Sunday, November 26, 2006

Away and Foulkes Yourselves

Well, that was the Labour conference in Oban. Anyone tuning in to hear what the party had to say about health, education, the economy – the ‘real issues’ which Labour always used to tell us were the ones which mattered – would have been sorely disappointed. Instead, rocked by a series of opinion polls which show the SNP in contention for next May and support for Independence at high levels, Labour’s leading lights treated us to a series of vitriolic set-piece attacks about borders, barriers and bogeymen everywhere.

What a contrast with the SNP conference, where there was a palpable sense of a party putting policies in place for government. Maybe that’s why the SNP had over 1,200 in the Perth Concert Hall to hear Alex Salmond set out his stall, while Labour had to bus in schoolchildren and tame trade unionists to make the 500 seat Corran Halls look full for the TV cameras.

First up was the egregious George Foulkes, who always reminds me of ‘Squealer’ from Animal Farm – the pig sent out by the other pigs to explain away why they are becoming ever more like the humans they replaced, and to question the loyalty of anyone who harbours the slightest doubts as to their good intentions. And when that order comes in, whether from Tony Blair now or Vladimir Romanov as in the past, wee George always springs fearlessly into action.

Leaping excitedly from trotter to trotter, no contention is too ludicrous, no argument is too facile for him to try and advance. However, even as his bluster reaches levels liable to endanger shipping round our coasts, I find it hard to dislike him. An object of ridicule he may be, but he’s a completely laughable and peripheral individual, worthy more of our pity than our dislike.

One person I have no such difficulty with is Douglas Alexander, a man of such ability and charm that he is still to date the only person ever to drive me into any kind of agreement with Dr David Starkey. Similarly with John Reid, a swaggering little thug who clearly has the intelligence to engage with the Independence argument, but conspicuously chooses not to do so.

In claiming that the SNP is not ‘fit for purpose’, Reid makes the spectacularly trite point that international terrorism, organised crime, mass migration and the environment do not stop at the border. Of course they don’t, but then neither do the consequences of his government’s misguided policies on these challenges. The actions of this government in Iraq have unquestionably made the world a more dangerous place. However, to use that new danger as justification to continue the union is like the defence used by the little boy on trial for the murder of his parents, when he begs the court for clemency on the grounds that he is an orphan.

But despite that strong late contender, the prize for the most nauseating piece of self-serving hypocrisy must go to Tony Blair himself. Blair flew in to Oban from Belfast, having spent the morning urging accommodation with those who had waged an armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland. After basking in delegates' appreciation for only the briefest of moments and with barely a pause for breath, he then spent the rest of his speech lambasting the entirely peaceful and democratic nationalist movement in Scotland.

Does he think no-one will notice the contradiction? As a politician who has placed himself in the vanguard of the global ‘war on terror’, just what sort of message does he imagine he is sending round the world with this latest intellectual contortion? I know it’s all about securing the ‘legacy’, but does he not feel even slightly ridiculous breaking off from a group hug with Sinn Fein and the DUP to try and knife the SNP’s peaceful, inclusive and moderate ambitions?

Anyone looking to Gordon Brown for a positive endorsement of Britain would have been left waiting in vain also. Independence was a 19th century concept and interdependence was where it was at, he told us. Families would be ripped asunder and our global universities and businesses would wither on the vine without benign government from London. Globalisation would be something for an independent Scotland to fear, we were told. Something only to be embraced from behind the walls of fortress Britain.

Maintenance of power for power’s sake is the unspoken mantra. The question is, are we prepared to allow Labour to subject us to another 4 years of drift and complacency off the back of their tribal dislike of innovation, or do we give the SNP a chance and consider Independence in a mature and thoughtful manner in a democratic referendum?

By opting for Independence, maybe we can find better ways of representing the things that do genuinely unite people on these islands. I’ll bet that in the battle of values we are being promised, the dignity of self-government and nation-building offered by the SNP will prove a damn site more enduring than the self-interest and infinite self-absorbsion offered by Labour's 'Scotia Nostra'.


Drifter said...

Labour in Oban = the drink in last night's glass.

Mark McDonald said...

If we take John Reid's argument to its illogical conclusion, then it's time for all states to abandon their independence in the face of all these threats.

We both know people are fed up hearing reasons against independence as a means of supporting the Union.

It's clear there is no positive case for the Union, but there is an overwhelmingly positive case for independence.

Osama Saeed said...

Calm down Richard, you really musn't let them get to you so easily ;)

Anonymous said...

George Foulkes may well be set for a return to frontline politics by getting elected on the Lothians list for Labour.

I, for one, am going to do my level best to see that George has the chance of being helping to reduce the number of Labour constituency MSPs in Lothians and giving him that chance on the list.

Anonymous said...

there was a comment on the scotsman website about advance notice of questions being give to nicol steven before being interviewed by bernard ponsonby on stv, there was a link to footage but it has been very quickly taken down by stv.anyone seen it before it was pulled?