Monday, 23 January 2017

If May Has Withheld Evidence, Her Coat Should Be On A Shooglie Peg

Where is Paxman when you needed him? Those were the words that instantly leapt into my head as I watched Theresa May avoid every remotely difficult question on the Andrew Marr show yesterday.  No questions more important for the Prime Minister to answer was whether she was aware of the Trident Missile malfunction this year and if so why she withheld it from Parliament.

So it was left to congenial Marr, who trying his best to politely pressure May into an answer was never going to push a Prime Minister and a Conservative one at that to the point of any real pressure. No that is saved for people who think £100 billion a year would be better spend on public services, the health service and paying down the escalating Tory debt.

So what actually happened? According to the MOD sources this was a routine test. The fifth since 2000. The plan was for the missile to be set on a course to the Southern Atlantic of the coast of West Africa. Instead the guidance system appears to have malfunctioned sending it on course over the US. Thankfully the missile did not contain a nuclear warhead and what was a small number of explosives within were detonated before they reached the shore.

The previous 4 had been tested successfully and were all briefed to the press of the success of the testing. Yet the press and more bizarrely MPs were not briefed of the incident citing national security as the reasoning behind this. What is becoming clearer through media outlets today was that upon taking office the Prime Minister was informed of the malfunction and omitted this information when giving a statement to the House regarding the vote on the renewal of Trident.

If this is true and I have every reason to believe that it is. Then this means that the Prime Minister has deliberately misled the House by not giving the members of the house vital information regarding the safety, security and reliability of these weapons of mass destruction.

There are of course a great number of reasons as to why MPs could have and I believe should have voted against the bill. Not due solely to their clearly unpredictability but that they are obsolete in modern times. No weapons of this magnitude can ever be used in a first or second strike capability without guaranteeing the destruction of human existence. A series of articles could be written as to the reasons why nuclear weapons should be removed from our shores and suitable conventional defence replacements. (For more information visit the CND website: ). 

But the issue of a Prime Ministerial cover up is far more pressing. It displays a truly damaging nature of the Prime Minister in which is is clear her party and her own political ideologies at placed before the safety of the people she represents as the Head of Government.

The public have long held the view that politicians can no longer be trusted but there is an assumption that in the interests of national security and public safety that those elected to represent will do so with the safety and prosperity of its citizens as paramount. Theresa May should not let the fact that she was not elected by her party or the public to be the Prime Minister to assume she has carte blanche to mislead or cover up vital information which could vitally alter the voting of MP’s whether or not to renew our nuclear capabilities without knowledge of their use, reliability and security.
If May has mislead the House, she has some real questions to answer.
If Theresa May has deliberately refused to release this information as it would be damaging to her and her party’s voting preferences then this is a clear indication that she is not a fit and capable Prime Minister. An enquiry should be held and May should be held to account for her actions and her dereliction of duties to protect the people she serves. It may be time for Theresa to get her coat, from an ever shooglier peg. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Corbyn is Right About So Many Things.... But He's Wrong on Scotland

Jeremy Corbyn got a lot right on his trip to Scotland this week. He was right to attack Theresa May and her Government of attempting to create a bargain basement Britain by cutting corporation tax to the levels of Ireland. At a cost of billions to the Exchequer in the hopes of luring businesses from Europe.

Corbyn was also correct to attack the SNP Government in Scotland on their cuts to Local Authority budgets and their tendering of ScotRail to Dutch Company Abelio despite clear authority through section 23 and 24 to change franchised lines being devolved as a power to the Scottish Government pre this deal.

I have always respected the politics of Jeremy since he was a back bencher. We probably agree on 99% of policy although perhaps disagree on the best avenues sometimes to move forward to achieve this. That’s why I was so confused by his ill thought rhetoric this past week. That independence will lead to ‘turbo austerity.’ Such comments fly in the face of Jeremy’s own economic policy.

Much like Scotland, Jeremy has quite rightly identified that the way to recover the UK economy was to increase government spendng in infrastructure and green energy sectors. To introduce an National Investment Bank, to increase the level of employment with well paid jobs. Corbyn knows that initially this will lead to an increase in debt and the states deficit. But that eventually due to revenue coming in through social housing and an increase in tax revenues and spending power thanks to better paying jobs that the deficit would decrease. Corbyn also plans to rebuild the manufacturing industry and as such would (at least pre brexit) expect the UK balance of trade to increase.

Where Corbyn makes the mistake in Scotland is that he sees the current operations under a UK Government imposing austerity and a devolved Government passing on much of this austerity to Local Authorities and then makes an assumption based on the deficit announced last year of £15bn. So Corbyn’s assumption of turbo austerity is based on figures of Scotland WITHIN the UK with a Tory Government passing on austerity through the block grant and to a certain extent the SNP not using the full powers available to them within the Scottish Parliament. If anything the current deficit for Scotland is a viable reason for independence to allow us to control our full fiscal and monetary policies including industry and employment.

 Jeremy also allows himself to fall into that unionist guilty pleasure of aligning an independent Scotland with the SNP. Any future independent Scotland would democratically elect their government giving them a mandate to introduce a far reaching investment in public infrastructure, social housing and green energy. For Corbyn just to accept the SNP vision of independence as the only vision is either ignoring his own economic and political ideology or deliberately ignoring what could be one of the very few solutions to this current crisis.

Nicola Sturgeon is cautious by nature and as such has been disappointing in her role as First Minister. She has had an opportunity to set an example of what independence can do for Scotland. Much like the rest of the UK. Huge infrastructure projects are indeed required. However, Scotland, unlike the rest of the UK would begin from a much stronger position with a trade balance in surplus and incredible untapped resources in the renewable field.

Scotland the only 'region' of UK to export more than import.
Should Scotland become independent I would hope for a Labour Party to be elected into government to lead these radical changes required. The irony is that Scottish Labour is more akin to New Labour which would go over better down south while Corbyn’s UK Labour would find their message much more receptive as Scottish Labour. It is therefore clear that the Scottish Labour Party needs to lead the charge from the left embracing the politics of Corbyn which are ostensibly real Labour values in Scotland.

Jeremy Corbyn’s economic plan for the UK is one which would make a real lasting difference to the privatisation, austerity laden current unelected Prime Minister’s vision of destroying our health service and public services, of high living costs and low wages and hard Brexit. But the chances of a Corbyn election look slim with a media of vested interests keeping his message from getting out. Corbyn needs to think outside the box. The current union is not fit for purpose. But that does not mean we wont retain our solidarity in independence.

An independent Scotland run by a real Labour Party would be a shining vision to South of the border of the economic plan Corbyn seeks to implement which is all too often ridiculed in the Mainstream media. It would be far more difficult for the press and public in the RoUK to ignore the potential of a socialist government with the successful implementation north of the border. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Labour for Independence Will Be Vital in Winning a Yes Vote - If it Learns From Past Mistakes

The news in the National newspaper this week that Labour for Independence has returned should be welcomed by all yes supporters awaiting a second referendum. Despite beginning from scratch in 2012 and having no real support from the YES Scotland HQ, LFI played an important and often understated role in the campaign, helping to convince 37% of Labour voters that a yes vote could lead to a better society and a return to a real Labour Party with socialist values.

As the Convenor and National Spokesperson of the group in the last campaign. I will always be incredibly proud of the job we did. This occurred through hard work, passion and commitment of hundreds of activists across the country. That is not to say though that we did not make mistakes. I believe the new LFI can learn from these mistakes and become a much more salient and valuable vehicle in this next referendum campaign.

In the first campaign Labour for Independence were often caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Castigated by our own comrades within the Labour Party, doctored photographs trying to depict us as disloyal to the party. We were supported by many others within the yes movement at that time and as such we fell into a situation where we attacked our own party much more than we should have.

Don’t get me wrong Labour at that time were giving plenty of ammunition to be critical about them. But for Labour for Independence this criticism should have remained internal within our group and also through our CLPs. We should in particular regret any comments made regarding the Labour leader at that time Johann Lamont. For the simple reason she was the leader of our party meant that she deserved more respect than we afforded to her. More than that, Johann is a thoroughly decent person who cares passionately about making a difference in her community, country and the world. While she may have been doing a job that wasn’t suited to her this should not have led to such divisions between LFI and the rest of the party. All this negativity did was add fuel to a weak argument that LFI were just part of a nationalist yes campaign rather than the values we were espousing of equality and social justice in an independent Scotland.

Johann Lamont should have been afforded more respect.

This time LFI need to remember that they are members of the party for a reason. That there is much more that unites us than the division over the constitutional question. Kezia, like Johann before her is a decent person with whom LFI share a great deal of values with.

This resurrection of Labour for Independence has to continue to be led by Labour members and while I will continue to support their work in the campaign as a non Labour member I will not be a part of any executive decisions within the group. As such I hope this advice is taken in the spirit intended. LFI need to learn not only from what we did well the first time around but also the mistakes we made. Those who are still involved will have became better activists, better strategists and will understand the need to continue to support the Labour Party in its fight against a Conservative Government and cuts to healthcare, education and local councils. Support the party in the council elections, work within it’s structures to persuade and convince Labour members and supporters of the true merits independence can bring.

For No supporting Labour members and voters, please understand that while there is disagreement with you and LFI on the constitution they are still your comrades and still agree with your stance on the majority of issues. Work where you agree and where you don’t discuss in a comradely fashion.

For the SNP and yes voters. Embrace Labour for Independence, they are they key to winning over the 500,000 voters who voted Labour at the last election. Welcome once again LFI into the yes community but also understand that they are there because of a mutual agreement on the need for a constitutional change. Do not expect them to support the SNP or their policies. Do not expect them to slur the party that they are members of or vote for. Independence is not about the SNP. No political party holds control over the constitution nor the future of Scotland. Learn from these mistakes and we can win a yes vote in the next referendum.

As George Santayana said: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” A yes vote is possible in fact probable if the yes campaign learns from its mistakes in presenting a viable economic message. In this Labour for Independence will play a vital role. It needs to continue to embrace its role within the Labour Party, campaign for the party in the May elections and convince members and voters of a better opportunity for fairness and equality in an independent Scotland.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A New Year- An Opportunity to Start Anew

As I sat down on Hogmany, I saw on a friends social media page a wonderful passage which came from the letters of the poet Ted Hughes It reaffirmed what had been playing in my mind for weeks now….

‘The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.’

2016 has not been a successful year for socialists and the left. Not only in Scotland but throughout the world. The ascension of the right and far right in the Scottish elections, the elevation of a new unelected Conservative Prime Minister and the election of Donald Trump as US president. The ongoing assault on homes and families in war torn regions of the world, not only in well documented areas like Syria and Yeman, but also the purge and further authoritarian measures in Turkey and the rise of the far right in Europe and further afield. 

2016 has seen a battle rage not between the ruling class and the impoverished, or the left and the right but by socialists and social democrats. The left and the far left. Egos have driven agendas while homes and communities have been left without care or support. Abandoned and left to the dogma of British nationalism leading to further inequality and democratic abandonment. 

This distortion must be resolved before we can even begin to fight back in 2017. I for one accept just as much responsibility as any for a failure to unite and respond to the challenges we face in our society today. Make no mistake the challenges we face are enormous. They begin in our homes, our communities and within our class. A million people again have used food banks this year. Living costs are rocketing and poverty wages prevail. Children have a greater chance of living in poverty in the UK than at any time in the last 50 years. Most working class people live in fear of their next energy bill or being able to afford ever increasing rents. The prospect of todays generations buying their own home seem impossible, while for some they are unable to have a home at all.For far to many, often hope was all that was left and now this is light is being extinguished.

I still believe in an independent Scotland, not only as an avenue for greater prosperity and equality in Scotland, but also so that we can become a shining beacon in an island, a continent and indeed a world that is becoming increasingly invaded by hate and fear. But I do not support independence blindly, I wont accept an independent Scotland that is UK light. This is not what I, nor thousands of others campaigned at the last referendum for. I believe in a fair and just society, one which takes care of those who most need our support and help. I believe we must eradicate the threat of nuclear weapons, to ensure that the rich pay their share, that big business not only pay their tax but are responsible employers. That vital services in transport, and energy should belong to the people which it serves. One which cannot morally pay poverty wages to some and reward others for failure with millions of pounds and medals of honour because of their job title. This was the independent Scotland I campaigned for before and it is the same that I will continue to work towards.

A New Year brings with it new hope and also new opportunities. These opportunities can be used to continue to embolden old feuds and arguments or it can provide us an opportunity to extend a hand of forgiveness and begin to repair divisions. Today I use this New Year as a new opportunity to extend the hand of friendship and forgiveness to those who I share so much in common with. I hope this can be the beginning of a better understanding. Let us work together where we are united. Socialists, social democrats, nationalists and anyone else that share a common cause. It is time for all of us to realise there is more that unites us than divides us. That what we agree on, we can work together on and what we don't we can discuss and debate in a respectful and honourable way. I know in 2016 I did not achieve that. This is my mission in 2017.

I, you, we… all of us have the capability and power to create a fairer, just and more equal society, a greener, prosperous world for our children and future generations. We must accept that we might all never unite under one flag or one banner or one party. But we all care about a great deal of issues that are not mutually exclusive to each other. It is through the strength of our unity in our causes that will allow us to not only fight back but to prevail. 

Yes we enter 2017 in dark times, but as Tennyson once said….

‘ And out of darkness came the hands that reach thro’ nature, moulding men.’

I look forward to working with you all to finding the light. It will not be easy nor easily achieved but it is a battle we must all face in order to leave a brighter beacon behind.