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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.

2014

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.

Scottish Referendum Reflections

In the end I suppose confidence and hope lost out to fear and timidity (or caution if a less harsh word is required.)

I didn’t watch the results coming in as nothing was going to happen for hours. I woke up to the news on the radio.

My first thought was one of relief that none of the apocalyptic things predicted of a yes vote – flight of capital, businesses and jobs, the loss of the BBC to us forever (not that that organisation cares much for Scotland) etc etc – would now be happening, my second that Westminster could now safely go back to ignoring that part of the UK where I was born and live.

My third was a profound sadness that the country I had always suspected I lived in was not the one I had hoped I lived in.

Given, for the first time (the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 was carried out over the heads of the populace at large,) the opportunity to affirm that Scotland was a nation rather than an idea, the Scottish people had declined to do so.

I found myself thinking of Alan Warner’s views on the Scottish literature project – see my earlier post – and changing my mind.

In the light of the result Warner may have a point. If the majority of Scotland’s people see no utility in an institutional reflection of Scottishness on the world stage why should there be a Scottish literature at all? What is the point of reflecting Scottishness when, philosophically – the referendum question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” was a philosophical one – the place doesn’t exist.

I also mused on the fact that there is now an argument that, the people having rejected independence, sporting teams representing Scotland become even more of an absurdity, and that, for example, the Scottish FA and SPFL should be dissolved and merged into their southern counterparts. (Whisper this to UEFA or FIFA, though.)

As to the no campaign’s promises of further powers to the Scottish Parliament I’ll believe in promises of Devo Max when further devolution happens, not before. (See the Alan Warner link above.) In this regard please note that I am entirely in favour of devolution of powers from the Westminster Parliament to all other areas of the UK which wish for that.

I spoke to one of my sons yesterday, who I suspect voted no, and he was of the opinion that there is now a momentum, that independence will come inside 25 years.

Perhaps. Perhaps if Scottish sporting teams were absorbed into a GB framework the process would be accelerated. I had long said that the only way Scots would vote for independence was if the Scotland football team was no longer allowed to play against anyone. Since Scotland ceased to qualify for tournament finals, since we became more or less rubbish, even that might not be enough.

Scotland’s Big Day

You may have heard there’s a referendum taking place in Scotland today.

I’ve always felt that the result would be a no vote but it seems the polls over the past couple of weeks have it as being close. I shan’t bore you further with my views on it: it’s a secret ballot after all.

Here, however, is a take on it from the US; delivered by an Englishman.

Cryptic Answer

From yesterday’s Guardian cryptic crossword:

Leading Tory: “I have come last in poll, schooling ultimately a fiasco” (7, 4)

Answer:- Michael Gove

For those of you who have difficulty decoding such things the clues have a definition part – here “Leading Tory” – and another part which guides you towards the answer. Here the word fiasco tells you to make an anagram of previous letters, specifically “I have come”, the last letter of the word poll, “l”, and the ultimate letter of schooling, “g”.

What makes the clue particularly delightful is that its last three words describe the gentleman concerned’s tenure as Secretary of State for Education down south.

The Stuarts on BBC 2

I watched the first episode of The Stuarts on BBC 2 tonight.

It seemed, like on its first showing on BBC 2 Scotland earlier this year, an odd decision to start with James VI (or James I if you prefer.) There were no less than eight Stuart monarchs before him. In the year of the Scottish Independence Referendum that could be interpreted as a slight, another piece of English ignorance/dismissal of Scottish History.

That the first episode dwelt on James’s desire to unite the two kingdoms as Great Britain might also seem like a dark Better Together plot as the Guardian noted today.

Yet (some, though not all, of) James’s ancestors were spoken of in the programme so the ignorance/dismissal angle can on those grounds be discounted. And the differences between the two countries that then existed (of religion principally,) and in some respects still do, were not glossed over but I was left wondering who on Earth thought broadcasting this was a good idea now. It can only lead to accusations of bias

I had another such disjointed TV experience with the BBC recently. Janina Ramirez in her otherwise excellent Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years War – on BBC 4 last week, this (and next) but also a programme that has been screened before – kept on emphasising how the events she was describing played a large part in how the country “we” live in now came to be as it is. (Note also the “us” on Dr Ramirez’s web page about the programme.)

Yet that country was/is England. Ramirez seemed totally unaware that her programme was to be broadcast not on an England only channel but one which is UK-wide. Indeed that the country all the BBC’s principal audience lives in is not England, but the UK. [Except for powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies legislation at Westminster is for the whole of the UK. No English elected body oversees the equivalent powers to those devolved elsewhere (arguably there ought to be one;) it is the UK Parliament that performs that function.]

Two parts of the UK share none of the history Dr Ramirez was outlining. Wales (having been incorporated earlier) was involved directly in the Hundred Years War but neither Scotland nor Ireland were. Yet she spoke as if that circumstance didn’t exist.

This sort of thing does contribute to a feeling among many Scots (and I suspect Welsh and Northern Irish viewers too) that the BBC is a broadcaster with a mind for England only and too often forgets the three other constituent parts of the UK.

MH 17 and Russia 2018

The shooting down of airliner MH17 over Ukrainian airspace was a tragedy – but more likely arising from the cock-up rather than the conspiracy wing of history. Surely no-one seriously thinks that the powers behind either side in the Ukraine fighting intended their minions to shoot down a passenger aircraft? It was clearly done by a trigger-happy clown not subject to much in the way of discipline or command and control as in a regular army. Unfortunately this sort of thing happens in civil conflicts.

The consensus that it was “Russian” rebels who did it is probably correct. That they ought not to have had the weapons to allow them to do it is also a given. But I suspect that Vladimir Putin is raging that it has put him – as the overwhelmingly likely ultimate source of the arms involved – in the wrong. One more reason for the US and EU to portray him as a villain and to increase sanctions.

Yet, unless it blows up into something bigger – in the hundredth anniversary year of the devastating fall-out of an assassination in the Balkans that prospect cannot be overlooked – in four year’s time will most people, apart from the families of the deceased for whom it will linger forever, remember it? Very few gave a toss about the contretemps Russia had had with Georgia in 2008 during the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year.

Yet we have our Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, calling for the World Cup due to be hosted by Russia in 2018 to be stripped from that country. I wish him luck with that. The site of World Cups is in the purview of FIFA and that organisation doesn’t take kindly to outside interference.

What makes his remarks even more counter-productive in terms of his stated objective is that Clegg has said that England might host the tournament instead. Anyone who had any knowledge of FIFA at all would know that is a non-starter.

Twonk.

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