Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fun For All The Family

A few more thoughts on the Labour Independence referendum fiasco...

Firstly, there's no good way to look at this for Labour. Basically, Wendy Alexander and Gordon Brown's positions are mutually irreconcilable. Something's gotta give, and as Alex Salmond says, it's most likely to be Wendy.

Secondly, Brown, by claiming at PMQs that Wendy had said that which she hadn't, and that the SNP were at fault (t'was ever thus...) for 'breaking' a manifesto pledge (we haven't), he's 'inadvertently' misled Parliament.

Thirdly, how can you call for a referendum on Scottish Independence (even if you now say that's not what you were doing), and justify not having a vote on the Lisbon Treaty?

Fourthly, Brown got hosed in last week's local elections in England and Wales. The very last thing he wants to be doing now is talking about the Scottish constitution.

Fifthly, all of this feeds right into the 'Wendy and Gordon are rubbish' narrative, which is taking root to a quite remarkable extent in the country at large.

There's probably more (only 10 minutes til the fun starts on 'Scotland at Ten' and 'Newsnight/Newsnicht') but that's your lot for the moment. There really is something for everyone in this story!

8 comments:

Jeff said...

As much as I am delighting in Labour's misfortunes, I'll try playing devil's advocate for a while:

(1) Irreconcilable positions between Scottish Labour and UK Labour aren't necessarily a bad thing. Jack was hosed for being Blair's pupper and now Wendy's getting hosed for beating her own path. I give her credit for having the, em, 'cojones' to stand up for what she thinks.

There's no reason why Brown has to agree on the course Wendy is choosing to take.

(2) The problem with my above point is that Brown either lied or stuffed up his explanation at PMQs yesterday, and neither is good enough for a PM. If Wendy can communicate her plan to Gordon more clearly then maybe he can reduce the chance of misspeaking in the future.

(3) The independence question is getting in the way of things and using up press columns and MSPs time. I don't think the EU referendum is quite the same 'boil that needs lanced' across the UK somehow.

Another crucial difference to remember, though not directly addressing your point, is the UK Government PROMISED us a referendum on the EU. They made no such promise for a Scottish referendum. They don't owe us anything with regard to a plebisicite on independence.

(4) GB will not look good talking about Scotland from a UK pulpit, hence his distancing himself from Wendy's comments. In Scotland, he can get away with this distance but in Middle England, it probably does look like he's lost 'control'. (Of course, devolving powers was meant to involve a ceding of control but I guess that's beside the point when it comes to the ultimate control freak Brown).

(5) Well, I can't stretch my arguing powers that far. I agree Gordon and Wendy need to come up with a show of demonstrable competence before too long. Gordon has 6 months, I'd give Wendy another few weeks...

Ricky Simpson said...

The Scottish government are in a stupid position now. Wanting independence for so long....they should call labour's bluff and get the campaign going. What was the poll he used that said it was now majority opinion....surely you cant lose then....

Ohh, i forgot though....you would LOSE and salmond would face day after day of being beaten by the massive unionist battering stick that the public would give the pro-union parties.

Salmond wants to destroy the westminister/holyrood relationship before he campaigns for independence - but he cant now use the referendum as a political tool at the next election......

What a curious turn of events...now the SNP are running from the vote.

I have to declare that I wanted labour to do this right after the SNP victory to deny the separatists any opportunity to damage relations during their government.

The papers/public will turn on salmond for this....he is playing with fire. Its not like he has actually kept all of his manifesto promises....what break the habit of a lifetime and actually stay with a timetable?

Honestly though, if the referendum was next month....do you think this country would vote for independence?

Richard Thomson said...

The Scottish government are in a stupid position now...

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Stoppit, Ricky - you're killing me! :-)

[Regains composure] Ok, can I refer the honourable gentleman to the rather silly accusation he made in one of his previous entries on my blog, when he suggested that a Local Income Tax which was set from the outset by local authorities would represent “another U-turn”?

Page 8 of the last SNP manifesto made it clear that we would go for the vote in 2010. I can hear the backbench banshees screeching about u-turns already if we were to deviate from that…

Ohh, i forgot though....you would LOSE and salmond would face day after day of being beaten by the massive unionist battering stick that the public would give the pro-union parties.

That's not the way it looks to me. Anyway, if the Scots would vote so heavilly for the union, what does it matter to you when the vote is held? You'll trounce us in any case, surely?

Salmond wants to destroy the westminister/holyrood relationship before he campaigns for independence - but he cant now use the referendum as a political tool at the next election......

The only relationship being destroyed just now seems to be the one between Wendy and Gordon. Which one’s your money on?

What a curious turn of events...now the SNP are running from the vote.

Do you honestly believe that drivel? 2010 is when we said it would happen. Anyway, thanks to the events of the past few days, I look forward to seeing Labour’s MSPs voting for it en masse when we present the bill.

I have to declare that I wanted labour to do this right after the SNP victory to deny the separatists any opportunity to damage relations during their government.

Finally, a serious point. That would have been the smart thing for Labour to do, but with Blair on his way out, the frostiness between McConnell and London, the reluctance of Brown to recognise the new political realities and the length of time it took to replace McConnell (you should have given him a peerage there and then and taken the loss of the subsequent by-election on the chin), no-one grasped the thistle.

The papers/public will turn on salmond for this....

Aye, it certainly looked like that was what was happening today :-) Have you actually seen any of today's front pages?

Honestly though, if the referendum was next month....do you think this country would vote for independence?

After this? Almost certainly. However, I see no reason to deviate from the timescale as set out. The future of Scotland is a very serious issue which deserves to be considered independently of Labour ineptitude and backfiring short-termist tactics.

Quite simply, it wouldn’t be very, well, British, I suppose, for us to take advantage of Labour’s present difficulties in this way. Fair play and all that

Ricky Simpson said...

Do you actually think the non-political public would be swayed by the SNP/Labour arguments for independence? Its a pivotal vote and something that people would vote on based on their own loyalty.

Why should the SNP be given the opportunity to damage the westminister/holyrood relationship? Such damage would have no other point than to create grievance.

If you are so confident of your position, call it now. Why wait? Even in 2010, unionism would still win - so its win/win in my eyes. The press is majority unionist, and without media assistance, you will have to campaign for separation on your own...

And talking of U-turns....we will get rid of student debt, we want more police, we will replace PFI....

A local income tax set locally would be a u-turn, for the SNP seem content with going ahead with a centrally set rate.....of which, you have no support for. Accepting liberal assistance would require you change your position - ergo....a u-turn.

You now have a parliamentary majority for an independence referendum - this is what the SNP has been waiting for - it makes no sense to delay your entire raison d'etre. Deep down, the SNP know that they would lose the vote or they would do it now.

I hope salmond presents a bill in his next address for the government agenda - it really is time that this question was sorted out and put to bed for the next few generations if not forever.

Would you accept the verdict either way as an end of the issue? Or is a neverendum the desired option?

Jeff said...

I like to think you took the easy option of arguing against this joker Ricky rather than myself Richard.

The alternative view, that Mr Simpson had a worthier addition to the debate, doesn't bear thinking about!

Richard Thomson said...

I like to think you took the easy option of arguing against this joker Ricky rather than myself Richard.

You read me like a book, Jeff. No discourtesy intended – I just had 10 minutes before I was due out the door, and, well, one set of arguments was faster to deal with than the other. I'm sure you'll understand :-)

OK. Point 1 – very true. I actually think she's taken the right path in recognising the right of people to have their say. I just don't see how she can survive long-term without the umbilical cord of Brown's patronage. Mind you, someone told me earlier this evening that the Tories have a massive lead in a Sun poll tomorrow, so his patronage may not be long for this world anyway...

Point 2. Again, very true. One of them has their wires crossed about what, if anything, was agreed. Say it quietly, that person may not be Wendy...

Point 3. True once more. It's the principle I was getting at. How ironic though that Labour now want to give us a referendum on independence they promised not to give us, while denying us the referendum on the EU constitution that we were actually promised!

Point 4. Agreed.

Point 5. Agreed to the extent that time is no longer on either of their sides. As for the actual timescales...

Sorry, Ricky - I've got other things to do with what's left of the evening. Your response will have to wait until tomorrow now :-)

Jeff said...

Thanks Richard. And now I feel like a petulant child jumping up and down, saying anything to get some attention.

A bit like Wendy on Politics Scotland now I think about it...!


(a few weeks might have been a bit harsh on Wendy. Think Gordon's jacket is on a shooglier peg given that crazy poll you mention)

Richard Thomson said...

Do you actually think the non-political public would be swayed by the SNP/Labour arguments for independence? Its a pivotal vote and something that people would vote on based on their own loyalty.

I'm unlikely to be swayed by what the Labour leadership say about independence and I suspect you're exactly the same when it comes to the SNP. To the great majority, though, I suspect that enough are open to persuasion to make it worthwhile. Ultimately, if you don't think the undecided can be persuaded, why do you bother with that website of yours?

Why should the SNP be given the opportunity to damage the westminister/holyrood relationship? Such damage would have no other point than to create grievance.

I take it this is a clumsy way of referring once more to the referendum timing. Well, since the SNP is the largest party and was allowed to form the government, that gives it the right to decide when any such bill will be presented. It's called democracy, so stop complaining.

If you are so confident of your position, call it now. Why wait? Even in 2010, unionism would still win - so its win/win in my eyes. The press is majority unionist, and without media assistance, you will have to campaign for separation on your own...

Why are you so anxious anyway? The manifesto said 2010 and that's when it's going to happen, with, it would seem, the support of the Labour Party.

Tell you what, though. Every SNP member wants independence, but does every Labour voter support the union? I can't wait to see how the inevitable 'Labour vote Yes' campaign takes shape...

And talking of U-turns....we will get rid of student debt, we want more police, we will replace PFI....

More speak-your-weight guff. In case you'd forgotten, there will be 1,000 more police. Not for profit trusts are being worked on. Student debt? Well, the hated endowment is gone, no thanks to Labour. As for being able to meet the repayments of existing student loans to rid students of the burden of those debts, well, there was no majority for that in Holyrood. However, if you're able to reveal another Labour Damascene conversion in the offing, I'm sure Fiona Hyslop would be very interested to learn of it...

A local income tax set locally would be a u-turn, for the SNP seem content with going ahead with a centrally set rate.....of which, you have no support for. Accepting liberal assistance would require you change your position - ergo....a u-turn.

If the Council Tax gets the bullet and a local income tax is introduced in its place, that's enough for me and I suspect just about everyone else who supports LIT. We'll have a fair system of local tax at last, and the hated council tax will be gone forever.

You see, people don't care about things like that. Honestly, they really don't. In terms of altering course, it doesn't even register as a change of lane. Now, Wendy and the referendum on the other hand... that's a belter. However, there's more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repents...

You now have a parliamentary majority for an independence referendum - this is what the SNP has been waiting for - it makes no sense to delay your entire raison d'etre. Deep down, the SNP know that they would lose the vote or they would do it now.

Keep telling yourself that, Ricky, if its what you have to do. Just stop repeating yourself here with it. Even though independence is regularly ahead in 2-question polls, 2010 is the date and that isn't going to change.

I hope salmond presents a bill in his next address for the government agenda - it really is time that this question was sorted out and put to bed for the next few generations if not forever.

Would you accept the verdict either way as an end of the issue? Or is a neverendum the desired option?


I expect to win. If I don't, I'll accept the result. There's a 'but' coming, though...

The electorate changes over time. It changes as people die, as new voters come of age, as attitudes change etc etc. If it didn't, we could probably do away with elections, since the no-change premise demands that voter attitudes will always and forever be fixed and unchanging.

It's a nonsensical proposition, just like the 'neverendum' stuff. Devolution failed to cross the threshold set for it in 1979 – did that make the 1997 vote part of a 'neverendum' also? The Tories won the 1992 election, just as they'd won every election since 1979 – did that mean that Labour should have accepted that people didn't want them in government and if so, how would you explain the dramatic reversal of that position which took place in 1997? Or, indeed the reversal that looks like its in its way once Gordon Brown runs out of road?

Like I say, I expect the pro-independence argument to win in 2010. If it doesn't, I don't expect to see the SNP campaigning for a fresh vote in the following year's Holyrood election. As for subsequent elections - who knows? In a democracy, the SNP will every bit as free to seek a fresh mandate for a referendum as the electorate would be to deny it.