Election campaign: And they are off!

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by Peter Thomson

And they are off! Is it just me or does it appear the Unionist parties are in increasing disarray with the Holyrood elections just around the corner?

The other weekend we had a round of spring party meetings (and whatever) and yet the real story appears to be an increasing divergence of opinion over Calman Minus within and amongst the Unionist parties themselves.

The Scottish Tories have laid down a challenge to Cameron.  The Torygraph sponsored meeting on Calman turned into a rout of the proposed Amendment Bill, lead by the ultra Thatcherite Lord Forsyth.  He described the bill as a “perfect storm of ill considered taxation, lending powers and business opportunities” and “the midwife of [Scottish] independence”.

The meeting room was set up to hold a maximum of 80 people yet it was estimated nearly 200 crammed in to hear the official Tory for Holyrood position ripped to bits even though this is the position supported by the boy Cameron himself.  The room voted by 3:1 in agreement with Forsyth that the bill be withdrawn.  Not even Alan Cochrane of the Torygraph could turn it into a ‘good for Cameron’ story, no matter how much he tried.  At Holyrood Tory Margaret Mitchell also raised the issue in an amendment demanding a referendum on the tax raising issues in the bill.  

Then there has been the disappearance through dubious dealings or big jessy huffs of three candidates from the Conservatives MSP list.  To lose one Ms Goldie is unfortunate, to lose three smacks of incompetence (with apologies to Oscar Wilde).

So suddenly it is clear that there is a deep schism within the Tory party in Scotland between Cameron loyalists and more traditional Scottish Tories.  Mundell is invisible and it would appear that Moore (the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary) is being set up as a patsy and fall guy.

Osborne’s blatant North Sea tax grab – “It’s our oil,” he cried – is being seen for what it is; a misuse of Scotland’s current most important resource, a further propping up of Labour’s fiscal disaster keeping the City of London from complete meltdown by mortgaging this resource to secure foreign exchange deals.  I am sure that there must be many Scottish Tories who felt upset by the Energy Minister’s patronising address to them.  

The news from Portugal does not make good reading for Osborne either and as more informed economists on this on line news service have described, the UK is teetering on the brink of being a bigger financial basket case than Greece.

If and when Scotland leaves the Union, where does that leave the Conservative rump UK apart from in a big black financial hole called the City of London?  A recent Nobel Laureate, Prof Paul Krugman  of Harvard and the LSE in economics, said in an article in the New York times that, in effect, the Conservatives’ austerity package is basket case economics which will only increase loss of tax income to the Treasury and increase the national deficit.  

He’s not alone.  Nassim Nicolas Taleb, of Black Swan book fame, is saying much the same.  Taleb agues that simply retreading failed economic policies will unsurprisingly lead to more economic failure while the City of London are once again trading in the very CDOs that got us all in this mess in the first place as they leverage for more million pound bonuses.

At least the fragrant Annabelle proved her detractors wrong at the STV debate.  She understands the Scots people and while you might not like her policies she is a couthy spinster and is not backward at coming forward.

Over at the Lib Dems similar cracks are now appearing as their Scottish MPs and MSPs wake up to the reality of this coalition with the Conservatives, the impact it is having on their voting figures and their futures as political ‘rent boys’ on the Holyrood scene as the Scots wake up to who actually are the ‘Tartan Tories’.  Their vote share is likely to tumble even further.  Lib Dem backwoods persons are getting cheesed off and suffering from the ‘blues’ as they go from door to door.  First they had to try and get over a disastrous coalition with North British Labour in Scotland, and now this.

Lib Dem (Scottish Branch) is also leaking membership.  Worse, if the recent ICM poll is at all right, the Lib Dem vote is leaking in favour of the SNP, the Unionists’ chief enemy, in a 3:1 split.  Mr Gordon has jumped ship in Aberdeen as he clearly sees troubles ahead with Osborne’s North Sea tax grab amongst his constituents and local sponsors.   Then there is Newsnet’s crystal ball gazing that on present vote share will see them lose between three and four constituencies come the 5th May.

The worst stramash is growing in the Labour camp.  At Westminster the Labour 40 are starting to get cold feet over Calman as Cameron’s twist on Brown and Wendy Alexander’s big plan to kill off the SNP once and for all is backfiring big style.  The chickens are coming home to roost in a way they will find it hard to dodge.  It is also becoming increasingly clear to the people of Scotland that in political terms when Scotland needs protection, Labour MPs have all the function of the vermiform appendix.   Well to be truthful that sums up all Scottish MPs of any party at Westminster as Scottish MPs are outnumbered 3:1 by the rest.

Then there is the walking disaster that is Iain Gray (aka Elmer Fudd).  What is there left to say about the North British Labour section talking head that those who watched his STV performance and have tweeted or commented have not already said?  Wait, I remember one of the senior ‘Labour Sources’ in Scotland called him ‘Gutless’.  His own voters do not want him as First Minister, they prefer Eck by a surprising majority.  Brown’s girls in Scotland have all done a runner to warm their butts on the green benches at Westminster, his lads are being given the ermine and the misfit has had another hissy fit and thrown her toys out the pram.  Poor Wendy, all that work with Gordon over Calman and what is her reward?  Self inflicted gardening leave to spend more time with her children – who are at school all day.

Meanwhile, bubbling away like a giant septic tank gone wrong are the Tammany Hall antics at the far end of George Square in Glasgow.  Currently there is the £42,000 worth of April Glasgow Council Newsletters which  are going to have to be shred after a legal challenge from the SNP.  Comments by Labour leader Gordon Matheson’s were ruled as blatantly party political, which is against council standing orders and in breach of the Electoral Rules.  William O’Rourke, the Labour councillor sacked for inappropriate comments relating to a distressing sexual assault on a child, is clearly is not taking his pay cut at all well.  Enough of his fellow Labour backwoods dinosaurs are worried about their sinecures to back him in his fight.  They claim O’Rourke should not have been sacked because Matheson did not follow correct procedure or Labour standing orders and is therefore unfair and un-comradely.  Absolutely nothing to do with losing an extra £16k from their back pocket.  

Sadly the dinosaurs clearly have not heard that their ALEO (‘arm’s length organisation’) sinecures are for the chop.  Audit Scotland has said they have to stop forthwith.  It is not compatible with being a councillor they say.  So what will happen once the wheels of financial patronage fall off, what will North British Labour in Glasgow now have left to keep their ducks in line?  Or is the George Square septic tank about to fail in a spectacular manner just as the Holyrood election hots up?

This leaves Patrick Harvey and his Greens looking, well a bit green round the gills as they slavishly suck up to the North British Section of the Labour Party.  North British Labour is not only at war with itself and the rest of Scotland but it has signed up to build new nuclear reactors in Scotland and park more past-their-sell-by-date nuclear subs at Rosyth … that really makes ‘Green’ sense Patrick.

Something is going to give.  The Unionist parties are in an unholy mess due to their slavishness to Westminster.  Their main print media organs in Scotland are starting to get cold feet with headlines attacking London’s grasping hand.  Heresy just a few days ago.

The big problem for the Unionist parties remains.  Just what, if any, are their policies for improving the lot of their fellow Scots, other than more forelock touching to Westminster?