Posts Tagged ‘Nicola Sturgeon’

Indyref2 adds another twist to Brexit that Labour cannot handle

21/03/2017, 11:30:33 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Harold Wilson rightly said that a week is a long time in politics. Philip Hammond would agree, but the real shift in emphasis post budget was the SNP decision to go for a second independence referendum if they don’t like the Brexit deal. Or rather before the Brexit deal, as they want a vote before we know what the deal actually is. This adds another twist to the Brexit saga that the Labour leadership cannot handle.

As I noted in my post after the Open Labour meeting on March 11th, Miliband dampened hopes by backing the Corbyn- Starmer line. This is an acceptance of Britexit – without the escape clauses of referring a deal to the electorate agreed by Party conference last year – and an attempt to get a few concessions which they can sell publically as a Soft and so acceptable Brexit. The Tories will not allow this to happen.

May’s strategy is to win over the UKIP vote which if successful in leave constituencies – like Copeland –  would make the Tories invincible. Labour loses two ways backing soft Brexit. Labour can lose to the Lib Dems or SNP in Remain seats, and to Tories in Leave seats. UKIP don’t seem a serious challenge unless they can resist the Tory surge, and this remains possible. But what is clear is that Labour’s strategy cannot work, and the last week provided depressing evidence that this was the case.

The debate and vote on the Article 50 bill (European Union, Notification of Withdrawal) Bill came up for a derisory two hour debate on March 13th. Poor in content and almost contemptuously handed by David Davis, its only notable feature was the defeat of the two Lords amendments which would have provided some safeguards. Given the Tory majority, these could only be passed if Tory MPs rebelled. The significantly titled shadow minister for Brexit, Keir Starmer MP, pointed out these were Labour proposals accepted by the Lords.

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Nicola Sturgeon has gambled with her move for independence. It’s not such a bad bet

14/03/2017, 03:39:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There are three stages to processing the news that we seem to be heading for a sequel to the Scottish independence referendum.

Stage one: why the shock.

What is surprising about a Scottish nationalist politician calling for independence from the rest of the UK? Surely, the clue is in Nicola Sturgeon’s party title.

Brexit offers a justifiable opening to ask the question which was meant to have been answered for a generation. The fundamental circumstances of Britain’s position have changed and the post-2014 settlement was predicated on a United Kingdom in Europe.

Stage two: Sturgeon has miscalculated.

But once the campaign begins, the same economic pressures will be brought to bear again on the electorate. Set aside for a moment the ludicrous hypocrisy of a Tory Brexiteer government running a facsimile of the Remain campaign’s economic arguments about leaving a union, the threat that will be articulated is not only real but potentially greater than in 2014.

Many will talk about the importance of identity and nationalism but that doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

There was a reason the SNP lost in 2014 by 10%: the economy, stupid.

Stage three: hang on, what if the UK is about to crash out of the EU without a deal?

The kicker for unionists comes courtesy of the Tory government’s approach to Brexit.

At the weekend, Boris Johnson was on our screens giving his considered view as Foreign Secretary that exiting the EU without a deal would be just fine.

If, and it’s a big if, the SNP could promise some form of ongoing EU membership while the rest of the UK wilfully stepped off the trade cliff, babbling about empire, the nineteenth century buccaneer spirit and British pluck, which outcome would represent the greatest economic danger for Scotland: independence or remaining in the UK?

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Welcome to the United Kingdom of England and Wales

21/12/2016, 03:57:18 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Brexit may mean Brexit, but it also means something else: the United Kingdom, as we have known it, is finished.

The result of our vote to leave the European Union will precipitate a reshaping the United Kingdom from first principles, as our Celtic fringe is shorn off and overseas commitments become more burdensome.

Although a recent poll showed support for Scottish independence dipping a fraction below the 45 per cent level secured in the 2014 referendum, it will prove to be a false dawn for those hoping the fires of nationalism are dying down.

Brexit now makes a second referendum inevitable. More than that, it makes it entirely justifiable. A point Nicola Sturgeon was keen to exploit yesterday with her demands that Scotland be allowed to stay in the single market.

She has a point. Why should 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU have their country’s prospects curtailed, as they see it, because of English votes; in a reversal of the famous West Lothian Question (why should Scots MPs vote on English laws?)

The SNP should be in tatters after losing the 2014 vote, but instead now dominates Scottish public life, utterly. So much so that Sturgeon announced back in October that she is teeing up a second referendum bill and amassing for a war chest for the next tilt at independence.

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Why aren’t we furious with the Scottish party?

10/05/2016, 10:33:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The dark, stinking hole Labour finds itself in these days might not feel quite so dark and stinking if the Scottish party had got its act together last year. The loss of forty seats north of the border in the general election turned disaster in England into cataclysm across the UK.

Last Thursday, the party suffered a repeat pasting in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Labour took nothing short of a punishment beating at the hands of the electorate, sliding into third place behind the Conservatives. After last May’s debacle, it was a ceremonial cherry placed on top of the steaming turd that is the Scottish Labour party.

How did it come to this? How did Labour ‘lose’ Scotland and by doing so, make it improbable the party will win a general election any time before the advent of commercial space travel? And why aren’t we angrier with the bunglers in the Scottish party who frittered away Labour’s position?

But first, let’s be clear: the extinguishing of Labour as a force in Scottish politics is the party’s own fault. The SNP hasn’t cheated its way to power. There has been no coup d’etat. They are triumphant because they have outplayed Scottish Labour at every turn in recent years, up to the point where it’s clear the party no longer seems to understand the Scottish people.

This is not a recent failing. Labour lost control of the parliament to the SNP as long ago as 2007. The situation was exacerbated at the 2011 elections, before the party’s virtual annihilation in last year’s general election. There have been ample opportunities to arrest the decline.

Clearly, it all came to a head during the independence referendum. By opposing ‘nationalism’ Scottish Labour foolishly forfeited ‘patriotism’ in the process. The party didn’t seem to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a proud Scot and wanting to see your nationhood recognised.

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Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3…

11/05/2015, 07:00:37 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course, it would be pretty difficult to pen a piece entitled: ’10 reasons it’s not as bad as it seems for Labour,’ but as the dust settles on last Thursday’s calamitous result, there is cause for optimism – cautious optimism – that the task of rebuilding Labour’s position is not as hopeless as many assume.

  1. Policy isn’t a mess

First off, the party’s positioning in terms of its policy offer is actually pretty good. The manifesto was not “the longest suicide note in history” as 1983’s version was famously described. Sure, there’s work to do in dialling-down some of the rhetoric that has made it so easy to characterise the party as anti-business, but Jon Cruddas, Miliband’s policy supremo, must have had an eye on the long term because there is a lot here to salvage (apart from that wretched headstone).

By way of illustration, there was no real moment during the campaign where a Labour policy unravelled under scrutiny, or different shadow ministers found themselves saying different things. That’s what commonly used to happen in the 1980s.

And for those pointing out that, electorally, Labour is now 100 seats behind the Tories, just as it was in 1987, consider that, back then, the party was committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Ed Miliband was promising to renew Trident. There is no massive internecine struggle in prospect in order to get policy in the right place.

  1. SNP and UKIP insurgencies will fade

Nicola Sturgeon and the unresigned Nigel Farage, now have it all to prove. Both parties haven’t so much evolved as exploded out of the test tube.

Both have benefitted from charismatic leaders exploiting their (relative) outsiderness and a (temporary) decline in the fortunes of the mainstream parties.

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Labour’s doomed in Scotland and Ed needs to put Sturgeon in her place: so scrap the Barnett Formula

27/04/2015, 07:45:47 PM

Seemingly, there is little Ed Miliband can now do to diminish the threat posed by the SNP’s remarkable insurgency. Poll after poll shows Labour facing a total wipe-out in Scotland. It isn’t a case of just losing badly; this is the stuff of total annihilation.

Meanwhile, the Conservative campaign thinks it’s on to something by warning that a minority Labour government, reliant on a bloc of SNP votes, will be a bad deal for England. As a message, it’s an exocet targeted at voters in battleground seats south of the border, where the prospect of the Scottish tail wagging the English dog seems iniquitous.

Ed Miliband can’t fix the first problem; what will be, will be. Scottish Labour is going down in flames. The bigger question for Labour strategists is whether its woes in Scotland are cyclical, the tail-end of the vortex generated by last autumn’s referendum on independence, or a more structural shift. Has the SNP now eclipsed Labour as the social democratic voice of Scots, as they contrast their simple promise to end austerity with Labour’s more complicated (and more realistic) UK-wide offer?

Although Labour’s campaign in Scotland is doomed, it can still use its setback to address its second problem: showing the SNP would not be left calling the shots.

All the party needs is a popular measure that confronts the Tory narrative that Miliband is in Sturgeon’s pocket. Something that shows Labour can make tough choices and, crucially, reassures voters in English marginals that it’s is on their side.

There is a policy proposal that fits the bill, a magic bullet Labour can fire that hits all these targets: scrap the Barnett Formula.

There is no-one in British politics who can make a plausible case for a public spending formula that sees a fifth more spent on Scotland than England. The only reason it has not been amended out of history by now is down to decades of political inertia and a tactical belief that it would add grist to the nationalists’ mill in the run-up to last autumn’s referendum.

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SNP-backed Miliband or a return to the John Major years? Only the Lib Dems can stop it

22/04/2015, 05:44:47 PM

by Samuel Dale

He’s back. The most successful prime minister – nay politician – ever to grace British parliamentary democracy.

A man of such grace, skill and power that he swept all before him in his pomp. Adored by his own. Feared by rivals. Yesterday, he spoke and we – humble electorate – must heed his wise counsel.

I speak, of course, of Sir John Major. Well, that seems to be the absurd narrative pedalled by the electorally-charged right-wing press that once lampooned Major’s premiership. Times change. Major’s speech gave warning of the higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem of a Labour government supported by the SNP.

Firstly, he’s right. A Labour/SNP deal would be a disaster for Britain and the Labour party as well.

There would be an economic chilling effect around new investment into the UK while the PLP would be split over any arrangement with the nationalists. In fact, I was warning about it on this blog before it was cool.

But, as many have pointed out, it was John Major’s Government in the 1990s that actually did deliver higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem.

Look at the facts. There’s Black Wednesday, when a self-inflicted economic crisis pushed the Bank of England’s interest rates to a crushing 15% in September 1992.

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The French ambassador’s Sturgeon statement looks like a non-denial denial

04/04/2015, 10:33:09 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Diplomats weigh their public statements carefully. Words are parsed for intent, implication and likely inference. Which is why the French ambassador’s response to the Telegraph’s Sturgeon scoop is so interesting.

“While the ambassador and the first minister, some time ago, have discussed the political situation, Ms Sturgeon did not touch on her personal political preferences with regards the future prime minister,”

At face value, this seems like a denial. But the words have been very carefully chosen. The key phrase is “did not touch on her personal [emphasis added] political preferences.”

Why use the words “her personal”?

Why draw a clear, albeit implicit, distinction between Nicola Sturgeon’s views as a person and her views as the leader and representative of the SNP?

Surely it would have been simpler for the ambassador’s spokesman to say that there was no discussion on preferences for PM or the outcome of the election. That would have been a categorical and water-tight denial.

The words “her personal” are utterly extraneous, unless they are there for a specific reason.

The statement makes it clear that the “political situation” (in other words the election) was discussed and it would have been extraordinary if the ambassador had not asked Nicola Sturgeon for her views on the result and the SNP’s preferences. She simply would not have been doing her job, and so far noone has suggested that the French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, is incompetent.

Following the meeting, it is entirely plausible that a Foreign Office official, drafting a short contemporaneous account intended for internal consumption, would assume Nicola Sturgeon was speaking in her capacity as leader of the SNP  – the FCO memo seen by the Telegraph states, “She’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material.)” – after all, why else would she be meeting the French ambassador?

Just as it’s plausible that a French diplomat looking for a way out of a sticky situation could willfully interpret the memo differently, and take the meaning of the wording, “She’d rather see” to refer to Nicola Sturgeon’s personal views. This would then allow an ambassadorial denial of the story without calling the British Foreign Office liars.

Such semantics might seem esoteric, but this is the stock in trade of senior diplomats. And right now, the French ambassador’s statement looks like a non-denial denial.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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