Is That It? (2)

I was a bit worried about what Labour might do. I worried before the question was set because it was clear they could adopt Devo Max as a principle, “insist” on its inclusion as a third option, meanwhile start working on the detail to suit themselves and over the last couple of years run away with the polling and benefit from the oxygen of anticipated referendum victory and even a chance of winning at Holyrood again. They blew it.

Today was the chance to retrieve that loss by astounding us all with the scale of their ambition and rewriting the No campaign by shoving a pie in the Yes face. They blew it. Again.

Labour is pathologically inept. It is now the living embodiment of Johann…conservative, parochial, backward, deferential and unqualified for its role in public life. Not only is the level of their offering restricted, it makes the fundamental campaign error of being incoherent and therefore too complicated to sell on the doorstep. Is income tax devolved or not? How much? At the top end or at the bottom? Or both? Can the upper level go up AND down? Do other rates have to rebalance? How much will it raise and what will it be spent on?

A policy you can’t describe is a failure. What does it say to Labour voters whose incomes have fallen, or to those whose benefits have been cut or who can’t afford to eat? We’re fiddling around with some parts of income tax and we’re getting an extra £1000 a year from the 100 Scots earning more than £100,000…so that’s the Celtic squad taken care of.

Welfare is what Labour voters would liked to see in the hands of the Scots but that has been cherry-picked to include the bedroom tax which as been effectively neutralised anyway. Leaving almost the full range of benefits in the hands of the Tories is a vote-loser. Corporation tax would have been a logical adjustment – it’s already mainstream as an idea in Northern Ireland – but Labour’s timidity in  differentiating Scotland gives the game away…they are resolutely British first. The same applied to air passenger duty. It’s a no-brainer for developing tourism, one of our biggest industries. So it would create an anomaly in the UK but aren’t anachronisms what the Union is all about? This is low level stuff in terms of the UK economy and in terms of the debate – it’s like control of air guns – but still they flunked it. This is a package defined by what it doesn’t offer rather than what it does. Not only does this miss the target, it wont even be part of a united Unionist package before the referendum, adding to the sense of confusion and lack of commitment they offer. I am a relieved man today.

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Agents of State

Wasn’t Caroline Flint at the same game as the Tories? Strange how Labour have become Conservative clones in their approach to a social progressive democratic movement to return power into the hands of the people. Vote against Us and we’ll retaliate, was the message. Forget the Union and hundreds of years of friendship.  If you mess with us, we’ll buy energy from the French instead even if it’s dearer…so there. The French are England’s traditional enemies but when it comes to saving the British state, they’ll work with anyone. We drop to the bottom of the pile.

I do wonder how some of these self-appointed bullies would react to the same treatment. After all wasn’t Caroline the woman who stood up to Gordon Brown and refused a job or something they see as important in Westminster? She wanted more women in Cabinet, I think. She clearly didn’t understand Gordon. So she’s sparky and defiant when she has to be. Perhaps she should ask herself what would her reaction be if the Scots announced we wouldn’t be exporting any more of our energy to England and they could suffer blackouts because we didn’t care about them since they introduced the bedroom tax, or some other reason. She’d shrug and say OK, would she. I’ll fall into line Scotland. Sorry, should have realised I was upsetting you. Won’t happen again.

Or would the same lady say: Fuck you. Don’t tell me what to do. Who do you think you are, threatening me? Probably adding for fun: You cheeky jocks.

What we are dealing with in all these incidents including Bob Dudley or Bo Didley as I now call him, is an attitude problem. It has removed the film of doubt over the overweening sense of importance and, worse, the superiority of the British state and its self-appointed agents in the media. They are Us and we are Them. Thus Matt Frei on Channel Four demanding to know from Swinney why “WE” should pay to bail Scotland…not the rUK, but “US”. Thus Flint saying it is “OUR” money, “OUR” subsidy to you. “WE” can remove it and give to someone else. “WE” control you. “WE” hold power and there is no distinction between Tory and Labour in their perceived overlord position, Miliband, Balls and Flint doing a Flashman just like Osborne, Hague and May. Everyone as self-unaware as each other, talking down to those they pretend are their oldest friends in the greatest Union in history.

Again her threat was gobbled up by the media, a quick Up Yours, jock and a two-sentence reply from the Scottish government tagged on the end where nobody would bother reading. I think that’s why my former colleague Haley got into bother trying to deal with Fergus Ewing on GMS. He sounded like he was strapped to a wind turbine receiving jolts of electricity every second. But what he did brilliantly was to point out that this isn’t a quick one-two of a story, it’s a complicated tale of interconnectedness and shared markets and needs and Britain’s green credentials. Forgive me but this was what the programme needed, an explainer about how the power generation and distribution in the UK works and how it is likely to work after a Yes vote. You play that and then you tell the audience what Flint is saying and get Ewing to respond. Ewing’s point is simple…that we have a power line supplying our neighbours with energy they can’t as yet generate themselves and because it comes from renewable sources, it counts towards their carbon reduction targets. It’s a double whammy for them and a win for us. Flint may not be happy at the thought of independence but her duty will be to provide the best value services for the people of rUK and to say otherwise is vindictive, small-minded nonsense. Instead of the media setting up a sane informed debate, we get flint threatening and Ewing patiently having to say why she’s wrong. Poor Haley couldn’t get a word in. The programme should have pre-recorded a package explaining the complexities of the energy arrangement and what the implications of the Flint thesis were. And why is Labour happy to subsidise French and Chinese nuclear companies for 35 years at inflated prices when they would pull the plug on a green deal with their friends in the North? Be afraid, Scotland…be very afraid.

I am increasingly convinced that this hectoring, patronising word slurry is failing and is counter-productive. The trouble is…they can’t stop. It’s who they are and it’s what they really think of us.