May 2008 Archives

Reviewing the debate.

| | Comments (0)
scotsmanlogo.jpgLast night I went to the first of the Scotsman's current round of big debates, topic: the constitutional future of Scotland. Even though the paper's editor admitted these events are a cynical attempt to boost circulation, they are also a good contribution to the gaiety of the nation. Here's how I think all the participants did, in order of appearance.

  1. Michael Crow (moderating). After a very funny introduction, equally scathing about all the politicians on the panel, he adopted a pretty hands-off approach. This worked well, except where it didn't. See #9 below.
  2. Malcolm Chisholm (Labour). Having been described as "a serial resigner", with all the licence that implies, Malcolm gave a pretty wet performance. Under the vagueness, I believe a man of principle lurks, but he didn't even make hay when invited to oppose Trident. Also claimed it was now clear what Labour's policy is on the referendum. How we laughed.
  3. Patrick Harvie (Green). My unbiased view.. no, wait, I can't pretend I have one. Best line of argument: if Scotland and the rump UK were both EU members, we'd have twice the voice when we agree, and when we don't, the UK wouldn't be making the case against us on our behalf. Backed this up with Eurovision argument that an ex-UK could be a powerful voting block.
  4. Prof Tom Devine (History). Very interesting, the only outsider perspective and all the more valuable for it. Also worked out that if you more or less swallow the microphone you can intervene on anyone. His book's for sale.Tom, now you owe me a tenner.
  5. Margo Macdonald (Margo). I always think Margo comes across as persuasive, much as I find her politics frustrating. However, a voice next to me, when asked about her, said simply "demagogue". Certainly speaks her mind clearly, which makes her more interesting to listen to than many on the panel.
  6. Nicola Sturgeon (SNP). Didn't set the heather alight, but a decent performance from the Deputy First Minister. Spent too long talking about the ins and outs of various polls, though, and wasn't clear about whether she wanted a low-tax, low-services Scotland, the Irish model, or a more Scandinavian approach. They do talk about both, but we can't have both. Did her best to be conciliatory with others on the panel.
  7. Nicol Stephen (Liberal). Again, it's hard to be unbiased. Patrick pointed out that the Calman Commission is a creature purely of three parties, not the people, and Nicol more or less agreed. He made the odd argument that the Liberals wouldn't necessarily even back a referendum on that Commission's own proposals. Incoherent, unpersuasive, and only had one friend with him, if the clapping is anything to go by.
  8. Murdo Fraser (Tory). Michael Crow told us Murdo had gotten into politics because his school was short a Tory for a mock election, and it did indeed feel like inertia had carried him all the way from that to the party's deputy leadership in Scotland. He had a good moment where he declared himself a devolutionist heretic, but wouldn't go further for fear of a handbagging.
  9. The Audience (SNP). With a few honourable exceptions, like the young man to my left who put the panel on the spot over nuclear weapons (an actual issue, an issue, thank God!), the audience were poorly prepared, confused, or just plain bonkers.
We got interminable history lessons about the Claim of Right instead of questions about what independence should be for, we got discussion of a sticker from the window of a British Midlands flight (no, I don't know either), we got what would have been a run-through of every historical event since the Darien project. We got depressed and dispirited listening to people who simply adored the sound of their own voice.

At least half of the questions reminded me of the approach taken by the SWP and the SSP in their heyday - monomaniacal oddballs entirely unaware of the effect of their approach. It was like seeing the Herald's and Scotsman's online comments sections in person.
Other than that, though, I had a good time, a decent busman's night out. Thanks to the organisers for their efforts.

Here's today's short piece about the debate, and I think David's doing a longer one for tomorrow. Links to other blog reviews will follow. Come on Kez, don't tell me you're actually working today!
empty.jpg.. please make it this, to George Monbiot's open letter to the Saudi monarch. It's an excellent summary of how utterly disjointed, contradictory and cynical Government policy is on energy (and yes, Government here means SNP as well as Labour).

High fuel prices are, as we've long said, a blunt instrument when it comes to reducing emissions. Unlike smarter policies, such as personal carbon trading, localising planning to design out car dependence, higher prices do hit the poor.

Today's American media shows very clearly the effects of price rises (if the NYT asks for a login, go here):
1. Trucking in decline as freight moves to rail.
2. Flying in decline. Americans would be moving to rail if passenger services hadn't withered.
3. Car use in decline, buses and light rapid transit on the up.

A lower-carbon lifestyle is coming, like it or not. The question is, do you want governments that pretend we can reduce oil prices in the short term, and which keep planning new roads and economic models dependent on cheap oil in the long term? Or do you want governments which have the ideas to make that low carbon economy a strong one, building up the appropriate new industries, and promoting the infrastructure needed for life after cheap oil?

Reviews and attempted rebuttals of Monbiot's arguments in the comments please.

Two Peters.

| | Comments (6)
hitchens.jpgI read Peter Hitchens' blog fairly regularly, because however wrong I believe him generally to be, I think he's sincere, and also a good writer. Every once in a while (and I racked my brains to think of the last time) I find myself agreeing with chunks of his stuff.

This case is pretty easy, given the unlikely line he's taken - praising Peter Tatchell. OK, it goes off at the end into rabid Euroscepticism and an implicit line against tolerance, but you can feel the unexpected warmth and respect he feels for 'tother Peter. 

We'd be much the poorer without them both (please don't fill the comments with objectionable Hitchenisms - I do know how far we diverge, thanks).

Like Firefly in reverse.

| | Comments (0)

Ah, the internet. Thank you for your inventiveness.

2guys.jpgYesterday the California Supreme Court did the right thing and legalised gay marriage. Even The Governator won't oppose it any more, so it should be safe, despite a ballot counter-proposal in November.

For me this is a litmus test of a good society, just proper equality (even if, as in Massachusetts, it means the occasional lesbian complaining that her granny's nagging her to get married: equality really is equality, sorry!).

My flatmate calls discriminatory legislation "code smell", being a dork. You look at software, and if parts of it smell funny, in more or less obvious ways, there's probably something more fundamental wrong. Less so, now, in California.
It was pointed out in the comments to the last item that the anteater was in the classic "Bring it on!" pose, as adopted and then dropped by oor Wendy. The anteater looks more convincing, though, more consistent, more determined, and indeed more photogenic. The referendum on eating more ants will be definitely be supported, whenever it comes, you can tell.

Perhaps when Wendy does finally resign, to wailing and gnashing of SNP teeth, Labour could see if the anteater wants the job.

Ants: some Green solutions

| | Comments (1)
anteater.jpgOne of my colleagues found ants in her.. house. Sympathetic as we are, and Green as we are, Patrick and I came up with a couple of solutions. His is to the left, the biodiversity solution. Mine is here, the locally-sourced produce answer.

Any other ideas?

Telling it how it is

| | Comments (0)

I meant to stick this up yesterday, but was too busy blogging other things working. Patrick put in another great appearance on Newsnight on Monday night, trying to drum into the SNP's head the idea that oil is running out, and that's why prices will inexorably continue to rise. Why worry about that, though, when you can make a short-term cut the costs of fuel and postpone any efforts to tackle the root causes? That seems to be the Nats' position.

Note that it took Patrick to explain the role of the Competition Commission. Enjoy the muted ramblings of his SNP debating partner at the end too.


The laziness of power

| | Comments (0)
carolineflint.jpgOn her way to Cabinet, Caroline Flint (pictured with a top government economic adviser) showed the world a briefing paper on the housing situation. In this context the front of her website made me smile too. It looks like PA spotted this, but I'll give you the Times link. I suppose at least we know they're not living in some fantasy world where prices will recover by June.

Update: maybe this is all a big laugh. Hazel Blears, one of my least favourite New Labour drones, also got caught the same way, on the same day, with a paper suggesting Gordon be a fit person to judge a politics "reality TV" show.

Epic fail

| | Comments (0)
shipment_of_fail.jpgApparently there were developments at the Labour Group meeting today. How could there not be more chaos?

Some people say this is another substantial u-turn, and Labour are now going to vote down a referendum. Brian Taylor isn't sure. Calum thought this was just a rehash of yesterday's u-turn. Who knows?

It all starts to remind me of a recent internet meme, the uncharitable FAIL. The classic is to the left. More examples are here (or if that's down, here). Anyone fancy doing one for Wendy?

Quick thought

| | Comments (0)
margaret_mitchell.jpgRead this list of all the Tories in the Parliament here. Anything stand out? In short, what has she done wrong? Everyone else got a job..
chilevolcano1.jpgI keep meaning to write about the endless contortions and disasters that the Labour Party have wrought since Wendy's rush of blood to the head. Countless drafts got binned because they were out of date within hours.

One says "for a party that pushed through the ban on foxhunting, Labour are very keen to shoot this so-called Nationalist fox". Then they weren't so keen. Then they were again. I won't bore you with the other drafts that got superceded by yet more u-turns, bickering and confusion.

However, based on conversations around and about, it's clear that things are, if you can imagine this, actually even worse inside Labour than they look from the outside. I thought of them when I saw the amazing pic (above) of lightning striking a volcano in Chile. Click it for a bigger image. I thought: that's what the end of the world looks like. If I had to choose one image to sum up their situation it's this, not Wendy with her head in her hands or even pulling this face in her weird FMQ baby smock.

chilevolcano2.jpgWendy's triggered this apocalypse, and those of us who think the Labour party long ago ceased to be a force for progressive politics must welcome her apparent attempt to destroy it. I can only hope that whatever rises from the ashes is something more principled, more responsive to Scotland, perhaps more interested in social justice. It'll take a while, I imagine.

The second pic is what Scottish Labour look like from space, incidentally.
goodmayor.jpgAndy Nicoll, the Sun's bearded pard and former lumberjack, defies the stereotypes many have of tabloid journalists. It may be the case that he's had to rein in his desire to use long words in his day-job, but he's saved them all up for his new book.

For instance, the first page includes "capriciousness", "coalescing", "cartographers" and "commandeered", as well as some other long words that don't begin with the letter "c". A review copy of which fell into our hands via a charity shop, one day before the official release, you see.

Perhaps a reader of his column had expected something more tabloid.

Anyway, a fuller review will follow in due course. I told Andy I'd try to read it all over my lunchbreak, but I've only managed the first page. Sorry. You can buy it here from tomorrow.

Clown meat: tastes funny

| | Comments (0)
lolbozsign.jpgHere's a great bit of London analysis, covering the effect (the cliche is "corrosive") that the Standard's election campaign had on the mayoral election, and the dubious level of public understanding that the Standard certainly aggravated.

In particular, the circle jerk goes as follows.

Andrew Gilligan was "resigned" from the Beeb over the David Kelly affair, and rehabilitated by Johnson at the Spectator. He then moved to the Evening Standard, where he led an unapologetic campaign to "get Ken unelected". The Standard is part of the Daily Mail family, as is the dire London Lite. The decision on which free rag gets given to Londoners on the tube is coming up, and will be taken by.. Mayor Johnson.

So the whole thing is best understood as a battle by a propagandist and rabidly right-wing rag to protect its control over its audience. Boris may or may not be Cameron's loyal puppet, but he's definitely Associated's puppet. Think about it. "Dave" may or may not be Prime Minister when LOLBoz is up for re-election in 2012, but the Evening Standard will be there for sure, ready to re-elect him or destroy him as circulation demands.

borisbus.jpgBoris, Boris, Boris. You do have a silver lining.

All my pals who live in London (that's actual London, not these angry suburbs we hear about) are mentally packing their bags to come back to Scotland. I'm looking forward to seeing a bit more of them.

Londoners shouldn't worry, though.

I'm sure David Cameron's got a remote control device around some sensitive parts of Boris, and given him strict instructions to do nothing at all so as not to scare the rest of the country. It's the whole of England that needs to worry, I reckon.

But Salmond's offer to cooperate is a mistake, I think. It makes the Nats look like they're pleased to see the Tories come back down south (which of course they are), but it's such a cynical position. A simple private phone call would have been enough, advising Boris to keep out of Scotland if he knows what's good for him.

Oh, and we didn't pick up any more seats on the Assembly, despite being just 2.9% behind the Liberals. Bah. I can't even be pleased that their dire campaign, failing to make a recommendation on the final round, cost them two seats (although the three missing members are still listed on the London Assembly Liberal website), because one of those seats went to the BNP's homoerotic film director. Who will vote as a Tory, effectively, in a futile effort to neutralise his own hatefulness. London, London, I feel your pain.

paddick.jpgOthers have speculated that Paddick's policies, especially those on trashing the planet, aren't consistent with the rest of the Liberals' platform. However, he proved he's One Of Them on the PM programme today.

When asked how he voted with his second preference he refused, saying "It'd be ridiculous for me to have come down on one side or the other because I'd have lost half my votes". So no principled position on what's best for London, then..

Oh, and there's a rumour the Greens have beaten the Liberals on the GLA list, according to one of our candidates Aled Fisher. That would be magic.

Straw in the wind

| | Comments (0)
smith.jpgIn amongst all the other voting in London, there was a byelection in Highgate, and it's (I believe) the first indication of polling strength in the city. Result: a Green gain, and by some margin.

The next key thing is going to be those Assembly seats. I think our English colleagues will win one more, up to three, with just a squeaker of a chance of a fourth. Boris is, I fear, going to win pretty clearly, which will make Green scrutiny absolutely vital.

Norwich leads the way

| | Comments (3)
AdrianRamsay.jpgI take my hat off to the Norwich Greens. Extraordinary results. Let me list the ways they've done well.

1. They're now the official opposition, just two seats away from being the largest party.

2. They won three new seats last night, all from the Lib Dems, and held the other two they held already.

3. The Greens scored more votes across Norwich than all the other parties (Grn: 29%, Lab: 25%, Con: 23%, Lib: 22%).

4. Take Nelson ward, for example. The Greens won 66% of the vote, with Labour second on 12%!

5. Norwich South looks entirely winnable at the next UK General.

Councillor Ramsay (above), now leader of the Opposition in Norwich, spoke at our conference last year, and is an inspiration. Other English results will be blogged here later. 

North Sea Oil. So 1999.

| | Comments (0)
Over successive election campaigns, if you listened to the SNP you'd think Scotland's seas were brimming with fish and oil. However, the numbers tell a different story, especially on oil. Output peaked in 1999, and it's since down about 58% (the arrow on the graph to the left actually points to 2010, for reference).

Unlike properly protected fish stocks, not that we have those, it's simply a finite resource. As Robin said in the chamber today, it's like a pint of beer. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it, the quicker it's gone. The difference is that you can't just go back to the bar for another one.

And the prices will rise and rise. In 2004 the BBC ran a good story about the issue, given contemporary worries about the $40 barrel. Now we're at $120, and predictions of $200 seem almost cautious. The $500 predictions for 2015 also seem pretty realistic, depending on how badly the American economy tanks and takes us all with it.

Whether it's Scotland's oil or the UK's oil, though, given that there's less and less of it all the time I think it'd be great if we used the last dregs of it to help make ourselves independent of oil (as opposed to the 20th century strivings for independence based on oil). A kind of Apollo Programme for clean energy. A Marshall Plan for public transport. A Manhattan Project for insulation.. no, wait..

Anyway, today we have good news. Today all the parties in the Scottish Parliament agreed to a Green amendment that says we need to take account of peak oil when planning food strategies. I'm just not sure how many in the other parties understand how radical that might be, the costs of failing to do so, or the opportunities a relocalised economy could bring. But yet again we now have the perfect way to hold the SNP to account.

Also, here's one more prediction. The media will ignore it completely tomorrow.

Your Links At Last


Other Politics



Friends and Stuff I Like

If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

June 2008 is the next archive.