Wednesday, 25 November 2009

2 Questions on Calman...

1) Why are New Labour prevaracating about transferring, for example controls on airguns, Drink drive limits and speeding limits? These powers could easily be transferred quickly, leaving the more complex (and not necessarily that good) proposals on fiscal autonomy

2) When are these powers going to be transferred? New Labour say they will transfer these powers after the election should they win. The Tories, currently the most likely victor of that election, have refused to comment or to commit to a time frame, which leaves the Lib Dems as the only cheerleader of the non national conversation.

No wonder these proposals look fairly radical, I'd be surprised if any of them happen this side of the election after next.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Night "Indie" Broke

One of the most annoying documentaries in recent years was the BBC’s “The Seven Age’s Of Rock” – where the history of rock was split into 7 neat packages. The episode about Prog Rock was interesting, Punk on the other hand only concentrated on London and New York and stopped at the start of 1978, in other words missed out on the really interesting bits. “Indie” Rock (my god, how I hate that term) suffered the worst in terms of re-editing of History. According to the programme “Indie” was invented by The Smiths and saw its peak with the Brit-pop years. Utter Tosh.

“Indie” – if we have to use that term – was a by-product of the Punk ethos of anyone can do anything, including setting up your own label. Stiff, Chiswick, Rough Trade and Fast sprung up in the immediate aftermath of Punk, following in the footsteps of New Hormones. The “Indie” charts sprung up soon afterwards, followed by the “Indie” standard-bearers throughout the 1980’s – Factory, Mute, 4AD and for a bright period ZTT. During this period “Indie” defined an attitude rather than a genre, of outsiders looking in. Bands on Independent labels did have hits, but they were few and far between – New Order, The Smiths, and Depeche Mode were the most successful.

However 20 years ago this week, this cult period came to an end as bands on Independent Record labels all of a sudden came into the mainstream. Manchester having had a heritage in producing fine bands was about to go into its vintage period. The first two bands to emerge released records on the same date – and appeared on the same edition of “Top Of The Pops” 20 years ago this week. In the day glow corner was the latest band from Factory, the Happy Monday’s. They had 2 albums under their belt (“Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile(White Out)” and “Bummed”), their release was the era defining “Madchester Rave On EP” – lead by “Hallelujah”. Madchester went on to be the tag given to every band from the Manchester area which emerged over the next 12-15 months or so (Baggy seemed to be applied to bands outside the Manchester area – major label backed Blur were initially a “Baggy” band).

In the paint splattered corner is the Stone Roses. They were a much more rock oriented outfit than the Monday’s and had released only the one album. “The Stone Roses” though was well on its way to being acclaimed by wannabe music journalists as the best album of the decade. Their release was the double a-sided “Fools Gold” b/w “What The World’s Been Waiting For” – with Fool’s Gold being the track most played and the one performed on the afore mentioned edition of Top Of The Pops.

For both acts, appearing on Top Of the Pops was the point when both bands sales took off. Fools Gold went top ten, and the follow-up, “One Love” got to number 2 in the summer of 1990. For the Monday’s, commercial success did not happen with the Madchester ep, but with the follow-up release “Step-On”, released in March 1990. This moment also ushered in a “golden period” for Independent record companies, as many of the best records released over the next 18 month period were not released by any of the major record labels. “Getting Away With It”, “Enjoy The Silence”, “Dub be Good To Me” & “What Time Is Love?” all examples of the calibre of records released by the “Indies”. Even the choice of act to record the official England football teams World Cup record seemed to chime with the zeitgeist, as New Order, under the guise of Englandneworder, went to number one with “World In Motion…”.

I suppose the thing which brought this period to a close was just there started to be a gradual deteriation in the quality of the records released with the “baggy”/”madchester” sound. Pretty soon, people moved on to the next thing, Grunge and the sound of Seattle. For the Independent record industry, things wouldn’t be the same again. They were all no longer part of a cottage industry where all that mattered was quality. Sales became more and more a part of the equation, especially as Britain fell into recession in the early months of 1991. Invention was the first casualty of this new reality. Creation had been releasing albums from artists heavily influenced by the 1960’s – then one of their acts (primal Scream) took the revolutionary act of getting a DJ to re-mix one of their albums. The result – Screamadelica – won the inaugural Mercury Music prize. Creations next release was a pointer for where the “Indie’s” were going to go. “Bandwagonesque” by Teenage Fan Club was full of references to the Beatles and the Byrds and harked back to an era in British music where British music was the best music in the world.

The road to Brit-Pop had begun.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Why The SNP Lost Glasgow North-East

So New Labour claimed their first by-election win in a year with their huge win in Glasgow North-East. While all of the vanquished have been playing the time honoured game of clutching at straws, for 2 of the defeated this is a serious slap in the face.

For the SNP, this is a crushing defeat. They had high hopes of winning this seat, and were certainties to push New Labour close. Instead they conceded a majority of 8111 to New Labour. There are 3 main reasons for this defeat. Firstly the SNP dithered and dallied about who to go for to run. There were rumours that Grant “Tartan Hero” was going to be the candidate. In the end the SNP chose David Kerr, a former BBC reporter, as their candidate.

Kerr did not adapt immediately to the task. Quotes attributed to Kerr emerged where he claimed that Universities such as the University of West of Scotland and, more pertinent to the election campaign, the Glasgow Caledonian “Did not have much of a reputation to tarnish”. There was also criticism of Kerr’s brand of Damien Day style reporting, brandishing guns in a supermarket car-park in one report shown on the news. Outraged New Labour spin doctors also tried to paint Kerr as the albino monk from “The Da-Vinci Code”, as it emerged that Kerr was a member of the Opus Dei sect. All of which damaged Kerr, especially as there seemed to be no response from the SNP to these accusations. The SNP’s own accusations about the New labour candidate, Willie Bain, that he was such a local boy that he still resided in London seemed to be ignored by the local electorate.

The biggest bearing on the campaign thought was the SNP government’s decision to scrap the Glasgow Airport Rail Link. The leader of Glasgow City council, Stephen Purcell, launched an astonishing attack on the government, accusing them of being “Anti-Glasgow” – conveniently ignoring the fact this plan was not universally embraced in Paisley, where the GARL link would be built. The “Anti-Glasgow” jibe became the cornerstone of the New Labour campaign – and the SNP seemed incapable of playing the spin. The “Ripped-Off-Glasgow” leaflets struck a chord, despite the viable explanations, and the construction work getting fully into its stride for the M80 motorway.

The SNP should have countered by pointing out the tough choices made, because of circumstances created by Gordon Brown’s position either as Chancellor or as Prime Minister. They should have led by saying this was a recession created by greed and encouraged by Brown. They should have pointed to the greedy bankers being let off the hook by New Labour decisions. They also should have made a pledge to look at more cost effective options, like a railway line taking in Govan, Braehead Shopping Centre, Renfrew and terminating at the Airport, or a Mono-Rail from Paisley Gilmour Street Train Station to the Airport. More than anything else it was a failure to spin the scraping of the GARL properly which led to this crushing defeat.

Not that the SNP were alone in being humiliated. The Conservatives are on course to win the next election, with an average poll lead of 14% over New Labour. Yet in this By-Election they polled only 1075 votes. One of the Tories, in trying to sideline the SNP, claimed that the people of Scotland had to make a choice between Brown or Cameron. The people of North West Glasgow gave their response in no uncertain terms to that.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Don't Mention the Recession

There is an exacerbation among SNP supporters about the inability of (New) Labour voters to see the mess left by the pink Tories. That these voters are somehow happy with their lot. To be honest, and I speak as someone who shakes their head when their parents parrot the New Labour line, there is still an element of distrust towards the SNP within the Labour Party constituency, that the SNP are really tartan clad Tories.

There are reasons for the stance which the SNP government has taken on certain policies, cutting Business taxes for example is designed to stimulate growth, and not to reward big business (like for example the corporation tax cuts Brown has made). The freeze on Council Tax is there to help hard working people, rather than an excuse to cut services. Etcetera etcetera…

An example of how New Labour have twisted the Scottish governments policies into being against the common 5/8th’s comes from Monday’s Paisley Daily Express, which featured local MSP, and Count Dooku lookalike, Hugh Henry. According to the wit and wisdom of Mr Henry…

The latest report on deprivation in Scotland from Alex Salmond’s administration shows the number of most deprived area’s in Renfrewshire has increased between 2006 and 2009. The SNP Government’s statistics show that, over the last couple of years, more area’s in SNP-controlled Renfrewshire are amongst Scotland’s poorest.

There is a problem in two respects. The First is that Renfrewshire had just about the worst financial settlement in Scotland. This is because the SNP is trying to shift money to the better-off areas which normally vote SNP. And yet our SNP council sits silently and refuses to complain.

The second problem is a lack of action locally. In Glasgow despite it’s many deep rooted problems, progress is being made. We need a similar determination to Glasgow’s to start addressing the problem. We need to demand more money from Alex Salmond’s government. If we fail, we should not be surprised when we see a rise in the social costs and problems which come from increased deprivation

I think the most striking thing about these comments is that Mr Henry seems to have not noticed that… well… we are in the middle of the worst recession since World War 2… at least. Money is tight, no one has money. 2006 probably marked the start of things going wrong, while 2007 saw the first signs. Both Barclays and Northern Rock went to the bank of Last Resort for loans, guess who kept their name out of Robert Peston’s reports then. Oh and Fred the Shred was about to make a critical blunder.

The other thing that Mr Henry seems to have missed out is his proof that the SNP are moving money to their pet areas. When Renfrewshire was run by New Labour, they would never do such a thing… apart from all the spending showered on Ferguslie Park… and Johnstone… oh and Shortroods. Sure houses in Glenburn had nice canopies installed and double Glazing put in, followed by Central heating. But that was all in a period between 1998 and 2000. Did I mention that Glenburn was represented by 2 SNP councillors during this period? Of course New Labour promised a re-generation fund of £50 million before the 2007 elections. Has this money disappeared into the great big PFI hole in Cotton Street, or was this more New Labour spin with no substance?

Mr Henry mentions Glasgow as making progress. Where? It’s still a horrendously backward city in places with health problems which read like the 1801 census. At New Labour led Glasgow has trumped Renfrewshire Council in one respect, it has closed more than one school, and certainly knows how to waste public money in parting with high ranking officials.

Yet when we were more prosperous, New Labour failed to close the gap between rich and poor. We have no money because Gordon Brown gave all our money to the bankers, so that they could congratulate themselves with big bonuses for failing to regulate themselves. Will Mr Henry ask for more money from Brown?

I thought not.

Scratch the surface and New Labour’s bluster is exposed as little more than that. For the SNP though, their fortunes are not helped by the economic blunders made by Brown. Equally the SNP’s claims are tainted by their association with George Mathewson (who was on the Royal Bank board that employed Fred Goodwin) and Brian Souter (he of the Keep the Clause campaign). It seems that the SNP are finding the task if defending their record in office difficult at this moment.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

With Impecciable Timing...

With MP’s today singing from the same hymn sheet and asking us to draw a line under their theft and fraud perpetuated against the British tax payer, this advertisment made a timely re-appearance on Monday night…

Im sure we could all think of at least one MP who deserves the treatment hinted at in this advertisement, maybe one of those flippers.