Category Archives: Politics

Scottish Political Parties: Social Media ratings

STV have just done an analysis of how good Scottish political parties are at using social media. I’m not surprised that SNP are way ahead of everyone else. I think that’s partly because they know that mainstream media do not accurately reflect the SNP activities, spokespeople and  policies. So they’ve had to get good at blawin’ therr ain trumpets!

But when I say they’re better than everyone else, I mean they are way, way better… Look at these comparisons:

 

 

The EU Parliament in Scotland runs regular events called Meet Your MEP. I went to one here in Glasgow with David Martin, Labour MEP. I really appreciated what he said and the Q&A session afterwards. The most recent event was in Edinburgh with Alyn Smith, SNP MEP. I’m on his weekly email list where he sends out a round-up of he’s been doing and what’s in the news regarding the EU, UK, Scotland…. These days most of that is dominated by Brexit. He posts links to the response to the Brexit negotiations in European media which I wouldn’t come across otherwise.

You can see me scribbling down some notes during Alyn’s talk and the Q&A afterwards. Most of what was spoken about referred to Brexit, its consequences for UK and in particular for Scotland. Here is the gist of my scribbles as accurately as I can make them.

  • What happened in the Brexit vote?
    Basically voters gave the Establishment a skelp, for many it was the first time they felt their vote counted, especially in England. The leave vote wasn’t very much to do with pros and cons of the EU and how it works. A lot of it was telling the established politicians that people feel left out, overlooked. 
  • And of course then there were the 350,000 EU citizens in Scotland, 2.5 million in UK overall, who didn’t get to vote in Brexit referendum.

 

  • Role of the media
    They are not telling us about what Europe actually does and how it operates. They see their job as pandering to the prejudices of their readership, not to inform them
  • Our print media is owned by oligarchs like Evgeny Levedev (The Independent), Viscount Rothemere (The Daily Mail), Rupert Murdoch (The Times). They have influence about what and how is reported. That influence is then multiplied by the way broadcasting media, especially the BBC use it. Eg BBC News late night The Papers slot….
  • But the English media is widely read in EU and we look pretty bad to EU countries. It doesn’t help wider atmosphere outside the negotiations along if our media are seen to be pouring out toxic, misleading headlines about the EU. It certainly wouldn’t help our reception in EU if we moved to revoke Article 50 and the whole Brexit process.
  • Euromyths
    They used to be jokey… They have become shriller and nastier now. The nastiness was built up by Farage and UKIP, but also by Boris Johnson when he was working as a journalist in Europe.
  • Farage is most successful political in UK. In twenty years, he has brought about a Tory Party that has lost its reason, and an opposition party, Labour, that is having to appease its Remainers and Leavers at the same time and which therefore won’t be able to take a sane stance on retaining membership of single market and customs union. It’s comparable to the similar effect in US politics brought about Tea Party on the Republicans
  • Alyn says it’s true that Farage applied for German citizenship after Brexit vote. There has certainly been a lot of media speculation about it as in this article in Politico.

 

  • Can Article 50 be revoked?
    Yes, if UK asks for it to be revoked. See various articles by John Kerr, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who drafted Article 50.
  • There’s no guarantee that the current opt-outs that UK enjoys would all still be on offer. But Euro and Schengen opt-outs would still be in place for UK. And probably the budget rebate, at least until the next budget talks, which happen every five years

 

  • Devolution under attack with the retaining of devolved powers
    111 powers of Holyrood are removed to Westminster in the current Bill. Smith doesn’t buy it that they’ll be returned to Holyrood. UK is going in a different direction by using the Henry VIII laws. SNP have produced this video of what those 111 powers are…. 
  • With loss of devolved powers,  the power of Holyrood is under sustained attack. What could Holyrood do? Devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales can refuse their approval for the EU Withdrawal Bill. Westminster could go ahead and pass it anyway. That would provoke a constitutional crisis.

 

  • Scotland’s economy
    Freedom of movement and access to single market is crucial for our economy. Yet currently Tories are pursuing a “hostile environment” policy to discourage EU immigration
  • It’s also crucial that we, and UK, keep access to EU Open Skies legislation which enables hassle free flights throughout Europe. Similarly important to stay part of Euratom; all of the radioactive isotopes used in NHS are made in Netherlands. We also need to keep access to EU university research funding
  • Our fish and meat industries have a huge reliance on EU people. For every one job on a fishing boat, there are seven associated jobs onshore.
  • Trade deals: CETA has been agreed only after a very long process. TTIP was seen off in EU remember . But after Brexit, Westminster could approve a ‘TTIP on steroids’ deal with US. Smith fears that UK will have a ‘fire sale’ under the pretence of Brexit and deregulate the economy.

 

  • Damage to Third Sector
    We will lose direct EU funding to charities ; EU works round central governments to fund local projects. It will do damage to civic society which is already muffled by the lobbying act. And although EU funding could be replicated by UK, ministers are not doing anything about putting that into place

 

  • Holding a Second EU referendum
    Even if rest of Uk doesn’t get the opportunity to vote on whether they want to go ahead with whatever Brexit deal is reached, we can give Scots a vote on the Brexit deal. If we do that, it can only be a choice of Brexit or Independence because we can’t offer anything else. And there will be no other other choice unless something shifts in English political thinking.
  • NI and Scotland: NI is going to need a special status in order to avoid a physical border in Ireland. And if it’s possible for NI, then it’s possible for Scotland too

 

  • Is EFTA a good option for an independent Scotland?
    Would be OK half way house as an interim option . Smith thinks the best option longterm is to be a full EU member. EFTA is being promoted by Alex Salmond just now and he’s doing it to move the discussion in Scotland on to possibilities post-independence, ie promoting a discussion that takes independence as a given

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Murphy’s Journey to Yes

Richard Murphy is a political economist. You  might have come across his blog TaxResearchUK which is much, much more interesting reading than you might guess from it’s title! For example “It’s time the BBC learned that all money is made out of thin air.” and “Has Carney taken leave of his sense?” Carney being the Chairman of the Bank of England.

Recently he wrote about the inadequacies of the GERS (Governement Expenditure & Revenue Scotland) figures. If you read my blog you’ll have spotted me trying to makes me sense of them and what they say about the Scottish economy. According to Richard, I shouldn’t waste my time as they are not fit for purpose. Or to be more precise not fit if your purpose is to make sense of the Scottish economy. On the other hand if your purpose is to obfuscate the likely state of an independent Scottish economy, they do an admirable job. He has written several posts about GERS, for example “Why economic data provided by London will not help the Scottish independence debate” and  “More on Why GERS might properly be called crap data” .

In this video he talks about he see sees leaving the UK as the only way for Scotland to reach its full economic and human potential.  The prize is a better Scotland. He takes about the economic forces powering the Yes movement, he dismantles the case for GERS and looks at the key issues of currency, investment and taxation that must be addressed to win the independence argument. Worth a listen….

Journey to Yes

In 2014 we Scots voted in a referendum. Either Yes! we wanted Scotland to be an independent nation once more after more than 300 years of political union with England. Or No, we wanted to remain in that union. At the beginning of the campaign opinion polls showed a Yes vote at about 25%. By 14 Sept 2014 the day of the vote it was 45%. That’s a big increase. But not a big enough increase. 

Since then the promises made to us by the Unionist politicians to get us to vote No have mostly been shown to be empty. In particular the No campaign took a strong line over EU: the only way to be sure of remaining in the EU was to stay in the Union; an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to join the EU; Spain would veto us; we’d be out in the economic cold. Aye, right. It was not correct then and it sure as hell isn’t right now after England voted to leave the EU last June. Scotland voted to remain by 62% : 38%. That isn’t important apparently and we should just be quiet and let our kindly Westminster Government get on with sorting things out for us.

Not surprisingly, some people who supported the No campaign in 2014 have shifted their view and now support Yes. Here are some videos made by Phantom Power which tell the stories of those Journeys to Yes.

 

 

Electoral Calculus

I really like the Electoral Calculus website. It follows opinion polls and comes up with overall election predictions but also seat by seat predictions. It’s run by Martin Baxter. More about him here.

His current UK prediction is for a Tory majority of 74 seats. If she gets that, Mrs May will no doubt think it was worth all the stresses, strains, insults, lapses of memory, innumerable speeches to sparse hand-picked audiences, missed debates, etc etc and including the wee dash up to Crathes in Aberdeenshire to the local community centre where the event had been booked as a children’s party.

Current prediction for Scotland is an SNP majority of 41, i.e. 50 seats out of 59, which is six down on their currently held seats.

I don’t agree with the Scottish prediction. I know Angus Robertson is vulnerable to the Tories but I think his well deserved reputation and standing at Westminster as the leader of the SNP group will help him hold on. I hope the same happens in Perth for Pete Wishart. Oh and I so hope that we manage to get rid of Fluffy Mundell from Dumfriesshire. Also I’m not sure that this prediction takes into account the latest polling which has Labour and Tory at 25% each in Scotland. That will help SNP if it’s maintained.

Fingers crossed!!!

Tory Graphics Go Haywire

 

I was looking at a bit of Tory election campaign bumff that came through our door. It was the same as the one above except that it had the name and photo of the Tory candidate in my constituency. Now that’s fair enough. It makes sense to have a central campaigning theme with your local candidate added. You’ll see that it has the claim that “Labour and LibDems are now too weak to stand up to the SNP”. On the reverse it said “Tory Revival on Course to Foil Independence.” That’s standard for this Scottish Tory campaign – they are the champions of the Union holding their ground against hordes of divisive Nationalists. 

Now I usually just bin anything from the Conservatives immediately but the graphic which supposedly showed a Panelbase poll result from April to back up that first claim seemed a bit off to me. So I redrew the actual poll figures and compared them with the Tory leaflet version by measuring the height of the columns on the leaflet. The blue columns show the real spread of support as reported in the Panelbase poll and the green columns are what the Tories would have us see : the results are skewed to exaggerate the position of both SNP and Tory whilst under-representing Labour and LibDems. Now Labour is weak and LibDems are showing no signs of recovery but they’re not this weak!! 

 

The Electoral Commission have powers to oversee fair play in UK election. They have a section on making complaints but it says they don’t have authority over election campaign content : 

Political advertising or campaign election material:

We frequently receive complaints about political advertising or campaign material and the behaviour of candidates, especially in the period before an election. These are not within the scope of the complaints policy and will be referred to our Public Information Team.

While we have regulatory duties relating to campaign spending, including in relation to political advertising/election material, we have very few powers to deal with the content of material published by candidates and parties, or their general conduct. In most cases we will not be able to deal with such complaints, which should instead be made directly to the party or candidate responsible for the material.

So there didn’t seem much point in contacting them.  Instead I sent emails to the four candidates standing in my constituency containing a copy of the graph comparisons. Well I tried to. The email address given for my LibDems candidate returned undeliverable – which is about the same as his chances of being elected. The Tory candidate hasn’t replied – which is maybe to be expected. I did come clean and tell him that I was never going to vote for him anyway.

This is my email:

Dear ….
Yesterday the Conservative campaigners dropped a leaflet through my door. It has the claim that “Labour and LibDems are now too weak to stand up to the SNP” alongside “Tory Revival on Course to Foil Independence.” I usually just bin them immediately but the graphic which supposedly showed a poll result from April backing up that first claim seemed a bit off to me. 

So I redrew the actual poll figures and compared them with the Tory leaflet version. The blue columns show the real spread of support and the green columns are what the Tories would have you see : the results are skewed to exaggerate the position of both SNP and Tory whilst under-representing Labour and LibDems. Now Labour is weak and LibDems are showing no signs of recovery but they’re not this weak!! 

I suspect that they’ve chopped off the bottom section of the polling graph, possibly to fit it on their handout. Perhaps it’s more malicious than that. Either way it needs stopped. 

I’m sure you’d want to check my figures but I’m pretty confident in them. Maybe you can do something to halt this sort of deliberate misinformation. Or at least use it to oppose Ms Davidson’s cohorts 😈

My MP is Carol Monaghan SNP. Here’s her reply to my email:

Many thanks for getting in touch regarding the graphic on the Tory leaflet. You and I must have had the same thoughts when we saw that particular graphic! Of course in my former life as a physics teacher, any of my students producing a graph such as this would have been sent back to correct their errors. I am delighted that you have done this correction for the local Tory candidate. Unfortunately it is difficult to prevent a misleading message being spread. It is something in that I am becoming increasingly used to, and of course politicians love challenging each other on the particular way in which they choose to present information. I will of course refer to your correct graph at appropriate opportunities and I would suggest that you do likewise.

Thanks again for getting in touch and for displaying your un-Torylike numeracy skills.

I also got a reply from the Labour candidate though I’d inadvertently not included an attachment with my graph so he hadn’t seen the comparison. He took the time to reply even so which was good of him. 

Thanks very much for your email – lovely to hear from you. I can’t see anything attached but I can imagine the graph you are talking about. Of course it’s also based on a national projection and has no relevance to what is the possible outcome in this constituency – where the Conservatives have zero chance. I find the whole graphs on leaflets obsession a bit frustrating – especially when there are so many other issues we could be talking about.

For my part, I’ve been running a positive campaign about our plan to make Britain a fairer and more socially just country – an economy that works for all not just the wealthiest few. I work with children in the care system and I see day in day out the impact of austerity and cuts on families across this constituency – that’s what has motivated me to stand to be your MP.

Thanks again for getting in touch and I hope we see the end of the ‘fake graphs’ soon!

He doesn’t seem to mind the Tory skewing of his electoral position since they have zero chance of winning this seat. Of course that’s ignoring the fact  that this skewed information has been posted through letter boxes all over Scotland not just in this constituency. Still he is right that they have zero chance of winning in Glasgow NW. For Labour to win they’d need to overcome the SNP’s 24% lead after the 2015 election. Compare that to when I moved into this constituency: in 1978 this was the only Tory seat in Glasgow. It changed to Social Democrat when they split from Labour in 1980s and we had Roy Jenkins as our MP, then it went to Labour and George Galloway was MP. It stayed Labour under John Robertson until 2015 when Carol won for SNP. I don’t think Carol has much to worry about being returned for a second time.

 

 

 

An SNP Clean Sweep?

At present the SNP have a very healthy lead over the Scottish Tories in the opinion polls. Bigger than Mrs May’s lead over Labour in England. Labour are in third place. Their polling share halved since 2015 while the Tories’ share has doubled. The figures are taken from What Scotland Thinks. I’ve omitted some small party shares so the percentages don’t add up to exactly 100%.

So, how might that play out on June 8th? I’ve been looking at how things stand in the 59 Scottish constituencies after the 2015 election. SNP: 56 Lab, Con & LibDems: one each 🙂 Can the SNP take a clean sweep? Probably not, is what I think. They may even lose a few seats. Mind you that would still give them a huge mandate in Scotland. Here’s why I think that:

Continue reading An SNP Clean Sweep?

Not another election :-/

By June 9th we’ll be puggled …. after all her adamance that no election was necessary and she’d just get on with the job, blah, blah, unlike those Scottish Nat who are always calling for another election about independence, blah, blah, when now is not the time, blah, blah, she’s gone and called another election. Mind you, if I was 20% ahead of my main opponents in the polls, I’d probably do it too. 

I’ve been taking a look at Labour’s chances. I don’t think much of them. This is roughly how things stand as regards the % difference between Tory and Labour at the last election.   Continue reading Not another election :-/

Citizens’ Assembly… a second chamber for Scottish parliament?

A few weeks back I read a CommonWeal policy proposal on the subject of whether we need a second chamber to complement Holyrood and if so what kind of chamber do we want? The proposal is to set up a Citizens’ Assembly. It’s written by Brett Heddig who set up the Sortition Foundation exploring how we can do democracy differently. 

Democracy is about elections isn’t it? Voters vote, give a group of people a mandate to govern and let those people get on with it for a few years. Those people are our representatives and if we’re not happy with they do in our name, we vote for someone else next time. That’s pretty well how I  would describe democracy. Mind you it also needs a raft of supporting institutions like a free press, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech, freedom of association (eg Trade Union rights), signing up to the UN Human Rights Charter, etc, etc. 

Continue reading Citizens’ Assembly… a second chamber for Scottish parliament?

Scottish Local Elections Coming Up At a Polling Station Near YOU!

Like I said in a previous post, I haven’t paid much attention to local elections apart from voting in them. But having had a look at how Glasgow is placed in the forthcoming local elections, I thought I’d have a look at how councils around Scotland stand at the moment. Happily for someone who likes spreadsheets, you can download the whole caboodle of the 2012 election results direct to your computer.  Then you can footer around pulling data together to your heart’s delight. Or not delight depending on your political preferences. 

I’m really surprised at the variety of local coalitions that have formed to create a working majority in a council. Even the LibDems and the Greens get a look in. It’s a right patchwork of red, gold, yellow, blue, and whatever colour Independents associate themselves with. I’ve used grey on the graphs below. Sorry, Independents. 

Continue reading Scottish Local Elections Coming Up At a Polling Station Near YOU!

Glasgow City Council Elections… coming up next month, 4th May

To be honest I’ve never paid much attention to local council elections. Since I was old enough to vote I was either in Edinburgh or in Glasgow. Well there was a break for some years in Shropshire. But especially in Glasgow, you knew what the outcome was going to be. One of our local councillors was a LibDem chap for a long time but everyone knew that it was going to be a Labour run council. Again. And again. And again. 

Oh well, apart from 1949-52 and 1968-71 when the council was run by Progressives and mostly without overall control.  Oh and 1977-79 when again there was no overall control and it was run by a Conservative. Apart from those years, for all the other years since 1934 – Wikipedia doesn’t venture further back than that – it’s been Labour run.

Continue reading Glasgow City Council Elections… coming up next month, 4th May

Article 50 Delivered to Brussels :-(

Today saw Article50 with Theresa May’s signature at the bottom of it wend its way over to Brussels and in to the hands of Donald Tusk. In the House of Commons, our PM gave a statement to that effect and called for the ‘nation’ to pull together. We already heard from her the other day up here in Scotland that Britain is an “unstoppable force”. 

Here is Angus Robertson’s, leader of the SNP in the Commons, response to her statement. Angus is getting better and better …..

Bercow, the Speaker, Speaking Some Welcome Home Truths

The Speaker of the Commons gets asked a point of information about the possibility of  Trump speaking at Westminster Hall. Speaker Bercow left no doubts about his view on that. As Dennis Skinner says at the end “Just two words, Mr Speaker. Well done.”

However since this happened Bercow is facing calls for him to resign. These calls come from Tory MPs. So no surprise there. The grounds for a resignation are said to be the Speakers make an agreement to be politically neutral while they hold the position of Speaker. 

You might say that Bercow’s words were not political neutral in that they go against the stated views of the PM in inviting him for a Royal State Visit as opposed to a Head Of Government visit. I prefer to think of Bercow giving the Commons the ethical argument for why Trump should get nowhere near Westminster Hall or the Royal Gallery.

Build Bridges Not Walls

Over in Washington, Trump is preparing for his inauguration as 45th President of the USA. Elsewhere in the world, people are making know their opposition to his divisive rhetoric. One such protest are the Build Bridges Not Walls events. Here are more photos are of Glasgow’s contribution: