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Denis Healey

One of the last of the big political beasts of my (relative) youth has now departed.

He held office as Defence Secretary for 6 years but was more famous as a Chancellor of the Exchequer excoriated by the left for his adoption of wage controls in 1976 and immortalised in a song – to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – about the Callaghan Government which contained the line, “All the bad was done by Healey, all the good by Tony Benn.” But Healey in a deaperate bind. There had been an oil price rise of 400%. Imagine today’s politicians coping with that.

His obituaries on the television skipped over his war record to concentrate on his political career. But one of the most striking things I ever heard about him was that he was the Beachmaster (for the British sector) at the Anzio Landings a job of no small responsibility. He’s worth an obituary for that alone.

Denis Winston Healey: 30/8/1917–3/10/2015. So it goes.

Drone Killings

The Prime Minister, David Cameron – known to this blog as Mr Irresponsible – has stated that the recent killing by RAF drone strike of two UK citizens in Syria is lawful as it was an act of self-defence and there was no alternative.

So. Let me get this clear. It is illegal for agents of the UK government to execute people convicted in the UK courts for murder, treason (or even arson in Her Majesty’s Dockyards) since the death penalty for such crimes has been abolished; but it is legal to do so to someone outside the UK’s legal jurisdiction, someone who has not been so convicted, or even put on trial?

How is that exactly?

(And what is to stop the government declaring anyone so guilty and despatching a drone to get rid of them?)

I thought we (the so-called civilised law-abiding nations) were supposed to be better than them (the likes of ISIS, ISIL or, the description I believe they themselves abhor, Daesh.)

We have been here before, of course. The major difference is that Gibraltar is British sovereign territory and Syria is not.

Mind you. Abolition of the death penalty in the UK has been a dead duck since the Iranian Embassy siege.


This photo (credited to Dominick Reuter/Reuters) – which doesn’t seem to be on the website – appeared in Thursday’s print edition of the Guardian:-


Surely Mr Trump is using the wrong finger to go along with that facial expression.

Local Libraries Threat

As part of cost-cutting measures a proposal has been put forward to close 16 libraries in Fife. Three of these I have used and one of them has a very good stock indeed.

I have mentioned before how many libraries are within a few miles of Son of the Rock Acres. Most of these serve distinct communities. Not all of them are under threat but I would be sad to see any of them go. However, two of them are the ones I use most often.

As a result of this proposal the good lady and I have recently been borrowing a few more books than we would have previously in order to boost “footfall”. This means the books already unread on our shelves will have to remain there for a while.

Apparently the plans have been halted temporarily to allow for “consultation” – as is mentioned in this article where there is also a link to a petition to keep the libraries open.

Compassionate Conservatism?

This is something that has been bugging me for a long time.

Welfare [wel-fair] noun: the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being.

Why has this word become transformed into meaning something derogatory? Something of which those people who need it are supposed to feel ashamed? (Rather than it being to society’s shame that such people don’t have it.)

Sepp Blatter

I still don’t quite know what to make of Sepp Blatter’s resignation.

It was only a few days after he’d secured his presidency for another term. Maybe there’s a lot to come out about his dealings behind the scenes. It would seem so.

But…. A thought occurred to me.

Is it a bit like John Major’s resignation? He resigned (as head of the Tory Party) but still managed to stay on if you recall.

And Blatter’s given himself about six months still in charge while the process of electing a successor takes place. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if he tried to stand again.

Whatever, I doubt that the next World Cup will be removed from Russia. There were good reasons why it should go there. (It was Europe’s turn and Russia hadn’t had it yet, among others.)

Qatar in 2022 is another matter. (But 2022 is Asia’s turn.)

In another point; to make things absolutely clear, if there is a rerun of the voting for 2018 or 2022, to avoid accusations of sour grapes, England ought not to bid and perhaps neither ought the US given it was that country’s initiative that has resulted in the arrest of FIFA’s executives.

Charles Kennedy

I was shocked to hear the news this morning that Charles Kennedy has died.

The last time I saw him on television – on This Week the week Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister – he seemed in fine health.

I have since read elsewhere that he didn’t look well during the General Election campaign. The death of his father only a few weeks before followed by his defeat at the polls after 32 years as an MP can only have added to his burdens even if he took it well at the time with his joke about “the night of the long sgian dubhs.”

Since his first election (for the SDP) he always came across as likeable – an almost priceless asset in a politician – even decent. The revelations about his alcohol problem didn’t puncture the sense of warmth people felt for him.

He was a man whose instincts seemed to be right. This was exemplified by his opposition to the Iraq War.

Public life in Scotland and the UK is diminished by his passing.

Charles Peter Kennedy: 25/11/1959 – 1/6/2015. So it goes.

Election Reflections

I’ve been struggling to work out what the results of Thursday’s General Election might mean – apart from more years of cuts and austerity and demonising of the people least to blame for the country’s financial woes.

What we have just witnessed is an utterly astonishing all but clean sweep of seats in Scotland by a party whose main raison d’être, Scottish independence, was defeated a bare six months before and which by any logical reckoning ought therefore to have been on its uppers, gibbering in a corner; plus the near wipeout of Scottish Labour representation (a party which evidently has been rotting from within for years and has now simply crumbled away.)

One thing is now clear, however. In UK Parliamentary terms Scotland does not matter – if it ever did. Votes in England determine the result at Westminster and the make-up of the UK Government. Always have, always will.

Yes, Dave, I Blame You

Today, on the BBC’s Reporting Scotland, there was a clip of David Cameron, aka Mr Irresponsible, saying that he was to blame for many things (well you’re right in that at least, Dave) but that Labour’s collapse* in Scotland wasn’t one of them.

Really, Dave? How un-self-aware can anyone get?

It’s got nothing to do with the speech you made on the day after the Independence Referendum where you slapped down those who had just voted to remain in the UK with a, “We don’t care about you, we only care about England,” attitude? Could anything have been more likely to enrage both those who had voted no and those for yes? A clearer demonstration that Westminster politicians just don’t get it as far as Scotland is concerned would have been harder to find. To anyone who knows Scots what response could have been expected other than a rise in support for the SNP (who ought to have been set back for perhaps decades by the rejection of their key purpose for existence?)

I suppose it could all be part of a diabolical (yes, I know it means of the Devil) plan to undermine the Labour party in the UK as a whole but I don’t believe Cameron actually is as cunning as all that. (His sidekick Gideon Osborne, aka George, is another matter, though.) I realise the Tories have more than something of the night about them but I doubt in their wildest dreams could they have deliberately conceived and implemented a coherent, rather than accidental, strategy to reduce the influence of Labour on the Westminster Parliament.

Labour having conspicuously failed over the many years of my lifetime to protect Scots from governments they have not voted for, many people seem to have come round to the view that only a large bank of SNP MPs at Westminster will ensure that Westminster cannot treat Scotland off-handedly.

So yes, Dave. I do blame you.

BTW: I suspect that Labour won’t lose quite so many seats in Scotland as the polls at present predict. There are still many “always been Labour” voters around.


So farewell then 2014, a year which promised to be the most important in Scotland’s history since 1707, but turned out to be more like 1746.

My abiding memory of the referendum year will not be the referendum itself but of the morning after; when we Scots discovered that, far from being about Scotland, the process we had all been through for the previous eighteen months had in fact been, instead, about England, when Mr Irresponsible said his EVEL1 piece. (Paragraphs 19 and 20.)

My first reaction – apart from thinking it was the most spectacular case of missing the point I’d ever witnessed – was that they will just never value us. This was the time to heal, to welcome the result as a coming together, a reaffirmation of what keeps the UK united, a sense of sharing and mutual worth. But what we got instead was an assertion of self-importance, a rejection and dismissal. A Thatcherite Prime Minister telling us that he was in charge and now he’d got what he wanted we didn’t matter any more, that he didn’t care, had in fact, despite his bluster, never cared.

It was only seeing the clip again a few months later that the comparison occurred to me. It was like an abusive husband, told by his wife after a period of consideration that she had decided she had too much invested in the marriage to give it up lightly and was willing to stick with it, immediately turning round and blackening her eye again.

I know not everyone in England agrees with him. Let’s hope they vote accordingly in the General Election in May.

1English Votes for English Laws.

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