Fingers and Thumbs

What is it that keeps all those goggle-eyed Nats voting SNP? The more blinkered Unionists ask themselves the same question over and over. Well, how about this for an answer. The SNP are competent.

Competence – ability, proficiency, accomplishment, expertise, skill, prowess, mastery, control, authority.

When it comes to government, it matters. Even administrations you really don’t like and certainly didn’t vote for can earn your respect if they are clear, firm and apparently logical. If what they do makes sense to you, whether you agree on policy or not, they are a good government. You just disagree with them.

It isn’t often remarked amid the ‘Scotland changed forever’ theme and the other justifications for nationalist advance like confidence and political education, that one enduring feature of their success is competence. By and large they run a tight ship. That leads to trust. That means, in turn, that when they speak, people listen AND they’re more inclined to accept and believe what they’re told. This is electoral gold.

It also means that when there’s a slip, an off-note, or a downright error, they are easily forgiven.

How different it is with Labour. No trust – indeed the direct opposite – they are disbelieved and scorned no matter what they say. We no longer expect them to get it right – they have a lengthening history of getting it badly wrong. Their look is chaotic, often incoherent and, taking the example of Jim Murphy, contradictory and surreal.

In order to make Labour respectable again the priority must surely be to look competent. It’s the basic fundamental of electoral appeal. The frightening success of Donald Trump may get its oxygen from an anti establishment message but it’s the belief among his supporters that he knows how to take down that establishment that delivers the votes. If they thought he was only a blowhard, they’d dismiss him. But he’s made a fortune in business, has firm policies (build a wall with Mexico, stop Muslims coming in) or at least he articulates a clear impression and acts like a can-do guy. So, while we recoil, he’s convincing Americans he can do it. He can challenge the Washington elite. Make America great again. He’s competent. And he’s winning.

Which is the exactly what Labour is not. This week’s about-face on recompensing those earning under £20,000 with £100 from the council is the most glaring kind of incompetence you can imagine.

In February it’s a new policy. In March, it’s abandoned. It doesn’t matter that it was only planned for one year until full income tax powers come to Edinburgh – we, and presumably Labour, knew that already. And if it was only to last for one year why abandon it in advance of that year?

If the answer really is that they don’t need that policy now because Osborne has raised allowances, it means a Tory Chancellor is writing Scottish Labour’s tax policy. Better Together with a vengeance. And we can ask: didn’t they know there was a budget coming? Changed allowances and thresholds were forecast. Did Labour miss that?

This way it’s the Tories who are making low-paid Scots better off, not Labour. Yet they’ll still have the money taken from their income so they will be paying higher taxes than the same folk over the border. Just working through the possibilities makes your head hurt. And that’s the point – policies always have an element of technical abstraction that we leave the civil servants to work out. It’s for the politicians to lay out the plan and to craft a comprehensible message to tell the voters. Labour was never able to answer the question of how the £100 would actually be delivered because the work wasn’t done. There is no direct correlation between HMRC and local government in this context and it’s most likely any gift from council coffers to boost taxpayers’ accounts would be liable for tax itself. A retreat was needed before this became a thorn in Kezia’s side. But the wound is already bleeding because the impression left is of a bunch of amateurs who don’t know what they’re doing and can’t be trusted to run the country. Labour can spin till they levitate, the message to voters is: Just because we make a bold announcement one week, doesn’t mean we won’t bin it the next. It’s incompetent. Anyone with an understanding of how campaign politics works, Labour or not, knows this is messy and counter-productive and will worry there is more of the same to come. This after all is a blue ribbon policy. It draws attention away from the SNP’s position on higher rate taxation and allows them to ask Labour why they’re ‘not going to compensate the low-paid as they promised for raising their taxes.’

I also fear it looks sleekit to start reneging on the named person legislation. You can object to it as the Tories have done but you can’t give it wholehearted endorsement one week, watch it operate in parts of Scotland without comment, then another week demand that it be halted because a) some parents think it’s not working well, b) there’s an election coming. This legislation isn’t designed to antagonise middle class parents, it’s aimed at vulnerable, at-risk children who need our protection. They deserve Scotland’s arms around them not toyed with like a campaign gimmick.

They say politics is a high wire balancing act – picture Nicola on that wooden beam in the gym inching along determined to look dignified. Then think of Kezia on a plank over a plastic pool with a giant paddle falling in again and again in It’s a Knockout. That’s the level of difference we’re talking about.

Have as many policy differences with Nicola as you like – berate her for keeping the 45p rate – but don’t tell me the SNP aren’t competent to run the country. And, for the sake of sanity, don’t pretend Labour is anything but a slapstick act that would bring Holyrood into disrepute

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21 thoughts on “Fingers and Thumbs

  1. Steve Asaneilean

    It’s not just the incompetence of (Not) Labour’s £100 rebate uturn.

    It’s that the repeated attacks and brouhaha on SG and individuals which then fall flat and are never apologised for that really grates with voters.

    So, as evidence, we have in the last 4 weeks the Forth Bridge scandal turned out not to be and the appalling behaviour of the culture minister turned out to be no such thing yet all the opposition parties who screeched and snarled have offered not one jot of contrition.

    Who do they think we are? Do they think we have the memory of goldfish?

    P.S. was in Selkirk yesterday for the first time since I left that neck of the woods over 20 years and have to say it went down a little in my estimation – it’s got a feckin Sainsbury Local. In Selkirk?! What’s that all about? ☺

  2. Powerful words Derek, very well done that man. Spot on.

  3. Sorry Derek! Not this time.

    I got as far as the bit where you used Donald Trump’s “success” as an example of competence. Saying DT is “competent” as a politician is like saying Tony Blar is competent as a UN weapons inspector.

    Donald Trump is a racist, misogynisttic, obnoxious buffoon with no experience whatsoever in politics. The fact that he has got this far makes me despair for the sanity of the many Americans who have gone all out to support him.

    How any reasonable person could support one so dangerously flawed and incompetent is beyond me.

  4. Great post Derek and couldn’t agree more.

  5. Meanwhile, the Labour PFI schools, built on the cheap, in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, get their walls checked due to a lack of wall ties.

    This is the Labour era to a tee.

    I won’t be voting for them.

    Not a peep out of Labour’s civil engineering apologist, Dr Scott Thinks, whose outpourings on the Forth Road Bridge were legendary.

    Still not voting for them.

  6. I always understood annual to mean each year and this was how they initially sold their £100 rebate, not as a one off Not that it matters now

  7. The way Rennie droned on about that pin not being checked got me thinking that camera drones might be the answer just as undersea drones have been used on rigs.

  8. ” Deserves Scotland’s arms around them” young, old and everybody in between.
    Gets my vote.

  9. Malcolm Osborne

    “And we can ask: didn’t they know there was a budget coming? Changed allowances and thresholds were forecast. Did Labour miss that?”

    Derek, the tax allowances and thresholds did not have to be ‘forecast’ – they were set in stone in the Budget of July 2015:

    It seems that Labour are suggesting that they changed course as a result of changes announced in the March 2016 budget – if they missed anything, they missed the 2015 July budget!

    Either that or they are lying.

  10. Proud Cybernat


    First class, as per. Nail. Hammer. Skelp.

    SLabour are all over the place now, looking for THAT policy that will win them back the YES Labour supporters they hemorrhaged after IndyRef#1. This 1p tax hike simply will not cut it and they now know it (probably always did). It reeks of incompetence, smacks of desperation and has ‘amateur’ stamped all over it.

    But I think to myself – what COULD SLabour do to win back at least some of the YES SLabour voters in SE2016? To my simplistic mind, the answer is staring Kezia in the face but I guess SLabour is too dumb to notice it, too thick to see the wood from the thicket.

    In a nutshell, they do exactly what Cameron did.

    Well, maybe not exactly what Cameron did. They can leave out the porcine creatures. Cameron in GE2015 called the British Nationalist’s bluff. In order to undermine and spike UKIP’s guns in GE2015, Cameron promised an ‘Independence’ (from Europe) referendum. And, by so doing, he won an unexpected majority. UKIP were left with a lot of votes but just ONE MP. And Cameron was left, unexpectedly, in having to deliver an EU IN/OUT referendum he probably thought he could barter away in another coalition concession with the FibDems. But he is where he is. And he prays that he’ll win.

    Well, it seems to me that Kezia could do the very same to spike the Scottish Nationalist’s guns. In the SE2016 manifesto, SLabour could really ‘bring it on’ and promise an Independence Referendum. A different rallying cry (and clear blue water from the Blue Tories) to ALL Unionists to help SLabour ‘lance the boil’ and put the independence question to the sword once and for all. Well – at least for a generation.

    It doesn’t have to be the SNP that always has to hold an IndyRef. If SLabour did this then they could potentially (if handled well) win back a substantial amount of SLabour YESsers for SE2016 and, in so doing, possibly prevent an SNP majority in Holyrood. And with SLabour behind such a proposal, they could dictate the terms of when the vote takes place – sooner rather than later for them.

    Question is – would they dare?

    • Why would Labour want to ? Why would they want to be in power ? things are just fine as they are .

      Let the SNP govern for as long as they want , the rot will set in just the same .

  11. Why are the establishment parties appalling, talent free deserts? Why aren’t they trusted or respected anymore? Why are none of them viable parties of government in Scotland? Why can’t they make any inroads to the electorate?

    The answer is staring them in the face and is so very blindingly obvious. The irony of the situation their own ideologies and strategy placed them in is both epic and fitting.

  12. Competence – ability, proficiency, accomplishment, expertise, skill, prowess, mastery, control, authority.

    Exactly , we changed our accountant recently to one that best reflected constitutional future , the chap has found loads of savings for us , our tax bill has dropped and his advice on pensions and a new van , have been invaluable .

    The Yoon we had before , charge us the earth and gave very little back , now that the SNP have the job , its all good .

    Just thought maybe we could get SNP voter as the Scotland national football team manager ? bound to do the results some good , we may even beat Estonia ?

  13. Noo Papko, the Fabians are already talking about an initiative to build ‘ trust’ for the new new Labour Party. Whether that’s pre or post Jeremy C in power, I’m not sure but…

    A new rebranded Labour Party could take oh another 10years to shine in all its glory meantime hee haw changes for the electorate ( UK wide). Vote Tory /vote Labour

    Your cynicism about the rot setting in may well come to pass but while there is an alternative in Scotland, whether that be ‘ nationalists ‘ or not it is only been when they’ve been in the ascendency has there been any strong reaction from the Westminster parties.

    I mean yesterday’s headline in the Metro was, average council tax up 4%, water bills up 1%, prescriptions up another 20p to £8.40 , dental check ups to £19.70.

    Can you honestly say if Lab/Lib or Tory had been in charge at Holyrood , Scotland wouldn’t be facing the same rises?

    Yes Scotland has its own challenges but Isnt there something wrong or incompetent in Govt when you get a living wage rise to £ 7.20 and your prescription alone costs £8.40 or even worse at £3 odd for an apprentice an hour? Who are you governing for?

    Derek’s right it’s a fact of life we need someone to govern but credit where credits due, might not agree with every policy but for day to day life stuff the SNP are able and trying and yes while they obviously have to have strategies so they are best placed, the majority of their policies seem to be in the interests of the people of Scotland as opposed to party first ie prescriptions, free tuition , protection for free care for the elderly

    Can you honestly say that Ruth ( first ) puts all of Scotland first before party or Kezia ? The last week or so has seen both appeal to the hard core unionists with their ( Undemocratic) no to another ref.Thats not about what’s in the people of Scotland’s interests , that’s about party and power.Thats not about being competent or able, its not even about pooling or sharing , that’s about maintaining the status quo and the status quo is anything but competent , masterly or skill up , it’s all about power.

    As for the football well some miracles take a little longer plus isn’t that the joy of being a Scotland fan ?

  14. It is so sad the parody the once proud labour party have become, I and generations of my family were proud to vote for people who protected working families, unfortunately the real LP are no more they are dead, and any talk of revival even under JC is just wishful thinking. Labour lost their direction when they were infiltrated by self serving thieves and troughers, then to make matters worse it was hijacked by the evil spawn T Bliar and renamed New Labour, and this allowed the thieving and troughing to reach new heights.

    We all know what to expect of the tories, corruption, corruption, and more corruption with no thought or compassion given to the VERY workers who enable their riches, we just did not expect the same mindset to permeate labour reps like a virus. I am angry that a party set up to protect working people has been hijacked and destroyed by a shower of delusionary dangerous incompetent’s. Honestly has anyone seen a bigger shower of eejits both looking and intelligence wise north or south of the border. RIP LABOUR

  15. PQSCPRteam

    I think we need to establish some kind of “index ” a “better for the people Index ” .

    That we can both agree on .

    for example “poll tax freezes , free dental treatment , education etc ”

    What are the benefits of that , (apart from keeping costs down for them that use it ) and per se puttying the costs on to something else ?

    It is no doubt popular , but how does it benefit the country as a whole , and how do we measure the long term impact ?

    I would argue that faced with a large bill , someone may try to do more work , ask for overtime , take a part time job , start a business of some sort , be it gardening , window cleaning , or internet trading .

    The act of increased activity to pay a bill , will also stimulate the economy , and benefit the wider populace as well.

    To give a practical example , a 78 year old neighbour does “odd jobs ” , he goes about in his van everyday , charging £10 an hour for them , he has been on holiday the last month , and I am constantly accosted in the street , “where is he ? ”

    People have sheds to paint , fences to maintain , grass to be cut , wasteland to be cleared , and his price is very agreeable , his work tidy and conscientious .

    On the same street , there are half a dozen men under 40 , who “don’t work ” . why have none of them taken up the mantle ?
    presumably they have no incentive to work , as there needs are well met .

    personally I would like to see the work getting done , and young folk getting a sweat on and putting themselves out to make a pound .

    It is just differing views of the Scotland ‘s future .

  16. Papko I think your right, we are coming at it with very differing views.
    Not sure if you came across back in the mists of time ( 1980) a little read and quickly buried report called ‘ The Black Report’ . If you know this already I apologise but it concluded that the health or ill health of the U.K was not mainly attributable to the Health service but to health inequalities and the main cause – economic inequalities.

    Obviously since devolution, you can see the ‘ impact’ the policies have and believe me , there are many departments monitoring them as the nations health improves but that’s not going to happen overnight.

    The ‘ benefit to the country’ of these policies? The aim is a healthier, educated population, enabling opportunity , living in a decent standard of housing, earning a reasonable income , able to enjoy this rich tapestry of life, which should be more productive, which ultimately makes the wheels go round.

    I hear what you are saying about the people who don’t appear to work but again ‘we can’t presume they have no incentive to work ‘

    There are many reasons why people can’t work, whatever their age and lack of opportunity is one. Lack of certain skills is another but next time you stop for a coffee, look at the average age of those working there, or the pictures or the restaurants or your garage or care homes. They are earning what £3.30 as an apprentice and every May , there are hundreds if not thousands coming along at their back , ready to replace them. How valued would you feel earning £3.30 an hour ? The workplace indemnity insurance alone probably costs more but they are out there “getting a sweat on “, earning that pound , incentive or not , keeping the wheels going round.

    I just wonder though you say , ” putting the costs on to something else” . What’s more important ( apart from the environment which if we don’t heed could do for us all ) than the people of a country ?

  17. “Changed allowances and thresholds were forecast. Did Labour miss that”?

    The increase in the tax threshold to £11,000 had already been announced in the autumn statement LAST YEAR!

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