So it’s a final farewell to the poll tax. Well, I say “farewell”, when “consigned to the bin where it always belonged” is more appropriate. The Scottish Government has announced that local authorities can no longer chase up people for outstanding poll tax debts, debts which date back 25 years. It’s a wee ha ha get it up yese from a departing Alicsammin to the British Labour cooncillors who were rumoured to have been heard licking their lips as they relished the prospect of punishing the poor who had turned against them.
Labour cooncils are beelin, because they had decided to use the increased voter registration in order to penalise people who registered in order to vote in the referendum, despite the fact that everyone, their granny, their granny’s dug, and even their granny’s dug’s British Labour cooncillor, agrees that the poll tax was malign, unwanted, and unjust. It’s better for the party when people don’t bother to vote. British Labour understands this as contented aquiescence and not alienated despair. But now large numbers of people are once again engaging with politics, and this threatens to reveal just how hollow the party’s apparent dominance in Scottish Westminster seats really is.
Making the lives of the poorest even harder in order to punish them. It’s the typical small minded vindictiveness that we’ve come to know and love from the British Labour party as they complete their transition to a fully fledged right wing party, proponents of the belief that there can be no representation without taxation. They’ve become the party of net curtain twitchers, tutters, tskers, and the very worst small minded Presbyterian self-righteousness straight from the Victorian kailyaird. The British Labour party in Scotland has turned into the Sunday Post. It’s even got Daphne.
But that’s unfair. The Sunday Post had the graphic talents of that genius of ink, Dudley D Watkins. British Labour scrawls on the backs of fag packets. In lipstick, it appeals to women voters. Dudley D drew fantastic imagescapes of the Scottish imagination. Labour draws the blank look of Johann and the bankbook of Blair.
David O’Neill, president of Cosla, was raging about the poll tax soor grapes ban. There are fewer things more amusing to watch than a pursed lip in search of a pout. David ranted that it was “the oddest decision ever to come out of the Scottish government”. Odder than Jock McConnell’s decision to wear that kilt, odder than Jock’s decision to allow Westminster to keep its paws on £1.5 billion because he couldn’t think what to spend it on, odder even than North Ayrshire cooncil’s decision to sign contracts to spend almost £430 million in PPP payments for new schools that cost £88 million to build. David O’Neill, leader of North Ayrshire cooncil, has a peculiar definition of oddness, but then he’s a British Labour timeserver.
David moaned that no one had consulted him about it before the decision was announced. Because it’s only right and proper in the odd world of British Labour that when you want to slap down uppity wee gits who are on a bigger power trip than a car park attendant during a bus strike, you tell them about it beforehand in order to allow them to get their excuses in first so they can appear pre-pouted in the TV studio.
Naturally, this doesn’t hold if the car park attendant uses his or her awesome power to ban Audis, which is merely an act of social and moral responsibility. This is because Audi is German for “I have a very small penis and a need to over-compensate.”
The news about Labour’s shock and dismay at being refused the right to chase after ancient debts with the zeal of a witchfinder general came on the same day that pay day loan company Wonga announced that it was writing off £220 million in outstanding debts owed by thousands of clients who never had any realistic chance of repaying, and who never should have been given loans in the first place. Wonga has promised to change its business model and check clients’ ability to pay before authorising a loan, and has issued an apology for the distress its lending behaviour has caused. British Labour in Scotland has less of a social conscience than a pay day loan company. That’s jaw dropping, but admittedly only in a universe without Johann Lamont or Jim Murphy in it.
Our universe is far odder than that. We live in a universe where the puppets in the Wonga advert can lecture Labour from the moral high ground. And these are the people who claim to be the political heirs of Mary Barbour and the Glasgow rent strikes. Labour no longer believes in peacefully challenging authority in order to defeat an injustice. They believe they are the authority, and for a very long time they went unchallenged. That’s changed now.
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve come to the distressing realisation that I loathe the British Labour party in Scotland even more than I despise the Tories, and it’s not because I’ve got any more right wing. It used to be common knowledge, by which is usually meant something that everyone believes because no one has ever bothered to contradict it, that people get more conservative as they get older. Apparently it’s something that occurs naturally to humans once they discover that they have a use for a nasal hair trimmer. However, this hasn’t happened to hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland, many of whom do have suspiciously hairy nostrils now that I come to think of it.
The Labour party hasn’t aged at all well. The British Labour party has suffered an explosive outburst of nasal hair which has propelled it rightwards more quickly than a missile over Baghdad. It’s the self-serving sneeze from those whose nasal hair is rooted in a nose in the trough.
During the referendum campaign independence supporters were lectured by certain supporters of the Union for our supposed fixation on the “narcissism of small differences”. Insisting that Scotland is a different political space to the rest of the UK is an example of such narcissism, they told us. But there is no greater example of the narcissism of small differences than is to be found in the British Labour party and its attempts to portray itself as something different from the Conservatives. The party has wholeheartedly adopted privatisations, PPP schemes, foreign wars, benefits caps, and austerity cuts. And now we have discovered that a pay day loan company has more of a conscience about the effects of aggressive debt pursuit on the poorest in society. I wonder what Mary Barbour would have said.