Tuesday 17 March. HIGH NOON…
So, finally Ed has come off the very painful fence and ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP. There will be no SNP ministers in a Labour government. According to Nigel Morris in yesterday’s Independent, this will mightily upset Jim Murphy, who has been blocking his UK leader from saying it out loud.
Here’s the immediate Twitter reaction from the BBC’s James Lansdale on yesterday’s announcement - “Two things have driven this announcement. One is internal pressure from Labour MPs in Scotland and England who say that unless a coalition is ruled out, they’ll continue to be put in a very difficult position on the doorsteps.
“Secondly, it’s the relentlessness of the Conservative campaign. They’ve published attack ads, led on the issue in prime minister’s questions. That has, anecdotally at least, begun to bite in some constituencies”.
But, as Lansdale points out, Miliband has only ruled out an always unlikely coalition, not an informal confidence and supply arrangement.
Patrick Wintour in yesterday’s Guardian said Labour will not rule out this looser arrangement because “They argue it would virtually imply all Scottish MPs should be disenfranchised at Westminster – without a vote on the Queen’s speech or the budget, the two key elements of a confidence-and-supply arrangement…
“David Cameron for his own electoral purposes is trying to suggest Scottish MPs should have no vote at Westminster and that is an extraordinary position for a Unionist politician to adopt,” said one Labour source”.
But confidence and supply, of course, as James Kelly of Scot Goes Pop points out, isn’t what Scottish voters actually want; Kelly looks at a Sunday Times poll that shows more want a formal coalition and think the SNP in UK government would be a good thing. What’s more, according to Magnus Gardham and Michael Settle in yesterday’s Herald, and Muir Dickie in the FT, most people across the UK apparently believe independence will eventually come.
SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE…
As a BTW, Ian Dunt in politics.co.uk wondered why no broadcaster ever seems to ask the Tories to rule out a coalition or pact with UKIP. “No-one should be ruling out a coalition or a confidence-and-supply agreement with anyone”, says Dunt, “unless it is in their electoral interests to do so. It is up to the public to decide who to vote for. It’s not for politicians to wall off voters’ options according to their own sensitivities.
“But if Labour are going to be asked incessantly whether they will rule out an SNP pact, then the press might as well have the common fairness of asking the same question about the Tories and Ukip. Their plans for the country would certainly do far more damage than those of the SNP”.
…AND DUCK: Another of life’s wee pleasures bites the dust. Read this and mend your errant ways.
Recommended reads of the week:
Matthew Parris in Saturday’s Times [£] on the death of the Union and the indifference – nay, bitterness, felt by the Englishman on the Clapham omnibus towards the Scots, but not shared by what Parris calls “the phenomenon of a super-intelligent, super-articulate breed of expatriate Scots embedded in politics and in the print and broadcast media too. The breed are ubiquitous, distinct, persuasive, passionate about the Union – and completely unrepresentative of most of Britain”
David Torrance in yesterday’s Herald on the phenomenon of the Teflon politician – Salmond and Sturgeon have joined Boris Johnson and Ronald Reagan in shrugging off the negatives. But, says Torrance, “As any cook will know, Teflon coatings eventually wear off…some, however, last longer than others, with far-reaching consequences for public policy and the endless adventure of governing men and women”.
Alex Massie in the Spectator on GERS, reappraising Barnett, and whether Scotland should, in fact be subsidising England.
SLEEPLESS IN GREENOCK : Here’s a brave man. Jaber Jabbour deserves a medal of some sort…
THE POLLS, THE POLLS [part 34 and counting]
Meanwhile, if it weren’t so important, it would be tedious. The latest poll from YouGov puts the SNP on 46% - down two points but still translating into 48 seats. Peter Kellner comments on Jim Murphy’s seeming inability to make any dents in the SNP lead, as Labour rolls along at a steady 27% - “Can Labour recover? The odds looked stacked against it…to prevent an SNP landslide, Labour needs to persuade far more Scots to warm to Mr Miliband and Mr Murphy, to fear Mr Cameron and go cool on Ms Sturgeon. This means transforming a public mood that, from Labour’s view, looks alarmingly settled.”
Professor John Curtice remarks on the YouGov poll; the only party that seems to be making progress, says Curtice, are the Conservatives – up 3 points and at their highest standing in the polls since last October. Curtice also points out that Murphy’s Vote SNP, get Tory message is simply not believed –“ Far more [Labour Yes voters] (56%) believe that the SNP would be most effective at preventing another Conservative government than believe Labour would (29%), while 64% of them believe the SNP are right to rule out a deal with the Conservatives.
“It looks as though in the battle of the post-election scenarios the SNP message that they will not keep the Tories in power is largely trumping Labour’s claim that the Tories will retain power if they have most Commons seats”.
Bella Caledonia is sometimes in danger of becoming a ‘told-you-so’ bore these days, but this Sunday piece has some interesting insights into the latest post-indy disclosures and poll-engendered panic from Sir Gus O’Donnell.
BLUE AND RED MAKE YELLOW…
It isn’t only Labour that has the jitters – Auslan Cramb in yesterday’s Telegraph followed David Maddox in Scotland on Sunday in reporting Danny Alexander’s plea for tactical voting in his constituency; current polling suggests the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is on a shoogly peg, not least, as Tom Gordon reported in the Sunday Herald, over dubious donations .
As ever, Alan Cochrane in yesterday’s Telegraph led the charge for tactical voting to “stop the hated SNP and save the Union from disaster.”
Former Labour minister Brian Wilson in Saturday’s Scotsman wanted no truck with tactical voting. The Murdoch press, the Tories and the SNP are all in it together – an unequivocal Labour vote and no coalition are what’s needed.
IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT…
Three takes on last week’s kitchen-gate. It was supposed to make Ed human and Justine a real politician’s wife, but spectacularly backfired. Here’s Sarah Vine [aka Mrs Michael Gove] in last Wednesday’s Daily Mail letting rip about the ‘soulless’ kitchen shown in the interview, then Iain Martin, who quickly – along with everyone else – thought, wait a minute, this is a £3million house – and that’s the kitchen?!
“This leads”, says Martin “to poor old Ed Miliband drinking tea with his wife in their (second) kitchen, and then several days of damaging coverage which focusses not on how eloquent Justine is but instead on how her high-taxing Socialist husband has a massive house with two kitchens.
“Thus, a nice man – sincere in his dangerous beliefs that he knows how to spend other people’s money better than they do themselves, and that big government knows best – ends up looking like a faker when he probably never intended to”.
Finally, here’s a satirical [we think] piece from the Daily Mash
Even his own frontbenchers have doubts about Miliband’s ability to win, according to Tim Shipman and James Lyons in the Sunday Times [£] and Philip Collins in Friday’s Times [£] thought the Labour Party is now “tempted by existential crisis. Fear of victory is gradually being replaced by the more probable fear of defeat”. MPs, says Collins, are now looking beyond Miliband to a leadership contest. Watch this space…
NO SHOW WITHOUT PUNCH
Former editor of the Sun Kelvin Mackenzie – now describing himself as a ‘media entrepreneur’ - thinks the time has come for the south of England to fight back against Jockestan. In this little rant in City AM yesterday, nothing is spared – Scotland, the Tories, Question Time, Channel Four news; everything, in fact, except actually putting his deposit money where his mouth is. Perhaps we should be grateful for that.
AXE THE TAX
Brian Monteith in the Scotsman yesterday reprised the Clarkson affair- or debacle, depending on your view. Whatever, says Monteith, the real problem is that Clarkson comes with the BBC and is paid for by all of us with a TV Licence. We have no choice about funding him. He’s therefore public property.
Time to end the licence tax, says Monteith, and replace it with a subscription – “Clarkson could still misbehave were he broadcasting for ITV, Sky or other commercial channels, but by axing the tax we could at least decide for ourselves if we wish to pay to watch him rather than be taxed when we have turned over or even turned off”.
DOING THE RIGHT THING IN THE RIGHT PLACE…
Here’s a sorry tale of modern Scotland from the Sunday Herald. Hannah Rodger reported on the rejection by the Scottish government of a windfarm scheme that would have benefitted the communities around Sanquhar to the tune of £12miliion over 25 years. The area is in the top 15% of deprivation in Scotland, so could do with the money.
Writing it up as a toff v. people issue, Rodgers says instead a nearby application from the Duke of Buccleuch is being considered – with no community pot attached. It would be interesting to hear both sides, but it appears that Scottish Natural Heritage [not for the first time] have stymied the community application for concerns “over cumulative impact and adverse landscape and visual affect”.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER…
Here’s how IKEA took over the world. A wonderful insight via Huffington Post business into how our favourite flat-packs are marketed – painstakingly and accurately [almost]. Beth Kowitt reported in Fortune magazine on the way the Swedish giant goes about ‘creating a better everyday life for the many people’ in its ever-increasing number of stores, especially in the Far East and its biggest growth market, China.
Another farewell. Terry Pratchett left our world last week for, we hope, a better one of his own.
Helen Gavin of the University of Huddersfield , a self-confessed fan of 20 years, affectionately analysed the Discworld series for last Thursday’s Conversation, concluding, “He died at home, surrounded by his family and his cat, and will be sadly missed by lovers of great fiction, comic or otherwise. Death has finally arrived to escort him, personally, as befits the most revered inhabitants of all worlds, on his next adventure.”
If you’ve never read Pratchett, this Observer tribute from Frank Cottrell Boyce will whet your appetite, in particular his hailing of the Bromeliad Trilogy [Diggers,Truckers and Wings] as Pratchett’s masterpiece. Scot-Buzz agrees. Whether you’re seven or seventy, hi thee to a bookshop in search of Nomes – you’ll never regret it…