Budget 2015: The return of Tina

george osborne and budget box

Tina, it would appear, is back. Forgotten Tina? The acronym for There Is No Alternative? Regularly cited by Margaret Thatcher? Thatcher? Oh, come on, it hasn't been that long since the Tories were in sole command of the UK.

Sole but not unalloyed because, of course, we now have devolved administrations including the one led by the SNP at Holyrood.

I thought of Tina as I scrutinised George Osborne's delivery of his budget statement. The reminiscence first surfaced as I noted the series of reactions from Mr Osborne's Cabinet colleagues.

The transport secretary looked magisterially content as the Chancellor talked of spending more on roads. The defence secretary looked suitably resolute as the Chancellor promised more money for the military and security services.

Beatific grin

The work and pensions secretary looked positively ecstatic, punching the air like a tennis player who has just served an ace. This in response to the announcement of a National Living Wage, applicable to all aged over 25 and mandatory for employers.

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Contenders confirmed in Scottish Labour leadership fight

  • 19 June 2015
  • From the section Scotland
MSPs Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale
Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale are standing in the Scottish Labour leadership contest

What does Labour, in Scotland, need? A prolonged period of study and debate, to examine what has gone wrong for the party and to work out how to put it right.

Will it get that? Nope. Elections are pending - elections are always pending - this time for Holyrood. OK, they are not until next May. Hands up those who think Scottish Labour is ready and raring to go for that contest. Yes, thanks. Hands down.

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Turning back the clock at First Minister's Questions

  • 18 June 2015
  • From the section Scotland
Iain Gray
After 183 weeks, Iain Gray was back leading the opposition attack at FMQs

To Labour's undoubted chagrin, leadership contests have become somewhat commonplace north of the Border as the party has struggled to contain the seemingly irresistible rise of the SNP.

The problem, of course, is evident. Rather fewer people these days support what used to be styled the People's Party. The solution is less obvious.

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Playing party games

  • 11 June 2015
  • From the section Scotland
Scottish money

I have never warmed to the Hokey Cokey - or its global variants such as the Hokey Pokey and even the Okey Cokey, the title favoured at Holyrood today by Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats.

For one thing, I resolutely dislike being told what to do, even if it merely involves putting one's hand in and then taking it out again.

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Taking a theological approach

St Thomas Aquinas
Could politicians of today be drawing upon the philosophical approach of theologians of the past?

While at university in Fife, I took the opportunity, briefly, to study theology. I had absolutely no intention of becoming a minister. It was but a whim, a youthful fancy, which sat alongside my wider interest in philosophy.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the year-long course, delivered by excellent lecturers whose oratorical skills had been honed in the pulpit.

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Things get real at Holyrood and Westminster

Scottish money
Scotland faces cuts as a result of George Osborne's savings plan

In the Holyrood chamber, Nicola Sturgeon is facing questions about the impact of her government's spending on health, education and the rest.

The questions are pointed. Indeed, those from Labour's Kezia Dugdale once more resemble a test paper in that she asks the FM, successively, what has happened to the uptake of....

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Charles Kennedy: A political contact and a chum

Charles Kennedy in the Commons
Former MP Charles Kennedy spoke to the BBC before May's election as part of a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the House of Commons

Anecdotes and wry observations spilled from Charles Kennedy. He had an acute intelligence and a thoroughgoing comprehension of contemporary politics. But his style was frequently conversational and companionable, rather than didactic or driven.

At the recent Scottish conference of his party, he shared a few yarns in a vintage performance. He recalled the period when he was nearing the end of his career at Glasgow University.

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Fishing for answers at FMQs

Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon faced questions on exams, childcare, the police, the Scotland Bill and fish

Nicola Sturgeon seemed a mite disconcerted at Holyrood today. Only for a moment, mind, and not during any of her exchanges with opposition leaders.

To be clear, those conversations were robust enough. Decidedly so, in fact. Serious scrutiny on serious topics: exams, child care and police operations.

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Time to speak at FMQs

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell told the Holyrood chamber: "I'm haverin' so I'll sit down."

As I recall, one of the finest contributions to Scottish Parliamentary discourse came from the former First Minister Jack, now Lord, McConnell.

His answer to a question in the chamber - the old one up the hill, that is, not the new one - was slowly approximating to a conclusion.

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What now for Scottish Labour?

Kezia Dugdale and Jim Murphy arrived at a meeting of Scottish Labour's ruling body
Kezia Dugdale and Jim Murphy arrived at a meeting of Scottish Labour's ruling body

Over the weekend, it was possible to discern two competing views about Jim Murphy's resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Only two? OK, two broad groupings then.

Life in the People's Party is thus somewhat troubled, especially as the People in question are rather fewer in number than previously.

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