Thursday, 28 May 2009

One Week To Go... Look, Another Leaflet!

Well with a week to go until the European elections, it doesn’t really feel like there is an election on. Yesterday saw the arrival of only the third piece of propaganda to come through the door. And its from the Conservative’s. It says “Vote For Change” and has a picture of Cameron on the front. Sadly its not big enough for an effigy on Bonfire Night. There’s another picture on the inside with the MEP Struan Stevenson and Annabelle Goldie.

Inside is some more bare faced spin, and half baked promises. I’m not really sure how voting Tory will somehow send the message that we want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but there is stuff here which is economical with the actuality. For example, voting Tory will, apparently, protect jobs. Jobs will be protected, not by creating new jobs or trying to help the economy, but by removing workers rights. We have the Working Time Directive for a reason, and it is to prevent workers from being pressed into working for longer than they are ready for. After all Hewlett Packard are not leaving Erskine just because of Working Time, the Czech Republic has the same EU directives that we do. History tells us that post Thatcher, the Tories, upon hearing of this news, would hold their hands up and blame the Market. Much in the fashion of an Italian defender caught fouling an opposing forward.

Unlike the BNP and UKIP, the Conservatives have included a list of pledges. They want to cut European red tape & curb the “wasteful” EU budget, continue the reform of the most corrupt legislature outside of the United States, all tying in with key Conservative themes. There are other pledges emerging which have not been key Tory themes - “Protect British consumers” and a pledge to tackle global poverty and climate change are traditional Labour touchstones. I suppose the rationale is that these values have been abandoned when Labour became New. Not sure how serious they are with these pledges.

Given the Conservatives position in the European Parliament, in that they are seeking to leave the main Centre-Right group in the Parliament, it will be difficult for the Tories to enact any of these policies. This puts the Tories in the same place as UKIP, in asking us to vote for small groups with no influence. Can’t think why this isn’t mentioned in their leaflet.

As I said, it’s difficult to tell who, if I am, to vote for. Politicians, it’s over to you.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Thieves Like Us...

I noticed this morning that several of the London based newspapers had the headline "New Order" on their front pages. Either it was the height of laziness, or a clever joke. After all the mighty Manc band's second album is called "Power Corruption & Lies", and was followed up by "Lowlife".

Who knows, maybe if Michael Martin was speaking to Gordon Brown, and he asked how long he has as speaker, Brown might have replied "Sooner Than You Think". After all Martin's reputation was "Ruined In A Day". Every MP must have "Regret", and should "Face Up" to the "Avalanche" of accusations.! (Thats enough New Order pun's - Ed)

Renfrewshire Council & Their Love of Supermarkets

The latest issue of Private Eye features a rather interesting story about Renfrewshire Council’s relationship with tax dodgers Tesco. It claims that Renfrewshire Council have been hawking a piece of land which they own at the bottom of Renfrew Road to Tesco, at the knock down price of £4.75 million. Bearing in mind that Tesco already own land in Paisley, the land formally occupied by St Mirren, their motives for this land is nothing but dubious.

However, this got myself and my partner thinking about other area’s of land which Renfrewshire Council could sell. At this point the conversation turned towards the land currently occupied by South Primary School. Currently that is, until next month, as Renfrewshire Council announced last year that it is to close. The land backs on to the land currently occupied by a derelict factory, which is owned by the continental supermarket Aldi. This land, it has been discovered, is contaminated land.

Now this is pure speculation, but it does make an awful lot of sense. What if Renfrewshire Council were to sell the South Primary School land to Aldi? What if, if it is true, was the plan all along? Aldi could build their store on the old school lands, and build a car park on top of the contaminated land. For their troubles, Renfrewshire Council would pocket maybe £5 million for the land.

As I say, this is just pure speculation, I mean Renfrewshire Council, despite the lure of the money, wouldn’t be that stupid, would they?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Is Speaker Martin Being Made A Scapegoat?

Having only just caught up with the news, it is incredible that Michael Martin is still clinging on to his post. His share of largesse is an offence to every working class person in Scotland, and he really should be gone.

Yet, there is a part of me which finds the mock anger as disgusting as Martins behaviour. Most MP’s have behaved like pig’s in the trough, yet to pick on one symbol of the disgusting largesse which MP’s have enjoyed (stolen?) at our expense, shows our elected representatives as the cowardly backstabbing animals that they are. And that’s not to ignore the element of our MP’s (and some journalists, Quentin Letts, I think was the first) who are quite happy to use the sectarian term “Gorbals Mick” to describe the speaker.

The whole edifice needs cleaned out, and if MP’s are hoping that we will forget them being caught with their hand’s in the till in the heat over Michael Martin, then WE WON’T.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Is There an Election On?

In amongst the storm surrounding the expenses row, an election campaign started as several of the parties launched their campaign’s for the elections for the European Parlament. And to top of the election feel, I received my first two bits of election propaganda.

The first leaflet I noticed was pink and had a picture of Winston Churchill, was it an ultra new image for the Tories. Er… no as I then noticed the slogan “Say No to European Union… Vote UKIP”. Not really sure why Churchill is on the leaflet, do they not know that Churchill was among the first people to propose a European trading bloc, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. He did argue for Britain to stay out of the European Coal & Steel Community, a pre-curser to the EEC, which is I suppose why his image is there, but Churchills arguments revolved around the shared ideals of the Empire the USA and the so called Anglosphere. UKIP are campaigning on an anti-European platform, but don’t really mention how. There’s no mention of how much expenses UKIP claimed or didn’t claim in the last parliament.

They mention that 2.7 million people voted for UKIP in the 2004 Euro elections, but don’t list any achievements. The European Parlament can still show our elected representitives how to milk the expenses system, UKIP haven’t done anything there.

The second leaflet comes from the bogeymen of British politics, the BNP. I normally find that their leaflets are among the best pieces of spin that you are ever going to come across, and this one is no different, look there’s a nice family picture on the front, sadly there’s no dog’s or white cats. Actually, this one has a bit where the mask slips a bit – “Because it’s not racist to oppose mass immigration and political correctness – it’s common sense”. Err no. Scotland need’s immigration, the tourist industry in this country thrives on it. That and the fact that our “British Workers” aren’t the most reliable workers. Oh and political correctness is there for a reason, to stop people from using offensive terms to describe people.

Again, there’s use of WW2 imagery, with a small spitfire in the corner. And again, like with the UKIP leaflet, there’s no mention of policies, and again I’m not impressed.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


There's not really an awful lot else to say about the current expenses scandal. There is a couple of things which do occur to me though.

Firstly, what planet do MPs think they exist on? Even before the current economic difficulties, the claims were akin to 'spoiled children grabbing sweeties'. Claiming on helipads, leaking tennis courts and the cleaning of moats is just as bad as claiming on dog food and nappies! That's before we come to the "art" of flipping. Those MPs should be prosecuted for fraud!

Secondly, I am sure that there will be former MPs huddled in bars and gentlemens clubs bemoaning the fact that the current occupants of the House of Commons have brought Parliament into some sort of disrepute, simply due to the fact that they got caught! How useless must they be to have been exposed - shaking their heads as they sup on their gins.

Sorry, couldn't help but put the excerpt of Foulkes up, just shows that they don't live on the same planet as the rest of us...

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Was Thatcher Good For Scotland?

It is often forgotten that Winnie Ewing made the claim, on the night the Callaghan government fell, that Thatcher would be good for Scotland? This is a claim which was dismissed as the Scottish electorate fell out with the SNP. Indeed, my Dad cites this as a major influence on his dislike of the SNP. However, on the 30th anniversary of the election of Thatcher, was Ewing right?

The most obvious answer is a resounding no. Her policies, at the time influenced by the theories of the American economist Milton Friedman, destroyed huge parts of Scottish society. Her first aim was to control inflation. Her weapon of choice was to control the supply of money. Interest rates rose to 17% at the end of her first year in government, with a direct influence on output and jobs. In the first 2 years of her government, Scottish manufacturing lost 11% of its output and 20% of all its jobs. Manufacturing capacity between 1976 and 1987 fell 30.8%. Arguably Scottish manufacturing has not recovered from then.

This is before the assault on Scotland’s heavy industries. Coal, steel and shipbuilding used to be the main employer of Scotsmen in the central belt of Scotland. Coal pits in Scotland fell from 15 pits to just 2 during the 1980’s. Steel was decimated UK wide, but Scotland was particularly hardest hit, with the Ravenscraig plant in Motherwell a symbol of industrial Scotland throughout the 1980’s. Shipbuilding did not survive either. Glasgow used to build the best ships in the world. Now there are only 2 BAE Systems facilities, in Govan and in Clydebank. In 1986 when the QE2 was due to be re-fitted, it did not come home to Scotland, but got its refit in West Germany.

The replacement for the home-grown heavy industries was “Inward Investment”, i.e. the subsidising of foreign companies to come into Scotland and set up factories. This strategy has only proved to be limited in its success. The hyped Silicon Glen of the 1980’s has shrunk as the likes of National Semi-conductor and Motorola left Scotland in the late 1990’s, as cheaper markets emerged. Hewlet-Packard remains in Erskine, but for how much longer?

All of this economic unrest brought unemployment. At the end of Thatcher’s premiership, unemployment stood at 220000 people, which represented an improvement from the peak of the early 1980’s. It is during this period that a dependency culture came in, fuelled by a government only too happy to pay the benefits bills. The theory was that unemployment would somehow create a “flexible employment market”, i.e. create a competitive sprit within unemployed people. As Drink and Drug’s very quickly moved into the working class schemes, and have so far proved more stubborn to eradicate, this instead created a spirit of defeatism. This dependency culture, 2 generations on, have spawned the Lazy Poor. Content to get by in life, and not contribute anything to society. Drug, alcohol and benefits dependency are a way of life for these people, and the longest lasting legacy of Thatcherism on the landscape of Scottish life.

Yet, if this is all true. Why do I suspect that Ewing had a point about Thatcher? I think she might have been right, but not in the way that she imagined. Take the other lasting legacy of Thatcherism on the Scottish landscape, the Scottish Parliament. Cannon Wright, who would go on to chair the cross party Constitutional Convention, said…

There were I think two fundamental reasons why (Thatcher) was midwife at the birth of something in Scotland which will grow and flourish. First we perceived that she was imposing on Scotland not just policies broadly rejected and even detested… but worse was the imposition of an alien ideology that rejected community and expressed itself as an attack on our distinctive systems of education and local government.

The second reason was even deeper – the grim centralisation of power, the determined attack on all alternative sources of real corporate power in local government and elsewhere….We came to see that if Mrs Thatcher could so insure the powers of her office, the crown prerogatives, the extent of patronage and the parliamentary system to cut down real power elsewhere… We realised that the real enemy was not a particular government whatever it’s colour but a constitutional system. We came to understand that our central need, if we were to be governed justly and democratically was not just to change the government but to change the rules

Essentially this argument goes along the lines that there were good things to come out of Thatcher’s time in No 10, its just that these things were a reaction against Thatcher and the evolving ideology of Thatcherism, rather than be part of the great plan. The “rejection” of Home Rule in 1979 directly led to the vote of no confidence, which led to the election of Thatcher, a self confessed English Nationalist. Second time around, the Scottish Parliament had a period where ideas were formed, and a consensus was struck on the how, where and why, after the need for a parliament was identified. This time, the referendum on 11th September 1997 would be on concrete proposals, a 129 seat legislature, with a separate question on tax raising powers.

The rise in popularity in Devolution in the late 80’s also coincided with a kind of a cultural re-awakening. At the same time as a glut of Glasgow based bands started to enter the UK Charts with regularity, bands like Wet Wet Wet, The Proclaimers & Deacon Blue who were influenced by the sounds coming from America, emerged a series of authors, among them James Kelman, Iain Banks and, later on, Irvine Welsh. A theme of the work which emerged from these artists and others was the reality of living in urban Scotland. Television also started to commission and show more “Scottish” shows. Again, all of this was a reaction against the Conservative agenda.

On the one hand, Thatcher destroyed the “old” Scotland, the Scotland of working hard and living hard. New Scotland is still a hard place to live, where less people can be bothered with life, to quote Irvine Welsh’s reinterpretation of an old anti-drugs slogan…

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f##king big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments… I chose not to choose life, I chose something else

We now have a parliament, we have a renewed cultural identity, and we are much less reliant on heavy industry. These are things which we have gained in the 30 years. Still doesn’t make up for the loss that little thing which bound us together, made us care about each other, yet Thatcher was in denial about it existance. What was it called again, oh yes. Society.

Ecconomic statistics & Kenyon Wright quote taken from "The Scottish Nation" by TM Devine

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Next Election Will Be On...

With all the fuss surrounding the 30th anniversary of the election of Thatcher (and I still have a blog in the pipeline on that subject), it has been missed that this current parlament is now 4 years old. With an election to be called within the next 13 months, what are the options for potential dates for the next Westminster Elections.

4th June
This option appears to have already gone out of the window, if the current polling figures are to be believed. This was a favoured date by many commentators before Brown became PM.

2nd/9th July
Again dates that can be all but ruled out because of polling figures. I did think that this would be ther earliest date that Brown would go to the country. However, if New Labour do not suffer the expected bloodbath at the European elections, a trip to the palace may be on the cards in early June.

29th October/5th November
Brown will have seen out the summer, and may have seen his poll rating improve. He may launch an election campaign on the back of a probable successful conference season. On the other hand, Brown’s poll figures might be just as bad, that and that was the rational with the flunked election 2 years ago. Also, there has been no October election since 1974, and no November election since the 1930’s

8th/15th April 2010
Brown might pull a Major circa 1992 trick here by announcing an election on the back of a give away budget. The usual unpicking of New Labour’s budgets might be lost in the background noise of the election campaign. Then again…

6th May 2010
Local election day in England and Wales, New Labour have traditionally chosen to double up elections. This is being discussed as the most likely date.

3rd June 2010
The last date possible to hold an election. On the 2 occasions that governments have gone the distance (since universal suffrage, the elections in 1964 and 1997), they have lost.

Whichever date Brown picks, there are incentives, and negatives which would put doubt in a cautious person.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

30 Years Ago...

Extract taken from the Guardian, dated May 4 1979.

Mrs Margaret Thatcher looks certain this morning to be the next tenant of 10 Downing Street and the first woman prime minister in the western world. Yet the measure of her victory seemed likely to fall below her party' s hopes. The strong surge of Tory support for which she had been hoping materialised right across southern England, but in the North swings were low and in Scotland it was Labour who gained ground, displacing as they did so Mrs Thatcher's likely Scottish Secretary, Mr Teddy Taylor. These were the most diverse results of any British election since 1945, and they had a distinct smack of "two nations" about them .

In North Devon the former leader of the Liberal Party crashed to defeat at the hands of his Conservative opponent. Mr Jeremy Thorpe, who faces trial at the Old Bailey on Tuesday charged with conspiracy to commit murder, lost his West Country stronghold by 8,000 votes. The campaign was distinguished by the huge number of "other" candidates, ranging from Mr Auberon Waugh of the Dog Lovers Party to Dr Frank Hansford Miller of the English National Party. Mr Thorpe has held the seat since 1959.

Liberals had little to celebrate as the early results came in with their vote down by around 5 per cent. They had a particularly sharp disappointment at Newcastle Central, scene of a sturdy Liberal advance in a by-election in November 1976. The 29 per cent of the vote they took then was down to 13.4 per cent - barely enough to save their deposit.

The first Liberal success of the night came at Edge Hill, the Liverpool seat won on a by-election just as the old parliament ended. Predictions that Mr David Alton might turn out to be the shortest-lived MP of all time were proved wrong. Mr David Steel's hopes of between 20 and 50 seats looked like being disappointed as seats regarded as especially promising, like Richmond, Surrey and Salisbury, remained in Tory hands. Elsewhere there was a steady decline in the Liberal vote, running through the early results at about 5 per cent.

The most spectacular Tory gain of all was Anglesey, formerly held by Mr Callaghan 's Rhodesian emissary, Mr Cledwyn Hughes, which Labour lost on a swing of 12 per cent. Hornchurch, one of a string of East London seats where the swing ran into double figures, was not far behind. Right across London there was a string of Labour casualties: Putney, where former Arts Minister Hugh Jenkins lost his seat, Fulham (formerly held by the one time Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart who did not stand this time), Ealing North, Ilford South - which joined the by-election seat of Ilford North in turning Tory - with Enfield North among them.

Outside London, the Conservatives regained Rochester and Chatham, putting a former Prices junior minister Mrs Peggy Fenner back in the House after a five year absence due to another 1974 Labour gain .
There were solid Conservative swings and valuable prizes across the Midlands. At Lincoln, the Tories turned out Miss Margaret Jackson, a junior minister who captured the seat from the Democratic Labour MP Dick Taverne. The late appearance of a Democratic Labour candidate in this constituency may well have tilted this result decisively.

Newark, a Labour seat for almost 30 years, went Tory, too, dispatching another junior minister, Mr Ted Bishop, and Labour lost Birmingham Yardley, though holding Birmingham Hansworth. But there were notable Labour successes: Dr David Owen won Plymouth Devonport against a particularly dedicated Tory campaign.

In the North-west the Tories failed to capture a crop of winnable seats, which they needed for a really substantial majority. Bolton East, the seat which in all previous elections had gone to the winning party, stayed Labour. Middleton and Prestwich, held by the other James Callaghan, also remained with Labour. So, even more impressively, did the much more marginal Bolton West.

Seats which did change hands, like Nelson and Colne (1.4 per cent swing to the Conservatives) and Rossendale (around 2 per cent), did so on a relatively modest shift to the Right.

The best Labour results of all came in Scotland. The juiciest capture of all was Glasgow Cathcart where Mr Teddy Taylor had clung on since 1964 to a seat which to the naked eye looked inevitably Labour. The Tories held on to Aberdeen South, an even more marginal seat. The cruellest results of the night were for the Scottish National Party, which after doubling its representation in the last decade was last night wiped off much of the map of Scotland.

Mrs Winifred Ewing lost Moray and Nairn, Mr Hamish Watt lost Baniff, and Angus South, too, went back to the Tories. But Labour moved up from third place to take Dunbartonshire East, thus displacing Mrs Margaret Bain and Mr George Reid, much more suprisingly, failed to hold his seat in Clackmannan and East Stirling.

The sole SNP survivors on the night's results was Mr Gordon Wilson in Dundee, through opinion poll projections suggested that Argyll and Mr Donald Stewart's Western Isles would stay Nationalist, too. The extraordinary divergence of the results, region by region, upset the computers and led to displays of extreme caution by some of the party leaders. Mrs Thatcher, acknowledging the applause as her own result was announced at Finchley towards 2 a.m., said: "The night is yet young and we don't know what it will hold." Mr Callaghan in Cardiff made no comment.

One sad feature of a night on which a woman reached the highest-ever office in Britain was a crop of casualties among retiring women MPs. Apart from Miss Jackson in Linoln and Mrs Wise, Mrs Helene Hayman was dismissed from the Labour benches and the SNP women representation was cut from two to nil. Ms Maureen Colquhoun, Northampton North's controversial MP, in the last parliament, was also defeated