Tuesday, 21 April 2015

THe British Establishment Is Losing It's shit!


Reblogged from 'The Vice'

A piece by Oliver Hutson.

In 2011, the Conservatives had ruled out a referendum on genuine voting reform – a system of proportional representation, as the Lib Dems and reformers wanted. Cameron allowed only a vote on AV – another majoritarian system that is only marginally better than FPTP. Seats and votes would still be wildly out of synch, tactical voting and safe seats would continue (Labour, it should be noted, were only too happy to assist the Tories in killing the reform for similarly self-interested reasons). Again, Cameron shut down a basic democratic request – that the seats a party gets are in proportion to its votes – in the interests of his party.
As the polls stand now, the Tories have 35 percent, UKIP 13 percent and the Lib Dems 9 percent, a combined share of the vote of 57 percent. In a proportional, democratic system, they would have around 57 percent of the seats – they'd have a majority, assuming Clegg could be persuaded to work with Farage. Given Clegg's history, it seems a fair shout that another sniff of power would happily make up for any personal queasiness, and he has made quite plain in interviews he would rather work with the Tories than Labour. Even were Clegg to stand firm, a straight Tory UKIP coalition is only a couple of percentage points away under a proportional vote.

Assuming either of the above, Cameron would have remained Prime Minister. What's interesting about the proposition is that in the AV referendum the Conservatives and the right-wing press, to the last, backed first-past-the-post. The press are staunch opponents of more democratic voting systems because the current mess gives them considerable leverage, and more representative government would likely be much tougher on corporate power – something their billionaire proprietors are naturally keen to avoid. Yet as things now stand, the old defence of first-past-the-post – that it provides "strong government" – has melted away. For the second time in five years the system will have delivered a hung parliament.

Early in the Coalition, Cameron changed the law to effectively lock himself in as Prime Minister for a full five years, fearing a breakdown in the Lib-Con coalition. Changing the rules in his Fixed Term Parliaments Act, he blocked an early election by ensuring governments have five year terms. To trigger an early election, a two-thirds majority in the Commons is now required, rather than a simple majority. A vote of no confidence could still be lost with a simple majority, triggering an early election, but this seems now the only plausible way to cut short a five year term. If Miliband gets in, the same rules will apply – he will be locked in too, and Conservatives will have to put up with him.
The Tories look set to be hoist by at least three of their own petards – failing to secure boundary reform, blocking a referendum on Proportional Representation and the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
Understandably, the right-wing press are now apoplectic. They have spent years hammering Miliband – he is a joke, a geek, he can't even eat a bacon sandwich. It is not possible for the public to elect him. But it looks they will. That he will be propped up by the SNP turns the unsightly into the obscene. They're not going to accept it.

Adam Ramsay wrote some weeks ago that the press would attempt a "coup" in such a result, and demand Cameron remain as leader of the party with "the most seats". But that's not how things work in Britain – the Prime Minister is the person who can command a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, even if that means making a coalition with another party or forming minority government. What the press are now trying to do, and have been doing for weeks, is lay the ground for stopping Miliband forming a minority government. First, they and the Tories led repeated demands that Miliband rule out a formal coalition with the SNP – a party that will have around 50 seats in the House of Commons, democratically elected. Miliband caved and ruled it out.

Watch our political correspondent Gavin Haynes find out who will stand up for the Establishment:

The next stage is convincing the public that Sturgeon and the SNP are nationalist sociopaths who want to destroy us all – even a Labour minority propped up by the SNP (as opposed to a formal coalition) is, in Cameron's terminology, "despicable". On the 10th of April, the Mail even ran a poll asking whether the SNP should be able to partner only with the party with most seats – testing the water for whether the public could be convinced that the Tories had a constitutional right to govern and an SNP-Lab alliance was illegitimate. A ridiculous notion, but they did the poll all the same. That's how desperate things are getting. And things are now starting to spiral.

In the Mail on Saturday, you could see the cogs painfully turning. Headlines included "STURGEON HOLDS BRITAIN TO RANSOM" and "Scotland has lost its marbles". In its editorial, it said, "a terrifyingly plausible vision is looming" – a Lab-SNP government, a "hideously undemocratic 'coalition of chaos'". The next page, Robert Hardman writes of Sturgeon that despite securing "just 4 percent of the national vote, she could... be king maker". UKIP, he continues, will get three times more votes than the SNP, but ten times less seats – "a democratic deficit to make the blood boil". In Platell's column she writes that it would be "the greatest democratic injustice to befall our entire nation". Just to recap: both the Mail and the Conservatives worked very hard to retain the undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system that is now causing these big mismatches between votes won and seats won. It's just that this time they're getting butt-hurt because the system is working against them.

On Sunday, the "coup" stepped up a gear. In a fascinating piece in the Sunday Times, we learn that the Queen – who technically has the power to choose who forms the government – has had to make clear she will not get involved in propping up a government that does not have the support of the majority of MPs. It stresses that we don't know whether it's Miliband or Cameron who asked the question, but there is one revealing quote from a Palace source: "Cameron remains Prime Minister but he can't borrow the Queen for support".

There's good reason for believing the real story here is that it is the Conservatives who have approached the Palace about shoring up a potential Tory minority government that cannot command a majority.
People should be in no doubt how far the Tories, the City and the right-wing press will go to get their man in. Nick Clegg is already describing the SNP's participation in government as "illegitimate" – essentially saying a democratically elected party shouldn't be allowed in government because he doesn't like them. Should a Labour-SNP majority be the outcome of the election, we can expect to hear a lot more of that, as the Conservatives try and undermine the British electorate's decision – voiced through a crooked system that they tried so hard to save – so that they stay in power.

If Buckingham Palace can be convinced – through the creation of an atmosphere where a Labour-SNP coalition is considered unthinkable – to retain Cameron above a Labour leader that can command a majority in the House, that really would be a power grab that would raise eyebrows in a banana republic. It would make a total mockery of the British "constitution". The fact that the Palace have even had to brief against the idea – that it's even a possibility to the Conservatives that the Palace would overrule the electorate – is astonishing. Yet it seems likely that is exactly what the Tories have been sounding out.

Short of some major reversals in the polls, one way or another we are about to enter the realm of serious constitutional breakdown.

Who's for porage?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

If The Yolk Sticks

                                          Reposted from  Lallands Peat Worrier.
If the yolk sticks.
You would be hard pushed to invent a worse story for Jim Murphy and his Scottish and UK Labour colleagues, every which way you look at it. The Eds are anxious to establish their fiscal probity. They will never satisfy the baying hounds of the Tory press, but doughty little fiends that they are, they are desperate to show that they can "responsibly" hack away at the British state with the best of them. 

The usual suspects are itching for any opportunity or pretext to question Miliband's commitment to the deficit-frame of "fiscal probity". But the Labour leader held the line, with a cauld kale offering of cuts, interspersed with a few simple, positive, constructive ideas. A mean repast it may be, but compared to the ragged, personalised, unstrategic mess that is the Tory base campaign, you can rattle off a few clear and cogent Labour proposals on one hand. For voters of the left, much of this is robbed of its substance and vitality by the overarching commitment to the deficit fetish economics which Ed Balls has imbibed -- but there it is. Choices made. Lines drawn.

Mr Murphy's task is even trickier. He has deemed it expedient to tack to the left to restore Scottish Labour's ailing fortunes, keen to pin the SNP as careless cutters in contrast with his gloss on Labour economic plans as an "end to austerity". Simultaneously, Scottish Jim for Scotland has taken Scottish Henry McLeish's Scottish advice that Scottish Labour should embrace Scottish patriotism. He has also been struggling to cast off the acrylic uniform of the party's "branch manager", run up by tricoteuse and Murphy oustee, Johann Lamont, and to establish himself as the Heid Neep of Scottish Labour's warring vegetable rack of parliamentarians, divided by their jealousies, ambitions and contempts. 

Labour is onto two losing games here. If you want a chill hearted bastard to "balance the books", why vote Labour? Why go for the bloodless alternative? Why not back blue and get the real thing? Similarly, if you are the kind of voter animated by the idea of your representatives "standing up for Scotland", why back Labour over the SNP? Cram as many references to Scotland into your Twitter profile as you like, apply a patriotic gatling gun to your election literature - you are always going to be facing a Scottish National Party whose sole fealty is to the voters north of the border, without inconvenient colleagues with different and legitimate and incompatible political agendas in the rest of the country.

On austerity and the narrow Scottish interest -- it is a battle you can't win.  If Labour aspire to remain a - or the - national UK party, I'd have thought they'd be best to push back against this limited "patriotic" agenda, rather than embracing it. Which is a long-winded way of saying: both of these -- it seems to me -- are losing games for Scottish Labour to play. But poor Jim finds himself locked into, or has chosen to play, both hands. Cue broken eggs.

Today's "slapdown" by Labour's shadow business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, and Ed Balls, undermines just about everything that Jim Murphy has been agitating so antically to promote: Labour as an anti austerity alternative, his own office as robust, independent, "patriotic", in charge of the Scottish contingent in Westminster, paying the piper and calling the tune. But Chuka was having none of that, offering up this suspiciously quotable demolition of Mr Murphy's position to Andrew Neill this lunchtime. Gey generous it was of him too:
"The leader of the Scottish Labour Party will not be in charge of the UK budget. The leader of our country, our next prime minister, Ed Miliband, will be in charge of the UK budget and he has just answered the question, when that was put to him - will there be any cuts over the course of this parliament not just in the first financial year, but in the following financial years?  And he was absolutely clear - there will be the need for further consolidation and cuts throughout the rest of the parliament."

This doesn't even leave Mr Murphy the wriggle room to be a critical friend of the UK leadership, pursuing different priorities from within the UK Labour Party. If you want to give the Labour party the heart and stomach to pursue different priorities -- there is clearly no point backing Jim. Even his own senior colleagues apparently see him as an irrelevance, and do not have the good grace to conceal their indifference to his opinion from the public. 

Today's clash also helps to marginalise impressions of Mr Murphy's control over his own Westminster parliamentarians.  In principle, at least, Jim heads up the whole contingent of Scottish representatives -- but the Eds apparently regard his colleagues as their worker bees, to troop biddably through the lobbies in Westminster without reference to the manic pterodactyl (Alex Massie™). It is the old, unedited hubris. But it diminishes Jim to a cypher, to do as telt, again. Either the Scottish Labour leader a) misunderstood the nature of his UK colleagues' plans, or b) dissembled about it none too subtly, but whether a) or b) is the case, his point of view is dismissed as irrelevant. 

If Murphy cuts up rough, he gives the Tory press an enviable opportunity to chuck muck at Ed Miliband. If he doesn't, and keeps his tongue in his head, he looks craven, disingenuous, calculating, and ineffective. A fine day at the office, all around. Tonight, the frittatas are on Jim.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

And They're Off!

Sorry it's been a whiley since the last posting. I've been laid low with viruses and vomiting and other such treats as always seem to come around when you have time off work full of plans for doing nice things and nothings at all. Such is life eh?

So - the election race to get to first-past-the-post has started and what an exciting and upliftingly fine spectacle it is to see our wonderful Westminster political leaders all laying out their stalls with positive messages about the wondrous policies they'd bring to the table, except they're not of course. Well, with limited exceptions and no-one believes the Lib-Dems any more.

Maybe I should recap - refresh my memory - what's been happening while I've been shouting at Hughie and Ralph down the big white telephone or lying comatose on the sofa while my wife tries to get me to go to bed and stop making the place look untidy or polluting the atmosphere with groaning and constant demands for neck rubs and scrambled egg on toast that almost never gets eaten. Oh yes. You can almost feel the love. It's like that 'Love Bombing' that happened in the referendum all over again isn't it?

Oh no, Right. It isn't.

Parliament has dissolved - which might explain some of the smell - but before that we had a wee budget where Dave and George seriously avoided telling us what a wonderful job they'd done racking up more debt than all previous labour Govts in history combined, missing their financial targets, demonising the poor and the vulnerable and blaming the ills of society on immigrants while trying to get us to ignore anything that might remind us of stagnant wages, zero hours contracts, tax cuts for millionaires, senior Tories involved in cash for access or any dodgy business scandals and removing from their website the 2010 list of  'judge-us-on-these-and-kick-us-out-if-we-fail' promises which they were so keen on sticking down the electorates throats to get elected in the first place.

Meanwhile Wallace, sorry, Ed Miliband has been desperately trying to be interviewed in one of his two {WTF} kitchens but most definitely sans bacon roll as he tries to prove that he's a millionaire public school educated man of the people who understands what it is to be poor and living outside of the M25. He's got street cred and the insight that brings, despite never having had any job that's anything even vaguely divorced from politics. He knows that Labour is good and that Tories are bad. He knows the only way out of Tory austerity is to wear the sack cloth of Labour austerity which looks like but won't feel like nasty Tory austerity because well, it just won't. They'll tax millionaires just a tad more and will have a mansion tax that any worth his fee accountant can avoid to make the NHS funded the way it should be. They'll cut tuition fees to £6,000 a year to prove they're on the side of 'yoof' but don't be unemployed or on benefits because their shadow welfare minister has warned Labour doesn't represent people on benefits, just people in work and that's why their called Labour rather than Tory Lite {TM} and remember that Labour Good/Tory Bad so vote Labour.

Both Tory and Labour parties have awakened to the likelihood of a hung - don't you think that's an expression worthy of so much more than a solely mental image - Parliament and the fact that us splittists Jocks actually never got back in the box after the referendum but have instead taken to responding to any kind of political poll that we're going to vote in our millions again and not in the kind of way that any self respecting Westminster MP would have us vote. ie for them. They've been outraged, betrayed, frightened, incredulous, frustrated, annoyed, dismayed, disappointed and hurt beyond belief so they've done what they do best and lined up the right wing MSM {mainstream media} to demonise us and ensure that everyone without a brain but still with a vote where it really counts - in Engerlund - knows that Westminster MP's good, SNP MP's mad bastards led by some wee lassie and that horrible Alex Salmond we all learned to hate during the referendum who are going to destroy the world or democracy as we know it at least {which to be honest isn't much of a democracy at all really} so you better give one of us an outright majority so we can all go safely back to doing what we do best - ignoring the Jocks, Jockland and anything tainted with even the faintest whiff of Jockery. Thank God for England, Queen Liz and St. George!

Yes, us rabid Nats in Scotland could well be sending a veritable tartan army of splittist MP's all the way to dear old Westmonster, all clad in tartan, claymores waving, woad on their faces and murrrder in their black hearts. They're going to eat English young, steal Big Ben and all the subsidised wine from the Palace of Westminster bars, make it law that everyone has to wear tartan and learn Gaelic and even {huge intake of breath} VOTE ON THINGS LIKE DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES. The bastards! Those nasty SNP monsters might even hold the balance of power since neither of the main parties looks likely to convince the voters who really matter - Yes it's THE ENGLISH again, do try to keep up - that one or other of them is good/smart/responsible enough to be trusted to run a government in anything other than blatant self-interest.

To be honest it's just not cricket, sorry, DEMOCRACY, except that it is, just not the kind of democracy we have told you to vote for, the traditional British kind that works just for us.


Meanwhile back at the {B}ranch {Office}, or Scotland as they call it, the branch manager of {not}Scottish Labour {which is just UK labour with a see-you-Jimmy hat on and therefore not anything like a separate or proper Scottish only Labour party with it's own ability to decide/promise/deliver anything not approved by UKLabour and that's not fully devolved to Scottish Government control and therefore of relevance only AFTER being elected to control of said government which means also that nothing they are promising currently is of any point since they are not in government in Scotland, are unlikely to be this side of hell freezing over and even if they were, based on previous performance, wouldn't bother their Scottish backsides in delivering any of it anyway. Phew!}

As I was saying: Branch Manager J. Murphy esq, {he of the  'I'm going to keep on talking quietly and in reassuringly reasonable tones over every interviewer and around every question repeating ad nauseam any or all of the five magical mantras I've been taught by Master McTiernan of Babble so I don't have to really answer anything that might incriminate me, cos I'm so clever I can do this and none of yous is going to notice cos yous is aw as thick as mince and nowhere near as smart as me as I pull down my blackout glasses and stick my fingers in my ears so reality of each and every poll over the last 6 months canny get in cos we're no gaunny get wiped oot so we're no cos WE ARRA PEEPUL!} has been making the best of all his wee pals in BBC Scotland to make sure each and every utterance is given widespread and obsequious homage, acknowledging them for the manna from heaven they undoubtedly are. These are being laid out with simplicity and clarity, the only way us poor simpletons can understand things and are being repeated by each and every MP, MSP, Party Supporter and clone who gets near a newspaper, microphone or TV camera:

1 Labour Good/ SNP bad
2 Vote SNP Get Tory
3 The fact is the biggest party gets to form the Government.
4 Labour isn't going enter into a coalition with the SNP under any circumstances.
5 Labour Good/ Tory Bad

Now, let's take these one at a time.

Labour Good, SNP Bad.

This depends on your point of view or potentially grasp of reality. Unfortunately for {Not}Scottish Labour, it appears almost inevitable now, after 6 months of polls telling us that most people are prepared to vote SNP, that Labour and the Lib-Dems in Scotland are going to be either wiped out or simply  significantly stuffed after the election. But what's a wee annihilation or two amongst friends, right? Only the Tory vote has held up. SNP membership has soared to 103,000, while judging by the signs on TV from their conferences, Labour is dying on it's feet - members at conference appeared to be sitting with an empty seat between them to make them look more numerous than they really are while the Lib-Dems are basically left with a few ex MP's and remnants who are potentially zombies or so old they can no longer find an exit. Labour's staged meetings featuring on TV, like Gordon Browns last appearance, appear to be happening in private with bussed in support and party activists making up a crowd that means wide angle lenses are banned. Meanwhile SNP policy is viewed by voters as being more progressive, more representative of voter expectation and their leadership and candidates more trusted than the current mainstream, even in England. {holds in a smirk} Local council by-election results are backing polling as SNP candidates are winning these in similar ratio to polls.

Vote SNP Get Tory.

Sorry, this is just bullshit. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, SNP Party leader has been explicit. SNP will not facilitate a Tory Govt. No matter how many SNP MP's are elected they will vote against the Tory's getting a second term. This completely negates the argument unless the Tory's get an outright majority, which can only be won in England, where as usual Scotland's votes - no matter for which party - make absolutely no difference. The reality of this argument is an attempt to gain an outright Labour majority. Again, Scottish voters don't seem to want this as Scottish Labour MP's historically have been vote slaves for the UK party line which has meant Scotland's voice and needs are often ignored. Strong SNP representation without having to hold solely a UK party line is what most voters appear to understand guarantees the strongest influence in our interest. Sorry {Not}Scottish Labour.

The fact is the biggest party gets to form the Government.

Again, this is nonsense. The biggest party gets the FIRST CHANCE to form a government but the result isn't guaranteed. The party who can carry support to form A WORKING MAJORITY forms the government. Even Jim Murphy is saying the last time that happened was in 1924, but it still happened so he's proving his 'fact is' argument is rubbish. This was repeated for weeks before MSM began to challenge it {probably as a result of on-line alternate media pressure} Polls are showing no party having an outright majority is the most likely outcome. With a guaranteed SNP vote no matter how many {or few} MP's they have Labour will maximise opposition to Tory Govt, not ensure it gets in. That's an outright lie. The Tory party can win an outright majority, but that can only be won in England and therefore also can only be lost in England. Scotland's votes won't make one iota of difference. In actual fact as SNP candidates are likely to wipe out the Lib-Dem's in Scotland and by default carry their votes for a Labour Govt, the SNP makes a Labour Govt actually more, not less, likely.

A Labour/SNP coalition. Not happening. Nicola Sturgeon said weeks ago she couldn't see it happening. The red line of getting rid of nuclear weapons rules it out, likewise a formal 'confidence and supply' agreement. Issue by issue is the only realistic prospect. Listen to what {Not} Scottish Labour are not saying. They're very careful not to answer the question about them being prepared to deal on that basis. They won't rule it out.

Labour Good/ Tory Bad.

Again that's a perspective issue. I'd say Tory Bad/ Labour Not Quite So Bad/ SNP best option.

Better get ready. It's going to get really nasty in the next few weeks. {Not} Scottish Labour are fighting for their very expenses - sorry - SURVIVAL. They're going to turn feral very quickly.
Already they've wheeled out Gordy Broon again to make promises that anyone with any amount of common sense can see will never be delivered. £800 million a year extra for Scotland if you vote Labour? I don't hear Ed Miliband or Ed Balls agreeing to that and they will hold the purse strings if elected. If there are as few {Not}Scottish Labour MP's as it looks like there's going to be what's the chance of that happening?

Let's not forget this is the same Gordy who appeared a couple of weeks after the Smith Commission proposals were announced, just as Labour really started getting a pasting in the polls. to announce the proposed and put through proper proposals didn't go far enough and Scotland should get this, that and the next thing on top {even though {Not}Scottish Labour's Smith Commission proposals were the weakest of the lot} Do you remember any of the two Ed's coming out at any time since to say "We agree and we guarantee good ole Gordy's guarantee, guaranteed."

By the way, am I the only one getting even more confused every time a Labour or Tory MP says "I've /We've been very clear on that." I think my clarity sensor is buggered.

It's going to get messy. Better fortify yourselves folks.

Porage anyone?