February 2010 Archives
The poll in today's Scotland on Sunday has been discussed elsewhere, but not the Holyrood regional voting intention. It's the best bit, and Kenny F sent me out to the shops this morning especially for it.
Holyrood constituencies (2007 result in brackets)
Labour: 33% (32%)
SNP: 28% (33%)
Conservative: 16% (13%)
Liberal: 16% (14%)
Others: 6% (8%)
Labour: 31% (29%)
SNP: 26% (31%)
Conservative: 17% (14%)
Liberal: 14% (11%)
Green: 7% (4%)
Others: 6% (11%)
By Scotland on Sunday's calculations (and mine) that would put us up to seven Green MSPs again. The pic shows what that looked like last time. It's a crude summary, but if this were the actual vote shares in May next year, we'd get a result roughly like the 2003 election, except where the six former SSP MSPs were replaced by the SNP. The obvious post-election arrangement would be another Labour/Liberal coalition, too, although Labour have watched the SNP's minority administration enviously.
Cheering as this poll may be for Greens, it's even more A Bit Of Fun than usual. No Holyrood voting intention will be any kind of worthwhile prediction until the UK election results have bedded in. Will Cameron woo or alienate Scots? Could Gordon Brown even hang on? Might the Liberals get the hung Parliament they crave? Could an AV referendum become a true PR election? Might UKIP get beaten by the Monster Raving Loony Party?
The Holyrood polls will start to get properly gripping for anoraks from September, by my calculation. One last factor which might make a difference is Brighton Pavilion. I'm heading down on Friday to help Caroline Lucas get elected. It should be fun, as well as virtuous, and, if she wins, the extra profile for Greens nationally could help us out in 2011 too.
The rumours are true. My colleagues in East Lothian have selected me as their candidate for Westminster, and I persuaded Robin to come out on Monday to help me launch the campaign at the Seabird Centre.
The local papers gave us some great coverage, with colour pics in both the East Lothian News and the East Lothian Courier (click below for larger images). It's now time to reveal the secret of our success over the last ten years, which is simply Robin's trademark scarf. Colour pictures are much more eye-catching, and you can't use a black'n'white shot of the scarf. Seriously, it's media magic.
The keen-eyed amongst you will notice I don't live in the constituency, but at least one other major party candidate stays further away than Edinburgh, so I'm hoping not to be in the firing line of too many League of Gentlemen type leaflets.
And it is a fascinating part of the world: socially diverse, with ex-mining communities, surfers and wealthy commuters to Edinburgh. It's also home to an awful lot of infrastructure and industry, especially energy. Older members of the Scottish Green Party have bittersweet memories of the campaign against Torness, so it's a curious honour to be able to campaign against nuclear power in this constituency. Labour, of course, remain ultra-loyal to nukes, and I'd point you to an article I wrote in 2008 about the relationship Anne Moffat and Iain Gray have with the plant.
We have a small but very committed branch locally, who led our successful campaign to block ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Forth, something we finally secured through an agreement with the SNP in May 2007. A good wee campaign in the area should help drum up some more members and activists, and help us return a Green MSP for South in 2011 and local councillors in 2012.
Thanks also to Malc, Jeff and Stephen for their kind words, although, as Stephen says, "I obviously won't wish James too much luck". He put the 2005 result on his blog, and that was indeed the last time the seat was contested.
However, a lot's happened since 2005 (including a change of Scottish Government and the SNP's subsequent difficulties, as well as Labour's loss of the plot nationally and locally). We also know how most of the seat voted in last year's Euros (although the Westminster seat includes Musselburgh too).
Another problem with the following graph is that it compares a non-PR election with a PR one, and we do better when elections are fairer. One might expect the Lib Dems to do so as well, though, but like Labour, their vote roughly halved between 2005 and 2009. Those caveats out of the way..
One thing I won't say, though, is this: only Greens can win here. But I'm certainly going to enjoy the contest.
It's not often I agree with the Tories on defence, with Labour and the Lib Dems on the other side. The Tories, it seems, are getting ready to save the £3.5bn it would cost to build two new aircraft carriers. It's all a bit implicit, sure, but even to be considering this is major progress.
These projects are only ever defended as job-creation schemes, even though the same money could create far more jobs doing something actually useful.
I understand that: people need to work, and the unions' position is entirely defensible. Unlike an aircraft carrier, or Labour/Lib Dem defence policy.
My friends over at Bright Green Scotland have decided to take the West Wing to the mat because it creates, we're told, "a particular type of politics. And that type of politics is poisonous."
The grave sin cited is triangulation, the tacking between left and right which Bill Clinton popularised for the Democrats and which Obama is currently reviving. I'm sure I can't have been the only one who thought Hope wouldn't mean restarting America's nuclear programme, halted over 30 years ago after the Three Mile Island disaster.
Democrats triangulate, this is true, and it's both deplorable and possibly inevitable in one of the world's most majoritarian electoral systems.
Republicans, conversely, have grown better and better at governing without compromise: did "W" listen to Democratic concerns on the Hill about the Patriot Act or other such obscenties?
Even on Obama, the case for the defence can be made. Obama's flawed and watered down healthcare reforms passed by just 215 votes to 210 last year: both Josh Lyman or Rahm Emanuel would be right to regard this as about the narrowest acceptable margin for error. Would it have been better to let a true public option go down in flames? Perhaps, but it's hardly a clearcut decision.
Curiously, and it's impossible to do this without spoilers, nowhere in the piece is there any actual critique of the Bartlet administration's policies. The reality, the imaginary reality, is that Bartlet sticks very close to a whole range of true liberal flagship positions, several of which are to the left of Obama's Presidency. Bartlet's sound on gays in the military and speaks out against the homophobia of the quasi-Biblical right, he risks American lives on a genuine effort to achieve Middle East peace (rather than a bogus "surge" in Afghanistan), they take on "clean coal", his administration tries to get a nuclear test-ban treaty through, campaigns to preserve the estate tax on the richest, etc etc.
President Bartlet doesn't follow the recent Democrat pattern. Sure, sometimes he accepts less than he wants because the numbers aren't there in Congress, as Obama has done - but something over nothing is hardly cause for such excoriation.
The real target here should be actual Democrats, not the fictional West Wing. It has its cheesy moments (did I mention it's American TV?), but it gives people a genuinely inspiring view of politics driven by progressive impulses to improve people's lives. Sure, it's more centrist and more militarist than I would like, but by American standards Bartlet would truly have been a radical leftist.
Peter's critique of the show also includes the following: "Every time someone talks about how their party would bring 'good governance', you see the influence of the West Wing." If someone can explain how this is a bad thing to campaign for I'll be delighted. I look at Westminster's corrupt pork-barrel house-flipping politics and think good governance has never been so urgent.
Finally, I never wanted to be Josh. His judgement was pretty poor throughout, not least for letting Amy Gardner slip through his fingers.
I just received the following bonkers email (and so too did my colleagues in Wales, Limerick and others), apparently sent from Germany and apparently typed up while really quite high. Probably shouldn't give it the oxygen of publicity, but never mind.
I must warn you that the two major threats to the Planet are capitalism, with its mass consumption, and population explosion, that provokes an even greater consumption of Natural Resources.
The responsibles for this kind of situation aren't necessarily the leaders. In fact a range of people that orbits many organizations, even low in the hierarchy or out of the organization, are the responsibles ones too (they are evil and in the World there must be a mastermind of evilness that don't want life in the Planet, above all).
So I ask you to consider these facts and put Secret Green Agents in the place of this range of people by disintegrate them first from the place they occupy.
Places as in Governments, Associations, Parties, Companies, Religions, Media, etc. should be occupied by these Secret Green Agents.
Comply one, two or three times in messages between for greater security.
Remember, too, that religions are hazardous and authorities not friendly.
With our deepest Green Communist Greetings,
Marx, Engels & Lenin
Thanks for the tips, dead commies. Anyone wishing to be a Secret Green Agent in, say, a religion or other association, please do not get in touch. Also, if anyone decides to do this off their own bat, I'd skip the bit about disintegration.
Should MSPs should use Parliament's restaurant to raise party funds? The answer's clear if it's for an average backbencher.
Add access to your actual First Minister and his Deputy in Parliament as a fundraiser for the SNP's Westminster campaign in Glasgow Central and this story turns from a one-day wonder into a serious problem for the SNP.
So chef's hats off to the Herald for lifting the lid on this one. But let's hear the other side. The Herald today has a piece on the subject which, alongside the scoffing of the other parties, us included, contains the core of three dubious lines of argument the SNP are trying to use to exonerate their top table.
For starters, the rules say Parliamentary resources must not be misused. Because meals at Parliament's restaurant have to be paid for it's therefore not a Parliamentary resource, the SNP claim. Here's a clue. It's in Parliament, and if it wasn't there the place'd be awfully draughty. You can't get into it unless you're with an MSP or with staff working at Holyrood. It's subsidised by the taxpayer. Take that one back to the kitchen.
Next, the course of the main defence runs like this: the auction itself took place elsewhere, so the prize itself can't be "a significant political party purpose". Try that logic with a previous scandal and see if you can swallow it. "Sure, the questions were asked in the Commons, but it's fine because I received the money in the Harrods carpark."
Finally, a spokesman for the great puddin' o' the chieftain-race says it wasn't wrong because the lunch hadn't actually happened when they got caught. We planned to break the rules, the excuse goes, but fortunately the Herald and the Corporate Body have saved us from ourselves. Again, like taking cash for questions but being grilled about it before the questions could be tabled.
I'm sure Kevin Pringle's manual for situations like this says "use every effort to make it look like the guidelines are unclear", yet the truth is otherwise. The "campus", which is the whole Holyrood complex, can only be used for "events relating to a member's parliamentary duties". Despite the substantial public funding the First Minister has provided to Osama Saeed's organisation, it's clear that getting him elected to Westminster is not one of the ways Salmond serves his constituents.
That makes this a set of shameless and indefensible arguments. It's like a substandard Chinese meal, superficially tasty but leaving you hungry for answers in short order. But please let's not give it a "-gate" suffix. They're a dead horse in general, but Parliament's already had Piegate and Burgergate. We couldn't handle "blade of Scottish beef with roast onion mash and winter greens-gate".
It was always said that the Tories' weakness was sex, while Labour's was for money. Following the Westminster expenses Salmond claimed for food during a Holyrood election and the use of Ministerial limos to get to his favourite curry-house, it looks like the First Minister's particular weakness is dinner, with a side order of public money.
Finally, finally, we have persuaded Ministers to start a proper insulation scheme, area-by-area efforts to insulate every loft and cavity wall for free. The £10m announced today won't get it done quickly enough, but the principle is there and we will work to speed it up next year.
We've also convinced them to spend the £2m Westminster gave them for boiler scrappage on ... boiler scrappage. You might wonder how difficult that would be, but even last month they were talking about means testing here.
Add to this the £10m we secured to revive the WATES scheme for wave and tidal power, and that's enough improvement for us to support this Budget today.
The Tories have enough to vote for, the Liberals have enough to abstain on, and Labour have their totemic rail line to justify opposition. Their amendment on that will also go down, not least because they've still not proposed somewhere for the money to come from. We did have a suggestion, after all.