Westminster: March 2009 Archives

Delusional and pathological.

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alternativeroute.jpgThe Sunday Herald had an advance on today's landmark report from the Sustainable Development Commission (press release), which describes Ministers' attempts to rebuild the same failed economic system, built on growth at all costs, as "delusional" and "pathological". 

These are delusions and pathologies the SNP share with Westminster. The Nats describe their central purpose as "sustainable economic growth". Sustainable should mean "designed to work within our long-term ecological capacity", but here it's a proper weasel word, meaning something they would like to sustain.

In particular, they suffer from the delusion that they can engage on the biggest road-building and airport expansion programme Scotland has seen since the 1960s and still meet any kind of carbon emissions targets. New roads plus new public transport does not reduce emissions, and to think so displays a pathological misunderstanding of some pretty basic science and economics.

Although they're government-funded, the SDC have clearly had enough of being polite about abject government failures of this sort, both north and south of the border. In a quote that would fit well on the cover of a Green manifesto, Professor Jackson, the report's author, says:

"Prosperity for the few founded on ecological destruction and persistent social injustice is no foundation for a civilised society."

They're so on the same page as us that I even lifted their perfect image (above).

By coincidence, Holyrood debated the economy last Thursday. The patchy and limited understanding of sustainability across the chamber makes it pretty depressing fare - the usual exceptions apply. I fear we'll wait a long time before we have a Scottish Government which even understands the problems we face, let alone capable of pursuing constructive answers to them.

Pawn to Queen 4.

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chessresign.jpgBrown's discussions about changing the rules of monarchical succession to give the women of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha equal rights are a classic distraction. Some mid-level strategy wonk suggested it'd take people's minds off their economic problems and spur a new round of glossy and unrealistic TV programmes full of ruffs, thrones and pageantry. 

It also has the advantage that it looks radical and anti-discriminatory if you squint really hard, and so it appeals to the former republicans on Labour's benches. But why now? The Prime Minister is quoted as saying: 

"There are clearly issues about the exclusion of people from the rights of succession and there are clearly issues that have got to be dealt with."

Really? Dealt with now? Is there a clamour on the streets and in the blogs to amend the succession. Or some other urgent need we're not aware of? Even if QE2 (QE1 for any nationalist pedant readers) were gravely unwell, Charles is her eldest offspring, and his two sons would continue to follow him in the order of succession. 

The anti-Catholic aspect of succession might come up sooner, true, and if we are to have a monarchy it's certainly absurd for any such discrimination to continue to be enshrined in law (and yes, this applies to the sexist priority given to male heirs too).

Brown goes on to say:

"But I think in the 21st Century people do expect discrimination to be removed and they do expect us to be looking at all these issues."

The idea that this would remove discrimination in matters royal is patent nonsense, though. Above all, this is a family firm: sure, you can marry in, but that's a pretty unpleasant prospect even considering only the attention you'd get from the tabloids. 

The "discrimination" is actually far wider - it's against everyone who isn't born into this family or invited to marry into it. You will never be head of state (on the safe assumption that the minor royals don't read this blog), however male and Protestant you may be.

If we actually wanted a true equal opportunity system for heads of state, devoid of any discrimination against any of us, we'd have a ceremonial elected president, a la Ireland, Israel and all the rest. Catholic women, like the rest of us, could then stand on their own merits. I suspect that Gordon Brown knows that, buried away somewhere in that residual core of principles that he ignores.

Something must be done.

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Thumbnail image for BrewdogRake.jpgTwelve days ago, Labour's justice spokesperson in Holyrood, Richard Baker, described the SNP's drink proposals, including a minimum price for alcohol as "unfair, unworkable and unsupportable" at present. Despite concerns about European legality, presumably raised by the supermarkets, the UK Chief Medical Officer today floated a similar approach on behalf of the Labour government. 

Moving on from Labour's internal problems ("they never write, they never call"), I'm not convinced that a 50p per unit price would deter many people, and the main problem still appears to be the widespread flouting of existing licensing laws. Until that legislation is properly implemented, which even brave Kenny Macaskill seems unable or unwilling to deliver, there's little point changing its scope.

No-one's arguing about the problems drink causes, but this idea looks like Yes Prime Minister logic. Something must be done. This is something. Therefore it must be done.

There is one credible argument in favour, though. Good beer will always cost more than that. Dire chemical-tasting cooking lager is all that can undercut it. Perhaps we should instead set a minimum quality for drink? 

Update: See also Macnumpty's take on this.

The Macneil's family values.

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angusmacneil.jpgWhen the Nats decided to attack Nick Clegg's weekend with his new baby, what made them think Angus Macneil was the right person to take that on? Labour should also be ashamed of themselves for their contribution. They couldn't even find a named person to get ugly with the Liberals: perhaps John Prescott was busy.

A snub, or just good parenting?

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cleggbaby.jpgNick Clegg's not going to the Scottish Liberal conference this weekend, and they've been asked to deny it's a snub. His wife gave birth last month, but had been scheduled for this weekend, so they booked Vince Cable instead. 

Honestly, does anyone in the real world think it would be better for Mr Clegg to spend the weekend listening to Mike Rumbles bang on about potholes rather than being with his family?

Just desserts.

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clownpies.jpgGunk, pies and flans have a long and honourable history both as entertainment and protest, and surely we can all agree that if someone has to take custard in the face, Peter Mandelson isn't a bad choice.

To those who regard this kind of protest as silly or stupid, I'd simply ask if it's as stupid as his efforts to expand airports, nuclear power and coal plants. I'd also like to know what you're doing to try and stop him. 

Finally, it's good PR: the stunt automatically becomes the picture the media will use to cover his so-called low carbon summit, which was the tawdry business-as-usual affair one might expect. They'll then have to explain why there's opposition to him - there's hardly any in the Commons, after all.

Tom Harris: proper hypocrite.

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harrismerge.pngPresumably Tom Harris thought he was being brave and clever by channelling the spirit of Peter Lilley and attacking young mothers yesterday. He also probably thought he'd get some tabloid kudos for outflanking the Tories to the right, and the Mail did indeed back him. However, he also got a doing in the Record, and rightly so.

His diatribe was built around a peculiarly hypocritical core. In one breath he says teenage girls "have been indoctrinated with the lie that they'll never amount to anything, and have fulfilled that prophesy by making no effort to achieve any qualification", then he goes on to tell them that their choices "result in a greater burden on the state, and lead to the continuation of the underclass". No room there for self-awareness.

And, as Patrick said in the Record piece, where are Harris's admissions of Labour's failures on poverty, on sex education, on the pay gap, etc? Where is the basic biological acknowledgement that babies have fathers as well as mothers? 

Harris's courage is the typical courage of the right, brave assaults on the most vulnerable in society, brimming with sexism and class hatred. Yet again he's proved how utterly out of touch he is.
ingrammoney.jpgAdam Ingram, the former Labour Minister pictured left with friends, doesn't like East Kilbride Green activist Kirsten Robb. He got caught profiting from contracts related to his former Ministerial job, and she turned the heat on him locally. 

A series of letters then appeared in the local paper from former Labour Councillor Tony Carlin, defending Adam Ingram and attacking Kirsten. Except the letters weren't really from Carlin, and he came right out and said so. Ironically, the forger had even called Kirsten a liar. The News of the World has more.

The longer a government serves in office, the more likely it is to become corrupt, especially when it's clear the electorate are about to turf them out. Labour MPs could be forgiven for wanting to polish up their CVs, but I suspect honesty and hard work would be more appealing than either fraudulent and self-serving astroturf campaigns or consultancies with truly incompetent IT companies.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Westminster category from March 2009.

Westminster: February 2009 is the previous archive.

Westminster: April 2009 is the next archive.