Wednesday, 7 June 2017

No words for Tory insolence

(I meant to post this a few weeks ago. So there will be a lot to add to my post. Please excuse spelling and grammar as I'm writing this hurriedly.)

The Scottish Tories' campaign this year as last year is all centred on one thing: who will stop Indyref 2. Quite understandably last year they had conceded that the SNP were going to win without doubt. The question was who would form the effective opposition and that for them was all about who would be most vocal against another independence referendum. They proved to be very good and took a lot of seats with Labour doubtlessly losing votes to the Tories.

SO then they took their campaign against independence to a new level and dragged it into an election where it was quite simply irrelevant, the council elections. Ruth Davidson and her party were complaining that the SNP were obsessed with independence and that the people needed to elect Tories back on May 4th to stop the SNP's "second decisive referendum" because that was what they were "obsessed with." And yet it was the SNP who were actually out campaigning with regard to the local services that mattered to local people and producing leaflets that outlined their programme for the local council if they were elected and formed an administration. So who was it that were really obsessed with independence during the local elections? Ruth Davidson and the Tories!

I would say that this could only make cynical voters wonder more if in fact it's time for local councils to actually be non-partisan with elected independents running the councils so local issues don't get caught up so much in wider national arguments. I might find some agreement there from the likes of Lesley Riddoch.

Then there was two years ago when we living in the immediate post-indyref climate and we then had to turn our attention to the 2015 General Election. I was of course dissapointed with the result of the referendum but a large part of me then thought that maybe this was really a blessing in disguise because it would really test the convictions of what the Unionists argued during the referendum.

Vote No to stay in EU. Vote No to gain more powers. Vote No to lead the UK not leave it. All this pointed towards the need post-referendum to make sure Scotland's voice was heard and tolerated at a UK level. And so that was what the new First Minister of Scotland was focussed on making sure the SNP set out to do by campaigning for SNP MPs to be elected. If we were really voting No to make sure Scotland 'punched above its weight'

I accept that Ruth Davidson is trying to protect a union that she loves for whatever reason like, well, identity. Nothing like a bit of nationalism that doesn't self-identify as nationalism to combat the progressive forces of civic nationalism. I wouldn't expect anything less from a party who's very purpose is to defend the Union of Great Britain. So her party's inevitable complaints about the First Minister unveiling plans to hold a second independence referendum sometime around the end of the Brexit process was just something I shrugged my shoulders at.

But in the weeks after Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to move towards holding another vote, with the circumstances changed how the Tories were allowed to get away with castigating Nicola Sturgeon over acting as an ambassador for Scotland in the World I will never get my head round. Shortly after her big announcement about the second independence referendum she jetted off to America to do what anyone leading a country should do, attempt to make responsible trade deals with other countries. It also included the signing of a pledge with the democratic governor of California to pledge to work together on tackling climate change, one of the biggest issues of modern times and something Donald Trump is all too keen to sweep under the carpet. She also attended the Women in the World summit where she was interviewed in front on a sell-out crowd and was well received by those in attendance. The Scottish COnservatives however, instead of actually considering the common ground they should surely find with the SNP on the need to make sure Scotland is selling itself to the World, chose to carry forth their their accusation of Nicola Sturgeon supposedly neglecting her post of FIrst Minister and 'grandstanding' on the World stage. The demands of Tory MSPs John Lamont and Annie Wells that she 'got back to her day job' were all that they could come up with in response to an important trip that happened, not during parliamentary time, but during recess. Yet in the same recess David Mundell was in Burma and SIngapore promoting Scottish whisky, technology, oil and gas. Were they complaining about that visit? Of course not! So to John Lamont and Annie Wells, what was the difference between the Scottish First Minister visiting New York and the Scottish Secretary visiting South East Asia on similar trade missions? Nothing except the fact that one was SNP and the other was Conservative. What's more Sturgeon's visit to New York coincided with Theresa May visiting Saudi Arabia to continue with the usual business including arms dealing with a country that has an atrocious human rights record. Why was that okay but Nicola Sturgeon's progressive trade visit to America not? 'Blah blah tax payer's money, blah blah grandstanding, blah blah get back to your day job.' No don't give us that bullshit!

The Tories moaning about Nicola Sturgeon's visit across the North Atlantic was as petty as it was demeaning. It was demeaning not just to the role of the FIrst Minister but I felt more widely to the nation of Scotland. What was the point in spending the No campaigning talking up Scotland 'being a proud nation, punching above it's weight in the World' when you don't want its very leader to promote Scotland in the World and then talk about shutting her out of the Brexit negotiations? They told us to 'lead the UK not leave it' yet seemingly that didn't apply to single biggest issue that affecting the UK right at this moment. The mask is slipping and it's quite clear that the unionists are more interested in shouting down the SNP and antagonising its supporters than actually offering a vision of how the UK can work in harmony with the Scottish Government in the best and diverse interests of the people of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon kept everything on the table including Scotland staying in the UK but keeping access to the single market. That was until the fight to defend Scotland's interests fell flat against a UK Government keen only on its own hard-Brexit agenda. And when the Conservatives hand round leaflets complaining about a second divisive referendum and indeed when WIllie Rennie and Kezia DUgdale do the same it is THEM who are being DIVISIVE just by talking about it. And given the three of them were all too glad of a snap general election which meant weeks more of heated political debates only two years after the last general election and a year after the Brexit vote who are they to preach about the causes of division?

The thing is of course, that when all they can attack their opponents for is a plan to hold a one-day exercise in democracy that may only involve a few weeks of campaigning, you can't help but wonder what it is they're actually trying to deflect from. Well we know full well, because it's the Tories. £12 Billion benefit cuts, an NHS under pressure with doctors struggling under contracts, cuts to police numbers, council cuts, the Dementia Tax, the Rape Clause, government debt, the list goes on. So perhaps I'll just leave this link with you from an article in the Guardian a few days ago.

Along with all the other crap we're having to deal with from the Conservatives people should keep in mind the insolence of unionist politicians when they cast their vote. A vote for the SNP is a vote for Scotland to make its own voice heard within the UK and taken seriously. I just hope Jeremy Corbyn realises that the party led by Nicola Sturgeon and Angus Robertson is Labour's natural ally against more years of a nasty Conservative government.

So allow me this once to repeat a recurring cliche among those of us on the anti-Tory side:

Make June the end of May.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The beautiful game - but an ugly establishment

Happy New Year! Am I a little late saying that? Well anyway, how was the old year for you? A lot worth talking about, eh? Well it's fair to say 2016 was a terrible year for English football. The 'home of football' as it is so affectionately viewed, England nonetheless has not had the easiest reputation in the beautiful game. And if last year is anything to go by a lot of the current issues reflect very badly on the FA themselves.

Okay, so lets start with something positive - Leicester City, 5000-1 outsiders and look what they achieved. Premier League glory! Yes, that's starting to become a distant memory now with the same team dangerously close to the relegation zone. I hope for them they survive but it goes to show when you suceed where others wrote you off, live in the moment because far from being the start of a golden era it could just be a one off, something womderful to savour before normal service resumes. But a lot of other teams will take inspiration and say 'why not also us one day?'

So Leicester was England's pride for 2016 because the national team's humiliation against Iceland in Euro 2016 is one few of us will ever come to terms with. Far from hoping for the big prize we should have just looked at a quarter-final match with France as a decent enough place to exit being that the host nation was playing impressively enough. A friendly victory a few months earlier against arch-rivals Germany had shown us massive potential that we all thought could be put together in the finest England team for a generation. But once again we were to be dissapointed and worse against a team we were supposed to beat! It raises questions about how well our grassroots system prepares young footballers for their career ahead but also how far they manage to go in a league system which maybe stacked against them compared to other countries. After Germany won the 2014 World Cup the pundits were commenting on just how developed their academy system but there is something even deeper about Germany's clinical approach that has made it one of the most successful teams in the history of both the Euros and the World Cup. It is fair to say Germany does a lot of things better than England, I could go on all day about that, something in a country's mentality makes all the difference.

So out went Roy Hodgson and in came Sam Allardyce. I looked at his philosophy and his approach to training and couldn't help feeling we were on to something. This was surely the man to rescue England from abyss, the man who had been waiting in the wings for so long. But then it was all over so soon in a shock revelation about Big Sam's dealings caught on a hidden camera. What a fool, the man had let us all down and now, as Alan Shearer said, we're a complete "laughing stock"! How much lower could England go? Well, we have Gareth Southgate now and whatever his flaws our trust in him isn't likely to be tarnished anytime soon.

Outwith the national England's football establishment itself, the FA, has shown recently just how retrograde and stuck in the past it can be. In the autumn several former professional footballers bravely waived their right to anonymity to reveal that they were sexually abused when they were young players. No doubt we can expect the FA to do something about the predators in the system but we have to ask the obvious question: was there something they could have done earlier but didn't? Even when no victim comes forward surely somebody in a position of authority should have been able to spot the warning signs and also be able to properly vet people apply to work with children and young people. We know only now in recent years that this has been a long running problem in other areas of the establishment like the BBC and the damming thing there has been that the controllers should have picked up on the allegations early and acted appropriately. And the FA is the latest institution thaat will need to confront this issue so it is seen to act when it matters the most.

This article will be updated later. I can't be asked to finish it just now.