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True Election Story

This one is from the 1992 election but is indeed true.

My wife’s grandmother was in her nineties at the time and relied on a car to come and collect her and take her to the polling station. My father in law had gone to visit her that day and when she was out he realised that she must be away to vote. When she arrived back, Bill, a died in the wool Tory, was delighted to see his mother return in a car driven by a man in a blue rosette.

“I thought you always voted Labour mum” he said. “I’ve always voted Labour and always will” she replied. “It’s just that the Conservatives have nicer cars” she added.

Con-dem-nation

The full “Con-dem-nation” thing is here.

I’ve read this with as objective an eye as possible and had a few surprises. On the civil liberties section I can’t find much to take issue with – in particular the scrapping of the proposed ID card scheme.

On Europe, the area of policy where I’d probably find most common ground with the Tories, there seems to be a shift from outright confrontation to seeking accommodation whilst safeguarding the UK’s sovereignty, although we’ll see what that actually means in practice. Really the battle for withdrawal from Europe is lost, no matter the underhand methods used to deny people their voice in referendums. Any serious talk of withdrawal is now the preserve of loons like UKIP and the BNP. The focus should now surely be on accountability and democracy and cutting down of the worst excesses of bureaucracy.

I did have to read this line several times to get the meaning. Still not sure if I do:

“We agree that we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in Brussels.”

Nick Cameron

On Banking reform, separating investment and retail banking, action on excessive bonuses and ensuring lines of credit for viable small to medium sized businesses along with regulatory reform seems all good. Vince Cable in charge of this? I doubt if the banks will be rejoicing at that. Not joining the Euro any time soon? Can’t find any logical counter to that.

On political reform, there is to be a five year fixed parliament and the setting of the date of 7/05/15 for the next election. The only circumstance where an election can be called sooner is in the case of a 55% vote of no confidence. This no doubt arbitrary figure would spookilly enough protect a party with say 291 seats perhaps involved in a coalition with a smaller party where there has been a disagreement.
There’s to be a referendum on the alternative vote system.

"Of course you won't need to worry too much about PR, because nobody will ever vote for you again"

And what about this:

“The parties will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.”

And this:

“The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics.”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"You can have Scotland if you like"

A wholy or largely elected second chamber is proposed (although setting up of a committee to oversee it is an excellent method for kicking an idea into the long grass) It’d be ironic indeed if it were a Tory/Libdem coalition which finally did away with the House of Lords.

On environment there’s the cancellation of the the third runway at Heathrow and no more runways at Stanstead and Gatwick.

In the deficit reduction and spending section, I’m not sure how many jobs will actually be protected by not bringing in “Labour’s proposed job tax”.
“Modest” spending cuts of £6billion to front line services??
“The cancelling of some backdated demands for business rates.” Eh?? so that’s it then – don’t pay and have it written off? Must remember that one.
And
“Work programmes for the unemployed” sounds like a road we’ve been down before.

All in all though reading this, if Maggie Thatcher had a grave she’d be birling in it.

However it is the Tories and we all know what politicians promises are worth.

It also remains to be seen what the financial outlook is. We could be headed for another recession and the danger of financial crisis contagion in Europe maybe hasn’t just disappeared.

The next few years have the potential to be pretty hellish.

Maybe not quite so hellish as first feared.

(Thanks Alastair for the illustrations)

Once Upon a Time

There were two parties.

The Liberal Party

and the

The SDP were formed by four disgruntled members of the Labour Party.

“Come and join us in a spirit of cooperation!” said the Liberal Party. And they did. They called themselves the

or if you prefer, the

The Liberal Party though were really much bigger than the SDP and soon the two parties merged.

They became for a while the Social and Liberal Democrats, which was soon shortened to

In the end therefore it wasn’t really a merger at all. It was a takeover and after a while everyone forgot about the SDP.

Some years later the Conservative party said to the Liberal Democrats “Come and join us in a spirit of cooperation!”

Lights out Nick, you’ve had a busy day. Night night.

Progressive?

The first things I think of when I hear that word are Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Tangerine Dream and Spinal Tap.

Yet yesterday Progressive Alliance was the catchphrase on everyone’s lips. Also spreading like a virus is the phrase “That decision is for those above my pay grade” which was highlighted to me by Alastair the other day as being a Tory creature. Yesterday I heard two Labour MPs using it.

Depending on which wing of the press you care to follow, Gordon Brown’s setting out of a timetable to quit as leader of the Labour Party is variously a bold move to unite the “progressive parties” in general and the Lib Dems in particular or it is a cynical ploy to distract the Lib Dems from finalising a coalition deal with the Tories. The Mail article really is that paper at its whingeing, reactionary worst.

The Lib Dem dilemma can be crystalised by a quick shuftie at the following map:

It’s easy to miss the one Tory seat in Scotland but if you look very carefully, it’s just above England there on the left. Crikey! Dumfries and Galloway IS almost England!

Anyhoo I’m completely struck by the hypocrisy of the whole thing. The Tory cry of “coalition of the losers” is just not on. Every party lost. In the first part the post system to win you have to get more votes than all other parties combined. This is the system which every governing party in the UK has endorsed and supported – because it has suited the governing party of the time to do so. You can’t support such a system so wholeheartedly and then cry foul when it doesn’t deliver the result you want.

There could be a downside

And the Liberal party is not exempt One wonders when their conversion to proportional representation began? Probably after they’d been out of government for a while!

The bottom line is that if (sorry it’s a big IF) as now looks more likely the Lib Dems team up in this progressive coalition with Labour and the other minority parties, they’ll have somewhere around six million more votes at their back than the Tories. Of course a similar thing could be said about a Tory Lib Dem arrangement but really that would be an arrangement borne out of political expediency and ambition rather than any common ground.

Most of us know that the Lib Dems would dovetail much better with Labour than the Tories. This would make another quick election less likely. The two parties governed Scotland in coalition with nary a problem for years.

Whatever happens will be the result of tough negotiating and arm twisting.

In the meantime here are Spinal Tap.

Blue Murdo!

Blimey!

What are we to make of the fact that my fellow Helensburgh resident, and former Dumbarton, Celtic and Scotland midfielder, Murdo McLeod has publicly declared his support for the Conservatives in the Argyll and Bute constituency?

At first when I heard the report I thought he’d said it was time to “Give the Tories a kick in the baws” which seemed an eminently reasonable thing to say. Imagine my shock when I found out he’d actually said it was time to “Give the Tories a kick of the ball”

They do say that neurological function and decision making can be considerably impaired after heart surgery and Murdo of course is recovering from that very thing. Other than that he can make his own excuses!

(From STV – I have highlighted the quotes which prove that the voting age should be raised to 25)

The footballer took to the streets of Argyll and Bute with Scots Tory leader Annabel Goldie and local candidate Gary Mulvaney, to call on Scots to use their vote to give the Tories “a kick at the ball”.

He said: “Labour have had their chance over the last thirteen years and they’ve run out of puff and have no new ideas. The best thing we can do is to vote for the Conservatives to give Britain a fresh start.

“The only way of getting a new government is to vote for the Conservatives. The Lib Dems and the SNP can’t get Labour out of power. A vote for them will risk another five years of Labour and we don’t need that.

“Let’s give the Conservatives a go or we will be stuck with Labour. Let’s give Gary Mulvaney a go. He’s been a brilliant local councillor and he’s honest. He’s just what we need at Westminster.”

Mr MacLeod was joined by his daughter Marina, who turns 18 on Thursday and has pledged to give her first vote to the Tories.

Marina said: “I am a first time voter and voting on my birthday. I’ve found this election really exciting and want the Conservatives to win because they have the policies which will help people get jobs.

I am worried about the fact that so many young people are unemployed under Labour and I think the Conservatives will be better. Gary Mulvaney is also a great local candidate and it seems to me that if we want a Conservative Government then we need to have a local Conservative MP for Argyll and Bute.”



Independently Minded

The Scotland I grew up in had a fairly simple political landscape. In those days it wasn’t just TV that was in black and white. Politics, religion and class were strictly monochrome.

Were you one of us or one of them? (which had more than one meaning!)

The Conservative party vied with Labour to be the main political force in Scotland and the SNP and Liberals were peripheral sideshows.

Then came an upsurge in SNP support in the (October) 1974 general election which returned 11 MP’s to Westminster.

Labour panicked and realised that the old unionist v separatist rhetoric which had previously successfully rubbished the SNP would not do any more.

The party which had previously stood shoulder to shoulder with their partners in crime (the Tories) as a party of UK unity, suddenly introduced two new words into the political vocabulary – devolution and assembly.

The Scotland act of 1978 provided for an assembly in Edinburgh. The proposed assembly would have no tax raising powers and many saw it as an unnecessary additional tier of bureaucracy, a talking shop.

A referendum was held on March 1st 1979 in which on a 60% turnout, 51.6% voted yes and 48.4% voted no.

Hardly a ringing endorsement for devolution but a majority nonetheless and first past the post being the accepted democratic system in the United Kingdom meant that the majority carried the day, right?

Wrong. A provision in the act meant that 40% of the electorate and not just a majority of those who voted would have to vote yes for the devolution dream to become reality.

This effectively meant that even before the poll, the act was dead in the water (a phrase I’ll return to)

In the wake of the referendum result the SNP withdrew its support for the Scotland act, brought a motion of no confidence in the Callaghan government which the government lost by one vote thus giving us a general election and…………………..

Thatcher.

Despite the anger in Scotland over the reslult and fall out of the devolution referendum, Maggie and her government set their collective face against devolution of any kind.

She and they treated the Scots with utter contempt. The proud nation which as a constituent part of the UK had been a significant contributor to Britain’s pre-eminence in invention, literary, manufacturing and military fields amongst others were now to accept the role of mendicant serfs in Thatcher’s brave new Britain.

All serious support for the Conservatives in Scotland evaporated. This culminated in the UK general election of 1997 when not one Conservative MP was returned to Westminster from north of the border.

By this time (1997) of course the Scots were slavering for devolution and one of the very first pieces of legislation brought forward by the Blair government was for a Scottish Parliament (not an assembly).

Another referendum was called and again the turnout was 60%. There were two questions relating 1) to a yes/no for the establishment of a parliament (the result of which was 74.3% yes 25.7% no)
and 2) a yes/no for such a parliament to have tax varying powers (63.5% yes 37.5% no)

The parliament thus became a reality and sat for the first time in May 1999 with Labour and the Liberals forming a coalition executive under “Father of the Nation” ;-) First Minister Donald Dewar.

At the time Labour’s George Robertson said that the establishment of the parliament left the SNP and independence “dead in the water”.

I remember thinking about this remark.

Quite how setting up the machinery and infrastructure for independence when the only effective opposition (and therefore alternative government) in Scotland was the SNP, would leave independence dead in the water was a mystery to me.

And so to the present. At the SNP’s spring conference yesterday and Alex Salmond, now SNP’s leader and first minister of Scotland, unveiled a new slogan “We’ve got what it takes”.

I strongly believe that in my lifetime Scotland will be an independent country.

The supreme irony here is that it was the SNP’s motion of no confidence in 1979 which gave the UK Margaret Thatcher.

Her government’s subsequent treatment of the Scots undoubtedly finished the Conservative party in this country and paved the way for devolution and possible eventual independence.

Meanwhile, somewhere in a rather nice living room an elderly man sits. George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen KT GCMG FRSA FRSE PC (for it is he) mutters “Dead in the water I tell you” before once more drifting off to sleep.

Society – There Is Such a Thing After All!

Having upset all my Labour supporting friends in recent days and weeks, now its the Tories’ turn (Graeme, Fleet and maybe Richard) I’ve had a look at The Tory Blog and find that the most important thing on David Cameron’s agenda is to ‘repair our society’

Whilst it is heartening to note that the Conservatives now acknowledge the existence such a thing as society (One of Margaret Thatcher’s most notable quotes was that ‘there is no such thing as society’) have a wee look round the site and ask yourself if concern about society and the health service has the ring of truth.

I say no and if anyone is harbouring thoughts of voting for them, watch the Ian Wright video, or indeed the David Cameron one.

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