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.
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:
When I listened to the Climate change Denial 101 lectures on FLICC it seemed a pretty straightforward and reasonable set of criteria. However when I tried some of the examples, I soon found that it wasn’t!
It’s definitely easier to identify aspects of FLICC when it’s a subject that I have some background knowledge of but even then, I’m still finding myself rather baffled as to which part of FLICC is happening. I suspect that there are probably FLICC overlaps in what people say when they deny what’s happening.
I came across an article with a climate change denier in The Guardian the other week so I thought I’d try analysing it for FLICC content. It’s an interview with Lord Nigel Lawson who was Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (ie Finance Minister) and Energy Secretary in the 1980s. I posted about him in the MOOC forums because he heads up a climate change denial setup in UK called the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
I’ve extracted some of what he says about climate change. The full article is here : Second Coming of Nigel Lawson The “I” in the article is the interviewer, Jane Merrick. So here goes…
Making reference to Met Office Statistics gives Lawson apparent credit as at least a well-informed layman. Really though this is cherry picking and/or a strawman argument. I think he’s referring to the hiatus in surface air temperature rise that’s been observed 1998-2012. But he’s not giving the whole picture and doesn’t acknowledge that his argument that therefore no warming is going on just now is weakened by other data. Observations of sea temperatures, ocean acidity observations, sea level rise and other measures, all of which show that global warming is continuing but in a different pattern just now than in preceding decades.
His acknowledgement that ‘global warming could happen but that if it did happen it would be much a slower process than alarmists present’… is clever, I think. He’s already established his apparent credentials by apparently knowing what the Met Office data shows. He is now avoiding being seen as an out-and-out loony climate change denier by acknowledging that it is possible for the climate to change. (UK Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher, who had a degree in chemistry, acknowledged the possible effects of increasing GHG gases concentrations back in the 1980s) Then he makes an assertion that any change would be slower than alarmists declare. So two things there. He doesn’t offer any backup data for that assertion. Would that be an unsubstantiated red herring? And then he uses the derogatory term ‘alarmist’ which comes under an ad hominem fallacy of reasoning where you attack your opponent personally rather than critiquing his data.
Again I think this is clever. It refers to the consensus building discussion we heard about in the week 1. The interviewer made a mistake by saying 97% of scientists. Lawson pounces on that and is correct in saying that it’s not 97% of scientists. It’s actually 97% of climate scientists and their research papers. But he doesn’t acknowledge the greater expertise of the selected scientists. In fact he uses ‘selection’ as a pejorative term implying that something was done to skew the results to what ‘they’ wanted. So although it’s not explicitly stated by Lawson, I think there’s an implied conspiracy theory accusation at the scientific community.
Again an assertion is made by Lawson, this time about typhoon intensity, without any backup reference given. Winter floods in the south of England get ignored despite there being some evidence that the weather that brought them was linked to a blocking pattern due to a changed jet stream pattern over Europe. In his immediate next sentence he correctly states that individual events can’t be linked specifically to warming. This time he’s happy to quote that experts are clear about this. This is cherry picking in that he’s happy to quote these experts when they say something that apparently supports his view. And cleverly again, he links the experts’ open acknowledgement of the limits of what, as yet, can be confirmed about individual events into his assertion that no warming has occurred.
I’ve put this extract in just so you seem how vociferously Lawson complains about a campaign of misinformation by people who can’t judge properly. He is himself a disseminator of climate change misinformation, of course, but in the case of fracking he wants the opposite of what the protesters want so they’re the ones who are misinforming people. I haven’t done any research to find out if what he says about the composition of shale drilling fluid is correct. Even if it is correct, he is keeping quiet about the other problems associated with fracking. I don’t know if the fracking procedure in UK is the same as in US but there are certainly problems arising in US with contaminated water supplies. So I’d bet there’s some cherry picking going on here too. As well as his sheer brash neck complaint about a campaign of misinformation! And of course no mention about the contribution to CO2 emissions that would arise from shale gas usage.
Conclusion: I never liked Lawson when he was an active politician. In the UK, I suppose he still has some standing left in some quarters and some credentials as a reputable and intelligent politician. He clearly trades on that to give his statements weight.
I like him even less now that he’s an active climate change denier. But he is clever. And he obviously knows how to use a range of linked statements to create an overall sense of apparent reasonableness. Some of his statements are true; some are false; some are cherry picking; some are misrepresetnations; some are unsubstantiated red herrings; some are attacks on the honesty of scientists.
This has been a very useful exercise. I usually just shout at Lawson when he’s on TV. I might now be able to explain a bit to other people what exactly he’s up to!!
Recently I set up a regular payment to Common Weal a Scottish civic based group working on various projects to improve governance in Scotland, now and in an independent future. Here’s the email I received in response to setting up the bank order. All of Us First is their website address but also their political slogan.
A happy new year to you! I’m getting in touch to say thank you so much for recently signing up as a regular investor to Common Weal. We returned to work yesterday, and started strategizing for 2017. There is so much work to be done – and since Brexit and Trump – the time for creating an alternative society, economy and politics, that works for all of us in a caring and compassionate way, has never been so crucial. So thank you for being a part of the Common Weal community. We will be working as hard as ever to make our voices heard.
I would be very grateful if you could take the time to let me know why you decided to start investing in Common Weal? What is it we do that is meaningful to you? And what would you like to see us focus on in 2017? Your opinion is of great value to us so please do keep in touch and let me know.
Very best for 2017 – All Of Us First.
And my reply:
Thanks for your email.
New Year is when I have a look at the various charities, people and groups I support with a bit of financial help. It’s almost always a small bit of help but hopefully I’m one of many doing that. It had been in my mind for a while to give some support to Common Weal so this time I added you in.
I came across Common Weal first during the IndyRef campaign. I was impressed. I got myself a copy of the Book of Ideas when it came out. I must admit I haven’t read it all even yet but it seems to me to epitomise the kind of approach we need to make sure that IndyRef2 succeeds.
Basically I think we should be acting and thinking things through now so that we’re ready for that Yes vote. I thought the SNP White Paper was good but it wasn’t thorough enough. No blame to SNP for that. But next time we need more developed policies for things like currency, banking, benefits, pensions, etc, so that we’re ready to counter the onslaught of arguments and disinformation that we know now will come flying from Unionist voices, media and vested interests. I’m sure both SNP and Green Parties will be working on those issues too but since one of the hallmarks of of the referendum was the involvement of civic groups alongside political parties, I’m keen that the strength of our civic based input is maintained.
A few weeks ago I came across reference to the Common Weal White Paper and I’ve read some of the online. That was probably the main lever that got me sending you some cash. And since I’m in the 65+ age group who apparently mostly voted No (not me obviously) it seems the least I can do to make amends for that, 🙂
Best wishes for the New Year to you,
The current UK Tory government at Westminster gained power with a manifesto promise to get rid of the UK Human Rights Act. The Act is the means by which the European Human Rights Convention (EUHRC) becomes part and parcel of UK law. Getting rid of it doesn’t get rid of the provisions in the EUHMC. It would mean though that any UK citizen with a case to argue or an appeal would have to go to Strassburg to do it. This is Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister in the Scottish Government, explaining the folly of the Tory proposal and why the Scottish Government will stop it by refusing assent to it in Holyrood. Continue reading The Folly of Getting Rid of the UK Human Rights Act
Went over to Edinburgh in November to take part in Scotland’s Climate March in the run-up to the COP21 meeting in Paris.
Lots of people have been waiting for Mhairi Black’s maiden Commons speech. When it came it was a cracker! Watch it here :
(If you don’t see the video appearing on this page, it’s likely because you’re using an iPad in which case use this link to go direct to ParliamentLive website and watch it there.)
There has been a hugely enthusiastic response to Mhairi Black, MP. She gained praise from all round the House of Commons which is no mean achievement in itself. Her speech has gone viral on social media. Ten million views on various online websites.
The press is giving us its views. Radio4 have done a Profile on Mhairi. I’m impressed that the presenter didn’t bother to define “blootered”. 🙂
Deborah Orr has written a piece in the Guardian entitled “Mhairi Black is inspiring, wonderful – and utterly wrong” saying that although she delivered a superb speech Mhairi failed to understand that Labour and the SNP cannot be allies. She starts off by saying:
“The hard problem, as Greece knows, isn’t promising to end austerity – it’s coming up with a credible plan to do so. If the SNP has one, and if it really wants to create an effective opposition in tandem with Labour, then it really ought to start spilling the beans on precisely what the plan is.”
This seems a tad ingenuous to say the least. In the run up to the general election, Nicola Sturgeon put a great deal of effort into spelling out just that – an SNP budgetary strategy for the UK which would allow small, 1%, but steady growth in the economy, while also making improvements and efficiencies to our public spending and diminishing the budget deficit although over a longer time period. She even went down to UCL to make the speech and in fact her criticism of austerity was fully reported in the Guardian! In a later speech at LSE , she expanded on this theme, comparing and contrasting the approach in Holyrood and in Scottish society more broadly with that in Westminster.
Orr also said
“I don’t doubt Black’s sincerity in extending the hand of friendship to Labour. I share her disgust at Harriet Harman’s airy announcement that Labour will back the Tories’ benefit changes. But I also find it irritating that Black’s sincerity seems to include a sincere failure to understand that the SNP is not Labour’s most natural ally in Westminster, but Labour’s most insidious opponent. The vast majority of the UK electorate doesn’t want a Labour-SNP alliance to be the chimerical alternative to the Conservatives in Britain. And the vast majority of the UK electorate can only reject Labour to stop that from happening.”
I think she has a point here. Rightly or wrongly, I think wrongly, the majority of English voters – and I do mean English – did not seem to want an allegiance, even informal, between Labour and the SNP. This leaves most of us Scots scratching our heads in perplexity since there is a large overlap in policy between the two parties. And the SNP made it plain that a vote for them in the election was not a vote for Scottish Independence. And aren’t we all united in opposing the Tories?
cartoons with Miliband in Alex Salmond’s breast pocket (this despite the fact that he had stood down as SNP leader about six months before); of Miliband being led along on a lead by a little Scottie dog. A bit reminiscent of the Commonwealth Opening ceremony we all thought though it was drawn as if at Crufts; of Miliband as a puppet with Sturgeon pulling the strings. Well, yes , they were funny. Actually they were very funny. But they weren’t fair. They weren’t informative. They played on undercurrents of English xenophobia. The Telegraph cartoonists enjoyed themselves. One was tweeted from Tory Party HQ.
But does all this make the SNP Labour’s insidious opponent? Is it true that any chimerical (great word that, by the way) alliance will be rejected by English voters in the only way it can, by voting Tory. I’ve trying to answer this and come to the conclusion that it can’t be answered from a UK perspective, only from a Scottish or English one.
It can be answered from a Scottish perspective, where it’s pretty straightforward really. We vote – predominantly – for left-of-centre political parties and even the Scottish Tories are a tad more left than their English counterpart. We’re well used to that strategy being thwarted as the English vote in the Tory & Unionist Party but we put up with it because that’s how democracy works and we’re part of the UK. Up here we have a choice between Labour or SNP. Irrespective of whether we want Scotland to become independent, we know that the SNP will further our left-of-centre aspirations. We also know they are well used to working in alliance with other parties because they have had to do that at Holyrood. (So has Scottish Labour and Scottish LibDems) In recent years, UK Labour has moved further right than we like so we’ve been voting SNP in increasing numbers for Holyrood, to the point when, in 2011, they gained an overall majority there. No mean feat with a voting system designed to prevent overall majorities.
Add to this background context a Labour Party which spent two years in the Independence Referendum Campaign on the same platform as the Tories working to keep the UK united. They all told us we were better together and that we Scots should not just stay in the Union but come and help lead it. So said Cameron while Darling and Miliband looked on and applauded. Actually most of us up here think we’ve been leading the Union, not to mention the Empire, for centuries. Certainly we’ve been sending our most talented politicians down south for centuries. But still it’s nice to be included and appreciated, isn’t it. Of course we didn’t like seeing Labour sharing platforms with Tories. And we didn’t like the underhanded tricks they got up to. And we didn’t like the biassed media coverage. So when they won, lots of us joined SNP or Greens just to remind them not to expect us to act as if nothing had happened in Scotland over those two years.
And we’re not daft. We understand that the English electorate are not as left-leaning as we are. We understand that Labour policy has to reflect that. We understand that in an informal allegiance with Labour in Westminster, we wouldn’t get everything we’d like. We are also well aware of the acrimony from Scottish Labour towards the SNP for having intruded into their ‘traditional’ Scottish territory. We even understand that Miliband might keep his cards close to his chest on this until the vote was over. But still it seems a no-brainer to us that SNP people we send to Westminster would be well able to support and work with a Labour government. What’s the problem? Why would an English Labour supporter consider voting Tory (or UKIP for god’s sake) to stop Labour working in a Progressive Alliance with SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru in Westminster? Not to mention the Lib Dems, poor souls.
Swapping over to a possible English perspective. I suppose it’s true that if you want to stop a Progessive Alliance involving the SNP you have to vote Tory. The FPTP voting system doesn’t allow for smaller parties, like the Greens, gaining actual representation at Westminster. There’s no English left-of-centre alternative to Labour, unless you count the LibDems. (BTW I think they’ve had a raw deal from England for all the effort they made reining in the Tories whilst in the Coalition.) All this is only relevant when support for Labour is languishing in the low 30%s of course. The other way to avoid a chimerical alliance would have been to vote Labour in hordes thus assigning SNP MPs to the sidelines of a majority Labour government.
But why were English voters so against the idea of SNP having influence at Westminster? There was a lot said about the Scottish tail wagging the English dog. Or in Ed Miliband’s case the Scottish dog taking him for a walk. But nothing said about that small minority of English swing voters, those who have no allegiance to any political party and whose unpredictable decisions can swing the outcome of an election one way or
Which gets us back to Ed. He’s an honourable man, no doubt about that, but I think he managed to get himself promoted above his level of competency. It was easy for the Right to ridicule the notion of a Progessive Alliance just because it was also so easy to ridicule Ed as a prospective PM. But why is an informal coalition with the SNP really so awful?
Scottish nationalist voters were called a lot of things in the General Election campaign by the Engish based media: fascists, nazis, spongers. This caused a problem for some of the red top press who ran scathing headlines running down Nicola Sturgeon in their English editions and positive supportive ones for her in their Scottish editions. (Do they think we don’t have access to the internet up here?) Analyses were done of how much more public money is spent per head of population in Scotland without going a bit more deeply into the figures – all in the public domain – explaining why that is and admitting that regions of England get equal levels of spending. In Scotland if the IndyRef campaign taught us anything, it is that mainstream media support the Establishment and they don’t mind spreading disinformation to that end. So we weren’t surprised when the same happened in the GE : the misogynist cartoons of Nicola Sturgeon; the completely made-up Frenchgate story in The Telegraph leaked from the Scottish Office (now there’s a misnomer if ever there was one); the misleading financial statistics.
But getting back to the point I had in mind at the start of this post……the English antipathy to any sort of alliance that involves the SNP. And isn’t it telling that it’s so hard to discern a UK perspective on why that is? By which I mean, when there isn’t a UK perspective that adds up, then isn’t that another nail in the Unionist coffin.
Going back to that great word ‘chimerical’. If you remember the Guardian article, it came in the sentence : “The vast majority of the UK electorate doesn’t want a Labour-SNP alliance to be the chimerical alternative to the Conservatives in Britain.” Just to be clear, here’s the definition: chimerical is an adjective that means produced by a wildly fanciful imagination. The adjective chimerical is sued to describe something that is wildly fanciful or imaginative — like the chimerical illustrations of unicorns in a children’s book.
So for the Guardian a Labour-SNP alliance, or rather a Progressive Alliance of Labour, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP, and possibly some of the NI parties is “wildly fanciful” like a unicorn.
Interestingly, the Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland! Last word from a Scottish perspective:
On the last day of House of Commons business before the Summer Recess, after voting on the second reading of the 2015 Finance Bill, SNP Members occupied the benches of the Official Opposition, ie of the Labour Party. Pete Wishart, MP for the Perth & North Perthshire, had asked the Speaker the previous day if he could help them by rearranging the furniture in the House. Today the SNP took matters into their own hands and simply sat down in the Labour benches when returning after the voting division. Angus MacNeil, MP for the Western Isles, raises a further point of order on the matter 🙂
This clip begins with a Point of Order from Nic Dakin, Labour MP, drawing attention to the motion just that minute passed in the Other Place (House of Lords) to reject the Tory proposal for EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) and instead to set up a cross party committee to discuss the whole issue.
Then comes Angus MacNeill’s intervention surrounded by SNP colleagues on the Labour benches. You get the impression that the Speaker, John Bercow, rather likes the SNP high jinks!
If you’re not seeing any video link on this page, I guess that’s because you’re using iOS which doesn’t play Flash media. It’s exasperating, I know. You can use an app to enable you to see Flash. But in the meantime, this link will take you to the Parliamentlive website and you can view the extract there . 🙂
Tuesday 21 July saw saw the House of Commons giving a second reading to the Tory Finance Bill. Here are Tommy Sheppard and George Kerevan’s speeches on why it should be voted down…. It wasn’t. Well the House of Commons Party arithmetic saw to that, so no surprise. But the contributions from Sheppard and Kerevan should hopefully get some English voters rethinking their voting strategies. Caroline Lucas, Green Party, was also exemplary.
Tommy Sheppard: (or if you’re using iOS and can’t see the video below, this link will let you view the extract on ParliamentLive website)
George Kerevan: (or use this link to view video extract on ParliamentLive)
Caroline Lucas is the only Green Party MP in the UK House of Commons. This is her contribution to the debate on why the 2015 Finance Bill, brought in by George Osbourne for the Tory Government, should be voted down.
If you see no video just below this, it’s probably because you’re using iOS and can’t play the Flash video format. Never mind, you can watch the extract on ParliamentLive website by using this link.
It’s taken a while to get my photos and videos from Yes! Super Saturday organised but here they are.
Yes! Super Saturday was 13th September 2014, the last Saturday before the Scottish Independence Referendum. Glasgow was hummin’. But very little of this was reported on mainstream media. While I was taking these clips, a London-based BBC reporter had coralled three Yes supporters at the other end of Sauchiehall Street and was questioning them whilst ignoring the noise of thousands of Yes supporters about quarter of a mile away from her. Funny that. Aye, right. Just what we have come to expect from BBC Scotlandshire. Not so much our Public Broadaster as the Establishment Broadcaster.
On the way to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum last September, I took my camera with me and photographed windows…. Sadly, 5% too few of us voted Yes! but the windows were great….
What is happening in Scotland?
BBC Radio4 Today programme – James Naughtie asks Val McDairmid and Stuart Kelly about the changes happening to national and civic awareness in Scotland. Six minutes. Very good.
Elain C Smith introduces Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, launching the SNP’s pledge to campaign for gender equality, equal pay, equal opportunities, smashing glass ceilings….. why are we still having to do this? sign the pledge here: SNP Women’s Pledge