Friday, January 2, 2015

Ringing in the new

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a New Year article in the International Business Times, which looks at the SNP's prospects for 2015, and compares them to the way things looked for the Yes campaign twelve months ago.  You can read it HERE.  (It's also on Yahoo HERE.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dan Hodges : The gift that keeps on giving

A couple of quotes from Dan Hodges' keenly-awaited New Year address to the nation, which this year is on the thrillingly novel topic of "why Ed Miliband won't be Prime Minister".  (Good to see him expanding his range.)

"The idea of a “Nat Pact” has become the talk of Westminster. The odds on Sturgeon entering the cabinet have been slashed to 6-1."

"Those speculating about a Labour/SNP deal do not understand the basic psychology of how politics operates north of the border."

So a man who thinks that a Labour/SNP deal would somehow involve Nicola Sturgeon becoming a UK Cabinet minister, even though she is not standing as a candidate for Westminster, is lecturing others about their failure to understand Scottish politics.  Righty-ho.

I dare say it all makes sense in Hodges' head, and probably has something to do with Princess Diana.

Welcome to Enforced Vow Delivery Year

I'm on a disturbingly static bus which is supposed to be taking me home from the Edinburgh street party, so I just thought I'd take the opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year.

If I ever get back, I'll post some photos from the party, but you know the drill with the camera on my phone - I might as well be posting photos of Jupiter.

People on the bus are passing the time by swapping New Year's Resolutions.  Mine is to point out Mike Smithson's inaccuracies ten times more often than before, just to irritate the sanctimonious anonymous poster from last night...

UPDATE : OK, here are the "photos", so feel free to try to decipher some sense from them.  The first one is actually Glasgow from last night, which is slightly irritating, because it's the only half-decent one!

I learned from going to the street party two years ago that moving around after 9pm is a choice that can only lead to pain and despair, so I just made my way to Frederick Street (where the Scottish stage was) and stayed there for most of the evening.  The three musical acts were Breabach, Eddi Reader and Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson.

It seems that any splash made by Fairground Attraction in Australia twenty-five years ago must have well and truly worn off by now, because the Aussies behind me were taking bets on which one of the male backing musicians would turn out to be Mr Eddie Reader.

And the reaction of two women to Ross Ainslie/Jarlath Henderson : "I love this band, I don't know who they are, oh I wish I was Scottish."  Slightly unfair on Jarlath Henderson, who hails from Northern Ireland!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Who would be the SNP's Cabinet ministers in a Westminster coalition government?

And so we arrive at the final day of this most extraordinary of years.  As it happens, it's Alex Salmond's 60th birthday, and it's also the eve of general election year - an election which could leave Salmond in an even more powerful position than he enjoyed as First Minister.  There was an article in the Herald yesterday that claimed the SNP were talking about the possibility of full coalition with Labour for the first time, although I struggled to reconcile that interpretation with the actual quotes from Stewart Hosie.  The conventional wisdom remains that the SNP want a confidence-and-supply deal that would not entail taking up ministerial office in London.  But let's just suppose for the sake of argument that a full-blown coalition does happen.  Who might be the SNP's Cabinet ministers, and what portfolios might they hold?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER : Alex Salmond.  He would probably inherit his predecessor Nick Clegg's "special responsibility for constitutional reform", although the difference is that he might actually do something about it.

SCOTTISH SECRETARY : Stewart Hosie.  The deputy leader of the SNP would take over from the deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.  Yes, that's right, folks - Alistair Carmichael is Willie Rennie's deputy.  How does that work, exactly?

CULTURE SECRETARY : Angus Robertson.  The SNP's Westminster group leader used to be a BBC journalist, so who better to oversee the long-overdue transfer of broadcasting regulation to Holyrood control?  Of course, sport comes with the culture brief, which technically means that Robertson would inherit responsibility for the UK government's bizarre commitment to make the England football team better than the Scotland football team.  Perhaps he could delegate that one to an enthusiastic Labour Minister of State, such as Ian Davidson.

WORK AND PENSIONS SECRETARY : Philippa Whitford.  Health is already (thankfully) a devolved matter, so Ms Whitford can't take on her natural brief, but it's hard to think of anything that has a bigger indirect impact on health than the war that has been waged on the poor and vulnerable by means of welfare "reform".  There could be no more satisfying a replacement for Iain Duncan Smith.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY : Angus Brendan MacNeil.  Obviously the SNP wouldn't want to go within a thousand miles of responsibility for London's foreign or defence policy, but ensuring justice for the world's poorest is a different story.

Of course in reality there would probably be a better gender balance than that, but with so few candidates having been selected so far, I've ended up looking mainly at the SNP's existing MPs by default.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The credibility of the Political Betting website hits a new low - because of hypocrisy as much as inaccuracy

When I started writing this blog way back in May 2008, it was literally attracting about three or four readers per day.  I thought it was an absolute miracle after a few weeks when I got 71 unique visitors in one day, but even that only happened because it was Eurovision weekend.  Compare that to the last six months, when there have been hardly any days during which the blog hasn't attracted at least 1000 unique visitors.  There have been a few occasions when the number has reached almost 7000.

I really have only one man to thank for that transformation, and it's Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson.  For years, I used to spend more time posting at his Political Betting site than I did here, but since he banned me (seemingly for life) for refusing to pretend that his spiteful banning of a fellow pro-independence poster had never happened, I've had the time to build up Scot Goes Pop.

As long-term readers may remember, my banning took on a Kafka-esque afterlife, with Smithson's Tory moderators first of all deleting any posts that linked to this blog or even mentioned it, and then ultimately deleting posts that mentioned my name.  Even after all this time, you'd be taking your life into your hands by uttering the words "James Kelly" at PB.  My charismatic Labour MSP namesake is absolutely raging about it.

The moderators (or specifically the notoriously dishonest moderator TSE) did dream up a thin excuse for banning links to Scot Goes Pop, albeit one that was based on a downright lie.  TSE claimed that I had once been "forced to apologise" to a polling company for posting inaccurate information about one of their polls, and that PB regulars should therefore "understand" the moderators' "concerns" about this blog.  In fact, his claim was wrong on two counts - there was no inaccuracy, and I most certainly had not been forced to apologise.  What I had done was speculate that an Ipsos-Mori independence poll may not have asked the real referendum question - but I made clear that was only speculation, and not a statement of fact.  I then received an email from Ipsos-Mori which claimed that they had used the referendum question in unadorned form, so I issued an immediate correction, and apologised as a matter of courtesy.

That sequence of events may be ringing a few uncanny bells for those of you unfortunate enough to have visited Political Betting today.  There was a wildly speculative post from Smithson this morning inviting readers to conclude that the SNP's failure to publish any voting intention figures from their recent Panelbase poll must mean that the party's lead over Labour has slipped.  I knew that was garbage straight away, because one of the advantages of Scot Goes Pop's hugely expanded readership is that I often get tipped off about polls in the field, and I've therefore known for days that Panelbase didn't ask a voting intention question.

Buried at the bottom of the PB post, you'll now see an update admitting that the SNP and Panelbase have both made clear that there were no voting intention numbers.  But in contrast to what I did in the case of the Ipsos-Mori poll, Smithson hasn't bothered correcting the body of the post, so anyone who doesn't read to the bottom will still be totally misled.  There is certainly no sign of an apology.

In the interests of consistency, I now look forward to Smithson being banned from his own site, and to the mere mention of his name being declared verboten.  After all, "you can understand our concerns".

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sorry, Kenny Farquharson, but your wish-fulfillment fantasy looks like a non-starter

Somewhere, deep down, we all have our own tailor-made wish-fulfillment fantasy.  Maybe it's that your ex who ran off with your best friend eight years ago will turn up at your door sobbing, and beg to be given a second chance.  Or maybe it's that your mysterious dinner guest will turn out to be the managing director of Hovis, and will find your home-made bread so irresistible that he'll offer you£250,000 a year to take over as head of quality control.

In the case of Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson, the long-nurtured fantasy seems to be that next autumn's SNP conference will turn out to be a Clause 4 moment, with Nicola Sturgeon confronting her party with the painful truth that it must grow up and forget about the idea of a second referendum over the next five-year parliamentary term, and instead get on with that blasted wonderful (not to mention mature) devo thing that has always been Scotland's manifest destiny.  There was a Scotland on Sunday editorial along those lines yesterday, and although it was anonymous, it bore all the classic Farquharson hallmarks.

As with almost all wish-fulfillment fantasies, I fear Kenny is going to end up bitterly disappointed.  Both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have laid so much groundwork for the argument that impending "Brexit" would re-open the debate on early independence, that I find it inconceivable that they even want the SNP's 2016 manifesto to totally exclude the possibility of a second referendum.  The most likely outcome is conditional language that makes clear that a referendum is only ruled out if certain circumstances persist - most obviously that Scotland remains part of the EU, and possibly also that sweeping powers are devolved to Holyrood.  There's also a chance that a consultative referendum on Devo Max, rather than on independence, will be proposed.

At any rate it's not hard to think of a range of options for the 2015 conference to choose from, all of which the gradualist and fundamentalist wings of the party would find little difficulty in uniting around, and certainly without the need for any gladiatorial blood-on-the-carpet theatre.  This is going to break Kenny's heart when the realisation dawns, but there's actually no need for Nicola Sturgeon to "slay the dragon of independence" in the way that Kinnock and Blair slayed the trade unions - not least because independence is even more popular than the SNP at the moment.  When did the SNP last get 1.6 million votes in an election?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Journalists must challenge Labour on their secret plan to go into coalition with the Tories

Do Labour know the meaning of the expression "no shame"?  This from Scotland on Sunday's report on the Craig Murray story -

"Labour last night seized on the row to challenge the SNP on whether they would do a deal on the Bedroom Tax to keep the Tories in power, which would be “a shocking betrayal” of the Scottish people.

Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: “The SNP need to come clean about asking their prospective MPs if they would agree to keep the Bedroom Tax. This means they are willing to do a deal to keep the Tories in power.”"

The irony is, of course, that the intentionally extreme hypothetical question asked of the SNP's prospective candidates implicitly presupposed that Labour would insist upon retaining the bedroom tax in negotiations with the SNP.  There's no other way of making sense of the question, because the SNP have absolutely, explicitly, unambiguously, categorically ruled out doing a deal with the Tories under any circumstances whatsoever.

Labour, by contrast, have thus far failed to make any comment on whether they would refuse to go into coalition with the Tories and keep David Cameron in office.  That's highly significant, because "grand coalitions" between the main centre-right and centre-left parties are of course extremely commonplace in many continental European countries, and are not without precedent in the UK.

According to Curran-logic, a party that has categorically ruled out a deal with the Tories must be "willing" to do a deal with the Tories.  It presumably follows that a party like Labour which has not ruled out a deal with the Tories is absolutely certain to do such a deal?

Perhaps journalists should be asking them to "come clean" about that.

* * *

Of the comments from senior SNP people about the Craig Murray story, the one I found slightly troubling (and peculiar) was this from Andrew Wilson on Twitter -

"In his reaction to his failure to pass vetting Mr Craig Murray demonstrates why his candidacy was impossible. Old story."

Why is a decision that Craig Murray only found out about on Christmas Eve (ie. four days ago) an "old story"?

*  *  *

Congratulations to Bruce Anderson on having penned one of the top seventy most barking mad articles to appear in the Telegraph since the referendum - that's one of the toughest accolades to attain in journalism.  Here are a couple of particular highlights...

"There are no guillotines or concentration camps in Scotland. But even though most Nats have never heard of Rousseau, they are his disciples, behaving as if anyone who does not share their version of Scottishness is not a proper Scot."

You know, it's odd that you should say that, Bruce, because I was told by your fellow Brit Nats that I am "not a true Scot" due to the fact that I have Irish and French-Canadian ancestry, and that I don't believe in the most glorious political union in the history of the known universe (as presumably any "true-blooded" Scot would).  Any thoughts?

"The Scottish Highlands are a symphony of sea and loch and river, of moor and rock and mountain. It is as if a divine alchemist had transmuted grandeur into landscape – a landscape which nourishes splendid human beings...That said, nature costs money.   It has always been easy to make a small fortune in the Highlands. You just have to start out with a large one."

Ah, the Tory answer to the American Dream! Absolutely anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the Highlands, just so long as they have the odd half-billion to spare...