Time for an Independence of the Scottish Mind
Sunday Mail, August 9th 2015
A second independence may be off the agenda of SNP conference for now, but Alex Salmond regards it as ‘inevitable’.
Such are the pressures and tensions of success. Where do you take a movement which came close to winning independence last September? How do you balance pragmatic and idealist hopes? What do you after the SNP ‘tartan tsunami’ of May this year which carried nearly all before it – and, when your opponents are so weak and disorientated?
There is talk in places of a second referendum sooner rather than later – of the SNP returning to it in 2016, or of a conditional clause in next year’s SNP manifesto predicated on a EU withdrawal vote in England which clashes with Scotland’s popular will.
These are tumultuous times. First, despite the referendum result, the ‘idea’ of independence won the debate last year – something very different from the SNP’s actual offer. Second, the SNP have dominated and defined the post-indyref environment and transition from Salmond to Sturgeon. They have done so by continuing the ‘Big Tent’ politics which have served them so well. Read the rest of this entry »
A People’s Revolt in Labour but where will it end?
Sunday Mail, August 2nd 2015
‘The Labour Party has gone mad’. ‘It has abandoned its senses’. ‘This is a summer of insanity’.
These and suchlike comments made about Jeremy Corbyn are now familiar refrains in the Westminster mainstream. Before that this disdain was targeted northwards – asking ‘has Scotland gone mad?’
Jeremy Corbyn’s rise and emergence has caught the Westminster bubble by surprise, but isn’t hard to fathom. The other three challengers are dire. What passes for Labour stars are sitting it out. Labour members are dismayed and angry at the state of the country and direction of their party. They want it to stand for something.
They want their leader to be authentic, genuine and true to the party’s traditions and history. Corbyn is the only one providing any distinctiveness and talking straight. It doesn’t matter that his political platform is a bit vague, harking back to 1983, and seems based on promising a better yesterday which is now unattainable. It is also unimplementable and unelectable. Read the rest of this entry »
‘You’re Fired’: Jeremy Corbyn and what Voters Want to Say to the Political Classes
Sunday Mail, July 26th 2015
This week Tony Blair compared Scottish nationalism to ‘cavemen’ and told supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who wanted to vote with their heart to ‘get a transplant.’
You always know something is up when the political insults start flying. Labour have no idea what has happened in Scotland, and to compound matters for the party establishment, this week saw the rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership challenge.
The trigger was a poll which put Corbyn not just ahead of the other contenders in the Labour leadership contest but actually winning it. Now this will not, in all likelihood, happen. Corbyn in many senses has already ‘won’ – by forcing the debate leftwards. He does not want to ‘win’ in the formal sense, knowing this would be counter-productive both for him and the party.
All of this says legions about the state of Labour and politics. First, both Labour and the Lib Dems are heading leftwards post-election. Second, neither is any nearer in working out how to do credible opposition. Both are in the midst of what can only be described as identity crises. Read the rest of this entry »
The Nationalist Lion Roars at Westminster!
Sunday Mail, July 19th 2015
The times are changing in Scotland and Britain: the SNP impact at Westminster; Tory maneouvres to hurt, harm and trap Labour on union reform and welfare, and the vacuum of Labour and Lib Dems post-election defeat.
The SNP scored early blood on fox-hunting and English votes for English laws – forcing government postponement on the first and regrouping and redrafting on the second. This has produced Tory anger and fury at the Nationalists, and eventually see the Tories attempt to get their revenge.
A significant part of the SNP’s impact has been due to the marginalising of the Labour and Lib Dem opposition, both parties licking their wounds and without leaderships for the last two months. The Lib Dems have rectified that this week, electing Tim Farron. Labour’s contest has shown the nadir the party has fallen to, and the dullness of the three mainstream candidates: all of which has produced the unlikely summer sensation of Jeremy Corbyn’s sudden rise in popularity. Read the rest of this entry »
The Summer of the Living Undead: A Labour Party for What?
Open Democracy, July 15th 2015
The Labour leadership contest is noteworthy for a number of factors, none positive or helpful for the party.
Labour have just suffered their second consecutive defeat. They finished 113 seats behind the Tories in England. It has now become a cliché to say they face an existential crisis; as Matthew Norman pointed out in ‘The Independent’ this week, it is in fact a ‘post-existential crisis’ (1). The party is in collective denial, retreating into its comfort zones, and almost numb at the position it finds itself in.
Previously when Labour lost (and it has lost many times), the party did attempt to wake up and regroup. Post-1979 the party in opposition had five leadership contests. Excluding the Benn kamikaze run in 1988, when he won a mere 11% of the vote, the other contests – 1980, 1983, 1992 and 1994 – all provided rich evidence of a party with debate, energy and ideas. No longer.
This is a defining moment about whether Labour has a future, what it is for, as well as for centre-left British (and in particular English) politics. Here are ten observations about the state of Labour and the current contest: Read the rest of this entry »