A couple of weeks ago Labour peer George Foulkes wrote to Nicola Sturgeon in his capacity as chair of the Labour Movement for Europe to complain that despite the stated intention of the SNP to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU, the SNP are still really, really bad. As an unelected, indeed unelectable politician and member of the House of Lords, George trades on the fancy names and titles given to him by his cronies for services to greasy pole climbing. The proper title for the erstwhile MP for Keir Hardie’s old constituency of Cumnock is Lord Auld Socialists Are Birling In Their Graves, and his Native American name is Dances With Polis.
It has been Labour party policy to abolish the House of Lords since Keir Hardie first stood as MP for Cumnock. But George has plenty of good socialist pals in the Lords, stalwarts of progressive politics like George Robertson who nowadays rejoices in the titles Lord Killing Nationalism Stone Dead or Lord But We Don’t Have A Culture, and the Labour party’s very own interior designer Lord Sets Fire To Curtains who thought that the decor of an Edinburgh hotel could be vastly improved with a dash of arson. The upper house is stuffed full undemocratic appointees with power but no accountability in a system that would have made even General Franco blush with its naked contempt for the electorate.
The existence of the House of Lords makes the UK the only country in the world where you are rewarded for services to democracy by being allowed a free pass on democratic accountability. It’s a bit like rewarding brain surgeons with a free lobotomy, and when you look at the denizens of the Lords you might well believe that their decision making skills could only be improved by lopping off their frontal lobes.
The Lords is the totem of the unreformability of Westminster. Labour came to power in 1997 with a massive majority on a promise to reform the Lords and introduce proportional representation. However after democrats like Jack Straw and John Reid counselled that a PR system would mean the Labour party would likely lose the humungous majoritie it achieved on a mere 35% of the vote, the idea was filed away in a deep dark basement along with Jack’s common decency, John’s empathy, Gordie Broon’s moral compass, and Tony Blair’s honesty.
Replacing the unelected House of Lords with an elected chamber threatened to put the hems on the untrammelled exercise of power of Blair and his pals, so the Tombstone Toothy one decided to replace the hereditary principle in the Lords with the only thing worse. An entire chamber of hand picked appointees who owe their positions to patronage. This week, Labour’s ghosts of elections past were joined by their Tory colleagues like Lord Forsyth of Zombie in picking over the bones of the Scotland Bill like vultures, seeking a morsel that they hope the SNP can choke on. This is how politics works in the UK, the politically undead feed on the living. It’s not about you and me, it’s not about the electorate, it’s not about what’s good for the country. It’s about short term political advantage for the ruling parties, always has been, always will be.
It doesn’t matter what the issue is, it doesn’t even matter whether Labour and the SNP are on the same side for once, where Scotland is concerned the only important consideration for the walnut sized brained diplodocuses of the British establishment is getting a few digs in at the SNP.
This week’s issue for SNP digging is the decision of the SNP to allow local councils who so choose to raise council tax on properties in the highest bands. It’s the SNP’s response to Labour complaints about the squeeze on local authority budgets threatening education. The money raised on increased council tax on the most expensive properties is to be ring fenced for education. It’s not exactly the most thrilling political proposal, but then it’s not designed to be.
Previous attempts to abolish the council tax were mired for months in mud slinging, and no party which hopes to gain an absolute majority under a PR system designed to make it as difficult as possible for a party to gain an absolute majority is going to go into an election with a policy designed to piss off large segments of the voting public. You can just imagine the headline in the Unionist press if the Scottish Government had decided to replace Council Tax with, say, a land value tax. It would be the SNP’s garden tax and an all out assault on your herbaceous border. Yoonatic journos would pen articles warning that the SNP’s attack on rose beds was another example of anti-English discrimination. Even JK Rowling’s hedge wouldn’t be safe from those evil Nats with their taxation secateurs.
Despite the fact that it was a Tory controlled council which wanted to raise council tax a few weeks ago, the Tories immediately denounced the SNP attack on Middle Scotland, which apparently is like Middle Earth but with John Swinney instead of orcs. Although we could all agree that Davie Mundell makes a convincing hobbit. Meanwhile Labour, having complained for months that the SNP’s council tax freeze meant that Labour local authorities had their fiscal hands tied behind their backs and demanding an end to the freeze, all of a sudden discovered that the council tax is a terribly unfair taxation system.
There are plenty of reasons why the council tax is unfair. There are plenty of reasons for arguing that it should be abolished and replaced with a more progressive tax like land value tax. But Scotland’s Unionist opposition parties are not the people to make those arguments with any degree of plausibility. That’s the big problem in Scottish politics these days, not the dominance of the SNP, but the fact that the Unionist parties are incapable of mounting any sort of opposition. If Scotland is a one party state, it has become so due to Unionist inadequacy. Just look at George Foulkes, a discredited has been who never was in the first place, dancing on a full head of spin and attacking the Scottish government instead of UKIP and the Tories. That’s all the evidence anyone needs.
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