Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Extincta eorum inutilis

In today's poll for IpsosMORI/Scottish Television today, Scottish Labour face utter annihilation. 

It is the third poll this week to show the National party on a majority of the vote, something last achieved by the old Unionist party in the 1955 Westminster election.

The voting intentions are:

National 54%
Scottish Labour 20%
Conservative/Unionist 17%
Liberal 5%
Green 2%
Others 2%

with a projection (assuming a uniform national swing which is unlikely to occur) of seats being:

National 59
Others    0

The headline figure isn't the important thing, though: the important thing is what, for Scottish Labour's fifty or so remaining volunteers in Glasgow, must be a scrotum-tighteningly close gap between the two main Unionist parties. It's now down to just 3% - a margin of error difference. 

Let's take a look at the Conservatives' performance in modern elections.

In 2010, they scored 17% of the vote. In 2005, they got 16%. In 2001, they got 16%. In 1997, they got 18%. That's an average of 17% of the vote - exactly what they're projected to get in this election. And their average number of seats is one.

It's clear, therefore, that about 17% of the vote is the Tories' bedrock figure, the lowest they can get. In the absence of another centre-right party, it can be safely assumed they will always get this. 

In 1992, they got 25% of the vote. Where did that 8% go? 

Well, it isn't a massive stretch to make an assumption that when Neil Kinnock handed over to Tony Blair, and a socialist Labour party became a quasi-conservative New Labour party, 8% of pro-Europe Conservative voters in Scotland moved to Labour. The right wing of Labour and the left wing of the Conservatives overlap quite comfortably, and to a much greater extent than either of them would like to believe.

Now, here's the thing. If the Tories can tempt those voters back, they leap ahead of Scottish Labour and become the largest Unionist party. 

When Scottish Labour made possibly the worst calculation in realpolitik terms by any major political party in European history in reacting to being outflanked on the left by appointing a Blairite right-winger as Branch Manager; reacting to being perceived as a Unionist-only party by appointing a hardline Loyalist to be the public face of the party, they doomed themselves on two fronts: the Left (which did include pro-Union elements and who are now turned off of potentially voting Scottish Labour by a hard-right leadership), and the Yes vote (which included centre-Left and soft-Right elements and who are now turned off of potentially voting Scottish Labour by an extremist Unionist leadership).

So they face a perfect storm. The groups which might have been expected to swing to Scottish Labour in a Chirac-style "clothes peg election" to save the country from the Tories are repulsed by them.

And many people who might have voted for Scottish Labour if only there was a reason to do so won't, because Scottish Labour's single-issue campaign is "vote Scottish Labour to stop a Tory government", and people just don't believe that. They don't believe it because they know that as long as Constituency X returns an MP committed to keeping the Conservatives out, it doesn't matter if it's a red or yellow MP - it's not a blue one (not in Anne MacTaggart terms) and that's all that matters. 

But fundamentally, they don't believe that voting for Scottish Labour stops Conservatism. It might stop a Conservative Party government, but not a conservative government. And increasingly, they seem to be coming to the understanding that only by having Ed Miliband, a remarkable man who could make an excellent prime minister, reliant on the votes of the centre-left National party MPs in much the same way as John Major was pulled to the right by the far-right of his Conservative MPs, can we have a government which is more socially just and socially responsible. The electorate, at heart, have seen a Scottish Labour party campaign alongside the Conservative party for two years for the right of the latter to rule Scotland - even should it have zero MPs here - and wonder quite how that tallies with "voting Labour to stop the Tories". And they wonder how a party endorsed by Norman Tebbit and the repulsive, batrachian David Coburn can quite represent the decent working-class majority. They'll figure that voting for the National party will stop the Tories just as well as voting Scottish Labour would - but without that taint of betrayal. 

People simply don't like Jim Murphy, they don't trust Jim Murphy, and they won't vote for Jim Murphy - but worse than that, for Labour: not only are they not voting Scottish Labour, the Scottish Labour brand itself has become toxic. The reaction of the public to Scottish Labour in this election will be familiar to anyone who saw the reaction to the Tories in Scotland in the 1997 election. 

The real danger for Scottish Labour at this election is that if they come third - and that now can't be ruled out - people who cast their votes for the Union and the Union alone will look to the Conservatives to protect the Union, not Scottish Labour. They will instinctively vote for the largest Unionist party - as they have always done. It doesn't matter to them if it's Scottish Labour or the Conservatives, the Union is all that matters in their hearts and in their souls. Scottish Labour's embrace of tactical voting, with people like Michael Kelly and Robert McNeill - still Scottish Labour members - urging Scottish Labour supporters to vote Liberal and Conservative without any indication that the party might object to, or discipline, them, has potentially locked the party into a spiral of extinction.

Because if Scottish Labour isn't for centre-left policies, what is it for?

And if it's not the largest Unionist party, what is it for?

In the Canadian Federal election of 1993, the Progressive Conservative party went from being the government with 149 seats, to having 2 seats. They scored 16% of the vote. That is uncomfortably close to where Scottish Labour is today - at 20% and collapsing. 

If the Labour party is a moral crusade or it is nothing, then it is nothing. In Scotland, it ceased to be a moral crusade a generation ago. Perhaps GE15 is Indyref for slow learners. Perhaps this might be the last election in which we have the opportunity to vote for a Scottish Labour candidate. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Analysing the northern Cyprus presidential election

In my post earlier in the year about upcoming elections throughout Europe, I didn't include the presidential election which has been taking place amongst the Turkish Cypriots for the last week, on the not unreasonable basis that it isn't actually a real country. But now that it's been, I suppose I ought to write something about it.

The Turkish Cypriot regime is a semi-presidential system in which the President is head of the "state", and the prime minister head of the government, but in European terms the presidency is an exceptionally important office, given that part of the division of responsibilities renders the President as the plenipotentiary representative of the Turkish Cypriots to the international community, including - vitally - in negotiations regarding the Cyprus dispute.

In the first round of the presidentials, held last Sunday, a major reversal of power took place. The incumbent president, Dervis Eroglu, a one-term president who is a three-time former prime minister in the interest of the conservative and nationalist UBP (National Unity Party) failed to win the election outright as he did in 2010, and was forced into a run-off today/ Remarkably, the run-off was not against the favourite, Sibel Siber, of the socialist Republican-Turkish Party (CTP), but against independent candidate and former mayor of North Nicosia, Mustafa Akinci. 

Eroglu, the incumbent who technically sits as an independent, was endorsed by the Democratic Party, a reasonably powerful bloc with 16% of seats in the Legislative Assembly, a huge fillip to his campaign given the DP's association with founding president of the "republic", Rauf Denktash. 

His campaign was based on his being a safe pair of hands, and that his 2010-2015 administration had moved closer to finding a resolution to the Cyprus dispute. He publicly targeted a 55% share of the vote.

The election was fought for the right to fly this beezer of a flag
Siber is the current Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and her campaign was based on her experience as a successful past prime minister, and the fact that, if successful, she would be the first female President of the Turkish Cypriots. She was endorsed by prime minister Ozkan Yorganciouglu and former prime minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer, and by former president Mehmet Ali Talat, who at a rally in North Nicosia claimed that Siber would win the campaign in the first round. This perceived sense of entitlement annoyed many Turkish Cypriot women who may otherwise have supported her, and was a major contributory factor in her being eliminated in the first round by only 4.759 votes (4,3%).

Akinci claimed that any backsliding on the Turkish position in the Cyprus dispute would be "submissiveness", and demanding a partnership of equals with the parts of Cyprus not under occupation. He supported Turkish Cypriot membership of international sporting organisations such as Uefa and the Olympic games, from which they are currently banned. The former deputy prime minister had other pledges, such as an all-Cyprus mobile telephone network, and opening the border at Lefka and Famagusta, reflecting other advances he has made in Greco-Turkish relations during his time as mayor of North Nicosia.

The results of the first round were:

Eroglu (National Unity party) 28,15% 30.328
Akinci (independent) 26,94% 29.030
Siber (Republican-Turkish party) 22,53% 24.271
Ozersay (independent) 21,25% 22.895
Kirdag (independent) 0,49% 530
Onurer (Cyprus Socialist party) 0,40% 428
Ulas (independent) 0,24% 259

This resulted in the elimination of Siber, Ozersay, Kirdag, Onurer and Ulas. The Republican-Turkish party, which had come third with more than a fifth of the vote, promptly endorses the second-place Akinci, leaving him (assuming all CTP voters followed the party's advice) only a few hundred votes short of victory in the second round. Ozersay took an awful huff at the results, refused to endorse anyone in the second round, said he didn't even want the position anyway, and claimed the polls were rigged. Kibris, the newspaper of record in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, described the results as a shock, and a surprise upset of the established power. 

The most important reaction to the result was the immediate announcement by the prime minister, Yorgancioglu, to resign over the shattering defeat for the Republican-Turkish party. 

The final round was held today, and the results have now been finalised. The incumbent president, Eroglu, won 39,50% of the vote, with 43.764 votes, coming a distant second to Akinci, the second-placed candidate in the first-round of voting, who won 67.035 votes (60,50%). Eroglu won the districts of Kyrenia, North Nicosia and Morphou, with Akinci taking Famagusta  and Trikomos.

Eroglu has conceded the presidency in the last hour, and has announced his immediate retirement from electoral politics, claiming that the election of an independent candidate showed that Turkish-Cypriots had sent a message of rejection to the political parties from which they ought to learn. 

Mustafa Akinci, the new president of the Turkish Cypriots
Akinci's record of helping Greco-Turkish relations during his 14-year tenure as Mayor of North Nicosia has led to early hopes that the Cypriot dispute may finally be resolved and peace break out in Cyprus: he previously led the Communal Democrats, a party which backed reunification of the island, and supported the UN-sponsored peace plan for reunification.

The plan was a proposal to restructure the island as a federal United Republic of Cyprus, encompassing both the present Republic of Cyprus and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, but omitting British-occupied Cyprus. A collective Presidential Council comprising four Greeks and two Turks and a bicameral legislature with both communities sending deputies based on their respective populations were to be the framework of the new State. Simultaneous referenda were held in the Republic and in Turkish-occupied Cyprus. While Ankara and North Nicosia supported the plan, it was strongly opposed by Athens and Nicosia (with George Papandreou of PA.SO.K beginning his ultimately politically-fatal spiral of unpopularity by backing the plan). On the day before the referendum, Tassos Papadopolous, the President of Cyprus, urged Cypriots to reject the plan, in a speech broadcast live on television. The Turkish prime minister, R.T. Erdogan, and the Turkish Cypriot prime minister favoured the plan, seeing it as a way to end the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots (international flights, for instance, are banned from landing on Turkish-occupied Cyprus) and their exclusion from the European economy.

Ultimately, Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly backed reunification 64,91% to 35,09%, but Greeks opposed it 75,83% to 24,17%, and only the non-occupied portion of Cyprus joined the European Union.

With Greek Cypriots ending their boycott of peace talks, and a pro-reunification politician with an excellent track record of dialogue with Greek Cypriot diplomats in charge in North Nicosia, there is genuine hope in Ankara, Athens, Nicosia, and North Nicosia that this may finally be the year where peace returns to Cyprus and reunification may finally be achieved. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Scottish Labour sent Ian Paisley to the Lords - now they want to bring the DUP into Government

The Democratic Unionist Party is one of the most repulsive political organisations in western Europe. Founded by sectarian bigot Ian Paisley and led by former terrorist Peter Robinson, it is linked to sectarian paramilitary groups and the fascist Orange Order. Its members are racist extremists who have perpetrated violent, Golden Dawn-style attacks on foreign nationals. It is deeply homophobic, fighting a rearguard action against equal marriage and gay adoption reminiscent of the 1950s. It opposes womens' rights. Fittingly for an antediluvian gang of thugs, it even opposes evolution.  Oh, and it wants to bring back hanging.

In what looks set to be a close election, however, the Labour Party has refused to rule out a deal with the bigots of the DUP. This is quite in keeping with their conduct in the past: when the Labour Party wished to introduce internment for Muslims in the form of the 42-day internment without trial bill, it was only the votes of the DUP which forced the measure through the Commons. The Labour Party, in return, promised to - and did - send Ian Paisley to the Lords, with a Scottish Labour prime minister personally gazzetting the sleazy, dodgy, dirty deed.

Scottish Labour's DUP friends get ready to march

A man who led a homophobic campaign called "Save Ulster From Sodomy", who founded two sectarian terror organisations (Third Force and Ulster Resistance) raised to the highest rank in the land. A man whom, during Belfast's Kristallnacht, defended it by saying:

Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners.

This man and his party were courted, successfully by Labour. 

Coming into the 2015 General Election, the DUP has signaled that it is willing to revive the Labour/DUP deal from 2010. Labour is already on the dancefloor with the DUP, with several Labour MPs already beginning initial discussions with the DUP's leader in the Commons, Nigel Dodds. 

Now, Scottish Labour has formally ruled out any deal to govern with the National party, a social-democratic party well to the Left of Labour which looks set to win a clear majority of the vote and seats in Scotland. 

The DUP has ruled out serving in any coalition with the National party whilst expressing a desire to govern alongside Labour. 

Scottish Labour MP on the, ahem, right
But with Scottish Labour being explicitly clear that anything which is not formally ruled out is ruled in, what does it say for Scottish Labour that they are refusing to rule out a deal with the quasi-fascist Democratic Unionists. We already know that Scottish Labour worked hand in glove with the fascist Orange Order to provide electoral support for Labour in return for Labour turning a blind eye to the hundreds of sectarian marches perpetrated by the Orange Order each year. And we know that Scottish Labour is, in effect, the political wing of the Orange Order, with the Order threatening to become a sectarian terror organisation if the independence that they and Scottish Labour work together to oppose was to come about - a threat never condemned by Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour clearly aren't shy about ruling out working with other political parties. Their deafening, shameful silence on working with the DUP speaks volumes. The party which put Ian Paisley into the Lords is preparing to go into coalition with a party which more closely resembles Golden Dawn or the Front Nationale than a modern European political party. 

Every vote for Scottish Labour is a vote to put the Democratic Unionist Party in power. And every socialist, National, Plaid Cymru and Green MP returned to Parliament is a counterbalance to that. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A point about illegitimacy

It's been said by some (ironically) unionists that any government involving the National party would be illegitimate given that not everyone in the United Kingdom has a chance to vote for them, and that such a government mightn't have won the popular vote, and England wouldn't stand for it, and the largest single party automatically gets to form the government, and Alex Salmond is a BASTARD and IT'S JUST NOT FAIR. 

With that in mind, let's look at some figures.

In the 2010 General Election, not a single elector cast their vote for a coalition government comprising the Conservative party and the Liberal party. 

Gordon Brown was prime minister in 2010 simply by being appointed leader of the Labour party in 2007. The electorate voted overwhelmingly for a Labour manifesto which was predicated on an explicit promise of Tony Blair serving a full term. Nobody was permitted to vote on Gordon Brown as prime minister (and at the first opportunity, he was slung out, with Labour coming in as the second largest party, and still trying to remain in power via a deal with the Liberals).

In the 2005 General Election, the Conservatives won the popular vote in England, defeating the Labour party, whose nominee for prime minister, one Tony Blair, clung onto office.

In the 2001 General Election, of the 659 seats in the House of Commons, the victorious Labour party contested only 640 (the Liberal party contested only 639). It was considered in 2001 quite legitimate that the good people of Glasgow (Springburn) and of the north of Ireland should be governed by the Labour party without having had the opportunity to vote for a Labour candidate.

John Major limped into the 1997 General Election governing without a Commons majority and relying on the support of the nine Ulster Unionist Party MPs to carry on, with a vote on closing mines only won after offering £10m concessions for industrial electricity users in the north of Ireland. In a previous vote, UUP MPs voted with Major after being promised an interconnector to Scottish Power. 

If all of those governments are illegitimate (and if Labour, coming second in England, governing with SNP support is illegitimate, then so must they be), can I have all of the taxes I've paid since the 1997 General Election back, please?

Finnish General Election: another blow for Nato and the EU

Having suffered a series of blows in the last few years, most notably the unforseen consequences of its coup d'état in the Ukraine, Nato will be reeling this morning from the results of Finland's general election, which has been won by Keskusta, the Centre Party. It now looks likely that Juha Sipilä will be appointed as prime minister if he can form a coalition.

It's also another blow for the European Union, with the anti-EU Finns Party (formerly the True Finns), a sort of Finnish version of Ukip, holding the balance of power. In Finland, the largest party in parliament generally nominates the Pääministeri, with Cabinet positions being dished out to other parties depending on their importance for keeping the Head Minister in power.

Alexander Stubb is in the Gordon Brown position, bless him - he was appointed as chairman of the governing Kansallinen Kokoomus only last year, and at the earliest possible opportunity, the Finns have kicked the poor chap out of office, and his party has finished third.

The final number of seats won in the Eduskunta by each party is as follows, with 100 needed for a majority:

Keskusta, the Centre Party: 49 (+14);
Perussuomalaiset, the Finns: 38 (-1);
Kansallinen Kokoomus, the National Coalition: 37 (-7);
Suominen Socialidemokraattinen, the Social Democrats: 34 (-8);
Vihreä Liitto, the Greens: 15 (+5);
Vasemmistoliitto, the Left Alliance: 12 (-2);
Svenska folkpartiet, the Swedish National Party: 9 (-);
Kristillisdemokraatit, the Christian Democrats: 5 (-1);
and there is also a solitary M.P. for the autonomous Åland republic, who generally sits with the Sfp.

Disappointingly, Santa's constituency in Lapland didn't vote for the Left Alliance, instead throwing out its Kokoomus MP and replacing her with a Centre MP. 

The Centrists, like the UK and Australian Liberals, are rather misleadingly named: they're a right-wing Eurosceptic group dedicated to increasing austerity in Finland by advocating wage freezes for public sector workers and public spending cuts. 

Timo Soini, the leader of Finnkip, ran his election campaign on the issue of opposition to further bailouts for the Hellenic Republic, and is likely to insist on stringent fiscal controls for the Euro as part of any coalition deal. They are eurosceptic in both senses: being against both membership of the Union and the Euro (although they are no longer calling for an exit from either in the short-term). 

European Union membership is not universally popular in Finland: the government was obliged to hold a referendum on membership, which only scraped past with the In side on 56,9% of the vote and the Out side on 43,1. A separate referendum in Åland had 73,6% in favour of joining. In contrast, the United Kingdom's - a country generally regarded as obstreperous and eurosceptic - referendum on joining Europe attracted 67,2% in favour of joining with only 32,8% being against. Perussuomalaiset have found a niche in the market for an anti-European party.

It's not at all unlikely, furthermore, that the defeated Head Minister, Alexander Stubb, will take part in the Cabinet: together, Keskusta, Perussuomalaiset, and Kansallinen Kokoomus, all parties from the right or centre-right, have a majority whereas a coalition involving only Keskusta and Perussuomalaisetwould be 13 seats short, needing support from the Left (although it's likely that the Sfp. and Christian Democrats could be prevailed upon to support the government on a vote-by-vote basis). 

The Scandinavian kingdoms have tended towards a cordon sanitaire approach to populist parties such as Perussuomalaiset since their emergence into the various parliaments, but Finland, whilst being Nordic, has always stood slightly apart from the other Nordic states: where they are kingdoms, Finland is a republic; where they are Scandinavian, Finland is Fennian and Karelian; where their languages are similar, Finnish is Nordically unique; and where they traditionally look to Europe, Finland has always looked to Moscow rather than Brussels. And carrying on this degree of separation from the other Nordic states, Sipilä has made clear that he will not rule out Perussuomalaiset participating in the new government. In terms of realpolitik, of course, he'd be mad to, because if he did, they'd be likely to vote alongside an alternative coalition out of spite. 

Sipilä has, according to Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, already begun informal coalition talks with "other political leaders", likely to be Soini and Stubb, ahead of government formation talks due to begin next week. Sipilä has promised to bring a government programmed before Eduskunta within a month. It is considered likely in Finland that he will govern the country in a Blair-style "kitchen cabinet" way given his technocratic experience as chief executive of various large companies. He is expected to govern almost as a chief executive, in fact, with Eduskunta responding to his wishes. And in Finland, the Head Minister has a great degree of power, with the unwritten division of responsibilities being that the President has responsibility over foreign affairs and the Head Minister a great deal of latitude in internal affairs. One might see it as akin to the Blair/Brown relationship in the years of New Labour.

It's the worst result in the history of the Social Democrats, and it looks extremely unlikely, if not politically impossible, that they can be represented in the new government. Taking the Social Democrats and Left Alliance together, the Left-wing parties lost ten seats in total and now hold only 23% of Eduskunta. Finland is in, clearly, for five years of austerity and populism as the economy grinds to a shuddering halt. 

In terms of gender representation, the new Eduskunta brings good news - 41,5% of all new MPs are female, with the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Left Alliance all having a majority of woman MPs. The Greens and Coalition are not far behind, with 46,7% and 43,2% of their MPs being female respectively. The Swedes, Centre and Finns trail in with roughly a third of their MPs women. Helsinki also sent two immigrant MPs to Eduskunta of its 22 seats: Nazima Razmyar of the Social Democrats, and Ozan Yanar from the Greens, born respectively in Afghanistan and Turkey. Finland has previously elected legislators born to foreign parents in Finland, or born in neighbouring Sweden (such as the outgoing Åland MP, Elisabeth Nausiér) and Estonia, but never a non-Nordic immigrant.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Likely declaration times - 2015 General Election

I thought you may be interested in the potential running order of the results in three weeks time. Using the declaration times from the 2010 edition as a guide, I'm basing these on the fact that the constituency boundaries are unchanged, and that although an increased turnout is likely, this is unlikely to significantly expect the order of the results, even though it may push the timeframes out slightly.

The times, other than where explicated, indicate the rough time at which the constituency was declared in 2010. Minister' seats are in bold text and Labour front-benchers in bold italics. Regretfully, it's likely we'll wait until past 4am to see a minister lose his seat. I have included Jim Murphy's seat, despite his not being a member of the Cabinet, Shadow Cabinet, or Scottish Parliament Shadow Cabinet. The first big-hitter with a chance of losing their seat is Douglas Alexander, expected after 2am. Glasgow (East), Maggie Curran's seat, declared before him in 2010, but the glacial pace of counts coupled with the anticipated closeness of seats in Glasgow will see results there pushed out somewhat, despite the logical expectation that small urban seats ought to declare quickly.

0700 - polls open
2200 - polls close
2201 - exit poll (UK-wide)
2300 - first declaration in Britain (Sunderland Council has been first for five elections)
0100 - Rutherglen, and Hamilton (West)
0115 - Motherwell and Wishaw
0130 - East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
ibid -- North East Fife
ibid -- Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
ibid -- na h-Eileanan an Iar
ibid -- Lanark, and Hamilton (East)
0145 - East Lothian
ibid -- Dundee (West)
0200 - Glenrothes
ibid -- Kilmarnock and Loudon
ibid -- Falkirk
ibid -- Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
ibid -- Angus
ibid -- Dunfermline and West Fife
ibid -- Inverclyde
ibid -- Glasgow East
0215 - Paisley and Renfrewshire (South). 
ibid -- Dundee (East)
ibid -- Cumbernauld, Kilysth and Kirkintilloch (East)
ibid -- Livingston
ibid -- Airdrie and Shotts
ibid -- Glasgow (Central)
0230 - Stirling
ibid -- Mid-Lothian
ibid -- Linlithgow and Falkirk (East)
ibid -- Paisley and Renfrewshire (North)
ibid -- Perth and Perthshire (North)
ibid -- Glasgow (North)
0245 - East Renfrewshire
ibid -- Glasgow (South West)
ibid -- Edinburgh (East)
ibid -- Dunbartonshire (West)
ibid -- Glasgow (South)
0300 - Moray
ibid -- Edinburgh (South West)
ibid -- East Dunbartonshire
0315 - Glasgow (North West)
ibid -- Edinburgh (North and Leith)
ibid -- Glasgow (North East)
0330 - Ayrshire (Central)
ibid -- Edinburgh (West)
ibid -- Berwickshire, Roxburgh, and Selkirk
ibid -- Caithness, Sutherland, and Easter Ross
ibid -- Ayr, Carrick, and Cumnock
0345 - Aberdeen (South)
ibid -- Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale, and Tweedsdale
ibid -- Ayrshire (North and Arran)
0400 - Banff and Buchan
ibid -- Dumfries and Galloway
ibid -- Ochil and South Perthshire
0415 - Aberdeen (West and Kincardine)
ibid -- Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch, and Strathspey
ibid -- Gordon
0430 - Aberdeen (North)
0445 - Ross, Skye, and Lochaber
0500 - Edinburgh (South)
0600 - Orkney and Shetland
1400 - Argyll and Bute

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Murphy Bounce

Oh dear. It's not going to plan for Jim Murphy. The plan was a simple one hatched after being sacked by Ed Miliband from the Shadow Cabinet: use his experience and public recognisability to mount a coup against Johann Lamont. Be the big, clunking Westminster fist and put a bit of stick about. Hope Ed Miliband didn't win the General Election. Replace him. Become prime minister of a country tired of two terms of Conservative rule at the age of 51. Or, in the worst case scenario, be the powerful Blairite leader of a significant number of MPs and hold a weak Miliband to ransom, John Major-style.

Oh dear.

To be fair to the hapless unionist extremist, he did manage to pull some of it off. He successfully managed to outwit Johann Lamont.

Although it was much closer than he would have wished: rather than the coronation he wanted - and probably needed - he only managed to get 55% of the vote.

But aside from that, it's all gone horribly wrong. Far from the Scottish Labour group of MPs giving him a power base from which to extract Blairite concessions from Ed Miliband in the Commons, it's gone entirely the opposite way. 

Now, he's been thrown under a bus. His bosses in London have clearly calculated that the number of seats Murphy can bring them by being allowed to, well, be Jim Murphy, in Scotland is far outweighed by the damage he would do to them in England. So they've ditched him. 

There were dozens of ways Ed Miliband could have gone about reassuring middle England that austerity will continue under Labour without publicly humiliating Jim Murphy. It's very telling that he chose to send a member of the Shadow Cabinet out - a man who himself is tipped to one day replace Miliband - to utterly destroy Jim Murphy on live television, to call him a liar, and to cut the man off at the knees. It's clear that the Labour leadership has now given up on Scotland, and it might very well be the case that they've calculated that it's best to destroy Scottish Labour and potentially start again, with the added bonus of destroying Jim Murphy's political career into the bargain. 

Murphy tried desperately to get one of Labour's fifteen constituency MSPs to stand down and let him into Holyrood, but he couldn't manage it. Is it conceivable that not a single MSP could be persuaded by the offer of a peerage? I don't believe so. Might it have been the case that Murphy wasn't able to offer a peerage because the leadership didn't want to help him? It's not outwith the bounds of possibility, is it?

Murphy's seat is a marginal one in the new Scotland, with a now small majority of 21.452 over the National party. Ashcroft polling in his constituency showed that Murphy would hold onto the seat by three points. However, 3% of respondents said they'd vote Green - but the Greens have now confirmed they're not standing. If the Labour vote collapses further, and the Greens vote National instead of one of the four Unionist parties, or Class War, Murphy's seat is gone, his position as branch manager untenable, and his career in politics struggling badly to exist.

We were told there was going to be a Murphy bounce, but there's so much in the man's past that Labour voters seem to be looking for excuses to ditch him - and he's not shy about providing them. Indeed, his appalling behaviour in the three televised debates - aggressively howling down and screaming at the First Minister - must have alienated voters by the hundred, particularly women voters. 

There has been a Murphy bounce, but it rather resembles the bounce one observes when hurling a tomato from the roof of a tower block.

The graph above shows how popular Murphy's leadership has been. In opinion polling so far, he's never made it above a third of people intending to vote for his party. The last time Labour failed to get at least a third of the vote in Scotland was the 1931 General Election; the last time they failed to breach the 30% mark was 1918. 

Murphy is not doing well, and it seems that the more the Scottish people get to know him, the less they like him.

For a man who's very vocal and very visible, he's been very voiceless today since his public dressing-down by his bosses. There's no more strutting around the country, pretending to be some sort of leader. Indeed, the man who's on television more often than the test card has - in an unprecedented move - turned down an invitation to come on STV's Scotland Tonight show this evening and explain exactly why the Labour leadership has thrown him to the wolves and made a conscious decision to publicly humiliate him.

It'll be interesting to see if we see Jim Murphy between now and the General Election. Because for a man whose first statement upon taking office was that he didn't need permission from London to rewrite policy, and who has now had that shot down in flames, he's lost every shred of authority he ever had over Scottish Labour, and has lost every shred of dignity he once had. 

Murphy is toast.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Why Jim Murphy might want Labour to lose

"Is he doing it deliberately?" is the question which springs instantly to mind when one looks at the chaotic campaign being run by struggling Scottish Labour spokesman Jim Murphy.

It's almost inconceivable to imagine that such a disastrous general election campaign could be happening organically: the Labour express has gone from Disaster Central to Crisis Halt, and looks as though it'll be terminating at Wipeout Junction. 

When the election to be Labour's spokesman in Scotland was announced, those of us who wish ill on the Scottish Labour Party and intend to do them harm felt a bit down. They had a decent, progressive socialist, untainted by association with the shameful experiment in neo-liberalism that was New Labour, who has actually got experience in the real world of work, a strong background in trade unionism, and a genuine link between Scottish Labour and the voters who had started to flirt with leaving, but hadn't committed to abandoning the party wholesale. 

And then, with the unerring talent of Scottish Labour when presented with two options, they chose the wrong one. They chose Jim Murphy - a man inextricably linked with the sleaze and violence which categorised the New Labour era which had so alienated the party from its heartland supporters.

The metropolitan media interviewed each other, and Jim Murphy. And they all agreed with each other that Murphy was just the chap to throw a bit of stick about, whip the jocks back into line, and get the kudos for reviving a moribund party structure up north. They didn't ask the voters, though, for whom Mr Murphy represents exactly the sort of sleazy, greasy, besuited, grubbing, troughing, brown-brogued careerist machine politician that they so despise.

But even having selected the wrong leader, Scottish Labour really ought to be doing better. The latest poll shows only a quarter of Scots intend to vote for Labour this time. In 2011, widely viewed as the most catastrophic ever for Labour (and the point, natürlich, at which they would re-engage with Scotland, you see, at which they would listen to our voters and realise we lost touch with the electorate. They sound more like Tony Mowbray with every passing election with the "I know what's going wrong and I know how to fix it" shtick") when they won only 31,7% of the constituency vote. They won 42% of the vote a year earlier. 

31,7% of the constituency vote in this election would represent a triumph from adversity which would make St Lazarus of Bethany seem like a bit of a quitter. It would be a late victory and a cause for celebration which would leave Jimmy Glass in the shade. 

However, having selected the wrong leader, they subsequently set about conducting exactly the wrong campaign. 

There's not been a single leaflet or poster from Scottish Labour telling Scots why we should vote for the party which has won a majority of Scottish seats since the 1950s. Their entire campaign has been about the National party. They have raised the Nationalists in the public consciousness to unprecedented levels. Every Scottish Labour press conference is about the Nationalists. When their leaders come up from London to lecture us, the speeches are about the Nationalists. Their Twitter feed is called @ScottishLabour, but is a Twitter account which seems to be entirely about the National party. 

They've not covered themselves in glory on the social progressivity side of things either, trying to raise money from racists by selling merchandise demanding that The Foreigners be restricted from entering the country. In fact, they seem to have only two campaign themes: "SNP bad" and "it's a nice country, but a few too many foreigners".

Scottish Labour, when it's not been demonising immigrants, has spent their election campaign talking the National party and its influence up. It has even brought the idea of a second independence referendum into Scotland's overton window, a risk considering the mauling the party took as a result of its behaviour - not its position - in the first referendum. 

At every twist and every turn since Murphy became leader, they've taken the wrong decision and made the wrong choice.

Jim Murphy charming the audience at a recent leadership debate

And it makes me think - what if Murphy wants Labour to lose this election?

If Labour wins the election, Ed Miliband will be prime minister and Murphy, an extremist Blairite, will remain purged. Almost Miliband's first acts as leader was to sack Murphy. There is no way back for Murphy as long as Miliband is Labour leader.

Murphy insists that he wants to be Labour's candidate for First Minister in 2016, but bizarrely, he's standing for re-election as a Westminster MP when the Scottish election takes place less than a year after he would be sworn in, if successful. 

But if Miliband loses the election, then Murphy is in a very convenient place. 

The "left-wing" experiment will have failed, and the Blairites, of whom Murphy is a very prominent one, will be in pole position to "reclaim" the Labour Party. He will be a Westminster MP - one with much more experience than Miliband when he became leader. He will have served under the leadership of three Labour leaders, two of them prime ministers, and have Cabinet experience. He will have "leadership" experience from Scotland (and will spin this as sacrificing his Shadow Cabinet career to save the Scottish party from total wipeout). 

If Labour don't win the election, and there's a huge bloc of SNP MPs who're just short of preventing the Tories from controlling the government, there's only really two men who benefit from it - David Cameron, and Jim Murphy.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Helsinki calling

Next month, Scots go to the polls to decide whether to vote SNP and make Ed Miliband prime minister, or vote for Scottish Labour and their plan to go into coalition with the Conservatives, keeping David Cameron in 10 Downing Street.

But before that, a brief interlude from our friends in Finland. 

Next Sunday, the Finnish general election takes place, and Finns will send 200 delegates to the unicameral Eduskunta. The current government is a four-party Grand Coalition comprising the conservative National Coalition, the Social Democrats, the Swedish People's Party, and the Christian Democrats. The Greens, and the Left Alliance were original members of the coalition but flounced out in a huff last year, the Greens in September for the not unreasonable objection that the government decided to build a brand new nuclear power plant, and Vasemmistoliitto over budget cuts to social welfare in April.

Halfway through the present parliament, the National Coalition leader Jyrki Katainen announced that he was resigning to spend more time with his consonants, and Alexander Stubb replaced him as Kokoomus leader and prime minister almost exactly a year ago.

The opposition is made up of the Ukip-style True Finns, the Centre Party, the aforementioned Left Alliance and Greens, two dissident MPs who voted against the Left Alliance's official choice for prime minister and walked out of the party, and an MP who somehow managed to get himself expelled from the True Finns for saying that Anders Breivik's terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utoeya could be explained by Norway being too soft on immigration.

Since Finnish independence, no party has ever won a majority in the Eduskunta partly owing to the republic's proportional representation system, although the 1916 general election, when Finland was a grand duchy within Russia, did produce a slim majority of two seats for the Social Democrats. 

Current opinion polling seems to suggest that Finland will continue to wait for a majority government (who could have predicted that Finland would have won the Eurovision Song Contest before it elected a majority government...), with the most recent poll from Taloustutkimus showing a Centre party lead of about 8,7%. 

In descending order, the last poll shows:

Centre 24,9%
Social Democrats 16,2%
National Coalition 16,1%
True Finns 14,6%
Green League 8,9%
Left Alliance 8,5%
Swedish Peoples' Party 4,5%
Christian Democrats 3,9%
Others 2,4%

That translates very roughly (and not completely proportionally because of the way Finland is divided electorally into not-entirely-equal-sized ridings) into a seat prediction from Accuscore of 

Centre 53 seats (+17)
True Finns 36 (-1)
Social Democrats 35 (-7)
National Coalition 34 (-10)
Left Alliance 16  (+4)
Green League 14 (+4)
Swedish Peoples' Party 9 (-)
Christian Democrats 2 (-4)
Others 1 (-)

The "Other" MP is Åland's solitary MP (an independent who currently sits with the Swedish representatives in parliament).

Finland is well used to coalition government. The current configuration is 21 seats short of a majority (if the projections are accurate). Assuming the Left Alliance and the Greens have pished on their chips, this would mean they'd have to bring the True Finns into power if they want to keep the Centre Party out. 

Another logical configuration would be the Centre-Social Democrats-Greens, which would only have a majority of 1. Adding the Left Alliance to that would build a strong centre-left government with a comfortable majority. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A question which needs an answer

Tonight on STV, the leaders of the main Scottish political parties, excluding the Green Party and Socialist, but bizarrely including the neo-fascist BNP fanboy David Coburn of Ukip, which has never retained its deposit in any parliamentary election in Scotland, will debate the upcoming General Election.

Happily, it's not just restricted to party leaders: Jim Murphy has been invited to speak on behalf of the Scottish Labour party, whose leader, Ed Miliband, the MP for Doncaster North, is otherwise engaged with Tony Blair.

Under the watchful gaze of the nation, tonight would be an excellent time for Mr Murphy to make a public, cast-iron commitment that Scottish Labour MPs will not, under any circumstances, join any coalition or confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservative Party. He can formally declare that if there is any such grand coalition, Scottish Labour MPs under his, ahem, leadership, will not be taking the government whip nor be ministers in the government. 

Guide to stains: shirt - egg; hands - blood

The man who danced with jubilant glee as his bombs immolated Iraqi children in their homes, schools and hospitals, can take this opportunity to distance himself from the Scottish Labour activists who have been chapping the doors of Scottish Labour voters, pleading with them to vote Conservative to keep the National party out.

And the man whose family moved to PW Botha's South Africa to gain financially from the crime against humanity that was Apartheid can formally declare that his Scottish Labour MPs will vote alongside the progressive bloc at the first opportunity to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street.

There is a sense that Scottish Labour is preparing for a coalition with the Conservatives - a coalition just like the quarter of all Scottish local authorities where Scottish Labour and the Tories are in coalition. A coalition government just like the three governments in the last century where Labour went into coalition with the Tories. 

If Jim Murphy doesn't rule out a Scottish Labour coalition with the Tories in the debate this evening, you know why.

And you'll know that every single vote in Scotland for a Labour MP will make it more likely that David Cameron can stay in Downing Street as prime minister.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Vespa crabro

An admission: I am fucking terrified of wasps. I dislike the sound they make when they buzz. I hate the way they move. I dislike the way they follow me when I have a can of coke. I fear their stings. I have a bit of a phobia of them, actually. I like bees, they're fluffy and cuddly, and they're quite sound: they know the craic - I'm not going to hurt them, and they're not going to hurt me, because we have a mutual destruction pact: if I hurt a bee, it'll sting me. And it'll be sore for me, and the bee will die. So why would we hurt one another?

Wasps are different. They're the opposite of bees. I've been scared of the little bastards since I was a child. They even look evil. If one comes near me, I flap in terror, like a pigeon trapped in a bin bag.

I thought this would be the scariest thing I could face - an animal which can sting and poison me repeatedly and fatally, with no risk at all to itself. 

So you can imagine my horror when I came home from work one day three years ago and turned the bath on, and noticed on the wall a massive hornet. From head to sting, the beast was at least 15cm in length, and it was the width of a damn good cigar. 

You will be proud to know that I stood up to the creature like a man. I ran out of the bathroom in terror, closed the door, and chapped my neighbours' door to ask for help. After Radek and Wojciech got over their laughter, they came in to assist in the disposal of the brute. 

With no insect repellent, they attacked the devil with a full can of deodorant. It fell from the wall onto the floor, but kept moving. A can of air-freshener got it subdued onto the bath mat, and a couple of rapid blows with a newspaper dealt the coup de grace to it.

I sat and had a cup of tea to recover, and then pulled the edge of the bath mat onto the landing, intending to flip the corpse out of the window. And, do you know what it did? It twitched! It was still alive after all that.

Never, ever underestimate the survival instinct of a creature made of approximately four parts acetylcholine, two parts malevolence, and one part violent subjugation. 

And that brings me neatly onto the Scottish Labour Party. 

The polls are not good for them now. They are set to lose anywhere between half and all of their seats in Scotland at the upcoming Westminster election, punishment from an outraged populace disgusted, not so much at their position, but at their behaviour in the independence referendum. 

But never, ever underestimate it. The air-freshener of the National party might be skooshing merrily into the spiracles of the Labour hornet, and the deodorant of the Socialists, Greens and RIC, as well as disgusted ex-Labour voters working its way through the thorax of loyalism, but the trachaeae can close when we least expect it. 

And that's what's behind the concerted effort this weekend, a last, desperate effort to save Scottish Labour from the rolled-up newspaper of the Scots. Collusion between the British civil service, the British regime, the Scottish Labour Party and the right-wing press designed to undermine the Scots' confidence that we can splatter the hornet over the linoleum with the repeated application of a sandal. 

The British are well aware that the survival of their state - their nuclear weapons, their value to Nato, their strategic military position, their place on the UN Security Council, their "big player" status, their influence, their wealth - relies entirely on Scotland remaining a part of the United Kingdom. If Scotland goes, then at a stroke, Britain becomes a second or third-rate power with little to offer the great powers and a correspondingly declining influence. 

So the British, in the knowledge that only Scottish Labour can continue to maintain Scotland's place in the Union, are abandoning their traditional antipathy to the party and are doing everything in their power, by fair means or foul, to promote and to save the Scottish Labour Party. 

Let's not gloat at the polls. They're worthless until the final vote is counted. 

Redouble your efforts. Get out and canvass for the anti-Scottish Labour candidate most likely to win in your constituency. 

Let's make sure that on May the 8th, when we go to throw the bath mat out of the window, that there isn't a faint buzz. 

Don't be complacent. 

Don't let them back in.