Friday, 22 January 2010

101 uses for Iain Gray: #72 Cartographer Royal

Did my eyes and ears deceive me yesterday dear reader? Iain Gray, digging ever deeper, like a hyperactive mole on steroids late for an appointment at the optician (ok, with hindsight perhaps I spent too long listening to Bill McLaren clips), attempts to land a blow on Republican Rose and Wee Eck with this abject non-story about the Balmoral footpaths. Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab! What a scandalous dereliction of duty by those SNP ne'er-do-wells! The outrage was palpable, palpably desperate. Right to roam? Gray seems more interested in his right to drone.

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Worth a mention in passing is the Daily Telegraph's headline writer - clearly feeling that "Republican" was insufficiently bilious they plumped instead for the positively poisonous "Antimonarchist" in Simon Johnson's article. Even here in Brigadoon I could hear the loyal subjects of Tunbridge Wells spitting their Darjeeling out.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

In memory of Bill McLaren

What sad news to hear of Bill McLaren passing away. He was one of those commentators that was synonymous with his sport, meticulous in his preparation, superbly informed, a wonderful voice and a gift for adding to the spectacle. The Voice of Rugby they called him, and for me and many others he certainly was that. When I jumped about in the mud as a young loon, pretending to score the winning try for Scotland in the World Cup final, it was Bill McLaren's voice I heard in my head describing the triumph. And if and when I reach his venerable age, I suspect it will still be Bill's voice I hear when I dream about scoring that winning try (mud jumping will likely be beyond me by then!).

Bill in his element (photo from the Herald)

The BBC have a nice compilation of some of his memorable moments here: Bill McLaren's greatest hits. It's always sad when we lose such a great man, but what a privilege to have listened to him all these years.

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Monday, 11 January 2010

Poll results: Who would best replace Brown?

Who would best replace Brown?

Lord Mandy 5 votes (13%)
David Miliband 0 (0%)
Jack Straw 4 (11%)
Harriet Harperson 2 (5%)
Alan Johnson 3 (8%)
James Purnell 4 (11%)
Ed Balls 1 (3%)
Jim Murphy 1 (3%)
Alastair Darling 1 (3%)
Other 15 (43%)

Thanks to one and all for your votes. Looks like an utter lack of endorsement for any of the main contenders. The polls at the weekend tend to show a drift towards the Tories, though not dramatically so.

Will Labour have a long wait before they return to electability, like the Tories after '97? I'm not so sure - the weakness of the economy will give the Tories a very short honeymoon. If Labour are smart they'll have a good dose of bloodletting after the election, remove as much dead wood and clear the way for a new generation as soon as possible. Once the cuts start to bite in the next parliament they'll at least have the opportunity to capitalise on any discontent with the Tories. Whether they can ever hope to reconnect with Middle England to the extent that Blair did is very doubtful though.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Do U wnt a :X ballot?

Update: Ok, I knew I shouldn't have put "Other" as an option in that poll! I was hoping for a glimpse of who you all thought would make the best leader from the perspective of a Labour MP or supporter. If "Other" still gets your vote do please add who that "Other" person might be in a comment at the bottom of the post. If it's still "Nobody" (à la Dubbieside!) then feel free to add that too!
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So Hoon and Hewitt have broken cover, texting the Labour MPs as to whether they want a secret ballot about Gordon Brown's future. Guido has a transcript of a letter (I hope Geoff and Pat didn't put all of that letter into several text messages - I for one would have RSI by the end of that lot). I've added a new poll at the right hand side where you can vote for the person you think would perform best as Brown's replacement - NB put party loyalty aside, no voting for who you think would be the worst Leader!

The ballot raises the following obvious questions to my mind:
  1. Will the ballot happen, and if so will the MPs oust Brown? How many rebels would be needed before his position becomes untenable? 20? 30? 50? 100?
  2. Who would succeed him? No outstanding or even unifying candidates I would venture, and would any of the least worst options want such a poisoned chalice? I recall some opinion polls last year that put Mr T Blair as the Labour leader who would perform best should Brown be replaced!! The Milibands, Straws and Harmans of this world didn't seem to find any more favour than Brown did with those polled.
  3. Would a change of PM make any difference to voting intentions? Would the passive lack of enthusiasm for any successor be mitigated by the absence of active disapproval of Brown?
  4. How would it play in the Labour heartlands if a Blairite contender emerges triumphant? In particular, what would be the effect in Scotland if the so-called "Scottish mafia" loses control at Westminster? Furthermore, will there ever be another Scottish (or Welsh) leader of any of the UK parties in these days of devolution?
  5. Would the public stand for a second unelected PM? Would the election have to be brought forward? And if so...
...here's a mischievous thought-experiment that occurred to me the other day. Imagine the scene: the SNP fail to get their 2010 budget passed, GARL proving a sticking point too far. Alex Salmond makes good on his threat to go to the people with a snap election for early March. What are the consequences for the UK general election?

Could we have the UKGE at the same time as the Scottish election? (remember the confusion last time over multiple ballot papers!) Could any of the UK parties afford two election campaigns in short succession? If not would that clear the way for the SNP to significantly outspend their rivals? If Brown is ousted and the public do demand a UKGE, would the rest of the UK be happy to hang around waiting for Scotland to finish a Holyrood election first? Would any of these considerations come into play when the opposition MSPs consider the Scottish budget in the first place? (I can just imagine Mandy on the phone to Murphy who then spells it out for Gray in words of one syllable that Labour can't afford to block the SNP budget!)

Perhaps the above scenario won't come to pass this year, but at some point we're going to see the UK and Scottish electoral cycles moving into conflict with each other. Has anyone thought about the implications of this yet?

Lots of questions there, any takers?

PS Happy New Year to you all!