with the government of Scotland.

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Writer’s Block

I’ve had writer’s block or, as it’s otherwise known, lack of talent. There’s been no end of possible material to blab about, I just couldn’t generate the energy to do it, as if I was getting on in years and wasn’t up to it or something (?!) There are times when current affairs is so nakedly banal that I despise it and would rather sit it out. You have to learn that you can’t read everything, can’t have a view on each and every aspect and can’t afford the time and effort of chasing shadows.

(I’ve also been painting window shutters, dealing with school shoes chewed up by foxes, entertaining a Tory friend to dinner – avoiding pork – and planning where I can watch World Cup rugby in Limousin).

All last week I was put off by the incessant drip-drip of casual propaganda that passes for journalism, borrowed from the school of contrived outrage that is the hallmark of today’s Labour Party. In place of thinking, Labour does dissembling on a scale that takes it way outside normal politics. The hysterical characterisation of the SNP by ‘the new radical Labour Party’ at their conference isn’t just breath-taking, it’s comical…and counter-productive. To make extravagant and easily contradicted claims against the Nats – including the Brian Wilson con of privatising CalMac – was a failed policy since 2007 yet the Neanderthals are still dragging their knuckles and repeating it. Instead of outrage, better to shake your head in dismay and let them get on with it. They will, as ever, only fool the gullible.

Other irritants included the aforementioned Wilson, writing in the same week as the UK underwrote another £2b of the massive cost of the UK’s nuclear building project, about his delight at the fall in the oil price. How much do you have to hate your country to thrill at thousands of your countrymen becoming unemployed? There were so many biased points in his Scotsman sewer outflow pipe of a column that I began to understand why the paper is failing so badly. But one thought did strike me – if oil falls, doesn’t that affect the rest of the energy market? Doesn’t it mean that the cost of other sources might become unsustainable if oil is more desirable? And, indeed, a quick search provides, in different publications, the following…

One project in particular would look like a bad deal for the taxpayer in a $60 (a barrel oil price) world: the first nuclear reactor constructed in Britain for a quarter of a century. The government is backing a guaranteed payment of £96.90 a MWh for EDF’s new atomic plant at Hinkley in Somerset, which would look like an even worse deal for the UK if the oil price slumped further.

 New nuclear power in the UK would be more expensive than in any other country, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

 Electricite de France SA’s sale of atomic power to competitors for the second half of the year has sunk to a fraction of what it was in 2014, signaling nuclear energy may be losing competitiveness.

Wilson is a passionate advocate of nuclear and earns part of his burgeoning living from it. Funny he didn’t connect the falling oil price to the impact on nuclear, don’t you think? Or is that what you expect from a partisan chiseler who epitomises the moral vacuum at the heart of Labour’s catastrophic failure. I laughed at a reference in Joe Pike’s book on Better Together describing Darling’s rehearsal for the TV debates. There in the corner was the Poison Dwarf of Propaganda battering away at his lap top hamming up Darling’s opening and closing words. Nearly 30 years after Dewar described him as a propagandist, he’s still at it. Hasn’t he done Labour proud? All those words, all those lost votes.

The thing to remember about Brian Wilson, whatever he writes or says, is this: If he’d had his way there would be no Scottish Parliament today…No democratic forum, no legislature, no control, no participation, no political awakening – just Westminster in total control under Tories and Labour – and our nation represented by a tribe of Ian Davidsons.

The ubiquitous David Torrance played a Unionist blinder too. He went to see The Cheviot, the Stag and Black Black Oil and found in it the only line that can be twisted to please a Britnat mentality – nationalism isn’t enough. Putting aside the fact I know of no Nationalist who ever made that statement, this is a work that opened Scottish eyes in the seventies and gave a yowl-inducing slap over the backside of the nascent child that would become the modern independence movement. Imagine if your role in life was to tweezer out the only four words that could be turned against the thrust of the entire work?

See what I mean? It gets you down…

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We Remember

Monthly Archives: September 2014

September 17, 2014
It’s Time…
Last post before voting…a couple of salient points occur. The first is about you. You are part of Scottish history now, woven into the national story as one of those who resisted, objected, debated and won the argument. The books may not record your name, but you will be there – entwined in the description of ‘a mass movement’, ‘a people’s rebellion’ and ‘those of all parties and none who took to the streets, filled the halls and the social media with demands for real democracy, for fairness, for dignity and wealth-sharing’

That is what the history will say of you. The barricades may, thankfully, not be car tyres, pallets and metal railings but they were barricades – of corporate power, private wealth, government connivance and media distortion. As revolutionaries you may not have held guns but you did carry a weapon – national dignity. And as the relentless onslaught hammered away, you stayed strong, remained standing and smiled.

Your success is already being written. In the mainstream media that almost exclusively sided with the failed Establishment, the despised No campaign is being prepared for burial in a corner plot marked Never Again. What will be remembered instead is your rising optimism, intellectual rigour, irrepressible humour and unquenchable spirit. You are the generation that argued for social justice, internationalism, people power and collective pride – you have been on the side of the angels. They will say you lit a beacon that inspired others in these islands to get off their knees and take command of their lives…that you electrified friends abroad in their quest for self-determination and that you shook the power base to its roots.

You did that. You stood up to be counted…for real democracy…for Scotland

Whenever the referendum is talked of in years to come, you will remember. You will remind each other with a look or a nod that you were there and you were Yes. Words won’t be needed. This has been tumultuous, revelatory, life-changing and, yes, nation-changing and you were its beating heart.

Lastly, there is something else that needs to be said. Alex Salmond is a great Scot. Politician he may be, open to the jibes of venality and vanity. But he has proved to be a man of transcending qualities, all the more sharply defined because of the feeble attempts to vilify him. He has shown all the skills of a true national leader and a man at the top of his game whose masterly touch has kept together a kaleidoscopic array of political interests focussed on one objective. If they slight him as sleekit, they must allow that you’d need the cunning of a sewer rat to fend off the British Establishment. While his opponents have pushed face after face to the fore to claim campaign leadership – and even provided a human shield for their de facto leader – Salmond’s supremacy over Yes has been the rock behind the movement.

The shrill contempt he endures from Unionists draws us ever closer in his protection and generates a loyalty even among those with no SNP affiliation. On September 19, he will still be the undisputed leader of the nation. I am proud of him.

So, the arguments have crystallised. The time for words is over. We are ready.

It is time, Scotland. It is time…

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Just Desserts

Remembering the tumultuous events of 2014, I have a bagful of images, from the Japanese TV crew filming our Yes meeting on a summer’s evening at Luss beside Loch Lomond, or saltires flying in George Square to faces – thousands of them – laughing and cheering in a prolonged carnival of optimism. But the abiding picture that encapsulates what actually happened is this…


A corny mash-up, I know. But it will be real soon enough. It tells you everything you need to know about Britain, about the Establishment, about Labour and the way the people’s dreams and ambitions are sacrificed to save the careers and the incomes of few. Darling didn’t just desert the working class of Scotland, he turned on them. He put the interests of big business and Tory governments before their interests just as he subsidised the banks with our money, having first created the loose regulation that allowed their rip-off routines that caused the crash. He leaves them with a decade of brutal Tory government.


Just look at the man he once was when he believed in something, challenged authority and collective wealth. Everyone travels a political journey yet tragically he followed the same sad road with other so-called Labour rebels like Brown and Wilson, seduced and diminished by the corrupting power of Westminster.

Even while he worked hand-in-glove with the Tories and the bankers to prevent independence, he trousered £250,000 in speaking fees from corporate sources in addition to his MP’s salary…a Labour MP. There is something comic and pathetic about his reward – the care home for has-beens who have done their duty and a velvet robe topped with the pelt of the vicious stoat. How appropriate…

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The People’s Question Time

My first response is Who Cares? PMQ’s? Haud me back…a platform for the bully boys and bigots to bawl at each other, point like cricket umpires as a wicket falls and wave their order papers like students on Putney Bridge watching the Boat Race.

It is an arena for public schoolboys and Cameron, after his initial No More Punch and Judy promise, has shone as Flashman, pink with outrage, blustering about ‘living within our means’ while doubling the national debt. Might as well be singing the Eton Boating song.

Of course the Corbyn approach is a contrivance but no less symbolically important for that. Why not rename the silly event the People’s Question Time? Why not a format that allows those plebs and oiks who pay for the bloody place a chance to ask a question? What was instructive on the day was just how hard Cameron had to work to keep calm and control his rising voice as each pertinent question came in. Remember, he can’t dismiss them as meaningless if they come from the voters. And it made his normal device of turning every question round to his own pre-planned agenda transparent…he ended at least three answers with a mention of the ‘success of the economy’, clearly the major target for Tories anxious to play on Corby weakness. (So they think). It looked what it was – desperate.

This understated Corbyn approach won’t work forever, unless the plan is to kill off PMQs as a televised event – no bad thing. There will be times when one issue dominates and no doubt we’ll see the comeback to each answer to discover if Corbyn can master the debating society technique. But this was a total change from the playground embarrassment we’re used to and caused us to rethink what parliament is for. Should it be more interrogative? Can we hear the Prime Minister actually detailing what he thinks and how he justifies financial penalties on poor families, how London will look when it is cleansed of lower income people, what constitutes a family ‘opting to live on benefits.’ Can he justify the massive benefits paid out to business and the failure to capture their taxes properly? Why haven’t we repatriated the billions stashed in tax havens and stopped non tax payers spending more than a week or two in Britain, or prevented them from owning property here? (Or would that exclude his wife’s family estate on Jura?)

I’m glad Corbyn is refusing to play the hypocritical Establishment game of bowing to Andrew Marr, singing stupid anthems about being reigned over, always wearing the uniform of suit and tie and daring to introduce people’s questions into the peoples chamber. I’m glad the commentators don’t know what to make of it and have been denied their weekly theatre to fire their bile.

The new politics in itself isn’t that different, as we know. It’s just human, honest and humble. And that’s why its effect is completely different. Corbyn may have no significant impact in Scotland at all but in forcing right wing Labour careerists to talk of defection and disorientating the British elite, he is turning the fawning Westminster beast in on itself. Will it work? That’s for a real Question Time.

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