The SNP, Scottish Labour, Loyalism and Scotophobia

Striking fear in the hearts of Unionists

There are some folk, mainly Labour types, who have a visceral hatred of the Scottish National Party. I have heard all kinds of characterizations of the SNP and all of them are wrong. “Well, the SNP are a nationalist party and nationalism is bad” is one such complaint but is all nationalism bad? Isn’t there such a thing as left-wing nationalism? Then there were the many liberation movements in the former colonies. Weren’t they nationalist and left-wing? I’ve also heard people characterize the SNP as “Nazis” (melodramatic) or  as the “Scottish version of UKIP” (absurd). Hysterical, hyperbolic and delusional. But whoever claimed Unionists were rational? They will do anything to cling onto the leaky boat that is the Union.

The SNP was formed in 1934 through a merger of two parties: the larger centre-left National Party of Scotland and the smaller centre-right Scottish Party. The latter was really little more than a discussion group and was a breakaway group from the Unionist Party, the ideological cousins of the Conservative Party. Furthermore, the Scottish Party was not a nationalist party and instead advocated Home Rule. The former was the older of the two formations and contained, among others, Hugh MacDiarmid, who was later expelled for being a communist. Ironically MacDiarmid would be expelled from the CPGB for holding nationalist views.

Initially, the SNP wasn’t always nationalist and advocated Home Rule in its early years. This changed in the 1970s after the successes of Winnie Ewing in 1967 and Margo MacDonald in the Glasgow Govan by-election in 1973. The Govan seat would later be won by her future husband, Jim Sillars, in 1988. Disgusted by the lack of progress towards devolution, Sillars left the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1976 and formed a breakaway Scottish Labour Party. This party, along with the 79 Group formulated a left-wing vision for the SNP. The 79 Group, which included a young Alex Salmond, Roseanna Cunningham and Margo MacDonald, attempted to pull the SNP further to the left. They were expelled by the SNP, though they would return in the late 1980s and their platform would be adopted as a political position first, by Gordon Wilson, the SNP leader and then, when Salmond won the leadership contest in 1990.

Currently the SNP is described as “social democratic”. They are to the left of Labour on many issues. This does not mean they are a socialist party. Far from it. However, they are genuinely progressive and offer the possibility of smashing the Westminster sham democracy once and for all. I am not an SNP supporter but I can see the attraction in voting for them and I can also see how an SNP majority in Scotland could lead to a change in the way the United Kingdom is governed. I am no supporter of the union and I believe that it has run its course. The countries of the UK need a new constitutional settlement and a different voting system. If the SNP are successful, then this is more likely to come about.

I have to laugh at those unionists who complain about Scottish and even Welsh nationalism, but unionism and its Northern Irish cousins,  Ulster Unionism and Loyalism, are actually forms of nationalism. There is no self-reflexivity on the unionist side. None whatsoever.

What struck me as odd is how Labour shared a platform with the Orange Order (and the Tories) during the Scottish Independence Referendum. Orangemen, Loyalists and Unionists are a backward-looking, nostalgic bunch who are forever trapped in their flawed rendering of history. It’s a version of history full of mawkish sentimentality and constant flag (or fleg) waving. And it stinks.

Some critics of the SNP may complain that the party has a distant history of anti-Catholicism, but that is nothing compared to the sectarian bigotry of the Orange Order. Yet, Scottish Labour was happy to jump into bed with the Orangemen and Loyalists.

Remember this scene after the “Better Together’ campaign won? This is what your union looks like.

Gerry Braiden, writing in The Herald wrote:

THE Orange Order’s anti-independence campaigning has support from within the Labour Party, a leading Northern Ireland politician has claimed.

 The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said one Scots Labour MP told him he was grateful to “see the Lodge on the street” in the weeks and months running up to the September 18 poll .

Just days before tens of thousands of Orange Order members take to Edinburgh’s streets opposing Scottish independence, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s most senior official, Dr David Hume, has claimed it would be “failing in its democratic duty” if it did not stage a Referendum rally.

I was probably about 10 years old when I saw the local Orange Order march through Liverpool City Centre. I asked my mother who these people were. “They’re the Orangemen”, she replied . “What’s an Orangeman, mum”? She had no answer. “Is grandad an Orangeman”? “No” my mum shot back. But I found the triumphalist spectacle rather threatening. Men in bowler hats and orange sashes marching as bold as brass along a main thoroughfare didn’t sit well with me. Many years later, I discovered what they were. I also learnt about Loyalism and how closely connected Loyalist paramilitaries were to both the state security services and the far-right. Britain First, for example, was founded by Loyalist and former Calvinist preacher, Jim Dowson, and uses Loyalist motifs.

In Scotland, the Orange Order was closely associated with the Scottish Unionist Party (now called Scottish Conservatives), but its influence has waned in recent years because of the Tories’ diminution of seats north of the border. More Orangemen are likely to be members of the Scottish Labour Party these days, Peter Geoghegan writes:

According to the current Grand Master, Henry Dunbar, the Order even encouraged members to vote SNP in the 2011 Holyrood elections in protest over a Glasgow City Council policy to reduce parades. The SNP won a number of Labour strongholds in Glasgow in its landslide victory, though it’s not clear what, if anything, the ‘Orange vote’ contributed to that.

But the relationship was short-lived.

The Order’s putative flirtation with the nationalists didn’t last long. Before May’s local elections, the Labour group leader in Glasgow, Gordon Matheson, appeared at an Orange Lodge hustings, apparently telling members that the council’s parading policy was ‘flawed’. The Orange Torch praised Matheson for his attacks on the SNP – ‘the kind of bullish talk we need to hear more of from unionist politicians’ – and claimed that Labour held control of the council thanks to the help of ‘thousands of Orangemen and their families’.

There are still people who will persist with the accusation that the SNP is fundamentally anti-Catholic. That accusation is feeble and the SNP’s critics will do anything to smear them.

The success of the SNP has brought with it a concomitant rise in anti-Scottishness.  Mind you, this anti-Scottishness is nothing new and has been around ever since the Middle Ages. Indeed, the stereotypical image (constructed by the English) of the Scots and other the Celtic peoples of these islands has been unremittingly negative. Ironically, no such stereotypes of the English exist. The Scots, however, are depicted variously as drunks, junkies and tramps, who are a drain on the UK economy. Ray Winstone, appearing on Have I Got News For You, infamously claimed:

“To be fair the Scottish economy has its strengths – its chief exports being oil, whisky, tartan and tramps.”

Kelvin Mackenzie, himself of Scottish descent, appears to hate his own genes.

Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like London and the south east… Scots enjoy spending [money] but they don’t enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down south.

The myths and tropes keep piling up.

Only yesterday, while I was watching the BBC News Channel, a woman in a vox pop interview expressed her ill-founded fears that Scotland would “run the country”. Her level of ignorance and paranoia was staggering. Thus we find that the hatred felt by some English people isn’t confined to the SNP and extends to Scotland itself. The recent independence referendum has brought all of this hatred and bile to the surface and much of it is stirred up by the media and by English politicians. The Tories’ recent poster of Alex Salmond with Ed Miliband in his pocket was designed specifically to play on people’s ignorance.

The union came into being with the Acts of Union (1707 and 1800) and yoked Scotland and Ireland to England for the purpose of creating an empire. The ‘partnership’, as the Union is often called these days, is supposedly an equal one. But that’s not how many people in Scotland and Ireland see it. Even in Northern Ireland, there is a general feeling that Westminster doesn’t understand the Six Counties. In spite of protests to the contrary, England has dominated the Union politically, economically and militarily. It imposed direct rule in Northern Ireland and denied the right of the Scots to organize their own affairs, while Wales is practically ignored.

The union is finished and any attempt to hang on for dear life to, what is in effect, a corpse is only delaying the inevitable.

3 Comments

Filed under General Election 2015

The “Leaving Debt For Future Generations” Fallacy

How many times in the last five years or so have we heard the popular refrain “We mustn’t leave debt for our children and grandchildren”? Too many to count. The Tories and their allies in power, the Lib Dems, use it as a discourse-killer; a means of defending their absurd austerity measures and to silence their critics. However, this notion that if the government should borrow money to invest in public services or infrastructure, then this debt will be passed on to our children and grandchildren and so on is nothing but bunkum. It’s little more than a form of emotional blackmail to convince gullible voters to cast their ballots for the dismal Tory Party,  whose profligacy in government would make the most financially incontinent blush with embarrassment.

Governments always borrow money. If they didn’t, it would be unusual. The Lend-Lease deal that was negotiated between the Attlee government and the United States was paid off in 2000.  First World War debts were finally paid off a year ago. I wonder though, did any of you actually notice this debt dragging on you as members of the successor generations? No? I didn’t either. The South Sea Bubble, which happened in 1720 incurred massive debts. The Battle of Waterloo sucked in money like a black hole absorbs light. Those debts are still outstanding. It’s funny how none of the Tories or Lib Dems ever mention this. Instead of avoiding bubbles, the Tories and the Lib Dems actually did their best to stimulate them. Help to Buy has the potential to become the British equivalent of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. The recent attempt to revive Right to Buy, which has contributed to the current housing shortage, is another economically incompetent manoeuvre.

Truth be told, individuals don’t pay back these historic debts because they’re held in bonds that were issued at the time of borrowing. The wealthy people who lent money to the government demand their interest but, in effect, they’re a form of savings. So what about the budget deficit then? Well, that isn’t helped by the fact that the last government failed to collect enough in tax revenue because they gave tax cuts to their rich friends, while hammering those who need to work more than one job just to have an extra couple of quid a week. Yes, they told you that those earning less than £10,000 a year would be taken out of tax but those people often have no choice but to take another job. So they lied to you.

Governments can raise money in three ways: taxation,  borrowing (at preferential rates of interests) or by issuing bonds. The latter is often used for funding wars, while taxation is used for such things as social security. The government will often borrow money to service public sector needs (this used to be known as the public sector borrowing requirement or PSBR) or for infrastructure projects. PSBR is the old way of referring to the budget deficit. The government can always go into debt for wars and other military adventures but they will never claim that those particular debts will “be passed on to future generations”. Yet they will make that same claim when it comes to much-needed investment or paying out social security benefits. Such staggering hypocrisy should not be allowed to go unchallenged.

It’s The People’s Money blog had this to say about the “leaving debt for future generations” fallacy.

The real debt we leave to our children is the state of the environment and the nation’s resources they inherit from us, along with the lack of investments we could and should have made in their future. It is never about the record of government money on an accounting ledger.

The notion that the national debt is passed on to “our children and grandchildren” has its origins in Thatcher’s household finances analogy fallacy. The Center for Economic and Policy Research, a US-based research outfit claims:

Politicians, especially those who want to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare, are fond of telling people that our children and grandchildren will pay the national debt. That one may sell well with focus groups, but it is complete nonsense. Unfortunately, Eduardo Porter repeats this line in his column today.

A moment’s reflection shows why the debt is not a measure of inter-generational equity. At some point everyone alive today will be dead. At that point, the bonds that comprise the debt will be held entirely by our children or grandchildren. The debt will be an asset for the members of future generations that hold these bonds. This can raise distributional issues within a generation. For example, if Bill Gates’ grandchildren own the entire U.S. debt there will be important within generation distributional consequences, however this says nothing about inter-generational distribution.

In other words, the debt actually becomes a form of savings not a crippling burden as the free market cultists in the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties would have us believe.

When a government, like the last coalition government, keeps cutting taxes for the rich, it leaves a massive hole in the government finances. What the coalition has done is to pass on debts to those who can least afford them, while letting bankers and other parasites off the hook. The outgoing Blair-Brown government also dumped debts on unemployed by abolishing the social fund grants and replacing them with ‘budgeting’ and ‘crisis’ loans. If anyone is being saddled with unsustainable levels of debt, it’s the poor who are living at this moment in time. They’re in debt bondage and they’ve effectively become serfs in our late capitalist, post-Fordist economies. Why? Because the bullies who govern this country know they can’t fight back, because they lack the economic and political power to do so. When George Osborne stands before us and claims “it would be a dereliction of our duty to future generations”, he’s relying on widespread ignorance of state finances to push this mumbo-jumbo. Don’t fall for it.

5 Comments

Filed under Conservative Party, General Election 2015, Government & politics, Liberal Democrats, Public spending

Janner Request To Keep Seat In Lords

buddyhell:

According to news reports this week, Greville (Lord) Janner will not be facing prosecution on charges of child sexual abuse because he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. This was the same excuse that allowed Ernest Saunders to escape a prison sentence and Augusto Pinochet to avoid justice. In Saunder’s case, he made a miraculous recovery. To the best of my knowledge, no one has recovered from Alzheimer’s. Pinochet was similar: as soon as he touched down in Santiago, he practically danced across the tarmac. As The Needle points out, Janner recently requested to keep his seat in the Lords. Interesting. No?

Originally posted on theneedleblog:

From today’s edition of The Sunday Times

The reference to the general election indicates that this is a recent development. Lord Janner seems to have been well enough to sign a letter requesting that he remain a voting member of the House of Lords.

It seems that he is fit enough to plead for his job but not fit enough to enter a plea regarding the  very serious criminal allegations that have been made.

I think it is fair to ask, what the hell is going on here ?

Janner can’t have it both ways !

Untitled

View original

1 Comment

Filed under Government & politics

Polling Companies and the Conservative Party

Political parties, especially the Tories,  have a morbid fascination with polls. They see the polls and the companies that produce them as some sort of Delphic Oracle. What interests me isn’t the Tory fascination with polling companies but their involvement in them, since polling companies are always at pains to tell the general public that they are politically neutral. Yet, as any qualitative researcher will tell you, it is not possible to be 100% objective and put one’s ideology or cultural baggage to one side. The researcher must act self-reflexively. Bourdieu and Wacquant discussed this at some length in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. The researcher must consider their own position. Yet this idea of self-reflexivity appears to have escaped the pollsters. I have discovered that a number of Tory MPs are being paid by polling companies and there is no indication why they are being paid. Polling companies don’t deal in human vagaries: they and those who pay for the polls (usually the press and politicians) are interested in abstract numbers from which they hope to divine the future. That is the nature of quantitative research methodologies. They’re not particularly interested in why a certain number of people feel a certain way, because that’s the business of the qualitative researcher. The questions of what, how and why are of little interest to them. On Sunday I posted the following Tweet.

Andrew Hawkins of ComRes fired back.

My reply was blunt.

I was using my phone, so I didn’t have access to the necessary information to properly rebut his aggressive response. A couple of years ago, I was investigating Priti Patel’s business interests after I’d discovered she had close ties to the United Arab Emirates and to Bahrain, in particular. My research began after Patel had claimed she was a champion of Human Rights. I also knew Patel was involved in the right-wing Free Enterprise Group, which advocates among other things, abolition of the minimum wage to “grow the economy”. So I knew she wasn’t being entirely straight with her interviewer. I started my investigation by looking at the Searchthemoney website, and was astonished to discover that Patel had received £75 on 11 occasions between 2011 and 2013. It wasn’t clear why she was given this money nor was it clear what she’d done to deserve it.

I’d then noticed that many other Conservative MPs had also been paid money by ComRes. You can see the list here. Philip Davies, for example, was paid the same amount of money on more than 18 separate occasions between 2011 and 2014. YouGov is another polling company that’s cited for its supposedly rigorous methods. Yet this company was founded by Tories Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi. The company’s public face is Peter Kellner, who often appears on television to explain how the polls work. However Kellner isn’t as non-partisan as he seems to be. According to Lenin’s Tomb, Kellner intervened in the 2010 Labour leadership contest.

Firstly, Kellner uses figures relating the division of ABC1 and C2DE voters among the electorate to support his point that the number of ‘working class’ voters is declining precipitously. If he is right, then the proportion of ‘working class’ voters dropped from 51% to 43% between 1997 and 2010. That’s a rapid rate of employment change, though – given the way New Labour allowed manufacturing industries to collapse and shed employment – not all that incredible. However, the conception of ‘class’ deployed by Kellner is the old, misleading ‘social class’ model preferred by market researchers. His ‘classes’ (ABC1 = middle class vs C2DE = working class) are based on the National Readership Survey classifications derived from official statistics. As he revealingly puts it, according to his conception the middle class are those who work primarily with their brains, the workers primarily with their hands.

Kellner, according to Richard Seymour,  was a member of the Labour Party in the 1970s but soon swung behind Tony Blair in 1997. It’s a position that he’s maintained ever since. He’s also married to Baroness Ashton, a dyed-in-the-wool Blairite. YouGov also bungs money to Tory politicians. Caroline Dineage, for example, has accepted £280.00 from the company, while Philip Davies collected the cool sum of £1,030.00. Ipsos Mori has also slipped Tory MPs money and it seems as though there isn’t a single polling company that doesn’t do this. If there are any Labour MPs being paid by these companies, I haven’t managed to track them down yet.

Many political opinion polls are conducted as part of what is known to market researchers as an ‘omnibus survey’. The polls are often tacked onto the end of some survey about chocolate or soft drinks, or dropped into the middle of the survey on home insulation.

If polling companies want us to take their polls seriously, then perhaps they should tell us why they donate money to Tory MPs. They should also try and behave more self-reflexively. Say what you like, but I know what I’m getting from an Ashcroft poll; he’s a Tory donor and everyone knows it.

The main polling companies are members of the British Polling Council, which oversees standards in the industry. The founding members of this council are YouGov, Mori, NOP and ICM.  The BPC was founded to establish best practice in the industry to ensure validity and reliability. Prior to the formation of the BPC, polling companies did as they pleased and there was little, if any, accountability. Even so, there are questions that need to be answered but will the BPC or the polling companies answer them or will they obfuscate?

When it comes to objectivity I’m with Hunter S Thompson, who wrote the following about ‘objective’ journalism.

“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

To adapt the Merovingian in The Matrix, objectivity is an illusion created between those with power and those without.

Reference

Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L.J.D. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

8 Comments

Filed under Conservative Party, General Election 2015, Government & politics

Corruption UK

I just had to share this video. People tend to assume corruption only happens in banana republics. Not so. Our institutions are deeply corrupted and presiding over this corruption is the monarchy and those who support them. Politicians like David Cameron are fond of telling the world that Britain is “open for business”. But what does that really mean?

Here’s David Whyte talking about his forthcoming book on British corruption.

The article that accompanies the video can be found at this link.

1 Comment

Filed under General Election 2015, Government & politics

Beyond Piss Ups and Breweries

The Tories may be presenting a unified public face for the election campaign but in private there must be a great deal of teeth-gnashing and wailing and weeping (maybe some self-flagellation, who knows what they get up to behind closed doors?) among backbenchers. What an absolute fucking mess of an election campaign. I honestly can’t recall one like it.

The Tories’ election campaign began in earnest with the hiring of Lynton Crosby back in 2013 and since then, it’s been non-stop stream of slogans. It started with “hard-working families, who want to do the right thing and get ahead in life” and ended with “the chaos of a Labour government”. The latter is more of a psychological projection of their chaotic style of government and economic stewardship (coughs), while the former is simply meaningless PR drivel. And besides, hard work is over-rated. Do you think ‘wealth creators’ like Osborne’s daddy got where he is today by working hard?

Then there’s the attempt to insert into the public consciousness the idea of a “weird” Ed Miliband, who “stabbed his brother in the back”. Before that it was “Red Ed” and “Eds under the bed”. Look, if I were leading a political party, I wouldn’t hire Crosby. The man is a buffoon. “Are you thinking what we’re thinking”? You mean you actually think? That’s news to me. I thought you just throw stuff against the wall and if it sticks, it’s in.

A couple of weeks ago, we got this.

Silly Tory poster

 

 

The Tories don’t seem to have caught up with last November’s news: Nicola Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond as leader of the Scottish National Party. For that reason, it’s also subtly sexist.

There’s also something weirdly Stepfordian about the government ministers who have been doing the tours of the TV studios. When they open their mouths, they’re like Scientologists defending their cult from pointed questions. They’ll look into the camera and say with a blank stare, “Look, I was audited and it didn’t do me any harm”. Alternatively, they’re like Liz Truss on last night’s Question Time, whose tactic was to talk over the other  panellists. This is a trick straight out of the Young Britons Foundation (YBF) training manual: “Shout at your opponents and call them names. It’s better than using reasoned arguments”. That’s how they’re trained in their self-styled ‘madrasahs’.

The Sontaran was in the studios talking about the Big Society. They haven’t mentioned the BigSoc for a while. Remind me, what was it all about? Oh yeah, it was a way of selling public spending cuts. Voters didn’t buy into it then and they’re not going to warm to it now. Save your breath.

Bizarrely and straight out of leftfield came the sudden announcement that the Tories would freeze regulated rail fares. Am I tripping? Next week, they’ll be promising to renationalize the railways. Steady on!

Then there’s the ‘free press’ or, at least, the Tory-supporting section of it, which is pretty much most of it. The stories. Oh, the stories! Yesterday, the Daily Mail ran with “Red Ed’s tangled love life” . Really! Ed Miliband dated before he got married. That’s the story. It’s like a Bizarro World version of an OK! magazine story. Cheap and toothless, it fails to deliver a blow against its intended target. It’s like being savaged by Geoffrey Howe’s legendary dead sheep!

The Tory campaign is a mess of their own (well, Crosby and possibly Gove’s) design. But it’s too late for their ship to change course, because they’re heading towards a huge iceberg that bears their name. The only way is down, baby…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservative Party, General Election 2015

Oil and gas found off The Falklands

British Forces News (BFN) claims that drilling companies have discovered oil off the coast of the Falkland Islands. Thus far, The Daily Telegraph is the only other news outlet that has this story and it seems a little odd that not even the BBC has mentioned it.

BFN reports:

Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd and Premier Oil Plc say the discovery at the Zebedee well was better than initially expected. The well will now however be plugged and temporarily abandoned.

So what’s going on? Why are they plugging the well? Don’t get me wrong, but I think oil should stay in the ground where it belongs. But why keep this quiet?

5 Comments

Filed under World