Monday, 22 January 2018

Davy, The RAH And Their Part In The SNP Jumping The Shark

Given the poor 2017 that the SNP had, with criticism mounting of their performance in government, accusations of putting the constitutional question ahead of everything else and being the only major party to lose seats and votes in the June Westminster election, you can understand why they’d want to retake the political narrative they lost in the aftermath of the EU Referendum. To do it in such a self satisfied and inaccurate way though shows an SNP in some trouble.

Health Secretary, Shona Robison, meets RAH campaigners (and local
MSP Neil Bibby) at a meeting, 19 May 2017
The part that captured the headline’s of the SNP’s PBB is the ‘Davy’ character. ‘Davy’ is the caricature every ‘SNPBad’ pro-Yoon person of every SNP staffer’s dreams/nightmares. That he has a passing resemblance to the Scottish Commentariat’s ‘only Tory in the village’ David Torrance, is purely incidental. Of course the SNP wouldn’t, in spite of the delight of the ‘Yes’ fundamentalists, be so crass and stupid to attack a high profile critic of the SNP. True, he comes across as bumptious and self important on the media. But for the governing party to parody a critic in such a vicious fashion is disturbing.

Of the glaring inaccuracies in this video, that ‘Davy’ does not have anyone agreeing with him is one that seems to be missed. In any gathering I’ve attended, attitudes towards the SNP government are divided and supporters are not quite as vocal as they are here. I’m sure that this scenario is much more representative than the universal love in displayed there, though probably not in the mind’s eye of the ad’s creators.

While there are big inaccuracies in the film (Schools were rebuilt under the Labour/Lib Dem executives, financed by PFI, Fracking isn’t banned but subject to an indefinite moratorium and given the mess of Police Scotland, would you trust their crime statistics?) and some of the other ‘achievements’ are things we would want a government to be doing anyway (Free prescriptions), the PBB itself is the most cack handed and ugly piece of virtue signalling since Matt Damon. Three days down the line though, the part that stands out is the part about NHS funding, about the 12,000 extra people working in the NHS and protecting public services.

That bit now sounds just a tad hollow now, given the Health Secretary’s decision on Friday.

I had previously written about the closure of the children’s ward at the local Royal Alexandria Hospital last year in the context of Scottish Labour’s inability to make cogent arguments on this issue. At the time, this was a decision made by Greater Glasgow Health Board and theirs alone, the final say was still to be made by the Health Secretary, Shona Robison. Therefore at that point it was untrue for Scottish Labour to say that the SNP planned to close the ward. As it happens, I still don’t think that’s true. However the Health Secretary’s decision, announced on Friday, to rubber stamp GGHB’s decision to close the ward and move those services to a hospital 7 miles away means two things.

For one thing it destroys a key plank of the SNP’s armoury that they will protect public services, as this claim is now a self evident lie. Robison’s decision is potentially this SNP government’s ‘jump the shark’ moment, their “Black Wednesday” if you will. I say potentially because, of course, it rests on the ability of the opposition to win over the voters and make this self inflicted wound into something terminal for the SNP. After all, “Westland’s” in 1986 did not see the end of Thatcher in no small thanks to Kinnocks inadequacies. But it’s possible that given the right response, in other words not unthinking “SNPBad”, that this issue could bring the SNP down at the next election.

Paul Sinclair, yesterday...
The second thing is that I think this is a direct consequence of the SNP’s conservatism. Like ‘Scottish’ Labour before them, the SNP are now content to manage our public services and argue for more money to be thrown at them, but not to argue for improvements or changes to those public services. As a result, they do not see the issues arising from our public services not working as they should. The relevant evidence here being the performance of Greater Glasgow Health Board and their mismanagement of the RAH.

For years the RAH was not a well run hospital. It was not well run under the Labour/Lib Dem executive and it is still not well run by the SNP government. Since the new Southern General hospital was opened though, there has been a gradual downgrading of services by the GGHB. Services have been side lined in favour of the new hospital about 40 odd minutes travelling time away on public transport. Or if you’re an Yes fundamentalist, 5 minutes away. So for the “Cybernats” to say that the RAH is not fit for purpose, then whose fault is that then? The SNP government that have been in post for 10 plus years, and have had every opportunity to reform the NHS, or GGHB, who have mismanaged the hospital in Scotland’s largest town without a peep of protest from either this government or the McConnell led Labour/Lib Dem administration.

If GGHB are to blame, then who then has been guilty of providing them with the autonomy to fail? I don’t think Robison or the SNP Government planned to close this ward at all, however I think that’s been GGHB’s intention all along. Robison & the SNP’s failing is in their lack of backbone and leadership on this issue, though there is an argument there that perhaps the SNP’s mitts could be placed on the designs given that the new Southern General is in the First Ministers constituency. But no, given Robison’s intransigence in the past to the treatment of the RAH by GGHB then this act of sheer spinelessness fits in perfectly with Robison’s behaviour. Do not challenge, accept the ‘experts’ view and move on, arguing that anyone who disagrees has an agenda or is a full card carrying yoon. And these people expect to win a referendum behaving like this....

Perceived wisdom within the SNP bubble is that this PBB has been a success. It has not. It has blown up in their faces, torpedoed by a supine Health Secretary who’s clearly out of her depth in the post rather than offended members of the Scottish commentariat. If the last four days have shown us anything, it is that the trajectory of the SNP since the EU referendum is continuing and that that the signs of political entropy are setting in at speed (Arrogance, poor policy development, lack of grip on government). In the meantime, while campaigners mourn their defeat, this acts as yet more evidence of the First Minister’s terrible political judgement and being an awful political strategist.

Monday, 15 January 2018

First Footing 2018 With The Best Of 2017

First of all, can I wish you a belated Happy New Year and hope that 2018 is a better year for you than 2017.

In 2017, we had 41 posts, the most posts in a year since 2011.  It was a year dominated by the fallout of last years EU Referendum, the SNP’s loss of control of the political narrative and May’s cut and run election which backfired spectacularly.  Yet with the exception of the number one on this list (and I suspect you all know what it is), every post in the top 10 was in the first half of the year.  Without further ado, lets get to that top 10.  Cue The Wizard...

At 10 is a post about the big losers from June’s General Election.  The SNP did win the Scottish ‘leg’ of the Westminster Election, but lost more seats net and more voters and dropped more % points than the Tories and “Slipping Through Fingers” explained why Sturgeon’s own ‘Imperial’ phase was over. At number 9 was one of a series of pieces burying the Labour Party (as was). "Dying Before Our Eyes" lamented the paucity of political intelligence among Labour circles, especially when it came to campaigning against closures of local hospital wards recommended by, essentially, QUANGO’s.

At 8 is one of a number of posts about Indyref 2 and why the clamour for an Autumn 2018 vote will lead to disaster.  Asking The Question” was also part inspired by Steve Richards “Leadership Reflections” talks about UK Prime Ministers that was shown on the BBC Parliament channel and was the place that pinpointed the concept of ‘Political space’.  Number seven in the list is about another of the SNP’s issues.  Mhari Black’s election address was an appealing address aimed at a left of centre audience, which blanked her own parties own rightwards move at Holyrood and “A Lesson in Talking Left and Acting Right” (incidentally a charge I used to level against Gordon Brown) discussed this dichotomy.

At six is a post where I say that the leader of the Labour Party is essentially a “Dead Man Walking”.  As it happens, a lot of the criticisms I make are still valid. He’s still not a great orator, he is still not as flexible enough at public speaking though he has improved at the dispatch box.  I’m still not sure he’s handled the fallout of the EU referendum well either, though i don’t think he should go down the route advocated by both the SNP and Blair and champion the ‘Remoaner’ cause.

Into the top five and at five is one of the two ‘guest’ posts that appeared in this 10th anniversary year of this blog.  Both the Scottish Labour activist Lauren Gilmour and SNP candidate in May’s council elections Brian McGuire wrote guest posts, with Brian’s take on his campaign, “Not To Be This Time” reaching the top five.  At four is a post that reads as a harbinger for the post that ends up as number one in this list as it highlight’s the “Yes movement’s” little man Trump problem.  Poisoning The Wells of Scottish Politics” was about the reaction to an article praising Sadiq Khan’s semi-controversial speech at Scottish Labour’s conference, but the (over)reaction among Indy fundamentalists overshadowed what Clare Heuchan actually said. 

Three to go, and at three is a post looking at “The Bad Politics of Indyref 2”, as executed by both parties.  Essentially the argument here is that if May had any political nous, she’d give Sturgeon exactly what she wants – Indyref 2 this autumn.  At 2 was a post looking at the Tories ‘out and proud’ pro-Union campaign and their target seats. “About That Mandate...” asks if what we saw in the Holyrood Elections would happen again, with the Tories and the Lib Dem’s winning seats by putting opposition to Indyref 2 front and centre of their respective campaigns.

This brings us to...  well the most read post of 2017. “The Suicide Note For The Yes Movement” was inspired by the reaction to Kat Boyd’s act of hard truth telling on a post election edition of The Sunday Politics in mid July: that left wing pro-Independence supporters were attracted to and voted for Corbyn’s Labour (over an SNP that, as has been said ad nausium here, drifted rightwards) should not have been news to Indy fundamentalists.  What was new was the casual throwing away of the ‘Yes Coalition’ by what we should describe as Indy fundamentalists, angry that voters could be ‘tempted’ to vote for a ‘yoon’ party.  While this post concerned itself with on-line figureheads of this ‘fundamentalist’ movement – Stuart “Wings” Campbell & James “Scot Goes Pop” Kelly, it also pre-explained why those on-line Indy Fundamentalists, and the SNP, have gone after Corbyn’s Labour with such venom.

So, that’s yer lot for 2017.  See you soon for the rest of 2018.