Wednesday, 30 September 2009

As The Sun Set's On New Labour...

David Dismore has had one of the most interesting and challenging jobs in Scotland. When he took over as editor of the Scottish edition of “The S*n”, its circulation figures were trailing badly behind the “Daily Record”. Slowly but surely he has hauled the S*n up, and 2 years ago they overtook the Retard as Scotland’s most read newspaper. It is a position they hold to this day.

The carve-up by former “Bizzare” editors Coulson (now the Tories spin-meister) and Mohan (now the newspaper’s editor) has rather put Dismore into a tight spot, namely who should the Scottish S*n support during the Westminster elections. His decision to back away from supporting New Labour, but not to support Cameron’s Conservatives immediately, buy’s him some time. However his next move will be fraught with danger and needs to be thought out carefully.

A decision to follow the rest of the country, while it wouldn’t be commercial suicide, we would possibly see those built up circulation figures start to drop back. Lets not forget that to the majority of Scottish people, the values of the modern Conservative party are still completely alien to the shared Scottish experience, while there are still areas which are downright hostile to the Conservatives’. Any sniff of siding with the Conservatives would be toxic to sales figures in these areas.

The other alternative open to Dismore would be to follow the lead set by the paper in 1992, and to back the SNP. For the Tories, this had the desired effect of splitting the anti Tory vote and allowing them to hold on to 11 seats in the Elections of that year. The newspaper’s circulation still trailed the “Record”, but it became something of a laughing stock in its brazen attempts to split the social democratic vote. Some of the SNP’s policies did not sit easily with the S*n’s values either. This is even more of a problem now with the possibility of an Independence referendum.

A S*n/SNP link up would be uncomfortable for both parties. The SNP would be getting support from a newspaper whose values can be most diplomatically described as unreconstructed. The SNP kind of have form here, they pocketed £500,000 from Brian Souter, figurehead of the ill-thought-out Keep The Clause campaign, and seem to have weathered this storm. For the S*n, there would be a severe loss of credibility (I know, I know a paper who believes that stories about Jordan and the WAG’s are somehow news having credibility) as the paper who attempted a “1992” by putting Scotland in a noose if the SNP won. It is also pro-union and is against the proposed referendum.

The decision made in Wapping has put the tartan version of the S*n in a tight spot. New Labour has let people down badly, and it is right to say so. However there is still about 30% of Scotland who heavily support the old party, that’s a lot of people to annoy. So what is it Mr Dismore, your credibility or your sales figures? Either way I’m sure there will be the sound of laughter coming from Pacific Quay.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Why AJ4PM?

This week sees New Labour gather in Brighton for their last Party conference before the next election, an election they are expected to lose heavily. It is also expected to be Gordon Brown’s last conference as Labour leader. Whether he is removed from office in the coming weeks, or resigns in the wake of Cameron’s expected election victory remains to be seen. What may well emerge this week is discussions about the post Blair/Brown party and where it should go next.

The headline evidence for this is the casting around for Browns successor/replacement (delete where applicable), which brings us to the rather strange AJ4PM campaign, run by some right wing bloggers. Alan Johnson is the current Home Secretary and appears to have adopted Alistair Darling’s old “safe pair of hands” reputation as being someone who gets things done. However out with the bounds of cabinet collective responsibility, we do not know precisely where Johnson stands on key issues. We do not know where he stands on Taxation, on Afghanistan or on the tightening of financial regulations. Brown when he was Chancellor seemed to be able to let people know what he thought about key issues without opening his mouth. Brown also seems to have cultivated an image of himself as being one of the brothers, rather than a key architect of New Labour.

Because of this, it is doubtful that Johnson has the fire, ruthlessness and intellect which will be crucial in the rebuilding of the Labour Party, whether it caries on with the ill advised New Labour project or not. He does exude a certain amount of likeability which will get you some distance in politics, but likeability alone will only take you so far, just ask John Major.

I suspect the real reason for the AJ4PM campaign is to encourage a coup, which might result in a new leader, which would certainly lead to a much more imminent Westminster Election than would be the case with Brown staying put. With the Conservatives leading the polls with an average of 40% to Labours 26%, with a projected majority of between 62-64 seats. Which party would like an election sooner rather than later?

This is not to underestimate the decisions which have to be made about the future direction of Labour/New Labour, and the post mortem which is essential if the Labour party is to re-emerge from New Labour. However New Labour simply has to ditch a lot of its matey-ness towards big business and produce policies in favour of the people it has steadfastly ignored in their years in office.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Does Polly Know Something We Don't?

Polly Toynbee, the New Labour comentator sems to be playing the ultimate in fantasy politics here...

Monday, 21 September 2009

Conference Time Is Here Again!

There are a few things which tell you that summer has gone and winter is rather depressingly around the corner, the football season starting, the end of whichever test series England are playing in, and lastly the start of the Conference season.

Last week saw the Trades Union Congress annual conference, which was hijacked by our dear leader’s string of profanities and constant use of the C word during his speech to conference. They seemed to attract a lot of criticism from sections of the blogosphere for being unrealistic with their aims and with their attempts to critisise Brown and Cameron’s my cut is bigger than your cut style of debate. However, because the majority of workers in the public services have been able to preserve their quality of life, this should not be used as a stick to dumb down general working conditions, rather that we should be looking at why conditions in the private sector are so poor in this country. Just a thought but one borne of exasperation at the constant re-running of the 4 Yorkshire men sketch anytime public services crops up on the BBC’s Have Your Say strand.

This week sees the first of the proper political party conferences, when the Lib Dems gather in Bournemouth. I am quite happy to admit that I have voted Lib Dem in several elections. However for the forthcoming Election it is looking doubtful that I will be voting Lib Dem.

The main jump the shark moment for the Lib Dem’s, and I suspect that this is the case for many people on the soft left of the political spectrum, was the coup against Charles Kennedy. After that they have struggled to fill the void in terms of ideas and presentation. Kennedy’s successor, Menzies Campbell, was an advocate of the war in Iraq and argued against the stance Kennedy took. When he took over, he tried to carry on Kennedy’s position with regard to the war in Iraq. Campbell was also called to be the bridge between the old social democratic wing of the party and the new “Orange Book” wing – who believed in liberal economic policies.

It’s maybe a sign of where the Lib Dems now see themselves that when Campbell stood down in October 2007, his successor was not one of the old guard from the “social democratic” side but someone from the Orange Book wing of the party. It is a path which if the polls are correct, will not bring electorial dividends. The Lib Dems are averaging around 18% in the polls, which translates into about 40 seats in an election, a loss of 20 seats.

With the economic difficulties set to continue, and an election due to be fought with this in the background, it is somewhat dispiriting to hear Nick Clegg join the big boy’s who’s dick is bigger competition with regard to cuts to public services. What we really need is new ideas on how to fix the country, ideas the Lib Dems used to provide before they became the orange Tories.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Some Quotes on G A R L's Scrapping

Common sense has prevailed. This is the right decision for the local area.
It is good that the Scottish Government realise that the rail link was simply a case of the emperor with no clothes. There was no economic case for the project
” – Archie Anderson, Chairman – Paisley North Community Council

People in this part of town spoke out strongly against the rail link from the start. The most important thing is that this would never have taken more traffic off the roads” - Lib Dem Renfrewshire Councillor Mike Dillon

With the airport link facing significantly higher costs and at a time when public funding is under serious pressure, I understand the decision, although of course there is some disappointment.

Renfrewshire has secured lasting benefite from the projects early stages, such as the development of new pitches and we’ll continue to press for the completion of the planned new changing accommodation at St James Playing Fields
.” – SNP Leader Renfrewshire Council – Derek MacKay

The Scottish Government has a clear anti-Glasgow agenda. They are investing billions of pounds in the east and north east of Scotland, with projects such as the new Forth crossing, and giving Glasgow the crumbs off the table” – New Labour Leader Glasgow City Council, Stephen Purcell

Thursday, 17 September 2009


Let’s be honest, anything the SNP announced today would have been shouted down by the swivel eyed experts in selling their granny for political gain, but by axing the Glasgow Airport Rail Link the SNP have really got the backs up of many of the West Coast New Labour MSP’s.

Half of the reason for this is of course this was something of a vanity project for New Labour. All along there was something quite distasteful with the speed this was being rail-roaded through parliament, and the patronising fashion in which dissenting voices were dismissed by the powers that be. We’re building a world class transport link, who cares about some football pitches? Quite a lot of people did actually, which is why New Labour in Renfrewshire lost some votes in the council elections in 2007. As distasteful was the SNP’s acceptance of the project.

In the wake of this decision, what is needed is to look at the project and see if there are any better proposals that can be put in place, with possibly the emphasis on value for money. I have never understood why alternatives were not discussed or dismissed out of hand, these alternatives should now be looked at. For example, a train line to the Airport via Renfrew and Braehead Shopping Centre was mooted by the SSP, while another proposal was a monorail from Gilmour Street to the Airport.

What is not needed is finger pointing and acrimony isn’t that right Purcell?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Another 1979 Blog

30 years ago saw the nationwide debut of one of the most startling and original British bands ever. Even though they stopped when their singer died 8 months later, their influence is growing.

Joy Division were made up of Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Steven Morris and the late Ian Curtis. Bernard, Steven and Peter would go on and reform weeks later under the name New Order.

I had heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on the radio a couple of times, but the first time I had come across them was when I bought Substance 1987, which included a couple of songs credited to Joy Division – "Ceremony" and "In A Lonely Place". By the time I tried to get a hold of a Joy Division album, I had bought 2 other New Order albums, "Technique" and "Brotherhood". This brings me to the clip below.

A week after I bought Substance 1988, there was an episode of Sounds of the 70’s which should clearly be subtitled the “punk episode”. Towards the end came this clip, without the John Cooper Clark bit…

The band performed on a programme called “Something Else” on September 15th 1979, and played “Transmission”, their debut single and “She’s Lost Control”. The appearance didn’t really do very much for sales of the single or the album “Unknown Pleasures”, but it did set a benchmark. There was a buzz surrounding “Love will…” even before Curtis’ suicide. However the melodic bass, the digital delay drums pushed to the forefront of the mix and those strange off kilter sounds (the album was recorded in 10cc’s studio in Stockport) makes “Unknown Pleasures” the last great innovative rock record in the British rock cannon.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Blowing Apart The General Election

The next General Election due before June next year looks to be providing one of the most uninspiring choices as to who should be Prime Minister. In the red corner, we have a New Labour PM who has so far demonstrated that he does not follow up his words with his deeds, witness Browns dithering over the crucial regulation needed over our financial services and financial industry. Brown is the very epitome of all talk and no trousers.

Not that the Conservatives should be so smug. In the blue corner, Cameron has so far shown himself to be the very worst kind of band-wagon chasing politician, spouting forth on anything, and even inventing new swear words (twit????). Anything to deflect from the distinct lack of policies. So who do you chose, the devil you know… or the devil you don’t.

However, there is a party who, if they were as brave as they were a couple of weeks ago in releasing the “convicted” Lockerbie Bomber, could save us all from boring he said she said campaigning. The SNP have said that they will introduce their Independence Referendum Bill in the next year, but if we are being honest, the SNP won’t get their bill through Holyrood, parliamentary arithmetic will see to that. However the SNP should turn their attention to practically the next best thing, turning the next General Election into a de-facto referendum on the Union.

I think (and I might be wrong here) that the mechanism for this is that if the majority of Scottish MP’s elected are SNP MP’s then the mechanism is apparently there for independence discussions to begin.

If the SNP do this, they will be able to put forward the arguments for Independence, and importantly how they think they can make an independent Scotland work. It is this last part that the SNP will have to work on, as this I suspect is the main sticking point for many people who see the case for independence as not proven. For many people, the “union dividend” is a huge part of their lives, so the figures will need to be cast iron and independently verified, not that this will stop attacks from the other parties. An alliance with other pro independence parties will also be a must for the SNP if they are to do this.

A pan-independence campaign will also put the two tone conservative parties on the back foot, with Cameron and Brown being forced to defend the Union, and themselves. I think that a re-write of several campaign itineraries would ensue, and the Unionists would be caught off guard. How they do this should be interesting as both parties have squandered the Oil Dividend on tax cuts for the rich and the creation of the lazy poor class. Nah, we’ll probably get the usual scare tactics. What will be interesting will be any interjections from the former Glasgow councillor Vince Cable, still the most respected MP in Westminster.

Of course, this could all backfire on the SNP. New Labour and the Tories could wheel out the dirty tricks book. After all statistics don’t lie, they just tell you the answer you want. Either way, we have reached a point where we have to ask ourselves where we want to go from here, especially with two poor candidates for Prime Minister and two (I would imagine) dull manifesto’s. General Elections used to be the natural point for this, but in post devolutionary times General Elections have had the feeling of being slightly irrelevant. The key policy decisions for most Scottish people now come at Holyrood election-time. With the two contenders for Prime Minister equally uninspiring, it’s time… for the union to defend itself.