Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: The Year Of The Omnishambles

When I started this blog, I did reviews of the sporting year and what I liked from television.  The sporting reviews live on, this years sporting picks of the sporting year can be found across at this blog’s sister site, Fan With A Laptop.  Doing these posts it occurred that there was a bit of a gap in terms of looking back at the year that had gone on for this site, which is where this post came from.

You don't represent the quiet Bat People in our society, do you?
2012 does though seem like the year of the Omnishambles as both the Coalition government at Westminster and the SNP government at Holyrood  have unravelled to different degrees and for different reasons.  Thanks to the appropriation of the word Omnishambles, 2012 has also made Armando Ianucci look prescient for the first time since “The Day Today” correctly foresaw how rubbish ITV news would end up.

However, back to Westminster as it is the UK Government that has descended the most into shambles.  Osborne’s budget in March was the start, but the signs were there from last years strop at the EU summit at Brussels.  Then there was Cameron’s intervention regarding the Holyrood government’s intention to hold a referendum on Independence, which has lead to there being a referendum on Scottish Independence.  As we will see, Cameron’s blundering here will not result in any damages to his government.  Unlike, say, a botched budget statement.

When the budget statement was made in March, I listed five similarities to those announced by Gordon Brown.  Brown’s budgets did have a tendency to have hidden measures in them that caused them to come apart a bit.  In sharp contrast the unravelling of Osborne’s 2012 budget went so far beyond anything that happened to Brown, that you do wonder how on earth Osborne is still in his post.

If the reasons for the scrapping of the 50% tax rate were proven to be false, then it was the scorn poured on the Chancellor for the Granny/Pasty/Caravan taxes he thought up to prove that we were all in it together.  All of them badly thought out taxes that caused collateral damage to the reputation of the Coalition government.  But most of all to George Osborne, who has seen his reputation as a political strategist plummet alongside his reputation as an economist.  The u-turn budget was bad enough, without the double dip recession.  Oh and the awful growth forecasts.  No wonder Osborne got the bird at the Paralympics.

In theory this should all be (relatively) good news for Miliband the Younger & Labour.  The problem is that while they have a poll lead averaging 9%, they still have a problem in terms of people trusting them on the economy.  Not helped when the perceived architect of the UK’s economic woes (which I find strange, Balls was only Brown’s economic advisor for New Labour’s first term and did not fulfil an economic brief for the rest of New Labour’s time in office) holds the post of Shadow Chancellor.  If your shadow Chancellor is not as popular as an incredibly unpopular Chancellor, then there are decisions that will need to be made about who you would have as your Chancellor in waiting.

Not that Labour at Westminster is the only opposition party with decisions to be made.  Their Scottish counterparts at Holyrood have huge decisions to be made about their future direction, particularly because the SNP Government have shown signs of weakness this year.  The SNP have pressed ahead with Minimum Pricing, and found themselves in the middle of a legal battle.  As I’ve pointed out on more than one occasion (and had a heated debate with one of the local SNP hierarchy over the pages of the Paisley Daily Express), Minimum Pricing will not work as price bears no influence on underage drinkers and people with an addiction to alcohol. 

Meanwhile, Kenny MacAskill’s proposals to reform Legal Aid looks to have met some resistance, this coming less than a year after Salmond & MacAskill’s toys out the pram moment with the UK Supreme Court.  That’s not to mention the various funding issues with the NHS and Higher Education as well as the introduction of a set of new qualifications (phasing out the 25 year old Standard Grades).  If you were being kind you could make the case that they were maybe a wee bit distracted.  After all we will now be getting the much craved Independence Referendum.

Ah, the Referendum.  The Holy grail for SNP activists.  Except since both campaigns were set up, the campaign for Independence – “run” by a group called “YES Scotland” – has essentially fallen apart over two issues.  Europe and currency.

The SNP claimed that I-Scotland would continue to be a member of the EU, as a “successor state” to the UK.  When questioned by fellow Buddie (and currently the most famous person to come from Glenburn) Andrew Neil, Salmond stated that he had sought legal advice on the matter.  Fast forward to October (and several Freedom of Information requests later) and the Deputy First Minister’s admission that there was no legal advice sought, and that there would be advice.  The final hole in that argument was put by the President of the European Commission when he said that any new country would have to apply.

The most common sense approach to EU membership would have been to point out that membership of the EU was an aspiration for I-Scotland and that we would only seek membership if the Scottish people consented.  Except that now, in the unlikely event of Scotland voting yes, the whole of the EU knows how desperate we are to join.  Sturgeon’s arguments for joining the EU are like a poker player giving away their best cards before the game has started.

Rather like Europe, the issue of what currency we use has a common sense answer (a Scottish Pound, tacked on to the Sterling – there are countries around the planet who have their own currency which is tacked to the US Dollar).  Instead Swinney (probably realising that the Euro is so toxic that it would be a distinct vote loser) has proposed I-Scotland entering a currency union with R-UK, with the Bank of England setting interest rates and acting as the Lender of Last Resort. For as long as the SNP fail to square the Winton paradox of asking us to leave a union where we have a little say in the direction of that union to join another union where we have even less of a say in the direction of that union, then a No vote will remain the most likely result come 2014.

Returning to the theme of leaders presiding over omnishambles.  The reason that Alex Salmond will not be losing that much sleep over the many tactical blunders he has made this year will be the knowledge that, like Thatcher, Blair and (to a certain extent) Osborne, Salmond knows that his opposite number does not look like a likely replacement to him at the polls.  From every conceivable angle, Joanne Lamont does not remotely look like the next First Minister of Scotland.  In the autumn of 2012, Lamont even committed her, and maybe “Scottish” Labour’s, biggest mistake.  Lamont attacked the SNP from the right, adopting phrases & terminology more commonly heard in those Labour supporting organs…  the Daily Mail & Daily Express.

Lamont’s series of speeches calling for an end to the “Something for nothing” culture not only read like any speech any Conservative politician would have made since…  oh pick any year from 1983 onwards.  They also confirmed “Scottish” Labour’s drift to the right, which they have been in denial over since the days when Jack McConnell was First Minister.  This means that firstly there is an opportunity for the Green Party to hoover up disaffected Labour voters, there is also an opportunity for the SSP to pick up votes here and get themselves back on the national stage…  if they buck up their ideas and find a way to bury the hatchet with Solidarity.  Secondly, “Scottish” Labour are in serious danger of being in the political wilderness for the next decade unless they change tack quickly.  How to reposition “Scottish” Labour to the left of the SNP should be on their “to do” list in the new year if they have any designs on regaining power in 2016.  I would also suggest that they replace Lamont, as she quite clearly is not First Minister in waiting material.

It’s not just in politics that a shambles has turned into an omnishambles.  Rangers Football Club descended into firstly administration and then liquidation, with the reporting firstly showing disbelief then ignorance of the facts.  The BBC also descended into the world of shambles when ITV disclosed the biggest open secret in British broadcasting by outing Jimmy Saville as a sexual predator, most of the shambles surrounded the broadcast of two tribute programmes last Christmas and the simultaneous spiking of a Newsnight programme that would have outed Saville.  It was during this period of recrimination that saw Newsnight broadcast a report claiming (wrongly) that a senior Tory was a paedophile.  Cue meltdown in the Twittersphere as many people proved Cameron right by showing that too many tweets do make a twit (Sally Bercow, George Monbiot being the chef twits…  innocent face#).

If 2012 was the year of the Omnishambles, what will 2013 bring?  Will next year be the year we descend into some sort of Stewart Pearson hippy hell, or will another of Malcolm Tucker’s expletive ridden asides look remarkably prescient?  As long as I get to retire to the planet of the teddy bears, I’ll be happy…  maybe.

Happy new year to your all and see you in 2013.