I got a Labour election leaflet through the door yesterday, it’s been popping through doors all over Scotland this week. It would appear that Jim Murphy’s Accounting Unit wants us to vote for them in May’s Westminster General Election in order to protect Scotland’s NHS. On the interwebbies there’s been a considerable amount of hoo and a great deal of ha about the identity of the nurse pictured on the leaflet, and whether she is in fact a nurse or is really a jobbing actress – or indeed whether she’s really an ordinary carer and Labour party activist who isn’t related to a former Lord Provost of Glasgow. Oh my God I’m a monstering cybernat.
Of course it could be that like Malkie Rifkind, who told us we’d be surprised at just how much free time he had from his full time job as an MP, the person in the leaflet was really working on the side as a highly paid advisor and is entitled to a standard of living commensurate with her status as an international statesperson. The truth is that it really doesn’t matter, just like it really doesn’t matter whether the other supposed member of the public pictured in the leaflet really is a mother with three weans or whether she’d never seen the kids before they were all hired by central casting and herded together for a photo shoot. Political parties are under no obligation to tell the truth in their election materials. They can use actors. They can tell you any auld guff that they like, and as long as it’s not racist or abusive or an exhortation to break the law, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Advertising standards do not apply to political material. Labour knows this, as they complained about the Tories’ infamous “Labour isn’t working” poster campaign in the 1979 General Election which showed a long dole queue – only it turned out that the people in the queue were actually Conservative party workers who’d taken off the pinstripes in order to pose as unemployed working class types.
Maybe the nurse isn’t really a nurse. Maybe she really is a jobbing actress who’s looking for that big break that will catapult her into stardom, in which case she’s received an inordinate amount of attention just with a wee photo shoot for a Labour leaflet. Just like the Patronising Better Together Lady. That would be a small lie. However it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that amongst Labour’s Scottish membership there is actually a nurse who shares the sentiments expressed in the leaflet and who would express them in a leaflet if it didn’t mean that she might lose her job – because unlike Malkie Rifkind full time NHS staff aren’t allowed to take on jobbing advisory roles willy-nilly. Much less are they allowed to pose in NHS uniforms and like Labour’s Jack Straw take on advisory jobs supporting and aiding dictators from Kazakhstan for a very fat fee.
Mind you, it’s getting less and less likely that Labour has any nurse members, as Labour’s real membership has been plummeting and is now widely believed to be less than that of the Greens. And given the behaviour of Jack Straw and his erstwhile boss Tony Blair it is entirely possible that Labour now has stronger and more friendly connections with dictators in former Soviet Central Asian republics than they do with ordinary working class people in Scotland. Statistically speaking it’s probable that Labour in Scotland has no members or supporters except Jim Murphy and his spinning staff and the news managers at Reporting Scotland. It is of course entirely coincidental that all this week Reporting Scotland has been banging on about the issues in Labour’s election leaflet.
More likely it is quite possible that the Labour party Accounting Unit in Scotland has a membership consisting entirely of Labour party elected representatives and their relatives. Jim Murphy regularly claims the party has a membership in Scotland of “about” 20,000. That would be “about” in the same sense that the distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh is “about” the same as the distance between the Earth and Pluto. It is when you compare both distances with the distance between Earth and a galaxy that’s 13 billion light years away. It’s all relative you see. So it’s not that Jim is a liar, he’s just a devotee of Albert Einstein. Honest. It will be on a Labour party leaflet soon. The other interesting thing about a galaxy that’s 13 billion light years away is that what we see now is actually what happened in that galaxy 13 billion years ago and we have no way of knowing what is happening there at this present moment, nor indeed whether it still even exists. So very much like the Labour party in Scotland then.
Anyway, there’s a far bigger lie lurking in the leaflet. Not so much lurking in it as hiding in full sight. And it’s a big lie that risks being overlooked in the shock horror of cybernats monstering a working mum who may or may not really be a nurse. This is monstering in the sense of “pointing out that the Labour party is lying”, of course. The big lie is the headline on the leaflet: “A plan to protect our NHS – 1000 more nurses, reduce cancer waiting times, £100m Frontline Fund targeting A&E”. There is no plan, and there can be no plan. It’s a big lie.
It makes no difference whether we elect one Labour MP in Scotland in May, or whether we elect 59. Health is a devolved matter, and how the NHS in Scotland is run is a matter for Holyrood, not Westminster. Labour MPs have no influence on how many nurses are employed by NHS Scotland, never mind the power to magic up 1000 more of them than whatever number has been promised by the SNP. Labour MPs can do nothing to reduce NHS waiting times, and neither can they provide a fund of a tenner – never mind £100 million – to target A&E waiting times.
But Labour is desperate for us to believe that its Scottish MPs can actually do something useful. In fact their sole purpose is to act as lobby fodder for the party. That doesn’t take up very much of their highly paid time, and so leaves plenty time left over for earning extra income from their second, third and fourth jobs. For all Ed Miliband’s sanctimonious hand wringing about ensuring that MPs only have one job, the job of representing their constituencies, the MP who made most in outside earnings over the past year was Ed’s old boss. Gordie Broon topped the list of MPs with extra earnings, accruing £1,300,000 in the past year in extra-curricular activities. But you won’t see that on a Labour party leaflet.
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