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Bella backs common sense

Brian Taylor | 15:22 UK time, Saturday, 19 March 2011

Scotland has contributed hugely to global intellectual history: think Adam Smith and the peerless David Hume. But there are others, including Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart and others from the self-styled Common Sense school.

They held for pragmatic beliefs, based upon the world around us and disavowing the temptations of philosophical paradox so beloved of others.

Now, that school - which flourished in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - has a contemporary political advocate. Bella backs Common Sense.

Which means what? That, in her self-image, Annabel Goldie "tells it as it is", that she is frank about the scope of the crisis afflicting the economy and hence public spending, that there are limits to the goodies which can be on offer to the voters at this coming Holyrood election.

To a degree, she is simply coping with the hand she has been dealt. It is political pragmatism.

A Conservative-led UK Government is delivering spending cuts to address the deficit.
She chooses to back that Government, aware that any dissent would meet with scepticism from the voters.

But there is more. It is calculated to build upon her character, the impression she appears to leave with the voters.

Rival attack

David Cameron once called her his "favourite Scottish auntie".

I'm not sure she was hugely chuffed at the time - but it is the image which has since become her own: a cheery, droll, trustworthy personality.

Certainly, she dwelt heavily upon that in her speech to the conference here in Perth.

She sought to contrast her own approach with that of her rivals - notably Iain Gray.

Intriguingly, there was no mention of the Liberal Democrats. The constraints of UK coalition, perhaps? Earlier, the Scotland Office Minister David Mundell had similarly steered clear of attacking - or even mildly satirising - the party with which he coalesces in government.

But back to Bella. Her attack on Iain Gray was prolonged and pointed, drawing in particular upon his newly-announced support for a continuing council tax freeze.

Mr Gray, she said, was "the master of the cartwheel, the political gymnast extraordinaire."

Economic strategy

Meanwhile, at the Labour gig in Glasgow, Ed Miliband was returning the compliment with a direct attack upon the Tories: the UK Tories, David Cameron's Tories.

Which fits their narrative: that Labour is best placed to defend Scotland from the depredations of Westminster Tory cuts and economic strategy.

Labour's hope is that this positioning which worked in the UK election in Scotland can be replicated for the Holyrood poll, turning voters' heads to some extent away from the Scottish government and towards the UK government.

That proposed council tax freeze will feature on Labour's pledge card for this election, reflecting, says Labour, their determination to protect hard-pressed families.

Back to Bella, again.

She says such a promise is (literally) incredible - and will seem so to the voters.

By contrast, she says the Tories will address potentially unpalatable issues - such as the need for graduate contributions to help fund universities.

Tax freeze

Once more, this is making a virtue of necessity.

Offering a tough perspective in tough times. But there are some goodies too: maintaining police numbers, funding the health service, continuing the council tax freeze with an added bonus of a £200 cut for every pensioner household.

Why that latter policy?

Support, say the Tories, for people who have worked hard all their days. Plus pensioners tend to vote.

And, the Tories hope, may be prevailed upon to vote Conservative in disproportionate numbers.

In the speech, there were sharp words for Alex Salmond too, a reminder of promises which he had failed to deliver.

But the rhetoric was notably milder than that addressed at Iain Gray. A reflection, partly, of the budget deals which the Tories have done with the SNP over the last four years - and, just perhaps, the prospect of comparable dealing in the future.

Subterranean grumbling

Here, at the conference, the Common Sense strategy - or pragmatism - wins overwhelming support.

Tories like tough talking. But there is some subterranean grumbling too - which surfaced on the fringe.

There is some disquiet over the party's avowed support for the Scotland Bill which will introduce greater tax and borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament.

That disquiet was voiced in forceful fashion by Lord Forsyth, the former Scottish Secretary.

That's a policy issue. But it's also a leadership question.. Some MSPs are murmuring that the Holyrood group should have been given a bigger say as the policy was promulgated.

Others counter that the party's membership of the Calman Commission - and the subsequent inclusion of a Calman pledge in the manifesto - were overt, upfront and involved substantial consultation.

Overwhelmingly, the party representatives here are keen to see their party, led by Annabel Goldie, make a distinctive, united pitch to the voters. It's only common sense.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    So. Two speeches by two party leaders with a support rating of 10% (Bella) and 9% (Gray) as being an appropriate FM.

    The Labour MSP leader even less popular than the Tory MSP leader?

    Yup.

  • Comment number 2.

    So wee Ed thinks making the grayman FM is the best prospect of ending the condem government at Westminster? Doesn't he realise that if the tories are that scared of a labour led government at Holyrood, Call-me-Dave will simply emulate old gordie and refuse to speak to the FM for the first year of his term in office?

  • Comment number 3.

    Brian,

    What a tour de force in authorship you have accomplished in this post. 811 words and nearly 5,000 characters without a single mention of the Scottish Government and only one mention each of the party that currently forms it and of the "S" word. One could be forgiven for thinking that the race for the keys to Bute House was a two-horse one between Aunty Bella and dour Iain.

    I suspect that, in private, you'd admit that to be not quite the case. Back in the real world, do you think Bella's party will be able to retain, let alone build on, their 2007 vote share?

  • Comment number 4.

    Why at the labour party 'gig' (and to be fair the tory 'gig' yesterday) are the Scottish electorate having to listen to someone who is not a member of the Scottish Parliament telling them what to do, someone who is not putting themselves forward for election to the Scottish Parliament, and is not even permitted to vote in the Scottish election? Would this be tolerated anywhere else. At the next by-election in Englandshire somewhere could a Scottish representative from Hollyrood be allowed to have national TV coverage and newspaper publicity to go and remind the English electorate that they should vote for a certain party in Scotland as it would help in their aims to get more representation in Hollyrood. Should they be permitted to approach the English voters and ask for them to concentrate on events outside their own country at the expense of their own? How bizarre it is to see party leaders who are not party leaders sitting next to part leaders who are party leaders and allowing them (and applauding them for their efforts) to ask people who they want votes from to not vote on the evidence of what they could do for them on their behalf but to consider what somebody else somewhere else unconnected to the vote could do for them.

    Also, obviously, there is 'guilt by association' and with Ian Gray confirming that he intends to do what the Labour Party refused to do the last time in power in Scotland or the UK, and the current SNP Government failed to do through choice. I am sure the current leader of the Real Labour Party is happy to be associated with GARL which is again promised in this manifesto launch. How exciting. Place your bets now on whether it happens, or the cash is sent to the UK parliament to help with their spending problems. If it was that important should this not have been tagged onto the fast train line running through the whole of GB, with benefits for us all, all the way from London to Birmingham.

    At a time of spending cuts and the badly needed upgrade of the A9, A96 ... etc and the required upgrading of the single choo choo line from Perth to the highlands, isn't it reassuring that the wee train track outside Glasgow is again on the Labour agenda.

    As Ian Gray said in his speech, he would like to talk to the aspirations and fears of the people of Scotland. Aye well, my aspiration is NOT to have Labour in power here and my hope is that Ian Gray is never able to apply for a FM pension. Let's hope he obliges me with my aspirations and fears as a person from Scotland and so one of the many he is so eager to please.

  • Comment number 5.

    alec,s your man,

    see the front of battle lower.

  • Comment number 6.

    Not often I agree with a Tory but Goldie is close in calling Gray "the master of the cartwheel, the political gymnast extraordinaire."

    Mind you, I think that gives Gray undue credit. Not sure that he 'masters' anything. And not fair to associate him with gymnasts. Contortionist perhaps? I'm sure others can think of better ...

  • Comment number 7.

    Miliband speaks at a 'Scottish' Labour gig. Why? Are 'Scottish' Labour too feart to handle a conference, or an election, all by their wee selves? Seems so.

    And for the Tories, Cameron. And all he talks about is Libya. If that were his script, why bother coming to Perth to deliver it? Did he really have nothing to say to the people of Scotland?

  • Comment number 8.

    Did I hear correctly? Did Cameron say in Perth that Gaddafi was responsible for Lockerbie? If he thinks this then why isn't Cameron attempting to get Gaddafi tried for Lockerbie? Why let Megrahi take the rap?

    Or - and this might be assuming undue logic of Cameron - if he went for Gaddafi, for Lockerbie, would he be worried that it would open up the SCCRC concerns, Iran, etc etc?

  • Comment number 9.

    The too wee, too stupid school of thought is there for all to see but it is coming from the unionist parties. I want a government in Scotland that will stand up for Scotland and take decisions in and for Scotland. I think we have strong intelligent people in Scotland just as, and probably more capable of leading Scotland than anyone westminster has to offer.
    I actually think Annabel would be an asset in Scotland leading a conservative party without obviously the unionist bit!! As for Grey the man is totally unfit for high office, I would not trust him to cut my grass let alone lead this proud nation.

  • Comment number 10.

    I dont know that Ed Millibands words will influence much folks up here anyway. To me he is a weak leader and anytime I've watched him up against Cameron he is in the same league as Gray. Gray will be stabbed in the back if he looses this election thats for sure. I predict Skeletor to be shipped in on a special deal sometime in the next 4/5 years. Unless he has his eyes on an ermine coat.

    Goldies days are numbered anyway so who cares what she promises.

  • Comment number 11.

    Iain Gray wins 2011.



















    The most unpopular political leader (ha ha) in Scotland position.

  • Comment number 12.

    Brian,

    First, my apologies re my post #3 above. Careful re-reading of your 811 word post shows me that it does include precisely one mention of the Scottish Government.

    However, it also helped me to notice a strange inconsistency in your terminology related to "elections". You write of "this coming Holyrood election", "the UK election" and "this [Holyrood?] election" which, to say the least, is somewhat inconsistent.

    Holyrood election is a perfectly reason reasonable informal reference to what will happen in May, but then would not Westminster election be the appropriate term for the one that happened last May?

    It would be both accurate and safer to use the terminology of the Scotland Act 1998 by referring to both using the term general election. Two distinguish the two, why not be consistent in the distinction by using the pairs Scottish & UKorHolyrood & Westminster?

    Either pair would be both reasonable and logical but to mix the two in the way that you have risks the suspicion of your of being patronising toward the Scottish Parliament.

  • Comment number 13.

    I find Ed,s habit of talking through his nose very irritating.

    Gray talks through another part of his anatomy and it,s not his nose or mouth.

  • Comment number 14.

    4 SKOUBHIE: GARL was in their previous manifesto and nothing came of it. As far as I am concerned there are other much more important avenues for our money as you say, but am I not right in thinking that while they welched on GARL they sent back over £1bn to London?

  • Comment number 15.

    #13 kadok 'Gray talks through another part of his anatomy and it,s not his nose or mouth'

    er ...his hands ? Well they always seem to be waving around ..like he thinks he is drowning.

  • Comment number 16.

    Ubinworryinmasheep.
    "er ...his hands ? Well they always seem to be waving around ..like he thinks he is drowning."

    If Ed the nasal orator is his lifebelt Gray is up the proverbial creek using his wee bits of paper as paddles.

  • Comment number 17.

    Didn't the labour party have their Scottish Conference today, all I can find out about it is what Ed Milliband said at the conference, nothing on the BBC or the MSM regarding Iain whatshisname's speech, maybe he didn't have time to change it. Honestly had to go to the Labour website to read the rubbish that was spouted. What is happening, this must be upresidented in the history of the Scottish Parliament, Alec Salmond and the SNP get coverage on BBC2 yet nothing for the Gray man. Is it starting to dawn on the BBC and the MSM that they are still going to have an SNP goverment in May.

  • Comment number 18.

    #9 peter

    your eyes on the balls. maybe he was up here to learn something,unlike
    cameron by his statement about gaddafi and lockerbie.

  • Comment number 19.

    If the BBC had shown snarling angry Gray whining on and on about [If I was first minister] Blah blah blah blah, it would have done a great deal of damage to labours chances.

    The invisible man has been told by his superiors to remain invisible,the BBC are under orders to make sure Gray is not exposed as a loser with no ideas ,no vision and no concern what so ever for the well being of the Scottish people.

    Gray is a tool being used by the London labour parasites.

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 kadok

    'The invisible man has been told by his superiors to remain invisible,the BBC are under orders to make sure Gray is not exposed as a loser with no ideas ,no vision and no concern what so ever for the well being of the Scottish people.'

    Surely your not saying Gray wont be at the leaders debates ? Even my dad who is a lost SNP supporter who has taken to Labour again didnt know who Iain Gray was. I have to visit him before May for re-education.

  • Comment number 21.

    Ubinworryinmasheep
    Show yer dad Elmer in action.


    http://tinyurl.com/Dad-Gray-is-a-plonker

  • Comment number 22.

    #17 BletherWithBill
    "Didn't the labour party have their Scottish Conference today, all I can find out about it is what Ed Milliband said at the conference, nothing on the BBC or the MSM regarding Iain whatshisname's speech, maybe he didn't have time to change it. Honestly had to go to the Labour website to read the rubbish that was spouted."

    Thanks for the reference, Bill, but I suspect the BBC were attempting to cover dour Iain's blushes over what strikes me as tantamount to defamation in his speech to Lab's conference today: SALMOND - FOLLOW IN OUR WAKE where: Iain Gray told today’s Labour conference threw down the gauntlet to Alex Salmond to try and follow Labour’s programme to make Scotland a fairer, safer, healthier, more prosperous country in face of Tory cuts.

    The Scottish Labour leader said: “When Alex Salmond said ‘Scotland didn’t mind Thatcher’s economics it was just her social policies’ I wondered where the hell he had been in the Eighties.”


    That is not what Alex Salmond told total politics' Iain Dale as reported by them in their In conversation with... Alex Salmond of 21 August 2008. The relevant section of the transcript shows AS as saying:
    "The SNP has a strong social conscience, which is very Scottish in itself. One of the reasons Scotland didn't take to Lady Thatcher was because of that. We didn't mind the economic side so much. But we didn't like the social side at all."

    It's the omission of so much [my bolding above] by Mr Gray which changes the entire meaning of the quote, and it's not as though the so much wasn't clearly reported elsewhere at the time:
    ● 21 August 2008 by politics.co.uk
    ● 22 August 2008 by The BBC
    ● 22 August 2008 by The Times

    I suppose one could be charitable and put it down to Mr Gray's failing memory, but I suspect that if that was truly the cause of his "mis-speak", it's not something Mr Gray would wish to advertise.

  • Comment number 23.

    #21 Theres leadership qualities there..... Gordon Brewer that is.

  • Comment number 24.

    The heat is really turning up on Elmer Fudd now with erstwhile allies beginning to wonder if there is time enough to replace him before 5th May.

    I expect we will soon be seeing a lot more of Jim Murphy, though whether this will be effective is doubtful.

    What I am sure of is that having Bernie Winters up from Westminster to support Elmer is probably no less destructive of Labour's chances.

    Expect the media campaign against Alex Salmond to intensify.

  • Comment number 25.

    What a sad commentary on the state of Scottish "journalism" - this from the Herald website

    "WANTED: Pictures of military aircraft leaving Prestwick airport today
    The Sunday Herald is looking for readers pictures of military aircraft leaving Prestwick airport today. We want to publish the best, please contact neil.mackay@sundayherald.com"

  • Comment number 26.

    24. At 9:34pm on 19 Mar 2011, sneckedagain .

    On the nail .
    The London controlled biased msm bog roll battalion will be going hell for leather to smear the SNP .

    Gray is a waste of space.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am surprised that when given a choice of political party conferences to blog about you chose the one that has less MSP's / share of the vote. Auntie Annabel while personable enough is not the main event.
    Despite what the cluster of nationalist posters here may think, I think that Iain Gray and labour will win on May the 5th.

    So they can pour out their bile and pettiness but in the end it exposes their fear and prejudice.(ed's nasal oratory - For goodness sake grow up)

    The scottish electorate will decide and I think it will be Labour who emerge as the largest party.

    I heard all the speeches today at the Labour Party conference and Ed Miliband was very good as was Iain Gray. However, there is a long way to go and there's many a slip between cup & mouth.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    #27 I cant understand how diehard Labour supporters cant see the error of their ways. You were in charge for a long time in Westminster and Tony and Gordon hardly did anything worthwhile with the country. Look at all the debt we are left with and banks are no worse off ..only the people are the ones left to pay for the mess. Really you can only judge a partys performance by the job they have done. I cant say Labour both in Scotland or the UK have done much in their time. To say the SNP have failed miserably as most Labour posters like to say is wrong considering its a minority government. Overall the SNP have not done bad. The fact you cant see wrong with Ed Milliband or Iain Gray speaks volumes.

  • Comment number 30.

    I heard all the speeches today at the Labour Party conference and Ed Miliband was very good as was Iain Gray

    You are of course free to feel that way but excuse me for disagreeing. Neither Gray nor Milliband are capable of giving a praiseworthy speech.
    Gray reminds me of school assembly many years ago. We had two different ministers who sometimes took assembly, one uplifting and positive the other dull and uninspiring.Gray falls into the latter category. I believe in god almost as little as I believe in Labour, but I can still be inspired by a positive speech. Grey and Labour fail miserably on this point.

  • Comment number 31.

    Iam Gray and more numpties like him are the problem with Scotland. How can you serve two masters...? It's an old saying but it's true. The people of Scotland are certainly not getting one hundred percent attention when his party keep looking behind their shoulders at Westminster. They can't say anything or move a muscle until they get the nod from their masters in London.It's an afront to this nation. Bella on the other hand is just counting her wages as there's more chance of Ronald MacDonald getting in power before her London toffs. Her cronie said today that they are happy with less powers in Holyrood (just like Labour)just to keep Scotland a part of the union...now that defies logic...what are these ambition-less people doing representing our people and why do we let them away with it

  • Comment number 32.

    #27 Altany
    "I heard all the speeches today at the Labour Party conference and Ed Miliband was very good as was Iain Gray."

    Welcome back. Brian covers what the senior Mr Ed had to say above, but is strangely reticent concerning dour Iain's oration. What was your take on his misquoting of the FM? Did he say anything else of relevance?

    I know he's a master of deadpan, monotonic delivery, but was he able to keep a straight face whilst intoning "The SNP can keep chasing from behind. Let no one say that there is no difference between us and them"? I must revise my opinion of him if he was!

    Did he explain how he would fulfil his "I would not have released the Lockerbie bomber"? His printed speech doesn't explain the way he proposes to amend the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 in order to be able to do that. Did he just ad lib his explanation of the process or did he forget to mention it? If the latter, I'm surprised at his missing an excellent chance to moan about the 1992 Major government.

  • Comment number 33.

    #29 I disagree entirely with your view of labour not achieving much with their time. Did well with many things but mostly overlooked after Iraq mess.
    I didn't say the SNP failed miserably, they have allegedly delivered 84 of 94 pledges. none of the big ones but that is the impact of minority government.
    Banks have definately gotten off lighter than I would like but that is a matter for another day.
    I take issue with the causes of our current debt. Global financial crisis ring a bell? subprime issues from USA, Greedy reckless banking. No one comes out looking that clever. Regulation globally obviously not sufficient and wont be next time either.
    I can see isues with the leaders of my party but I merely said they were very good today. Better sticking to what I have said than some composite of what others may have said in the past.

  • Comment number 34.

    #27. At 10:24pm on 19 Mar 2011, Altany wrote:

    'However, there is a long way to go and there's many a slip between cup & mouth.'

    I think you mean 'between cup & lip'. Your version suggests lying on one's back and pouring the bevvy directly into one's gaping orifice (perhaps a requirement for spouting New Old New Labour guff)..

  • Comment number 35.

    27. Altany

    13 days before that post needs printed.

  • Comment number 36.

    #33 Well it might be the banking crisis thats caused this but Gordon has to take some of the blame for not handling it right. On the other hand i dont see the Torys currently in power doing anything different. The fact Osborne has already been on Rothchilds yacht says it all...mind you Mandy was there too.

    You might not believe this but I think Iain Gray might be a good guy only he has been put in charge of a monster and he is out of his depth. Listen to him at FMQ's, he is desperate to be in charge. What does he think it will be like being in charge ? It wont be any easier and he struggles to keep his temper from bursting out as can be seen by the insults .. 'Salmon slump' being one. I dont think he writes his answers and it shows hes not comfortable with the level of attack he is being forced to take.

  • Comment number 37.

    #7 you need to remember that ed milliband is the leader of scottish labour, iain gray is merrely leader of the msp group at holyrood. grays strings are pulled from london!

  • Comment number 38.

    #33 Altany

    "Banks have definately gotten off lighter than I would like but that is a matter for another day."
    It's also a matter for another election! What could the Scottish Parliament do to change that, to whichever party the FM belongs? But I would agree that prudent stewardship of the economy is not the Labour party's strongest suit.

    "I take issue with the causes of our current debt. ... No one comes out looking that clever."
    Arguably so, but hardly helped by the PFI wheeze your lot have used to heap debt on generations to come. It was also notable that - unless he ad libbed or I missed something - Mr Gray made no mention of how he plans to fund all the spending he promises should he become FM.

    "Regulation globally obviously not sufficient and wont be next time either."
    Clearly so in the USA and most of Europe, but not so in Norway or Australia, for example. Australian ownership and regulation prevented the Clydesdale Bank from becoming a basket case.

  • Comment number 39.

    Altany,I fear you may be right as 'Labour'appears to be the default position for too many .Yet when asked, often my 'labour' voting friends cannot put forward one current Labour policy. Even when they agree the Labour party they vote for is now a myth and to a greater degree is trading on its former reputation,for the working man and all that.However frustrating that maybe to the rest of us,the recipients of 'their' policies I do wonder if the alignment with some of the SNP policies is based on the assumption they (Labour) will have a minority and the SNP would have difficulty voting against 'their 'own policies.The Labour party appear to have no shame prior to the election so why change after ?Its a wonderful game politics is'nt it as long as your in the team and not just the spectators.
    Say ,worst case scenario ,Labour do win, they will be scrutinised as never before,although not necessarily by the MSM .The expectations of the public will need to be met for ALL of Scotland and if they don't match expectations well the public have seen and approved (according to todays poll ) of how the SNP have went about their business.However Iain Gray sounded today with Ed Milliband for back up,if he does become FM (and I seriously hope not ),there will be no hiding place.

  • Comment number 40.

    regarding 'the global financial 'mess,I heard on 5 live an American financers' views on it ( sorry at this time can't remember his name ).His take was ,when new regulation was brought in to the Senate,basically banning financial dealings such as subprime selling,it was moved to -guess where ? That'll be The City of London who as a subdivision if you like of the American parent company carried on being allowed to sell. Who was in Government then ? His other take was there is one party, the business party (the main party ) the other two parties were the Republicans and the Democrats who basically take their lead from the business party .

  • Comment number 41.

    Brian,

    On reading more about the Scottish tory conference, I'm somewhat surprised that Charles Hendry's speech merits neither a mention here nor on this website's Best of the rest from the Scottish Tory conference. The MP for Wealden in East Sussex is also one of Chris Huhne's Ministers of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change and so potentially a very relevant player for the rest of this Westminster parliament and possibly also in the Holyrood election campaign.

    In his speech, Mr Hendry - clearly a "one nation" tory - opined that Scotland's resources should be used to benefit the whole of Britain not just the economy north of the border, as reported by The Press Association's Energy resources 'to benefit all', which quotes him extensively, including the following gem: "The North Sea remains one of the most important energy resources in Europe. Too often, it is seen as the forgotten part of our energy equation, but not any longer. For some decades to come, we will still need oil and gas, so the basic reality is that we can either produce our own or we will have to import them. And I am in no doubt that one of our core objectives, at this time of uncertainty, is that we must ensure that we get out every last drop. This year we expect investment in the North Sea to be up by 60% on the last two years, potentially halving the rate at which production is declining."

    A tad controversial, perhaps, but Mr Hendry is not afraid of controversy, it would appear. Only last Friday, Bloomberg's U.K. Appetite for New Nuclear Remains ‘Strong,’ Hendry Says quoted him as saying in a TV interview: "There’s a lot of work which still needs to be done, but there’s still a very strong appetite. The issues in North Africa reinforce the need for us to move in a low carbon direction."

  • Comment number 42.

    39. At 00:38am on 20 Mar 2011, jingswhatsitallabout wrote:
    "Altany,I fear you may be right as 'Labour'appears to be the default position for too many .Yet when asked, often my 'labour' voting friends cannot put forward one current Labour policy. Even when they agree the Labour party they vote for is now a myth and to a greater degree is trading on its former reputation,for the working man and all that."

    I assume you are talking about Scottish Labour. If so the following does not apply.

    Even with New Labour, there were some policies that were far better for working people than anything seen before in my lifetime - Gordon Brown's working Family Tax credits were far and away better than anything previous for bringing working families out of poverty and giving them a chance, provided they used the extra money wisely and did not smoke, drink or gamble, to have a holiday and the other things in life that are enjoyed by the middle classes, even if it was at a lower level.

    Even if some people exploited the system and cheated by giving false figures, as they did, it was still worthwhile for the majority. With modern day technology it should have been linked to the tax system to prevent fraud but unfortunately that was not the chosen route.

    But don't come the rubbish that Labour didn't do anything; only the other morning I heard a health expert on TV saying that Labour's policies had made a massive difference to the Health Service which had been on it's knees following Tory rule.

    By all means criticise Labour for what they did wrong and get wrong but don't indulge in the nonsense of blanket condemnation that is complete and utter nonsense.

  • Comment number 43.

    I see that Iain Gray repeated the Labour mantra that the SNP have 'cut 1500 nurses from our hospitals'.

    Will the BBC challenge him on this? The NHS statistics show that there has been a 1000 INCREASE in the numbers of nurses in the last four years. Come on BBC, this is a good news story for you - 'Gray misleads public'.

    Any Labour supporters care to defend Gray on this?

  • Comment number 44.

    33. At 11:11pm on 19 Mar 2011, Altany wrote:
    #29 I disagree entirely with your view of labour not achieving much with their time. "Did well with many things" but mostly overlooked after Iraq mess.

    I didn't say the SNP failed miserably, they have "allegedly delivered 84 of 94 pledges". none of the big ones but that is the impact of minority government.


    (My quotation marks to highlight point).

    The SNP can list their 84 achievements DESPITE being a minority Govt. List 84 achievements made in 8 years (two full terms) in coalition (back when Labour thought it was ok to jump into bed with the Lib-Dems), or indeed in any of the previous 50-odd years when Labour has held the majority of Scottish seats in Westminster!!

    That's two seperate Parliaments, 58+ years to 4 of an SNP minortiy Govt. Surely it'll be an easy ask? Or then again...what have the SNP ever done for/to you?

    If you can't see it, you're looking in the wrong place...if you still can't work it out, there's no debate to be had...if you're still backing Labour, there's no point in trying to say the lad made a good speech.

    It's gone way beyond comparing oratory skills, my friend!

  • Comment number 45.

    42. At 08:21am on 20 Mar 2011, Sheneval wrote:
    "But don't come the rubbish that Labour didn't do anything; only the other morning I heard a health expert on TV saying that Labour's policies had made a massive difference to the Health Service which had been on it's knees following Tory rule."

    You are correct that it wasn't that "Labour didn't do anything". They pumped money into health while in Westminster. There were many benefits from this, yes. The annoying thing, though, was that much of the money was misdirected and wasted.

    PFI monies are an example - even in Scotland, £50 million each year is going from NHS funds to pay for PFI. And this will rise in future years.

    Labour also kicked open the privatisation door in the English NHS - with absoultely no evidence of the health or cost benefits. Labour even tried this in Scotland, giving £8 million to an international company. But what did we get for the money?

  • Comment number 46.

    Interesting to read Brian's review of Ed Miliband's speech - attacking the Call Me Dave's Tories, who are utterly irrelevant in terms of the upcoming election.

    A bit like a bevvied-up thug addressing a booze-blurred enemy, yelling "Come on! Square go!", only to be tapped on the shoulder by the genuine opponent standing behind him, and to be gently chastised for trying to pick a fight with a lamppost!

    If Red Ed truly thinks that Scotland's politics are about Labour v Conservatives, he should stay away - he will cost the party more votes than he gains.

  • Comment number 47.

    If May's election is to be about common sense, Wee Eck has it in the bag.

    Scottish government by a Scottish party in the interests [solely] of the Scottish people - a pledge neither of the other parties can offer.

    I say "neither" because I think it is safe to say that Manic Street Preachers fan Nick 'Everything [including principles] Must Go' Clegg will have cost the Scottish Lib Dems well over half of their already meagre support.


    More troubling is the likelihood of the next Holyrood cohort being very largely a reflection of constituency types: SNP (the North), Labour (Central Belt/urban), Conservative (Central Belt/rural).

    Each is already preaching to its own choir; where is the reaching out to ALL Scots, the attempt to move forward rather than tread water?

  • Comment number 48.

    Can anyone help me I live in East Kilbride and I would like to get a sticker for my car
    This should show a Photograph of Andy Kerr with a slogan which says
    " Does this B--M make my car look big"
    Surely someone can help a poor old voter.
    In fact I think the photo could be changed to anyone that takes your fancy

  • Comment number 49.

    The announcement by the Tory minister that they intend to continue to use Scotland's oil to prop up England is of course no surprise. This has been of course the Tory and Labour strategy for the last thirty years. Use Scotland to prop up excess spending on wars and English benefits, then tell Scotland that they have never had it so good. When in reality Scotland could be providing its elderly with free heating and phone bills, free medical care and free transport-if that money were not squandered down south. And what of the future. What happens when Scotland successfully starts to produce electricity in huge quantities, will these resources be stolen too. Aided and abetted by Iain grey and the Labour voters of Scotland who have been hoodwinked by a party that speaks socialism and delivers Conservatism and countless members of which have been shown to be corrupt time and time again.
    Vote labour get Tory, get Tory, get the union, get the union and get ripped off.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hitting out at the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, Mr Miliband told the conference: "I have never wanted this to be a five-year government because of the damage it will do."

    Or, reading between the lines:

    FIVE YEARS? I'll be found out before 2015, and my party will replace me with someone who can actually do the job, but at least it won't be my crybaby brother (who didn't want to play if he couldn't be 'captain of the team').

  • Comment number 51.

    #43 NHS Statistics show that in 2007 there were 57050 wte, in 2010 there were 57878 an increase of 878 or if you prefer headcount (people) 67345 in 2007 and 68133 in 2010 an increase of 788. However between 2009 & 2010 there has been a decrease of 550 wte or 548 http://www.isdscotland.org/isd/5352.html

  • Comment number 52.

    #43 v #51

    Replace one full-time post with two half-time: and you have variously:
    one post eliminated;
    one additional post created;
    two posts created.

    How you choose to reflect the figures is dictated by the political agenda you wish to pursue, but I tend to prefer an analysis which identifies the "number of hours worked" (not necessarily quite the same as wte) in a given category of worker.

  • Comment number 53.

    And the number of patients should also be factored in - in isolation, the number of medical and nursing staff tells you nothing about the level of service provided.

  • Comment number 54.

    And I read somewhere that if you bring in two people to do any job you immediately increase the workload by 50% by writing in need for time consuming cross referencing and coordination.

  • Comment number 55.


    Other than increasing the number of managers it had I don't think all the money Labour poured into the NHS led to a real improvement in the overall service.



  • Comment number 56.

    #50 No to Charter Renewal
    "Or, reading between the lines: FIVE YEARS? I'll be found out before 2015, and my party will replace me with someone who can actually do the job, but at least it won't be my crybaby brother"

    I'm not so sure that would be in the best interests of the people of Scotland, as the FM would put it, but the question put by Mr Ed is certainly a good one:
    "When David Cameron wakes up on the morning of Friday May 6, what is it that will make him think again?"

    As someone opined on an unmentionable site, CMD would be delighted if Lab win. He would, no doubt, shed the odd crocodile tear at any loss of Con MSPs, but it would hurt him not at all. OTOH, should the SNP win, he'll be in for the odd sleepless night.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm watching The Politics Show (Scotland) and in her introduction Isobel Fraser has just said they would be reveiwing the Tories conference, but made no mention of the Labour conference, which I understand was going on in Glasgow.
    Surely this unfair and outwith the BBC's remit about fair and impartial reporting.
    Why should it be that 'Colin' and 'Mikegringo' (et al) don't have the the opporchancity of proclaiming 'another barnstorming speech' from the Scottish Labour Party's leader because the BBC have obviously decided it's not newsworthy.
    While I admit to a little sarcasm in my last sentence, the more important point is that (in a democracy) political parties should have the the right to be heard irrespective of how irrelevant their policies may be. How with any conscience can anyone vote for Party A if they don't know the policies of Parties B, C, and D? It is the responsiblity of TV broadcasters (not just the BBC) to inform the public.

  • Comment number 58.

    #51 and others, on numbers of nurses:

    Your NHS figures show a rise of 878 (wte) or 788 (heads) over a three year period. I don't think there are figures which cover the precise term of the current government. For a four year period, admittedly covering 6 months of the previous administration, I think the figures are close to 1000 - which was the number I used in an earlier post.

    Even so, the point is that Labour are saying there has been a 'CUT' of 1500 by the SNP.

    Where are Labour getting their figures from? Does anyone know? Looks like Labour are misleading the public? Is this another example of Gray saying 'never mind the statistics'?

  • Comment number 59.

    #57 - Didn't the BBC say that Labour had their annual conference shot at Oban?

    Noticed that the Politics Show didn't manage to get anyone from Labour along to talk about Libya?

  • Comment number 60.

    Hoping this latest rantings from the CON part of the CONDEMS fully enforces tactical voting by the jocks, and sees them lose big time come May!

  • Comment number 61.

    57. AlastairGordon
    "no mention of the Labour conference, which I understand was going on in Glasgow.
    Surely this unfair and outwith the BBC's remit about fair and impartial reporting.
    "

    BBC rules are, apparently, that only one conference gets live coverage. Labour opted to have theirs in Autumn (presumably because they wanted to concentrate on Westminster issues). They may well have thought that their pals in BBC Scotland would ignore that rule for them. Unfortunately, the real BBC bosses in London prefer to suck up to their paymasters in the current UK Government.

    Labour hoist by their own constitutional preferences, methinks.

  • Comment number 62.

    61. At 1:29pm on 20 Mar 2011, reincarnation.
    Looks like the BBC have given up on the wee Gray man.


    His speech must have been ridiculous.

  • Comment number 63.

    #62 kadok
    "His speech must have been ridiculous."

    More funny peculiar than funny ha-ha, I'd say. But you can judge for yourself and read it in full here.

  • Comment number 64.

    #62 i think it is more a case of just keeping gray out of public view so it doesnt damage labours chances. as long as their deficiencies/deceit are hidden from view and not mentioned in the press people will still vote for labour.

  • Comment number 65.

    labour supporters get wise, i should know i was one for 45 years.
    but over the last decade i realised through a scottish devolved
    government the snp is the only party, who can truly represent the
    scottish people without an ulterior motive, ie no westminster masters
    interfering in scottish affairs.
    by the way i havent selt the jersey its a meens to an end!

  • Comment number 66.

    Post 65 @ 3:53pm on 20 March 2011 - 'rouser'.

    Indeed, Scotland should have no Westminster 'masters'. Scotland, like any devolved nation should raise it's own taxes from it's own people to meet it's own populist policies.

    By the same measure, Scottish politicians should speed this process in Westminster, in order for Scottish politicians to stay out of English politics?

    The best solution would be for England to be devolved asap. That way we, as all devolved nations, can all benefit as individual nations to claim back something from the costs of all of us to the the EU?

    Yes, it's true - we must all devolve - and work together in a smarter way?




  • Comment number 67.

    #14. At 7:50pm on 19 Mar 2011, Florence wrote:

    ""4 SKOUBHIE: GARL was in their previous manifesto and nothing came of it. As far as I am concerned there are other much more important avenues for our money as you say, but am I not right in thinking that while they welched on GARL they sent back over £1bn to London?""

    Mr Gray was Minister of Transport and was the one who signed off on a £3bn transport programme - Building Better Transport - which included GARL.

    As you say, nothing came of it.

  • Comment number 68.

    #22. At 9:13pm on 19 Mar 2011, Barbazenzero wrote:

    #17 BletherWithBill
    "Didn't the labour party have their Scottish Conference today, all I can find out about it is what Ed Milliband said at the conference, nothing on the BBC or the MSM regarding Iain whatshisname's speech, maybe he didn't have time to change it. Honestly had to go to the Labour website to read the rubbish that was spouted."

    Labour are going to invoke Mrs Thatcher's name at every turn, as they usually do when they have no policies, and try to turn the election into an anti-Westminster election rather than fight it as a Scottish Election for the Scottish Parliament. If so then the electorate needs to be reminded that:

    1. During the 13 years of the Labour Government British Manufacturing as a percentage of GDP was halved - from 22% to 11.5 - and 2 million jobs were lost.

    2. That Labour was going to bring in cuts that were worse than anything Mrs Thatcher did.

    3.That Gordon Brown removed the 10p tax band and at a stroke doubled the tax taken from the poorest workers and pensioners to fund tax cuts for the better off.

    It is also worth remembering, if Labour try to conflate Mr Salmond with Mrs Thatcher, that Mr Salmond was suspended from the House of Commons for a period in the 1980s for interrupting the budget speech to protest against the Poll Tax. So hardly soft on Thatcher or her policies was he?

  • Comment number 69.

    I am concerned, as a democrat, that there has been hardly a mention of the Labour Spring conference, I accept and understand that they had there turn for live coverage at their Autumn conference, but to apparently ignore it completely is in my opinion very wrong. They deserve to have the opportunity for media exposure the same as every other party.
    Now please do not misunderstand, I am by no stretch a Labour supporter, but for all those who have complained of an anti SNP bias, I would suggest they way forward is not to replace one wrong with an other.
    For what it is worth Mr Greys speech was rather poor, and contained some interesting attempts at policy. My favourite was the pledge to do away with early release for prisoners, now it was implicit and explicit in this that this meant longer sentences, however the devil is in the detail, what they actually mean is that yes they will do away with early release but at the same time introduce shorter sentences, the net effect being that prisoners will serve the same length of sentence as they presently do. I believe that the voters have a right to know this and for discussion to be out in the open.
    It does leave me wondering just how far the media is prepared to go yo protect Grey, even the Daily Record/Sunday Mail barely mentions their conference.

  • Comment number 70.

    To neglect to provide live/extensive coverage of the Labour spring conference is understandable, for the reasons stated by others, but surely ANY substantive speech by either the Labour Party's leader or the leader of Scotland's MSPs is worthy of news/current affairs mention.

    Unless, that is, we are to infer that the speeches were so lacking as to have no newsworthy content.

  • Comment number 71.

    Am I a bias kiwi Scot or is it a fact that those pro SNP columnists (and MSPs) seem more sensible and honest than the others -especially Magnus Gardham, Alan Cochrane, Lorraine Davidson and Jenny Hjul.

    See Joan MacAlpine's "Don't mention the Scots."
    http://joanmcalpine.typepad.com/

  • Comment number 72.



    #Soosider
    "It does leave me wondering just how far the media is prepared to go to protect Grey, even the Daily Record/Sunday Mail barely mentions their conference."

    I reckon Grey,s performance was so bad the London labour bosses have stepped in and ordered their media pals not to give the SNP more ammunition by airing or printing or even mentioning Mr Grey,s waffling.

  • Comment number 73.

    Message to readers in the year 2111:

    Given that the 100-year 'confidentiality' will have expired/be about to expire, have a dig into Census 2011 and find out whether the Gray Man, Auntie Bella and other Unionists chose to identify themselves as British or Scottish (Census Q14).

  • Comment number 74.

    Iain Gray’s speech:
    “I will tell you what is really a tough job. Bringing up a family on your own. That’s tough. Working 12-hour shifts to make ends meet. That’s tough. Picking yourself up if you have been made redundant and trying to find a new job in your 40s or 50s. That’s tough. Trying to keep your house nice and your garden decent in a street where no one else cares – that’s a tough job.”

    One wonders why when these conditions existed all the decades when Labour was in control they still exists today? How do they manage to convince their ‘loyal’ support to blame an minority SNP Government of only four years for not clearing up the problems that they never did when in power.
    They continually harp on about Margaret Thatcher and 18 years of Tory rule but surely if they really were a ‘Scottish’ Labour Party and wanted continual power in Scotland then this would stand a more than better chance if Scotland was a sovereign nation as most countries are.

    I am really amazed at the strength of 'loyalty' that the Labour party still enjoys in Scotland. Nor can I for the life of me understand why they, without doubt prefer, to be ruled by Tory party and a majority of Southern English MPs, who know little of places north of Watford, than their own local people.
    Kiwi are closer to Aussies then to anyone but we wouldn’t want decisions made for us by Canberra and drongos (meant in the fondest possible way) from Wollongong.
    Kiwi Mike

  • Comment number 75.

    God post Mike
    What worries me is the dead people who still use their postal vote in labours favour.

  • Comment number 76.

    Re No 70,

    I hate to act as any kind of apologist for the red top that is BBC Scotland, but I think they have already announced that the LPoWiS conference this past weekend was not being covered because their turn came in the Autumn conference series!!

    Of course, that does not excuse the news aspect - on the other hand just how many bruisings of the weegreyman can any decent person watch!!

  • Comment number 77.

    #75. kadok: Thanks.
    What worries me is the number of non-voters. All political parties should be ashamed that so many, potential supporters, have either switch off, perhaps because of the adversarial, ill tempered nature of Parliament, Westminster and Holyrood, (my bias showing again, especially ‘Mr Angry’, Iain Gray) or just apathy to the whole nature of politics.

    There does appear to me that here is one aim or goal that all the parties could show solidarity in - getting more of the electorate to get out and ‘put their cross’.

    Neither the media, the politicos or any Government agency (as far as I know, from the other side of the earth) is reminding citizens of the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the revolutionaries of 1848 throughout Europe, who marched, protested and died attempting to gain the chance to vote and also for sovereignty.
    There again, they didn’t have umpteen TV channels blaring 24 hours a day to distract and tempt them.

    In NZ, a branch of the Electoral Enrolment Centre is ‘Outreach Support’ which works amazingly hard and efficiently getting voters out. It has a large number of promotional items handed out at many functions and events, encouraging people to vote. Since I have been here, turn- out has been high 80% to 90% and lowest was 2002 at 77.0% when many Labour supporters didn’t vote because of the then Labour Governments complete turn to the Right, (Rogernomics), well before NuLabour (see Rogernomics)

    Perhaps you too have these ’give-a-way’ products and campaigns reminding folk to ‘get out and vote‘, but if not, the trouble might be, if suggested in your Parliament, other parties would knock automatically it out of misguided principle.

    Really if a ‘democracy’ can not ‘enjoy’ on average over 80% voter turn-out, then no party, even the one that’ wins’ should be congratulating itself.

  • Comment number 78.

    Labour can't win in the UK without Scotlands seats, we have returned up to 50 Labour MPs sometimes.

    The staunch Labour support heartlands are often places which receive a lot of benefits and they vote Labour to maintain their income (as business does via the tories)
    What I call "monkey on a stick" seats, safe seats.

    The main battle up here will be for MSPs, local issues will dominate.
    London isn't very "important" because the difference between Labour and the Tories is so marginal and being so remote the Parliamentary system was never terribly relevant to the wee minority of jockland.
    Giving the tories a sound thrashing is one of the only reasons anyone bothered voting, not a bad reason in itself, fear of the Tory disdain for the Scots is a strong motivator at UK voting time.
    The ghost of Maggie will only die with the demise of those folk who served under her reign.

    I'd vote Labour at UK level, but I wouldn't touch them with a pole at the local MSP level now.

    The big change will come via the 2nd vote, I always voted Tory with my second vote, so Labour(who usually won) was on a leash (let those dodgy political individuals watch each other kinda thing)

    I'll be happy to give the lot to Alec this time around, and I'm not the only one thinking along those lines.

    Doesn't mean we'll vote for independence though, independence is a completely different ballgame, a choice between getting fleeced by England or getting fleeced by Europe aint much of a choice.

    I also think it would be a good idea if Alec went on a diet.
    One bowl of choco-pops less a day would do ya more good than harm Alec.

 

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