Monday, May 04, 2015

I, For One, Welcome Our New Nationalist Overlords

With a likely Nationalist wipe-out of all their foes on the way, it's probable that Scotland's constituency map will soon look less like a General Election result than it will like somebody asked a bunch of nine-year-olds whether the Ninja Turtles are cool.

But who are these blushing political ingenues who are lining up to save Scotland from the decrepit, dictatorial Westminster regime bent upon crushing Scotland's spirit?  Let's take a look at the men and women who are going to spend the next five years freeing the nation from its bonds of slavery...


Alex Salmond, Banff & Buchan 

Having first won a seat at Westminster in 1987, the former First Minister is just the fresh face that's needed to take on the entrenched political establishment. 

With his record of repeatedly attacking the BBC as an alien auslander conspiracy against Scotland, constantly cuddling up for kissy-kiss chats with Rupert Murdoch and agreeing to lobby the UK Government on Murdoch's behalf, we can be sure that Alex is just the new broom that Scotland needs to sweep away the corrupt London media-political nexus preying upon the nation. 

Roger Mullin, Cowdenbeath & Kirkcaldy 

The very man to revolutionise a Scottish education system that's been under SNP control for eight years.  Roger has already been the target of vile attacks by the Unionist media, who shamefully implied that his uncontested appointment as an adviser on college reform might have been in some way politically-motivated.

Now, he's hoping to leave these scurrilous accusations behind by standing as an SNP candidate.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Ochil & South Perthshire

Nobody knows better how devious the Tories and Labour can be than Tasmina, a former Tory candidate and Labour Party member.    Once paraded as the bright new face of conservatism, you can be sure that this is one prospective MP who will hold Parliament to account, no matter which of her former political parties are in power. 

Angus MacNeill, Nah h-Eileanan an Iar

Whether you remember Angus for his fierce commitment to anti-corruption at Parliament or just for stories like "Sleaze MP: My shame at 3-in-bed teen sex scandal" and its "pregnant wife" coda, Angus is just the man to bring a bit of common decency to Westminster for the ordinary punter.

Stuart Donaldson, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine 

As the 23-year-old son of a former government minister, Stuart is a dead-cert to stand firm against the Westminster system of insider-dealing and patronage.

Iain Blackford, Ross, Skye & Lochaber 

Once suspended as party treasurer for "incompetence", Iain is surely the man to bring a bit of fiscal sanity to our profligate government. 

Neil Hay, Edinburgh South 

Having previously called citizens who voted against Scottish independence "Quislings" and dismissed elderly No voters for "barely know(ing) their own name", seniors can rest assured that Neil will represent their interests and isn't at all pleased by the thought that they'll die soon and won't be able to vote any more.

Angus Robertson, Moray 

An MP for 14 years, this fresh-faced firebrand knows how to play the Westminster system to his constituents' benefit, as proven by his role in the expenses scandal.

----

I could go on*, but I imagine that you're now appreciating the full scale of the upcoming Westminster revolution.  And, given that these prospective MPs have been expressly forbidden to criticise party policy, the party leadership or even each other, we can be certain that we're about to enter a new era of openness and honesty. 

*Seriously, there's more than enough material here to triple the length of this post.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The New/Old Boss

So I've spent a fair bit of time recently waving my arms and screeching about how the impending Nationalist triumph is really bad news for Scotland, and I'll probably to continue to do so after they sweep the boards.

This is largely because I don't have any illusions about what the SNP is; because it's currently the dominant political power in Scotland and it's about to exterminate the last vestiges of any opposition to it, and - ironically and hypocritically - because I'm really averse to being badgered about politics by half of the people I meet in the average day.

So there's no need to reiterate the various reasons why I think the SNP are a bunch of godawful hacks, but it's worth pausing at this point to wonder why, exactly, the party that has ruled Scotland for eight years is about to sweep the entire country on vague promises of "change" as if this time, they're really going to hold themselves to account.

As I've said before, it's certainly true that much of the Nationalist surge is driven by angrily clueless, bellyfeel ballbaggery about the bastard Westminster Parliament with its alien, English culture that preys upon the wide-eyed people and blah blah.  There are thousands upon thousands of these folk working hard in their own way to make the nation a less pleasant place to live, and it's this tendency that I'm usually talking about when I make my wild, overheated generalisations about the godawfulness of Scottish nationalism.

But the tragedy here is that if you speak to most of the SNP's new-found supporters, the changes they want aren't crazy, Ukippish zoomery.  They're entirely reasonable and decent: basically, just a yearning for a much less offensive political culture in which our representatives work for their constituents rather than for their constituents' bosses, and for a state that treats its most unfortunate citizens with compassion rather than viciousness.

Neither of these are particularly objectionable demands nor, I think, would they be especially difficult for, say, the Labour Party or the Lib Dems to meet.  And the new Nats are also absolutely correct in assessing that these parties and others, for various reasons that should be obvious, are never going to meet them. 

Most of the new SNP supporters really do think that Scottish nationalism is the vehicle that will drive them towards these goals.  I'll keep this brief and just say - it definitely isn't and it absolutely won't.

The really terrible thing here though is that most of the electorate have spent decades making perfectly reasonable requests and receiving precious little in return.  You don't have to travel far in Scotland to find towns and cities that have been pumped and dumped by successive UK administrations, each of whom once offered their residents a bit of hope and humanity and delivered only further arse-kickings.

So now, Scots are joyfully turning to yet another gang of politicians with ulterior motives who promise them a more humane and less carnivorous politics, and will instead serve them up an even more offensively stupid version of the same old shite.

That's really heartbreaking and while I think it's vitally important to begin the spadework now on shovelling away the fresh layer of bullshit that the SNP have dumped on our collective lawn, it's the reason why you won't find me or many other Scots ardently pimping for any of the UK parties either.

Because the truth is that those parties have had endless time and opportunity to give the public what it wants and, had they done their jobs with even the most basic level of competence, we'd never have found ourselves in this situation.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

This Week's Golden Bullshitter Award

Surprising as it may seem, I'm afraid that the Golden Bullshitter award from this week's election campaign must go to Ed Miliband for his speech "The Libya Disaster is Totally David Cameron's Fault and Definitely Not Mine".

The short version of his point is that because the Prime Minister and the leaders of allied nations didn't commit a billion Ponies of Democracy to Tripoli following the fall of Gaddafi's regime, the current catastrophic state of affairs there is largely their fault.

While this contains elements of truth it is, to put it mildly, a politically convenient reading of the situation.  A more accurate one would go like this:

March 2011 - Presented with Colonel Gaddafi's attempts to brutally crush an uprising in eastern Libya,  Parliament takes a major gamble on deposing the Gaddafi regime in the hope that what follows it will be better, for Libyans and for everyone else.  Ed Miliband votes in favour of this gamble and supports it throughout.

From the start, the UK Government is aware that the British public are very wary of attacking the Libyan regime, fearing a repeat of the Iraq War debacle.  For public relations reasons, the operation is thus proclaimed to be all about enforcing a "No-Fly Zone" to "protect civilians". 

Privately however, it's understood that the Libyan campaign will be a straightforward regime change operation, with Nato providing close air support for the Libyan rebels.  Ed knows this full well, and continues to back it.

It's already clear at this point that the Libyan rebels Nato is supporting include a worrying number of crazy Jihadists.  Acknowledging this would be politically inconvenient however, and so Britain ignores it, gambling that after the war ends, any new government will be able to deal effectively with whatever threat these crazy Jihadists may pose.  Ed is fully aware of this, and says nothing about it in the hope that the gamble will pay off.

The war drags on until a sudden regime collapse hands victory to the rebels.  In Sirte, Nato forces are now providing air support for the Libyan rebels as they engage in precisely the kind of artillery bombardment of civilian areas and close-quarters, house-to-house fighting that the operation was theoretically intended to prevent.  Ed has nothing negative to say at this point, either.

Meanwhile, rebel forces have spent months engaged in activities that would certainly be described as "ethnic cleansing", "war crimes" and "persecution of minorities", if they weren't being perpetrated by the people that the UK were supporting.  Not so much as a tut from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

And then the war ends, with the new Libyan government greeting half-hearted offers of "support" with a polite "thanks, but no thanks".  Chaos soon ensues as the UK Government's gamble of a better, non-Jihadist government fails spectularly, with the Jihadists recruiting from former rebel fighters to form the core of the faction now calling itself Islamic State in Libya.

Which brings us bang up to date, with Ed Miliband this week denouncing David Cameron for taking precisely the same gamble on a Jihadi-free democratic Libya that Ed himself did, on the thin pretext that Ed would've mopped up afterwards a little bit more thoroughly.

Frankly, this contention should be greeted with precisely the same level of credulity as previous claims that the Iraq War would've all been fine, if we'd spent a few billion more on it or invaded on a Sunday instead.

Ed and Dave both gambled on Libya and lost.  Whether you thought the initial gamble was a good or bad idea, the only thing left to do now is to accept that the results of that rash bet are now streaming across the Mediterranean on hundreds of rickety boats, and to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions.

What Ed did this week was a bit of calculated political theatre, and he got away with it because everyone who might otherwise criticise him for it would have to admit that they too were nuts-deep in the Libya disaster...  And those people are still far too enamoured of their own nonsense to contemplate anything so damaging as admitting that they might have been wrong.

Still, that doesn't stop Ed's speech being solid gold-plated political bullshit, and so this week's Golden Bullshitter Award goes to him.

Well done, sir! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Oor Election - Scotland Edition

What's your problem with the SNP? a family member asked this week.  She thought it was odd that I'd be consistently more annoyed by the Nationalists' pronouncements than by those of the other parties, especially since I've been equally scathing about most of the others at one point or another.

I've been giving this some thought, in case some unexamined prejudices are tainting my view of the party that's sweeping all before it in Scotland and now stands on the verge of a crushing, total victory.

(Note - if long, rambling essays filled with unverifiable anecdotes on the general topic of "Why I don't like this thing because blah" don't interest you, then now would be a good time to stop reading). 

Having thought this over, I think I can nail down a few basics:

I admit it - I really am a bit of a dick & I put quite a lot of time & effort into being one

I don't mean this in a jokey, self-deprecating way - I mean that if the opportunity arises for me to annoy people about some current issue or other, there's a good chance that I'll take it.   It just seems to be in my nature.

This means that whenever lots of people start bending my ear in unison about this grand idea or that, I'll most probably disagree, out of sheer contrariness if nothing else.

This isn't so good for my mental health, but it's an advantage whenever much of the populace is bedazzled by some shiny, mental new enterprise - banning things, bombing countries, radically altering the constitution on the promise of infinite ponies for all, or similar...  And the more fervently a wacky idea is pushed, the more arsey I'm likely to be in response.

This tendency towards dickishness about popular phenomena is relevant here because

Hardly anyone is falling over themselves to tell me how fucking awesome e.g. the Tories are

By and large, I can usually get through a day's work or a few drinks at the pub without anyone telling me that they find David Cameron's policies very appealing indeed, and how they can't understand people who don't.

I almost never meet strangers who ask me friendly yet probing questions about my view of Ed Miliband, and it's generally possible to visit e.g. a football chat forum without being bombarded with Ukip banners or people insisting that only unpatriotic arseholes would disagree with Nick Clegg.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said in the face of the very large numbers of born-again SNP types currently cajoling their countrymen throughout the land.  I've seen many party-political campaigns come and go and I can't recall any that resulted in quite so many people parrotting each morning's newspaper headlines back to me, unsolicited.

Nationalists appear to regard this very annoying trend towards legions of people habitually mouthing party-approved slogans as "democratic engagement", an entirely natural and desirable development.

To me, it's every bit as natural and desirable as it would be if people constantly struck up conversations, then suddenly produced trays of apple pies and announced that Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes in earnest tones, because

No matter how realistic robotics are, they're always a wee bit freaky

If lots and lots of people unexpectedly started informing you that Mr Muscle loves the jobs you hate or that Lilt has a totally tropical taste, you'd probably begin to wonder whether you should stop drinking tapwater and sleeping in proximity to creepy alien seed-pods.

It's no less bizarre to witness people who have never shown the slightest interest in, say, nuclear warheads, suddenly launching into blazing tirades about Bairns Not Bombs, or to see people shoehorning the word "Scotland" into sentences where it would never previously have belonged - the people of Scotland, the economy of Scotland, more jobs for Scotland.

And this is especially odd because


It seems to be worryingly difficult for some people to distinguish advertising from reality

The most stark example I've come across recently: on three occasions in the past fortnight, I've tried and failed to convince new SNP fans to admit that Nicola Sturgeon is a politician who makes political promises based upon political polling, to further political aims that may or may not be in tune with the political message that she's signalling.

I don't think that this is a particularly controversial statement, given that the First Minister undeniably is a politician, who demonstrably issues particular messages based upon political calculation...  And I've found it absolutely impossible to elicit anything more than a vague admission that yes, she's a politician, but what about that Jim Murphy, eh?

This kind of thing isn't a problem at all, if we're talking about movie stars or footballers.  I find it a bit weird and alarming in a political movement, because 

I wasn't born yesterday  

I'm in my late thirties and I've seen a few election campaigns play out in a lot of different countries, so I'm aware that there's usually a substantial difference between What politicians say they will do and What politicians actually do.

Further, because I wasn't born yesterday, I'm aware that the SNP has been in business for quite a long time and that its track-record is broadly comparable to those of other political parties - and worse, in some respects. 

So when I now see the party rowing back its pronouncements on Full Fiscal Autonomy like it's just spotted a waterfall up ahead, I'm reminded that until very recently it was enthusiastically in favour of - to pick only a couple of examples - low corporation tax to mimic Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy; leaving NATO and introducing an alternative to the council tax.

All of these policies were once said to be core values upon which the party would not compromise...  And they were all dropped like shitty sticks, at the very second that they began to detract from the party's main goal of Scottish independence.

Because I wasn't born yesterday, I'm aware that the SNP are primarily nationalists.  They'd like to gain Scottish independence with a thumping majority in a referendum, but they'd gladly accept independence with fifty percent of the electorate, plus one vote. 

This means that, when I hear SNP politicians talking about their commitment to, say, equality or education or opportunity, I'm also aware that it's very unlikely that any of these issues would survive a moment's conflict with the party's core aim.

Or, to put it another way: I don't know how the Burberry clothing company would act if it ever won a substantial number of seats at a UK election, but I'm fairly sure that it'd be against foodbanks and unemployment, and in favour of equality and opportunity.

And I'd also hazard a guess that, given any power at all, the Burberry Party's policies would probably focus on people wearing more checked shirts and hats.

This strikes me as fairly obvious stuff, but it clearly isn't to SNP supporters because 

Staggering numbers of people seem to be spectacularly cynical about all politics and politicians, except for their own

In my lifetime, a variety of once-promising political figures and phenomena have come and gone around the globe, each offering a bright new dawn - Reaganomics, New Labour, Boris Yeltsin, to name but a few.  After a while, you start to get a feel for the general trend.

So I can fully understand why much of Scotland is currently up in arms over corruption at Westminster, with its array of co-opted parties and its fixedly deranged view of everything from benefits to immigration.  It's a shite state of affairs, and it has been for decades.

On the other hand, I'm fairly confident that Parliament won't be much improved by sending forty angry nationalist ragers there with a mandate to pick fights over the most politically expedient issues that they can find.

Remember, the Nats want independence, and sooner rather than later.  From their standpoint, a well-functioning Westminster Parliament delivering a popular, fair and mutually-profitable programme for Scotland and the UK, would be about as welcome as compulsory amputations or the Bubonic Plague.

So just as it once struck me as insane to send UKIP hacks to the European Parliament - an institution that they hate and wish to destroy - I'm unconvinced that sending a pack of cranks to Westminster with instructions to be as much of a bunch of dicks about everything as they can, is as good an idea as is being advertised*.

But this doesn't ultimately matter because

There's no telling some motherfuckers different

I know that there's pretty much no point in insisting on any of these ideas with SNP voters, because they just fundamentally don't believe that their politicians, once elected, will act like politicians.  Westminster politics may be an open sewer of filth and depravity but their politicians will be honest and true, unsullied by all the slime.


No doubt you'll find this attitude with other parties too, but it's absolutely dominant up here.  It seems ridiculously fanciful to me, and calls to mind something that a friend once told me, when describing her own social circle.

She said that most women learn early that men are usually compulsive bullshitters.  They learn it well and they remember it constantly, right up until they meet a man that they like.

And boy, do a lot of Scots not love their particular new flame.


*A short addendum here -  I neglected to note that plainly, quite a lot of people explicitly want SNP candidates to spend the next five years trolling hell out of Westminster and really, why shouldn't they want that?  

If people want to send lots of representatives to stand around ostentatiously taking offence at the most slender of excuses, or to make a series of demands that are explicitly designed to be impossible to meet, or to just generally kick up shit about how Parliament is corrupt and horribly biased against Scotland, then it's absolutely their right to do so.  

On the other hand, I notice that this isn't what the party are promising that their candidates will do, even though it's fairly plain that this is exactly what they'll do.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SNP conference opens to rapturous applause 
BBC News, 28 March 2015

Nicola Sturgeon wowed an enraptured Glasgow crowd at the SNP's annual conference today by re-announcing all of the party's policy.

"I believe that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country", the First Minister told delegates "And further, I believe that people who disagree with me are bawbags".

The crowd greeted the announcement with cheers and chants of "We believe things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country" and "People who disagree with us are bawbags".

"Some of our fellow Scots don't believe that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country", Sturgeon said. "To those people, I say - things would be a lot better if Scotland were an independent country, because they would".  

The First Minister's speech to the conference ended a day of surprise policy announcements after  Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Health vowed to shore up the nation's elderly care provisions by enacting a new Belief In The Betterment Of Things If Scotland Were Independent Bill.

Delegates welcomed the party's new strategy on encouraging inward investment by believing that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country, and applauded repeated declarations that people who disagree are bawbags.

Speaking after Nicola Sturgeon's speech, SNP member Morag, 23, of Inverness said "I believe that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country".

"People might say that things wouldn't be lots better if Scotland were an independent country but I think we've proven that we really believe that things would be lots better". 

"And that people who disagree with us are bawbags".

Her sentiments appeared to reflect the views of her fellow delegates.  "Things would be better if Scotland were an independent country" said Duncan, 37, of Glasgow.  "Things would be lots better".

The conference concludes tomorrow with a reading of the traditional poem "Things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country" and a rendition of the folk song "People who disagree with us are bawbags". 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate

Now, you can consider me generally indifferent to any news involving

- Celebrity couples
- Who's headlining this year's Glastonbury, or
- That gosh-darned racket of a hippy-hop music with all the fucking cursing that y'all young 'uns are into these days

...But you know, it's not exactly a shock to discover that either old hippies or young-ish hipsters can often be, beneath their own distinctive veneers of radicalism, really very conservative indeed

My favourite versions of this old satirical stick are Viz's Modern Parents and the Critics but seriously, nothing about this is news, particularly not if you traded in your ridiculous ripped jeans for cheap suits and hard cash many years ago, as I did.  Haters gonna hate, yo.

I haven't got much interest in Kanye West either, but I will observe this - if you're married to Kim Kardashian, and lots of people feel sorry for her because you are embarrassingly vapid and self-involved, then you've probably fucked up somewhere along the line. 

I realise that this point won't go down well with some folk but I offer the following as consolation: if Mr West is especially grief-stricken about his unpopularity with a shower of Home Counties crusties, he can always commit suicide by jumping off his wallet.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Consequences

"Until now, Washington has always acted as Israel’s diplomatic protector, blocking hostile resolutions at the UN and the like. Now the White House, still smarting over Netanyahu's Republican address to a Republican Congress, wants to remind Netanyahu that such support is not unconditional. The core message, and it should not be delivered by the US alone, would be simple. It would say, of course the world has to respect the decision of the Israeli electorate. But if this is the path Israel is taking, there will be consequences".

- Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian, 21 March

I've always liked Jonathan, who seems nice and genuine in a very "Hey gang, let's stage a complete reinvigoration of social democracy right here in the church hall!" kind of way but really, I suspect that even he knows how wishful this kind of thinking is.  

Look, Washington's support simply is "unconditional", and barely even disapproving to boot.  For all the grumpy, unattributed grouching from Pennsylvania Avenue, you'll notice that money talks, and that the flow of cash and weapons hasn't so much as stalled for a second during any of the terrible events in the region, this last few decades.

The hard truth here is that when the Israelis turn up the violence and start blowing shit up, the US leaps immediately into action and mails them more missiles, just in case they run out.  That's been the situation for my entire life and I assure you that it's not going to change just because the Prime Minister rashly said exactly what he thinks, and has clearly always thought, in public.

Where Jonathan says "we cannot go back to mouthing the same old platitudes about two states", I respond - of course we can.  It was obvious a week ago that talk of two states amounted to platitudes, and "we" had no trouble pretending that it was otherwise then.  It's no different today and although the Obama administration is making sad faces and harrumphing noises, you'll notice that there's no talk of turning off the cash taps.

The only "consequence" that will ensue from Netanyahu plainly stating his goals will be this - it will now be a bit more difficult for people who generally back the Israeli government when it stomps on the Palestinians to pretend that it has some passing interest in not stomping the Palestinians.  Somehow, I imagine that those people will manage to overcome that particular obstacle.

I think that Jonathan's difficulty in grasping the reality of the situation here stems from a basic misunderstanding of his own role in this particular pantomime.  He seems to see himself as a reasonable, if critical, observer whose job it is to speak unpalatable truths to powerful people.  Bluntly, it is not so.

The role of western liberals in the continuing immiseration of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is to observe how very unpleasant it all is; to tut and cluck as required, and to rein in their more excitable comrades if they get a bit too uppity, by denouncing them as if they were Nazis.

And that's it. Nothing more required, thank you.

Jonathan and other earnest types who, I'd say, want nothing but the best for everyone involved in this ongoing travesty can continue to make as many boo-hoo noises as they like about it, and the only concrete "consequence" that they'll see for their painfully sensible and measured arguments will be the  avalanche of shitty, accusatory comments under their articles.