A continuing series charting the Scottish National Party, and its very overrated leader, Nicola Sturgeon’s inevitable downward trajectory (part one here):
11. Three high up Nats advise Nicola to calm down
Yes, in a party where free thinking is actually verboten, the Glorious Leader has had to endure public dissent. Kenny MacAskill, the man who freed the convicted murderer and terrorist Megrahi (though in reality just a handy frontman for the unholy cabal of Blair, Salmond and Jack Straw) in a hilariously lugubrious and pompous speech, and Alex Neil, the amiable ex Cabinet Secretary for Health, last seen being chased around a hospital car park by an irate ex-follower, have suggested that Nicola buttons it going on and on about a second independence referendum. As sentient people now realise, she only does this to placate the zoomer element – she doesn’t actually want a referendum – but boy is it irritating. So far as anyone knows, MacAskill and Neil have yet to be stealthily ‘disappeared’. The third Nat, Bruce Crawford is quite experienced and quite normal, he’s now the finance committee chairman and is actually doing what he’s meant to do by insisting that the draft Scottish budget be adequately scrutinised. Admittedly his stern critique was addressed to apparatchik Derek Mackay, rather than Sturgeon herself, but the point was well made. Such appalling adherence to basic democratic instincts is currently a thought crime of the most heinous sort.
12. The SNP redefine the word ‘crowd’
It’s a long way from the heady days of Salmond encouraging unruly marches on the Glasgow BBC HQ to the latest ‘crowd’ gathered in George Square, Glasgow, to…er…go on and on about a second independence referendum. As STV news primly observed “around 200 people attended the event throughout the day”. Which is probably about the same as my outpatient clinic area, on any one day.
13. The polls haven’t moved, except Nicola is more unpopular
YouGov at the end of August were quite clear about this: ” just 37% of Scots backing a second independence referendum and 50% opposed. Should they be successful in forcing another vote, the results would be almost identical to last time, with 54% of Scots voting against independence and 46% in favour”
Ho hum. However, they found that the hated Tories’ leader Ruth Davidson is, strangely, not hated “Overall, 46% of Scots think that Davidson is doing well, compared to 25% who think she is doing badly, giving her a net score of +21 compared to Sturgeon’s +20. Kezia Dugdale, by contrast, is seen as doing badly with a net score of -17”
Poor old Kez is pretty useless. She managed to save Sturgeon from Holyrood defeat by failing to vote herself. However, in the relevant debate NS was at her shrill, unpleasant, hectoring unprofessional worst. Hopefully we’ll be getting it on YouTube in due course. Statesmanlike she is not.
A few years ago The Knife wrote a brief summary piece about the now happily discredited Alex Salmond’s ongoing attempt to use his acclaimed gifts of lying and bullying to make Scotland independent (AKA ‘still dependent, but on someone other than those English bastards’). My post was entitled Alex Salmond: My Part in His Downfall. Older readers may recognise this as an allusion to one of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs – Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall. It’s a catchy phrase, but I wouldn’t want it to be taken as yet another tiresome comparison to a well known ranting demagogic bigoted nationalist despot. Heaven forbid.
The above title repeats the literary steal, in this case channelling Evelyn Waugh. I know it’s unoriginal. Oddly enough, long after my Salmond post, an excellent book appeared with the same title, written by one of the true cognoscenti in Scottish political hackery, Alan Cochrane, most recently of the Daily Telegraph, though I’m unclear whether he’s still there, given their axe swinging. It would be their loss. Cochrane is an amiable fellow and a wonderful writer, who has delighted millions with his precise and knowledgeable takes on whatever malign nonsense the SNP are promulgating in any one week.
In this respect Nicola Sturgeon is every bit as bad as the wretched Salmond, she just tends to get better press because she’s less unpleasant to the media. Her ‘achievements’ in power are limited, to put it politely. The trouble with even the well-intentioned balanced media, is that so many of them are remote from the battlefield. Superb writers like Fraser Nelson amped up the independence threat before the 2014 referendum when in all honesty it was never a goer. It still isn’t. The Nats are still benefiting from the same distant reporting, when Sturgeon’s every cliched appeal to her base is recycled weekly with the threat that another referendum is round the corner. It isn’t.
The two writers who are best on this are Gerald Warner, and Cochrane, who both now feature on the newish website of another fine analyst, Iain Martin, called Reaction. Martin is a Scot living in London, who is thankfully far more robust in his opinions and insights than most of the expat hacks. Don’t get me wrong – there a quite a few left in Scotland, like Euan McColm and Stephen Daisley, but not enough. The Nats don’t appreciate their work.
…the only people I hear even considering another referendum are either SNP stalwarts or journalists desperate for a story.
Ms Sturgeon has to keep the referendum threat on the boil to keep the daftest of her supporters on side, even if sober-sided realists in the Nat ranks – such as former leader Gordon Wilson, one-time deputy leader Jim Sillars and ex Scottish Cabinet member Alex Neill – have extremely grave doubts about the prospects of another independence vote.
To keep the zealots happy and feed the fears of all in London – whether London Scotties or Tory ministers – she’s been forced to make roughly the same speech, albeit with her fingers and toes firmly crossed, every couple of weeks, warning that independence is still very much on the cards because of Brexit….. It is a fact that the prospect of another independence referendum will keep rearing its ugly head as we enter the conference season, with the issue certain to dominate the Nats Glasgow event in October. But it is extremely doubtful if circumstances – especially on the economy where an independent Scotland would face a £15 billion black hole – will change much.
As a result my advice to my Anglo-Scot colleagues is simple one: Stay by your phones, lads, I shall tell you when to panic.
Perfect. Despite such sense, it can be hard to discern this stuff. Two of the doughtiest campaigners that I know, both against a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum – one a journalist, one a politician – were deeply concerned that their resounding victory was just a pause in the fight. I don’t think so. Here’s Warner on a similar theme:
A second independence referendum would be meaningless since only Westminster can authorise a binding plebiscite. All Sturgeon’s referendum would amount to – if she were ever rash enough to waste Scottish taxpayers’ money on holding it – is a glorified opinion poll, with no constitutional significance whatsoever. Even in those circumstances Sturgeon would be insane to risk it, since current opinion polls show Brexit has had no effect on voters’ opinions on the Union and the SNP could expect to be thrashed again, burying the separatist issue at least for a generation.
Unfortunately Sturgeon’s announcement came just 24 hours before the publication of this year’s GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures; it may even have been a cackhanded attempt to distract attention from them. The latest statistics represented the SNP’s worst nightmare.
The GERS figures showed Scotland’s deficit now stands at a crippling £14.8 billion, or 9.5 per cent of GDP, compared with 4 per cent for the UK. Oil revenues have plunged from their peak by 97 per cent to a derisory £60m. If Nicola thinks these are favourable conditions in which to fight an independence referendum, good luck to her.
He’s actually being polite. He can be a lot more biting (and funny).
In fact, it has occurred to quite a few people, including myself, that despite the endless hype, the SNP’s trajectory is not at all good, not for their alleged dream. (I have a theory that the few wise heads don’t actually want independence. Far too much hassle and responsibility, if they can just get along enjoying the perks, the aggro, and a certain kind of low rent adulation from folk who don’t know any better). So I thought I’d do a quick recent timeline. It speaks for itself.
1. Scottish Independence Referendum 18th September 2014
…a relatively easy win for No, despite a wildly aggressive and triumphalist campaign by Nat maniacs: The “No” side won, with 2,001,926 (55.3%) voting against independence and 1,617,989 (44.7%) voting in favour.
Remember that we only had a referendum because Cameron rather nobly agreed to it after Salmond unexpectedly won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011. In retrospect that was their high water mark and it generated colossal quantities of Salmond hubris and hot air. It doesn’t take much.
We had something of a lull then, despite almost constant drivel from excitable Nats about “Indyref2”, even though they’d just been decisively gubbed in Indyref1.
2.UK General election 7th May 2015
It may seem odd to include this, but even though the Nats sent 56 clones to Westminster, their hated enemy, the Conservatives won an overall majority and were clearly not interested in Indyref2, ever. In addition, although Salmond will always be a solipsistic thug, he had acquired certain street smarts over the years, which Sturgeon, despite the robotic Stalinistic acclaim, just doesn’t have, yet she’s their leader.
However, they seemed to be on an electoral roll, surely…?
3.Scottish Parliamentary election 5th May, 2016
Well, that didn’t last long. They may still be running ‘the show’ (not a big deal in reality) at Holyrood, but they lost their majority, back to being a somewhat feeble minority government, in a large part thanks to those evil Tories having a resurgence. That wasn’t in the script. This was Sturgeon’s first real electoral test. The brave face didn’t quite convince.
4.SNP love triangle 22nd May 2106
The man accurately described by Euan McColm as ‘charmless’, Stewart Hosie, quits as SNP Deputy Leader because of his shenanigans with a posh English lady. Actually Hosie’s former wife, also an SNP politician, is a good egg, so I mention this just to keep the narrative accurate. He became (more of) a laughing stock. Another SNP MP, dopey Angus McNeil, was the third point of the triangle
5.Brexit! 24th June 2016
Britain votes to quit the EU, in Scotland the SNP make a lot of the % margins. The actual numbers are less exciting: 1,661,191 Remain to 1,018,322 Leave. That’s a difference of only 642,869 people, which is 12% of the population and 16.5% of the Scottish electorate. Yes it’s a majority, but hardly a ringing endorsement.
Needless to say Sturgeon and the Nats immediately went berserk with silly claims along the lines that Scotland just loved the EU, that Holyrood could block the result (very embarrassing that one), and that Indyref2 was now inevitable, because, y’know, the Scots really love the EU bureaucracy, but the consternation caused by Brexit in certain Hyndland salons seems to have died down pretty quickly, really. The concept that the EU might not want an essentially bankrupt independent Scotland fomenting trouble in Catalonia and elsewhere into the bargain, never seemed to cross her mind. History will not be kind on this one.
In the real world that the rest of us inhabit, neither business nor the voters agreed with her and her Nat toadies, that Brexit mysteriously made independence more attractive. The SNP parallel universe is a mysterious place.
6.The Named Person scheme gets hammered by the Supreme Court, 28th July 2016
With the SNP, authoritarianism is a constant temptation, to which they normally succumb. I have commented previously on their Jacobin tendencies here, where they seem to have decided that the state supplants parents, by right. It’s already failed, very tragically. Don’t these sanctimonious idiots think anything through properly? Clearly not. The Nats are now having an “intense consultation”, the sort of things that grown up governments normally do before pulling the trigger.
7.The SNP lose a significant by-election, 12th August 2016
Well yes, and it wasn’t widely reported considering the detail. The SNP leader’s own father, Robin Sturgeon, stood for an SNP seat in the Irvine West by-election, and lost. To the dismal remnants of Scottish Labour, who became the party with the most seats as a consequence. I would say that tells us something interesting about the grass roots of Scottish politics. If he’d won, as they clearly anticipated, we’d never have heard the end of it.
8.The Scottish Government Expenditure and Revenue (GERS) figures are released 24th August 2016
Put simply, Scotland as an independent nation is bust. Totally. Happily the UK isn’t quite. The Scottish deficit (not total debt) is officially £14.8 billion. This is rather important, and is one reason why Salmond is truly the most lying liar of all lying politicians. He makes Hillary Clinton look like George Washington. It’s a long story, but the Zen Master of GERS interpretation is the mighty Kevin Hague, over at Chokkablog. The Nats hate him of course. Read his long running commentary, it’s better than most professional journalists have managed.
9.The UK government politely tells the SNP they’re not needed in the Brexit plan, 2nd September 2016
This didn’t go down well. Having ranted about the iniquities of Brexit, Sturgeon appoints a Brexit minister, the ludicrous Mike Russell. He has no apparent role. The SNP are sad. Eager to get in on a process from which they are correctly excluded, they form an SNP Westminster committee to emulate Russell’s ignominy.
10.The SNP’s raison d’etre is independence, so when they announce their programme as the Scottish Government on 6th September, 2016….
Happily, some things are still within the party’s gift. So after the thrilling announcement in June that ‘the Summer of independence starts here’, Ms Sturgeon unveils her legislative programme for the forthcoming Holyrood term. What are the plans for Indyref2 that the foaming hordes have been eagerly anticipating, nay, promised, by their Nat overlords? Er…..nothing actually, just a weak-kneed ‘draft’. As Iain Martin aptly puts it: “Consulting on a draft is the government equivalent of a cash-strapped would-be tourist ordering a bunch of glossy holiday brochures and saying “we might go for St Tropez this year.””
I can’t be bothered to spell out the incompetence in administrative duties and basic educational and NHS needs, the grim faced North Korean approach to party management and independent thought, the humourless obsession with social media points scoring etc etc. None of it is hard to find on the internet, as they haven’t got round to censoring it. Yet. Chuck in the as yet only rumoured other ‘situations’ in the party, and one doubts that this cavalcade of incompetence, scandal and chippiness will go away soon.
So, from a glorious independence rolling in oil money to obsessing over the occasional tiger that finds its way north of the border, in just under two years, with support evidently and inexorably draining away.
It’s a joyous, deserved slow motion car crash. Well done everyone.
The spectacle of Tony Blair as an apparently sincere penitent – albeit one still laden with his predictable list of hubristic justifications – doesn’t surprise me at all, at this stage. The very first post on this blog, back in 2010 was about Blair’s apparent search for atonement in the truest sense. At that time I was confidently expecting Chilcot to report within the next year. It does surprise even me though, that Blair has ended up in quite such an abject state, when seen from the perspective of 1997.
A little context. Back in the time of John Major’s government in the early 90’s, the UK was doing quite well. After Major’s appallingly selfish and ideological pursuit of the deutschmark (a folly which doubled my mortgage briefly, in 48 hours, not that JM cared about such things), the economy was booming, relatively. It was to be a golden inheritance for Labour, the exact opposite of the scorched earth bequeathed by Brown in 2010.
In about 1993 I began to notice Blair as an unctuous and slightly cocky Shadow Home Secretary, popping up on the TV. I’d seen Gordon Brown in action at the Commons as Shadow Chancellor under John Smith, and for all his faults, he seemed then a far more substantial figure than the glib Blair. After Smith’s death it became rapidly apparent that, under the youthful Blair, Labour were going to win the next election, irrespective of the economy. I remember on election day in 1997 sitting in the operating theatre coffee room saying that Blair appeared to me to be a flighty and unserious chancer, albeit an ambitious one. The uniform response was “you can’t possibly want the Tories back in”. Nobody except me seemed to have any concerns about Blair**.
That election night I stayed up till two watching it unfold, and by then the enormity of Blair’s majority was already apparent. He would clearly be in power for years. The phrase that kept going through my head was “batten down the hatches, this will take a long time to get through”. The next day at work everyone was delighted that the groovy young Tony was in and everything would be fine.
My concerns, which were pretty much completely borne out, related to the very clear message that this administration would intentionally change the social, cultural and moral fabric of the country, and eventually, through the timeless expedient of spending money they didn’t have, they would wreck the economy too.
I usually date the completed initial phase of the first of these malign objectives to the release of the worst film ever made, Love Actually ( I’m serious), in 2003, which was basically a New Labour 90’s zeitgeist epic of the worst kind. The second objective was apparent by the financial crisis of 2008. It took them 11 years to destroy a booming economy, but they managed it. In case anyone is still spinning the line that it was all secondary to American subprime mortgage lending (Brown’s favourite excuse), then I would direct you to a prophetic book by two British hacks – the esteemed Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson – called Fantasy Island, which was published in 2007. If you don’t believe me, read the synopses (1, 2 and 3). Truly the Blair/Brown government was a disaster on a huge scale, despite their aggressive and largely successful debasement of the government spin apparatus under the enduringly loathsome Alastair Campbell, which subjugated an already enthralled media.
So I wasn’t remotely surprised by all this, it was obvious to me when I first set eyes on Blair, and I took a lot of shit for it. The endless supply of people all willing to slag Blair off now, and over the last few years, are mainly the people who voted for him in three general election victories, a point made eloquently by James Kirkup. What a bunch of hypocrites.
That said, I never thought he’d become the crazy and infantile warmonger, which role has now, finally, skewered him.
Which is why I have to laugh at the endless bleatings (eg: 1, 2,3) from Guardian writers and others now, post-Chilcot, who spent the period from 1997 to 2008 drooling over Blair and Brown. I don’t remember too much genuine opposition from them to the Iraq debacle back then. Jeremy Corbyn, Ming Campbell, the late Charlie Kennedy and Robin Cook all take credit for their stance at the time. A special mention goes to the routinely reviled George Galloway (see below), the only person who predicted in detail the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. Their reasons for opposition varied, but they have the moral high ground today.
Max Hastings neatly outlines the stage on which Blair played out his monumental and ego driven disaster: “What took place was only possible because in 2002-3 Blair was an immensely popular Prime Minister with a personal dominance that enabled him to persuade or conscript the rest of Westminster and Whitehall to support an Iraqi adventure overwhelmingly driven by his own hubris and moral fervour.”
I doubt that there will be any article written in the aftermath of Chilcot that expresses the tortuous hypocrisy of the British public and media in all this, than Brendan O’Neill’s, in Spiked. As he rightly puts it:
The important, humane task of understanding the history and politics of that calamity in 2003 has been sacrificed at the altar of allowing a needy elite the space in which to say: ‘Blair is evil, and I am good.’
I can already sense a neat dividing line developing when considering Blair’s legacy: Iraq bad/all else good. For the purpose of clarity – and going back to where I began this post – I would refine that to: Iraq bad (Blair sort of penitent)/most of his other stuff also bad (Blair unrepentant).
The criticism rightly heaped on him for Iraq, and on his many, many aiders and abetters should be spread around on most of his other endeavours too. A messiah complex unburdened by caution and intelligent reflection is unlikely to come good at any point. This was a truly awful government, lead by a figure who since then has become more and more unhinged.
I should leave the last word to the hated yet prescient George Galloway, confirming what Chilcot meant when he pointedly said “We do not agree that hindsight is required.”
** as Stephen Glover puts it ” Only a hard core of widely disbelieved critics saw him as an untrustworthy fraud”
There are plenty of people making hay over credit agency Moody’sdeclaration that the UK economic outlook has turned ‘negative’. This may or may not be correct. The rider that there will be “a prolonged period of uncertainty” doesn’t look like a particularly insightful comment, whatever their data sources. It’s not that long ago – February 2013 in fact – since Osborne’s economic approach was hammered using (Moody’s) removal of its Triple A credit rating. This was because “the government’s debt reduction programme faced significant “challenges” ahead”.
Well, something must have happened that was unanticipated by the agencies if Moody’s rival, Standard & Poor only yesterday, after Brexit, decided they would remove the Triple A status, apparently joined by Moody’s, as well as Fitch (the third big agency). One suspects that Moody’s original claim had been rather overdone (and possibly this one too). Had they in fact restored their Triple A rating in the interim? It looks like it.
My point in all this is that these agencies are big businesses in themselves, with their own agendas. When they get it wrong it gets less publicity. Even uber-liberal cat loving Nobel economic guru Paul Krugman thinks it’s overdone :
“…right now all the talk is about financial repercussions – plunging markets, recession in Britain and maybe around the world, and so on. I still don’t see it. It’s true that the pound has fallen by a lot compared with normal daily fluctuations. But for those of us who cut our teeth on emerging-market crises, the fall isn’t that big – in fact, it’s not that big compared with British historical episodes. The pound fell by a third during the 70s crisis; it fell by a quarter during Britain’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992; it’s down about 8 percent as I write this….This is not a world-class shock”
These appeals to authority, in this case credit ratings agencies, are an omnipresent feature of modern life, hugely abetted by the intrinsically unreflective nature of much of the internet and its social media. That is not to suggest that all such pontifications embody the fallacious appeal to authority – but clearly some/many of them do. Nearly all of the EU referendum campaign was built on unreliable speculation on both sides (which is why this was the single best argument I read on the topic).
I call it the Formula 1 argument. F1 as we know and (possibly) love it, is a suitably important sounding name for the fastest level of motor racing. It is overseen by FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) otherwise known as the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus, where the last word means ‘recognised’. Recognised by whom? In other words, although FIA has historical precedent, it is essentially a self-appointed authority. There is nothing to stop the entire set of F1 teams decamping to a brand new tournament calling itself whatever it wants. Boxing has already recognised this, which is why there are currently four ‘world’ authorities – the WBC, WBO, WBA and the IBF. Big bucks all round with their many different titles to fight for.
Football is the same. Let’s dump FIFA and invite all the countries to play every four years in a new tournament, preferably in somewhere with an appropriate climate (not Qatar). We can call it the Mundial. Who decided a bunch of corrupt phonies like FIFA should still get the prize? The main reason of course is that like Formula 1, like boxing, there is a very healthy living to be made from the many lucrative sidelines., and it’s worth clinging on to.
And you get it in medicine, all the time. The phrase ‘top doctors’ is regularly trotted out, and is frequently associated with the most paternalistic self-important drivel. One of my favourites is when the grandly named King’s Fund pronounces. They self describe as a “health charity that shapes health and social care policy and practice”. Perhaps they do produce the odd good idea that no-one in the NHS would come up with, but in reality, they are a private body with plenty of well paid staff, some of whom may have a sketchy knowledge of actual health care delivery. An acquaintance of mine went for a job there, and it was very revealing. The key thing is the brand name, which relates to a long lost charitable fund named after King Edward VII (died 1910). Somehow, if it was just called ‘private NHS advisory think tank’ – a more accurate description – I feel its authority may appear diminished.
And on that note, what about the ‘Royal’ colleges of medicine, surgery etc? The presidency of these bodies is undoubtedly a classic bully pulpit, but what are they for? The answer is that they organise the odd educational event, they run (very good and necessary) postgraduate exams, and they produce not very good journals. None of this comes cheap. They also, however, choose to proclaim on NHS issues where they may or may not have any real insight. Naturally they tend to get a media hearing, and sometimes a governmental one. This lapses rapidly into ex cathedra nonsense in many cases, and gets the NHS nowhere. An academic colleague of mine, who is extremely competent, distinguished and sensible and did himself hold high office in such a college, wearily confessed to me recently how disillusioned he was by the institution “I’m not sure what it’s for these days”. Like most clinicians, he now favours his own specialty organisation when it comes to practical issues, and for very good reasons.
Want a punchy summary of the state of play in the referendum build up? Here it is, courtesy of Luke Johnson reviewing recent related books in the latest edition of the unfailingly stimulating Standpoint magazine.
No one in any of the debates I’ve attended over the referendum is really very keen on the EU. Indeed, most of the pro-EU camp are highly critical of the institution, and see it as bureaucratic, undemocratic, remote and poorly governed. As a consequence, they lack true conviction, and can’t be bothered to write serious works in its defence. Their argument relies almost entirely on a series of scares designed to frighten voters into plumping for the current system because any alternative must be worse.
This cowardly, pathetic stance is typical of the chaos which the EU represents. The eurozone is an unmanageable consortium, while the Schengen border arrangements are close to collapse. The EU itself was sold as a trading pact (the Common Market) but for many of the Brussels elite is a political project. This contradictory vision is at the heart of the problem. I believe a large majority of citizens in Britain — and probably in much of the rest of the EU — do not want a political merger. They want our country to be an independent nation state, in charge of our own laws — but trading with everyone. Meanwhile the Commission and other instruments of the EU have other ideas.
I agree with every word. With perfect timing, try reading this Daily Mail column by the pro-Remain Chris Deerin, a very thoughtful and perceptive writer. It’s hardly enthusiastic.
Win or lose, the EU in its current form has had it.
The Spectator Coffee House has hit form again. At a time when Dave and friends’ Doomsday assertions re the possibility of Brexit acquire the genuine comic value inherent in seeing highly educated and intelligent people knowingly talk drivel, Coffee House has two excellent posts.
Firstly, various ‘names’ give their views. Setting aside Bob Geldof (Remain) and Joey Essex (Undecided), the best bit is by one of Scotland’s genuine stars, the composer Sir James MacMillan**. He doesn’t take a position, so much as ask questions. They are absolutely relevant. Here they are:
After 1989 why have the European elites failed to denounce the immorality of Communism?
Why have the same elites supported the likes of Yasser Arafat and the Iranian governments?
Why are extremist parties well supported and why is anti-Americanism on the rise in Europe?
Is it true that productivity is declining in mainland Europe?
Why is EU-style democracy not good enough?
Why is their bureaucracy so unwieldy?
Why do the European elites hate Christianity?
Why is anti-semitism on the rise on the European Left?
Why is Europe committing demographic suicide, failing to reproduce its populations to sustain their expensive welfare, health and pension systems?
Why does Europe look like it has given up hope in its future?’
Forget the Tory internecine wars, which are a childish EU referendum-induced distraction but loved by the media, these loaded questions are not even remotely being addressed by the Inners.
On the same day, brainiac Noel Malcolm, fellow of All Souls writes an elegant and comprehensive piece on sovereignty and leaving. If only the standard of debate from the government was this high. A key selection:
For me, the most important issue is the one that flows directly from these problems: the loss of democracy. This huge artificial structure would indeed be paralysed if all decisions required unanimity. But once our laws and policies are made by EU majority voting, we begin to sacrifice the most precious thing of all: the principle that those who make our laws and rule us are chosen by us, and can be removed by us. European elections, and tinkering with the so-called democratic deficit in Brussels, are entirely beside the point here, as the EU is not, for any of its member populations, the primary political community, the ‘demos’ on which genuine democracy is based.
Most advocates of a Remain vote simply ignore this issue. Some contrive to suggest that it is just a matter of accepting technical regulations for the single market — whereas the range of EU law-making does in fact go much further than that. And some like to imply that if people do not want to put themselves under a supranational government, they must be harking back to a nostalgic (and probably right-wing) concept of ‘sovereignty’ which has no validity in the modern world.
Sovereignty is not in fact outmoded. But the term has become so misunderstood that it is probably better to put it aside, in this debate, and just talk about democratic self-government instead. I have yet to hear any leading Remainer explain why this valuable thing — which should be equally precious to both left and right — is worth sacrificing for the benefits, whether geopolitical or economic, that they think we shall get from staying in the EU.
In fact the array of opinion leading to a Brexit conclusion is pretty impressive and from right across the spectrum: Larry Elliott, Alex Brummer (1,2), St Augustine, scourge of the Clintons Ambrose Evans-Pritchard among others. Not only are these well made arguments, the quality and fun content of the journalism is much higher than that from the Remain camp, who are embarrassedly shackled to whatever nonsense Dave/the IMF/CBI/Treasury/Obama/Juncker etc etc are coming out with today.
It’s not that there aren’t cogent and persuasive reasons for being a Remainer, there are, but rather like in the Scottish Referendum, the separatists there (oddly allying with the Remainers now) failed to make a decent argument about sovereignty and belief, but rather opted for a pack of lies about the economy which has of course subsequently blown up in their face.
I can live with whatever outcome we get from next month’s poll, but it’s already clear that the intellectual weight and the necessary comprehension of history lie with the Brexit camp.
This blog has always hosted a tremendous quote by living legend, economics professor and all round fount of wisdom, Thomas Sowell. Anything written by the Great Man is worth reading. Here it is:
“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.”
Charles Moore, writing about tax havens, reminds us of the classic example – economists v Thatcher:
I am no tax expert, but when 300 economists, particularly if led by Jeffrey Sachs and Thomas Piketty, all agree about something — as 364 did that Mrs Thatcher, in 1981, was messing things up — one can be confident they are mistaken.
And here is Dan Hannan, today, musing on the snobbery of the ‘elite’, many of whom of course propel themselves into politics:
Experts often get things hideously wrong. When the entire Establishment coalesces around a fashionable idea, ordinary people are right to become suspicious. Everyone knew that it was wise to appease the Nazis in the 1930s, to nationalise industry in the 1940s, to have a planned economy in the 1950s, comprehensive education in the 1960s, prices and incomes policies in the 1970s. Everyone knew that it was sensible to back the ERM in the 1980s, the euro in the 1990s, the bailouts in the 2000s. Everyone, that is, except the general population.
So, given this year’s twin challenges of the US election* and the EU referendum, beware of received wisdom. Time to place bets.**
A few months ago I was talking to a friend who is a gifted surgeon, urbane, humorous, well published, popular with staff and patients and has plenty of outside interests. With us was a similarly accomplished colleague, with stacks of quality publications and a recent presidency of one of the main surgical bodies, a man at ease with politicians, journalists, difficult clinical problems – in short, a very admirable doctor. We had just agreed, in all sincerity, that none of us would get into medical school these days.
In fact, the whole rigmarole of medical school entry in the UK is one of my pet hates. It is absurdly popular, and quite possibly for the wrong reasons. A different colleague holds the view that one reason why so many GP’s seem pissed off is that they spent the first 25 years of their existence being told – with some justification – that they were the intellectual elite of the nation. Their adult day to day tasks frequently fail to meet the expectations that this raises, made ten times worse by the now discredited GP contract rewarding all the least fun and professionally dissatisfying aspects of the job.
My sympathy with the striking junior doctors is limited, for which I tend to take some stick. One of the most bizarre aspects of it to me is that I was walking on air when I graduated as I was a doctor. I now had intrinisic special skills. I could in theory work usefully anywhere in the world. There was a certain status that came with the title – something the current juniors would be wise not to take for granted. 30 years later I still feel that way, the ‘special feeling’ has barely diminished. None of us was that bothered by, or interested in the details of the rather brutal contractual obligations. We had money in our pockets, and much of the work was its own reward.
By that way of thinking the current strike is crazy. It’s already morphing into a leftie hatefest of the worst kind, which won’t end well. The juniors’ terms and conditions are infinitely better than they were even 20 years ago. Are they really saying that after a colossal input from the rest of us – as taxpayers and willing subjects for their education – they will withhold their services for emergencies because a small part of the particular terms and conditions of their work with the monopoly employer in the UK displeases them? Do none of the strikers feel that ‘doctor vibe’ I mentioned earlier? Are they now all the serfs that the New Labour mob in cahoots with the General Medical Council of the early Noughties intended the doctors to become?
Perhaps they are.
Which brings me back to why they wanted to do medicine in the first place, as a sense of vocation is possibly dropping down the list, and to how the UK medical schools select them. The majority of juniors are indeed talented and committed individuals, but something has changed. Here is an excerpt from the great Theodore Dalrymple, writing in Spectator Health, on the decline of informal recommendations and selection in medicine:
This kind of selection by boastfulness now affects even the choice of medical students. It is not that their intellectual quality has gone down: on the contrary, it has probably gone up. But what is now required of them to gain entry to medical school is morally repellent, much worse than any possible defect that existed before. They now have to make a ‘personal statement’ about why they should be admitted, and this, of course, results in the most odious conformism; a kind of psychological cloning, as well as an invitation to untruth.
The son of a friend of mine applied to medical school and was turned down. He was told that, though he was academically qualified and admirable in many ways, his personal statement was not impressive enough. So he went a tutor who told him how to write his personal statement when he re-applied to the same medical school the following year. (In the world of spivvery that we have created, there is an allegedly private-sector opportunity in every procedural requirement.)
Having made his ‘personal statement’ more impressive with the paid help of his tutor in this dark art, he was admitted to the school that had refused him the year before. Needless to say, he had not changed in any way other than being a year older: but in a world in which the virtual is more real than the real, self-presentation has replaced theology as the queen of the sciences.
My solution would include adopting the perfectly good North American model (which includes Canada), and make all medical school entry postgraduate. Dalrymple’s precise phrase “odious conformism; a kind of psychological cloning” is part of the current problem.
I was recently talking to a friend who is a sharp mind, a good businessman, a nice guy and a Scottish Nationalist. Not only did he used to brandish a selfie of himself with Alex Salmond, he knew him moderately, having been involved in one of the various Scottish government publicity projects that Eck used to encourage, to demonstrate the Nat’s love of ‘social justice’ (whatever), and hatred of…er…bigotry
In any event, it was made pretty clear in our chat that Eck, the putative ‘father of the independent nation’ is now self evidently a selfish, arrogant, embarrassing, lying monster who is utterly persona non grata with the present Holyrood SNP band of numpties.
Oddly enough, the description was pretty much what most No supporters had been saying about Eck in the run up to the independence referendum, and now we learn from his erstwhile chums that we were in fact, correct.
This blog has criticised Salmond and his mysterious, frequently unexplained decisions and activities for a long time. It was blindingly obvious that he was gagging to get back to Westminster, which curiously is in the hated England, and equally obvious that if he lost the referendum that Sturgeon et al were going to kick him out. And so it proved.
The utterly ludicrous SNP ‘Named Child’ policy has strong echoes of Jacobin social engineering from the French Revolution. One of the more endearing habits of the said Jacobins was to decapitate their former heroes, most notably Robespierre. It looks like Eck has met the same fate.
The historic parallels don’t stop there. Not enough people know about something Iain Martin likes to publicise, which is that you’re not actually allowed to criticise or dissent from what passes for policy in the SNP, from within the party. Really, it is officially banned. Specifically MP’s and MSP’s must:
“accept that no Member shall, within or outwith Parliament, publicly criticise a Group decision, policy or another member of the Group.”
Which is pleasingly similar to another one party state, Soviet Russia. The latter didn’t last that long, despite wrecking lives and wreaking havoc on its native soil – the similarities are piling up – but it did inspire George Orwell in writing 1984. Which brings us back to poor old Eck. He has finally, and delightfully, become an Orwellian Stalinist unperson, a victim of damnatio memoriae. To quote Wiki:
Such a person would be taken out of books, photographs, and articles so that no trace of them is found in the present anywhere – no record of them would be found.This was so that a person who defied the Party would be gone from all citizens’ memories, even friends and family
One of the more tiresome aspects of being right is the difficult-to-control compulsion to set out the facts and refute specious and stupid arguments, often recurrent, noisy, specious and stupid arguments. It’s time consuming and boring after a while. Even being constantly proven right can become tedious.
Enter the Scottish Nationalist Party, a mob of chancers, makeweights, thugs, spivs, pseudointellectuals, wealthy middle class smugs, public sector leeches, zoomers – and the occasional decent human being – and their ongoing utterly bankrupt warblings about independence, getting a fresh airing this week, as once again, they’ve been rumbled on something that actually matters.
Happily, tougher people than I have addressed these issues over a long period, and one must pay particular homage in the blogging world to both Kevin Hague, a businessman who has actually contributed to the Scottish economy, and Adam Tomkins, a distinguished and highly erudite professor of Law at Glasgow University. Hague in particular has for a long time painstakingly deconstructed the Nats’ hopeless economic lies, using the government’s own official Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures, known as GERS. It has been a virtuoso performance to be honest, and the Nats have no answer, other than their trademark abuse.
In addition, there have been some heroic hacks**. Today’s post is really to point an interested reader or guilty Nat in the direction of some very sharp and entirely factual analysis. First up is a true Scottish Labour hero, the former minister Brian Wilson, who knows who he’s dealing with:
…let us raise a timely glass to a fate avoided, which would certainly not have been paid for by the architects of the great deception. There is an argument against re-fighting battles that have been won and lost. But this must be counted an exception. The run-up to the referendum and the fraudulent case set out in the White Paper is not just history. It is, more importantly, a lesson which should never be lost sight of in the future.
Like all fundamentalist beliefs, nationalism creates zealots who are prone to assuming that their end justifies the means. If the facts do not suit, create new ones. If history does not stand scrutiny, rewrite it. Above all, if the numbers do not stack up, brazen it out and make them up. This will never change.
There are plenty decent nationalists exempt from these charges. Their belief is based on a principle they place above others. If there are negative economic consequences, then so be it – they should be set against other benefits and opportunities. That is a standpoint which can be argued with, honourably and without rancour. It involves neither denial nor falsification.
But that was not the route chosen by Salmond, Sturgeon and Swinney. For them, the mission was to concoct an economic case they knew to be thoroughly dishonest but which they hoped would avoid exposure long enough for them to win. They did not give a toss for the ordinary people of Scotland who would now be paying the horrendous price which this week’s figures confirmed, with much worse still to come.
The italics are mine. They really don’t care about the punters, that’s not what Nationalism is about. Secondly, the always perceptiveEuan McColm:
The problem with the claims made by the SNP during the referendum campaign is that they were fantasy. I know there are arguments to be made about the unpredictability of oil markets and the wider economy, but the fact is that the nationalists’ financial case was not an exercise in optimism but a deception. Yet still the SNP and its supporters argue that a fairer Scotland is possible if we’d only break those chains that bind us to Westminster (that’s code for the English, in case you were in any doubt). Surely, in the name of the wee man, it’s time for this nonsense to stop?
If your current position is that independence is needed now – or in the near future – to ensure a more prosperous country, where assistance of the vulnerable is a priority, then you have not been paying attention to the facts. If you have been paying attention to the facts and you still believe the swift break-up of the UK is required for a fairer Scotland, then you’re deluded.
The facts to which I refer have been provided by the Scottish Government. The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figure published on Tuesday shows that Scotland ran a deficit of £14.9 billion in 2014-15. The difference between tax raised and the amount spent was breathtaking. Of course, a deficit, in itself, is not unusual. Most countries run them. But the size of an independent Scotland’s deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) exposes the size of the potential problem. As a percentage of GDP, the UK’s deficit was 4.9 in 2014-15 while Scotland’s was 9.7. An independent Scotland would have the highest deficit in the European Union. This would be completely unsustainable.
Those who rail against “austerity” today might want to examine what happened in Greece and Ireland, when deficits soared. Inhabitants of those countries can tell us all about austerity.Had Scotland voted Yes in September 2014, we’d now be on the brink of financial catastrophe. Independence Day – 24 March, according to Scottish Government proposals – would have ushered in an era of savage cuts to public spending and tax hikes to make the eyes of even the most wilfully compassionate amongst us water. Plummeting oil revenues – predicted to be £7.9bn in the independence White Paper but heading towards £100 million for 2015-16 – hammer home the case that an independent Scotland would have been in severe difficulty from the word go.
Strictly the facts, as they say. If you want to get a feel for the despotic thought police approach nurtured by the Nat hierarchy (Salmond, Sturgeon, Hosie and a few others), read how easily weak but slightly more honest Nats such as John Swinney and Fergus Ewing get rolled over when it comes to ‘the message’. It’s all in Wilson’s superb piece.
I actually still hold the view that the SNP breathed a sigh of relief when they lost the referendum. It didn’t take Eck et al long to bounce back, in their usual antagonistic bragging idiotic way. They’re not an able administration (1,2,3) even when being showered with Barnett Formula money, even they know that they’d be dead in the water if they ever got their alleged goal.