Friday, July 31, 2009
In truth, Barack probably wouldn't do it. For a start, what does he care, he has his own polling problems to think about and letting off the hook a man who hacked into the great US military system won't play too well with the right-of-centre crowd the President needs to enjoy a healthy 50-60% approval rating.
But Obama didn't get to the White House by playing the same political game that his predecessors have for decades.
Maybe, just maybe, Barack will heed Mrs McKinnon's pleas, maybe he will look at the UK/US extradition treaty and decide that, just like Guantanamo Bay, it has long outlived its usefulness, if ever there was one in the first place. Maybe he will grant Gary McKinnon a reprieve.
And if such a moment comes to pass, Gordon Brown will look weaker than he did on the 10p tax debacle, weaker than he did on the General Election that never was and weaker than he did when Cabinet members were abandoning him in droves.
The low 20s would be as good as it gets for Labour between now and May 2010.
Typically it is money to charities that is amongst the first to go when belts are tightened during recessions and although I would never intentionally labal the SNP a charity-case, I do think it and all parties should be treated like one. In the nicest possible way of course.
I see Labour have at least toyed with the idea in the past that political parties should attract charitable status for tax purposes. A welcome move if ever it should come about.
The funding of political parties looks set to be one of the many policy discussion fallouts of the expenses scandal and, if the eerily prescient Political Dissuasion is accurate once again, it is state funding of parties that will be the preferred option in due course.
Let me share in his distaste at such a prospect.
Political parties should be organic beasts, borne out of discussions in dimly-lit, smoke-filled rooms* and fuelled by the energy of its activists and the persuasive power of its ideas. To keep flagging parties going with the money earned by people who wouldn't think for a second of donating to them is certainly a wrong turn and not how the game should be played.
For a game it is. Parties are up against each other as much as Celtic are Rangers or Aberdeen are Sigma Olomouc (bless them). Should a fan from the Greener side of Glasgow be forced to pay money to support the blue team? Not likely.
And along what lines would money be allocated? Vote share? Number of MPs? Would the repugnant BNP get any dosh? Would donations still even be accepted?
Providing tax breaks to political parties is vastly preferable to state funding if there really is a pressing need to ease the financial burden on parties. Although this will effectively be money going back to parties that would otherwise be going into the public purse, if we see such money as never really being ours in the first place then hopefully a change to the rules can be applied with little public outrage.
And even without such a break for political parties in these tough times, mercifully we have the SNP who have shown the way on how to attract numbers, new ideas and fat cheques even when the economic climate is not at its most amenable.
(* Clearly, any new political parties will have to be formed in Cuba or some other country that has yet to have the smoking ban foisted upon itself.)
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tories - 41%
Labour - 27%
Lib Dems - 18%
Brown's personal rating is now the same as John Major's in 1996 which sounds particularly ominous.
Note this though:
In 1997, Labour won the election with a national lead of 12.5% and enjoyed a 253 seat majority.
In 2009, if the Tories win a 14% national lead they will see a meagre 82 seat majority.
Time for First Past the Post to go.
(The Scottish section of the poll should be out in a day or two...)
It's really quite clear, the people of Banff & Buchan have double representation from Salmond while the people of Springburn have zero representation at Westminster. Who are Springburn residents supposed to turn to from May to November if they have a Westminster-related concern? There is no such confusion in the North East constituency, you write to Salmond whether the concern is devolved or not. Easy.
The Lib Dems may have a logical concern with Alex Salmond's situation but to call it a "double standard" is patently false.
Personally, and to be totally fair to the Libs, I don't think we should have MPs and MSPs combining jobs. If one job alone is worth £50k+ a year then it is worth giving your full concentration.
One thing's for sure though, it's up to the constituents to decide if they are happy with their MP also being an MSP. It's certainly not up to Mike Rumbles.
For now, it is Gordon Brown who has the most to gain, behind in the polls it would only take one slip of the tongue from David Cameron to pull Labour out of the mire and goodness knows that David 'Twat Your mother's a bike' Cameron is capable of that, though my personal prediction of how a confrontation would go would be that Gordon Brown's performance would merely compound his polling misery as we are reminded of just how god-awful he is at the simple act of communicating.
Gordon Brown has strengths, no really he does, and it is these he should focus on. The Government Asset Protection Scheme may be a better area to place his energies than taking on Cameron at verbal jousting. If he really did save the world and the banks, he'd win Labour a fourth term. He won't win it by looking better in make-up and drumming up a few decent soundbites for an hour of tv.
Don't get me wrong, we probably should have such a debate in the near future, let alone during an election campaign. There is so much change occurring within our borders at the moment (and outwith) that sitting back and taking stock of all of it, with our leaders leading the discussion, would be very welcome indeed.
But the greatest TV debate in history is the fictional one in the West Wing for a reason, reality never quite lives up to expectation and hype, not that we shouldn't try of course. Did anyone else stay up for the Obama vs McCain debates? Painful, wasn't it.
So I don't see it happening and although that is a shame we shouldn't be too down-hearted as that's just the way the political game goes.
And hey, Mandelson vs Hague would make for a much better TV debate anyway so we're not missing much despite what our feverish imaginations may say...
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Anyway, without further ado, here are the ten blogs I will be putting forward for Iain Dale/Total Politics blogging awards. Do not take any of this as a recommendation to ya da ya da ya da.....
First up, the blogging supremo of the year....... Jamie Hepburn!!
Only joking, I'll do it in reverse order instead:
10 - Mark Lazarowicz
Bit of a token effort this one as I reckon a blogging MP deserves recognition and as Mark is my local MP he gets the tenth spot. Crucially though, the Labour MP puts up more than just press releases and isn't afraid to post his thoughts on the big issues of the day, ok the month given his posting rate isn't so great. For example though, the MPs expenses scandal and 42 days detention were covered in welcome detail. I may not agree with all of his votes but I least I can dip into his blog to understand why he votes the way he does.
I hope Mark continues blogging until May 2010, though (perhaps) not necessarily beyond...!
9 - The Steamie
Ups its game with every passing week after an inauspicious start containing the type of punchier/tongue-in-cheek posts that you wouldn't expect to find in the papers during the day. Through the articles you can sense the likes of David Maddox and Gerri Peev kicking off the work shoes, pouring out a glass of wine and having a bit of fun with stories that have cropped up during the day or throwing out thoughts that have crossed their mind after a hectic shift at the coalface. A definite joy and I expect great things over the election period as gossip starts to trump hard news.
8 - Iain Dale
A great effort from the young lad this year. If he sticks at it, he'll go far that one.
7 - J Arthur MacNumpty
As solid a blogger as you could possibly wish for. You know you're going to get a proper debate and something a little bit extra when Will posts a new item up, though sadly that occurrence is fewer and farther between than many would like.
6 - Malc in the Burgh
A veritable all rounder with a strong mix of politics, humour, sport and always something different coming out from his now look website. Distinctly, commendably and refreshingly non-partisan. Too many rugby posts though!
5 - Scots and Independent
Intelligent, well-researched and almost always educational even when I think I'm pretty clued up on a subject. If I could grant one person a free pass into Westminster come May 2010, I think it would have to be Richard Thomson.
4 - Scottish Unionist
Whenever I see a comment left from SU I'm usually certain that I've just been well and truly skewered on a point that I've not fully thought through ('Indy' comments have the same effect incidentally). His forensic mind is there for all to see on his blog even if his mysterious identity is not. You will always struggle to logically argue the man into submission such is his razor-sharp mind.
I'm even thoroughly enjoying his recent 'Cybernat' posts which I can't say was always the case.
3 - Two Doctors
Pretty much the sole Green blogging voice but who needs a wingman when you fly so well on your own. Highly persuasive, clearly argued with just the faintest hint of humility which sadly so many of his green colleagues sometimes lack. Two Doctors is a must-visit and I remain surprised that it garners so few comments. My honest opinion that many posts are delivered with such intellect that it's actually a bit intimidating to contribute (or maybe that's just me)
2 - Kezia Dugdale
For me blogging is all about reactions. When I read a blog post I want to be inspired, shocked, antagonised, humoured or burning with anger. With Kezia's soapbox I get all of this and more, mostly the first one thankfully but more often than my heart would like with the last one I have to say. I follow a lot of blogs off and on but when I log on I invariably find myself hoping above all else that Kez has a new blog post up and that speaks volumes.
1 - Doctor Vee
What Doctor Vee lacks in quantity he more than makes up for in quality. Always insightful, always thorough, his blog posts read like short Masters essays rather than quickly rustled up blog posts. Duncan is the front line of defence against Iain Macwhirter's charge that bloggers merely exaggerate. He takes a topic and then nurtures and lovingly caresses it until it's breathlessly, delightedly begging for mercy.
In short, the Barry White of Scottish blogging.
And there we go. To be honest though, I could write another 5 top 10 lists and the 60th blog would still be one I thoroughly enjoy reading such is the talent and effort out there.
Thanks also to those who have voted for me so far, very, very, very much appreciated.
And with that in mind, there is still 40 hours or so left to vote so if you haven't already (and particularly if you enjoy SNP Tactical Voting), I would like to take this opportunity to 'get the vote out' by leaving you with this last thought.
How would you feel seeing Tom Harris voted in as Scotland's number one blogger for a second year in a row....?
Go on, vote, you know you should really....
Anyway, here's the news on the subject:
David Cameron, the leader of the UK's opposition Conservative Party, has laid into social microblogging service Twitter in a radio interview, labeling it useless. While chatting to Absolute Radio's Christian O'Connell, Cameron was asked why he wasn't on Twitter himself. He replied: "It's too instantaneous... Too many twits make a twat".
When asked about the mood of the nation, he added "The public are pissed off.. Oh, I can't say that, can I?".
"pissed off"? "twat"!? Who are you and what have you done with the real David Cameron? That nice posh guy that will get us as close to the fantasy of Hugh Grant as Prime Minister as possible (or is just me who holds that secret yearning).
I'm still not entirely proud of my tweeting ways but for the future Prime Minister to slag off, what, a million, two million British people in a matter of moments goes some way in proving that the man's political instincts are not fully fledged.
As for the dubious language, I would ask David Cameron if he kisses his mother with that mouth but given this quote I'm not sure it's a great idea:
"If my mother had wheels, she'd be a bicycle."
It's all a bit strange or perhaps, just perhaps, David Cameron is actually a little bit dimly naive deep down?
More scrutiny of the man required I reckon.
First up, the bin strike situation up here in Edinburgh. The city is looking cleaner due to private firms being called in to sweep up the debris but I think I'm right in saying that the dispute stems from a realignment of salaries between the genders where before female refuse collectors received £12k and bin men received £18k.
Consequently, the bin men had their pay docked to £12k to bring everything into line. That's how I see it though I may be on the receiving end of a media war.
If that is the case, couldn't we all have saved ourselves a bit of bother by putting up female refuse collector salaries to £18k? I'm pretty confident there are only a handful of bin-women across the city anyway...
Secondly, this Diageo jobs malarkey and the march that took place over the weekend. I've already said before that there is a danger that Scotland looks like a bad place to do business if we don't let global companies operate as they see best, a sentiment that has me in tune with Iain MacMillan and, more worryingly, Alun Cochrane. Anyway, I can leave that side of it alone.
My new concern is with the 400 jobs that were expected to be created in Fife as a result of shutting down operations in the West. Is there a march planned for all those Fifers who will remain jobless if Diageo stayed in Port Dundas? Will the First Minister be making an address there too? I understand there is a net loss of some 500 jobs which is regrettable but if I was an unemployed Fifer, I know whose side I'd be on at the moment and I'd be drinking doubles of Johnnie Walker over the summer...
And lastly, the question of big banks not lending to small businesses. RBS and HBOS were struggling for their very survival a matter of months ago and now Darling is having a go at them for increasing their margins?
We can milk the cash cow of our biggest banks for all they're worth if we want just to help up small and medium sized businesses have a slightly bigger overdraft facility but lets not blow another big hole in our biggest companies through too much interference.
We've already lost one Scottish bank, to lose two would just be careless.
There, I feel much better now....
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Anyway, with this in mind, I reckon the debate on minimum pricing for alcohol is just getting going. I have believed right from the start that the Scottish Government was taking the correct approach in insisting on applying a price per unit of alcohol, be it 40p or 50p.
The opposition positions seemed badly thought through and, not for the first time, appeared to be opposition for opposition's sake. With countries all over the world either already having minimum pricing or due to roll it out, the policy has gathered a head of steam much like the smoking ban, it is arguably an even more attractive policy.
So the news today that Coors, the makers of Britain's biggest-selling lager Carling, has backed minimum pricing as a policy option is thoroughly welcome. Where drinks companies had hunkered down together against the proposed law change, one has now broken ranks and presumably will be the first of many as the momentum swings even more strongly in favour of the minimum pricing.
And this is where I reckon the SNP can come into its own. With momentum in the party's favour there is no need to rush on this Bill and debate after debate will fall in their favour for as long as the Tories and Labour put up their meek defence. The Greens and Tavish-come-latelys the Lib Dems, are already onside. Some umm-ing and aww-ing as the clock counts down to May 2011 may not be such a bad thing.
Dr Harry Burns, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland has called the move a "no-brainer" but I reckon, with little else on the debating table, the Nationalist brains will be fully engaged with how to use their position of strength on this particular policy to optimal ends.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I was out of the country over this past weekend or I might have wound my way down to Holyrood Park to learn more about my Hendry and Buchan heritage and soak up the no doubt stirring atmosphere. Consequently, I had to live the event vicariously through media coverage. Said coverage was unanimously positive and congratulatory. Unanimous that is except for the Scotland on Sunday's leader column:
Saturday, July 25, 2009
"I'm now 55 and if I do the rest of this term and another one, I'm going to be 60. My health is good and I'm definitely not planning on retiring – but I would like to do something else."
"The constituency is in fine fettle. I had a majority of 13,600 at the last general election, the second largest Lib Dem majority in the whole of the UK after Charles Kennedy – and I always think in politics it's good to go out at the top."
The constituency is indeed in fine fettle but they'll need to get a new candidate in pretty quickly to capitalise on John's success in the area.
Maybe the Lib Dems will return a new MP with a pretty safe 7,000 majority or so but it could be game on for Edinburgh West. And it could even be the Tories who are the next likeliest to pick it up if the SNP and Lib Dem split the non-Labour vote.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Iain McGill is the Tory PPC for my local constituency of Edinburgh North & Leith, earlier this week he wrote a guest post on the recently resurrected Scottish Tory Boy blog.
I've actually met Iain and I will say first up that he seems a thoroughly decent gent and a strong PPC. Local activists should write the Tories off at their peril in our neck of the woods (they were 2 votes away from the Lib Dems in the European elections, the Lib Dems who I have been told 'can only win here' and have a vast array of bar charts to prove it.)
Naturally, I am following Iain on Twitter, mostly to catch up with the local gossip but also watching and waiting on the off chance that something a bit silly goes up for all to see.
For example, this gem from this afternoon:
"Has 10,000, leaflets arriving on Monday to go out about the farce that is the nsrubbish (sic) collection in Edinburgh."
10,000 leaflets flowing around the streets of Edinburgh on top of all the other garbage. Do we think that will solve the problem of our unsightly streets or add to the problem?
I suspect the irony is lost on the man...
What would a similar collapse mean for Glasgow North East?
Well, Michael Martin's 2005 winning share of the vote of 15,153 votes (53.3%) may seem unassailable but if the same by-election collapse is applied it suddenly becomes a lighter 6,129.
The SNP polled 5,019 of the votes last time around so it wouldn't take much to nudge past the 6,129 mark.
Indeed, with Glasgow East seeing a swing of 22.54% to the SNP, Crewe & Nantwich seeing a swing of 17.6% to the Tories and now Norwich North seeing a 16.5% swing away from Labour, the challenge for the SNP in Springburn looks positively skoosh easy. A 17.8% swing to take an 8th Westminster seat for the Nationalists? Piece of Tunnocks tea cake.
Yes the Labour vote in Glasgow North East will be firmer than that of Norwich North, yes the 4,000 people who voted for Socialist Labour last time will probably vote for the actual Labour party this time (if they can work out the ballot paper) and yes David Kerr is going to get lost a few times while out campaigning.
But the similarities with Norwich North speak for themselves: A young, intelligent fresh-faced candidate, backed heavily by his party leader who will be out on the campaign trail dozens of times and Gordon Brown proving a liability at every turn. Add to that the successful Holyrood Government to campaign on and the local issue of school closures and you have a very good reason to think that the SNP can pull this one off with something to spare.
The Tories had a great day today but with Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens returning to the drawing boards, maybe it is actually the SNP who have the next biggest reason to cheer the result of Norwich North?
It's just a shame we have to wait until November to find out for sure...
First of all, the results themselves:
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - 13,591 (39.5% +6.3%)
Chris Ostrowski (Labour) - 6,243 (18.2% -26.7%)
April Pond (Lib Dem) - 4,803
Glenn Tingle (UKIP) - 4,068
Rupert Read (Green) - 3,350
Craig Murray (Honest Man) - 953
Robert West (BNP) - 941
Let's be honest, it's a stonking result for the Tories. Maybe they just won the expectations battle but the party's refusal to predict that Chloe would win a majority of over 3,000 has reaped dividends as the 7,348 margin looks massive.
On this evidence, David Cameron will be the next Prime Minister and he'll have a big majority backing him up.
Labour had a bad night. 7 out of 10 people who voted for Labour in 2005 didn't vote for them yesterday. That's a brutal indictment of Gordon Brown's premiership if ever there was one.
The Lib Dems also had a bad night. They apparently spent a six figure sum on this by-election and delivered tens of leaflets through each letterbox (as Nich Starling delighted in telling us all, seemingly unaware that most people thought so may leaflets would make people LESS likely to vote for the Lib Dems).
The Greens must be a little disappointed. Yes the vast majority of the Green camp is in Norwich South but to be beaten by UKIP will be a bad blow for party morale in advance of the next General Election. Then again, it was also their best ever by-election result so plenty to shout about in the press at least. And they did win a crucial Brighton by-election last night so there's a good chance they don't really care about this one.
UKIP is the result that had me sitting up though. They seem to have carried their European vote into the by-election which I reckon would have been unexpected. Their share of the vote went from 2.4% in 2005 to 11.8%.
All the talk was of the Greens and Lib Dems challenging for 3rd so how did UKIP get in there? You'd expect the party to win an MEP, but never an MP, so why did so many turn out for them? It seems the srength of feeling against the EU is significant and another balancing act that Cameron will have to continue practising in advance of next May.
How many constituencies would be lost to Labour if UKIP picked up 11% each time?
I guess, overall, David Cameron should be delighted at this result and having the youngest MP in Westminster as a Tory is a neat bonus but David should also reflect on the fact that more people voted for the Tories in 2005 when they finished a distant second. A big margin in today's result, yes, but there was no real energy behind it in terms of winning people over.
Labour lost this by-election more than the Tories won it, and that's a crucial difference.
Right, I'm off for an £8 toastie...
The debate on Scotland's budget and 'cuts' and what's up and what's down is just getting underway given the news that our spending block will decrease to £27.5bn next year from £27.8bn this year.
This does put Gordon Brown in a rather obscure position of hammering 'Mr 10%' David Cameron for his proposed cuts at Westminster while denying the same attacks from north of the border on himself.
And, fair is fair, I think I'm right in saying that these figures do flatly contradict statements from Iain Gray that we would have more money to spend next year, it would just be a lower increase compared to prior years. When the Labour leader said a lower increase, I don't think he meant negative increase. Even a 0% rise would have been better.
So that argument can now be put to bed but Labour's other argument is certainly convincing. The spending block was £26.8bn in 2008/09 so at £27.5bn for 2010/11, we're still doing ok. That's a 2.6% increase over two years which, in these difficult times, you'd struggle to get at any High Street bank let alone from a UK Government.
The figures for education and transport for 2010/11 do seem to be up significantly on last year and only down a little bit on this year while the health budget has increased from £93.9bn last year to £101.1bn this year and will be £102.6bn next year.
So yes, some numbers are pointing down the way but the SNP have to be careful how it plays this one.
Many people believe that Governments can escape the heavy borrowing through efficiencies rather than cuts. I think they're wrong, I think entire projects and reams of driftwood public sector staff have to go in order to balance the books properly but politically, the SNP have to be seen to doing the efficiency saving side of the bargain while they simultaneously denounce 'Labour cuts'.
As interested as I am in the small Government vs big Government debate, whether to spend our way out of the recession or tighten our belts, once the buns start being thrown I am definitely going to sit this one out but we can all expect to hear the phrases "savage cuts" and "spending brought forward from subsequent budgets" in the short and probably mid term future.
Maybe recess came at the right time after all...
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
He was at it again yesterday, snarling at Army chiefs who pleaded for more helicopters to save our brave soldiers from needless death and injury.
If anyone is handing a propaganda weapon to the enemy, it is Lord Foulkes himself.
Defence "supremo" Bob Ainsworth has just been told to stop ministers insulting the Top Brass.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Despite Norwich North being held this Thursday and Glasgow East being held during the Fair Fortnight holiday last year, Labour still meekly put up a defence that it would be wrong to hold a vote during the summer holidays when partisan advantage is the real reason for the delay.
In the shadow of the expenses scandal and Brown's promise to clean up parliament, it is clear the Prime Minister's moral compass has gone haywire yet again and at the worst time.
Tom Harris, no friend of Gordon Brown, took a particularly odd take on the events on his Twitter feed:
SNP motion defeated. They complained that the Glasgow East by-election was in the summer, now moaning that North East will be Nov. Lambs!
With newspapers adopting a "you live by the sword then you die by the sword" attitude and Labour activists digging no deeper than a "what goes around comes around" philosophy, one has to wonder who will make the first, brave step towards a fairer style of Politics in the UK.
Stewart Hosie tried making that first step today and was rebuffed by Labour's 238 votes to the Freedom Fighters' 127.
We will have to wait until November to see how heavy Labour's price will be in the Glasgow North East by-election.
(Note - If North to Leith can have corny headlines, then I am letting myself think that I can too...)
Update: The Herald has somehow contrived that the SNP are partially to blame for the November date as they didn't try hard enough to win the vote on today's writ. The article also states that Labour's defence that they shouldn't hold a by-election during the summer holidays is "true" despite the potential date of August 20th being 4 days after the summer holidays end.
I can understand why whoever wrote the article decided not to put their name on it...
Monday, July 20, 2009
If tomorrow is writ-less, the earliest potential date for the contest is 5th November. Gordon Brown wouldn't want to remember, remember that date given an SNP victory would be as explosive as Guy Fawkes' dynamite under the Houses of Parliament all those years ago.
So November 12th is the date that has been pencilled in.
Given such a ridiculous delay, why wouldn't Labour countenance an earlier by-election and move the writ tomorrow?
Plenty of theories have abounded from Brown wanting clear distance between two potential losses and a superstitious belief that the party can repeat the success of the November Glenrothes win last year.
I'd like to put forward another theory:
Autumn Party Conferences.
The SNP Conference will be held over the weekend of the 17th and 18th of October, a terribly inconvenient date if there's to be a by-election in early November. This is further compounded by it being held in Inverness, a full 174 miles from the streets of Springburn, further away than Newcastle. The shuttle buses that ran from Perth to Glenrothes in November 2008 would not be needed in November 2009.
Labour may be holding their Autumn Conference in distant Brighton but the timing is fortuitous in that it will begin on the 27th of September, freeing up all their Scottish activists to have the streets of Glasgow North East all to themselves while the SNP's members are otherwise engaged up in the Highlands.
The same situation occurred in the Glenrothes by-election, the SNP Conference coming a matter of weeks before polling day, and although it may not have been a deciding factor, it was far from ideal for SNP HQ in ensuring doors were knocked and leaflets delivered to keep the momentum going.
Could this be helping fuel Labour's desire to hold the contest in November and leave the people of Springburn unrepresented for five long months? You never know...
Conservatives - 39%
Labour - 26%
Lib Dems - 19%
Sample size - 2,000
So further confirmation that the Tories are well clear of hung parliament territory and also a signal that the Lib Dems were being a bit premature in thinking they were 'breathing down Labour's neck'.
The Scottish sub-sample has Labour with their noses in front:
Labour - 35%
SNP - 30%
Conservative - 16%
Lib Dem - 13%
The most interesting part of this poll could be the questions that accompany it.
Despite 42% of Brits saying they are satisfied with how democracy works in the UK with 50% against, that split changes markedly to 56% satisfied and 39% unsatisfied in Scotland.
I had worried that given how skewed the voting procedure is in favour of Labour then this was a tacit approval for the unfair First Past the Post system to continue, the party received 69% of the Scottish seats on 39% of the vote in 2005.
However Scots are largely in favour of a more proportional style of voting be it PR or the Alternative Vote System.
So the significantly high support for Scottish democracy is ironically an approval of the Holyrood parliament even though a devolved view was not asked for in the top line voting intentions.
The strongest message from this poll is that First Past the Post has to go and given that it's only a ruling party on its way out that would ever seriously consider such a move, it's all eyes on Labour...
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The argument that polls are meaningless when elections are so far away is easily countered with the charge that one would rather be 1-0 up after 20 minutes even if it is a 90 minute game.
So, without further ado, I shall take an overdue look at the polls that were released over the weekend:
Tory - 42%
Labour - 25%
Lib Dem - 18%
Sample size - 1956
SNP - 36%
Labour - 35%
Tory - 13%
Lib Dem - 10%
Sample size - 170)
Tory - 38%
Labour - 23%
Lib Dems - 22%
Sample size - 1,010
Labour leading the Lib Dems by 7% per YouGov and by 1% per ComRes. How can the two polls be so different? How can we take polls seriously when they seemingly give different results? How annoying that this leaves the door open for the Lib Dems to say they are "breathing down Labour's neck" when the poll with nearly double the number of individuals has them 7 points adrift?
I'm not going to translate a Scottish sub-sample of 170 into the number of seats that may or may not be won as it lacks meaning and quibbling over whether the Lib Dems can catch Labour is a bit pointless too since level pegging on the national share of the vote would still equate to a 100 seat difference given we have a non-proportional system of voting.
But it's clear that Scotland is a 'two horse race' as the SNP party has delighted in proclaiming and it's also clear that Labour are in a desperate position so close to a General Election.
17% adrift of the Tories in the poll that has the lower margin of error due to the higher sample size, not to mention the most accurate polling company in recent elections gone by, is a very strong position. Most tellingly however is that the Tories haven't hit 42% since 16th of May since when there has been 23 separate polls so David Cameron is certainly 'on the up'.
Polls may sometimes tell different stories, but if you look at the science beyond the top line voting intentions, it's not too difficult to pull out the meaning. And that meaning here is, the SNP and Labour have good reason to be cheerful, Labour are facing Opposition in a year's time and the Lib Dems are either being sneaky or ignorant if they think they have Labour on the backfoot...
David Kerr has only been selected by the SNP for a couple of days and he's already getting it thoroughly in the neck from a seemingly hostile press. The latest assault on the man's character is as a result of his membership of the Opus Dei religion.
Personally, I don't see what the fuss is about.
Religion is a personal decision and it's no-one else's business to say whether one's views are wrong or right.
I seem to remember a lot of sympathy for Tony Blair's predicament of wanting to be a practising Catholic while being Prime Minister and no-one seemed to mind (too much) Ruth Kelly being Secretary of State for Transport while being a member of Opus Dei. Why should an SNP backbencher being a part of the same organisation merit such alarm?
There are swathes of politicians in Westminster who are religious but are never accused of confusing their theology with state business.
And I have to say, I raised an eyebrow when I read the Scottish Green party leader's Twitter feed:
"Just caught up with the SNP's Opus Dei connection. I'd only be worried if I thought they were going to win..."
Glossing over Patrick Harvie's premature opinion that Labour have the contest in the bag, why should any politician be concerned at a member of any religion joining Parliament?
Patrick goes on to suggest that David's religious views will mean "another MP voting against women's equality, sex education, reproductive rights, secular schools...", not that I'm aware of Catholics being known of in particular for holding sexist views or being unwilling to teach sex ed in schools. But there are 850,000 Roman Catholics in Scotland, 5 million in England, they're going to need at least a few MPs and MSPs to represent them even if it does rub against the views of others. Tolerance and respect, after all, is a two-way street.
If David Kerr was Jewish, Protestant or Baptist would the same concerns be raised? The same headlines generated? The Speaker of the House is Jewish, is anyone suggesting John Bercow is going to be prejudiced in Westminster as a result?
It certainly says a lot when it falls to Scottish Unionist to defend the SNP candidate with these replies to Patrick:
I don't know my Opus Dei from my El Bow. What's all the fuss about?
I don't think his (Kerr's) principles have been called into question.
Elections should be fought on policy and if the Glasgow North East debate moves on to the question of Catholic schools and abortion, which it surely will, then the candidates can state their views on these issues in due course and be judged by the voters accordingly but to reduce the debate to shabby nudges and winks about a religion that is perfectly legitimate and reconcilable with Westminster is highly regrettable.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
July 19/20 - Labour (40), Tory (33), Lib Dems (15)
July 24/26 - Labour (33), Tory (38), Lib Dems (18)
July 26/28 - Labour (40), Tory (31), Lib Dems (21)
Friday, July 17, 2009
It has a different feel this year somehow. Some people are playing more coy than last year while others are being even more brazen in their attempts to hustle for votes. Some bloggers are even bizarrely boycotting the whole shooting match. OK, the voting procedure has more holes in it than the d'Hondt system but do the Total Politics top 100 lists really have such a devastating impact on some bloggers that they don't want to take part?
I'll play it neither coy nor shameless. I think Iain Dale's efforts in this area are excellent and the top Tory blogger is merely suffering that age-old British problem of tall poppy syndrome. Some say it's all a blatant attempt to win easy publicity for his magazine? I'm not even so sure of that. It's merely a bit of fun and finishing high or low shouldn't really be too much of an issue, even if I do admit my nerves will be jangled when the UK and Scottish lists are released.
But as much as I was chuffed to bits to come 44th in the UK and 3rd in Scotland last year my overriding memory was Doctor Vee's breathless cries for help at being squashed between Brian Taylor and Calum Cashley on the list.
For me, yes I'd love to finish as high up the list as I possibly could, there's no point suggesting otherwise, but the begging bowl will stay firmly in the cupboard. (Well, for now at least, the voting does stay open till July 31st after all...)
I'll be putting my vote in soon enough, not that I have a clue what shape it will take. There really are hundreds of excellent blogs out there with a sustained effort going into so many of them. And maybe I'll post up my top ten or maybe I'll keep it private, I suspect the former only antagonises people who aren't on the list while the latter is a cunning way to promise some people they're top of your list when in reality they are not!
Oh dear, the underhand tactics are coming out already. Maybe I should just boycott it after all...
A strong local candidate didn't step forward in the first selection contest and so it has proved in the second. Not that it matters, the party has a very strong candidate in a man who clearly backs himself to take this campaign by the scruff of the neck and give it his all. I suspect David Kerr's decision to step up and take the candidacy despite initially losing to James Dornan will actually endear him to local party members.
No doubt we are set for a few days, weeks or even months of hilarity as the SNP is derided for having a 17th choice candidate who not only doesn't live in the constituency but comes from Mars.
After all, we had The Scotsman claiming David Kerr was the fourth choice candidate when he is clearly the third and now we have The Herald even more bizarrely claiming David has won the candidacy at the third time of asking. Was there another selection contest that I wasn't aware of?
But is the issue of David Kerr not being local a concern?
Well, yes and no.
I personally say yes as I myself don't tend to vote for candidates who do not live in the constituency which they are planning to represent. It is a situation which has led Chris Walker to step down as the candidate for the distinctly winnable Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, his reticence to move to the area being the stated reason for his departure.
But, clearly, such a condition for voters is not universal.
I looked up the last time a candidate from outside the constituency won a by-election and I didn't have to look far. Edward Timpson, the target for Labour's misguided Tory toff campaign, won Crewe & Nantwich with a stomping majority. Parallels can be drawn further in that both Timpson and Kerr are well-known names generally for reasons outside of Politics and they are both a youthful 35 years old.
Furthermore, the only reason that geography was an issue last year during Glasgow East was that Margaret Curran tried to pretend she lived in the constituency when she clearly didn't.
And, given the contest is so far away, either triviality that David wasn't the first choice candidate and isn't from Springburn shouldn't matter. When any candidate is asked about the economy, schools, Afghanistan etc, it will be difficult for them to squeeze in an answer that amounts to 'well, at least I live just down the road'.
It will be a particularly intense contest coming as it does just months away from the General Election. A nervous Labour party with less than yeasty poll ratings could be an erratic sight to see and for parites big game players are required.
I have no doubt the SNP has just such a candidate.
Opposing parties may well enjoy the supposed 'meltdown' that they think they are seeing but I don't think David Kerr is who Labour HQ would have chosen to run their candidate against if they had a vote themselves....
* I don't know if it was just our school that allowed kids to bring in board games on the last day of school as long as they were quiet but I always remember Hungry Hippos being the most popular game which, given its considerable noisiness, was a flagrant breach of a clear rule, indeed the only rule, that had been set down. I'm just bitter cos no-one ever wanted to play chess....
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The majority of the rubbish lying on too many of our streets are pizza boxes, McDonald wrappers and half-eaten kebabs. Why not raise the cash that the binmen need to get back to work via a local levy? It sounds better than a fat tax at least, surely.
The savings that would ultimately be made on the NHS would make it a double-win, a triple win even if it meant kids weren't getting sausage suppers for their tea every other night.
After all, if the Councillor in charge of sorting this mess out is away sunning himself in the Mediterranean, we might aswell start thinking of a plan B...
In one week's time, Norwich North will have their by-election contest even though the two constituencies lost their MP at more or less the same time. Almost four months will sit between the two contests if this writ is not moved.
I suspect Gordon Brown is adopting a cautious approach as he believes that two by-election defeats within a month of each other would spell the end of his time as PM. The timing, a couple of months before Labour Conference, would be ideal for the rebels to mount another challenge.
Further to this, Labour will be hoping that delaying the contest till November will ensure that some of the Glenrothes luck will rub off on their candidate.
I would hope that the media would give this issue the full spotlight given how many headlines the SNP selection contest has generated. The problems the Nationalists is but a blip in comparison to the travesty of fairness that Springburn constituents are facing, needlessly going 5 months without an MP.
It is ironic that it is Michael Martin that is being replaced too, a Speaker who was too stuck in his traditional ways regarding the office he held. Upon stepping down from Westminster one of the first calls for change in how the UK Parliament does its business was for fixed term parliamentary sessions.
An independent body setting the dates of by-elections would be just as welcome as this situation where we'll all hanging on to find out if the Government can put partisan advantage aside and find the cojones to call the contest sooner rather than later is just ridiculous.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
To be honest, I have nothing against Tony Blair as the candidate, I actually quite like the guy. Sure, it's probably not advisable to have one of the faces of the credit crunch and the Iraq War as Europe's figurehead at the moment but if you were to ask me who I think would be a better candidate for the role from the UK I'd be struggling. Lord Alan Sugar? Carol Vorderman? Ken Livingstone? Richard Branson?
Actually, Richard wouldn't be the worst shout in the world, but I won't go down that particular road.
Pushing through the numbness of it all, a creeping reticence at this announcement stems merely from the faint absurdity of having a European President at all. What would he or she do all day?
The EU has a lot of good things going for it, free work and travel across borders is worth the entrance fee alone, but the Europhiles have to stop, give us a say on the Lisbon treaty and just accept that at some point, when it comes to European integration, enough will be enough.
A European President may well prove to be that point.
First he wins one measly extra MEP at the Euro Elections despite a storming lead in the UK polls then he is singled out for criticism by the current holder of the EU Presidency, Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, for being too Eurosceptic and now Cameron's lurch to the right has led to the new group that the Tory's are a part of being led by a controversial right-wing Pole.
This result was partly caused by the Conservative's own nominee, Timothy Kirkhope, being unable to stand for the leadership position as a 'rebel', Edward McMcMillan Scott, won the deputy leadership role. Talk about failing to plan equating to planning to fail!
Mr McMillan Scott has clearly done Cameron over. His protests at leaving the more mainstream European People's Party went unheeded so he took decisive action. And then some.
One of the cracks in the Tory party that Cameron had successfully papered over was the divisive issue of Europe and how integrated should they allow the UK to become.
Maintaining party discipline and ensuring there is no return to the infighting, particularly with the more pro-EU Ken Clarke in such a high profile position, may be tricky to ensure and this could be Cameron's trickiest test in a couple of years.