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.