Saturday, November 18, 2017
Hothersall faces bushtucker trial of the soul as everything he thought he could rely on turns to dust
Scottish Labour leadership election result:
Richard Leonard 56.7%
Anas Sarwar 43.3%
I'm trying to decide whether that margin of victory justified the extreme 7/1 odds on a Sarwar win. Probably not quite, although it looks like the result was never in that much doubt, in spite of what we had been led to believe.
I'll be completely honest about this - faced with the very limited options available to them, I think Labour have made the right choice (just for once). We've seen enough of Anas Sarwar over the years to know that he would have been a disaster area, and that no-one would have taken him seriously as a potential First Minister. I thought Leonard came across reasonably well in the STV debate with Sarwar - it sounded like he was actually thinking about his answers rather than reading from a script, which is quite rare in this day and age. If he can keep that up when debating with opponents from the SNP rather than his own party, he might do OK...but that's a big "if". He seems to have exactly the same irrational rage towards the SNP that all of his immediate predecessors have displayed.
I saw Christopher Silver say on Twitter earlier that the "pro-indy left" will have to drop their "instinctive dismissal" of Labour in the light of this result - well, that rather depends on how serious they are about the "pro-indy" part of the equation, doesn't it? Leonard seems to be an absolute dinosaur on the constitutional issue.
It'll be interesting to see what the significance is of Leonard putting off any decision about suspending Dugdale for a few days. The expectation that she's going to be cut adrift is now so strong that it'll be hard to pull back from that, but on the other hand a few days' grace will give her a chance to actually appear on the programme and mutter "for the many, not the few" as she devours assorted insects. Maybe we'll hear some waffly excuse about how they can't suspend someone who may have been unwise, but who is nevertheless "reaching out to young people".
If she does go, it'll mean that the people who were leader and deputy leader of Scottish Labour in late August will both no longer even be members of the party just three months later. A totally unprecedented state of affairs.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Where he probably was speaking on behalf of many of his colleagues was in his extraordinary "heads I win, tails you lose" attitude to the regulation of broadcasters. When it was pointed out to him that RT is regulated by Ofcom in much the same way that the BBC is, he argued that this meant that RT was probably going to lose its licence - in other words the fact that RT won and has so far retained its licence is somehow proof that the channel is just about to be taken off the air. If anyone made a claim like that about the BBC, you'd question their sanity, and rightly so. When it was pointed out to him that the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg had been censured by a regulatory body in much the same way that RT has occasionally been censured by Ofcom, he reacted as if someone had just defended a serial killer. "Laura Kuenssberg is a very fine journalist", he said quietly, with the subtext being that an attack on Laura Kuenssberg (even by the BBC's own regulators) is an attack on journalism itself. In other words, RT being censured by their regulators is proof that RT is a Kremlin propaganda machine, and the BBC being censured by their regulators is proof that BBC journalism is the victim of persecution. Yup, that all seems pretty clear-sighted and fair.
* * *
I was all set to defend Kezia Dugdale's decision to take part in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! until I remembered that she's still a sitting MSP and that it's therefore a completely ridiculous thing for her to be doing. She's supposed to be representing the voters of Lothian in parliamentary votes and debates, and helping them if they contact her with a problem. She will self-evidently be neglecting those responsibilities for the entire duration of her stay in Australia. I trust the mainstream media will muster at least twice as much hysteria for Kezia as they managed for Alex Salmond, because there's no doubt over which of those two has made the truly indefensible decision in pursuit of attention.
Whether deservedly or otherwise, Kezia had until now looked set to emulate David Steel by "passing from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever" (as Michael Foot famously put it). But I suspect she may have permanently destroyed her credibility with this single act.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
A gentle hint: this kind of behaviour doesn't just bring journalism into disrepute, it turns journalism into a laughing-stock
Over the years I've been on Twitter, I've watched in genuine astonishment as practically everyone I know, across all shades of pro-independence opinion, has been blocked by Leask, often after interacting with him very respectfully on just one single occasion. Being aware of his antics, I began to regard it as a game to see if I could end up as just about the only non-sycophant left that he hasn't blocked, simply by permanently ignoring him. However, over the last few days he has lost the plot even by his own high standards. Because of his hardline views about Russian-funded media in the UK, he's taken to declaring that anyone who defends Alex Salmond's association with RT cannot by definition be part of the 'real SNP' or share the values of the 'real independence movement' (a jaw-dropping piece of conceit given that Leask is not actually in the indy camp). This naturally means that Salmond himself, the man who led the Yes campaign in the indyref and has been leader of the SNP for almost one-quarter of its entire existence, is not 'real SNP' or 'real pro-indy'. I'd humbly submit that is quite possibly the most embarrassing argument ever put forward by any professional journalist who does not work for the Express.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Of course no individual subsample should be regarded as reliable given the small sample size, but for what it's worth the ICM poll is the first straw in the wind since we were all royally entertained by the affectations of outrage over Alex Salmond's TV show. So the very earliest indications are that the SNP's detractors may have to find a line of attack that is more promising than "Salmond is almost as bad as Kim Philby" (which is something that Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow actually said out loud last night!).
Friday, November 10, 2017
A new Britain-wide YouGov poll is out today, so this may be a good moment to round-up the Scottish subsamples that have been published since my last update. There have only been a couple...
Ipsos-Mori: SNP 43%, Labour 24%, Conservatives 23%, Liberal Democrats 9%
YouGov: SNP 36%, Labour 28%, Conservatives 25%, Liberal Democrats 5%, UKIP 4%, Greens 1%
That means nineteen subsamples in a row have put the SNP in an outright lead. Just the usual reminder - any individual subsample should not be regarded as reliable, but an aggregate/average of a large number of subsamples can give you a rough indication of what is happening. The sheer consistency of the SNP lead in subsamples since early September is probably indicative of quite a healthy SNP advantage on the ground, and is very much in line with the message from full-scale Scottish polls (although admittedly we haven't had any of those for a few weeks).
Are there any clouds on the horizon? Obviously the hysteria over Alex Salmond's new TV show has only just happened, so we'll have to wait and see how that plays out. It goes without saying that the criticisms of Salmond are hypocritical bilge given that leading politicians from all major parties have been willingly interviewed on the same channel, but on the other hand it is unusual (probably unprecedented) for Nicola Sturgeon to put out a personal statement distancing herself from something Salmond has done. She and her advisers may have thought that was a safety-first approach, but I suspect the truly dangerous thing is for parties to allow themselves to look divided. However, it's a very polite division on a relatively minor issue, so in spite of the mainstream media's valiant demands that their readers and viewers should care about this, I expect the likelihood is that we'll look back on it as a 72-hour wonder.
This is my cue to use the immortal words "He didn't answer" (albeit with rather more accuracy than they were originally used).
I realised as I was writing those tweets that I am - somewhat to my surprise - a fan of Twitter's new 280-character limit. Until a couple of days ago, if I had tried to make points like those I would have given up in despair after realising that it's impossible to condense them into 140 characters.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Maybe once we have public funding of political parties, and once the media has put its own house in order, the SNP will have the luxury of turning down unconditional donations of £500,000. But not until then.
I'm also slightly baffled as to why Robertson thinks Brian Souter has "policies". Politicians have policies, but private citizens - no matter how wealthy - merely have opinions. Perhaps Robertson thought it was only by indulging in the pretence that Souter is the equivalent of an SNP government minister that he could justify the otherwise incredibly silly notion that Nicola Sturgeon should be "apologising" for someone else's personal views.
As for Robertson's question about whether Souter's donations took place within the historical period Sturgeon apologised for in her statement, he should have known the answer to that, because she gave a pretty strong hint that she regarded 2001 as the watershed - that being the year in which the age of consent was equalised at 16. The vast bulk of what she was apologising for took place on Westminster's watch - most notably, it was UK-wide Labour and Tory governments that eccentrically kept sex between men a criminal offence in Scotland for well over a decade after it had been legalised in England and Wales. The short post-devolution period covered by the apology was during the Labour-Lib Dem coalition government at Holyrood, and ended six years before Souter's first donation to the SNP.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
You can hear the radio show on catch-up HERE.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Composition of the House of Commons:
Conservatives 314 (-2)
Labour 258 (-2)
SNP 35 (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 12 (n/c)
DUP 10 (n/c)
Sinn Féin 7 (n/c)
Independents 5 (+4)
Plaid Cymru 4 (n/c)
Greens 1 (n/c)
Conservatives 10 seats short of a majority
(The Speaker and Deputy Speakers are excluded from the above figures. Note also that Sinn Féin have not taken up their seats. Theoretically they can do so at any time, but in practice are highly unlikely to.)
Of course in one sense the Tory and Labour losses might be viewed as a mere technicality, because Jared O'Mara can still be expected to vote in line with the Labour whip and Charlie Elphicke can still be expected to vote in line with the Tory whip. But I do wonder if there may eventually prove to be a distinction between an MP who still harbours realistic hopes of being readmitted to the party fold (such as Anne Marie Morris), and an MP who is accused of something of sufficient seriousness that it becomes hard to imagine any way back. In the latter case, such a person may feel they have nothing left to lose, and the whips would have nothing left to bribe or threaten them with.
Those of you with a long memory may recall that nine Eurosceptic rebel Tory MPs had the whip withdrawn in late 1994, which technically and temporarily meant that John Major's majority was wiped out. Robin Oakley, then the BBC's Political Editor, assured viewers that this was a masterstroke by the Tory whips, because suspended MPs typically show obsessional loyalty in an effort to be readmitted as soon as possible. But the MP Rupert Allason, who'd had the whip withdrawn a year earlier, predicted that precisely the opposite would happen, and he was proved correct. The whipless MPs became an informal grouping, and with safety in numbers became emboldened to vote against the Major government even more often. They were eventually readmitted without providing any guarantees about their future conduct. That was merely embarrassing for the Tories, but it won't even be regarded as a credible option now if the reason for an MP's suspension is suspected wrongdoing of a serious nature (unless the individual is completely cleared).