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Showing posts from September, 2014

How bad was the Labour Conference?

Maybe not quite as bad as the commentators have suggested.  Certainly, it was no political lighting storm, but then we've just had one of those in the form of the Scottish referendum, and it was rather bad luck for Labour that their conference should come by just as the majority of the British public have had their annual politics fix.  Most people - including the 'ordinary people' name checked by Ed Miliband in his widely panned conference speech - simply aren't engaged with politics.  The chance of creating or rejecting a new nation seems to get them out, but a bog standard party conference isn't going to do the trick, so it would be unfair to be too condemning towards Labour on that front.

Nevertheless, this is an Opposition party that could form the next government heading towards another close election battle, so it is a failure on their part that they didn't even seem able to energise their own supporters. The most admired speech was from an elderly Worl…

Has Scotland shown us how to reinvigorate democray?

There hasn't been wanting commentators and ordinary joes to tell us that the extraordinary turnout in the Scottish referendum has shown us the way to a better, more invigorated democratic system.

Janet Street Porter, one of the more emotional of these, says in her paean of praise to the Scottish people that "You showed us what commitment and passion are all about and given the rest of the UK a wake-up call."  Mind you, Janet also noted how wonderful it was that "people who don’t agree can accept a result and move forward together", suggesting she hasn't been watching events in Glasgow too closely.

The reality, though, is that this is an exceptional rather than indicative democratic event.  Rarely will people get to vote on the very nature of their country, or to bring a new country into existence, so it is hardly surprising that the interest and turnout should have been high.  Scotland has hardly been a shining example of democratic activism in any of its o…

After 'No', What?

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First detailed reaction to the No vote in Scotland comes from the Spectator's team of Fraser Nelson and James Forsyth.  Their article here is a thorough examination of the campaign, and the problems it now poses.  "This morning, the United Kingdom wakes up to one of the biggest constitutional messes in its history" they begin, and who could argue with that?

Key points:

- The referendum has failed to settle the issue of devolution, as it was supposed to, because David Cameron changed the terms of engagement at the last minute
- The Egnlish Question is now writ large on the political agenda, with most Tory MPs determined to pursue it (and, incidentally, furious with Cameron for his ill considered 'Vow')
- Ed Balls is angry at Miliband's commitment to this 'Vow' too as it hamstrings Labour's ability to pass a budget for England
- Today's mess is the consequence of the original, and disastrous, New Labour devolution settlement
- All the main Westm…

David Cameron's Leadership Flaws

As we await the results of the Scottish referendum - and with the No vote sounding more confident than they have done for the past fortnight - reflections are obviously turning towards the post-vote fall-out.  There has been a widespread belief that David Cameron would not have survived a Yes vote.  The question is whether he can survive a No vote.  His credibility is at an all time low with his backbenchers, who believe he has ill-advisedly offered the Scots too much on the devolution front in his panicky attempts to ensure the Union stays together. 

Gaby Hinsliff, in the Guardian, has provided a very effective analysis of the Cameron leadership and its flaws.  One prescient passage notes this:

It’s become a bit of a cliche to accuse the prime minister of treating government like it’s an undergraduate essay crisis, with everything tackled at 10 minutes to midnight in a caffeine-fuelled blur. Cameron is neither so dim nor so thoughtless as he’s sometimes painted, and nor is he the…

A Yes Vote for Scotland is the best possible result for Scotland; and England too.

#187025917 / gettyimages.com
I want Scotland to vote Yes tomorrow.Not just by a small margin, but by an utterly convincing majority.Had you asked me a few weeks ago I would have been far less convinced of this; might even have been a little agnostic on the issue.But the events of the past couple of weeks have convinced me that Scotland needs to vote Yes, not just for her sake, but for England’s too.
I have watched all three Westminster party leaders be panicked by opinion polls into making rash and self-serving promises that will simply serve to send the Union into meltdown.Promises which they may not even be able to deliver on.Promises on behalf of other nations – England, Wales and Northern Ireland – which they have barely deigned to consult.
I have watched three Westminster party leaders scurry up to Scotland in the last couple of weeks of a campaign that has lasted for some eighteen months to deliver from their southern redoubt a plea for Scotland to vote No that has no basis at a…

The Leaders of Chaos

The calamitous descent of the Westminster party leaders into ignominy over the Scottish referendum is now complete.  Panicked by opinion polls, lacking any confidence in the Union as it stands, failing to provide leadership of any sort and exhibiting an extraordinary level of short-term political cowardice, the Cameron-Miliband-Clegg bandwagon has finally hit the buffers with the issuing of an unprecedented 'Vow' to the Scottish people.  What makes it even more ironic is that the vow in question has been largely crafted by the much-maligned previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.  Yes, so bereft of ideas and political clout is David Cameron that he has simply allowed Brown's agenda to prevail.

The "Vow" essentially promises everything short of outright independence.  Alex Salmond wins whatever the vote on Thursday.  The inequitable Barnett formula for funding Scotland's excessive public spending regime is to continue.  The Scottish parliament is to gain yet m…

Rallying for Scotland - in England

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--> The “Let’s Stay Together” rally in Trafalgar Square this evening was a decent, worthy and ultimately pointless affair.It took a while to get going.By 6pm, the advertised start time, the square was definitely less than crowded, perhaps indicative of the shrug that many English people seem to be giving about the referendum.Eventually, around 6.30, things started happening, and the crowd had certainly got larger.It was a perfectly nice crowd, with lots of very upper middle-class accents from English people who are probably a bit concerned about their Scottish holiday homes ending up in a foreign land.
Television historian Dan Snow kicked proceedings off with a litany of great Scots achievements; everything from Nelson to victory in the Battle of Britain.Listening to his paean of praise I began to wonder whether the English could claim credit for anything good.The United Kingdom, unbeknown to most of us in the southern kingdom, has been almost completely crafted, created an…

The Union on Our Minds

What a difference one short week is making.  Alarmed by the advantage of the 'yes' vote in polls at the end of the last week, the English have finally been showing an interest in the northern country of their joint kingdom, while the Scots too have been on the receiving end of an at-last invigorated 'No' campaign.

The most recent polls are too close to call in real electoral terms, but the fact that the 'No' vote is coming back may add some crumbs of comfort to those north and south of the Tweed who would prefer to see the Union maintained.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, a Highland Scot now working and living in London, has put a perceptive and useful post up on the Spectator's blog.  Analysing the return of the 'No' vote, he also comments quite personally on his own perspective as a UK Scot living and then working in radically different parts of the kingdom where he can nonetheless feel equally at home.  It is all his country after all.  I feel a…

Should we really be bribing the Scots to stay in the UK?

#200218907-001 / gettyimages.com
George Osborne doesn’t strike me as a particularly emotive or soft-headed politician, but even he – in fact, especially he – was falling over himself today to promise the Scots whatever they wanted short of full devolution if they voted no in eleven days time.
The realisation that Scotland might just vote to leave the Union – and thus effectively bring it to an end – seems to have concentrated a large number of English political minds, all bent on seeking to persuade the Scots to stay at almost any price.
But should the English really be working so hard to keep Scotland?
If Scotland were to decide for independence, we might perhaps expect the following consequences:
1.The removal of the estimated £3,150 per head subsidy that the rest of the UK currently pays to Scotland
2.The removal of the 41 Labour MPs who can vote on English matters such as health, education and transport, but have no say on those issues in their own Scottish constituencies
3.The stemm…

Scottish Tremors Finally Hit England

#170487667 / gettyimages.com
Alex Salmond has a few things in common with his English nationalist counterpart Nigel Farage.They both admire Vladimir Putin, for example, and despise what they call the ‘Westminster elite”.They both appear to be electorally very shrewd politicians, but if Salmond has his way in a couple of weeks time he will make the title of Farage’s insurrectionist party look a little redundant.For of the United Kingdom there will be no more.
This debate has failed to properly permeate English consciousness, perhaps one indication that the Scots may not be wrong when they claim that England exudes a general stand-offishness towards its northern neighbour.This weekend, however, appears to have changed that.A poll from Yougov shows the ‘Yes’ campaigners (i.e. ‘Yes’ to an independent Scotland, for those whose failure to follow the referendum includes ignorance of the question being asked!) ahead of the ‘No’s” for the first time in the campaign.Given the substantial lead t…