Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The quote was:
"We are going to increase the resources for the NHS, we are going to increase resources for international development aid, we are going to increase resources for schools,"
Gove had already adamantly denied that spending on schools would increase so he had no choice but to disagree with the text above that Paxman read out.
Maybe it won't be a big deal but a Shadow Cabinet that can't get their approach aligned and their facts straight is a bit worrying is it not?
Back in July 2008, John Mason surprised almost all by winning Glasgow East. John lived in Glasgow East, worked his socks off as a local councillor and knew the constituency like the back of his hand.
In Novemeber 2008, Lindsay Roy won Glenrothes in something of a shock victory for Labour. A headmaster at the time who was so popular that he had been headhunted to reverse the fortunes of a local High School, Lindsay no doubt knew the local parents, the local kids and was immersed in the Fife community.
Now turning to the Glasgow North East constituency (and neatly glossing over the fact that the SNP are one candidate short of a campaign), I have learned that the Labour candidate is a senior law lecturer. No bad thing of course, but he teaches in London South Bank University. A local man? Sounds a bit hollow personally. I wonder how that'll go down on the streets of Springburn.
Even the claims that Willie returns every weekend to his beloved home constituency sound a little bit rose-tinted, a case of over-reaching perhaps? Have Scottish Labour merely flown in a decent candidate from England's capital because noone else would do it?
Anyway, I don't know why I am getting carried away with this particular contest. As Westminster correspondent Kevin Schofield has been telling us for so long, the by-election may not even be held until November!
The 38% support for independence meant that Unionist parties could quite reasonably claim that there was no majority for separation from the UK while the majorities in favour of bringing pension and more taxation powers to Holyrood allows the SNP to claim that Scotland is wanting more say over its affairs and is consequently moving towards independence.
Furthermore, the increase in support for independence since May 2007 allows the SNP to champion their cause with deserved confidence, particularly when 58% of the public wants a referendum on the subject next year. How the Unionist parties can untangle themselves from this quandary won't be easy to solve.
It seems the preferred constitutional settlement is close to a federal United Kingdom with defence being the only significant power left at Westminster, a situation that many within the Lib Dem ranks have been in favour of for a while and one that I personally would be perfectly content with if it meant the freedom of full fiscal autonomy.
The BBC poll may only have had 1,010 participants but it throws up a whole range of questions:
Do we need 59 Scottish MPs in the medium to long term if Scots want more powers devolved to Holyrood?
Can the Scottish Parliament reasonably ignore the will of the people and block a Referendum Bill next year?
Is the halfway house that is floated by Calman really a long term prospect for Scotland when there is such tangible support for full control over domestic affairs, including tax and pensions?
If the Calman proposals are foisted upon Scotland in too rushed a manner, will there be a backlash and in what form will it take?
In a multi-option referendum, what would be the wording of the 'extra tax powers' question? How vague could it be allowed to be while still retaining usefulness?
Plenty of food for thought. Who said Scottish Politics is boring...
There were several independence questions asked, the various answers proving that the wording of any referendum question is vital so here they all are:
"In a referendum on independence for Scotland, how would you vote?",
Independent - 38%
Not independent - 54%
"the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state"
Yes - 42%
No - 50%
Which of a range of scenarios were closest to people's views of how Scotland should be governed.
Independence - 28%
Remain in the UK with Holyrood control over taxation and Government spending - 47%
Remain in the UK with Westminster control over taxation and Government spending - 22%
On the back of the European election results and Willie being a 'clean skin' untainted by the expenses scandals, he has to go into the contest as the favourite.
Also, per The Herald:
The SNP is also due to select its candidate this week after the frontrunner, Glasgow councillor Grant Thoms, unexpectedly withdrew his nomination.
So we can expect more by-election headlines as the media catches up with the news that there has been a one week delay in this process.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The selection will now take place next Tuesday.
Will Labour bring forward the date of the by-election given the Nationalists are, seemingly, in disarray?
I could say that it was James MacFadden that kicked things off with his uncomplicated wonder goal against France two years ago but in truth sport and politics have probably been intertwined for decades.
The timing of the gallus one’s winner against the World Cup runners up in Paris was such that it was almost inevitable that it would be seized upon as SNP-ínspired. The suggestion was mostly floated with tongue squarely ín´cheek but in some quarters there was a tangible belief that sporting success (including a record haul at the Commonwealth Games) at the time was on the back of a lift in Scottish mood which in turn was on the back of the SNP winning the election in May 2007. Of course, the 1-0 defeat by Macedonia last year didn't meet with the same claim of SNP-responsibility, cheek having been turned the other way and tongue firmly removed.
Since 2007 we have had the Chris Hoy debacle where 3 gold medals qualified the man for not just Sports Perosnaltiy of the Year but the less coveted prize of Scottish independence ping pong ball, as if a cyclist’s views on Politics should have any greater relevance than your average Scot. (Although Hoy’s ability to go round and round in circles does chime with your average politican)
It is acually Chris Hoy that has made me wonder if we are on the verge of another great politicised tug-óf-war over a precious Scottish performance that gives us rare cause for cheer rather than gloom.
Chris Hoy, so recently flying under the Union Jack and even more recently knighted within the British realm, has been heavily linked to Andy Murray's recent win at Wimbledon. Indeed, from afar it sounds more like a double's match.
It may well merely amount to yet another Nationalist conspiracy theory but it's worth asking the question: If Andy Murray beats an opponent at Wimbledon, why does Sir Chris Hoy make it into so many of the headlines?
I suspect as Andy Murray races through the men's rankings the battle for his name for political ends will just getting going.
But I am sure most people would like to see Sport in the Sport's pages and Politics in the Politic's pages. Or, maybe I am getting carried away and should just take a leaf out of James MacFadden's book and stop overcomplicating things.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It's not just a testament to the Scottish Government's green credentials that the Bill is so aggressive in seeking to cut carbon emissions by 42% by 2020, it's a testament to the entire Scottish Parliament as they push and cajole each other into doing more within a realistic framework.
The SNP clearly hasn't lost its political instincts as to be seen dragging its feet on their initially preferred 34% when Labour had opted for a higher percentage would have meant losing face in the press. They nimbly joined the ranks of parties, people and, em, priests calling for the 42%.
The rather odd front row pairing of this enironmental scrum pack are Patrick Harvie and Robin Harper. They may only make up two of the 129 MSPs but their drive and energy to ensure Green issues remain front and centre on Holyrood's to-do list coupled with an admirable ability to punch above their numerical weight has certainly assisted in bringing this Bill into its current aggressive form.
Indeed, it is tantamount to the Green party's sense of duty and steely determination that its top Scottish blogger merely calls the 42% aim a "partial" victory. Clearly, from a Green eyes viewpoint, more needs to be done.
But, for today, this Climate Change Bill is what is on the table. It is a fine example of what Holyrood is here to do and why the Scottish Parliament was set up in the first place and despite Calman Commissions and National Conversations, it is reassuring that some excellent lawmaking is getting done in and around the less substantial stories of the day.
Now, after an expenses scandal that I reckon is fast getting blown out of all proportion (is it really the deepest crisis that Westminster has ever faced?) we have the news that MPs could face unlimited fines for their misdeeds. The overreaction has arrived.
Of all the crimes out there in the world the only one that will attract the unthinkable sentence of owing £infinity is sneaking a duck house through on your expenses. Even the 12 months in prison seems a little steep for the worst offenders caught in the past few months.
I don't think the answer to whatever problems the expenses scandal is thrown up is in setting harsh penalties for those that get caught. A renewed focus from constituents on the personalities of their local MPs and a change in culture of how MPs are selected by parties and promoted would go a lot further to rebuilding a much needed integrity.
A higher salary is desperately needed to raise the bar in terms of calibre. For too many who would do an excellent job of being an MP, they have simply priced themselves out the market given private sector salaries that they can attract.
So no, setting unlimited fines is probably not the best first step to clean up Westminster. Mind you, if the MPs put Brian Taylor in charge of those infinite fines then they might still get away scot-free!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The 'Tartan Hero' blogger sent emails to fellow SNP members in his constituency on Sunday as a consequence of a change of heart and a change of mind on whether to stand in the by-election.
Given that SNP HQ had accepted Grant as the only person for the SNP candidacy we can expect some selection issues up ahead for the Nationalists. No doubt the rife speculation is just around the corner (though I think the best gossip is that Grant neglected to include the Springburn Branch Secretary in his Sunday email list!)
Anyway, as much as I think that the SNP are missing out on a first class candidate I must admit to being pleased that Grant will be spared the media circus that this by-election would have thrown his way. The SNP head office, incidentally, will be somewhat relieved they have been spared a difficult situation surrounding its candidate's views on Catholic schools but that's another story...
So, the upshot of all of this is that the door is now wide open for both the SNP and Labour in the race to replace Michael Martin as the MP for Glasgow North East.
(Note - I had this up on Twitter a good few hours ago, met with shock and surprise by some so maybe it goes down as a scoop? (though not has good as others out there) Either way, feel free to follow me here if you happen to have a Twitter account. I humbly admit Twitter is an enjoyable and rewarding experience.)
Tories - 35%
Labour - 20%
Lib Dems - 16%
Others - 29%
So the Conservatives way out in 3rd, Labour teetering above the teens and the Lib Dems some way back but still within striking distance of 2nd.
The "others" score seems remarkably high.
Of course this may be a hangover effect from the Euro elections where UKIP and the BNP profited but it still suggests a continued strong showing for the SNP.
Overall though, this poll confirms one thing. Labour needs a game-changer.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Given that the last four Speakers of the House retired at the ages of 63 (Michael Martin), 71 (Betty Boothroyd), 72 (Bernard Weatherill) and 74 (George Thomas) we can expect to see a lot of Mr Bercow over the next 25 years. Or First Commoner of the Land as we'll all know him, of course.
Now, I'm not saying that Sir George Young is 100% beef but John Bercow is without a doubt the vegetarian option of the two. The charge that John has been so heavily backed by the Labour party as a consequence of his ability to get up David Cameron's nose rather than any reforming agenda he may be pushing is one that can be expected to stick. A speaker quornered, if you will.
It will certainly be interesting to see how closely the final vote can be allocated between whipped Labour loyalists, Labour rebels, Tories and Others, despite the secret ballot.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Not that I care who wins either way of course, the ball is the wrong shape for a start...
Alastair Campbell may well try to prop up Labour's regrettable position in refusing a public enquiry into Iraq in saying that it "won't make any difference" because people have already "made their minds up".
This, for me, is as strong a reason as any to hold an open enquiry. A hard-headed public have gotten the wrong end of the stick according to the former (and latterly current) Labour spin doctor so why not have a no-holds barred, warts and all analysis of how we ended up in Baghdad and learn the lessons of the past? I fear Alastair is not giving the public enough credit in concluding on our behalf that we are too pig-headed to hear all the evidence, read a report and then judge a situation for ourselves.
I, for one, have not fully made my mind up over whether it was the right decision to steam into the Middle East without UN backing but in the absence of a strong case for the defence the lazy charges of 'we were there for the oil' and 'Blair was just Bush's poodle' seep into my mind and fill the gaping void that this public enquiry could and should fill instead.
My deepest instinct is that Tony Blair would not have allowed himself to be ruled by either the poodle or oil factor and, consequently, if the Government can look back and communicate the what, why, when and how of the past decade then this former critic will have changed his mind, a difference being made that Mr Campbell finds impossible.
But there is a wider consideration, that of a Government that has redacted so frequently and on so many subjects that any remaining credibility needs to be built upon. I mean, is there much of a difference between scoring a big black line through your expenses claims and scoring a big black line through a public enquiry? Not much I reckon.
The past month has seen Gordon Brown appearing to be on the wrong side of crucial judgements. From the blacking out of expenses information to initially refusing to release the report on Shahid Malik. From being unable to see that the Speaker had to go to underestimating the sympathy the British people had with the plight of the Gurkhas. The British people cannot be glossed over with a big fat marker pen however hard the PM may try.
Obfuscation, political manoeuvring, damage limitation, private briefings against colleagues. Gordon Brown's time at Number 10 has been one long redaction of transparent and open debate. If his moral compass hadn't gone haywire over the past couple of years he would have had the clarity to see that the public are not receiving the respect we deserve.
If Gordon Brown doesn't hold a truly public enquiry into the Iraq War then we can only conclude that the PM is telling himself that he is the King of the Mer People and he is enjoying a good relationship with his people.
That won't stop us getting our own pens out and redacting Gordon and New Labour at the next General Election I'm afraid.
He is at his relaxed best in his home in his East Dunfermline constituency in Fife - a detached, double-fronted Victorian house with a large sloping garden behind. Here he spends most weekends, with Sarah, his wife of four years, and their son John, almost one year old.
In the top corner of their garden is the small summer house that they have recently had built - just enough room for a table and two chairs - where, with his mobile phone, Brown works. "The only place I can sit and not hear the house phones ringing."
Gordon Brown charged taxpayers £500 to have a summer house painted at his constituency home, it was revealed today.
It is one of a string of embarrassing claims the Prime Minister has made on the property since he 'flipped' it to become his official second home from his London flat ten days after Tony Blair announced he was quitting Downing Street.
I wonder just how much Gordon misses those receipt-free, halcyon days of five years ago and looks forward to the days when the phone won't ring quite so much as it must surely be doing now...
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I fear however that the media is strangling our need for genuine news, suffocating our desire for genuine public interest stories with who claimed what for Christmas cards and who overclaimed what for Council Tax.
Having read through a small selection of news stories relating to the online publication of MPs' expenses I am now convined we are past the worst.
I don't mind Alastair Carmichael claiming £90 back for a Council Tax summons fee, I don't mind Alex Salmond claiming back money for a legal challenge on the Iraq War, I don't mind David Cameron's genuine, trifling erros on mortgage payments and I don't mind Gordon Brown claiming for publicity photos of himself.
No doubt there are some genuine horrors in the latest round of publicly available expense claims and in order to get to them we need to go through this rigmarole of a media circus but was there not an important GERS report out today and an SFT announcement yesterday and precious green shoots in the economy? I don't know for sure as genuine news is so hard to come by at the moment. The political entertainment industry has taken over. The circus has well and truly come to town and they won't leave till they've milked us dry.
Ok, to be fair, someone has gone crazy with the black marker and covered up more than they should have which in turn deserves out wrath but I reckon we've reached the point in this little adventure where MPs that newspapers are trying to string up are actually on the right side of the line.
Let's be intoxicated by our own outrage no longer and move on from this ugly episode. We need to appoint an external auditor to sift through the receipts and prevent journalists from being the self-appointed moral guardians of our lands.
I've never been a fan of public hangings anyway...
Amongst the contenders for the Labour PPC are:
John Duncan - Constituency assistant to Robin Cook and candidate in Ayr for the 2007 Holyrood election.
Graeme Morrice - Former West Lothian council leader
Kevin Lindsay - Officer for rail union ASLEF
Neil Findlay - Fauldhouse councillor
Willie Dunn - Local councillor
John McGinty - Local councillor
Yes, so far it's an All Male Shortlist. Not exactly the "noble" and "important" All Woman Shortlist approach that is meant "to help increase the shockingly low level of female representation in the House of Commons" as some would have it. Maybe some of the Labour bloggers that have championed AWS in the recent past will come out strongly in favour of the approach in Livingston before a selection is made?
Either way, it will be an interesting development to see if Labour go ahead with ensuring a female is the candidate or not, particularly in light of Airdrie & Shotts where it looks increasingly likely that the local party have beaten the NEC into picking whoever they like.
I understand the Labour policy is worded such that it only applies when a sitting MP retires which clearly is not the case here.
But if the perceived wisdom in Labour is such that a retiring male MP should be replaced with a female candidate then surely a male MP kicked out the party for dodgy claims should similarly result in a female MP putting forward?
I suspect John D, Graeme, Kevin, Neil, Willie and John McG will have some strong words to say on the matter.
Jim seems extremely concerned that the BNP won 27,000 votes north of the border and insists " the BNP are also a Scottish problem" sounding like he's almost envious of the excuses his North England colleagues have to whip up a culture of fear such that voting Labour is the only way to stop the fascists.
The BNP were miles and miles away from winning an MEP up here. Even if we had our rightful number to play for in the recent European election, 13 MEPs, Nick Griffin & co wouldn't have got a look-in. And neither would UKIP incidentally.
In Scotland, we can afford to be complacent as we are a genuinely multicultural nation with a proud immigration policy and the chances of a far-right party flourishing north of the border is negligible, even against our Scottish Secretary's apparent intentions to talk such a party up when there is no clear reason to do so.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
It seems that is an idea that is catching on going by Kezia's latest posting.
So, with this apparent Aaron Sorkin-isation of the New Labour project, I thought it was worth doing a quick head-to-head just to see how the Labour Cabinet would measure up against Jed Bartlett's team:
Gordon Brown vs Jed Bartlett
No contest. For assured delivery and folksy charm, President Bartlett is streets ahead of his UK counterpart. They may both have "a big brain and a good heart and an ego the size of Montana" but only one of the two can express such attributes in an effective manner.
Lord Mandelson vs Leo McGarry
I'd call this one a draw. While Leo has unswerving respect from the top-down of the entire West Wing team, Mandelson makes up for his divisive nature with unbeatable political instincts and pitch perfect media delivery.
Ed Balls vs CJ Cregg
Let's be honest, the Education Secretary is the closest we've got to Gordon Brown's mouthpiece. I suspect Ed doesn't have the ability to 'get in the PM's face' over issues and I'd bet my bottom dollar he doesn't have the same charm with the media as the beloved CJ so an easy win for 'Flamingo', even if Balls has had a less rocky love life.
David Miliband vs Josh Lyman
Tough call this one. Both young, both dynamic, both didn't exceed academically and both have unfortunate smiles when a camera is in front of them. For sheer political duplicity and a more deserving claim to receive all the finest muffins and bagels in all the land for sheer oneupmanship, it has to be Josh.
Alastair Darling vs Toby Ziegler
Much easier one this one. Toby may have invested in shares that just happened to go through the roof the next day but the White House Communications Director is far too moral to flip his designated second home four times and claim back personal tax costs. Plus, Toby is a better writer.
Dougie Alexander vs Charlie Young
I just wanted to add this to give me the excuse to imagine the line "My name is Dougie Alexander jackass, and if that bulge in your pocket is an 8ball of blow, you'll be spending spring break in a federal prison". I don't see it somehow, though they both lose points given that their respective sisters can probably beat them at sports.
At the end of the day though, it comes down to this. Letting Bartlett be Bartlett won the day for the Democrats and reversed a lamentable poll rating. Letting Brown be Brown with his red-hot temper and psychological flaws would be electoral suicide.
Let Johnson be Johnson has a better ring to it too.
"ALEX Salmond yesterday challenged his rivals to a referendum fight between new tax powers for Holyrood or full independence — and they all BOTTLED it. "
The First Minister threw down the gauntlet just 24 hours after Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems backed the proposals by the Calman Commission.
But when faced with the choice of letting the voters decide if they want more financial autonomy under devolution or independence, Mr Salmond’s opponents backed off. "
I fully admit I'm a snob in believing The Sun publication to be a waste of perfectly good trees but dismissing the opposing leaders as 'bottlers' will still help the party in what isn't exactly its target market.
It just goes to show how tricky a position Gray, Goldie and particularly Scott (who recently backed referendum plans) find themselves in. They set-up Calman to combat the National Conversation, they are seemingly satisfied with the report's findings but without the changes being in any manifesto or put to the people in a referendum then there is no mandate for making the significant changes to Holyrood's powers.
Clearly the unionist parties would rather implement the changes before 2011 to spike the SNP's strengthening independence referendum guns but there's no way of getting past Salmond's loud claims that a referendum is required, including an independence option, without losing face with the Scottish public.
I reckon there's a very long way to go on this one yet....
It reminds me of a chap in my university days who, upon introducing himself to new people, would say "My name is Steve but people call me Ace".
Now, most people saw through Steve's optimistic ruse but we still respected the sheer brazenness of his attempt to win a flattering nickname for free. Still, a very precious few actually fell for it "Ace, can I get you another drink?" was recorded on several occasions.
It reinforces the belief that if something is said often enough it starts to be believed. Iraq had wepaons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, the local councils concordat is "historic" and David Cameron leads the compassionate Conservatives.
By calling its judging panel the 'Star Chamber' I reckon Labour have won some cheap PR. Just a shame for Gordon Brown that the 'bank-saving superhero' tag never really stuck....
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Softy that I am, now that he is out I am beginning to feel sorry for old Jim.
But, the right decision was made by the Star Chamber. 5 out of 5 for those guys. I just wonder if Shahid Malik may be next.
As for the constituency of Livingston:
(1)Will Labour now bring in an All Woman Shortlist when they get around to selecting another candidate?
(2) And would Jim Devine standing as an independent split the Labour vote to almost guarantee an SNP victory at the next General Election?
(3) How did the local Labour party in Livingston contrive to back their MP only a few days before he fell foul of the Star Chamber?
I suspect the answers are no, yes and who the heck knows respectively.
To that end we have been spoiled recently with almost every member of the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet having written articles or holding interviews for various newspapers over the past week alone.
I couldn't help but compare and contrast the pieces written by PM Gordon Brown and Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne.
Brown's opening paragraph includes the line "a fast internet connection is now seen by most of the public as an essential service, as indispensable as electricity, gas and water."
Now, don't get me wrong, internet is important but if I had a choice between my electricity or water being cut off and having my internet taken away it is simply no contest so it was a bit of an iffy start.
The moisture was sucked from the rest of the article with dry phrases such as "core to our future industrial capability" and "building Britain's future beyond the difficult, short-term economic conditions".
I can hear Gordon saying this to me, hear him in my head in that dour, clunky fashion and, try as I might, I just can't continue reading. I know that is a failing on my part but it can't be helped.
George Osbourne wrote a piece of similar length in yesterday's Times and it was captivating from start to finish. Admitting Tory faults of not being 100% honest about cuts and suggesting the ushering in of a new age of honesty in Politics. Most cleverly of all, he disregarded the Government position and set a very clear, unfettered Tory stall out for the public to judge.
As comment pieces go it was intelligent, engaging and, crucially, believable.
I reckon these kind of articles serve a great opportunity for Gordon and Labour at large to turn things around but with that voice ringing in my ears and those same dry phrases burning my eyes, I can't help but think that it's just not going to work for them, especially when 'the other lot' keep consolidating their position by writing their own articles so well.
Monday, June 15, 2009
For me, the Speaker vacancy has been a one-horse race right from the start. Even before Ann Widdecombe put her hat in the ring I had her down as a personal favourite, though I'll admit that is in no small part due to me not knowing my Sir George Youngs from my John Bercows.
Ann Widdecombe would be forthfright, fair and, most importantly, humorous. She would command the respect of all parties and would help us get into the next parliamentary term unscathed in a very difficult time. Most of all, it would be a really wonderful send off for the lady before she retires from a very successful and eventful time as an MP.
And if you are still in any doubt that Ann would be the right choice, just cast your eye on any scene from her thoroughly entertaining "Ann Widdecombe to the Rescue" TV series which, if there was any justice in the world, would be into its 12th series by now as the Tory MP went about single-handedly energising the nation's youth.
Ann Widdecombe's a class act, a thoroughly good egg and I hope she gets to leave Westminster in style as the Speaker of the House.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Thanks to a leaked email we have been given a sneak preview of what new powers Holyrood can expect to have devolved to them in the near future:
- Half of income tax will be received directly by the Scottish Government
- Collection of air passenger tax, landfill tax, aggregate tax* and stamp duty
- Power to set drink driving limits
- Power to ban airguns
- Considerable borrowing powers to finance public projects
Now, on the face of it, more powers for a relatively toothless Government is to be welcomed. Obviously striking some sort of relationship between who earns the money and who spends the money is a sensible step. We've seen how disjointed it can be when the Scottish Government receives a wad of cash each year and is then able to go on a £30bn spending spree with little responsibility for knock-on effects. They'll know that same £30bn will be waiting for them a year hence.
The idea of having a lower drink driving limit north of the border makes sense and will bring us in line with our European neighbours. Indeed, the counter-argument that it would be nonsensical to have an island with different drink drive limits kind of falls down when you think that Continental Europe has that very situation and seems to get on just fine.
Banning airguns will be long overdue but it is the question of tax that I think is a bit messy, a bit of a Highland Fudge if you pardon the pun.
I don't understand the logic in giving Scotland some income tax revenue but then reducing this extra income from the block grant. Will it not just lead to the same result?
If we receive £32bn a year in the block grant, then receive £6bn in Income Tax revenue and then have £6bn deducted from the block grant as a result then we still come back to £32bn. So I'm looking forward to the detail of how this will work as it's all a bit Modigliani-Miller at this stage.
Presumably there will be scope for Scotland to receive more money or less money depending on whether the Scottish economy is successful or not, as yet it is unclear. But either way, it all smacks too much of falling between two stools. Either full fiscal autonomy or none at all is the preferable route to take, you don't merely split the difference and have half fiscal autonomy just to try to please everyone, surely? Reform Scotland has already said the proposals don't go far enough and a Heriot Watt principal believes borrowing powers are compromised by the continuance of the block grant. So no ringing endorsement from the expected concluions so far.
My overriding concern however is the lack of scrutiny that the Calman report will receive.
Wendy Alexander has said that Sir Kenneth Calman should be congratulated for his expediency in creating this report in just 18 months when similar reports took up to 10 years in the past. I personally would have thought that Wendy should be concerned that it was all a bit of a rushed job. Imagine congratulating someone on their report before evening seeing it? I reckon that is an indication of how easily the Calman recommendations will glide through the Scottish Parliament irrepective of what they may be.
I have no doubt that Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems will have decided long ago to nod through this report, whatever it may contain, simply for political expediency in order to combat the SNP's dream of independence.
Whatever tomorrow's report may contain, and I have no doubt that a lot of it is good stuff, at the very least we deserve a referendum on the content of any subsequent Bill that may be prepared. We voted for a Scottish Parliament and we voted for tax-varying powers but if there is to be a substantial change to the powers of Holyrood and a clear risk that the significant alterations won't attract the proper scrutiny that they deserve from our MSPs, then we need to step in and have our say.
But, who am I to complain, particularly when there is a dedicated Scottish poll bearing a healthy lead for the SNP:
SNP - 31%
Labour - 28%
Tory - 17%
Lib Dem - 16%
Sample size - 1,048
The Sunday Times uses these figures to suggest that Labour would lose 12 MPs but I would go further and suggest it would lose 17.
So 20 MPs for the SNP. An aim that was derided as ridiculous not so long ago but now a strong expectation.
It might be fun to look at who these 20 MPs would be so here goes....
Aberdeen North - Local SNP councillor Kevin Stewart would replace Labour MP Frank Doran by 3,000 votes.
Angus - Mike Weir would consolidate his grip on this SNP constituency.
Argyll & Bute - Mike Mackenzie would replace Lib Dem MP Alan Reid by 630 votes.
Banff & Buchan - Difficult to predict the precise margin of victory given the 'Salmond factor' is signifcantly reduced but should be an easy win for the SNP's Eilidh Whiteford unless I am underestimating the appeal of local Tory TV fisherman Jimmy Buchan.
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East - Comfortable win for the SNP's Julie Hepburn replacing Labour's Rosemary McKenna. Majority of 2,300.
Dunbartonshire West - Graeme McCormick would replace Labour's John McFall with a majority of 600 votes.
Dundee East - Stewart Hosie would consolidate his position as MP with increased majority.
Dundee West - Jim Barrie would replace Labour's Jim McGovern with majority of almost 8,000.
Edinburgh East - George Kerevan would come in for the retiring Gavin Strang with a majority of 2,700.
Linlithgow & East Falkirk - Tam Smith would replace Labour's Michael Connarty with majority of 3,500. (Probably more given dodgy alarm clock expenses)
Falkirk - Local councillor John McNally would replace Labour's Major Eric Joyce with majority of 700.
Glenrothes - Peter Grant would gain some revenge for last year's by-election by replacing Labour's Lindsay Roy with 1,500 majority.
Kilmarnock & Loudon - Majority of 6,500 for the SNP over Labour's Des Browne.
Livingston - Lis Bardell would replace Labour's Jim Devine with majority of 730 (probably much more given dodgy shelving and mileage claims)
Moray - Angus Robertson would extend majority.
Ochil - Annabelle Ewing to win comfortably over Labour's Gordon Banks by some 14,000 votes.
Paisley & Renfrewshire North - 'Mags' Maclaren would replace Labour's James Sheridan by 260 votes. (Mags might wish to make herself known as 'Margaret'. Just a suggestion.)
Western Isles - Angus MacNeil to extend his majority.
North Ayrshire & Arran - The SNP candidate would replace Labour's Katy Clark with a 170 majority.
I have the Tories down for 5 seats and the Lib Dems bearing up well with a commendable 10. Michael Moore losing Berwick to Tory Chris Walker and Alan Reid losing Argyll & Bute as mentioned before. These losses would be offset by Kevin Lang winning Edinburgh North & Leith from Labour's Mark Lazarowicz.
And on that unimaginable note, I will finish by saying it's all a bit of fun this prediction malarkey. A bit of speculation to beef up the polling info.
I mean, Kevin Lang winning Edinburgh, North & Leith? Absolutely unthinkably preposterous.
UPDATE: With thanks to 'NorthEastNAT' for drawing my attention to some screwy goings on in Aberdeen South.
My prediction for this constituency based on a national swing from 2005 to this YouGov poll gives:
Labour (Anne Begg) - 11,027
Lib Dem - 9,840
Tory - 7,661
SNP - 7,228
Yet, the European election result for Aberdeen in its entirety was:
SNP - 12,939
Labour - 8,594
Tory - 7,236
Lib Dems - 5,378
There has been a suggestion that Labour were beaten into 3rd in Aberdeen South itself but I can't find the exact figures.
Anyway, Aberdeen South, definitely one to watch and a possible venue for the SNP's 21st MP at the next election....
Saturday, June 13, 2009
A SCOTTISH Labour MP is facing fresh questions over his expenses after claiming he billed the taxpayer for his local publican to put up shelves in his own bar. Jim Devine said the £2326 of "joinery" was for storing personal and party political material in a pub cellar he was renting.
The local pubowner put up shelves in his own bar and his good mate, MP Jim Devine, decided to claim the money back on the taxpayer. And his local party members back him up!
You know, despite near certain deselection, I almost hope Jim Devine stays on as an MP. These weekly installments of such a bizarre (seemingly never-ending) tale are entertaining and it's curiously comforting to know there is another twist waiting every Sunday morning.
that aches to weep, of your heart a fist,
clenched or thumping, sweating blood, of your tongue
an iron latch with no door. How it makes of your right hand
a gauntlet, a glove-puppet of the left, of your laugh
a dry leaf blowing in the wind, of your desert island discs
hiss hiss hiss, makes of the words on your lips dice
that can throw no six. How it takes the breath
away, the piss, makes of your kiss a dropped pound coin,
makes of your promises latin, gibberish, feedback, static,
of your hair a wig, of your gait a plankwalk. How it says this –
politics – to your education education education; shouts this –
Politics! – to your health and wealth; how it roars, to your
conscience moral compass truth, POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS.
It probably won't make much of a difference with the .com domain, I think you can still use the 'blogger' options and so far the only impact has been to lose all of my treasured links!
So I'll be spending the next while putting them all back in again as I believe the vast amount of "no referring link" hits I receive use this blog as a jumping off point into the blogosphere at large? (Though I do like to think a few of you stick around to read a post or two, of course)
So, I'll be busy over an Americano or two here in Leith's best deli (Rock Salt) before I amble round to check out the Leith Gala Day.
Also, since I'm doing 'zero-based linking' if you have any suggestions for a link then by all means let me know what it is and I'll (probably) include it.
Anyway, it seems the Scottish Housing Regulator are none too pleased with the Glasgow Housing Association due to a supposed failure of leadership from within their ranks.
The counter-claim is that the SHR are out to get the GHA because the latter haven't played the political game, haven't showed enough deference to the mighty regulating body (who I for one had never heard of before this morning)
My first impression was that there is no point in having a regulator if it's not able to show some teeth when it sees something it doesn't like. An audit should always be more of a scratch than a tickle and if the GHA don't like the results of the audit then there should be a clearance meeting (attended by the Housing Minister) where all issues can be argued out and agreed upon, or at least agreed to be disagreed upon, before a final report is drawn up.
Of the audit clearance meetings I've been to in my past they have generally been heated but they've always been logical and constructive. Hopefully the same can and will happen here.
However, it seems to be that whatever report is being drafted it will not make it into the public eye suggesting that a political stitch-up could be well and truly at play.
So it's a pretty familiar story in the end. The 63,000 tenants neither know what's going on above their heads nor whether they'll have their social housing rugs tugged asunder.
West Coast Politics. It really is quite something....
Friday, June 12, 2009
Funny in that, let's be honest, she had it coming to her. You don't announce a resignation the day before a continental election and expect it to be anything other than a huge deal. To suggest otherwise (as Hazel has) is laughable. The rocking the boat badge she, with no small amount of hypocrisy, admits was an error of judgement. Why did Hazel think she was slipping away quietly but choosing to wear that pin?
But I do find it sad. A party should be big enough for any democratically elected member to have their feelings made known, privately or publicly, without fear of reprisals. Clearly a lack of such opportunities has driven Hazel to a course of action that the formerly ultra-loyal MP will, at least in part, have regretted.
Either way though, in most wars, you only come out the other side safely if you are on the winning side and Hazel Blears was well and truly on the losing side on this one.
As the vox pops of local constituents suggest, she will probably lose the confidence vote in her due for next week and there will be a 3rd expenses-related by-election.
And what lies in store for James Purnell and Jacqui Smith? Mandelson is surely working on a machiavellian plan with relish for those two too.
Who knows for sure what will happen next in the mad world of the Labour party but the dreams in which former Ministers die are no doubt the best Gordon Brown has had in a long while.
The stooshie seems to centre around who will take the PPC spot in Edinburgh South West. Personally I don't see what the big deal is given the Lib Dems were spanked by the SNP, the Tories and Labour respectively in the European elections. The Greens even beat them into fifth place.
Anyway, this hasn't stopped a rumour flying around that Joanna Coleman is set to resign as a Lib Dem councillor which would tip the balance of power in Edinburgh Council away from the SNP/Lib Dem coalition.
There are two theories as to how this rumour has come about:
(1) Joanna Coleman, whose husband was provisional Westminster candidate for Edinburgh SW until work commitments came up, has thrown her toys out the pram because the PPC position hasn't automatically novated to her now that former councillor Tom Ponton has put his hat in the ring.
(2) The rumour was not started by Joanna Coleman but rather by opponents from within the party who believe that the Councillor has too heavy a workload and they are seeking to destabilise her.
It's all fascinating stuff. (Well, sort of.)
At the very least, a Lib Dem implosion in Edinburgh South West, even more so than what occurred last week, should help Kaukab Stewart's chances of winning this seat from Alastair Darling for the SNP while keeping the resurgent Tories at bay.
So, with that in mind, I can't resist drawing attention to a letter from Barry White, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Futures Trust in today's Scotsman.
The letter pretty much tears apart yesterday's "doing nothing" article from David Maddox in The Scotsman, confirming that the quango is on budget and working hard on delivering almost £3bn worth of projects.
The last paragraph is worth pasting in here but the whole letter is worth a read coming as it does from the man closest to the detail of what SFT is all about (no, that's not Andy Kerr no matter how much he may wish to believe it).
Improvement in value for money and releasing savings for additional investment are our main focus. The complexities and long-term nature of investment infrastructure programmes mean that effective early groundwork and preparation pave the way for savings in the future. The SFT should be judged on the value it delivers over time.
The biggest concern in the 2007 election, quite rightly, was the abhorrent cost of PFI and any reasonable person should be able to see that the Scottish Futures Trust is taking us in the correct direction, dogmatic or not.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The Labour MSP and ex-GP is bringing forward a Private Members Bill to follow the likes of Denmark, Switzerland and, em, Marks and Spencers in eradicating the manufactured fats from food north of the border.
I'm surprised it would take until 2013 to fully implement but as good bills go, this one has to be near the top of the pile as Scotland seeks to reverse its position as sick man of Europe.
(There's no indication yet if this will affect Sticky Toffee Puddings the outcome of which could drastically impact on my support for this bill....)
IAN Swanson's column (Evening News, 9 June) was interesting reading – the very real prospect of a Labour-free Edinburgh after the next general election was the most interesting part.
I was interested, though, to read comments made by the candidates chasing my vote next time in this five-way marginal. Five parties with less than 1,000 votes between them can only be good for democracy as every vote will count.
The SNP candidate accepted that the result, whilst good, will not necessarily be repeated at the general election. The sitting MP accepted the Euro elections were "a bad result for Labour everywhere" – I take no issue with either of their comments.
Kevin Lang, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Edinburgh North & Leith, trumpeted: "This is our best performance in a European election ever in North & Leith. If you look back at the last European election in 2004, we came fourth."
This is not what he told us in the many leaflets he put out during the campaign – the majority of which featured him heavily alongside a graph showing a "two-horse race" and only the Liberals being able to challenge Labour.
At this time of plummeting trust in politicians, anyone soliciting my vote needs to be playing with a straight bat – they need plain, straight-talking - so in this seat my options have slimmed from five to four.
So, at this rate, I hope the Lib Dems can do as much canvassing and leafletting in my area as possible. It looks like it may actually help rather than hinder the SNP vote.
However, I do find some of the media reporting on the matter regrettable.
In The Scotsman today is the headline "Flagship quango runs up £4.5m bill 'doing nothing'
I didn't even countenance the possibility that it might have been talking about SFT before clicking on the link given that Sir Angus Grossart has been appointed Chairman and along with John Swinney there has been a behind the scenes drive to get the process up and running. Certainly not 'doing nothing'.
But, Scottish Futures Trust it was and Jeremy Purvis has been doing some cost analysis and bleating about it as only he can despite the £4.5m chiefly going towards advice for some £2.7bn of projects across Scotland.
And £4.5m is pocket change compared to other public spending that so far has yet to do anything. Trams, for example. What has that done and how much has it racked up?
In the same newspaper there is a story (not quite as prominent, of course) showing that some £8m of funding for the tram project has been lost from private companies that had been expected to provide more capital.
So we've spent £4.5m on a brand new public funding body that could well save us billions of pounds over the next few decades and we've lost £8m on trams that are yet to go anywhere, are already over budget and will not receive a further penny from the Scottish Government?
I know which ones concerns me more...
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"Listening to politicians debate drugs and alcohol is bad enough, but hearing them debate sex is just dismal." (around 3pm)
I guess it makes sense that if Patrick Harvie can't pay attention during a dinner with the Prime Minister and First Minister then he would struggle to find debates in the Holyrood chamber entertaining enough. Maybe the Glasgow List MSP (who came 7th out of 7) should take up a job that is more suited to his short attention span?
Let's also remember that the debate was about strengthening rape legislation in the country. If Patrick finds such topics "dismal" then good luck to him improving on his party's 2 MSPs in 2011...
Labour have seized on remarks made by Andrew Lansley that extra spending on health will lead to bigger cuts elsewhere. Using Darling's own Budget figures of 7% cuts as a starting point, the Tory Health Minister explained broadly how spending constraints may pan out under a Cameron administration. More spending on health and less spending elsewhere, relative to Labour.
Using this fairly reasonable announcement, Gordon Brown has sought to characterise the difference between the Tories and Labour as the former being cutters and the latter being spenders. (Of course, if the latter are spenders, why is Scotland facing £500m/year cuts in Barnett consequentials?)
Such a choice was all well and good in the nineties and early noughties when we had money in the bank and the public believed we were on our way to a British utopia if only we could write ourselves a fat enough cheque.
But surely a fourth term Labour Government would have as much money in the bank as a Tory Government would?
So if the choice at the next election is between an administration that will cut budgets because there's not enough money left and an administration that will keep on spending despite our being firmly in the red, then I know who I would rather have in Number 10 and Number 11 Downing St.
And if comparisons are then to be made about the SNP letting the Tories in, well, if Scotland is now a country where the Conservatives win in more local council areas than Labour do then I'm not too sure that attack is going to stick as much as it once did.
Given Gordon Brown has seen off the rebels (for now) and the dust is settling after the election results, the motion won't have the same potency it might have had under circumstances where Ministers were resigning left, right and centre but it should still lead to an intriguing day of political positioning.
The DUP have already stated that they will be backing the calls and the Lib Dems won't be able to go back on the noises Nick Clegg was making last week about the need for change.
I am unconvinced that the Tories will fully back the motion however. There comes a time when you need to move on from an issue such as this and David Cameron may well have decided that that time has come.
I expect the Tory leader to attack Labour on policy rather than expenses or leadership issues, George Osbourne has certainly trailed an attack on the economy so that would be my best for lunchtime's Punch & Judy bout.
So, although I agree a General Election is long overdue, it will merely be a discomfiting day for Gordon Brown with the Nationalist calls for him to call one but well short of a body blow.
That said, could Gordon spike some guns by this morning calling a General Election for the Autumn? With a 16/1 ballot slip on that very prediction, I sincerely hope so....
Mr Brown was accused of "falling at the first hurdle" in his efforts to reform Westminster by refusing to release the full report of an inquiry into Mr Malik's affairs.
Sir Christopher Kelly, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said last night the report should be published.
If there was a week when Gordon Brown should be bending over backwards to be transparent and not make any schoolboy errors it is this one, immediately after he has clung onto his job in the face of massive pressure on the back of MPs expenses issues.
So how he can think, in that byzantine addled mind of his, that withholding an investigation into a Minister's expenses from public eye is the right way forward is beyond me.
Plus ca change...
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Turnout - 35.7%
SNP - 6,921 (28.8%)
Lib Dems - 5,293 (22.0%)
Tory - 4,706 (19.6%)
The Labour - 2,215 (9.2%)
Greens - 1,583 (6.6%)
George Lyon represented Argyll & Bute for 8 long years. Was his time there really so regrettable that he was unable to win a majority in his old stomping ground for the Euro election? Was there really so little regard for the man that only 22% of the voting public decided to send their local man to Brussels?
George's dwindling support in that region has gone from 11,000 in 1999 to 10,000 in 2003 to 9,000 in 2007 and now to 5,000 in 2009.
I had thought that there was something odd about a party winning 1 of 6 MEPs with a paltry 11.5% share of the vote but when an individual gets a lucrative job despite his former constituents of 8 years not giving him a mandate you've got to think something somewhere doesn't stack up.
Miliband (D) - Johnson is the one
Alan Johnson is "the leading contender" to replace Gordon Brown. A statement of the obvious, you say, except that it comes from David Miliband who said it on the Today programme earlier. He said: "The Parliamentary Labour Party has reached a settled view about the leadership. The Labour Party does not want a new leader, there is no vacancy, there is no challenger. The leading contender, Alan Johnson, is backing the Prime Minister to the hilt. So that is that."
He repeated the point a bit later during a rather feisty interview. Mr Miliband sounded to my ears like a man relieved that once again he has bodyswerved the responsibilities others were thrusting upon him. In fact, has he just endorsed the charismatic former postman?
If you listen to the interview, David Miliband was giving nothing other than unflinching support for Gordon Brown and showing an eagerness to get on with things. To use it to suggest that David Miliband is calling Alan Johnson "the one" is a rather grotesque distorition of reality.
Mr Brogan, you've had your fun and your newspaper has had a great month but you need to let go and move on. Not everything is a conspiracy, a rebellion or a tacit endorsement of a rival candidate to the PM.
With the media giving them wall-to-wall coverage in talking up the Nationalists' chances of getting 25+ seats at the next election (even Hamish McDonnell got involved), the party itself seems to have opted for the independence dream as the next step to focus on so all bases are well and truly covered.
There's no detail that I can find but a System 3 poll in an SNP press release apparently puts support for independence as follows:
In favour - 36%
Against - 39%
Undecided - 25%
I've always thought the undecideds are more likely to come down on the side of the Yes vote but that's not really based on much other than a hunch.
It may be over a year before any potential referendum could be held and the numbers, it could be said, won't mean much now in June 2009 but the SNP led the polls for 2 years since 2007 and look how that ended up over the weekend there.
The SNP are gearing up for the fight of their lives and this polling suggests they have every reason to be confident.
At the very least, we deserve a proper debate on the issue as there is substantial support for an independent Scotland and it's a topic that is clearly not going to go away...
So I was surprised to read a certain portion of his latest post, especially when it was juxtaposed with Angus Macleod of The Times whose witterings often need to be taken with a pinch of salt given his unionist-leaning ways:
Not sure I entirely buy the SNP argument that this was a confidence vote in the Scottish Government. It was more about protest against Labour.
However, at the very least, the voters were not apparently deterred in any way from giving their support to the SNP by the party's performance at Holyrood.
Much worse for Labour is that for tens of thousands of voters, the Nationalists are now the natural party of government north of the Border and Labour is a soiled brand. It may not be yet among the also-rans in Scotland, but more than 50 years of Labour dominance appear at an end.
Brian seems to be suggesting that the Scottish public are not convinced by the SNP and merely gave them their vote in the hope that Labour will up their game soon. Angus seems to be suggesting that the SNP are here to stay in the long term.
Let's be clear though, Labour's vote was way down and the Tories and Lib Dems saw their vote share go down. The SNP's share increased significantly.
How that equates to simply a protest against Labour I don't know.
It seems the psyche that Scotland is still Labour's fiefdom will take some shifting, even amongst our illustrious political commentators!
Slovakia has a population of 5.4m people and is represented by 14 MEPs.
Finland has a population of 5.3m and is represented by 14 MEPs.
Ireland has a population of 4.4m people and is represented by 13 MEPs.
Lithuania has a population of 3.3m people and is represented by 13 MEPs.
Latvia has a population of 2.2m people and is represented by 9 MEPs.
Slovenia has a population of 2m people and is represented by 7 MEPs.
Estonia has a population of 1.3m people and is represented by 6 MEPs.
Scotland has a population of 5.2m pople and is represented by a mere 6 MEPs.
So, what if Scotland had its fair share of MEPs? I reckon comparing Scotland with Ireland and Lithuania is a reasonably prudent comparison so an independent Scotland would have around 13 MEPs.
With the same share of the national vote as was announced yesterday, the breakdown of MEPs under the d'Hondt formula would be (with %-age share of MEPs in brackets):
SNP - 5 (38%)
Labour - 3 (23%)
Tory - 3 (23%)
Lib Dem - 2 (15%)
Green - 1 (8%)
Wouldn't that be nice? Not only would it be great to send a Green representative from Europe's potential wind and wave capital but we'd have a share of the MEPs that actually reflected the share of the vote.
The national picture was turned on its head in Scotland, an historic showing that had the SNP on top in a UK-wide election for the first time in its history and even the media sat up and took notice. It didn't really matter though, we still ended up with the same result.
Unbiased political anoraks talked of their disappointment at election night and even Labour MEP David Martin dared to gloat that the SNP didn't get the breakthrough it had hoped for.
The simple reason for this is the paltry number of MEPs our country is allocated and the truly monumental shift in public voting that needs to take place for a party to take one measly MEP from another. So it's a dangerous game for Labour to play, using under-representation in Brussels to beat the Nationalists over the head with.
I'm more and more convinced that an independent Scotland with a significant presence in a strong European Union is the vision that will break the union.
Monday, June 8, 2009
If the last men standing calling for your head are Charles Clarke and Tom Harris then you know you are past the worst. And if James Purnell does choose to announce he would like to stand against Gordon Brown he will either be met with a wall of silence from Number 10 or Mandelson will have him for breakfast.
The new Cabinet has been too steadfastly loyal to disband now. Gordon Brown will remain Prime Minister, at least until the Autumn.
Not only do I think he will survive till the Autumn, I actually think Gordon Brown has a chance of winning the next election, I honestly do. His demons will probably always get the better of him but there is a path that can get Gordon and his psychological flaws to May 2010 and squeeze out a win.
First of all, he needs to focus squarely on policy. Rein in the individuals who indulge in talking about "courts of public opinion" and the like and insist that all Ministers walk away from interviews if the subject goes outwith the bounds of Government policy. Send out the clear message that every Minister is focussed on the job and leave no space for the puff that has filled our newspapers for too long.
Brown is clearly losing the Punch and Judy fight against a PM-in-waiting who built a career in PR. David Cameron, on the other hand, has no policies. He can't afford to have policies because Labour would just steal them if they were any good. It's tittle-tattle versus economic waffle at the moment and the tittle-tattle is tittilating us enough to win out. If Gordon firms up his waffle, he really could get back on top.
Are David Cameron and George Osbourne really all that? That's Labour's light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. It's not exactly Barack Obama he's up against whenever the General Election comes around.
So no more YouTube, no more Derek Draper and no more celebrity endorsements. Black and white policy from here on in. And I don't mean ID cards and car scrappage schemes but big solutions to big problems and if it takes 6 or 7 explanations to get it through to us because it's so damn complicated then so be it. Broadsheet over tabloid, every minute of every day.
The only other thing the party needs to embark on is an enormous door-knocking campaign. Yes that needs activists and yes that needs enthusiasm but if it is timed right (you can give it a month or two at least) then it would be hugely effective if the public felt Labour were infact turning a corner and could connect that with a face, a name and a handshake.
Indeed, the biggest stumbling block isn't the public and it isn't even the Tories or the Lib Dems or the SNP, it is the media.
Journalists have whipped themselves into a delirious dervish with the expenses scandal, the Labour infighting and the European elections results with Labour in the teens. But all three of these stories are already coming to an end and, like it or lump it, Gordon Brown has seen all of them off.
At some point journalists are going to have to remember why their jobs are so important and what it is the public need them to do. What is Britain's plan to escape recession, grow jobs and fix the climate? I haven't the faintest idea but I do know who paid what for flatscreen televisions and over the top gardening costs.
The past few weeks have been remarkable but for all the wrong reasons and I for one am ready to return to a country that votes for parties on the back of the economy, the environment and education. Not duck ponds, phantom mortgages and Minister reisgnations.
If you're going to get thumped in an election, it might as well be one where barely a single voter laid their eyes on a manifesto.
Hit those journalists with tangible policy Gordon until you're blue in the face and you might, might just get through this.
Everyone loves a Comeback Kid after all, so why wouldn't they adore a man who is back from the dead...
Two Labour "dissidents" have called on Gordon Brown to step down during the PLP meeting this evening. Charles Clarke and Tom Harris.
The Labour MP for Bloggerdom could have his keyboard in a shoogly socket after that 'brave' move.
Will Mandelson do a hatchet job on Harris in tomorrow's press for speaking up? I hope not, at least Tom had the cojones to say what the whole country, indeed the whole world, knows must happen.
The excuse that because Labour did so bad in the Euro elections the party needs to stagger on in the hope of better times before May 2010 is simply ludicrous. They'll be staggering into single digit polling if they're not careful.
But I wonder if, now that Harris has blown his cover, the MP for Glasgow South will be brave enough to suggest who he would want in Gordon's place. Assuming it's not Tom Harris of course.
UPDATE: Not sure if there's a link between Harris' outburst today and the Euro results in his Glasgow South constituency last night:
SNP - 5,192
Labour - 4,451
Tory - 2,282
Green - 2,215
Lib Dem - 1,415
Then again, Tom does have past form in at least having covert digs at his leader:
"The only reason the Conservatives won in 1992 was that they had had the very good sense to ditch a terminally unpopular leader who had lost her political instinct."
Whatever could Tom mean?
Update 2: The press have got a stronger hold on the story and poor Tom isn't coming out too well:
Former transport minister and Glasgow MP Tom Harris asked the PM to step aside.
But he was swatted away by an increasingly confident Brown.
The Lib Dems have still to pick a candidate but former county councillor Nick Starling is believed to be interested and lives in the area, while UKIP have been buoyed by the local election results which saw them finish second in divisions including Hellesdon and Old Catton.
Nick Starling is also known as Norfolk Blogger.
So we've had Tartan Hero as potential SNP candidate for Glasgow North East (to be organised by Indygal) and now Norfolk Blogger touted for Norwich North. Who says the internet isn't becoming more relevant in mainstream Politics...?
They may well have ganged up earlier this year in Parliament to agree not to have a plebiscite in the lifetime of this Parliament but it's still a year before the SNP will bring their Independence Bill to Holyrood.
If the economy truly has stabilised, if the Scottish Futures Trust gets ironed out and if the SNP are still streets ahead in the polls, then we'll be back to a situation where Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems will have a lose-lose situation on their hands:
(1) Agree to a referendum and have the fight of their political lives to keep Scotland in the Union
(2) Vote down the SNP's Referendum Bill and face the dire consequences in 2011.
SNP - 29.1%
Labour - 20.8%
Tory - 16.8%
Lib Dems - 11.5%
Greens - 7.3%
UKIP - 5.2%
YouGov 2nd/3rd June
SNP - 31%
Labour - 22%
Lib Dem - 17%
Tory - 14%
Green - 5%
UKIP - 3%
Not too bad at all if you ask me. I've always considered YouGov to be the most accurate polling company on the back of the 2005 General Election and so it has proved this year. UK Polling Report has looked at the numbers at a UK level and is in agreement.
The most striking conclusion that can be drawn by the comparison is that people still seem to have an 'embarrassment factor' when it comes to admitting they will vote Tory. We saw the party winning areas in the Borders and East Renfrewshire and my bet on the Tories winning 7 or more seats at the next General Election is looking good. Let's be honest, they weren't too far off Labour in the overall Scottish poll which is pretty remarkable and easily overlooked.
The accuracy of the YouGov poll consolidates the SNP's predicted results if a General Election were called today:
SNP - 33%
Labour - 25%
Tory - 18% (possibly more)
Lib Dem - 16%
The SNP would sail past their target of 20 MPs if this was the national share of the vote. It would be interesting to see a specific list of names that this would bring to Westminster. I aim to look at that when I have some more time but it's little wonder the SNP are feeling so buoyant these days.