Saturday, 29 September 2012

Scottish independence - still looking like a no

A bit of late news: a couple of weeks ago the Centre Left reported that 1.5 million Catalans had decided to march for independence, in a region/nation (what you call it ususally depends on your politics) which contains 7.5 million. I said it could mean that  a rethink of my view on Scotland - that it was highly unlikely to secede - might be needed at some point.

However, as a confirmed Unionist, I am pleased to report that last Saturday's independence demo in Edinburgh, according to the BBC, reached the heady figure of only 5,000 participants. While this is an entirely unscientific study, it seems reasonable to conclude that pro-independence feeling there is clearly several orders of magnitude smaller. Even if you allow for differences in organisational competence, weather, geography and the usual inaccuracies in demo turnout figures, that is a singularly unimpressive turnout, relatively speaking.

While the jury's still out on Catalonia, no independence referendum there is currently even planned, unlike Scotland. But, on the basis of this, Scottish independence ain't happening any time soon.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Britain’s unions can be relevant again, but not by espousing fringe politics

As Peter Watt pointed out at the time of the TUC conference, its influence is declining for a number of reasons: the concentration of power in the hands of the leaders of three super-unions, declining membership in general and a political shift to the left. Together, this seems to have led to a focus on politicking, rather than fighting realistic battles to improve the lot of their members, and an ever-increasing difficulty to catch the attention of the general public sufficiently to convert them into members.

Neither, frustratingly for them, do unions carry much weight in government: a Tory-led coalition would hardly be conducive to Wilson-style “beer and sandwiches at Number 10” under normal circumstances, but much less so in the middle of a harsh austerity programme where there is clearly no money to fund their pay claims (and where a smarter idea might have been the Balls strategy of focusing on jobs).

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Respect: the case against allowing extremists into the Labour party

Last week there was much speculation about whether or not Salma Yaqoob, the former leader of Respect who understandably resigned rather than share a party with George Galloway, might join the Labour Party, should she so desire. Indeed, local Labour MP Richard Burden on Thursday extended the hand of friendship, saying she would “be an asset”.

Yaqoob is a young, articulate politician about whom we know relatively little, given that she is, in terms of real administrative power, an ex-backbench Birmingham councillor and has had few years of exposure to the national media.

But as a former party leader she still has political weight and, unlike her erstwhile colleague Galloway, she has not had time to make many serious gaffes or enemies although, as Dan Hodges pointed out, describing 7/7 as a “reprisal attack” came pretty close.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

UK Unionists: don't take your eye off the ball

Just to note that 1.5 MILLION people today demonstrated in Barcelona for Catalan independence. I have written before  how I don't think that either that or Scottish independence will happen any time soon, and continue to do so. But if they keep this up, I may have to revise my opinion. 

1.5 million, is, I reckon, about one-fifth of the autonomous region's population. I'm not sure that many would even fit on the streets of Edinburgh. And they, unlike the Scots, have not even a referendum planned as yet.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Eight reasons why Labour should think twice about predistribution

Like many, I read Ed Miliband’s New Statesman interview with interest. Some parts of it pleased me greatly, like the seeming acceptance of not having money to spend. And the corollary to that, which is that we could not redistribute wealth which, well, we didn’t have.

A sigh of relief was breathed, and I thought, “hey, this predistribution sounds like it could be interesting”. For a little, if slightly skeptical, while, I gave strong proponent, Labour Left’s Eoin Clarke, the benefit of the doubt.

So, leaving on one side for a minute the churlish thought, articulated by the good Stefan Stern, that it sounded a bit, well, wonkish – the philistine! – I set to reading. Now, a number of critics, such as Labour Uncut’s Atul Hatwal, have criticised it for its lack of definition, but I disagree: it was in defining it, for me, that it all went wrong.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Aspirational Britain lies waiting to be claimed

Who’d be David Cameron right now? Mired in political treacle, this week he is trying to divert attention away from his problems with a reshuffle, and wrest back the initiative by lots of serious-sounding pronouncements about economic growth which is proving highly elusive. The public doesn’t seem to be very impressed by him or his coalition at the moment but, then again, neither does his increasingly restive party.

David Cameron’s first problem is that, although he tries to entice his backbenchers with some right-wing soundbites and a few reshuffle sops such as the promotions of Chris Grayling and Owen Patterson, he is forced to tread a line between the centrist husky-hugger and the Thatcherite Brussels-basher, with the result that he is believed by neither side. And, as Iain Martin points out, his hardline economic approach is not necessarily even shared by the Tory right.

Next, it is also useful to note that that Tory right is not what it used to be, either: the “squires from the shires” of yore are a lot less representative of the average backbencher than the self-made businessman or the corporate exec who worked his way up. The hinterland of this new breed is meritocratic, not noblesse oblige; and they do not necessarily think that this Etonian deserves his place in history, after a few years in public affairs and a lot more as a Westminster insider.

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