Thursday, 7 April 2016

How it works

Once upon a time, Scotland used to be a majority Unionist country. We voted - just - for the Union, and we sent Unionist MPs to Westminster.

During the campaign for last year's election to the Westminster parliament, it emerged that Alistair Carmichael, a British government minister, had personally overseen a smear campaign against the First Minister, and then proceeded to repeatedly lie about the matter, behaviour which ultimately saw him hauled before an Election Court to explain his behaviour, at which the judges denounced him as a shameless liar. 

There was one notable absence from the coverage of the Carmichael Scandal. A political party which has called for the resignation of every single Scottish Government minister to serve since 2007, and which, ostensibly, was the opposition to Carmichael's government, made absolutely no comment for months on end. 

It is difficult to come to any conclusion for Scottish Labour's deafening silence on the Carmichael matter than that they wanted him - a sitting British government minister whom they purportedly sought to replace in office - to win the election and win the subsequent legal proceedings, remaining in his seat. 

The quid pro quo came yesterday. It emerged that the hapless "leader" of Scottish Labour , Kezia Dugdale, had repeatedly begged the National party for a job, going so far as to offer to work free of charge. Following a humiliating rejection, she joined Scottish Labour instead, where she worked for violent drunk, and sectarian bigot, George Foulkes, the doyen of #SNPbad Unionists, before going on to "lead" the party (if reading this after May 5th, please insert "for a brief period before resigning after taking Scottish Labour to its worst-ever electoral performance").

It was an amusing little story, and was soon picked up by Dugdale's enemies (primarily, the Scottish Labour party). As Dugdale was publicly humiliated and her "leadership" fatally undermined, the old guard in Scottish Labour began to brief against her. 

And then, to the rescue, came the Liberal party. The Liberal parliamentary group could be accommodated perfectly comfortably in a hackney taxi, and the vast majority of Scots would be unable to identify its MSPs if one of them fell into our soup - but Willie Rennie is nothing if not enthusiastic. 

It was Rennie - on the face of it, bizarrely - who indignantly filed a complaint with the Scottish Information Commissioner on Dugdale's behalf. Not Jim Murphy, or George Foulkes, or indeed Dugdale herself, but the leader of what is technically a rival party. 

The Liberals tend to be the bitches of the larger Unionist parties. They've coalesced with both Unionist parties, in both Holyrood and Westminster. Yesterday, we saw yet more evidence that the Unionist parties function fundamentally as three elements of a single entity: Scottish Labour helping a Liberal MP in coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster to retain his seat; the Liberal leader who was chief of staff in the Scottish Labour-Liberal coalition reciprocating by helping a Scottish Labour "leader" hang onto her "leadership". 

The Unionists have clearly taken the view that, with the Nationalists likely to win a majority of the vote in every constituency, it doesn't matter, unlike in the Westminster election, if they split the Unionist vote three ways (they are likely to gain many more List MSPs by standing as three separate parties). Indeed, continuing to maintain the fiction of three discrete Unionist parties gives the BBC and STV the opportunity to continue to load panels against the Nationalists by invariably featuring three Unionists against a solitary Nationalist.

A pan-Unionist coalition, conversely, is likely to work in their favour at the next Westminster election. Expect to see Liberals standing down for Scottish Labour and vice versa in certain seats. 

The BBC's flagship political television programme is Question Time. This evening the parliamentarians featured on the programme include one each from Labour, the Conservatives and Ukip. This will be piped into Scottish households - three Unionists and no Nationalists - less than four weeks before the polls close in the Scottish general election. 

In any other country, this would be treated as an outrage. Scottish Labour consistently speak of a one-party state. In what other one-party state would that one party be kept off the flagship political programme less than a month before a legislative election?

+++++++++++++

The election is not looking good for Rise. The struggling alliance continues to motor along in opinion polls at 0%, sometimes emitting the odd alarming grind of gears, but more often passing along completely un-noticed. 

The latest opinion poll, by Survation, has the SWP-led group on its now-traditional 0%, whilst a TNS poll yesterday had "the Scottish SYRIZA" unmentioned, but the Scottish Socialist party on 2%.

Might it, perhaps, be the case that "the future of the Scottish Left" would have been better standing down in favour of the SSP, rather than Scotland's most electorally successful Left party ever dissolving itself into a group comprised primarily of property owners, moon-howlers, students, and bigots?

Cheeringly, Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity - now sans most of its members following allegations of financial and, quelle surprise, sexual impropriety - is also on 0% in the opinion polls, with the TNS poll failing to find a single respondent who was prepared to vote for the increasingly-mad Sheridan (yesterday's "fuck sake, Tommy" moment was, amusingly, the Tangerine Dream standing on the Concert Hall steps with your actual Scottish Resistance, screaming his own little version of the Declaration of Abroath at worried, eyes-averted shoppers). With Rise (last weekend's day of action: some middle-class students invading a Glasgow fast-food joint and screeching at bemused diners through an actual amplifier) joining them on 0%, it may be an idea for Rise and Solidarity to merge, and let the actual, grown-up, experienced Socialists get on with trying to change the country. 

I was amused to read that Rise is "replacing the pale, male and stale activists with the youth", however. The vast majority of the activists who have walked away from the SSP over the last year are in their teens, twenties or early thirties. Us oldies have been replaced by those bright young things Colin Fox (56) in Lothian, Kevin McVey (52) in Central Scotland, and Jean Urquhart in Highland who will celebrate her 70th birthday during the new Parliament. 

Not a single person on the top of any regional list is non-white. Interesting times. When Rise fails, SSP activists will know who needs to be removed from positions of influence in the party: and make no mistake - those who stabbed the SSP in the back will be the primary targets. 

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