Labour’s number 2s

This article should have been published a few hours ago, but when I heard the news that Gordon Matheson thought he could be a great deputy leader for the Labour party in Scotland I had to go and change my underwear because I was laughing so much.

The Labour leadership contest in Scotland has only just started, and it’s already descended into farce. Concerned that the resignation of Jim Murphy had left Scotland’s satirists and twitter parodyists without a suitably balloon like target for their ridicule, the always reliable Labour party has stepped up to the plate and provided us with the zeppelin ego of Gordon Matheson. Just as Jeremy Corbyn is a no hoper on the UK leadership ticket as a service to Labour to disguise the fact that it is now a right wing party, the leader of Glesca Cooncil has likewise announced his intention to stand as a no hoper on the deputy leader ticket as a service to Labour, because this will disguise the fact that the other candidates are deeply unappealing and implausibly ridiculous buffoons as well.

Gordie’s announcement is not, and I repeat not, remotely connected with any new Labour rule that the deputy leader gets prime billing in the list for the Scottish elections next year and will be virtually guaranteed an MSP seat. How could you possibly imagine that the leader of Glesca Cooncil could ever contemplate being self-serving.

Well I say announced, in fact Gordie shouted it excitedly like a demented garden gnome on speed. After all this is a man who almost wet himself with excitement on witnessing John Barrowman’s performance at the opening of the Commonwealth Games and forgot that microphones had been invented. These were games which, we were told, were going to bring lasting benefits to the people of the East End of Glasgow, and which gave us a swimming pool and a park. Only now we’re told that the park in Dalmarnock is to be sold off to property developers – the only people who have gained lasting cash based benefits, as indeed they have been throughout Labour’s decades in power in Glasgow.

Glesca Labour likes to sell things off. They’ve rezoned public parks allowing them to rent them out for corporate events, and now they’re hell bent on removing the steps on Buchanan Street, one of the few public spaces in the city centre, because what the city centre really needs is more retail units.

Gordie’s candidacy brings a number of advantages. The other big advantage of course is that unlike Labour MSPs who will struggle to stay in post in less than a year’s time, Gordie is a cooncillor and will still have a job all the way through to 2017. This also proves that, contrary to popular belief, a coffin can indeed have more than one last nail. Gordie is the B&Q of last nails, supplying a huge selection of last nails to suit all of Labour’s coffin requirements. He can bury Labour more deeply than the Scottish media buried the true story of his predecessor’s fall from grace.

Gordie took over leadership of Glesca Cooncil after its previous leader self-destructed in a cocaine based frenzy in ways never properly investigated by Scotland’s media. But then not properly investigating the goings on in Glesca Cooncil is a Scottish media tradition as hoary as seven days hard with Francis Gay. Back in the 1961, the Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni canned his crap and sold it as art, he got the idea from Glesca Cooncil, which has been canning crap and selling it to the Glesca public for far longer. Now Gordie has taken the concept to its logical conclusion and wants to be Labour’s number 2s. There are those of us who’d suggest that he already has been for quite a long time.

Gordie says he has a track record in success – but since he successfully body swerved Labour’s cooncil manifesto commitment to introduce free city wide wi-fi, no one can Google it to find out so we’re expected just to take his word for it. Gordie’s wi-fi track record probably disappeared down the non existent tunnels of the East End Subway extension that the party promised when they were touting for the Commonwealth Games.

It should be pointed out, in the interests of fairness, that Glesca Cooncil has been promising an extension of the Subway into the East End since the 1940s. It took Labour almost 100 years from the foundation of the party to 1997 to fulfil its promise of a Scottish Parliament, so it’s unfair to expect the Subway extension any time before 2040.

Amongst Gordie’s other achievements is the competition to revamp George Square. The design that the other judges favoured lost out because Gordie didn’t like it, so he cancelled the competition at a cost to the public which ran into the tens of thousands. Apparently the favourite design wasn’t suitable for citrus based celebrations and didn’t provide enough landing space for zeppelin sized egos floating above lawn ornament sized bodies.

It’s just as well that the out-going leader of Labour in Scotland has said that Scottish politics have a “post-truth” atmosphere. Labour ought to know all about that, as they took truth and blew it into a thousand pieces with just about every blood stained Iraqi press release that ever issued from the offices of John McTernan and Alistair Campbell. Gordon Matheson has been an enthusiastic exponent of the Labour art of removing truth from public statements and leaving only truthiness. It’s his ability to fabricate dissembling out of collected bits and pieces of rubbish like an over-egged womble that’s his main, his only, selling point.

For the SNP and the Greens, who are rapidly gaining credibility as the replacement for Labour as the main opposition party in Scotland, a Labour party led by Kezia Dugdale with Gordon Matheson as her deputy must be all their Christmasses at once.

See that. I got through an entire 1000 word article about how the SNP and the Greens are the only people who are going to be thankful that Gordon Matheson wants to be the deputy leader of the Labour Party in Scotland – and I didn’t even mention dogging and car parks.

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Bye bye Jim

Bye bye Jim Murphy, he shall coyote no more and shall be sadly missed by a couple of dozen parody accounts on Twitter. Jim has finally given up the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland, or to be more accurate, it was clawed out of the cold dead hands of his extinct career by the sheer and utter ignominy of the deep dark chasm into which he’s thrown the party. It’s a defeat from which Labour may never recover, and Jim has secured himself a small footnote in the annals of Scottish political history as the man who made Michael Forsyth look like he was competent.

Forward thinking, dignified and statesmanlike, analytic in his searing political insights, and generous and magnanimous in spirit – these are just a few of the descriptions that no one would ever use with reference to Jim. He won’t be missed by the punters, although he will be missed by the SNP. His resignation is the first major setback that Nicola Sturgeon has faced. Jim’s most notable, and indeed only, achievement was being the greatest recruiting tool that the SNP have ever known.

Jim’s a political magician, he made the Labour party disappear. He clawed his way into the leadership after briefing against and undermining Johann Lamont in private, combined with pious and sanctimonious statements in public condemning Labour infighting. It was the aftermath of the referendum and Labour was staring disaster in the face. But Jim had stood on an Irn Bru crate and bravely faced down an egg, and he was confident that he could turn around the party’s fortunes. True to his word Jim did exactly that, he turned the party round. Unfortunately he turned them round so that they were staring at an apocalypse and an extinction level event. Asteroids hurtling to the ground at 60,000 mph have been less destructive to the survival prospects of dinosaurs, and Jim managed an almost total wipe out of Labour’s expensaurus wrecks. It really would be fitting if, in tribute to Jim’s service to dinosaur extinction, an airless barren rock orbiting in the cold dark lonely depths of space where no one ever visits and no life is to be found was to be named after him. After all, that’s a pretty accurate description of Labour’s Scottish headquarters now that Jim has worked his magic.

Jim’s resignation speech was notable mainly for its digs at Alicsammin. Jim slated the former First Minister for not shutting up and going away and crawling under a rock, but of course there isn’t enough space there what with all the former Labour MPs scurrying out of the light. And of course there is also the consideration that whereas Alicsammin is universally hailed as one of the most competent and capable politicians in the UK, most Labour MPs from Scotland were never capable of joined up sentences, or indeed joined up thinking, to begin with.

That’s what I will miss most about Jim. Alicsammin is an arrogant politician, but he’s an arrogant politician who has got a great deal to be arrogant about. Jim matched him in arrogance but there was nothing behind it except Jim’s estimation of himself and the vacuous bubble of media hype. That’s the mismatch that makes Jim God’s gift to satire. The media was convinced that Jim was going to put the fear of Gord into the SNP, and the howls of derisory laughter from independence supporters were really an attempt to hide how afraid we were of Jim’s galactic abilities. But in fact they were just howls of derisory laughter.

Ostensibly the resignation speech was a speech about the way forward for the Labour party. After losing the party all but one of its seats in what was formerly regarded as its homeland and impregnable stronghold, for some bizarre reason Labour thinks that the guy who threw the party off a cliff is the best person to develop a strategy for them to move forward. It’s a bit like trusting a financial advisor who bet all your money on a blind three legged horse to restore your fortunes because this time round a drunk journalist in the pub has told him about a three legged horse with one eye. But then you really shouldn’t believe anything you read in the Daily Mail, believing what the Daily Mail says has been Labour’s downfall.

Jim does have a bright idea. He’s used the past month well and scribbled down a few ideas that a GCSE politics student could have come up with on the bus into school after spending the night out on the town instead of doing their homework. And appropriately enough a GCSE is also Jim’s highest educational qualification.

Now, because he believes the Daily Mail, he’s spotted a one-eyed three legged horse with its snout firmly ensconced in the trough. The bright idea is for Labour to open up the party list for Holyrood MSPs so the MPs who lost their seats in May can get back on the gravy train again. Because what Labour really needs right now is a bunch of discredited politicians that the voters kicked out of office just a few weeks ago. Jim managed to screw up the pitiful remnants of the Labour party, and he’s determined to ensure that it continues along the same miserable path.

He’s set his face against Labour in Scotland becoming a Scottish Labour party, ensuring that it will continue to ride on the coat tails of a UK party that is drifting ever rightwards in search of votes in leafy constituencies in Toryshire. But then Jim always did approve of Labour’s drift to the right, his great mistake was to imagine that he could take the rest of us with him.

It’s really very simple what Labour’s plan ought to be in Scotland. They should study very carefully what Jim has done. They should look upon his tenure in office and examine it in detail. They should list each of his actions and policy announcements. And then they should do the exact opposite.

Bye bye Jim. You won’t be missed.

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Nous ne vivons pas au Québec

Scotland isn’t Quebec. We don’t speak French, we think poutine is the homophobic president of Russia, and Celine Dion is not a national hero. And it’s because we’re not Quebec that Scottish independence is inevitable whereas Quebecois independence is far less certain. This is about the only observation that Gordie Broon got right in his article in the Guardian on Friday, in which he blamed the Tories for the impending demise of the United Kingdom. True to form, Gordie spectacularly failed to recognise his own role in bringing about the end of the Union, but we’ll get to that later.

Canada has very good reasons for wanting Quebec to remain a part of Canada. Without Quebec the future of Canada is gravely threatened. Without Quebec, Canada would be divided into two geographically distinct regions 1000 miles apart, and all they’d have to distinguish themselves from their southern neighbours in the USA would be Mounties and Dan Ackroyd.

Since all they’d have would be the less animated Blues Brother, the chances are that one or other of Canada’s bits would then decide they might as well apply to become the 51st state, assuming Puerto Rico doesn’t beat them to it. This simple geographic truth gives Ottawa an existential reason to want to make sure that Quebec stays Canadian. Existential, see, that’s all Jean Paul Satre-ish, and he was French too. So it’s all tres appropriate. Quebec is all that stops Canada from sitting morosely in a café with a croissant and a Gaulois and debating the meaning of existence.

This doesn’t hold true with Scotland and the UK. Should Scotland leave the UK, there is of course no UK anymore, seeing as how the UK was formed by the union of the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England and its associated bits. Of course the rest of the UK might very well decide that they were still going to be the UK and no one in Scotland would really bat much of an eyelid. However due to the continuing confusion between the terms England and Britain, the loss of Scotland would not make the UK sit morosely in a café, or even a chip shop.

The point is that England, Wales and Northern Ireland remain England, Wales and Northern Ireland with or without Scotland. The independence of Scotland does not make it likely that Kent might apply to become a part of France. Although they should, if for no other reason than it would really piss off Nigel Farage.

Scottish independence might be a blow to the pride of Westminster, and the loss of Scottish resources a blow to the UK Treasury, but the continuance of Westminster and its Treasury are not threatened in the same way.

All this means that the stakes are far higher for the rest of Canada than they are for the rest of the UK. The Tories can afford to play fast and loose with the Union, and their voters will tolerate it, in a way that isn’t politically possible in Canada. Canada has to make accommodations to Quebec because it needs Quebec in order for there still to be a Canada. The UK doesn’t have to make the same accommodations to Scotland, and you only have to look at the actions of the Unionist parties over the past thirty years to see that they’ve given the least amount of devolution possible. And they’ve given it grudgingly, with immense ill will, and hedged about with caveats, booby traps and restrictions. The Unionist parties have never viewed devolution for Scotland as something that’s worthwhile, as something that is a response to the desire of the electorate of Scotland. They’ve only ever seen it as a political tool for defeating the SNP.

And they’re still doing it. Even though the voters of Scotland have dumped a bucket of ice cold SNP water over their heads, the Unionist parties have still not woken up. They’re still playing the party politics game, they’re still viewing devolution as a tool to use to defeat the SNP and not as an answer to the legitimate demands of the voters of Scotland. We’ve told them we want devo max, but they’re still not listening.

And that’s the big blind spot in Gordie’s rant that the Tories are risking the Union. Gordie has been equally guilty in Union risking. If he’d really been so concerned about the future of the UK you’d think that once he was no longer burdened with the demands of high office on his time and he returned to the back benches he might have made it his mission. But he didn’t. He couldn’t even be bothered to turn up. You’d think he might just have done something about it when he was Prime Minister, or when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he didn’t. He was too interested in plotting and smearing his way into the top job to worry about what he was going to do once he got there and was quite happy to impose a form of devolution that was designed to provide Labour with a Parliament it could still be in power in even if the Tories returned to power in Westminster. That was Labour’s thinking in 1997, and now Gordie is upset because it’s bit Labour on the bum.

Now that Gordie is no longer in office and no longer has to turn up to anything, he wants everyone else to turn up to a convention so everyone else can do what Gordie should have done twenty years ago, and devise a lasting settlement for the Union. He even thinks the SNP should be invited, so that’s nice. But it’s not going to happen, because the SNP have nothing to gain from helping Labour devise a constitutional settlement to keep the Union, the Lib Dems don’t exist any more, Labour is a headless chicken and the Tories still don’t need to listen. It’s too little, too late, parce que nous ne vivons pas au Québec.

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OBR – Osborne’s basketcase reasons

I’m still struggling with the premise of the Unionist argument against Full Fiscal Autonomy. When the UK runs a deficit, this is normal, but if Scotland were to do it it would be the end of civilisation as we know it and fiscalmageddon. We’d be so poor that we’d have to sleep in a drawer alongside Jim Murphy, and you’d all be sorry then Scottish nationalist types. You wouldn’t even be able to afford the bill for the counselling you’d require because the NHS won’t cover it. Funny how no one asks whether the UK and its permadecifit can afford to be fiscally autonomous. Apparently that’s different – just because – right. Now shut up and eat your wheatos.

Clearly, like the country I come from, I’m too stupid to understand why we’re too poor and too wee. Not like the OBR, which is supposed to stand for the Office for Budget Responsibility but where Scotland is concerned really stands for Osborne’s Basketcase Reasons. Osborne’s Basketcases can always give Reasons why Scotland is too wee too poor and too stupid.

Entirely coincidentally and totally independently, the OBR has produced some more figures showing how basketcasish Scotland is on the very day that the SNP table an amendment to the Scotland Bill to give Scotland Full Fiscal Autonomy. See all that oil in the North Sea? Well now it’s worth three buttons, two five Euro cent coins from the back of the sofa, and an ocean of sneers from the UK media. You’ll have had your North Sea bonanza then, and it’s all been spent on tax cuts for rich people, transport infrastructure for London, and editorials in the Tory press telling Scotland it ought to be grateful. We should be feeling suitably chastised by now.

In what was described as a significant blow against Scotland’s hopes for Full Fiscal Autonomy, the OBR has revised its forecast for oil taxation revenues from £37 billion to a mere £2 billion, downgrading their previous predicition by a factor of 17.5. Which if you ask me sounds rather more like a significant blow against the prediction credibility of the OBR.

Whether Scotland can afford FFA depends in no small part on what Scotland will be spending its money on. Let’s leave aside the fact that the Unionist parties appear to believe that under FFA Scotland would still be paying a share of England only projects like the high speed railway line between London and Birmingham, London Crossrail, and the lovely new London sewer. Let’s leave aside that the financial arguments are predicated on a fiscally autonomous Scotland maintaining Tory spending plans. Let’s leave aside the unseemly pleasure they take from the supposed fact that they have left the country that they have governed for decades a helpless basketcase which can’t pay it’s own way in the world. Labour and the Tories ruled Scotland for decades, they gloat about how poor Scotland is, and then they wonder why people don’t want to vote for them. Now that’s the Unionist version of too wee too poor stupid, a special kind of small minded poverty of spirit stupid.

But that’s not what gets me. Even that heady hypocrisy is not what gets my goat and makes me hurl a shoe at the telly in a howl of helplessness. What really gets me is the Groundhog Day of it all, the never ending circularity of pointless mediocrity. The grinding round and down of the Westminster millstone on Scottish expectations. We are constantly told that we have an unsustainable deficit and Scotland’s is greater and less sustainable than most. And having produced this state of affairs the Unionists cry that this is precisely the reason why things should forever remain unchanged and the people who lumbered us with this unsustainable deficit should keep their jobs and keep producing the unsustainability. Producing unsustainability is apparently the only thing that the Unionist parties can reliably sustain.

The Unionist parties offer no way out of this cycle of despair and circle of hell. They have no small ideas, never mind big ones. There are no dreams, no plans, no proposals, not even a whiff of a suggestion. There is nothing in their box of miserabilist tricks which proposes a means of growing Scotland’s economy out of the dependency which they tell us they have created for us. There are no answers from them about our ageing population, about what to do when the oil runs out, or how to maintain our public services without the handouts they insist we need from London’s financial sector.

We’re too wee too poor and too stupid and are doomed to remain so for ever more. The Unionist parties need Scotland to remain in this lamentable state so that they can score rhetorical points off the SNP. It’s the politics of the infant school. On Thursday in the Scottish Parliament, the Labour party insisted that Scotland needs the price of oil to be US$200 million per barrel, or some such ludicrous figure. But then this is the party that told us that if they won the election they’d give Scotland 1000 more nurses than the SNP would, irrespective of how many the SNP paid for. So numeracy is clearly not their strong point.

There shouldn’t be any argument about this. Scotland has already voted in favour of full fiscal autonomy, or devo max or whatever it’s called these days. The electorate of Scotland put their crosses next to the SNP candidate. And by a peculiar quirk of fate, it’s the SNP which is the party that campaigned on a manifesto promising Scotland what the Unionist parties promised they’d give us in the frantic final days of the independence referendum.

Actually it’s not really a peculiar quirk of fate, it’s yet another consequence of the Unionist parties being lying manipulative gits who’ll promise absolutely anything and then renege on it. This is not unconnected with the reason why they got slaughtered in the election in Scotland. If they lie repeatedly about what they’re going to do in office, they can hardly complain that people in Scotland are increasingly disinclined to believe their dire warnings of full fiscal doom.

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The people vs. Carmichael

Congratulations are due to the Orkney people who have started a fundraiser to get the ruinously expensive funds together to take Aliestair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Oh-Are-You-Still-Here-Then, to court and to challenge his election. The fundraiser has now reached its target of £60,000, but it’s still possible that legal costs could exceed that amount and there are still two weeks to run on the fundraising period. So if you can, dip into your pocket and give a wee bit. We don’t want the four Orkney petitioners to risk their homes and financial security for bravely challenging the supposed right of our political masters to lie, cheat and smear and to treat us like voting sheep they can take for granted. They’re not just doing this in order to hold their own MP to account, they’re doing it to hold all MPs to account. And Westminster MPs have a long and inglorious track record in unaccountability.

Aliestair has now submitted his legal defence for the case being started against him by a group of pissed off constituents. The shameless MP for Still-Hasn’t-Resigned is going for the Andy Coulson defence – Yes I lied, but it was a lie about something else so nyah nyah nyah. In legal parlance this is known as the defensa colli orichalci or the brass neck defence. It’s a taunting defence, a defence that’s not really a defence, more a statement that you can do what you like and are beyond mere trifles like telling the truth to your electorate. So you can see why it’s the kind of defence that a lying politician would be drawn to like a Labour MP to a John Lewis list.

The politicians who write our laws have in their wisdom decided not to make it an offence for a politician to lie to the people who elect them. Isn’t that convenient? You could almost believe that they’d set things up that way on purpose. But they wouldn’t do that would they? Instead what they’ve done is to frame the law in such a way that only certain types of lie under certain circumstances are a breach of electoral law. The challenge for the Orkney Four’s legal team will be to show that Aliestair’s lie falls into these narrowly defined grounds.

The former Scotland Secretary’s legal defence is a bit like saying that you are not guilty of a charge of bank robbery because you were out of your tree on heroin and out dogging in the bushes in the park and cheating on your partner at the time, and so were unavailable to drive the getaway car even if you were capable of doing so. This might get you off the charge you’re facing, but it’s not going to do a whole lot to portray you as a pillar of moral rectitude and a stalwart of community standards. But then Aliestair isn’t a pillar of moral rectitude, he’s a Lib Dem MP who’s only managed to cling on as an MP because he smeared and lied.

Aliestair has previously stated in his defence that he doesn’t think he should be judged on the lie and the smear, he should be judged on his record as a constituency MP. He wants us all to draw a discreet veil over his career as a cabinet minister on account of it being an unmitigated disaster. Before getting the Scotland Secretary gig, Aliestair was best known for his pomposity and the bicycle pump up his backside which inflated his ego. He briefed against Michael Moore, the previous Scotland Secretary, and angled for Mikey’s job claiming that a bruiser was needed to take on the SNP, and then he was slaughtered by Nicola Sturgeon in the famous debate where he had to beg Rona Dougall to intervene and protect him. And that was the highlight of his ministerial career. That was what he was going to be remembered for before now, when he’ll be remembered for the lie and the smear.

He’s toxic now. During the recent debate in the Commons on the Scotland Bill he did actually make an intervention. No one responded to it, no one commented on it. Instead he was avoided like a plague carrier. Even those who defended him don’t want to be associated with him. Normally you’d feel sad at the poor little party balloon, wafting all alone in the corner. But no one feels sorry for Aliestair, he’s brought it all on himself.

The other plank in the strategy to keep Aliestair in his job is for him to keep out of the public eye in the hope that the little people, the wee electoral sheep like you and me, will get fed up and wander off. Being evil cybernats we have short attention spans and will soon go and do something else, like kicking bins over or sending nasty tweets to JK Rowling. After a month or so we’ll have forgotten entirely who Aliestair is, and he can return to the pompous obscurity which defined his parliamentary career before he humiliated himself with Rona Dougall.

But we’re not going to go away. This is not about vindictiveness, this is not the unjustified mob pursuit of a poor blameless soul. This is about holding the powerful to account, about ensuring that our political masters adhere to the same standards of honesty and integrity that they expect of the rest of us. If a person cannot do their job without lying, cheating, and smearing, then they cannot do their job at all. And when their job entails setting the rules and determining the codes of conduct for everyone else, then there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the kind of underhand and duplicitous behaviour evinced by certain politicians.

We have a moral obligation to hold them to account. Because if our legislators have no morals, neither do our laws or our society. That’s not the kind of country we should aspire to live in, and it’s not the kind of country we will tolerate. That’s why what the Orkney Four are doing on all our behalf is so important, and why they deserve our wholehearted support.

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Anent the Scotland Bill an Torie tumshies

Ah thocht, fur a wee chynge, ah’d screive a wee airticle in Scots. Scots an the Gaelic is baith aiquallie Scots leids, an baith hae the exack same richt til the title naciounal leid. Scotland is unique amangst the kintras o Europe kis we hae twa leids o wur ain. Sae ah decidit tae yuise yae o thaim. Aye, we maun be inclusive an apen tae aa at comes tae byde in Scotland an maks this kintra thair hame – kis that is richt an proper. But that disnae mean we maun forget we hae leids an a culture at belangs tae Scotland an aa, else we forget whit maks Scotland Scotland an we hae naethin tae share or tae learn tae the fowk at comes here tae mak Scotland thair hame. Sae here we gang …

Yestreen in the Hous o Commons in Westminster they debatit the new Scotland Bill. Or raither, they debatit the new Scotland Bill in atweish the Torie tumshies at wis speirin important questiouns anent devolucioun fur Derby or the lamentacious state o street lichts in Letchfield. An thaim at did mynd at they were ther tae debate a Scots maitter thocht that meant myndin thair honourable freins at the SNP wis verra, gey, awfie, bad. They hope that if they repeat it aften enou than fowk in Scotland wull trew thaim, akis that’s warkit sae weill fur thaim aa up tae nou.

Mynd, the Shadae Scotland Secretarie – he’s cryed shadae akis he’s got nae substance – Ian Murray the honourable member fur Red Morningside wis nae better. He wis anither at thocht at he wis ther tae talk aboot hoo bad the SNP is. The debate gied the anerlie Labour MP fae Scotland the chaunce tae explein Labour’s new Scots policie, that is “SNP BAD!!” wi capital letters and twa exclamacioun mairks – akis juist the yae wisnae enou. He wis helped bi monie Torie intervenciouns that gaed alang the lines o “Can my honourable friend clarify whether the SNP is bad, very bad, really bad, or pure dead minging?”

An the Labour – Torie tag team birled roun an roun in its glorious irrelevance an anither wee tait o Scots faith in the Westminster seistem deed. They juist cannae help thairsels.

We’r telt bi the Westminster govrenment at the new Scotland Bill wull mak Scotland the maist pouerfu devolved kintra in the warld. An this wad be true, bit anerlie gin maist devolved is defined as – “Whitivver Westminster wants tae gie us. Nou sit doun an eat yer devosupermax wheetos.” Kis ther monie ither kintras an regiouns o the warld at haes monie mair pouers nor whit Scotland gets fae this Bill. In feck, ther mair pouerfu municipalities.

The Basque Kintra haes fou fiscal autonomie aareddies. The Basque govrenment collecks aa thair ain taxes an sends the pairt due tae Madrid fur tae pey fur non-devolved pouers tae the central govrenment. An alang wi Catalunya the Basques haes control o broadcastin. Catalunya haes its ain 24 hour dedicatit news channel, Scotland gets Reporting Scotland an Jackie Bird.

An it’s no juist the Basque Kintra an Catalunya at haes thair ain state television, ower in the faur Eist o Europe in Moldova, the puirest kintra in the hale o the continent, ther a wee penkle o territorie cryed Gagauzia at’s weer nor Fife. They’re yae o the smaaest naciouns in Europe, ther 140,000 ethnic Gagauz, a fowk at’s Turkish bi leid an Orthodox Christian bi religioun. The Moldovan constitucioun kens the richt tae autonomie o the Gagauz, an gies thaim wald o thair ain launds, economie, schuils, taxacioun, an broadcastin an aa. They hae thair ain TV channel. Nou mibbies it’s no gey guid. Ah widnae ken seein as hou Ah cannae speak Gagauz, tho ther maun be monie at wid say at it cannae be muckle warse nor the airheidit muppits on STV Glesca. But the pynt is at the 140,000 fowk at maks the Gagauz nacioun haes thair ain state broadcaster – somethin at the British govrenment winna allou tae the five million fowk in Scotland.

The Gagauz disnae hae yle, they dinnae hae renewable energie resources, they dinnae hae the win at Scotland haes. But the pynt is that control ower broadcastin has naethin tae dae wi the siller, an ivvriething tae dae wi wha hauds poleitickal control. A wee tait o laund in the puirest kintra o Europe – an it’s mair devolved nor Scotland. In the een o Westminster, Scots cannae be lippent tae tell ilka ither the news. We’ll mibbies tell truiths at Westminster disnae want us tae hear.

It’s no juist broadcastin whaur Westminster shaws it winna lippen Scotland. In monie o the airticles o the new Scotland Bill, the new devolved pouers kin anerlie be yuised efter speirin permissioun fae wee Fluffie Mundell, the saft toy Paddington Bear o poleiticks. A man at wis washt up on the steps o Westminster wi a label tied tae his duffel coat sayin “Haw gaunie sumbdie luik efter this Torie.” Sae they gied him a joab as Scotland Secretarie, an nou the wee lambie thinks he’s important – gumptious, aye. It maun be infectious efter sharin a buroo wi Alistair Carmichael.

Wee Fluffie swerrs blin at ther nae veto in the Scotland Bill. Ther is but. The Bill says at the Scotland Secretarie maun gie permissioun onless ther guid raison no tae, but it’s left tae the British govrenment tae decern whit’s raisonable an whit’s no. That gies thaim a hail muckle elastick inch they kin streitch tae a mile.

Sae the truith aboot this bill is that Westminster disae see hit as a wey o giein mair pouer tae Scotland, they see it as a wey o pittin the hems on the SNP. The Scotland Bill, it’s no aboot youse, it’s no aboot me. It’s aboot Westminster haudin the reins o pouer ticht an no lattin thaim drap.

penkle – scrap, small piece of something
wald – control
lippen – to trust, have faith in
gumptious – self-important
decern – determine, decree
win – wealth, wages, profit
trew – believe

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A wee ginger holiday

I badly need a break, desperately, urgently. Not that I want to make this blog into the Labour party in Scotland – you know, a pity party – but I really need to get away for a while to recharge my mental, emotional and physical batteries. I’ve not had a holiday for over eight years, when my late partner Andy and I went to Granada for a week. After that his health deteriorated and his mobility was poor, so it was the last holiday we had.

The past year has been hectic. Andy passed away. There was the wee matter of a referendum. Then I moved house, took up blogging and writing as a full time job, developed a case of psoriasis that would make the Singing Detective go “ouch”, and we had the minor matter of a political landslide. So it’s fair to say that I’ve had a busy time of it over the past 12 months or so.

But now it’s time to stop for a wee breather, to go somewhere different and spend some time relaxing. So on 18 June I am off to Boston for 8 days. That’s Boston Massachusetts, not Boston Lincolnshire. I last visited when I was 18 and had a great time, but I’ve not been back for over 30 years. It will be interesting to see how it’s changed. I’m flying out on 18 June, and will be away for 8 days – although I’ll need a day or so to recover from the jet lag once I return home.

The dug is going to stay with friends in sunny Glenboig. They’ll spoil him rotten and let him sleep on the sofa, and take him for walks in the fields. So he’ll be well looked after.

Macart – who has written some great guest pieces for the blog – will be minding the shop while I am away. He’ll write a piece or two himself when I’m away, but he won’t be writing everyday. So if you’ve ever fancied writing a guest post for Wee Ginger Dug – this is your opportunity. You can write about anything that takes your fancy (just as long as it won’t get me sued), and up to a maximum of 2000 words. You can write an essay or a poem, it’s up to you.

Send your blog entries to me at weegingerdug[at] (remember to replace [at] by @) by Wednesday 17th June, and I’ll pass them on to Macart. He’ll have the final say about what gets published.

Meanwhile – if there are any regular readers of this blog in the Boston area, drop me a line and perhaps we can arrange to meet up while I’m visiting your fair city.

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Sailing on the hole in the heart

There are truths that are true because they actually happened. And there are truths that are true just because everyone knows them to be true. The UK media specialises in the creation of the latter. The latest true truth that’s only true because everyone knows it to be true is that Charles Kennedy was hounded into his grave by Scottish nationalists. But everyone isn’t everyone. Everyone isn’t you or me, it’s everyone with power, everyone with influence, everyone with a position to lose. They say it must be so, and so it becomes the truth.

So now we have another true truth that never happened, the latest in a litany of the lies that comprise the story telling that passes for news. Like the truth that Nicola Sturgeon wanted the Tories to win so it doesn’t matter what the French ambassador said. Like the truth that Dennis Skinner was driven from his perch on the Commons bench. Like the truth that Neil Hay tweeted that No voters were Quislings. Like the truth that everyone lies so the lies of Alistair must be excused. Like the truth that the media isn’t biased. Everyone with power and influence says it must be so.

There’s the truth that actually happened. Charles Kennedy died too young. He was a decent and talented man with whom many of us had political differences of opinion, but he knew how to disagree without being disagreeable. He knew how to be human and humane. We need more of that in public life. He apparently died due to the cumulative effects on his body of years of the illness of alcoholism. It’s an illness of the psyche which slowly destroys the body. It’s a blight that has visited too many Scottish families. Civic Scotland mourns his passing. His passing is a loss which diminishes us all. These are truths which actually happened.

It’s a strange irony of the debate on Scotland’s future is that it’s the side which accuses independence supporters of peddling a myth which lives and breathes myths and survives by the constant manufacture of realities that have never happened. Hardly a day passes without a new myth being made and a new lie being laid. Now we’re told that it’s the fault of independence supporters that Charles Kennedy died tragically young. Those nationalists, the pursed lips cry false tears, they hounded him out of office and they hounded him out of life.

A cartoonist is accused for doing what every other cartoonist has done, but it’s only the Scottish independence supporting one who gets any blame. Political opponents do what political opponents have always done, but its only the SNP ones who are supposed to feel shame.

The article writers of the Daily Mail peddle their hateful stories. They’re gleefully taken up by the Guardian’s Michael White who hurls them as weapons at online supporters of Scottish independence. Michael doesn’t know how to disagree agreeably and then he bewails the disagreeability that he provokes.

But this latest attempt to create a true truth that never really happened is particularly low. By traducing the dead it is especially revolting in its contempt for life and the living. Things that actually happen are what makes up life, but now that they have manufactured a self-serving myth around the sad death of a troubled man, our media boys have shown that they are contemptuous of life and poisoners of grief.

My partner died nine months ago and I know the pain of loss. I know what it feels like to lose a loved one. And right now my heart with its hole filled with the tears of bereavement flies out to the family of Charles Kennedy. A good man who died too young, and now his loved ones have set sail on the weeping way, the voyage of loss on a hole in the heart that swells like the ocean. He’s gone forever and his loss will forever be felt. Right now they are struggling to come to terms with that, struggling to learn to accept it as a truth that has really happened.

You strive to make sense of the senseless, to make meaning from mourning. You dive inner depths in search of pearls of wisdom, dredging sand grains of comfort to smooth out the sharp pain. And eventually you just get used to it, it becomes a part of who you are as you sail on, and one day you discover that once again there are atolls of contentment and islands of joy. Then when concerned friends ask how you’re doing, you can reply “Ach ah’m jist fine.” The hole in your heart has been filled with the tears shed in quiet private places, and you sail on.

It’s a hard voyage. A stormy voyage. A voyage without end across the tears that fill the hole in your heart. It’s a hard enough journey without having to listen to voices that tell you who the others are that you must blame for your loss. Not because those others are responsible but because it suits the voices for you to blame the othered. Bereavement is a hard enough journey without being led astray by the mythical maps with their monsters.

It was the fault of Scottish nationalists, they hiss. Don’t fill the hole in the heart with your tears, they demand of the bereaved ones that Charles Kennedy has left behind, fill it with our bile and venom. Become our weapon, and become lost in the ocean of grief and drown in our hatred. We’re going to tell you who to blame and who to hate.

The ugly sirens of the media demand a sacrifice on the rocks, pulling the bereaved off course, pulling them into a never ending night. Making what is already a lonely voyage into a voyage of alienation. Because you can’t make your way out of the darkness of grief when you get stuck on the anger of a misplaced blame. You can’t navigate by that which is misplaced.

And that is why this latest lie angers and upsets me more than any of the others.

Michael White and the Daily Mail and its miserable propagandists, you should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.

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Anna does a soubry

Scotland’s facing a cut of £178 million to its budget, the Labour party are still acting like pettit lipped weans and are refusing to support any SNP anti-austerity amendments, but what certain sections of the media want to talk about is that Alicsammin made a sexist remark. During a particularly tetchy exchange in the Commons over Scottish membership of the Commons Health Committee, Tory minister for small business Anna Soubry was acting like a complete and utter dickhead and giving a masterclass in over the top histrionics, refusing to acknowledge that Scotland has a case for representation on the committee. This resulted in an exasperated Alicsammin snapping at her – “Behave yourself, woman.”

The condemnatory headlines were predictable, and they weren’t condemning Anna Soubry for acting like a Tory dickhead, even though she was indeed acting like a Tory dickhead and has a long previous history of acting like a Tory dickhead. In fact, if you look up the word soubry in a dictionary of political slang you’ll find that it is defined as “over the top Tory dickheadery”. As in – that No Borders video during the independence referendum was a bit of a soubry. The infamous incident on Andrew Marr’s telly show during the election campaign, when Soubry was being interviewed alongside Alicsammin and slid uncomfortably along the sofa like he was going to infect her with ebola was yet another instance of Anna doing a soubry.

In her exchange with Alicsammin in the Commons, Anna was abusing her position of power as a government minister in order to interrupt and demean. She was doing a soubry. She was in fact abusing her power as a member of a UK government which has little support in Scotland and using it as a means of goading a Scottish MP and tauting him, reminding him of Scotland’s subservient position in the Union. Scotland is the powerless one in the soubry equation.

Anna does her soubries as a means of unsettling her opponents and causing them to make mistakes. Unfortunately Alicsammin fell for it, and in his perfectly justifiable irritation with Anna doing a soubry he was not as careful in his use of language as he should have been. Irrespective of the intent behind it or the circumstances which led to it, when a man snaps at a woman, “Behave yourself woman” – it sounds sexist.

But explaining and investigating the intent and circumstances which led to the remark is precisely what the UK media is not going to do. SNPbad, SNP always bad. And now instead of investigating why a UK government minister thinks it’s perfectly fine to abuse her position of power as a means of putting Scotland back in the shortbread tin, we are instead being invited to sympathise with her as a victim of everyday sexism. No one in the mainstream media has bothered to explain why it’s vital that Scotland has representation on the Health Committee – even though health is a devolved matter – because the setting of the health budget in England has a direct effect on the health budget for Scotland. Instead all we get is Alicsammin sexist and Scottish meddling in English matters.

The episode is a timely warning to the 56 SNP MPs that the UK media is never ever going to give them the benefit of any doubt. Some in the Scottish independence camp have tried to argue that Alicsammin’s remark and his intentions were not sexist, but they’re missing the point. The point is that the remark can easily be interpreted as sexist, and when something is capable of being interpreted in a way which is negative for the SNP, and especially Alicsammin, that’s exactly what the UK media and establishment is going to do. SNPbad, SNP always bad. In this case, Alicsammin gave them an easy target.

The media boys who cried wolf have tried to broaden their attack – wondering aloud why Alicsammin’s remark hasn’t been roundly condemned by pro-independence supporters. If the media had responded with equal vigour during the last Parliament to the far worse incidence of sexist bullying directed against a female SNP MP, when Ian Davidson threatened Elidh Whiteford, then perhaps they might now be justified in their attempt to occupy the moral high ground. But we don’t have a media which did that, we have a media which goes out of its way to invent entirely spurious attacks on the SNP. There was the entirely invented seatgate affair, there were the allegations that the SNP candidate for Edinburgh South called all No voters quislings when all he did was to post a link to a satirical BBC Scotlandshire article about Unionist politicians. But these lies are still being repeated as though they were true. SNP supporters have been subjected to a barrage of reports about SNPbad, and the media has long since used up its quota of SNP condemned.

In the cosmic scheme of everyday sexism, what Alicsammin said was hardly a ravenous patriarchal wolf who was going to ravage the village. It was more a wee yappy Yorkie biting the ankles of a privileged and powerful woman. Yet now the focus is on what Alicsammin said, and not on the soubry which provoked it. In the UK media everyday sexism trumps everyday Tory privilege and Scotophobia everyday, at least when it can be used to attack the SNP.

That’s a real and serious issue. By indulging itself in a long and increasingly ridiculous series of unfounded attacks upon the SNP, the mainstream media has now destroyed its own credibility. Should at some time there arise a genuine and serious reason for criticising the SNP and investigating their behaviour, thousands of otherwise perfectly reasonable and fair minded people are not going to listen and are not going to be interested in the media reports. The media has lied, exaggerated, and misled too often. We have a mainstream media that’s unfit for purpose.

Meanwhile what gets lost is something that’s far more offensive than Alicsammin and the soubry. Scotland’s budget being slashed by £178 million and our schools and hospitals being put at risk by a multimillionaire. What’s more offensive is that the Labour party is still bent on acting like a spoiled child who’s had its ball taken away from it instead of growing some balls and collaborating actively with the 56 SNP MPs to challenge Tory austerity plans. The real offence is lost in the media fluff, vulnerable people in marginalised communities suffer, and the mainstream media continues to get a free pass and doesn’t do its job. That offends me far more than anything Alicsammin said to Anna Soubry.

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The orangey bit in the middle

There’s an OrangeFest going on today, that will be Rebekka Wade celebrating her ex-boyfriend’s perjury trial collapsing. However when I first heard that there was to be an OrangeFest in George Square in June to celebrate an old Glasgow tradition, I thought “oh good, that sounds fun.” Just imagine, the entire square being taken over to celebrate getting a fake tan before spending a fortnight on the beach in Benidorm. The Square would be full of tanning booths and women with big hair and false eyelashes, and gay men of a certain age clutching copies of celebrity gossip magazines and bitching about Caitlyn Jenner and photo-shopping, but apparently I was mistaken.

It’s not going to be that sort of OrangeFest, the sort that could be fun for all the family, even though it’s bad for your skin and you’d be likely to end up with some seriously over the top nail varnish. This one is just bad on a whole different level.

This isn’t even an OrangeFest about fruit, it’s about fruitcakes. This Saturday, thanks to our supposedly right-on, progressive and forward looking Labour cooncil, the great city of Glasgow turns into a Jaffa Cake. It’s going to have an orangey bit in the middle.

It’s only fair, last year George Square was occupied by exponents of inclusive, migrant friendly, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist civic nationalism, so now it’s the turn of the other kind of nationalism – the bitter, reactionary and exclusionary variety. And only one of them comes with Union flags. Somewhere deep within the twisted recesses of the collective mind of Glesca Cooncil, they think this is going to help the Unionist cause.

The independence movement has the Twitter hashtag #SexySocialism, and now thanks to Glesca Cooncil the Unionists have #SexySectarianism. The Unionists are forever complaining that the referendum has left Scotland divided and bitter, and now they’re going to turn George Square over to sectarian bigots in order to prove it. This couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the Orange Order supporting Better Together last year now could it? Hmmm?

The city faithers and mithers have given the Ludges permission to hold an OrangeFest in George Square because the last time that Unionists took over the Square it turned out so well, didn’t it. Well it did according to the UK media, who reported the assaults and violence carried out by Union flag waving extremists as “disturbances involving independence supporters”. But now the mass gathering of reactionaries has a cuddly new brand image which makes it all terribly progressive and 21st century. OrangeFest sounds like a family friendly citrus based sweet and sickly skooshy drink, the kind that makes your teeth fall out. So it’s quite an appropriate name really, as a well known side effect of Orange Walks is people losing teeth and feeling sickened.

For those people who take fitba seriously, the event was obviously organised to coincide with the return of the NewGers, who’re just the same as the OldGers, to the premier league. So that’s worked out well hasn’t it.

Apart from fans of the completely new fitba team that isn’t a new fitba team at all, oh no, except for tax purposes, the OrangeFest will be attended by the same kind of people who tend to shout things like there’s too many mosques. Yet tell them that you don’t like your city centre being taken over by bigots and they’ll be demanding that religious beliefs have to be respected. At least, their own religious beliefs should be respected, their track record on respecting other people’s isn’t too great. So not so much People Make Glasgow as Bigots Make Glasgow then.

The event has been organised in an attempt to improve the “outreach” of the Orange Order, because they’re just not intimidating and excluding as many people as they used to. Everyone will be welcome to attend and be educated, and Scotland’s Catholics will be welcome to come and be educated about anti-Catholicism. There’s going to be a catwalk display of haut-couture sashes and bowler hats, and workshops on the most stylishly appropriate footwear for when you’re up to your knees in fenian blood. Fashion lovers will also appreciate the styling tips for knuckle hair. For the kiddies there will be games of pin the blame on the Taig, and hunt the Cafflick.

Membership of the Orange Order has been in decline for decades. Their family friendly brand of bigotry, hatred, social exclusion and ill-fitting crimplene uniforms just don’t have the same appeal that they once did. Now they’re trying to claim that they should be allowed to use George Square because they’re an “ethnic minority”. The Orange Order have as little understanding of what it means to be an ethnic minority, or indeed any sort of oppressed minority, as they do of the malign effects of sectarianism.

They’re the cause of the oppression not the victims of it. They’re the problem not the solution. But then it’s most frequently the perpetrators who claim to be the victims. We saw that over the independence campaign when the Unionists tried to claim they were the victims of trollish independence supporters while being blind and deaf to the torrent of hatred and venom pouring out their own mouths. We saw it during the campaign about gay marriage when it’s those who didn’t want other people to have equal civil rights who were the ones complaining that they were being oppressed.

As an independence supporting gay man who is of Irish heritage and who was brought up a Catholic, I’m sure I’ll be welcomed at the OrangeFest with open arms. Thank you Glesca cooncil for ensuring that this Saturday I won’t be coming anywhere near the centre of my own city. There are many thousands of others who feel that we will not be welcome or safe in the centre of our own city on Saturday.

This is the last nail in the coffin of the Labour party in Glasgow, a last Orange hurrah for a party that was founded to oppose and condemn discrimination and sectarianism. Labour has wrapped itself in the Union flag, and has strangled itself with it.

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