Tuesday, September 30, 2008
"I want to win the next election outright. I recognise that even if in doing that we don't have a majority in Scotland I will work with anyone in Scotland, whoever the First Minister is, whoever wants to keep the Union together, to make sure that the Government in Westminster governs in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom."
Am I reading too much into this or is David Cameron saying he is not prepared to work with the SNP if the Conservatives win in 2010?
At some point the Tories, the Lib Dems and Labour will have to accept that a party that wants to see Scotland as an independent nation not only won a national election but is still riding high in the polls.
Simply brushing the independence referendum question under the carpet won't cut it over the next couple of years. The whole of the UK will increasingly want that referendum, even just to vote "No" and put the blasted thing to bed.
Money is tight and building new prisons would take time.
What if we brought in a policy of sending criminals to foreign jails and paying other countries to house them for us?
I'm not talking about a nice little Mediterranean home-from-home either. I daresay the prospect of 6 months in Sarajevo's equivalent of Barlinnie would bring crime statistics plummeting as fast as the FTSE!
Monday, September 29, 2008
But as the news sinks in, I just wonder if there could be some political motivation at play since the Democrats rule the House (feel free to correct me on that).
I thought McCain was playing a canny game before by opposing it. Given most people expected the bill to pass, McCain was in a win-win situation. Had the economy continued to suffer (as it surely would have), the Republican nominee could have had a lot of mileage over how wasteful those Democrats have been with your hard-earned money.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot, the US Economy is in for a torrid time in the run up to the election and Obama can campaign on this missed opportunity of a $700bn bail-out having been the perfect solution with McCain's free market approach seemingly causing all the chaos.
There has been a lot of comment surrounding Alex Salmond's supposed suggestion that an independent Scotland would have released £100bn of funds in order to save HBOS. Indeed, as it was included in The Guardian and other leading broadsheets, I assumed in good faith that that suggestion had been made by the First Minister.
As far I can see, this is as close as Alex got to making such a claim:
The First Minister: The case for hard-pressed taxpayers' cash might have been better made in respect of Northern Rock. The £100 billion to which Wendy Alexander referred is a liquidity availability—the £100 billion that the Bank of England made available on Friday. Would that it had been made available a week earlier—we might not be in the situation that we are now in.
There we have it. No mention of an independent Scotland. Indeed the mention of the Bank of England surely scuppers the suggestion that it's a solely Scottish solution being proferred.
The First Minister was merely putting forward the valid suggestion that Central Bank credit could have been extended to ease HBOS' through a troubling period, not dissimilar to action taken by Governments around the world. By all means disagree with the suggestion but do not populate a myth by putting words in Salmond's mouth.
Perhaps this shows that Labour is competing in the media battle or perhaps it shows that newspapers need to employ a higher calibre of scribe, but when you can no longer believe what is printed in the supposedly independent press you have to think we have reached a worrying low.
Thankfully my workload is unrelated to the overall credit crunch problems but one can't help but notice that, given the confidence-shattering nationalisation of Bradford & Bingley, the seemingly ineffectual $700bn US bailout and a slide in the RBS shares of 17% so far today; we are getting worryingly close to 'brown trousers' time for Scotland's biggest bank.
As has been said on here before, to lose one bank would be unfortunate, to lose two would just careless.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
But then the penny dropped: The public are already miffed about paying so much for existing PFI contracts, they'll be just as miffed that countries have these 'oil funds' that can be used to pay for Forth Road bridges and the like; so why not feed Scotland's imagination that the perfect solution is to have our own oil fund that can be used to build schools and hospitals and, most crucially, fund the infrastrucure that is required to bring in the Renewables Revolution that will see Scotland be a leading player in the exciting energy market of the future.
I suspect the overall costs for the Qatari PFI scheme will merely amount to a few return flights out to the Middle East. The gains, for the SNP at least, will be tremendous.
Fair play though, Team Labour have done well to play their strongest suit to maximum advantage and given the SNP won the Holyrood elections by 47 votes I'm not going to say too much against slender wins.
The Economy to one side, with Labour now having two polls that have halved the lead the Tories enjoyed over the summer, it is beginning to feel that it is 'game on' again.
That said, who was the last Prime Minister to half the lead of his Opposition rivals lead on the back of a competent Conference speech? John Major in 1996.
I'll say no more....
Saturday, September 27, 2008
He flies over to America, the greatest British Chancellor ever (apparently), presumably perfectly placed to give advice on these difficult financial times and yet Treasury chief Hank Paulson doesn't have time to sit down with poor Gordon even for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, back home, Lindsay Roy has called out for Brown to come home to Fife to campaign in advance of the upcoming by-election meaning that the Prime Minister will look scared if he doesn't go to Glenrothes and like he was dragged there if he does.
The question is, is it really in the best interests of the Labour party for Gordon to campaign in Glenrothes? I guess our Prime Minister is still dithering/thinking that through...
It strikes me that the Government and the public are more than a little bit culpable for getting us into this financial mess.
Large swathes of the population have borrowed more than they can afford and the Government (that we democratically voted for) has let things get out of control, either knowingly or incompetently.
Living in a free market society means that bankers should absolutely take advantage of any favourable conditions that lie before them. It seems to me that between our optimistic mortgages and accepting a laissez-faire Government, we laid out the red carpet for all this 'credit crunch' pain and we should be just as responsible for the City for picking up the bill.
Friday, September 26, 2008
That said, I rather enjoyed this quote from Labour's man in Glenrothes:
"This notion that he (Gordon Brown) is dithering is wrong. He simply gives himself time to think things through.”
Ok, so the old lady who takes an age to get on the bus isn't dithering, she's just merely thinking things through? Or the spotty teenager hesitantly approaching a girl to ask her out isn't dithering either? Or the Prime Minister who led us a merry dance on whether there would be a snap election or not last year?
As I say, Lindsay Roy seems a cracking choice by Labour, but I still hope there's similar pearls of wisdom in the future from the good man...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Conservatives - 41% (down 3)
Labour - 31% (up 7)
Lib Dems - 16% (down 4)
Three points really jump out of this for a start:
Labour have done well. Gordon has taken the heat out of a leadership debate and he'll be focussed on building on that 7% jump rather than slapping down rebels. It remains to be seen whether the rest of his party will go with him on that course.
The Conservatives have their conference coming up. They will be simply hoping to have a successful weekend and open up that 20 point gap that they've enjoyed for the past few months. They'll be feeling a little pressure to perform and stay united but probably not in any signifcant way at this stage.
The Lib Dems are flatlining. They've had their Conference, they should be enjoying something of a honeymoon period and yet they are way off the pace at 16%. The future does not look good for the Lib Dems at all.
Those business heavyweights include:
Alex von Ungern-Sternberg - former group Treasurer of Deutsche Bank
Sir Donald Mackay, the chairman of the Scottish Mortgage Trust
Sir George Mathewson, a former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland;
Sir Peter Burt, a former governor and chief executive of Bank of Scotland
Keith Skeoch, the chief executive of Standard Life Investments
David Alexander, the owner of Edinburgh-based property firm DJ Alexander.
And yet, when Alex Salmond dares to suggest that Bank of Scotland could survive on its own he is slammed by Opposition politicians.
My question however is this: Has the proposed Lloyds takeover given HBOS some required breathing space to get its share price up and its feet back on the ground? Is the game necessarily over? Or am I being somewhat pathetically romantic in wanting Scotland's oldest bank to keep going?
With new rules brought forward to reduce short-selling and increased liquidity being brought into the market on a near-daily basis, not least the $700bn on its way from the US, I can't help but think there's a chance. Particularly if HBOS' toxic exposures are significantly wrapped up in that £700bn of bad assets that will soon be taken out of play by Hank Paulson of the US Treasury.
If it is possible for the bank to continue and jobs to be saved then I for one hope that our politicians can raise their eyes above the Holyrood and Westminster parapet and see to it that HBOS, or BOS even, is given a fair chance to trade its way out of trouble.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
SNP - 34%
Conservatives - 24%
Lib Dem - 17%
I make it this gives a breakdown in seats of:
SNP - 30!
Tory - 11
Labour - 9
Lib Dem - 9
Nothing short of spanking I'm sure you'll agree. It goes to show how good this poll is for the SNP that not only would the SNP take the much-discussed Paisley North, they'd take Dougie Alexander's Paisley South too.
Here's the seat breakdown:
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine
Argyll & Bute
Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
Dumfries & Galloway
Edinburgh South West
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
Berwick, Roxburgh & Selkirk
Banff & Buchan
Lanark & Hamilton East
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East
Dunfermline and West Fife
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow
Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Glasgow North East
Kilmarnock & Loudoun
Ochil & South Perthshire
Paisley & Renfrewshire North
Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Perth & North Perthshire
Na h-Eileanan an Iar
North Ayrshire & Arran
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
Edinburgh North & Leith
North East Fife
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
Orkney & Shetland
Ross, Skye & Lochaber
Airdrie & Shotts
Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath
Glasgow North West
Glasgow South West
Rutherglen & Hamilton West
Motherwell & Wishaw
36% Gov't stake = £4.464bn
Barnett Formula consequential = 10.23% of £4.464bn = £457m
Oh well, that's the rest of the Edinburgh trams paid for then. What's that? What do you mean, no? Am I missing something…..?
Girls out perform boys: Figures produced by the SQA show that girls still outperform boys at every stage of the school exam process. (Scotsman page 15)
Labour candidates: Ross Lydall in the Scotsman (page 24) comments that local Labour party chiefs want candidates to be a ‘safe pair of hands’ at the next election which could make it difficult for more female candidates to be selected.
It makes you wonder how girls stuff it all up between school and professional politics. Or maybe Labour just end up with the stupid ones....
Mr Kane, who also held separate meetings with opposition party leaders yesterday, said his meeting with Mr Salmond was "excellent", adding: "It is very early on in the process but we thought it was important for us to listen to the issues and concerns of senior politicians and the First Minister in particular."
A ringing endorsement from Archie Kane is great but Alex Salmond has to be very careful. I'm sure the First Minister has already raised quite a few eyebrows by refusing to debate with anyone he deems too junior than himself. Further instances, similar to this pointed refusal to allow the likes of Iain Gray in the room during his own discussions with the business elite, will soon be seen as petty and haughty.
When it comes to something as important as the HBOS question, one has to conclude that two separate debates are not necessarily better than one.
So, whether her reason was genuinely to spend more time with her kids or jumping to save herself a pushing in Brown's upcoming reshuffle, it really doesn't make much of a news story if you ask me.
The BBC are wasting a lot of hot air analysing it to death nonetheless.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I know hindsight is 20/20 but has Gordon made a schoolboy error by not having some foresight and calling the Glenrothes by-election for this Thursday?
As it stands, with a scheduled election date of 6th November, the Tories and the SNP will both have the opportunity to say their piece at their own conferences and keep Labour on the rack before the Fife constituency goes to the polls.
With the Labour candidate Lindsay Roy a headmaster, he'll be all too aware of schoolboy errors and this, one has to think, may very well be one of them.
Now that I've chewed over his speech, I believe, somewhat ironically, this will be the week the fightback begins.
I don't see David Cameron bringing out too many policies at the Tory conference. And if the public eventually correctly see that 'Dave' is the wannabe Emperor with no clothes, then I honestly think Gordon's troubles could disappear just as quickly as they arose.
Early days, but if I was Gordon, I'd be sleeping a little bit easier tonight.
I've just heard Gordon is talking about how the NHS saved his eyesight when he was injured playing rugby.
I'm sure I heard that last year, no?
I daresay the Labour masses were looking for something a bit more than a reheated speech.
High points, for me:
Gordon saying his children "aren't props, they're people", a clear dig at David Cameron who is too focussed on PR.
Free check-ups for over 40s is a good policy, and a new one as far as I'm aware.
Being introduced by his wife was a very nice move. I just hope Sarah wasn't strong-armed into it!
Still, 44 days and counting.....
There seemed to be a real energy to the room and there's no doubt Gordon is giving it some welly. I strongly suspect, if that zeal is representative of the speech at large, that Gordon may well get the Tory poll lead down to the single figures this week.
Just a shame for Labour that the Tories are up next and have the last word....
Based on this, and on gut feeling, I am sure it will all be an anti-climax. Does anyone deliver the speech of their lives when that is what is expected? Surely great speeches come when noone sees it coming?
No, David Miliband and Jack Straw have put their daggers in their drawers and they'll clap along with a mischievous twinkle in their eyes this afternoon. The rebels who have some restraint and haven't been smoked out will similarly bide their time.
Today is not 'the day'. No, that is 44 days off yet. Gordon Brown has that long to salvage his leadership.
In 44 days, Labour need to win the Glenrothes by-election. Otherwise David 'Heseltine' Miliband will make his move and Gordon will simply have run out of chances and he will quickly be run out of office.
As for today's speech? It's a minor footnote in Gordon's history and another victory for the over-excited media that so many are whipped into a frenzy about it.
The most interesting part will be how long people can be bothered to clap for in that painfully hypocritical way.
Robin Harper steps down as leader, Patrick Harvie steps up as co-convener, councillor Alison Johnstone steps down as co-convener.
I know they are a small party, but is it possible that there is a split between the old Green way of things and the "new Green" agenda? Harpites vs Harvites?
It's one of the worst kept secrets in Holyrood that Robin Harper and Patrick Harvie can't stand each other after all.....
I'll offer 10-1 that he uses the following line in the first few minutes:
Blairites? Brownites? You're all a shower of gobshites if you ask me.
I'll offer 5-1 that Gordon calls David Miliband a pipsqueak. Or worse.
I'll offer 20-1 that there is something along the following lines:
"Alastair Darling? What is your problem by the way? It's not bloody difficult. I had 10 years of sustainable growth when I was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you're in the door 5 minutes and the whole thing goes belly up"
I'll offer 30-1 that he mentions Ewan Gray, the new leader of PMTs in Scotland.
And I'll offer 40-1 that Gordon closes his speech with a painfully awkward breakdown a bit like:
I have two young boys and a beautiful wife. Do you know what it's like to come home, look them in the eye and say I'm 20 points behind a squirt like Cameron? That Harriet Harman is trying to take my job? That Gordon Bloody Prentice is calling me out!?
Monday, September 22, 2008
We can probably expect a Cabinet made up of Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Douglas Alexander, Victor Blanks (Lloyds chief), Alan Sugar and JK Rowling.
Those days where Gordon wanted Lib Dems in his Cabinet seem a long, long way off now...
Sadly, I doubt it.
Labour have a thumping majority in Glenrothes, they have a highly credible local candidate (last time I'll be saying that) and they have a conference with which they can push policies to campaign on.
People have voted Labour in Glenrothes before, they may well do so again. Labour should be firing on all cylinders and these leadership rebels should be fuelling the fire rather than holding the party back.
I just don't understand it? I don't know what the rot is at the heart of Labour that is so endemic, so stultifying that Labour are recuded to mere luckless, listless rabbits in the headlights.
So if you're going to chuck it before the contest has even begun then fine, but at least give us the date of the Glenrothes byelection and let the rest of us get on with it...
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said that the programme must be "large enough to have maximum impact" and will involve "a significant investment of taxpayer dollars".
Barack Obama supports the plan.
Gordon Brown has suggested there may be more assistance available.
President Bush said "We must act now to protect economic health from serious risk" and that action "is essential"
John McCain says he wouldn't have bailed out any of the banks and financial institutions.
I can't help but think the Republican candidate looks dangerously isolated on this one. And you can't get this one wrong John. It is the economy, stupid.
It seems Vince Cable has suggested on Andrew Neil's This Week programme that Gordon Brown's Government was planning on bringing in legislation to stop short-selling last week, early enough to save HBOS.
It has been suggested the US stayed Gordon's hand and instead the two Governments brought out the same legislation on the same day. So while HBOS was being ravaged by shortsellers, Gordon Brown held back the legislation that would have saved it.
Has yet more dithering and subservience to the USA from Gordon Brown brought an end to Scotland's oldest bank?
If so, not only should our PM be chased out of office immediately, his conduct surely borders on the criminal.
Lib Dem 13%
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
North East Fife
Orkney & Shetland
Ross, Skye & Lochaber
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine
Dumfries & Galloway
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
Berwick, Roxburgh & Selkirk
If you shut the stable door once the horse has bolted, then you should be apologising. Not high-fiving each other and patting yourselves on the back.
Personally, I think the lack of humility from Number 10 is shocking, indeed the claim that Gordon is the man to weather us through the storm is breathtaking in its arrogance.
Gordon Brown was the Chancellor for the 10 years preceding this credit crunch. If he didn't see it coming then he was too simple for the position, if he did see it coming and chose not to do anything about it then he is simply criminal.
The reason, apart from an understandably tatty wardrobe, is that the work permit arrangements for those from Romania and Bulgaria are particularly harsh.
The arrangements, as far as I know, are called the Sectors Based Scheme and basically an employer has to gain a letter of approval for a named employee, that named employee then applies for the work permit with that specific employer and the Romanian or Bulgarian is tied in for 12 months to work in that pre-arranged position.
Now, a lot was made of multi-millionaire Cristiano Ronaldo's claim that he was a 'slave' when playing with Manchester United, a claim that is all the more laughable if it is contrasted with some of the squalid conditions and the oppressive advantage that is taken of people from certain parts of the world seeking a better life here in the UK. We all know the horror stories of people migrating to this country planning on working hard and taking a decent wage back home to support their family but they get stuck in terribly paid jobs or even worse conditions that amount to human trafficking or forced prostitution.
I just wonder if this 12 months of being forced to be with an employer is the most sensible of approaches to the work permit rules. It seems to play into the hands of a type of employer who would know how to take advantage of the lack of flexibility inherent in such a situation.
I believe these rules on the Sectors Based Scheme are due for review in December and, well, I wonder if there's a possibility that this could be an area that could be devolved to Scotland, perhaps even as part of the Calman review. It's always been my opinion that Scotland's approach to immigration is markedly different to that of England's.
Rightly or wrongly we are more happy to open our borders and I personally believe that should be reflected in our laws. There would be one less guy selling the Big Issue down in Leith for a start.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
They are both googling Richard Baker's name a heck of a lot. Richard Baker, for those not yet up to speed, being Scotland's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Most hits are landing at this post I wrote earlier in the week.
Bit odd, no?
Then again, Richard Baker paid £520 to Iain Gray to get to where he is today so he deserves a bit of recognition for that kind of outlay.
I don't have many philosophies in life but one of them is that if you can't squeeze some banter into whatever it is you're doing then you should probably have a long bath*, pack your bags and try something else. And let's be honest, the word CyberNat throws up countless opportunities to inject some banter into any Scottish blogging situation.
Politics seems to be a rather unique field where the humour can be sucked right out of a person if they're not careful. Suddenly there are bizarre priorities in your life. The question of whether a tax should be local or national, or whether we should have congestion charging or a tramline up Leith Walk. Obscure policies take on an importance that is blown out of all proportions and you're left a seething, snarling mess where once a rather charming human once lay.
The word "cybernat" I think can draw a bellowing, bellicose beast from an SNP supporter if they take things too seriously. Foolishly seizing the bait, the unnerved Nat could so easily launch into a stream of tartan bile the likes of which we see on The Scotsman and Herald webpages day in and day out. Indeed, as warned by Two Doctors, this plague is even spreading to Cyber anti Nats.
However, once you get the image in your mind of Nicola Sturgeon stepping into SNP Headquarters at a groggy-eyed 7am, switching on the lights before pouring out a large coffee and then powering up 50 SNP-robots to go about their CyberNat business you'll develop the languid grin that permanently permeates my faces when the word arises.
I don't know if I qualify as a CyberNat if I can spell properly, lay out my argument in a logical manner and the closest I typically get to swearing is to say 'dammit' every now and again but if I do qualify, then that would be simply marvellous.
NB: With thanks to the even more proud CyberNat from whom I 'borrowed' the photo.
* But rather than a bath, maybe try a shower as it uses 10% less water.
There's a great comeback in modern-day Politics that can apply in any subject area be it health, education or finance. It is the ideal position when half of your opposition wants you to spend more and the other half wants you to spend less. One side says you're too left wing and the other side says you're too far to the right.
I am beginning to wonder if the SNP planned to sit so snugly in that cosy centre ground or if they just lucked out.
Let's think about it:
While the Tories and Lib Dems are calling for cuts to council tax and local income tax respectively, Labour are bemoaning the savings/cuts that are being made after Swinney's masterstroke in freezing the Council Tax. Tories and Lib Dems say they're spending too much, Labour are saying they're spending too little.
One half of the student attacks on the SNP come from the potential that a small number will have to pay some Local Income Tax and won't be able to buy a 'carry out' from the local off-license. The other half of the student attacks are that the SNP have been too generous in giving away a free education and giving too much to the sponging students. Further is this bizarre attack from Labour that the SNP have reneged on their promise to cancel existing student debt, a proposal that all other parties would vote down anyway.
The SNP have been criticised for talking about independence too much and simultaneously been criticised for the National Conversation not reaching a wide enough audience, not that it's clear how those two go together. Further, the Calman Commission is being pushed as the main discussion piece on Scotland's constitution yet it disregarded independence before it even began.
The Scottish Futures Trust has been rubbished as soaked in unsustainable socialist ideology and also too similar to PFI. It was originally rubbished as amateur and now it's being attacked for paying too much for the high-calibre staff it is bringing onboard.
The SNP have been touted as Tartan Tories, too close to business and yet all parties reflect that boosting the Scottish economy should be our top priority.
I could go on and on and on….
Suffice to say, if the opposition is split down the middle about whether you're right wing or left wing, whether you're spending too much or spending too little, then chances are you don't really have too much to worry about.
And so, as Alex Salmond cancels his plans to go to the Ryder Cup in order to fight for Bank of Scotland's interests here in Edinburgh, one has to think the SNP's popularity and indeed our First Minister's, isn't going to change anytime soon.
Iain Gray has a mighty job on his hands. Indeed, he knows all about a fickle opposition. Stray too far from Gordon Brown and there's a 'split', toe the party line and he's merely a 'Westminster lapdog'. I really don't know how he's going to square that circle aside from everything else on his hands.
It's a tough business this Politics but you have to think you make your own luck in it most of the time.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The case for independence mostly rests on the success (or otherwise) of the Scottish economy if we were to go it alone. The hugely lucrative oilfields in the North Sea and the two banking giants of RBS and (H)BOS guaranteed huge Corporation Tax receipts and were the bedrock of many Scots' confidence in their independence aspirations.
There is as yet no detail on the deal that is currently being done but if Lloyds will simply take HBOS mortgages onto its books, fold all of the other income streams into its own existing processes and sell off the Edinburgh HQ then we are seeing £bns of an independent Scotland's annual income disappear before our very eyes in one single day.
A coup for Gordon Brown if he personally brokered the Lloyds deal (as is being reported/spun) and a hammer blow for Alex Salmond's independence plans.
The credit crunch just claimed another victim if you ask me…..
This morning for example there was a Tavish Scott interview and a chat with two Labour activists, and I only listened for 15 minutes.
I've mentioned Tavish's interview already, I can clearly see the Lib Dems are 'stepping up' now Nicol Stephen has stepped down. The once-bearded Shetlander did well. I also happen to think Tavish's distinctive voice is a distinct advantage for the party. Iain Gray has some way to go to find the 'presidential voice'.
For the Labour activists on this morning, it is perhaps a good example of the human mind that I've forgotten the name of the one who made some intelligent and salient points but I do remember Vince Mills who, to be frank, made a bit of a prat of himself.
To be fair, it was only the early exchanges where Vince came over like a bumbling buffoon, like an ostrich with its head buried deep in the sand, but first impressions count in any business.
He was asked his thoughts on the challenge to Gordon Brown's leadership and his reply, in the main, was that he didn't understand why these rebels wanted a policy debate if they have no alternative policies. The host gave one of those awkward pitying silences and then said 'well, I think it's a leadership debate they are calling for rather than a policy debate'.
Poor old Vince went on to decry that personalities are irrelevant and it is policies that make the difference.
The unfortunate lad probably still has his head stuck in an undergraduate textbook somewhere and believes, in his ankle-deep wisdom, that a few decent policies will have Gordon striding the UK like the political colossus our PM quite clearly isn't.
Gordon and his supposed psychological flaws have been found wanting, it's nothing personal, he just doesn't have the people, the communication or the presentation skills to do the job, irrespective of what policies he has up his sleeve. David Cairns has understood this for a while and has finally felt moved to say something. Tom Harris admirably respects Cairns' decision but is equally admirably prepared to dig in for the PM.
Iain Gray on the other hand has written off David Cairns' examination of his conscience as "absolutely wrong". No room for debate, no scintilla of flexibility, no openness to another opinion. David Cairns has dared to criticise Gordon Brown and that temerity is seemingly too unpalatable for the increasingly ostrich-like Iain Gray to digest.
I haven't the faintest idea what the best way forward is for Labour but I do know that burying their collective heads in the sand and labelling ex-Ministers "absolutely wrong" for a personal decision is not the direction to go.
Perhaps a party conference where they can have energising and effective free-flowing debates is the answer? Scope for genuine disagreement and real bartering long into the nights? An end to the tightly stage-managed glitzy PR shows where a party is shown to be one shiny happy family when that couldn’t be further from the truth? Something real, something tangible, something eminently watchably human?
Pigs, or indeed ostriches, may fly.
56% loss in share price today alone? This is on the back of smaller but significant hits to the share price recently? If it can happen to Lehman Brothers and AIG then why not here in leafy Scotland. Very, very scary.
To be fair, HBOS have the highest Tier 1 ratio of any bank and they have £258bn of savings. I guess it all comes down to just how liquid those savings are. But I suspect there's a very good reason why RBS' rights issue had a 95% take-up and HBOS' was an abysmal 8.3%.
Black Wednesday indeed.
UPDATE It seems they may merge with Lloyds.
Given that consumer inflation has hit 4.7% and is expected to rise to 5%, you would think that the country would be rather glad that there has been relatively low growth in shop sales for the month of August.
Personally, I was celebrating with a small half a glass of shandy over a couple of candles when I heard about that but others are welcome to see it differently.
Incidentally, while we're on the subject of discerning good news from bad, Tavish Scott was on Radio Scotland this morning pushing his idea for a cut in the income tax. I still think the voters won't trust it, as indeed was found to be the case in Lib Dem focus groups, but I enjoyed Tavish's line which went something like:
"Scottish families are having to make savings up and down the country, I think it's fair that the Scottish Government should do the same"
Pretty catchy and well delivered I have to say.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I am not up on my Labour divisions but I do know that Iain Gray was at a public gathering recently, a gathering where Susan Deacon was also in attendance, and they didn't exchange a single word over the course of the few hours. Indeed Iain didn't speak to any of the Labour members who were known to be present.
A bit odd perhaps given there was a leadership election just around the corner?
Anyway, Jackie Baillie was always one of Susan Deacon's bestest mates back in the day so perhaps there's something to read into that.
Alternatively, there is another reason, neatly summed up by this little Labour tidbit:
A senior Labour MSP kindly informed Jackie Baillie (then chief whipping business secretary or whatever the title is) that he/she would be missing a vote at Holyrood. The reason given was that a meeting with the Prime Minister had already been arranged for the same time slot.
Jackie's response was merely: "We'll see".
Perhaps Iain has decided that Ms Baillie had gotten too big for her boots?
Britain’s politicians are promising tax cuts. Pay no attention. Even before the latest hurricane on global financial markets, there was one safe prediction to be made about the next government: whatever its political colour or pre-election promises, it will raise taxes.
To be honest, I'm surprised more hasn't been made of the Scottish Conservatives' surprising tax cut policy and the Scottish Lib Dems' bizarre policy of cutting income tax. I guess with the economic meltdown continuing and Gordon Brown's relentless woes even Iain Gray was shunted to the side of the news agenda more than he deserved to be.
With a recession looming and scarce profits leading to probable redundancies on a large scale, to cut taxes in the current economic climate is irresponsible, even reckless. The top priority has to be getting the economy moving without spiralling inflation and this comes with increased public spending.
We all know that the Tories are for small Government and lower taxation which is fine, they are giving the Scottish public another option on Council Tax and that is perfectly valid. The Lib Dems to be fair have probably gambled that having a somewhat flawed policy, one which they won't need to enact given they are out of coalition, is worth going with as they now have a clear policy to campaign on, something they patently lacked under Nicol Stephen.
The Lib Dems have also glossed over the fact that this policy was tested on the public in focus groups and found wanting so it'll be interesting what this latest trick does to their polling figures. Not that their figures could get much lower, another possible reason for such desperate measures as a tax cut promise.
So, given how far from power each party is, this is all by the by in many ways. The SNP did well to freeze taxes last year and I daresay John Swinney will struggle to achieve that same near-miracle this year.
Much will be made by the Tories and Lib Dems of the SNP and their supposed 'high tax' approach but between farmer Tavish Scott, solicitor Annabel Goldie and the Financial Times, I know whose financial advice I would rather follow.
It just must be so maddeningly frustrating for the Labour activists, for Labour members in the constituency and for Gordon's old chum Lindsay Roy, the candidate himself to not have their Prime Minister riding into the constituency to fight the battle from the front. The self-serving calculated cowardice from Gordon is only serving Alex Salmond and David Cameron as they heap scorn on the embattled PM.
Further to this, the by-election date for the Wallflower Constituency is apparently going to be November 6th, at Gordon's choosing. Not content with making a mockery of the contest so far by delaying the date for as long as possible and by not touching the constituency with a bargepole, Gordon has gone for the blindingly obvious tack of trying to bury the bad news of defeat in with the US election news cycle. The only catch is, to succeed in this charade one needs to employ more subtlety than a low flying cannonball and find a way to stop the great British public from realising what's going on.
The economy is going to hell in a hand-basket, the stock market is up and down like a yo-yo and inflation is putting a real squeeze on paying bills and buying food. Now would be a great time for all parties, all people to get involved and have a massive debate, a freeflowing dialogue of the best way forward for the UK and the platform of Glenrothes could have provided that opportunity.
Unfortunately Gordon Brown's sleekit, hamfisted approach to organising this by-election has put paid to that and although his dithering and ineptitude makes an SNP victory much, much more likely, I still think we're all a little bit poorer as a result.
Monday, September 15, 2008
This rather neat 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' scenario that Labour have plumped for appears rather convenient. Apparently, if we're patient and wait a year for the economy to recover then we'll also see Gordon's polling figures recover. It's clearly a ruse to keep Gordon in his job in the short term, a way for the PM to buy some time to find a way through this latest attempted coup.
This theory is reinforced by the severe delay in the Glenrothes byelection. Seemingly Gordon Brown has decided if he can just avoid that killer blow in the short term with the UK Tories and SNP flying high, a thoroughly demoralised Labour party and a UK economy going through the plughole then he will find a way to weather the storm or, more likely, the storm will weather itself and he can stagger on trying to lead his beloved Britain.
Well, I thought I would put this "it's the stock market's fault" theory to the test.
Below is a graph depicting:
Dark blue - The performance of the stock market relative to its position in June 2007.
Pink - Labour's performance in the polls relative to its position in June.
Yellow - Gordon Brown's performance in the polls regarding the question "Who would make the best Prime Minister?", again with results relative to June 2007.
Light blue - Gordon Brown's personal performance in the polls irrespective of party and rival PM considerations relative to July 2007 (no data for June).
(Note: Figures taken from UK Polling Report and missing entries solely due to relevant polls not being completed for those months.)
The stock market has dropped 20%.
Labour's polling position has dropped 35%.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's popularity has dropped 51%.
Gordon Brown the politician/person's popularity has dropped 60%.
The rocky stock market may not be helping but these results show that there are much deeper reasons than a wobbly FTSE as to why Gordon Brown is in such a desperately perilous position.
Indeed, putting the FTSE to one side, the fact that Brown's popularity has dropped so much further than Labour's in percentage terms goes to show that a change of leader may well be worth a try.
To an extent I do understand why the calls for Brown to resign are deemed "meaningless agitation" given there is noone waiting in the wings. But as soon as Jack Straw or John Reid or David Milliband or Harriet Harman steps up to the plate and formally challenges Brown, then it is quite clearly all over for the clunking fists.
Shares in Gordon Brown, in his very own bear market, are tumbling fast. And we all know what the responsible course of action in a bear market is. Well, a dozen MPs do at least:
Sell now before more damage is done.