Can Ed Miliband’s Labour Challenge the Westminster Consensus?
The Scotsman, April 27th 2013
Ed Miliband does not have to seek out his troubles and much of it seems to come from his own side rather than from opponents.
This week Len McCluskey, head of Unite laid into Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander claiming that if Miliband listened to them, ‘he’ll be defeated’ and ‘cast into the dustbin of history’. Worse, George Galloway endorsed Miliband for PM, just the sort of thing to scare off marginal voters.
Labour’s poll ratings are on average 9% ahead of the Tories producing a predicted Commons majority of 96 seats, but most people think it should be further ahead at the moment.
The electoral system may aid Labour and hinder the Tories, but underneath the headline figures there is a lack of conviction in Labour. 66% of voters think Miliband isn’t ready to be PM with only 24% feeling that he is ready. Only 12% of the public thinks Labour are the most capable party to take tough decisions, while 48% think this of the Conservatives. Read the rest of this entry »
Seven Suggestions for Scottish Labour to be the Party of Change
The Scotsman, April 20th 2013
It seems to be the age of seven questions as Tony Blair once again acts as an uncomfortable sage for Labour and Ed Miliband.
With Labour meeting in Inverness this weekend and the party’s Devolution Commission interim report out, it is time for Scottish Labour to assess where it is and what it needs to do to change and to start shaping the political weather.
Here then are my seven observations and suggestions for you Johann:
1. Careless Talk Costs Political Lives
Your ‘something for nothing’ speech has gone down in political mythology; not quite the ‘Sermon on the Mound’, but cast that way by opponents. There was a point to your argument, but strategically and tactically, it was ineptly executed. There was no preparatory work, of building advance positions, and signing up significant allies prior to the speech.
The language was counter-productive and damaging to Labour. ‘Something for nothing’ might work as a soundbite from your spin-doctor Paul Sinclair or in a ‘Daily Record’ editorial, but it deeply hurts Labour by embracing right wing populist rhetoric. Read the rest of this entry »
The Fall of BBC’s ‘Sportscene’ and Why It Matters
Scottish Review, April 18th 2013
Scottish football matters to lots of us. Its images and halcyon images define many of our lives – the Lisbon Lions in 67, Rangers in Barcelona in 72, Aberdeen in Gothenburg in 83, the Jim Baxter keepie-up and the Archie Gemmell run.
When you think of English football one of the many images that might spring to mind is ‘Match of the Day’ and this may include its current opening credits. You would not say the same of the current BBC Scotland version of ‘Sportscene’.
Once upon a time ‘Sportscene’ and STV’s ‘Scotsport’ were part of our national fabric. There was Archie Macpherson anchoring one and Arthur Montford the other. They became national icons, figures of respect, learnedness and even in some strange way, of a Scottish sense of male style. Read the rest of this entry »
On Living in an Old Country: The Power of the Past after Thatcher
The Scotsman, April 15th 2013
The last week has effectively been an elegy on Britain’s recent past and present rolled into one.
This is not just about Thatcher, but the numerous references to the Churchill and Attlee funerals and how we marked these past titans. Is this who we really were, we ask with curiosity? Are we still that same people who dreamed dreams, stood alone against the Nazis, and built a welfare state, we ask, with a hint of anxiety?
Britain seems increasingly a place shaped by the allure of living in the past, by the power of previous generations and the combined cacophonous voices of the dead.
This is not just about the Thatcher moment. In recent years the British state has increasingly marked its numerous military and imperial triumphs and engagements. We have honoured Admiral Nelson’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Britain; next year there is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Western Europe and the bizarre celebration of the 100th anniversary of the onset of the First World War. Read the rest of this entry »
Games with Shadows: Living in Thatcher’s Scotland
Open Democracy, April 10th 2013
We live in Thatcher’s Britain, yet that statement is obvious, contentious and deeply divisive. And this is all the more true of Thatcher north of the border.
Thatcher is simultaneously both history and present day. You can hear this in the differing accounts on TV and radio; with conservative figures claiming she remade the modern world from knocking down the Berlin Wall and freeing Eastern Europe, to preventing a future ‘socialist Britain’; while elements of the left wail in pain and agony at how events have turned out and their inability to come to terms with the country and politics she created.
We live in an age as much shaped by Thatcher as the previous political era: the so-called ‘post-war consensus’, a phrase seldom used in that era, and only invoked at its fag end. The date of Thatcher entering office, 1979, is exactly halfway between 1945 and today. Therefore, we are 34 years from Thatcher’s first victory; and 34 years from then to Clement Attlee’s historic mandate. And given that there are detailed studies of ‘the post-war consensus’, we should be able to begin to do the same with Thatcherism, but instead we are still arguing over what it means. Read the rest of this entry »