Saturday, December 31, 2011

That's one New Year's Resolution sorted out...

Like most people, I tend to fail miserably at keeping my New Year's Resolutions (with the notable exception of 2009, when I made two very bold ones and somehow managed to fulfil them both, albeit it took me until September). But I certainly don't have to look very far for a task to set myself in 2012, and that's to keep as far away from as humanly possible. I drifted back there just before Christmas for the first time in a good few months, and you might have thought that the long break would have meant that I wasn't quite as much of a marked man as before - but not a bit of it. No, all I have to do is turn up and mention the word 'Scotland' or 'independence', and the usual suspects descend on me like a pack of wolves, just like I've never been away. On Thursday I was accused of bigotry for making the blindingly obvious point that it would be profoundly foolish and grossly insensitive of David Cameron to break the decades-long convention of only appointing Scottish MPs to the post of Secretary of State for Scotland. When I clarified for the benefit of the poster in question that "Scottish MP" was shorthand for "MP representing a Scottish constituency", and not for "anyone who isn't English", I was effectively told that it wasn't up to me to decide what I meant!

And then of course there was the annual farce that is the Poster of the Year poll. Don't get me wrong, David Herdson is without doubt an infinitely worthier winner than last year's (albeit I certainly haven't forgotten his pompous and spectacularly ill-judged intervention in an exchange involving me during the summer), but the fact that the only two out-and-out left-wing posters involved in the poll finished last and second-last respectively tells its own story. The under-performance of the superb left-wing/Nationalist poster Mick Pork in the newcomers' poll was also very striking.

I was also somewhat startled to learn from Poster of the Year runner-up Richard Nabavi that "even James Kelly awarded me one star, in a rare show of cross-party generosity" (this was sarcasm, for the avoidance of doubt). The problem was that I hadn't actually revealed to anyone how I voted, and as Richard's information was accurate, I naturally drew the obvious conclusion that my vote had been selectively leaked by the site proprietors. After I complained about this, it transpired that there was an innocent (albeit much less obvious) explanation, but for my trouble I was then subjected to a torrent of inane drivel about my "paranoia" and "MI5 surveillance". And just to make the day complete, I once again had to put up with the site's resident bore "Neil", who paradoxically spends virtually all of his time telling everyone else how boring they are.

But the final straw came last night when I tried to respond to this truly jaw-dropping post by regular poster HD2 -

"An interesting point is why a site with such high average IQ posters (compared to many internet blogs) and which is run by a Liberal LD has such a perceived preponderance of right-of-centre posters!

Particularly as over the majority of the time the site has been running the UK has been under Socialist management, and at no time under Conservative, Libertarian, (sane?) management.....

Is it because we 'righties' have more time (team tim clearly have more than any of us, though) or is it simply that, as I strongly suspect:
a) intelligent people are in favour of individualism, not collectivism, which makes them 'right', not 'left' politically
b) the ACTUAL centre-ground of politics is well to the right of (eg) Cameron, so those on the Left perceive anyone to the right of (eg) Brown as being 'right-wing', when they are merely 'centrist'"

When I attempted to inject a tiny bit of sanity by pointing out that a rather simpler and more plausible explanation was a snowball effect (ie. a site with overwhelmingly right-wing posters tends to attract even more right-wing posters, and repel left-wing posters), my comment was swiftly deleted. Which eloquently illustrates another possible explanation for the dearth of left-wing posters at PB - a rather less-than-even-handed approach by the editors and moderators.

* * *

And that pretty much brings to a close another year of posts at Scot Goes Pop. See you in 2012 - always assuming I make it back in one piece from the Edinburgh street-party, which I'm going to for the first time!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Brazen : Westminster considers legislating to force the SNP to break its election pledges

I trust if the plan being touted in today's Scotsman ever sees the light of day, we'll hear no more from the unionist parties about "broken SNP promises" - because what is being suggested is that Westminster could literally legislate to force Alex Salmond to break his word on the timing of the independence referendum. It beggars belief - first they move heaven and earth to prevent a referendum being held in 2010 as planned by the SNP, and call that an SNP broken promise on the grounds that Salmond didn't go through the motions of putting a doomed bill to the vote. This time, after a dramatic mood-swing, they're pondering a clause in the Scotland Bill to force the referendum to be held earlier than was pledged. Well, we can accuse them of many things, but certainly not of consistency.

One intriguing point here is that if they do attempt to do this through the Scotland Bill, they'd still need legislative consent for the bill as a whole from Holyrood. They didn't show much sign of making the necessary compromises to get that consent before this latest revelation, and heaven only knows how much ground they'd have to give to get the new wheeze through.

* * *

I've just received an early Christmas present in my inbox -

"Jimmy, you are my long-awaited man!

Greetings my dear! I am a beautiful woman from Russia and I dream to meet you.

I am very energetic but within reasonable limits. But still there is a lack of one person in my life.

That is why I am here. I am waiting for my special man to come to my life. Doors to my soul are open for him. Look at my pictures...I will be waiting for you."

I'm so glad she gave me fair warning about only being energetic "within reasonable limits" - I'd have been bound to do something rash like enter her for the London Marathon otherwise.

* * *

If you enjoy voting in online polls, you might be interested to know that the superb Nationalist posters Mick Pork and TheUnionDivvie are among five people in the running for Political Betting's "Best Newcomer" of 2011. Naturally, given the nature of the site, it's a bit of an uphill struggle for them to get votes, so I thought a small plug might be in order! You can find the voting form here.

* * *

Last but not least, a very happy Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Admin : Probing the psyche

Where does he find the time? No sooner has Admin been appointed by Johann Lamont to the vital role of Shadow Minister for Conducting a Review Into the Use of Modern Technology (looks like he'll be rivalling Wendy Alexander's old status as 'Minister for Everything'), than he's back at the Labour Hame grindstone, churning out yet more public-spirited citizen journalism. In his latest article, he poses the thought-provoking question -

"Does it matter that a prominent nationalist website doesn’t consider accuracy as important?"

Thought-provoking, I mean, in the sense that it provoked a few other questions to creep into my own thoughts. For example -

1. Does it matter that a right-wing politician joined a left-wing political party solely for the purposes of career advancement?

2. Given his stated concern about the supposed lack of journalistic standards at Newsnet Scotland, does it also concern him that his repeated use of the term "NewsNat Scotland" would have fallen foul of the Better Nation moderation rules had he submitted his piece as a comment there, let alone that it would have precluded the article's use in virtually any other serious publication?

3. What is the significance of his repeated use of the spelling "Yoonyoonist" when characterising the speech patterns of nationalists, given that it is a perfectly natural phonetic rendering of how anyone would pronounce the word? (Unless of course "Un-yun-ist" is preferred in the Harris household.) Could it, by any chance, betray his extraordinarily authoritarian mindset, ie. that he is incapable of seeing people who diverge from his own views as 'mature'? That his brain automatically converts their speech into 'baby-talk', and the only response he can imagine is to try to patronise them into submission? In a nutshell, does he have a deep subconscious need for others to see him as a father figure who they look to for guidance and chastisement? And should we fear for his well-being now that his own party have comprehensively rejected him for the father role, instead preferring him for the (admittedly mega) technology review role?

4. Does he have no sense of shame about going into apoplexy over hair-splitting examples of the "inaccuracy" of others, given that it's only a matter of weeks since he lied through his teeth that a nationalist banner outside the Royal Concert Hall had read "End English Rule", and given that we all know he'd never have half-heartedly acknowledged that gross inaccuracy unless he'd been supplied with incontrovertible photographic evidence? What conclusions are we entitled to draw about a politician who does lack such an appropriate sense of shame?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mr Popular

Nobody does unintentional comedy quite like the Guardian these days...

"The least well-known Scottish leader in its history, Lamont defeated another lesser-known backbencher, Ken McIntosh, and popular Westminster backbencher Tom Harris, the MP for Glasgow South, to win. McIntosh won 40.3% and Harris 7.95% of the vote."

Call me peculiar, but I always thought elections were a rather good test of popularity. So let's recap : Tom Harris is "popular", but he's just taken a gubbing at the hands of "the least well-known Scottish Labour leader in history" and "another lesser-known backbencher". Heaven only knows what would have happened to him if he'd been unpopular.

Ah well. Scottish Labour's gain is the blogosphere's loss. Or something like that.

And I really do think the Guardian are grossly overstating the scale of the challenge facing Johann Lamont as leader. Surely it's high time the press picked up on the inspiring message of hope and renewal that Labour's electoral college has just decisively delivered, ie. "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Scottish Labour persevere with their highly successful core vote strategy

Well, it would be massively over-the-top on this occasion to repeat what I said about the Tories a few weeks ago. Labour haven't made a historic error - not that choosing Johann Lamont wasn't an error, but it's hard to pretend that the alternative would have been much better. There was no-one on the ballot paper who could have matched Alex Salmond's charisma (and that includes Admin, in spite of his own high opinion of himself), and neither was there anyone who really "got it" about where Labour have been going wrong. Macintosh perhaps came closest with his idea of dropping the word 'unionist' from the party lexicon, but I doubt there would have been much in the way of substance to complement the change of language.

And the same problem holds true of Lamont. OK, no-one can accuse her of concealing the fact that she's going to continue to conspire with the Tories to obstruct the Scottish people's aspirations for a more powerful parliament, but on non-constitutional matters she actually talked the talk today. For instance -

"Our one test will be what is in the interest of the people of Scotland, not what's in the interest of ourselves."

"I will reach out to people across Scotland who maybe never thought of themselves to be Labour..."

Now, does anyone think for a moment she's the person to do that? She has "core vote strategy leader" written all over her - and that strategy certainly worked a treat back in May.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On whimsical moderation policies...

I've no wish to restart the mini-feud I had with James Mackenzie a few months ago, but given that a few posters here have recently suggested that Better Nation is moving towards a Labour Hame-style moderation policy, I was intrigued to spot this exchange in the most recent comments thread -

Holebender : You’ve just proved to me that you know nothing about the SNP or Alex Salmond.

James Mackenzie : You're wrong.

Davie Park : In response to Holebender’s assertion that;

“You’ve just proved to me that you know nothing about the SNP or Alex Salmond”.

you respond in modest fashion by citing one of your own opinion pieces to demonstrate that
“you’re wrong”.

The piece cited comprises your theories based on a personal judgement of the motivations of the SNP hierarchy.

For what it’s worth, I think that the SNP is a broad church that will, in all probability, have a limited life once independence is acheived. But to make the judgement that the preferred outcome of a referendum for the SNP and Salmond would be ‘Devo Max’, seems to me utterly fatuous. One would think, being a Greenie, that you’d understand conviction politics. Apparently not.

Incidentally, as the Greens are in favour of independence, I’d be delighted to hear your views on why independence would be good for Scotland, James.

James Mackenzie : To be honest, I’m not sure why I approved a comment containing that assertion. Ho hum. But I thought that explaining my own thinking might best be done by reference to my own thinking. Sorry if that’s hard to get your head around. And yes, good challenge at the end there. I’ll do that.

Indy : Your thinking is fundamentally flawed however by your lack of understanding of the SNP or its members. You should read James Mitchell’s survey stuff. That is actual evidence, not opinion.

James Mackenzie : My view is that the members are predominantly genuinely committed to independence rather than office, and that their other political views cover a spectrum broadly from the Tories to the Greens. Feel free to tell me what’s flawed there. I just think the top team love office more, and no survey data or interviews can prove or disprove that. It’s a hunch.

Also, a quick reminder of why other comments have been deleted.

At that point, James links to the Better Nation moderation policy, which reads as follows -

We love a good frank debate here, and we really appreciate your contribution.
However, we will always delete:

Anything we think is potentially libelous,
Anything which is purely insulting, or
Anything spectacularly off topic.

We may edit or delete where comments:

Are neither constructive nor original,

Are ad hominem or otherwise dickish,
Provide supporting evidence for the existence of Godwin’s Law,
Use phrases like “ZaNu Liebore” or “Scottish National Socialist Party”, or
Are longer than the post itself.

The decision of the editors is final. If a comment of yours is deleted and you want to post it on your own blog, do let us know and we’ll be happy to send it on.

Although my experience with the American gun enthusiasts in 2009 led me to the point where I will always defend to the death the right of individual bloggers to determine what comments are published on their own blogs, I've nevertheless become increasingly cynical about attempts to define hard-and-fast moderation policies, especially ones that include humorous or whimsical language, which is typically there to camouflage the catch-all clauses which basically cover "and any other comment we take a disliking to". Bear in mind that the primary purpose of spelling out a moderation policy is to provide a tool to bash people over the head with, ie. "it's your own fault, if only you'd followed these very simple rules your comment wouldn't have been deleted", so if that policy includes rules as meaninglessly non-specific and subjective as "neither constructive nor original" and "otherwise dickish", it pretty much defeats the whole point of the exercise.

There has quite literally never been a comment posted in the whole history of political blogs that could not have been perceived by somebody, somewhere as "unoriginal", "unconstructive" or "otherwise dickish". I'd be willing to bet that the bulk of any contentious deletions have been justified by those rules, rather than the more specific guidelines that few people could have any real complaint about.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Will be next, will be next, will be ne-ext...

Just as a quick follow-up to the previous post about the assault on the (alleged) fair-dodger, I was at Buchanan Street subway station in Glasgow earlier this evening, and a middle-class, well-spoken American woman cut in ahead of me at the ticket counter to complain that her ticket wasn't being recognised at the barriers. In an echo of the Scotrail incident, she was informed that it was a single ticket, and had already been used at Hillhead. But she stood her ground and animatedly insisted that she had paid for a return ticket. Now, naturally I'm deeply ashamed that I didn't do my civic duty at that point by rugby-tackling her to the ground and drawing at least a bit of blood, as any right-minded person would have done. (After all, if we tolerate this, then our children will be next.) What actually happened was that she was given the benefit of the doubt, and was handed another ticket without having to pay a penny.

So the Scotrail chap gets a close encounter with the platform at Linlithgow station for his trouble, while onlookers applaud, but the American woman gets a free ticket and no-one bats an eyelid. Why the difference? It's hard to escape the conclusion that what really matters to the summary justice brigade is what someone looks and sounds like, not whether they can actually prove that they paid for their ticket.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Exactly when did unprovoked acts of violence become perfectly OK?

I've just caught up with the controversy over the YouTube footage of the young man who was violently assaulted by a fellow passenger on a ScotRail train. The Yahoo headline "Fare-dodger claims he was the victim" is seemingly dripping with irony, but in all honesty, what doubt can there be in anyone's mind that he was indeed a victim? It doesn't matter how obnoxious he was being - an act of violence clearly outweighs fare-dodging and swearing. There were three villains in this piece, and the third was the conductor himself, who not only acted disgracefully by clearly giving his blessing to the assault (both before and afterwards), but was also partly responsible for the restlessness of the other passengers by falsely giving them the impression that the train would be delayed for a long spell if the young man didn't either pay up or leave.

I can only hope that the vigilante is tracked down and charged, and that the conductor is disciplined for his role in the incident.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Will Clegg go for the full house?

I was just having a think about the reasons why the average Liberal Democrat probably went into politics...

Sky high university tuition fees? Check.

The retention of a majoritarian voting system? Check.

Saying "no, no, no" to Europe? Check.

All Clegg needs to do now is back the reintroduction of capital punishment, and he'll have the full house. There's nothing like a politician who really makes a difference...

* * *

Thanks to Marcia for alerting me to this rather extraordinary Ipsos-Mori poll of Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions -

SNP 51% (+2)
Labour 26% (-2)
Conservatives 12% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)

Intriguingly, Willie Rennie now has a richly-deserved negative personal rating, with 20% of respondents satisfied with his leadership, and 28% dissatisfied. However, I would imagine that has more to do with perceptions of his party, as I very much doubt that 28% (let alone 48%) of the adult population of Scotland actually know who Willie Rennie is.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Last chance to have your say on gay marriage...

I see that a certain long-deceased English Archbishop is trying to skew the outcome of the Scottish Government's consultation on gay marriage by urging his fellow zealots from south of the border to take part at the last minute (submissions close tomorrow). So to balance things up just slightly, here is a link to an online version of the consultation form, if you'd like to have your own voice heard.

I must admit one or two of the questions are slightly tricky - for instance "If Scotland should introduce same-sex marriage, do you consider that civil partnership should remain available?" I suppose the answer to that depends on whether the right to enter a civil partnership is extended to all couples, gay and straight, on an equal basis. If it is, then retaining civil partnerships might complement the option to marry rather neatly. But I doubt that's what the question is getting at.

And for anyone still harbouring any doubts on the broader subject, here is a useful pie-chart detailing the ramifications of allowing gay marriage, as helpfully provided by one of the more free-thinking members of Archbishop Cranmer's congregation.

Keep Earth in the Solar System, and other radical ideas

I'm still largely 'plugged out' of political news, but I have just caught up with the information that the No campaign in the independence referendum are provisionally calling themselves "Keep Scotland in Britain". My problem with that choice is roughly the same as my problem with the name "Scotland for Marriage" - it expresses a sentiment that the campaign's opponents do not actually disagree with. Scotland is part of an island called Great Britain - Scots were British before the union in 1707 and will remain British after independence. That's a geographical fact. Any hypothetical "Get Scotland Out of Britain" campaign would require a pretty hefty chainsaw.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - "Britain" belongs to all Britons. It's not the name given to whatever political entity London happens to be the capital city of.

* * *

I go to a book club every month, and I had a moment of immense private satisfaction at the most recent meeting when someone nominated The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and it turned out that hardly anyone had actually heard of her. (If only I could say the same.) Sanity 1, Kevin Baker Fan Club 0.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lingua americana

Laura Agustin has caused a stir by criticising journalist Nicholas Kristof for using the American term "seventh-grader" in relation to a twelve-year-old girl he helped to "rescue" in Cambodia. Agustin's broader point is a very profound one - that the use of such terminology betrays the unconscious and pernicious colonial mindset that underpins the whole "rescue industry". But it also reminded me of the much more minor irritation caused by the innumerable petty ways that Americans attempt to force the rest of the world to conform to their norms on a day-to-day basis. One good example is postal codes. If I was writing a letter to someone in another country, I'm confident I would take special care to copy the postal code exactly as it's written. But I can tell you from experience that if you send your address to someone in the US, there's at least an 80% chance that the reply will delete the space in the middle of your postcode. American zip codes don't have spaces, you see, so a postal code with a space is automatically interpreted as an error. And then there's the issue of names. Most of my family and friends call me Jimmy, but I've had experiences where I've literally said to an American "Hi, I'm Jimmy", and the instant reply was "oh hi, Jim". It seems that the American practice is to only use nicknames like Johnny and Jimmy for very small children, and to switch to the shorter names for older children and adults. Ah, well. They're perfectly entitled to their own traditions, but there are times when I can't rid myself of the feeling that I'm dealing with people who have been instructed by a stage hypnotist not to hear the second syllable of my name, no matter how clearly I pronounce it.

The most hilarious example of this mindset has to be Bill Mallon's claim that the selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympics was proof that the IOC is "international-centric". For the uninitiated, "international" is code for that peripheral part of the world that lies beyond the borders of the US, and where a mere 96% of the global population live. That's the rough equivalent of residents of the Isle of Wight splitting the UK into two distinct regions for the sake of convenience - "Wight" and "The Rest". And it has to be said the government and media are disgracefully Rest-centric.

For those who don't know, I have dual US/UK nationality, so you can put these periodical anti-American rants down to a form of self-loathing.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tainted Love

After watching Newsnight Scotland last night, I almost felt queasy at the thought that I support a political party that was once led by Gordon Wilson for a full eleven years. I trust he was excellent in a variety of other ways (I'm too young to properly remember), because his views on gay marriage are nothing short of nauseating. Apparently heterosexual couples will somehow feel that their marriages have been "tainted" if gay people are also allowed to marry. Can there be a more textbook example of the meaning of the word 'intolerance' than that? Never mind that not a single heterosexual marriage will be interfered with or downgraded in any way - for the likes of Wilson, if an 'unclean' person is allowed to do the same thing as him, that's somehow sufficient to 'corrupt' him by association. It's the rough equivalent of demanding that ethnic minorities must be banned from owning umbrellas, on the grounds that white people simply wouldn't be able to bear to touch their own brollies otherwise, and they'd get so wet.

The argument that the SNP shouldn't be bothering with this issue because a change in the law would benefit relatively few people is also deeply troubling. The whole purpose of legislative safeguards (and indeed constitutional safeguards in many countries) to protect minority groups is precisely that such people are supposed to matter just as much as anyone else, in spite of their numerical disadvantage. Or are we supposed to say - who cares about equality of access to public buildings for wheelchair users? After all, most people don't use wheelchairs.

And the formal statement issued by the Church of Scotland (suggesting that it would be dangerous to proceed on gay marriage because it might have an effect on heterosexual marriages that no-one has actually thought of yet) is risible beyond words. It reminds me of the Yes Minister scene where Sir Humphrey, having failed to dream up a credible argument against proceeding with a policy, resorts to a grave warning that he "foresees lots of unforeseen consequences". Not good enough - if the churches want the law to actively discriminate against a minority, at the very least the onus is on them to specify precisely how heterosexual marriages would be damaged by the alternative course of action. I wish them luck. As for the church spokesman who implied that gay marriage is the solution to a problem that doesn't exist, I'd suggest John McKee's recent article on Labour Hame ought to be required reading -

"I was a pretty fantastic liar – a master. Gay people are, were, made to be. Once the realisation took hold, the fear – it’s the fear that’s the problem – built a structure of outward deceit. Every time a mate said “don’t be such a poof” to you because you don’t fancy going out that night or some other social inadequacy worthy of the epithet, your stomach does three somersaults. Every time, for eight years. Not a day – barely an hour – went by without someone pejoratively using “gay” – mainly to mean “bad”...

...the problem is the pervasive and powerful idea of that his civil partnership was different to a heterosexual marriage. The power of this difference holds even more sway outside of cushy green tea-sipping philosophy Narnias. It is this same notion that suffocates the life of gay teenagers...

Marriage is the social benchmark of acceptance. It’s special in society – a condition that the state grants privileges to, that families celebrate and that reeks of social approval – it validates relationships. That same validation should be offered to the love between two men or two women: it will go a long way to breaking down the difference that I have described. This is why marriage for gay couples, not just civil partnerships, is necessary."

Is McKee overstating his case? Is it going too far to suggest that people who simply oppose gay marriage are having the same destructive effect as the peddlers of homophobic 'banter' in the playground? For as long as someone like Gordon Wilson thinks that the mere fact of sharing the institution of marriage with gay people would somehow "taint" his own marriage, it's hard to conclude that the answer can be anything other than 'no'.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When oh when are Labour going to start bashing the SNP hard enough?

There are times on Labour Hame when it's fiendishly difficult to know whether what you're reading is a spoof or not. However, it seems Richard Olszewski genuinely intended the following to be taken as a serious piece of strategic counsel -

"I don’t think we need to change that much. We just need to shout a bit louder to get our message across to the voters and bash the SNP harder."

That, of course, is the rough equivalent of a Tory activist in 1995 saying something like this -

"No cause for alarm, chaps. All we need to do is bang on about Europe more, and remind people that John Major is far more charismatic than Tony Blair, and then everything will be as right as rain."

Or, to borrow my old mate Kevin Baker's favourite (and typically porn-flavoured) catchphrase, "Do it again, only HARDER!!!"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An unintentionally vivid insight into the modern Tory view of women

Neil Benny at Tory Hoose, speculating on why Alex Salmond has 'held back' with Ruth Davidson thus far -

"Salmond has a problem with women. When he debates them in his normal manner he looks like a monster. It’s OK for him to rough up Ian Gray, he’s a man and can take it. Doing that to a woman would look terrible on TV – like kicking a puppy or punching a cow."

So let me get this straight - debating in a robust fashion with a female politician would look like "kicking a puppy" or "punching a cow"? Just remind me, is Ruth Davidson a confident and articulate 33-year-old woman, or is she in fact an eight-year-old girl with braces and pigtails?

It's as if they think they've elected a human shield...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Your verdict : if they were wise, Labour would pick Ken Macintosh

This is probably the kiss of death if Murdo Fraser's example is anything to go by, but for what it's worth, your advice to Labour is to elect the MSP for Eastwood -

Ken Macintosh 44%
Tom Harris 29%
Johann Lamont 25%

I must say I'm slightly astonished to see Bomber Admin in second place, although perhaps that's more an indication of just how awful a leader Johann Lamont would be. Labour's very own Ian Smart gave her this ringing testimonial over at A Burdz Eye View yesterday -

"...while Johann may even be a strategist, the problem is that her strategy is wholly misconceived.

Insofar as one can work out what criticisms she has of the 2011 Campaign, they appear to be the wrong criticisms. Not that we were insufficiently negative but rather that we were not negative enough. Not that many of our candidates were useless but that they were simply badly organised and under-resourced. Not that Scotland has moved forward but rather that it must be persuaded to move backwards.

You genuinely wonder if the only chance that she might support a multi-option Referendum would be if the other option was the outright abolition of the Scottish Parliament."

Unfortunately, Ian then ruins this perceptive analysis by announcing that he's plumping for Admin of all people, on the curious grounds that, while Harris may have the wrong ideas, it's better to have the wrong ideas than no ideas at all. Seriously, it's not, Ian. Margaret Thatcher had the wrong ideas, John Major had no ideas at all (other than the Citizen's Charter). Who did less harm as Prime Minister?

There's no denying that Admin is very articulate and has a strong personality, so perhaps that's why he did tolerably well in the poll - these are unquestionably perceived as leadership qualities. But if anyone doubts that he would be an utter disgrace to his office, it might be an idea to peruse this selection of his recent tweets, as collated by RevStu. Some of them are admittedly legitimate (if unwise) examples of political knockabout and mischief-making, but others are deeply offensive or frankly delusional.

* * *

Many thanks to everyone who left a comment of encouragement on the previous thread - I wasn't fishing for that, honestly! I just thought I'd better give some kind of explanation of why blogging here is likely to be (at the very least) slower than it has been. One interesting point that a few people raised is that "blogging matters", especially in the run-up to the independence referendum. It's very hard to judge whether that's true or not. I can't help feeling at times that I'm exclusively speaking to two groups - the already converted and the totally uncovertible (ie. people like Alex Gallagher and the Kevin Baker Fan Club). Because the daily readership of a blog like this is relatively modest, it's hard to escape the feeling that these are the only types of people who ever visit. But on the other hand, the absolute unique visitor figures over a longer period (such as a month or a year) tell a very different story. So I suppose the real question is - can a blog expect to have any real impact on the large number of casual visitors who just drop by once or twice, and perhaps only stay for a minute or two? Very hard to know. But if by any chance it can, the good news is that the pro-independence blogosphere (which of course is much broader than the SNP blogosphere) has never been in a healthier state.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Poll : if they were wise, who would Scottish Labour elect as their new leader?

Apologies for going quiet of late. I suffered a bit of a setback during the latter part of the summer - it was a very minor thing, on the face of it, but for some reason it had a profound effect on me, and I've been (for want of a better phrase) reassessing my priorities ever since. To begin with I was able to 'blog through it', so to speak, although it was probably noticeable that my posts became somewhat half-hearted. But just recently I've found that I've completely lost all interest in following political news, which makes writing a political blog a touch difficult! It may just be a temporary phase I'm going through - time will tell. In the meantime, one thing I can still do is run the poll that I've been planning for a while on the Labour leadership contest. The question is the same as for the Tory poll I ran a few weeks ago - it's not about who you would like to see as Labour leader (because it would work in the SNP's favour or whatever), but who Labour would pick if they were wise. And there's no cop-out "who cares?" option - we all know that would win by a mile, and tell us absolutely nothing!

I must admit, though, that I haven't really got a clue what my own answer would be, other than "not Admin, obviously". Macintosh is the more likeable and assured of the two credible candidates, but he's so softly-spoken that I can't help wondering if he might run into the same problems that John Swinney had as SNP leader. It also shouldn't be forgotten that he made a spectacular error of judgement over the Shirley McKie affair, giving foursquare support to the breathtakingly arrogant pronouncements of fingerprint experts who had already been utterly discredited.

You can find the voting form in the sidebar, and the poll will close tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Devastation stalks the streets : the GB football team won't be coming to Hampden

Nick Pearce writes in the Telegraph about the unveiling of the Great Britain football teams' fixture list for next year's Olympics -

"As neither team will play group matches at Glasgow's Hampden Park Scotland supporters may miss out on the unique experience of seeing Team GB perform on Scottish soil."

Does anyone want to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this is a brilliant piece of ironic wit? No, didn't think so. This is the Telegraph we're talking about, after all.

The choice of Manchester and Cardiff is a bit startling, though - I had always assumed the English FA would want to keep their Greater England teams firmly confined to the Imperial Capital and Acknowledged Centre Of The Known Universe. Presumably they've calculated that Welsh supporters will at least be ambivalent about the whole enterprise - I don't think it's too outlandish to suggest that every GB kick of the ball at Hampden might have been greeted by a chorus of boos. It would have brought a whole new dimension to the term "home game".

* * *

Someone once damningly said of Geoff Hoon - "I bet he thinks he's a great communicator". I think we can safely say the same is also true of James Murdoch.

Q. Do you exist, Mr Murdoch?

A. Mr Watson, it's important to, uh, acknowledge that, to the extent, uh, that discussions about whether I, uh, exist may or may not have, uh, taken place, I was not party to them. I was never told, uh, at any time that I exist - it's conceivable I may, uh, have been given a heads-up about rumours that, uh, someone had seen me around, but as I clearly testified to the, uh, committee earlier, that's not something I recall. The question of whether I, uh, exist or not is a matter for others, and it would not be, uh, appropriate for me to speculate, uh, at this time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poppy zealotry

I'm glad a sensible compromise has been reached to allow the England football team to display poppies, but some of the language used along the way has been monumentally silly. David Cameron, for instance, described FIFA's original decision as "outrageous". Really? FIFA have done many things recently that could reasonably be described as "outrageous", but I'm not sure that insisting upon a rule that everyone knew about in advance is one of them. "Over-zealous" would perhaps be a better description - which coincidentally is also an apt characterisation of the attitude of so many to the poppy tradition. We've grown up to have such reverence for the poppy and what it symbolises that we lose all sense of perspective sometimes. The worst example of that was when the Royal British Legion criticised Mary McAleese for failing to wear a poppy during her inauguration as Irish President in 1997. Now, why should a demand for an Irish official to display a symbol associated with the UK be regarded as anything other than risible? And yet because it was a poppy, that seemed to trump everything - including common sense, realism and sensitivity to the traditions of a different nation.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Scottish Tories make a historic mistake - but you weren't expecting them to break the habit of a lifetime, were you?

A 'steady-as-she-goes' choice of captain can sometimes be wise, but not when the ship sunk without trace fifteen years ago. The Tories had a golden opportunity to reconnect with the heartbeat of modern Scotland yesterday, and even to steal a pass on Labour in the process, but they've fluffed their lines yet again. So they're now stuck with Ruth Davidson for what could well be a very, very long time, and they'll just have to cling to the positives, such as they are. And those positives can only really be her personal qualities, because her wizard strategic plan seems to be (as Murdo Fraser pointed out) to carry on doing exactly what the party has been doing for many years and expect different results. Yes, it would normally be a matter of some note that the Tories have elected a young, articulate woman as leader, but they've had an articulate female leader for the last few years, so clearly that in itself isn't sufficient. And as for Davidson's youth and "freshness", that could well be a double-edged sword - I'd suggest that 32 is at the absolute extreme lower end of the age range within which someone can look plausible as a party leader. Even Alex Salmond was three years older than that when he first became SNP leader in 1990, and it was a good three or four years later before he stepped out of the shadow of Jim Sillars and really looked like a man in command.

So what happened yesterday is undoubtedly a retrograde step for the Scottish Tories, but is it bad for Scotland as well? My gut feeling is yes, because a Fraser victory would have finally forced the UK government to reluctantly accept the realities of the new Scotland. As it is, Davidson joins Willie Rennie as yet another loyal Scottish cheerleader for the London delusion that nothing really changed in May, and therefore nothing needs to be done. But as Kenny Farquharson has pointed out, that stubbornness could easily backfire on the unionist parties and make full independence a more attractive proposition to the electorate than would have been the case had devo max been embraced. And it has to be said the SNP's own long-term electoral prospects in large swathes of Scotland are looking considerably brighter today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chris Woodhead : our children just aren't miserable enough

Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools in England (and professional buffoon), has delivered some jaw-dropping pronouncements in his time, but this one takes the biscuit -

"Our current pre-occupation with happiness and well-being is stupid and is likely to lead to further under-achievement because real learning involves challenge, difficulty and unhappiness."

Unhappiness is part and parcel of the learning experience, he says.

"I don't want kids to be desperately miserable but we don't want them to be complacent and self-satisfied all the time."

What a fabulous point, Chris. A miserable childhood is a small price to pay for not turning out like you.

* * *

Tweet of the Day (nay, of the century) comes from former MSP Andrew Wilson :

"Congratulations to @iainmartin1 on your 40th. You have the body of a 39 year old and the politics of a 139 year old..... Many happy returns."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Separation, floccinaucinihilipilification, and other words that weren't used at the SNP conference

Natural pessimist though I am, I must say I entirely disagree with Kate Higgins' assessment that the latest YouGov poll showing 34% in favour of independence and 52% opposed has "burst one of the SNP’s bubbles". If I'd known the poll was coming, I'd have practically bet my house on the figures turning out like that - there just seems to be some inbuilt reason why YouGov produces higher support for the No side than certain other pollsters, such as TNS. What really matters is the trend, which is in line with other recent polls in showing a significant boost for Yes.

The other interesting question is - what is it about YouGov's methodology that produces such different results? Is it their tendency to pose the question in a way that Alan Cochrane would heartily approve of, or is there some reason why people who join internet polling panels might be more hostile to independence than others? The latter possibility may seem fanciful, but I seem to recall that YouGov openly admitted in their early days that there were one or two questions on which their panel always produced skewed results, regardless of weighting to take account of demographic imbalances. The increase in internet usage since then may have resolved that problem, of course.

And of course no Scotsman report on an independence poll would be complete without a run-out for "Template Quote C" from the Captain of Team Scotland -

"For the first time in 20 years, the SNP held a conference where separation was the only word..."

The only word that wasn't used? Well, you're half-right, Margaret, it wasn't used, but there were many, many other words that proved equally surplus to requirements, such as "floccinaucinihilipilification" and "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis".

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Admin's inspiring crusade for the Scottish people to have as little say on their future as possible

Tom Harris has got a nerve. I know that particular observation is on a rough par with pointing out that dolphins are fond of the odd swim, but he really has got a nerve. This is from a recent speech to the House of Commons, lovingly transcribed (by "Admin", no doubt) onto Labour Hame -

"And if the SNP prove that they are incapable of holding a free and fair referendum, then I want to know from the minister whether he thinks the UK government has any role in ensuring that the Scottish people are properly consulted about the future of our nation."

But how precisely does he want David Cameron (a man who, after all, he did so much to help into office) to ensure the Scottish people are "properly consulted about the future of our nation"? It turns out that he has two main things in mind -

1) Denying the Scottish people the chance to vote on a constitutional option (devo max) that opinion polls currently show to be the most popular. He instead wants the choice to be restricted in the hope that, when forced into a choice between two options they do not want, supporters of devo max will wearily plump for Tom's own preference of the status quo.

2) Denying approximately 2.5% of the Scottish people any kind of say on their future at all. He is quite open about his reasons for this - he fears they would vote the 'wrong way'...

"Polling suggests that younger people are more likely to support independence"

Hmmm. This appears to be the United Arab Emirates definition of "proper consultation of the people". Incidentally, Tom, if it's OK for you to abuse the language by repeatedly referring to a constitutional option that would leave Scotland firmly within the United Kingdom as "Separation Lite", is it OK for us to call your beloved status quo "Colonialism Diluted"?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Your verdict is overwhelming : if the Conservatives were wise, they'd pick Murdo Fraser

Here are the results of the poll on who it would be in the Conservatives' best interests to elect as their leader -

Murdo Fraser 92%
Ruth Davidson 3%
Margaret Mitchell 1%
Jackson Carlaw 1%

This is in stark contrast to the weekly polls by Tory Hoose (which presumably have mostly been voted on by Tory members and sympathisers) showing a very close race between Fraser and Davidson. The latest one, as of this moment, shows Davidson leading by 45% to 42%. If that was anything like the actual result on first preferences (indeed, even if Davidson was slightly behind) it's hard to see where the lower preferences will come from to push Fraser to victory, given that Mitchell and Carlaw are presumably attracting supporters who are even more 'conservative' on the subject of the party's future than Davidson's. Unless, of course, as Tris suggested a few weeks ago, they have such antiquated views on personal morality that they simply can't bring themselves to give even a second or third preference to a young woman who is openly in a same-sex relationship.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dear Sophie...

Sophie Bridger of the Liberal Democrats on Twitter a few hours ago -

"Dear Nats, please stop turning every single argument into one on Scottish independence. Love, Scotland"

* * *

Dear Sophie,

Admirer of your talents though I am (see Exhibit A), I'd suggest that a woman who sees no irony in her conviction that she 'speaks for Scotland' might want to double-check which party it was that got 45.4% of the vote in May, and which party it was that got 7.9% of the vote. Just a thought.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Poll : If they were wise, who would the Scottish Conservatives elect as their new leader?

We're now getting to the business end of the bitterly-fought Tory leadership contest. Tory Hoose has been conducting weekly polls of its readership (showing a very tight race between Murdo Fraser and Ruth Davidson), but I thought it might be fun to get an 'outside view' as well. I've deliberately framed the question to ask about what is in the Scottish Tories' own interests, not the interests of any other party, or of Scotland itself for that matter. I'm also not going to let you off the hook with a "who cares?" option, because I know from past experience that would win by a mile!

The voting form can be found in the sidebar, and the poll will close in a couple of days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Admin : Cameron has a "responsibility" to breach democratic principles

Given that Bomber Admin has spent a fair bit of the last couple of years fighting to maintain the "good old British" right of the minority to outvote the majority, it's somewhat curious that he still feels qualified to lecture the rest of us on democratic principles. Nevertheless, that's what he's been up to this afternoon on Twitter. Apparently he feels that the SNP have no "mandate" to add a devo max question to the independence referendum. Hmmm. Leaving aside the fact that the dogs on the street have known for years that the SNP were minded to do just that (ie. it wasn't exactly kept a secret from the electorate in May), I have a bit of a problem with the idea that a 'mandate' is a prerequisite for holding a democratic vote. It's almost a contradiction in terms - the whole point of a referendum is that you're conceding you can't act without a mandate. Doing something that isn't in your manifesto is much more problematical if you do it without a referendum - for example, if you introduce top-up fees in spite of being elected on a manifesto pledge that "we will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them". But I digress. Let's have a closer look at Tom's logic -

Democratic Principle 1 - It is illegitimate for a government to hold a referendum that they do not have a specific mandate for.

Democratic Principle 2 - If the SNP government hold a Devo Max referendum, David Cameron's government would then have a "responsibility" to breach Democratic Principle 1 and hold an independence referendum they have no specific mandate for.

Oh-kaaay. I think I can perhaps translate the Harris doctrine into plainer language -

The SNP require an unambiguous mandate to do anything. But everyone else has a duty to act without a mandate if it would thwart the SNP.

It's not hard to see that Tom is a keen student of the Blairite dark arts. It rather calls to mind the novel principle of the "unreasonable UN veto" that Blair plucked out of thin air in his more desperate moments in the run-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. It went something like this -

International Law Principle 1 - Even if the vast majority of Security Council members vote for a resolution, it carries absolutely no weight if one of the permanent members veto it. There's no use complaining about Israel using their American chums to get them off the hook time and again - them's the rules.

International Law Principle 2 - Principle 1 naturally doesn't count if it's France or Russia vetoing US/UK military adventurism. In those circumstances, we really have to stop being so fussy about "rules" and consider other relevant factors, ie. that George and me really want to do this.

Ah, Tom and Tony, you guys - killing us with Reason.

Monday, October 17, 2011

No no no, EFTA you

Just to prove I don't operate a policy of democratic centralism at this blog, the poll on which European 'club' an independent Scotland should join didn't exactly go the way I would have wanted! 60% of you voted for EFTA, and just 39% for the EU. If I was to hazard a guess at the main reason, it would be a feeling that the madness of the Common Fisheries Policy can never be properly reformed 'from within'. Which may well be true, but I still feel that consideration is dwarfed by the bigger picture of not having direct representation at Europe's top table.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

White heat, but not a lot of light

Is getting extremely riled up your favourite Sunday pastime? Then you're in for a treat if you head over to the Guardian's 'Disunited Kingdom' podcast, which attempts to get to grips with the options for Scotland's constitutional future with the assistance of expert analysis from Joan McAlpine MSP, Alan Trench of Devolution Matters,, Michael White. Quite what White's expertise on this subject is supposed to be, beyond his fondness for the sound of his own voice when talking about it, is something of a mystery. And those of you lucky enough to have read his columns since May as he struggled manfully to try to identify the underlying meaning of the SNP's triumph will not be surprised to learn that there's a fair amount of waffle in the podcast about Vikings. Yes, Michael, as it happens I've known since I was ten years old that Sutherland got its name from having once been the southernmost part of the Viking territories, but how can I put this...SO WHAT?

Actually, there comes a moment in any Michael White ramble where you start to question your own sanity and wonder if it does all make a kind of weird sense, and you're just not intelligent enough to see it. Well, if you find yourself feeling that way, I can set your mind at rest. At one point in the podcast, he informs us that he grew up in Cornwall, and that the Cornish flag is identical to the saltire apart from the colours. Well, here is the Cornish flag, and here is the saltire - make up your own mind. Oh, and for good measure, White apparently believes the word 'saltire' is pronounced 'saltair'. This is the kind of encyclopedic knowledge of the Celtic fringe we're dealing with here - doubtless he acquired it from reading Scottish newspapers, as he indignantly assures Joan McAlpine in the podcast that he does on a regular basis.

At another point, he is bemused and not a little incensed at Joan's suggestion that the Secretary of State for Scotland does not wake up every morning thinking about what he can do for Scotland, in exactly the same way that Alex Salmond does. Yes, Michael, that'll be why Mr Moore's daily routine is dominated by dreaming up ever-more contrived excuses for denying Scotland powers of self-government that his party is supposed to be passionately in favour of. And that's why he's more comfortable serving in a Tory-dominated cabinet at Westminster than in the Scottish Parliament. Yup, that true son of Caledonia thinks exclusively of Scotland's best interests morning, noon and night.

Later, White interrupts Joan's explanation that the SNP's primary purpose is to build a fairer society by asking "fairer for who?", in a tone of voice that suggests a firm belief that he is posing some sort of killer question. It takes quite a while before we learn what he is getting at - that he thinks 'fairness' is code for Scots doing better off the back of the fabled hard-pressed English taxpayer. Dear God. If a supposedly left-of-centre journalist can somehow contrive to misunderstand the simple meaning of a social democratic contract that makes Scottish society fairer and more equal, I think he may have chosen the wrong vocation. And even if we were to accept his definition of fairness, in exactly what sense is the onus on the First Minister of Scotland to even things up? Is Alex Salmond really supposed to say "you know what, I won't spend this part of our fixed block grant on making Scotland a more equal society, I'll spend it on paper clips instead so that people in Leeds don't have to feel a sense of injustice because their own government has got its priorities all wrong"? It's just bizarre.

White is also caught out for claiming that support for independence in the polls doesn't really rise above 30%. After Joan points out that a recent poll in a Scottish newspaper had the figure at 39%, he brazenly tries to cover up his embarrassment with the instant fatuous retort "you're still 11% shy, then". Er, no, Michael. The standard practice in referendum polling is to look at whether one side has more support than the other - unless, of course, you're planning to rig the ballot à la 1979 by treating abstentions as No votes.

However, there is one moment of immense satisfaction in the podcast - eventually the provocation becomes so severe that Joan drops her customary path of diplomatic charm and informs White that he is being "patronising". Amen to that.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

ComRes poll : Independence backed both here and UK-wide

Many thanks to Marcia on the previous thread for alerting me to the new ComRes poll showing majorities in favour of Scottish independence both in Scotland and across the UK. Here are the full figures -

Scotland should be an independent country

(Scottish respondents)

Agree 49% (+11)
Disagree 37% (-9)

(UK respondents)

Agree 39% (+6)
Disagree 38% (-4)

It's not quite as good as it sounds, though, because of course the only salient figures are the Scottish ones, and they're based on a very small sample size. Information about how the UK as a whole feels about independence is a bit like the polls in days gone by showing that the world outside the US wouldn't have been daft enough to elect George W Bush as President - good to know, but tragically academic.

Nevertheless, this poll is another straw in the wind that lends further credence to the data from last month suggesting that support for independence is building. And Alan Cochrane will be fuming - ComRes inexplicably didn't use his preferred 'neutral' wording of "Scotland should be completely separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, cast adrift without food, shelter, or warmth..."

Poll : Should an independent Scotland join the EU or EFTA?

The last time I conducted a poll, it was on a subject that was bound to produce a North Korean-style result. But this one might attract more of a divergence of views. Realistically, I presume most nationalists who don't favour EU membership would want to join (or rejoin) EFTA instead, so those are the two choices. Membership of EFTA would almost certainly entail remaining within the European Economic Area, which would mean we'd still be subject to laws relating to the Single Market. However, we wouldn't be part of the Common Fisheries Policy, nor would we have a presence in any of the EU institutions, such as the Council of Ministers or the Parliament.

You'll find the voting form in the sidebar, and the poll closes tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Labour's constitutional conservatism in a nutshell?

It's hard to draw satisfaction from the inevitable conclusion of any fox hunt, so instead I'll turn my attention to the very interesting exchange that's been going on over at Better Nation in response to Pete Wishart's article urging Labour to embrace independence. In particular, this contribution from Labour blogger Aidan caught my eye -

"That’s the crux of this – no particular constitutional state is sustainable in the long term.

Scottish political history both before and after the union of the crowns and then the Act of Union has been one of constant flux, change, revolution, revolt, counter revolution and altering the balance of power between the people, the church and the crown(s).

The best results have come from considered changes which have occurred on a gradual time scale allowing time for review, reflection and revision. That’s what devolution offers."

What Aidan seems to be saying is that it's literally beyond the wit of man to comprehensively devise the best constitutional arrangements for Scotland right now - we instead have to rely on the 'wisdom of centuries' to know better than us, meaning we can never stray too far from the status quo. Any presumptions to the contrary could lead to disaster.

If that's in any way representative of Labour's instincts on the constitutional question, it's rather telling. Dare I suggest that if the arch-conservative theorist Edmund Burke was alive and living in Scotland, he'd find his spiritual home at John Smith House?

* * *

Also incredibly sad to see the thread start with Duncan Hothersall brazenly claiming that the SNP's civic nationalism is "fundamentalist anti-Englishness" in disguise, before hurriedly and unconvincingly 'clarifying' what he had meant in a subsequent comment -

"And I did not say the SNP was anti-English. My point was that they are careful to mask the anti-English sentiment that drives much of the support for nationalism. Of course the SNP as a party is not anti-English. But there is significant anti-Englishness in the ranks of their supporters."

Nice try, Duncan, but I cannot see any way of reconciling that 'clarification' with the words you originally used. A gentle reminder to unionists - you can try to slip in these false and offensive allegations of anti-English racism as casually as you like, but they'll never go unchallenged. Never.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is 'Glaswegian' a euphemism for 'non-Tory'?

I must admit I'm becoming slightly addicted to Tory Hoose. Maybe it's just the 'excitement' of the leadership election. A couple of observations in the report on the latest hustings (entitled, presumably without irony, 'Oh, What a Night') raised a smile -

"Second up was Ruth Davidson who, it’s fair to say, had a pretty bumpy ride due to a small contigent of hostile Glaswegians"

Note that it's not "hostile members of the audience", but "hostile Glaswegians". Are we supposed to infer that "Glaswegian" is convenient shorthand for "gatecrashing non-Tory oik"?

"Margaret did however slip up over a question asked about re-engaging the under 35’s within the party. Margaret’s response was a bit off the cuff when she spoke about modern studies students attending her launch and 3 or 4 younger members being in the audience. All very good points however the modern studies students can’t vote and there are hundreds of thousands of under 35’s across the country."

In exactly what sense were they "all very good points", then?

Elsewhere in 'the Hoose', we learn Murdo Fraser's top ten pledges to the party. This is number 3 -

"Bring back real debate and votes on policy at our Party Conferences"

That sounds eminently sensible, but I'm intrigued by the use of the word 'back'. When have Tory conferences north or south of the border ever featured meaningful debates or votes? Maybe he just means moving away from debates on motions such as -

"This conference is mesemerised by David's maaaaaahvellous leadership and hereby pledges itself not to fret about matters of state that are clearly in such maaaaaahvellous hands. And can we just say how maaaaaahvellous Samantha's hair is looking today..."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Captain Curran and the colonials

I'm utterly baffled by the strategic thinking behind Labour's unveiling of 'Team Scotland' under the dubious stewardship of Captain Curran. It may have escaped Ed Miliband's notice (in fact it almost certainly has, given that he's seemingly unaware of Ken Macintosh's name), but the Scottish Labour Party is about to get its first-ever proper leader, who under the new rules can be either an MP or MSP. So if a Westminster politician is going to be designated as the person to 'take the fight to the SNP', surely they should be standing in the contest for party leader, rather than appointed to a role that can only undermine the leader when he or she is finally elected?

As leader of the whole Scottish party in both Westminster and Holyrood, that person could then have been free to appoint a Shadow Cabinet encompassing members of both parliaments, just as SNP Westminster MPs used to be Shadow Cabinet members with responsibility for reserved matters. But, no, Labour have gone down the road of ghettoisation again, treating their Holyrood parliamentarians as second-grade country cousins. In what reality is it preferable for Margaret Curran to hold the meaningless role of Shadow Scottish Secretary, rather than a leader's position that could have led to her becoming First Minister? Why, in the reality in which she is only interested in a stepping-stone to advancement and preferment at Westminster, of course, rather than in holding a Scottish leadership role for its own sake. That tells us all we need to know about the priority accorded to Scotland by members of the Westminster PLP.

Oh, and by the way - regardless of her job title, Curran isn't the person to take the fight to the SNP anyway. She really isn't.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

EU taxation and representation

Over at Subrosa's blog, Oldrightie ponders the 'horrors' of an independent Scotland joining the EU -

"There is also the matter of North Sea oil in Scottish waters. I assume the claim to those still to be exhausted and quite large reserves will become part of the European piggy banks. Subject to being taxed and controlled for the benefit of all the EU States."

Well, as self-confessed 'assumptions' go, that's a pretty huge one, isn't it? The tax revenue goes straight into the United Kingdom coffers at present, and so an independent Scotland would become the beneficiary instead. Any change to that position would require a treaty, and by extension the consent of all member states, ie. if Scotland was independent by then, we could veto.

"Now here would lie an irony. The same devastation wrought on the fishing industry, visited on the oil business. Much to savour and look forward to, as an Independent EU State, dominated by majority voting by the European Federal bodies!"

A great many of us are certainly looking forward to the elected Scottish government actually having a direct vote in EU bodies, as opposed to our being 'represented' at UK level by Danny Alexander and Michael Moore, and at EU level by David Cameron and William Hague.

And on a point of pedantry, the title of Oldrightie's post is also misleading - there wouldn't be any Scottish euro notes if (and it's clearly now a big if) we were to join the single currency. Which would be a matter of regret, but there would of course be Scottish euro coins instead!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Admin : We can only call devolution a success if we make very sure we don't get any more of it

Our old friend Admin has continued his quest to become First Minister with an impassioned plea that he should hold as little power in that office as humanly possible -

"LABOUR must oppose moves to introduce so-called "Devo-Max", one of the key contenders for the Scottish leader's job has declared.

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has said Labour must reject the plans, under which nearly all public spending would be raised from tax revenue collected north of the Border.

Harris says that if the party backed the proposals - which he describes as Separation Lite" - it would effectively be admitting that devolution has "failed". He also warns that Labour supporters of the plan are wrong to think that it will neuter the nationalist cause.

"Supporting Separatism Lite just because the SNP beat us in May is the equivalent of lying still and hoping that the school bully will get bored of kicking you. And as we all know, the only way to see off a bully is to stand up to him," he argues."

This, of course, is a thinly modified form of the tired old language of the Tories from the pre-devolution era. Any transfer of power to Scotland within the UK is 'appeasement' and the 'break-up of the United Kingdom'. Well, that paranoid mentality worked a treat for Michael Forsyth and co, so I can see why Tom is so eager to follow in their footsteps.

It really is very hard to understand what all the sound and fury surrounding the Admin for First Minister campaign has been about if Tom is utterly determined to be the no change, do nothing candidate. It takes some doing to make Johann Lamont look radical, but he seems to have managed it.

And while I'm thinking of it, a question for Admin (to which I presume the answer will either be "Er" or "No") : You've said that if you win this contest, you'll stand for the Scottish Parliament in 2016. Given your new-found enthusiasm for devolution (if only, naturally, in the mystical perfection of its current limited form), can we presume you will also stand in 2016 if you lose this contest?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

British interest continues...

As far as I can recall (although maybe someone can think of an example to disprove this) the current Rugby World Cup in New Zealand marks the first time in two-and-a-half decades that there's been a really big sporting event in which a Home Nation other than England has progressed further than England itself. So this marks an intriguing test of the London media, especially the broadcast media. Will there be a consistency of approach with what happens when England are the last Home Nation standing? Will we, as usual, be breathlessly informed by ITV newsreaders that - in spite of a huge amount of evidence to the contrary - "the whole country" is at fever-pitch? It seems unlikely somehow.

Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, but the early signs are not terribly encouraging. Last night's headlines were all about England's failure, with Wales' success treated as something of an afterthought. I've yet to hear the dread phrase "at least there's still British interest in the competition", but I fear it may only be a matter of time...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Do the Tories think paying more for alcohol makes it taste better?

David McLetchie, quoted in Tory Hoose -

"Instead the SNP now wants the Treasury to allocate to Scotland our share of the alcohol duty raised here – a kind of drinks supplement to the Barnett Formula. Perversely, this means that the more alcohol that is consumed in Scotland, the more money it will bring in."

Newsflash for Mr McLetchie - that's the "perverse" way duty on tobacco and alcohol has worked for decades, including under innumerable Tory governments.

"Far from tackling the booze culture, the SNP wants to benefit from it."

I don't think anyone is denying that the extra revenue would be a small side-benefit to the health and social objectives that are driving this initiative. But the idea that our booze culture will somehow be worsened is daft beyond words, unless McLetchie thinks the Scottish government are planning a poster campaign imploring people to believe that "Paying More Makes Your Booze Taste Better".

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cameron a liability in the independence referendum? Don't be fooled - he can pronounce 'feartie'.

I was grateful to Stuart Dickson yesterday for forwarding me an article from behind the paywall, detailing the dismissal of the Scottish Tories' Head of Media for "systematic party bias" in favour of Ruth Davidson during the leadership election. The only surprise to me is that he got the chop for it - isn't systematic party bias in favour of Ruth Davidson the official Cameroon position?

The rest of the article concerns the opposition parties' scathing attacks on David Cameron for failing to mention Scotland or the upcoming independence referendum during his leader's address to conference. Jeez, these guys are impossible to please. They should follow the shining example of Alan Cochrane over at Tory Hoose, who is more than content to conclude that Cameron has his finger right on the Scottish pulse and will be a "formidable asset" in the referendum campaign simply on the basis that...he used the word "feartie" and pronounced it correctly.


In fact, Cochrane's musings on the matter are strikingly reminiscent of breathless BBC royal correspondents down the years marvelling at the success of assorted princes and princesses in mastering fiendishly complicated tasks such as opening curtains or posting a letter -

"However, as well as having the hacks scratching their heads about who could have taught this old Etonian a word like “feartie” – he even pronounced it properly..."

If the possibility that Cameron might have had a Scot around to ask about such matters hasn't even occurred to Cochrane, that tells us all we need to know about the Prime Minister's inner circle. And Old Etonian Tory leaders may not be renowned for having much of an attention-span for things outside their normal range of experience, but just how long does it take to rehearse the correct pronunciation of a single word?

But, admittedly, if Ed Miliband's attempt at "Lamont" is the standard to beat, the boy done good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous

As much as I think Murdo Fraser is on the right track in trying to dispense with the Scottish Tories' toxic brand and to gain autonomy from the London party, it's clear that a lot more thought is going to be required on what the new name should actually be. The suggestions leaked at the weekend were for the most part pretty awful. Let's go through them in turn -

Scotland First

A campaign slogan, not a party name. Also utterly vacuous.

The Caledonians

A folk-band that seems unlikely to rival the popularity of The Corries. And can you imagine the fun Alex Salmond would have?

Scottish Unionists or Progressive Conservatives

These have the huge disadvantanges of not actually being name changes - the words 'Conservative' and 'Unionist' both feature in the current name. So either one would be a monumental waste of time if the object of the exercise is to banish the toxic brand. In particular, 'Progressive Conservatives' (a name presumably borrowed from the ill-fated Canadian party) would be extremely easily shortened to 'Conservatives', and before you know it you'd be back to 'the Tories' in popular usage. And the possibility that a reborn Scottish Unionist Party would be seen as an 'Orange' party is hardly the 'slight' concern that some Tory sources seem to think it is.

The Scottish Progressives

The Tories may not like it, but as an unqualified term "progressive" is associated with the left, so this choice would attract confusion and derision in equal measure. Unless, of course, they actually become 'progressive' as a party, but I'm not holding my breath.

Scottish Reform Party

Probably the least worst of the six in the sense that it's at least a meaningful declaration of intent, but it still sets my teeth on edge because it's almost certainly the wrong sort of intent for a centre-right party in Scotland - I think we can all imagine the kind of 'reform' that is implied. Still, I suppose we should be grateful that no-one has (as yet) suggested going down the uber-Thatcherite/Bushite route of calling it the 'Scottish Freedom Party'.

So if not any of the current suggestions, then what? Whisper it gently, but a good way for the party to demonstrate that it has genuinely changed is not to be afraid to borrow ideas from continental Europe. The ubiquitous 'Christian Democrat' name for centre-right parties can be safely ruled out in an increasingly secular country like ours, but why not 'Scottish People's Party'? (A touch of irony there, given Labour's outdated self-image, but that's no bad thing.) Or they could look to the example of the party that leads the centre-right coalition in Sweden, and call themselves the 'Scottish Moderates'. Although, again, it would help enormously if their policies were as moderate as the name.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's my lucky day - again

Real stroke of luck this morning - it seems my money problems are over for good. A woman from Burkina Faso was kind enough to send an email offering me fifteen million dollars, acquired by a foreigner from a secret oil deal with Saddam Hussein. Nothing unusual so far, you might think, but what was slightly different about it was this little aside...

"Though this medium (Internet) has been greatly abused, I choose to reach you through it because it still remains the fastest medium of communication."

Tell me about it - all those bleedin' scammers spoiling it for the people who genuinely want to send fifteen million dollars to a total stranger.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Another outing for my rubbish prayer-mat

I was planning on doing another in my regular series of "how it is still arithmetically possible for Scotland to qualify" posts in honour of the Rugby World Cup game against England tomorrow, but I see the BBC have beaten me to it. There is, however, a small error -

"If Scotland and Argentina both win without a bonus point, it will come down to points difference between the three teams, though England are way out in front"

That's only true if England fail to get the bonus point in defeat - if they were to get that point, they would win the pool outright, and Argentina and Scotland would be tied on points for second place. In those circumstances, Argentina would go through automatically regardless of points difference, because they defeated Scotland in the head-to-head encounter between the two teams.

Oh, let's face it - the most likely outcome is that Scotland will lose without even sneaking a bonus point tomorrow, meaning we'll be out of the tournament regardless of the outcome of the Argentina v Georgia game. I'll naturally be getting my prayer-mat out anyway, but I must caution you that it's never worked before. That's a good point, actually - it's a truly rubbish prayer-mat.

The most important advice Ed Miliband will ever read

From 'Sophie', in a comment on the New Statesman blogs -

"Ed is doing the right thing by focusing on England as that is where the election is going to be won or lost; home as it is to 85%+ of the UK population. Once elected I'm sure he will get around to meeting the winner but remembering obscure contenders in Scotland is like remembering the opposition group leader names on English councils. Scotland does not matter."

I strongly urge Ed Miliband to pin these words on his bathroom wall, and recite them to himself every morning. This is definitely the way forward.

Hang on, what am I talking about, he's doing it anyway.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Miliband gives ringing endorsement to, you know, that guy

Some news stories are beyond satire. From the Press Association (or possibly from a script for The Thick of It) -

"There are three not very well-known candidates," said the BBC interviewer. "What do you know about them and can you name them?"

Mr Miliband replied: "I think we have got three great hitters. I think we have got three people who are determined to show that they can make a difference, that they can make a difference to the people of Scotland."

Interviewer: "Can you name the three of them?" Mr Miliband: "Look, what I say is, there is Tom Harris, there is Johann Lamont and a third candidate who is also putting himself forward."

Interviewer: "He is the front-runner, Ken Macintosh." Mr Miliband: "Ken Macintosh, yes."

Interviewer: "He is the front-runner but you can't name him." Mr Miliband: "No, look, Ken Macintosh is going to be an excellent candidate."

* * *

"Can you name the three of them?"

"Look, what I say is : No."

Of course, Miliband recently informed us that our elected First Minister isn't that big a figure in Westminster, and when people want to know what is really going on in Scotland, they instead turn to the obvious political colossus - Ann McKechin. Hmmm. Perhaps Mr Miliband ought to reflect on whether he might be going astray there, because I think we can safely assume that Alex Salmond is considerably better informed on the Scottish Labour leadership contest than the UK Labour leader presently appears to be.

It's also worth pointing out that Miliband's seeming reliance on the not exactly objective source of McKechin for obtaining his hazy information on this far-off land of ours is eerily reminiscent of the story of how Michael Heseltine came to vote in favour of imposing the poll tax on Scotland but not on England, as mischievously recounted by Donald Dewar in the House of Commons. A Lib Dem MP enquired whether Dewar had heard that the reason Heseltine voted the way he did was that he - amazingly - thought the Scottish people wanted the poll tax. Dewar replied : "It's worse than that. What he actually did was ask the Secretary of State [Malcolm Rifkind] whether the people of Scotland wanted it - and he believed the answer."

Bite-size examples of the logical consistency of unionists

I'm grateful to DougtheDug on the previous thread for pointing me in the direction of former Labour MP Maria Fyfe's contribution to Labour Hame on the teaching of Scottish history. One passage in particular leapt out at me -

"Then there is the endlessly repeated mantra that our Scottish Parliament has been “reconvened”. Why? On the spurious grounds that when the Scottish Parliament of 1707 met for the last time it stood adjourned. We have had over three hundred years to get used to the combined Parliament and play our part in reforming the franchise. Both Holyrood and Westminster would be unrecognisable to the tiny band of rich men of 1707 who stood for political parties so long forgotten only historians of the period can even name them."

I trust that Maria would therefore agree that we shouldn't be misleading children into thinking that the Labour party that ruled over us between 1997 and 2010 had anything at all to do with the authentic Labour party of old, simply on the spurious grounds that both shared the same name. Maybe that way we could finally educate people into spotting their catastrophic error in assuming that they are in some way voting for the same party that their "faether voted for, and his faether before him".

Let's move on now to the latest pearl of wisdom from John McTernan, newly appointed adviser to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard -

"The obscene personal abuse Scottish nationalists are now bringing to Twitter reveals a narrowness and nastiness deep-set in separatism."

I trust then, John, that your first piece of advice to your new employer will be to urgently reverse the historic error of Australian separation from the motherland? We can't be having any of that narrow, obscene nastiness Down Under, can we?

(As an aside, what a thoroughly depressing appointment. I actually want the Australian Labor Party to win the next election, but I'm not exactly filled with confidence now.)

Last but not least, we have Michael Forsyth's extraordinary claim that Murdo Fraser's wish to lead a centre-right party that is actually electable would be "the greatest political error since Bonnie Prince Charlie turned back at Derby to face certain defeat".

So, let's see. That makes it a greater political error than using Scotland as a guinea pig for the poll tax in 1989, and stubbornly opposing devolution between 1979 and 1997, at the cost of all 22 Scottish Tory seats, and the halving of the party's share of the vote. Yes, I see what you mean, Michael - something worse than all that must be pretty bad.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Questions to which the answer is 'your question is important to us, please hold'

A double rollover day for any Labour people that might be passing by - I've got a couple of queries for their perusal this time...

Courtesy of Duncan Hothersall's slip of a few weeks ago, we now know that the "Admin" of Labour Hame and Tom Harris MP are, in fact, one and the same person. One being, two identities - it would be like the Holy Trinity if only there were three of them (after all, just like God, Tom is "right, and everyone else is wrong"). Is it therefore just a coincidence that Tom now only chooses to post his worthy, earnest pieces under his own name, and bashfully switches to "Admin" whenever he wants to make wild claims like...oooh, I don't know, that the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has "backed" Alex Salmond? I mean, Tom wouldn't have a slight concern that saying things like that under his own name might prove a tad incompatible with trying to mount a serious leadership bid which promises a new politics, would he?

And the second question - in the light of recent events, does Ahmadinejad's throwaway, unsolicited expression of support for Scottish independence look better or worse than Tony Blair's public embrace of Colonel Gaddafi, and the Deal in the Desert? After all, the obvious difference between the two is, to use George Foulkes' immortal turn of phrase, that Blair associated himself with a lunatic dictator deliberately.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another spurious claim of 'anti-Englishness'

Loosely following on from my previous post, a Twitter exchange between Tory Hoose's very own version of "Admin" and Lib Dem blogger Gavin Hamilton drew my attention to a post by Gavin in which he ponders the way forward for the Tories, but also gives a special mention to left-leaning Nats -

"Finally, I have noticed that some Nationalists argue they want to defeat poverty and bring about social justice in the modern Scotland - but the only way this can be done is in an Independent Scotland. How can this be so? The reason it can be so is that England keeps on imposing alien Conservative regimes on Scotland who are against such left of centre agendas. Indeed, making sure we do not have a Conservative regime enforced on us period, is a key driver for having Independence.

This strikes me as most unhealthy reasoning. There is absolutely no reason why we should not achieve these laudable aims as part of the UK. This reasoning is getting dangerously close to a basic anti-English sentiment which never lies far beneath the surface with some nationalists."

I wouldn't describe Gavin's own logic here as "unhealthy" so much as utterly baffling and in dire need of elucidation. There is "absolutely no reason" for thinking that we can't pursue a left-of-centre agenda as part of UK - except, of course, for the excellent reason Gavin has just given himself, namely that the UK electorate keep on electing right-of-centre governments (of both the Tory and Labour varieties) and that there is absolutely nothing Scots can do to change that within the context of the United Kingdom, due to our having less than a tenth of the population. For Gavin to demonstrate that he understands this reasoning so thoroughly, but then to wildly assert that anyone who adheres to it is "dangerously close" to being anti-English, simply isn't good enough. We need to know why.

Let me try a counter-example here. Suppose there was a serious proposal for the UK to withdraw from the EU, the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights, and instead become the 51st state of the USA. One of the consequences of that would be the instant reintroduction of the death penalty - because even citizens in US states that have abolished capital punishment are still subject to the federal and military death penalties. Now I could easily argue that there is "absolutely no reason" why the UK can't be just as free of the death penalty as part of the US as it currently is as part of the EU. It's simply a matter of "winning the argument" at US-wide level, I could say. And every single person would know that is a fundamentally deceitful claim, because the argument is essentially unwinnable in the US, at least for the foreseeable future. By choosing to join the US, we'd be aligning ourselves to a completely different political culture, one that would render absolutely inevitable the return of judicial murder to these shores.

I trust that, as a good Lib Dem, Gavin would think that in itself was a good enough reason to argue against taking such a step. But would that make him "anti-American"? And if not, why not?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

There's a moose loose

I was positive Jeff Breslin was referring to a spoof website when he first uttered the words Labour Hame a few months ago, and I would have been even more sure that Tory Hoose was the figment of some wicked Cybernat's imagination if I hadn't read about it yesterday in a deadly serious Evening Times article about Ruth Davidson's leadership bid. Apparently it's been going for some time now, I must have been living down a hole.

So Rennie's mob are now in serious danger of having no Scots word for 'primary residence' left if they want to join in the fun with a site of their own. But perhaps, to reflect the prevailing political situation, they should simply set up a small annex to Tory Hoose, and call it Lib Dem Bidie-in.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A uniform ideal

In the light of the post I wrote a few months ago about negative attitudes towards older parents, I was interested to spot that YouGov had conducted a poll asking people when the best age to have children is.  The results are far starker than I would have expected -

Best age for women to have children :

Under 20 - 1%

20-24 - 18%

25-29 - 56%

30-34 - 17%

35-39 - 1%

40+ - 0%

Best age for men to have children :

Under 20 - 1%

20-24 - 7%

25-29 - 42%

30-34 - 36%

35-39 - 5%

40+ - 1%

Now, admittedly, there's a world of difference between asking people what the best age to have children is, and what would be a perfectly reasonable age. And bearing in mind that women's fertility tends to drop significantly from the mid-thirties onwards, it's no great surprise that most respondents plumped for somewhere between 20 and 34 as the ideal. But even so, the extremes of those figures look creepily "North Korean" to me - 0% and 1% for age ranges in which lots and lots of people routinely have children? To put it in perspective, about 20% of babies are born to women over the age of 35, and about 3% to women over the age of 40. For men, the figures are a good bit higher than that.

It's a pity YouGov didn't probe the underlying reasons for this extraordinarily uniform rejection of the older (and indeed younger) age ranges, by testing perceptions of the challenges faced by parents of different ages.

Accents have consequences

Interesting to read Mike Small's speculation (taking his cue from Angus Macleod) that David Tennant might have a leading role in the No campaign during the independence referendum. As you might know, I'm a great fan of both Doctor Who and Tennant, but if he did end up fronting some kind of all-singing, all-dancing 'save the union' campaign, I fancy there'd be one rather problematical question he'd find himself faced with again and again -

If Scotland is such a "valued partner within the United Kingdom", why was it not considered possible or desirable for you to retain your Scottish accent while playing the Doctor, especially since your predecessor Christopher Eccleston was perfectly able to use his own Lancashire accent?

The Doctor is, after all, from Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous, not from inner London, so a Ralston accent would have been just as appropriate as the Mockney one Tennant adopted for the part. Paradoxically, there's been much more of a Scottish element to the show since the moment Tennant left.

Relax : inequality isn't an equality issue

A number of years ago, I discovered that because of my dual nationality, I was required by law to register with the American military in case there was another Vietnam-style draft. This was something I wouldn't have had to do if I was a woman. Of course, at the time, it was the idea of getting my brains blown out (to use the Blackadder term) for a country I'd never even lived in that irritated me considerably more than the inequality issue, but the latter point didn't go unnoticed all the same. It wasn't a big deal in the end because there was never any real danger of being conscripted, but there are of course a number of Western democracies in which conscription is routine, and which operate a discriminatory policy between the genders. One of them is Finland, and if the translations in this not-so-old article are accurate, some of the 'non-justification justifications' for upholding that discrimination in a supposed age of gender equality are truly wondrous to behold -

"Finland’s Minister for Equality Affairs Stefan Wallin (Swedish People’s Party) says that he does not want to change the current system, even though he understands “that not everyone feels that it is equal if an obligation applies to only one gender.""

Ah, not everyone feels that is equal, do they? I wonder if the (now former) Minister for "Equality Affairs" could explain in plain language how anyone in their right mind could possibly conclude that such a state of affairs is in any reasonable sense of the word "equal"?

“What would be the alternative? This requires a broad-based approach. I have pondered this as both the equality minister, and as a captain of the reserves, and the present system is the best that is available.”

Yes, what could possibly be the alternative, Stefan? It's a real poser, there's no denying it. Now let me see. How about this - either conscription is made compulsory for both genders, or for neither. Or, if there is some kind of mystical perfection to the current numbers, there could be a lottery under which exactly 50% of all men and women are randomly conscripted. That took me all of five seconds.

“The country’s security, and the coverage of state expenditure can never be based on voluntary contributions. The state needs taxes to be paid by everyone, and military service from men.”

Hmmm. I wonder if "not everyone" would agree that the above statement is entirely fair and equal. After all, I would think it was quite unfair if a politician was to say "the state needs military service from everyone, and taxes to be paid by women", but then maybe I'm just weird.

"Arto Satonen (Nat. Coalition Party), the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Equality, also does not see military discrimination against men as a problem. “There is no point in making this an equality issue. National defence is more important.”"

OK, so now it is indeed "unequal", but that's not a "problem". Do you know what I'm beginning to suspect is the real problem here - appointing so many flippin' militarists as spokespeople on "equality". It's the rough equivalent of appointing Sir Peter Tapsell as Minister for Women.

"Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies (Nat. Coalition Party) takes the same view. “I have not noticed widespread support for the equality point of view, so we will continue on the basis of the present model.”"

So now equality doesn't matter a damn as long as politicians don't "notice" the majority of people actively supporting it? Heaven help minority groups if that's the guiding principle in Finland.

"Häkämies and Wallin would be ready to send draft letters to women, to inform women about their option of military service. However, both ministers would keep women’s military service voluntary."

Oh well, say no more, chaps. Who needs equality before the law when you're perfectly prepared to write to women to helpfully remind them that they alone have the right to choose?

The article concludes with two comments by feminists, which can only be described as weasel words -

"The chairwoman of the Feminist Association Unioni, Henna Leppämäki, does see male conscription as an equality issue.

“However, Unioni will not be the first to demand the abolition of conscription. I would hope that men would grab on to this. We will certainly support them.”

Leena Ruusuvuori, Secretary-General of the National Council of Women of Finland, says that conscription can be seen to contain problems for gender equality.

Ruusuvuori, who once opposed the current system of voluntary military service for women, nevertheless feels that the first priority should be to make the Defence Forces more equal, and only then to address the matter of conscription."

So Ms Leppämäki will not "be the first" to demand the end to conscription, but in the meantime is she "the first" to demand that women should be subject to compulsory conscription on the same basis as men while she umms and errs on the broader point? It's hard to imagine many other gender equality issues on which a feminist union would feel it "wasn't its place" to speak out about, and that it should instead let "men" (in a startlingly non-specific sense) take the lead on.

As for Ms Ruusuvuori, perhaps she could explain how on earth the Defence Forces can possibly be made more equal before addressing the issue of discriminatory rules on conscription?