Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A bit of fun

On Thursday, 12th May, the modern Scottish Parliament will convene for the fifth time. The first order of business will be for MSPs to take their oaths. The second, to elect the President and her/his deputies. 

The third is to elect the First Minister. 

Now, the election is six weeks away, and there is plenty of time for a black swan moment to stop the plunge of Scottish Labour (a change of "leader", for instance, which is now inevitable after Kezia Dugdale's humiliation over the withdrawal of her flagship policy this afternoon) in the polls. 

Notwithstanding the current polls, it hardly requires the introduction of alien space bats to imagine a scenario where the SNP, which has governed for eight years, loses five of its 65 seats but storms to an easy victory; Scottish Labour lose "only" eleven seats and the Liberals three of their five, and where these go directly to the Conservatives as the strongest Unionist party. The Greens, on a good day, might well increase their present number of seats to double figures.

Imagine this was the result:

SNP 58
Conservatives 30
Scottish Labour 27
Greens 10
Liberals 2

and the Greens provided the Presiding Officer, as well as choosing to stand Patrick Harvie in the election for First Minister, demonstrating their independence from the Nationalists. 

The brighter readers amongst you - and perhaps even some Unionists - will have noticed that that gives the following votes available in the First Minister contest:

Combined Unionists: 59
SNP: 58
Greens: 10

There would be no majority, and the Greens would be eliminated, but the moral pressure on them not to vote against the "winners" of the election would be huge. 

I wonder, if those numbers were possible, would Scottish Labour stand its own candidate for the first time since Jack McConnell lost nine years ago, which would have the effect of keeping Nicola Sturgeon in Bute House, or would they stand, in Kezia Dugdale's own phrase, shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives?

Perhaps the fact that nobody could guess the answer with any confidence is the very reason why Scottish Labour will be nowhere near 27 seats. 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

"Never Again" - Scots give their opinion on Scottish Labour's chances of governing

There's an interesting poll in today's Sunday Post, taken by Survation, which - amongst other things - reveals that the majority of respondents don't believe that the Scottish Labour party will ever govern the country again. 

It's not an unreasonable belief. Having lost many lifelong supporters, particularly in working-class areas in the West, over their two-year alliance with the Conservatives, they seem Hell-bent on alienating the rest of them. Whether it's "Kez" Dugdale's Paisleyesque anti-Catholic rants, or their plan to tax the lowest-earning workers to pay for not taxing wealth, they seem to be retreating into an uneasy core alliance of Edinburgh lawyers and far-Right loyalists.

It's interesting to note, though, the extend to which the moribundity of the branch office has affected their electoral performance. It's probably relatively widely-known that Scottish Labour has never gained a seat in a Scottish Parliament election (they lose, on average, six seats per Holyrood election, with "Kez" on course to triple that in May), but what will almost certainly be less-widely known is that they haven't managed to gain a seat in a Westminster election this century.

There are people who will vote in the General Election in six weeks time who were not alive the last time Scottish Labour gained a seat in a Parliamentary election - a section of society to whom electoral success for Scottish Labour is something they learn in history; like dinosaurs, or Jim Murphy.

So, on the day we celebrate Christ rising from the dead in a comeback unmatched until England's performance in Berlin this evening, I thought it might be fun to explore what the world was like the last time Scottish Labour gained a seat in an election.

Holyrood: Scottish Labour has never gained a seat in an election to the national legislature.

Westminster: We have to go back to last century to the last time Scottish Labour gained a seat in a Westminster election. They won seven! 

The last time Scottish Labour gained a seat in a Westminster election, John Major was British prime minister. The Scottish Parliament did not exist, nor did the Republic of Montenegro. The Euro had not yet come into being. Kezia Dugdale was 15 years old. The day after their triumph, Katrina and the Waves won the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin for the United Kingdom. 

In 1997, Bill Clinton was president of the United States, and Che Guevara was buried. Apple hired a young man called Steve Jobs. South Park appeared on television for the first time, and Princess Diana was looking forward to a nice break in France. al-Qaeda carried out its firs terrorist attack, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was discovered that vCJD was caused by Mad Cow Disease. For the first time ever, a woman succeeded another woman as elected head of State (in Ireland; both women were also called Mary. The election of Michael D. Higgins in 2011 was the first time since 1973 that someone not called Mary won a Presidential election). 

9/11 was a popular band, and the World Trade Center (sic) was best known for being a place of business.

Europe: Scottish Labour's last gain in a European election came through winning seats in South of Scotland and North-East Scotland from the Conservatives (they lost the latter to the Nationalists in the very next election) waaaaaaay back in 1989. 

In 1989, Japan's Emperor, Hirohito, who had lead the empire through the Second World War, died. Cuba withdrew its troops from Angola, the Soviet Union left Afghanistan (whose insurgents, led by a young man called Osama bin Laden, were armed and funded by Nato, in what may have been something of a strategic error), and Ronald Reagan departed as president of the United States, being replaced by CIA chief George Bush. 

Sky Television was launched - literally - and PW Botha resigned as president of South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was in jail. Salman Rushdie had a fatwa issued against him, and the Estonian flag was raised for the first time in half a century. CFCs were prohibited. 

Three months before Scottish Labour last gained a seat in European elections, Tim Berners-Lee proposed the Internet, and the Communist party lost seats in the Soviet elections.

Namibia was still Southwest Africa, Yugoslavia was still Yugoslavia, and the USSR was still the USSR, making it substantially easier for Scotland, England and Ireland to qualify for the upcoming Italia '90, which was won by West Germany. The Soviet Union issued its first Visa card. John Paul II was a young, reforming Pope. Margaret Thatcher was British prime minister. Disney World opened, and the USA invaded Panama. 

Ireland opened its first university since the establishment of the State, and planning was underway to build its second motorway. In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested. West Germany won a double in Wimbledon, with Steffi Graf and Boris Becker taking the honours. The Lebanese hanged an American colonel for espionage. 

Two million citizens of Latvia, Estonian and Lithuania demonstrated in support of independence from the USSR, as Voyager-2 passed Neptune. FW de Klerk's National party won the South African elections, and East Germany closed its border with Czechoslovakia. The Hungarian Communist party became the Hungarian Socialist party, and then became the Hungarian opposition. 

When Scottish Labour made its last gain in this election, Erich Honecker was president of East Germany, Apartheid existed, Gordon "Mental" Wilson was leader of the SNP, and Brazil was preparing for its first election since 1960. Gandhi was the prime minister of India, and Mikhael Gorbachev considered legalising religion. The last Japanese troops from World War Two surrendered. Daniel Radcliffe hadn't yet been born. Ken Barlow was married to Deirdre (the first time). 

Kezia Dugdale was preparing to celebrate her eighth birthday.

Scottish Labour's electoral success, truly, is part of history. A party of the past, fit for the past, and soon to be consigned to the past.

When I was doing the research for this article, I discovered that the flag of the Republic of Turkmenistan symbolises the carpet industry. It was nothing to do with anything above, but I thought you'd all like to know that.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Scottish Labour: pining for the fjords

Today is the Scottish Labour conference. Bravely, they are holding their special day in the Yes City of Glasgow - a city which dealt a considered rejection to their constititional position in 2014 before calmly and coldly eliminating every single one of their MPs last May.

This May, Glasgow would be a Labour-free zone if not for the beleaguered Unionists cheating the List system and forcing politicians rejected by the electorate into Parliament (No, it seems, only means No in referendums).

Once upon a time, the Scottish Labour conference set the political agenda for the nation. Today, it resembles a support group for psychologically-damaged individuals who need to vent, crossed with the more fruitcakey elements of the fringe conspiracy-theory parts of their erstwhile allies from Ukip. All this in a tone resembling tub-thumping 1979s Ulster loyalist preachers.

The remarkable thing about the behaviour of the conference is that it's not coming from the lunatic fringes of Unionism, but the heart of the Party. A candidate for May's election took to the stage to rant that ”the SNP believes in dictatorship ". (This is reminiscent of lead Glasgow candidate Anas Sarwar, who accused the Scottish Parliament of " not being a democratic place").  The behaviour is indistinguishable from that of Nigel Farage following the Oldham by-election. So wrapped up was he in his cocoon of Ukip lunacy that he genuinely couldn't believe that people weren't voting for him. The only credible explanation, in his fevered mind, was that Muslims must have committed large-scale voting fraud.

That's the mentality Scottish Labour is in just now - heavily redolent of the nuttier fringes of Ukip fruitcakery. It's not a good look - and that's why the Labour party in England is slowly edging, horrified, away from them.

Jeremy Corbyn, astonishingly, is boycotting his own party's Scottish conference, as is shadow finance minister John McDonnell, whose calculated insult is even more a slap in the face when one considers he is giving a speech just metres from the Conference venue. 

It's not the first slap in the face to the party's beleaguered "leader", Kezia Dugdale. Last week, a Jeremy Corbyn for PM roadshow event in Edinburgh saw speaker after speaker praise the SNP for its consistent opposition to Tory austerity. Dugdale, humiliatingly, was not mentioned at any time. This resulted in a formal letter of complaint being sent by violent, drunken, anti-Catholic bigot (and Scottish Labour peer) George Foulkes to Corbyn. 

And you can result assured that a furious, spittle-flecked missive from Dugdale's mentor would not have been sent other than at her bidding.

Scottish Labour has become an embarrassment to Labour in particular and the Left in general, and both are edging away. This could have also have been seen in a quite extraordinary exchange between Scottish Labour troll Duncan Hothersall (a sock puppet for the Scottish party's " leadership") and the Left-wing journalist and author Owen Jones, who is close to the party leadership, which led to Owen denouncing Scottish Labour members as filled with "bitterness and lack of self awareness", and pointing out the closeness of Scottish Labour and the Conservatives. He went on to bemoan Scottish Labour bitterness for "repelling people rather than convincing them", and told Hothersall it is "people like [Hothersall] who need to take responsibility for the situation Scottish Labour is in". 

This is reflective of a Left-wing activist base and leadership in Labour who are looking on in horror at Scottish Labour's hard-right lunge and trying desperately to disassociate themselves from it.

While Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell's plugging away at Tory austerity has brought down Iain Duncan Smith and may yet bring down George Osborne, Scottish Labour supported Tory austerity and campaigned against Corbyn.

That will have been remembered in London. They are preparing to let Scottish Labour twist in the wind in May with no financial or moral support from London. The last Scottish Labour conference had a succession of big names. This year's has Alex Rowley and Bill Butler.

The Labour leadership will have been working closely with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP against Tory cuts while Scottish Labour voted with Osborne and opposed Corbyn. And maybe they've come to the conclusion that they would rather work with a strong, centre-Left SNP bloc to oppose the Tories than a hard-right, divided, bitter rump of ultra-Loyalists and Edinburgh lawyers.