This week's editor
Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.
Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.
Mandela: the global icon
Last weeks announcement by the MoD that Scotland would now be the location for the entire nuclear submarine fleet couldn't have come at a worse time. The Scottish people don't want it, the military doesn't want it, now even the Tories don't want it! So why as they face meltdown in the polls are Labour, pursuing a policy opposed by four out of five of the Scottish electorate?
This week the MoD announced: ‘Ministry of Defence documents suggest that the seven Trafalgar class submarines currently based in Devon will be relocated to Faslane on the Gare Loch near Glasgow by 2015′. But earlier in the same week another general, Sir Hugh Beach, the former deputy commander-in-chief of UK land forces, summed up the UK's Trident missile system succinctly: "It's no bloody use. Let's not waste money on it." (letter to The Times on 16 January 2009)
Another of the top brass, Lord Bramall, has also recently stated: "Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism. Our independent deterrent has become virtually irrelevant except in the context of domestic politics."
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): What's a more motivating force, fear or hope? Across the pond Obama has inspired a generation, re-inspired another and put 9 million people on the electoral register. Here a halving of the Labour Partys majority has been represented as a historic victory. Here it was politics as usual, and bitter negative politics at that. Labour have successfuly played on peoples fears of economic collapse. But can Britain be held together by fear? Where is a credible positive agenda emerging from London? It's not going to be the Olympics or the sight of a UK football team emerging at Hampden comprising 11 Englishmen.
There is no doubt that Labour ran a very successful campaign, but that's not why they won. The SNP ran a great campaign but chose a candidate that made them the incumbent (Peter Grant is the Head of the SNP Council), but that's not why they lost.
There are three reasons why Labour won.
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): Last week's lost cause is this week's cause celebre. Mr Bean - virtually laughed out of office two weeks ago - is this week's giant of fiscal rectitude bestriding the world stage like a colossus of economic management. Inconvenient truths like the role New Labour played in the deregulation of goods and services, the 'liberation' of the Bank of England or support for the policy of basing your economy on spiralling housing prices, are swept aside in the glib wave of back-slapping that is sweeping the political commentariat.
The media is fickle, not feral.
Gleefully Jim Murphy the new Scottish Secretary mocks the SNP with reference to the 'arc of insolvency', a reference to the 'arc of prosperity' that the SNP have used to describe Iceland, Ireland and Norway. The problem with Labour's new found chutzpah is that they are treading on thin ice. The markets are faltering, the terrain unpredictable. Just as the SNP's original triumvirate of Ireland, Iceland and Norway was a too-convenient set, it equally fails as an example of why Scotland must be held to the Union. Norway is doing fine in the financial crisis, Iceland is not. The scale and impact of crisis has little or nothing to do with the size and constitutional make-up of the country involved.
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): Yesterday the date for the Glenrothes by-election was (finally) announced.As last week there was near unanimous approval amongst the commentariat that Brown was doomed, now, after a wee snog on stage he's (apparently) safe as houses.
Commentators huddle together in packs, and the swing is not contained to Westminster groupies.
BBC Scotland's own Brian Taylor writes: 'The prospect that defeat in Glenrothes might finish off the PM seems to have receded. Not because anything has changed in Glenrothes but because things have changed inside Labour. Few expect a challenge to Mr Brown, given the economic climate, whatever political triggers are made available by the electorate."
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia):The collapse of the financial markets, industries and associated ‘businesses’ presents us with a great opportunity as a world society. As the veil is lifted revealing the reality behind the fictional economy on which our lives are dependent, a number of compelling options emerge.
The first, and most appealing is to continue as if nothing has happened, perhaps offering some minor regulatory tweaks, some admonitions to a few naughty individuals and ‘move on’. This is the systemic response. This is business as usual, and is the most likely, though the least credible outcome. Almost everyone at a UK level, Tory-Labour, Liberal, minus a few squawks here and there is coalescing around this brutally inadequate consensus.
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): John MacDougall, the Labour MP for Glenrothes, in Fife, died today after a long illness. His death will trigger a by-election in a constituency that borders that of Gordon Brown. He won Glenrothes with a majority of 10,664 at the last General Election in 2005. They are saying that the by-election may not be until October.
Just as well, perhaps, as a YouGov poll out today shows Labour in meltdown in Scotland. Its survey on voting intentions for Westminster puts the SNP on 36% (double its support at the last election) whilst backing for Labour has collapsed to 29% (down 11%). The Tories are up 2% to 18% while the Liberals are on 13%.
This would mean Labour losing 19 MPs and retaining just 22 seats, while the SNP would move up from 6 to 26. The poll suggests Alistair Darling and Des Browne would both lose their places in the Commons.
It looks even worse for Labour when this is translated into a Holyrood context. Applied to the Scottish Parliament the You Gov results mean SNP would win 58 of Scotland's 73 Holyrood first-past-the-post seats. (SNP - 58 constituency seats (plus 37) Labour - 8 constituency seats (minus 29) LibDems - 6 constituency seats (minus 5) Tories - 1 constituency seat (minus 3))
On the basis of these figures all three of the candidates for the Labour leadership, Iain Gray (East Lothian), Andy Kerr (East Kilbride) and Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley), would lose to the SNP.
John MacDougall had served Fife for more than 20 years, after being elected to Fife Regional Council in 1982. He later became the leader of the council and also served as the director of Glenrothes Development Corporation and Fife Enterprise before being elected to the House of Commons. The last by-election fought in Fife, in February 2006, saw the Liberal Democrats seize power in a strong Labour seat. It could prove an omen.
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): One of the problems for Labour in Scotland is that daily civic society experiences some cultural debate about our future. This week those compiling the next Scottish census proposed that people should be asked to choose between Scottish or British in the section on ethnic background. On Wednesday it was announced that, in a cost cutting measure, all Scottish rolling stock would be re-branded in a saltire livery whatever their parent company, to stop expensive makeovers.