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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Disowning idiocy

Neat move from Carole Erskine. Rather than take personal responsibility for the ill-informed drivel, she dumps blame on some anonymous dinner guest.

One can readily understand why she would want to deny ownership of comments such as the threadbare inanity about a "one-party state". And, as a self-styled 'politics reporter', it is not unreasonable that she would be eager to disown the fallacy about using the second vote to "ensure an effective opposition to the SNP". But it seems a little unfair to make some quite possibly entirely innocent third party the unwitting butt of others' ridicule.

It can hardly have escaped the notice even of one so obviously immersed in the cosy consensus of the mainstream media that there are actually numerous parties standing candidates in the coming election. Not that 'numerous' is necessary. It would require only a single party other than the SNP to make a nonsense of the claim that Scotland is a "one-party state". As pretty much everybody apart from Carole Erskine... Sorry! Carole Erskine's unnamed dinner guest will willingly acknowledge, two is more than one.

But the pish about a "one-party state" isn't only an insult to arithmetic. It is a slur on all of Scotland and its people. It implies that we are no more than the pawns of some arch-manipulator. It portrays us as mere ciphers, rather than effective actors. It discounts the fact that the electoral dominance of the SNP is something knowingly and purposefully engineered by Scotland's voters.

With an arrogance that is offensive in a scatter-gun sort of way, Carole Erskine (and/or some random diner) supposes that the people of Scotland are no more than biddable sheeple being herded by devious politicians. Their sneering contempt for Scotland precludes consideration of the possibility that it might be the other way around. That it may be the people of Scotland who are using the SNP as a tool to shape a new politics of their choosing. That the SNP is being deployed by Scottish voters as a weapon with which to defend Scotland against an increasingly antagonistic British state.

And what of the suggestion that the regional vote can be used to "ensure" anything? If Carole Erskine is truly qualified to be a 'political reporter', why does she not immediately shoot down this daft notion? If it really did come from this mysterious 'dinner guest', oerhaps she was just too polite to point out to them how misguided this is. That must be it! Because it surely couldn't be that a professional journalist was seeking to mislead voters into imagining that Scotland's voting system could be gamed. Perish that thought!

The biggest lie

It is frequently pointed out that “Scottish Labour” is not a real political party. Although not often enough to prevent them persisting in the pretence. There is no such party registered with the Electoral Commission. There is only the British Labour Party. “Scottish Labour” is, in fact, British Labour in Scotland (BLiS).

But they are not alone in attempting this ruse. The “Scottish Conservatives” and “Scottish Liberal Democrats” are no more real than “Scottish Labour”. Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie are no less mere proxies for their bosses in London than Kezia Dugdale. Of all the deceptions perpetrated by the British parties in Scotland, surely the most reprehensible is passing themselves of as autonomous Scottish parties able to formulate policy independently of the ‘parent’ party.

This has profound implications for democracy in Scotland. As Scotland’s political culture diverges from that of the rest of the UK (rUK) the fact that the ‘leaders’ of the British parties in Scotland cannot formulate policy that is informed by this distinctive political culture is increasingly relevant. Ultimately, policy is formulated by the real party leadership in London. A leadership which shows no signs whatever of being aware of the prevailing political culture in Scotland. A leadership which is, in fact, determined to deny any distinctiveness whatever. And to eradicate those differences that cannot be denied.

Whatever the ‘leaders’ of the British parties in Scotland may say, they are subject to the authority of the ‘parent’ party in the same way as any ordinary member of that party. They are prohibited from promoting any policy other than that adopted by the UK party. However much they may pretend otherwise, they cannot make policy for Scotland.

And make no mistake, this applies to devolved areas every bit as much as to reserved matters. It may be that the ‘leaders’ of the British parties’ operations in Scotland are occasionally consulted on policy in devolved areas. But that is as far as it goes. The final decision will always be in the hands of the real leadership. And that decision will always reflect the interests of a UK party immersed in the political culture of rUK. A political culture that is significantly different from that in Scotland. A political culture which steers policy formulation in directions that bear little or no relation to the needs, aspirations and priorities of Scotland’s people.

What this means is that the British parties in Scotland are touting for votes on a false prospectus. They are presenting themselves as Scottish parties when they clearly are not.  Voters may want to reflect on the fact that, by voting for any of the British parties, they are effectively voting for London rule.


Monday, 4 April 2016

Infantile antics

"Questions raised over SNP's £10bn Chinese trade deal", declares the STV website. But are they sensible questions? Is it even a "trade deal"? And, whatever it is, was it actually shrouded in secrecy?

Or is this no more than the kind of infantile antics that have come to characterise the British parties in Scotland?

There was no secret. The signing of the memorandum of understanding was reported. If it was only reported in the niche media that's because it is a matter of only niche interest.

It isn't a trade deal. It's an agreement to have discussions about meetings to have talks about talks about something as yet unspecified which may, some time down the line, become something significant. It's a trivial procedural matter such as is part of the day-to-day business of any government. If the Scottish Government didn't release any "details", it's because there are no "details". There's nothing to report. Nothing has happened, except the opening up of the possibility that something might happen.

There are no sensible questions to be asked. There is nothing more to find out. Everything there is to know is already known. And none of it is stuff that we needed to know anyway.

The overblown, theatrical hysterics of the British parties would be comical were it not for the fact that it is yet another attempt to deceive the people of Scotland.

Are the people of Scotland fooled by this? Only those who want to be. Are voters impressed by the screeching of Jackie Baillie or the whining of Willie Rennie? Not if the polls are within an astronomical distance of being accurate.

Will the British parties ever learn that the people of Scotland are no longer susceptible to their puerile efforts at manipulation? It seems not.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Killing politics

I am 65 years old. In the, slightly more than, half a century that I have been politically aware, I cannot recall a time when ‘we’ were not in the midst of an economic crisis; on the verge of and economic crisis; or struggling to recover from an economic crisis. In all circumstances, the measures commended as the solution to the economic crisis; the means of avoiding it; or the way to ‘safeguard the recovery’ varied, not according to the nature of the crisis, but in line with the personal and partisan interests of the person doing the commending.

There’s rarely anything new in politics. There’s just different ways of presenting the same old crap. The faces change… slightly. But the message remains the same. Be afraid!

Be afraid that you will lose whatever you have. Be afraid that you will lose relative to some other individual or group. Be afraid that things will get worse. Be afraid that you will miss out on an opportunity to make things better.

Be afraid to choose. Be afraid to decide. Be afraid to act. Be afraid to do none of these.

Politics, which should be a contest of dreams, hopes and aspirations has become, instead, a battlefield of nightmares. The dreamers, whose visions of a better community, a better society, or a better world, once inspired endeavours to realise that better community, society or world, are now mocked as woolly-minded fantasists or vilified as dangerous radicals.

To speak of such things as hope and aspiration is to be relegated to the fringes, well away from the ‘real’ politics. Politics has become the near-exclusive province of the pedlars of doom. Once we might have been lifted up by ambitious reformers – bright of eye, big of heart and bearing bold messages of promise and potential and possibility. Now, we are daily brought down by the purveyors of despair and their pebble-eyed, abacus-hearted priesthood of economic orthodoxy.

Alistair Darling is an arse. I guess that’s what I was leading up to. But the statement that this or that British politician is an arse is such a commonplace that some preamble seemed to be required. He’s an arse.

During the first referendum campaign, Darling’s role was to present blatant lies and patent nonsense with a desperately dull, desultory, droning delivery that his operators hoped would lend the authority of a dispassionate automaton to the dishonest drivel oozing out of his head. Many of you will recall that his favourite gobbet of untruth as being the maliciously inane fiction that an independent Scotland would have been liable for the full cost of bailing-out the nominally ‘Scottish’ banks. A plainly false claim that was, of course, never challenged.

The British establishment rewards its loyal servants, and Darling has now been moved from storage in a dusty cupboard at British Labour HQ to the rather more salubrious surroundings of the home for discarded political whores within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster. From whence he can be dragged to recite some portentous scripted pish at the press of that button located just below the slot with the sign saying, “Insert thirty pieces of silver here!”.

What words of wisdom is the ‘Arse That Saved The World’ bestowing on us now? What pearl of profound witlessness is he casting before the plebeian swine? Turns out ‘wur doomed’ again! Who would have thought it? If we don’t do what Darling has been instructed to tell us to do, a bad thing will happen that is worse than the bad thing that will happen if we do (or don’t do) the other thing which some other Darling-thing is telling us is the only way to avoid bad things happening that are worse than the bad things that are going to happen regardless of what we do – or don’t do.
Specifically, the cost of your mortgage will rise if you vote to leave the EU.

Are your knees jerking yet?

A question occurs to me when I hear this. It’s a question that often popped into my mind during the first referendum campaign when I heard the latest pernicious propaganda from Project Fear. Does Darling know that he’s talking nonsense? Or does he actually believe this stuff? Is he a liar? Or is he just unbelievably stupid?

Just as it was obvious to any thinking person that independent Scotland would NOT have been burdened with the cost of rescuing criminally incompetent bankers (for reasons I long since wearied of explaining), so it is just as glaringly obvious that mortgage rates are going to rise regardless of anything else that happens. That’s because there is no other way for them to go. The only way really is up.

Is Darling aware of this? Has it occurred to him? Does it matter? Would he read the script supplied for him anyway?

It’s of no consequence whether there is any truth in the script. It doesn’t even have to make sense. The only consideration is that it is a message of fear. For such is the language of a politics that has been left a dessicated, hollowed-out husk, sucked dry of all dreams, hopes and aspirations. A politics that has been stripped of any relevance to people. A politics that is lost to us – unless we seize it back. And soon.

This article was first published at Indyref2.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Alarms!

For thinking individuals, alarm bells should be ringing as soon as they recognise the involvement in the debate about Named Persons of prating religionists. People who put faith before facts and dogma before reason. People who hold absolute belief in the face of irrefutable contrary evidence to be the purpose and ultimate achievement of the human intellect.

People who have forsaken knowledge, reason and enlightenment in favour of medieval superstition, primitive fear and sectarian intolerance.

When considering the issue of child protection, who but a reckless fool would turn, in the expectation of a rational assessment of policy, to those who worship a deity notorious for its cruel and hateful attitude to children?

If this was not enough to set off those warning klaxons, take a look at who these religious zealots are associated with. Self-serving politicians interested only in scoring points against hated rivals. And irresponsible media mouthpieces interested only in flexing their manipulative muscles.

Were this not enough, even the most moderately intelligent person who has not completely relinquished the capacity to think for themselves should be deeply suspicious of the highly-coloured, blatantly pejorative and unashamedly emotive language deployed by those who, for whatever dubious reason, so vehemently oppose efforts to improve the effectiveness of systems and procedures intended to safeguard our children and young people.

Terms such as 'spies', 'snoopers', 'state guardians', and worse, have no place in serious discussion of child welfare policy. This is not the language of rational debate. This is the language of unreasoning fanaticism. This is not language intended to inform. It is language intended to inflame.

Such language is used to obscure rather than illuminate. We are entitled to wonder exactly what agenda this disreputable rabble are trying to conceal in a fog of grotesquely misleading rhetoric.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The blinkered Brit

What David Mundell needs to learn is that his inability to comprehend something doesn't necessarily make it "odd". The problem may well not be with the concept that is perplexing him, but with his own intellectual capacities.

Mundell's comments suggest that he makes no distinction between the UK and the EU. Both are political unions. Therefore, to his evidently limited way of thinking, they are the same. Thus, he is left utterly confused by the notion that people might want to end one political union, but preserve the other.

This is not a problem for people who understand the nature of the EU and the UK. But, like other British nationalists, Mundell has no idea what the UK is. He doesn't understand it,because he has never questioned it. He has never even thought about it. His attachment to the British state is more instinctive and emotional than intellectual and pragmatic.

This is why the anti-independence campaign was no more than that - an entirely negative anti-independence campaign. There was no pro-union campaign. There could be no positive case for the union because, in order to formulate such a case, unionists would have had to reflect on the question of what the union is. And they simply can't do that.

I doubt if Mundell has any better idea of what the EU is. So it is, perhaps, unsurprising that he can so easily fall into the simplistic folly of equating it with the UK. So, the SNP's position of independence in Europe is bound to be incomprehensible to the poor soul.

He is not alone. Many people make the same mistake. Those on the Yes side in Scotland's constitutional debate are generally people who have questioned the whole concept of the political union between Scotland and England. They are the ones who have scrutinised this constitutional arrangement. And they have found it to be profoundly unsatisfactory.

Yes voters are people who think for themselves. They get behind the propaganda and beyond the sentiment and they look at the reality of the union. Pretty much everybody who does this ends up supporting the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status.

The lever that moves No voters away from their unthinking attachment to the British state is the question that prompts them to start thinking about it. That may well be a different question for each. There is no one 'magic question' that will do the trick. But once the barrier of blind allegiance is breached, the process is self-fulfilling. And there is rarely any going back. Once the illusion is broken, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state cannot be unseen.

The political union between Scotland and England is an arrangement that we, the people, had no part in creating or sanctioning. It is an anachronistic, disfunctional, corrupt union which serves none of the people off these islands well.

It is a union which was always intended to serve the purposes of the ruling elites. A union which, in that regard if no other, has not changed one iota in the last three centuries.

It is a union that sucks the human and material resources out of our nation and in return gives us government by parties that we have emphatically rejected at the polls.

It is a union that imposes policies which are anathema to our people. Policies which have been rejected by our democratically elected representatives.

It is a union which, were we being given that option now, not one of us would vote to join.

For all Mundell's inability to appreciate the fact, there is no meaningful similarity between the UK and the EU. For all its defects - and there are many - it is a modern, democratic organisation. Not perfectly democratic. But the perfectly democratic organisation doesn't exist.

The EU is, in its essence, a bold and largely successful experiment in post-imperial international arrangements. Politicians and bureaucrats may have buggered-up bits of it. But the fundamental idea is sound. Far more sound than the underpinning concept of the UK - which is, basically, just the latest formulation of the 'Greater England' project.

Seeing things as they are dispels confusion. Scotland is a nation. The EU is an association of nations. The UK is more like a cartel dominated by an entrenched clique.

All we seek for Scotland is the right to freely negotiate the terms on which our nation associates with others - be that England, the EU, or any other nation or international organisation. British nationalists are determined to deny us this right. The EU does not. That, if nothing else, is a difference that should be apparent even to a blinkered, dogma-bound unionist ideologue like David Mundell.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

BLiSsful ignorance

If you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle

There are many reasons why British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) is so lamentably failing to address the electoral challenge of the Scottish National Party (SNP). But the ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu, may have captured the essence of this failure in the aphorism quoted above.

As a political campaigning organisation pretending to be a political party, BLiS lacks that essential attribute - a clear vision of what it is and what it stands for. Like any organisation which so completely loses sight of its purpose, BLiS has come to serve only its own perpetuation. It no longer has any objective other than survival. It has no focus outside its own organisational structure. It has no locus other than the machinery of the British political system. It exists only because it has existed. And because its continued existence provides some sort of career prospects for a certain clique.

It's not clear at what point BLiS ceased to be defined by the core principles of a socialist movement. With hindsight, it is possible to see how the Blairite obsession with power and expediency so weakened the links to these core principles as to leave BLiS ripe for transition to an organisation absolutely defined by jealous resentment of and visceral opposition to the party which offended its towering sense of entitlement.

Whatever the historical process involved, there is no denying where BLiS is now. It survives as an empty, hollow thing suspended in a limbo of political pointlessness; anchored to Scottish society only by the increasingly frayed and brittle lifelines provided by the British media. It has no political identity. It has no ethos. It has no plan.

From out of this void come voices every bit as vacuous as the organisation from which they emanate. Voices which speak, only to emphasise the absence of any meaningful message. To hear these voices is to understand just how bereft of ideas BLiS is. There is no coherence. Everything sounds as if it is being spouted on the spur of the moment. Not thoughtful responses, but impromptu retorts and off-the-cuff interventions.

There is a pervasive sense that, every time Kezia Dugdale opens her mouth, she is like an ill-bred child rudely interrupting a serious conversation between the SNP (along with a few others) and the people of Scotland.

As little as BLiS know themselves, they know their 'enemy' - the SNP - very much less. Because they know less than nothing. Here is Dugdale at her fatuous best addressing the BLiS conference,

That’s the difference between socialism and nationalism.

I know that where you are born is an accident of birth, a geographical lottery.

I can’t base my political vision on that.

I didn’t come into politics to help those at the top of Scottish society, just because they are Scottish.

Nor would I turn my cheek to a child living in poverty just because they are born on the other side of a dotted line on a map.

I came into politics to make sure that where you are born doesn’t matter.

I want a country where the place you are going in life isn’t determined by where you began your life.

That’s what being Scottish means to me.

It’s not the idea of Scotland that I love.

It’s the people of Scotland.

How to make any sense out of this! Never mind the fact that she can't seem to make up her mind whether the people of Scotland are insignificant or all-important. Never mind the confusion in the argument that Scotland doesn't matter and being Scottish doesn't matter, but being a person born in Scotland does matter. Or does it? Who the hell knows?

There are rather disturbing hints here of distasteful ethnic nationalism desperately trying to disguise itself with sugary rhetoric.

But it is also clear that Dugdale is not addressing the SNP as we know it but, rather, some grotesque caricature of the party conjured in the minds of British nationalist zealots and those whose rancorous hatred of the SNP has crippled their intellect. It is clear that Dugdale does not know her 'enemy'. It is obvious that she has completely failed to grasp the concept of civic nationalism.

What we have from Dugdale is, not so much a speech, as a collection of noises made by someone with nothing to say. Not only is there a complete lack of understanding of the SNP and its appeal to voters, there is not even an attempt at understanding. It is evident that neither Dugdale nor, as far as can be discerned, anybody else in BLiS has made any effort to understand their electoral foe. And this is why they are, in the words of Sun Tzu, "imperilled in every single battle".

Such analysis involves asking questions. Most of all, it requires a willingness and capacity to question ones own assumptions. If Dugdale would better know her 'enemy' then she could do worse than ask herself this; if the SNP is as she imagines it to be, what does this say about the 115,000 people who have joined the party? Or the thousands more who have declared their intention to vote for the SNP - including members of other parties? What does it say about the 73% of Scotland's people who say that they trust the SNP administration?In the heat of her anti-SNP fervour, Dugdale grossly insults the very people she claims to "love".

BLiS has no clear idea of what it's for. BLiS has no idea at all of what it's against.

I'm pretty sure Sun Tzu would advise Dugdale to desist from mindlessly lashing out at the SNP at least long enough to have a stab at identifying what it is about the party that has struck a chord with the voters. He might even suggest that, having identified this factor, she attempt to emulate it in some way. We might suppose that he would counsel her to reflect on the possibility that it is not the larger par of the Scottish electorate which is wrong - as she persists in implying - but the SNP that is doing something right.

It's a radical idea for BLiS, but they might consider respecting the judgement of Scotland's people. The people know both sides. Only their assessment of the political contestants is of any consequence. And their verdict is pretty clear. BLiS might do well to heed what the people are telling them. That way, they may just get to better know their 'enemy'. And themselves.
That’s the difference between socialism and nationalism.
I know that where you are born is an accident of birth, a geographical lottery.
I can’t base my political vision on that.
I didn’t come into politics to help those at the top of Scottish society, just because they are Scottish.
Nor would I turn my cheek to a child living in poverty just because they are born on the other side of a dotted line on a map.
I came into politics to make sure that where you are born doesn’t matter.
I want a country where the place you are going in life isn’t determined by where you began your life.
That’s what being Scottish means to me.
It’s not the idea of Scotland that I love.
It’s the people of Scotland.
- See more at: http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/blog/entry/kezias-speech-to-scotlab16#sthash.WOYLRUSr.dpuf