Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spread your wings and fly, fly, fly high

A final, final Eurovision post of the season (probably).  I've been having a look at the split between the jury and public votes, and a few interesting things leap out -

1) The reintroduction of the juries is having precisely the effect it was supposed to in relation to Russia.  In the televote the Russian entry finished a ludicrous eighth as a result of neighbourly voting, but the juries placed the song last, resulting in a somewhat more realistic placing of sixteenth overall.

2) The juries had the opposite effect they were supposed to have on the UK, which on televoting alone would have been in fifth place, rather than eleventh.  It's not clear why the juries hated the song so much, although their votes were based on the dress rehearsal, in which it was suggested Blue had severely underperformed.

3) On the other hand, it appears that Amaury Vassili's poor performance on the night can't fully explain why France failed to live up to their status as hot favourites - the juries had the song in twelfth place on the basis of an apparently much better dress rehearsal performance.

4) Italy's surprise second place was courtesy of the juries - in fact, if it had been a jury-only vote, Italy would have been the landslide winners.  In the public vote, they were only eleventh.

5) On a couple of songs which I didn't think I got the results they deserved : the juries were far more appreciative that the public of the Austrian entry, but the opposite was true of Spain.

6) I'm relieved to see that the rumours suggesting the tedious Swedish entry had won the televote were wrong, albeit only just.  With the juries, it was a mere ninth.

So on balance I think this shows that the juries are having a positive effect, even though they've clearly failed to wholly eradicate the political effect on the final placings.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Falkland Islands should be decolonised - but what has that got to do with Argentina?

David Cameron reiterated this week that Britain will not negotiate with Argentina over the status of the Falkland Islands for as long as the islanders themselves want to retain the constitutional link with the UK. The Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez reacted angrily, suggesting that the comments were an "expression of mediocrity, and almost of stupidity" and were a sign that the British "continue to be a crude colonial power in decline". Well, most of us can probably agree on the last point, but in truth, who is it that's actually being old-fashioned and colonialist in their attitudes here? After all, the current British population of the Falklands is the only stable population the islands have ever had - other countries established settlements before the British presence, but they were all extremely short-lived. The Argentinian claim on the islands is therefore based on the antiquated and highly subjective principle of territorial integrity, and (bizarrely) on a medieval papal edict granting South America to Spain in perpetuity - Argentina sees itself as the "successor power" to Spain in respect of the Falklands.

It may seem odd for a Scottish nationalist to be defending British rule in the Falklands, but it seems to me the logic is inescapable. If we believe in the much more modern principle of the self-determination of peoples, that applies as much to Falkland Islanders as it does to Scots. For as long as the people want no constitutional link with Argentina, the Argentinian government is arrogant in the extreme to think it has a God-given right to go over the islanders' heads and thrash out a deal with London - indeed, it's hard to think of a more colonial mindset than that.

A point which could of course be driven home with more credibility if Britain formally decolonised the islands. There would be nothing for anyone to fear in that - a free association agreement with the UK (perhaps modelled on the Cook Islands' relationship with New Zealand) could replace the current set-up, and in practice nothing much need change. When I suggested that at Political Betting a few months ago, I almost had my head bitten off by another poster who thought I was ignoring the islanders' wishes - I don't know if he had simply misunderstood what I was suggesting, or if he really was pig-headed enough to think that the symbolism of colonial rule is what the islanders are interested in protecting, rather than the substance of self-government and a constitutional link with the UK. Indeed, another decolonisation option that is recognised as legitimate by the United Nations is voluntary integration into the 'mother country', as has happened with many French colonies. Either way, it would certainly confuse the imperialists-in-denial in Buenos Aires to wake up one morning and discover that the Falklands had been decolonised without Argentina gaining a single inch of territory.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Does David Mundell think he's the Deputy Governor-General of Scotland?

From the BBC...

"Meanwhile, Scotland Office Minister David Mundell said he was seeking clarity from Mr Salmond that he properly understands that his legal duty to "uphold the continued independence of the judiciary" also includes the UK Supreme Court.

The 2008 Judiciary and Courts Act, passed by the Scottish Parliament, makes it clear the first minister is among those who have an explicit duty to protect the independence of the judiciary and to give them the "support necessary to carry out their functions."

Mr Mundell said he wanted Mr Salmond to "state publicly and unequivocally" that he accepts the legislation introduced by his own government."

A couple of points spring to mind -

1) I trust someone is writing to Mr Mundell to ensure he properly understands that, whoever Alex Salmond is answerable to for the way he carries out his many legal duties, it isn't the junior minister at the Scotland Office.

2) Westminster is forever lecturing devolved politicians over how they should keep their nose out of reserved matters, and indeed laws cannot be passed by the Scottish Parliament if they cover reserved matters.  Given that the UK Supreme Court is a reserved matter, I think we can safely assume that the provisions of the Scottish Parliament's 2008 Judiciary and Courts Act cannot possibly extend to the Supreme Court.

Or to put it another way - nice try, David.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Word-Search Wednesday : Councillor Terry Kelly's fearless truths about the SNP

I'm shockingly late to the party in sampling the celebrated delights of Councillor Terry Kelly, but allow me to make up for lost time by entirely devoting this week's word-search to a few of the more recent insights from this Labour stalwart into the subject of the nationalist menace...

(Click to enlarge)

Here are the words and phrases you're looking for -

Einstein : On May 15th, Terry revealed that the SNP had "demoted" Albert Einstein to being a mere "dead German physicist". This is the kind of crazy thing that happens if you give the Nats an overall majority.

Despair : The state Terry was in (also on May 15th) after his epiphany that the SNP probably thought the achievements of Michael Collins, Jomo Kenyatta and Mahatma Gandhi paled into insignificance in comparison with the triumph of nature that is being born Scottish.

English accent : What the SNP "encourage" people to attack others for having, as exclusively revealed by Terry on April 23rd.

Councillor : What the spawn of the devil (aka the SNP's Derek Mackay) disgracefully failed to address Terry as at a council meeting.  But Terry, exhibiting an admirable lack of self-importance that ought to be a shining example to us all, shrugged off the incident as no big deal...

"Another example of SNP leaders Mackay's lightweight intellect and glaring inexperience came back to haunt him today at this meeting. 2 or 3 weeks ago when I asked him a question he was a bit harassed and blurted out "I'm not going to debate with you Kelly" 'OOEEE OOAAA' gasped the meeting in mock horror at how he had stripped me of my title of councillor and reduced me to plane old 'Kelly' he refused to listen to advice to correct his childish error and pressed on, today he paid for that immature, childish error. I raised my hand to speak and he said "yes Cllr. Kelly" and I said with a smile "oh so I'm councillor again am I, thank you for that, MACKAY" poor lad what could he do but allow it he looked as if he was ready to bolt because he knew what was coming as he rightly guessed that I would and did use every opportunity at the meeting to refuse to call him councillor and refer to him as Mackay, poor C.E. David Martin looked miserable sitting next to him with a look which said "why me, why have I got to be saddled with wet behind the ears kid, he keeps making fools of all of us" I will now consider whether to call him Councillor in future, if he can get away with dropping my title of Councillor then so can I and so can anyone; he set the precedent and was too naive to see the consequences, perhaps he will apologise to me to save himself further embarrassment."

Bragging : What Terry revealed the spawn of the devil (aka the SNP's Derek Mackay) was guilty of doing about his chances of winning Renfrewshire North and West. Terry pointed out that Mackay (now the MSP for Renfrewshire North and West) couldn't really be that confident if he was also standing on the list.  Very true - I'm sure we all recognise with the benefit of hindsight that Andy Kerr's decision to take no such precaution was a much more promising sign.

The SNP Lib Dem bunker : Exposed by Terry on March 23rd as the "only place" which still believes that the recession was the Labour government's fault.  So refreshing to finally hear the truth about public opinion after having to listen to all those "scientifically conducted opinion polls".

A reckoning : What Terry prophesied was coming for the SNP in May, after savouring Labour's win in the Paisley South council by-election on March 17th.  I must admit I enjoyed that reckoning far more than I ever anticipated, not least in Paisley itself.

"You are kidding" : What Terry prophesied would be the response of Renfrewshire parents when asked to vote SNP on May 5th.  Perhaps it was the non-parent vote that won Paisley for the SNP?

A pick-me-up : What the look on John Mason's face upon losing Glasgow East in 2010 provided for Terry.  Disappointingly, we've yet to learn what effect the look on John Mason's face upon winning Glasgow Shettleston in 2011 had on Terry.

A Quaker : What Terry revealed on May 4th that Alex Salmond's integrity and honesty made Bob Monkhouse look like.  (Bob Monkhouse????)  All I can say is thank God that the catchphrase on Bob's Full House was "In bingo-lingo clickety-clicks, it's time to take your pick of the six", because clearly Monkhouse's reputation would really be in tatters by now if it had been "it's time for Scotland to have national self-determination".

Now, I could go on like this, but it wouldn't be a word-search worthy of the man unless I left plenty of room for the true gems - the things Terry has called the SNP or people in the SNP. Once again, these are all of relatively recent vintage...







Tartan fool

Political harlot

Nodding donkeys

Tartan teuchters

Limp of wrist

Goldfish (the attention span of)

Dissembling charlatan








Fairground barker

Pathetic flunky

Repellent little creep

And that's the lot.  The solution, as ever, will hopefully be here at the weekend!

Questions to which the answer is 'no seriously mate, I've got a train to catch - GO AWAY'

Another gem from Labour Hame, this time from Richard Olszewski...

"Devolution was described, memorably, by John Smith as the “settled will of the Scottish people”. Well maybe, but it certainly hasn’t been the settled will of all the Scottish people.

Labour’s 1997 White Paper on devolution stated clearly that the aim of devolution was “a fair and just settlement for Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom.” It also said that “Scotland will remain firmly part of the United Kingdom.”

These were the underlying principles on which devolution was based and put to the Scottish people in the referendum of 1997 – held just 133 days after Labour took power, nationalists please note. More than 74 per cent of the Scottish people voted for devolution on this basis. This could hardly have been a more emphatic expression of Scotland’s “settled will”.

But the nationalists never truly accepted that..."

Perhaps I could try to drag Richard back to something approximating to reality at this point. Let's start with this - if there had been a multi-option referendum on the constitution in 1997 with all the three main options (independence, devolution and the status quo) on the ballot paper, we all know that devolution would not have received the backing of anything like 74%. Quite possibly, it wouldn't even have made it to 50%. The opinion polls from the period suggest that an outcome along the following lines would have been fairly likely -

Devolution 45%
Independence 30%
Status Quo 25%

So when Richard says that self-government firmly within the United Kingdom hasn't been the settled will of "all" the Scottish people, that's something of an understatement. If John Smith really intended the phrase to be taken in that way, he must have known it was always a rhetorical sleight of hand - there was indisputably a settled will in favour of a Scottish Parliament of some kind, but a deep split on whether that parliament should be devolved or independent. The sleight of hand became considerably more brazen when Labour held a referendum that didn't allow supporters of the parliament to indicate whether they wanted it to be independent or not. So, as Richard knows perfectly well, the vast majority of independence supporters made the best of a bad job by voting Yes to the only Scottish Parliament that was on offer. Or to put it another way, virtually everyone who would have liked to vote "No to the United Kingdom" in fact voted Yes in the 1997 referendum, as the closest approximation of their views. By contrast, virtually everyone who voted No was emphatically in favour of Scotland remaining within the UK.

Curious, then, that Richard - just like Roy Hattersley and others before him - somehow feels he can claim the 74% Yes vote as a vote in favour of the United Kingdom. I can only assume that he believes an enormous chunk of the electorate were behaving entirely irrationally. That being the case, perhaps he could just clear up one little thing, if he has the time. Given that supporters of independence were (unwittingly or perversely) voting in favour of the United Kingdom by voting Yes in 1997, how exactly should they have gone about expressing their opposition to the United Kingdom? By staying at home? By spoiling their ballot paper? By voting No and thus preserving remote control rule from London?

How, Richard?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The UK government's love for the Scottish people is unconditional love, it's unshakeable love, it's like...oooh, I dunno, Cathy's love for Heathcliff, or something

Danny Alexander on the prospect of extra powers for Holyrood being added to the Scotland Bill -

"We're going to take these decisions on the basis of what we regard to be in the best interests of Scotland and the best interests of the people of Scotland, not what's in the best interests of the SNP."

Oh yes, of course. The Whitehall machine is legendary for reaching every decision exclusively in the best interests of the people of Scotland, rather than for, say, writing panicky memos in the 1970s about how the Scots have got "us" over a barrel, and then trying to devise cunning strategies (which mainly consisted of lying rather a lot) to prevent "them" running off with their oil and improving the life chances of "their" people with it.

Yup, it may be a frightening, changeable world out there, but one thing will always remain reassuringly constant - the UK government only wants what's best for us.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Questions to which the answer is 'gosh, is that the time, catch you later'

If anything, Labour Hame is proving even more fun than I anticipated. The latest post contains the first in a planned series of 'questions to nationalists' that are presumably intended to be unanswerable. If the opener is anything to go by, though, not only will they be easily answerable, they'll unwittingly reveal far more about the person asking the questions than those being challenged. Here it is, in all its glory...

The SNP mantra is that Scotland should control all its domestic affairs. Given that the EU already makes up to 50 per cent of all member states’ law, why don’t the SNP support withdrawal from the EU as well as withdrawal from the UK?

Answer : Because the SNP believe that the EU's competences are (with a few important exceptions) restricted to those areas that are most appropriately dealt with at supra-national level. The party also naturally believes that all areas that are most appropriately dealt with at nation-state level should be the province of the Scottish parliament and government, rather than Westminster.

But the implicit assumptions that underpin this question throw up important questions that Labour must answer. Any logic that holds that if some powers are to be ceded to an external authority, more should be, applies just as neatly to the UK as to Scotland. Why, then, do Labour say to the EU - this far and no farther? Why, in a nutshell, are they British nationalists on precisely the same basis that the SNP are Scottish nationalists? Why don't they instead follow the logic of the "internationalism" they pay lip-service to by calling for the absorption of Britain into a single European state? And if the SNP are narrow-minded "separatists" for thinking that all the powers the EU recognise as being the proper province of nation-states should be exercised by Edinburgh (rather than split between Edinburgh and Westminster), does that mean Labour are "British separatists" for believing that national-level powers should be exclusively exercised by the UK, rather than partially ceded to an external capital such as Paris or Amsterdam? I can only assume they must be.

The 'unanswerable' Labour Hame question has already received umpteen compelling responses in the comments section. I await just one compelling response to my own questions - but I'm not hugely optimistic. Once again, Labour are risibly and transparently trying to conflate support for the status quo of a British nation state (ie. British nationalism) with a principled and idealistic opposition to nationalism and "separatism". Best of luck with that one.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Denis MacShane : the solution

Actually, I'm not sure there is any known solution to Denis MacShane, but at least I can offer the solution to his word-search puzzle from Wednesday...

For a sneak preview of the identity of next week's Word-Search Wednesday star, try solving this anagram...