British Politics Hung Out To Dry
Sunday Mail, March 29th 2015
A House of Commons where no one party gains an overall majority looks an increasingly likely outcome of the May election.
This has happened before, most recently in 2010, but also in February 1974; similarly, in the late 1970s and post-1992 Labour and Tory administrations respectively elected with majorities, lost them, and had to govern without them.
The outcome of the May election and the parliamentary landscape looks likely to resemble the dog days of the Callaghan and Major governments, rather than 2010 when the Tories and Lib Dems formed a coalition to have a secure majority.
A House of Commons notional majority is 326 seats. In reality 323 seats produce a majority due to Sinn Fein abstention. When no party wins an overall majority a number of scenarios are possible. Read the rest of this entry »
Time for a Future Scotland of Head and Heart: A Challenge to Independence and the Union
Sunday Mail, March 22nd 2015
Scotland for many at the moment feels an exciting place. But for others there is a sense of dismay and confusion.
The latter is particularly evident in pro-union opinion. This week, ‘The Times’ commentator Magnus Linklater agreed with William McIlvanney’s recent revision of L.P. Hartley’s ‘the past is a foreign country’, referencing Scotland – ‘when you get to my age the present is a foreign country’.
Linklater agreed. He noted falling oil prices, the economic balance sheet between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and pressures on public services. These should have led to a situation where Scotland ‘turned its back even more resolutely on the issue of independence’ and left the SNP ‘licking its wounds’. Yet the opposite was the case he conceded and he was baffled why. Read the rest of this entry »
The tartan tsunami and how It will change Scotland and the UK for good
Open Democracy, March 20th 2015
The UK general election campaign is upon us – struggling to make sense of the state of the country and how its institutions and politics are seen.
Underneath all the political rhetoric and exchange we are about to witness is tangible anxiety and unsureness about who ‘we’ are and the very existence, or not, of a ‘we’ in terms of connection, culture and collective memories – which can be found equally on both left and right.
Scotland has become one of the key reference points of this election: continually cited by the Westminster class and media, but seldom if ever understood. It wasn’t meant to be like this. The indyref was won 55:45 for the union. The issue was supposedly in David Cameron’s words ‘settled’, Alex Salmond seen off the political stage and the SNP juggernaut checked, if not stopped.
Scotland is at a seismic moment with huge implications and long-term repercussions not just for Scotland but the UK – as what increasingly looks like a tartan tsunami could sweep away scores of Labour once impregnable bastions north of the border. Read the rest of this entry »
Is David Cameron the Biggest Threat to the Union?
Sunday Mail, March 15th 2015
Scotland has become one of the main issues in the forthcoming UK election.
It is not only that Jim Murphy and Ed Miliband feel anxious about the number of Labour seats they will hold in Scotland and the extent of the SNP juggernaut.
What is also true is how Scotland is playing out in Conservative strategy and how David Cameron is using it to hurt Labour in two ways. First, he is aiming to hurt them in England and take votes from them with the threat of the Nationalists, and second, he plans to hurt them north of the border by pushing votes into the arms of the SNP to harm Labour’s chances of forming a government.
This has become one of the most prominent Tory election themes – along with ‘A Recovering Economy: Don’t Let Labour Wreck It’. This can be seen by Cameron’s approach this week in Prime Minister’s Questions, and in a number of Tory election posters, the latest of which had a huge Alex Salmond looking down on a tiny Ed Miliband tucked into Salmond’s top pocket. Read the rest of this entry »
The World We Knew: My Father and Frank Sinatra
Scottish Review, March 10th 2015
Dads matter. They give us many things, including many reference points – like what it is to be a man, potentially a love of a football or rugby team, perhaps even some political views.
I gained all of that from my father but one of the biggest, most evocative connections I have with him is through the music and voice of Frank Sinatra.
My dad, Edwin, was born in 1933 and was a young man in the late 1940s and early 1950s when he first became a Sinatra fan. This was the period of young Sinatra swooning the ‘bobby-soxers’ – the pubescent female fans who saw Frank as their idol. This was followed by his marriage to Nancy publically falling apart, his on-off romance and entanglement with Ava Gardner and his career commercially crashing.
In 1953, Sinatra, with his career in the doldrums, undertook a British tour. This was just before his rebirth began. The record label which had made him a star, Columbia, had released him; he had signed to Capitol but not yet made an impact, and his role as Angelo Maggio (for which he won an Oscar) in ‘From Here to Eternity’ was yet to hit cinema screens. Read the rest of this entry »