Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Not altogether wicked, merely unteachable...

Two weeks ago I quoted from George Orwell's 1941 essay, Notes on Nationalism.  He skewered so much of Nationalist attitude and stupidity, he got them so bang to rights, that it could have been written yesterday.

I don't know if it's coincidence, but this came up a few days ago. Again it's from 70 years ago. This time the Tories are his target and, in light of the Budget and the current Downing Street Dinners scandal, it rings so so so true.

From The Lion and the Unicorn , 1941

"It is important not to misunderstand their motives, or one cannot predict their actions. What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable. Only when their money and power are gone will the younger among them begin to grasp what century they are living in."

The bit that hits home is "...They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable...".  

Absolutely true. Bullseye. On the money. Fresh as this morning's dew. It could be lifted without changing a dot or comma and put straight in to the political profiles of the Tory cabinet.

Plus, of course, Clegg and Huhne and other so-called Orange Book so-called Liberal Democrats.


Monday, 26 March 2012

Straws in the wind

In the last couple of months I have noticed a small trend: a number of people he been approaching me, unprompted and  unasked, to question the drift toward "independence". Typically they say "This independence stuff. Surely it's not going to happen, is it? What do you think?".

To which I respond: not if I can help it, but what are you doing about it?

From a local clergymen to my hairdresser, these acquaintances express disbelief that we could ever be silly enough to break up the UK. They are generally not politically active but they have noticed the recent activity stemming from David Cameron's offer to facilitate the legality of the SNP's much delayed referendum. It has made them stop and think, and what they think is: it can't be happening. Are we mad?

One of them even told me he had voted SNP last year, but remarked that he had no intention of voting for "independence" in the referendum.

A number of them also bring up their dislike of Alex Salmond. There is quite an active dislike of Mr Salmond from many who oppose "independence" or who are not politically engaged. He may be popular among supporters of "independence" but for others he's a bumptious blob of pomposity.

Does this mean that SNP support is falling? Not if you look at the opinion polls.

But, if you look at it the way some people sense economic indicators before they show up in statistics, i.e. the town centre or shoping mall suddenly looks deserted, you can get a parking space or a queue-less checkout in your favourite supermarket, then it could be an early indicator of a changing situation.

Last year the SNP swept up public opinion in a surge of support at the Scottish Elections. They did it by keeping "independence" off the agenda.

Now "independence" is back, and it may just be turning the tide in the other direction.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Freedum!!!!!! ..and blankets

I rack my brains. I really do. But for the life of me I can't recall when Labour was in charge of the NHS in Scotland there ever being a shortage of blankets!!!! Of all things.... a hospital with no blankets... it's bizarre. How incompetent does he SNP have to be to engineer a shortage of blankets in a flagship hospital...??????

Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon makes much of her background in nursing. You wonder what the reaction of nippy sweetie Staff Nurse Sturgeon would be to a political leadership that left her bare of something so basic as wrappings to keep the sick warm.... in Britain! In the 21st century!

Actually, when Labour was in charge there were years of increased investment and rising satisfaction with the NHS in Scotland. Those days have gone. Unfortunately. But not for long.....

As for this fiasco...has Ms Sturgeon been sleeping on the job?

We've sold off the blankets. Now we're flogging the ointments.
Buy one get one free. Tempted?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The good ship Lib Dem lurches beneath the waves...

HMS ship-of-the-line Liberal Democrat Hopes has been holed on a number of occasions, almost always on account of its stout attempts to defend Admiral Dave's flagship The Coalition from serious damage.

One thinks of the Battle of Tuition Fees Bay, where the Liberal Democrat Hopes change tack 180 degrees and heaved itself bravely across the path of Coalition giving priceless protective cover from enemy fire. The damage from that encounter was considerable but Liberal Democrat Hopes stayed afloat and seemingly still under the control of Lieutenant Clegg, its flawed but once-promising First Officer.

Before that there was the volley of defensive cover that the ship fired, allowing Coalition to launch its gunboat Too far Too fast with devastating effect on an unsuspecting economy.

There have been a number of skirmishes since, in many of which the selfless sacrifices of the Liberal Democrat Hopes have been vital to keeping The Coalition afloat.

This week has seen some decisive action that threatens to sink the valiant vessel at last. The first serious damage, and it is below the water line, comes from Tuesday's all out volley on the good ship the NHS Bill. The rebel Labour crew had battled through a series of bloody encounters to sink the poisonous Bill. Many times it seemed that emissaries from Labour were close to subverting the crew of the Liberal Democrat Hopes to support their efforts, but each time the officers of the Liberal Democrat Hopes have succeeded in whipping their recalcitrant crew into line.

Yesterday they were given one last chance to sink the NHS Bill with an effort being made by Labour to release the sealed orders governing its passage and revealing the risks to life and limb of staying on the chosen course. They failed to grasp the chance: there were of course the usual wavering speeches and wringing of hands and voices from the back whispering "we're agin' it". But, when the crew cast its vote, they stayed faithful to their flagship and cast in their lot with the commanders of The Coalition. Thanks to the intervention of the Liberal Democrat Hopes the NHS Bill sailed safely into port with its cargo of cutters and a full complement of privatisers.

Today Liberal Democrat Hope limps into the Battle of the Budget, seriously damaged and with all hands bailing as fast and as furiously as they can, but still defiant in its stubborn defence of the flagship Coalition. It seems that promises from Admiral Dave and Commander Gideon on an increase in pay and rations of the cabin boys and lower deck hands has been bartered in favour of the Liberal Democrat Hopes' flying the flag for the abolition of the ten bob tax, which The Coalition sees as an odious imposition on rich people.

Will they do it? Will Lieutenant Clegg sail his ship through the choppy waters of Tory Canyon to sail to the rescue of plutocrats and oligarchs and wallpaper millionaires? The betting is that they will. But at what cost?

Can Liberal Democrat Hopes recover from the damage it is inflicting upon itself, its officers and its crew in defence of the indefensible? Is the battle worth the injury? Or will today's encounter be the final salvo, the valedictory, for the brave but ultimately suicidal crew of Liberal Democrat Hopes?

P.S. (or should that be P.B. for Post Budget?)...  the ship's rats ratted.... predicable but sad. What now for any of the LibDem crew who still have a residue of backbone...??

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Pig in a Poke with added Devo-Max

I remember many years ago on holiday in Torquay my friend asked a shopkeeper to put a purchase "in a poke" to take away. The shopkeeper was baffled. She had no idea what a "poke" might be.

In Scotland of course, we have no problem. Everyone knows that a poke is a small bag. The derivation is from the French "poque", and it still in use for that purpose in Scotland (just like French "asciette" is used in Scotland as in "ashett pie") as a hangover of Scotland's historically close links with France.

So what does the saying "a pig in a poke" actually mean?

As defined here it's "an offering or deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first". In other words the pig might be in the poke, as advertised, or it might not. Or it might not be exactly as described, scrawny, unhealthy, diseased....it might not be a pig at all. The poke might even be empty.

"Look missus, there's a nice fat pig in this poke. That'll be fifty quid".

"But I can't tell if there is or there isn't".

"There is all right. It's a nice juicy pig. Fat. Feed the family for a whole winter.

"Sounds nice. Are you really really sure?" 

"Trust me, I'm a snake-oil sorry fat pig salesman".

"Oh all right then I'll buy that".

Isn't that exactly what we are being offered by the Nationalists?
"Independence" is offered but never clearly defined and/or the definition changes depending on circumstances.

 Buy this independent pig and we'll throw 
in some added devolution at no extra cost

If you are a long time SNP member and/or activist you might think that "independence" means, well, "independence", i.e. Scotland is a completely seperate country with a different system of government, different citizenship, a different head of state (perhaps a republic), different currency (pound/euro), fiscal rules, diplomatic systems, military readiness and alliances, borders, immigration laws and so on aand so on. After all that's what you have been campaigning for all your adult life.

But if you listen to senior Nationalist politicians, none of these things is "in" or "out". The Queen could/maybe not be head of state. Sterling might/might not be the continued currency as might the Euro. Fiscal autonomy might be ceded to the Bank of England or the European Central Bank (but it will be ceded). The SNP has been reported as considering NATO membership....

As for "devo max", don't get me started. If you wanted to create a model of lack of clarity you couldn't do better than throw in this fuzzy, ill-defined, deliberately created political red herring. 

"Maybes aye maybes naw" would seem to be the new "Scotland free in '83" (or was that '93...? can't remember now...).   

As for the effects of "independence": these are never explained, or questions are dismissed with spurious flannel. In cases where the questions get too near the bone the questioner is accused of beng "anti-Scottish".

So the underlying message of the pro-"independence" lobby, that everything will improve, is never justified.

There are huge questions about the costs of "independence", the economy, existing commitments and debts, the organisation of the state, diplomacy, culture,and a myriad practical consideratons. But there has been no explanation, and very little discussion of, and no consensus on, how these matters are to be resolved, and if they are resolved, in what way will anyone be "better off"?

The pig stays very firmly in its poke. Why should we buy it?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Note on Nationalism...

An old friend - not politically active but made restive by the prospect of the referendum on "independence" - sends me this extract from George Orwell's 1945 essay on Nationalism.

"Extract from ‘Notes on Nationalism’ – George Orwell Essay 1945

By 'nationalism' I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled 'good' or 'bad'. But secondly--and this is much more important--I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests.

Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved.

By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, NOT for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist--that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating--but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it IS the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.

Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also--since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself-- unshakeably certain of being in the right."

It's an essay I have read many times, and it hits the note for me. It runs to over twenty pages in my Penguin edition, but in the extract above almost every sentence contains a gem that could be picked out and applied to today's SNP and camp followers. I particularly I like the bit about Nationalism -v- Patriotism.

"Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism.........By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power."

 Here is the riposte to those brain dead "politicians" who cry "anti-Scottish" every time someone wishes to disabuse them of some foolish notion. It is possible to disagree with Nationalists and still be Scottish: in fact it is frequently necessary.

Orwell was a great observer of politics in a turbulent period in history. He was always acute in his judgements and a great pricker of pomposity. Oh for his pen and his wit to puncture the bloated waistcoat of our puffed up First Panjandrum.......

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Don't blame us, we're only the government....

Cast your mind back to this time last year. The the unemployment figures were released, and they were bad

UK unemployment stood at 8%.

But, in Scotland, the numbers were marginally less bad, as the number of Scots out of work fell by 16,000 between November 2010 and January 2011, bucking a trend in the rest of the UK.

So, who was responsible? The SNP of course!!!  Who else?

On 16th March 2011, Alex Salmond "...warned the Chancellor not to jeopardise Scotland’s economic recovery in next week’s Budget after new figures showed another drop in unemployment. Mr Salmond insisted the decrease was thanks to his administration’s economic policies.”

NB. Even so Scottish unemployment was 8.1%, slightly more than the UK average of 8%. But the fact that unemployment in Scotland appeared to be falling was evidence enough for the FM to crow and to bark orders to the UK.

Fast foward to 14th March 2012, the unemployment figuers are out and unemployment and they're bad

Unemployment in Scotland has risen by 6,000 in the three months to the end of January. The unemployment rate in Scotland was 8.7% - above the UK average of 8.4%. Numbers in employment in Scotland has actually decreased by 11,000 from November to January. The unemployment total in Scotland is18,000 higher than it was a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of Scots claiming jobseeker's allowance rose to 142,800 in February, 5,400 higher than it was a year ago.

So, who is responsible? Last year it was the SNP wot dunnit as unemployment "fell". This year, as unemployment rises, it's..... the SNP?  No way! ....

It's Westminster innit? The Scottish Government has issued a bold statement from Finance Secretary John Swinney saying; "the figures demonstrate why the UK Chancellor George Osborne needed to take "urgent action to create jobs" in next week's UK Budget". And "The Chancellor needs to change course in next week's Budget, and deliver a 'Plan MacB' approach for the economy”.

For all those decades in opposition the Nationalists were able to promise anything, because there was no danger they would have to make good on any promise. It was, conversely, easy to blame whoever else happened to be in Government. After all, you're in Government, you're responsible. See that labour! See them Tories!! Disgusting. Disgraceful. Whit a bunch! If only us Nats could get hold of the reins of power.

Now the Nationalists have been in power for five years. But, strangely enough, for five years nothing has been their fault.  Things look good..unemployment falls.."we did that!!". Things look not-so-good.. unemployment rises..."Blame Westmonster, blame the union, blame the last Labour administration, blame the Supreme Court, blame the Tories, blame anyone and everyone. But don't blame us. We're only the Government....".

I can't help thinking it's beginning to wear bit thin....

Monday, 12 March 2012

Nicola discovers "the real world"

Brian Taylor of BBC Scotland interviews Deputy FM Nicola Sturgeon.

Wriggling like a good'un, Ms Sturgeon explains why the SNP Government is wonderful and responsible for...well... nothing really....certainly nothing unpopular......it's own entertainments licence legislation, steel for the Forth road bridge purchased furth of Scotland, the collapsed banks, joining the Euro or retaining Sterling gay marriage, the SNP's tendency to call its opponents "anti-Scottish, defence policy. Clarity escapes, responsibility diffuses, problems dissolve, Brigadon is invoked, Denmark exalted, Norway eulogised (Iceland? Ireland? anathema...) magic wands are waved. And blame is placed. Anywhere but Holyrood.

Nicola finds time, inter alia, to criticise other people for saying that "Scotland is too wee and too poor" to survive in "independence" when no-one, except herself, even had a fleeting thought hinting at that position thus confirming my previous observation that it's always the Nats that bring this red herring into any conversation. Freudian transference personified.....

Nicola also finds (18 minutes in) that England would have helped bail out the failed Scottish banks and so saved an "independent" Scotland from bankruptcy. And, did you know, an "independent" Scotland would help the English bail out Barclays if it failed.

Hurrah for England! Hurrah for "interdependence"!

Nicola calls this "the real world".

You can't help thinking that, in the real real world, if "interdependence" is the best solution to the banking and other crises, why would any sane person claim that "independence" is better for the Scottish people? But, y'know what? Nicola didn't give any convincing reasons....

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Two bald men fighting over a comb

The blessed Vince wants "mansion tax" on houses over £2million value. Gideon George Osborne wants to cut tax for the rich.

The compromise seems to be a tax rise for the rich via the mansion levy and a tax cut for the rich via cutting the 50p level on those who earn over £150,000/year.

Probable result? No real change... but still this gargantuan struggle between titanic forces (Vince and Gideon) leads the news and smothers the budget discussions.

Jorge Louis Borges, the Argentinian novelist and thinker, described the Falklands War as "two bald me fighting over a comb". He could have meant the prize, the Falklands Islands, was not worth the effort.

                              YOU STOLE MA COMB!!!

In the case of the Vince -v- Gideon it means to me, that, whoever wins, the outcome is meaningless. It's a fake battle with a predicted outcome. The aim is to look antagonistic and busy for the benefit of the two party's followers.

In reality it's a pointless waste of energy.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Arc of Gullibility

In a letter to the Herald, Brian Quail, stalwart of Scottish CND, expresses his believe that Only full independence can rid us of the menace that is the Trident system”. Perhaps Mr Quail missed the report in the Guardian of the previous day that the SNP is considering joining Nato (if they win the referendum which they will not, but that's a different matter). The report also reveals a 2008 survey showing that 53% of SNP supporters agree that staying with Nato is in Scotland’s interests. Even if an "independent" Scotland did not join Nato, there is a strong possibility that the UK Government would pay a generous amount to lease the Faslane facilities and an impoverished new country would gratefullly take the dosh. So, even if the UK is broken up, Trident is likely to stay where it is for the foreseeable future.

It's not surprising that CND and others were intitially taken in by Nationalist promises but I am surprised that they are still clinging to the belief that the SNP will deliver. In its desire to farm votes from any source the SNP has made promises to every protest group and sectional interest imaginable including anti-nuclear weapons, pacifists, (while keeping army and RAF bases) anti-nuclear power, environmentalists, anti-environmentalists, anti-abortion groups, pro-choice Christians, republicans, monarchists, students, teachers (while building no new schools), nurses, pro-business, progressives, homophobes, anti-tax Tories, pro-public service campaigners and a host of local pro and anti-development groups. 

So much contradiction is bound to lead to disappointment, particularly when “independence” is redefined on a daily basis by the whim of the First Minister. 

 Patent NatMed. Cures what ails you. Honest!

I’m no great fan of Trident renewal either: it seems like a lot of dough for very little bread, (especially when we are building aircraft carriers with no planes to put on them!), but I'm very much afraid that Brian Quail and CND must now join the republicans and public sector workers and pro-choice and students, teachers and parents and all the other people who voted SNP in response to promises that their particular brand of snake-oil would cure all ills, and accept that a pro-Nato SNP would never get rid of Trident, any more than it abolished student debt, or abolished the Council Tax or built schools “brick-for-brick” or any other of a string of empty Nationalist promises.