Monday, 17 May 2010

Labour Ate My Hamster, say Tories

It is depressing, but far from surprising, to observe the press briefings from our new chancellor on the so-called "scorched earth policy" of the outgoing Labour government. 'There is even less money than we thought' wail the Tories. 'Labour ate my hamster' scream the tabloids. 'The previous government implemented precisely the policies it said it would and all of the spending was established before the election was called' reports no-one at all, unfortunately.

It's a tried and tested opening move for any new administration to exclaim that it has found things far worse than you could imagine. In sales terms it's called expectations management - painting a bleaker picture than you actually see so that you can later claim a great victory. But it also serves to get a few more anti-Labour headlines into the press to counter the dangerous stories that, post-election, Labour is now polling into the 30s and has had its biggest ever jump in membership.

But when one looks at the facts rather than the rhetoric, it's clear that the "fury" of Cameron and Osborne was prepared well in advance, and was based on scoring political points rather than finding any skeletons in closets. Let's look at their list of grievances.

The highest profile one is bonus payments to civil servants and NHS managers. Only it turns out that the bonuses were a few thousand pounds each to a few thousand middle managers, amounting to £15m in total across the entirety of England and Wales. So, you've lost the goodwill of thousands of workers and saved... sod all. Bravo Gideon.

Then they lay into defence spending - the same people who told Labour their defence spending was too low, now want to cut tens of billions from vital contracts to which we are already committed - and we'd waste ten times the £15 million clawed back from hard working civil servants by contract ending costs alone!

And they're even tagging the "eBorders" project onto this 'scorched earth' narrative, saying that it is running late and over-budget. Really? You mean like, erm, the last government said it was?

Scorched earth? Get over yourselves. Labour brought openness and accountability to the business of government. All the decisions being decried now by the Tories were made publicly and unequivocally by Labour. If this is the sort of spin we are going to get from Dave and Nick's great adventure, then it's certainly nothing more than politics as usual.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The tragic flaw of Salmond's nationalism

The SNP fought - and lost - the 2010 UK general election on a platform of "More Nats, Less Cuts". I've never been a fan of Alex Salmond, and the linguistic butchery of that phrase gave my dislike of him and his party even greater force. But the message it summarises - that the SNP will "fight for Scotland" - is even more offensive when extracted from its soundbite.

The message, which has been reprised repeatedly by Salmond in response to David Cameron's visit north, and appears to form the bulk of SNP policy for all eventualities, is that when cuts come they should not fall on Scotland. This is ludicrous. It is juvenile. It is beyond reason. It is classic SNP.

What the SNP are saying is that, when cuts in public spending are brought in to tackle our national deficit, as we know they must be, they should be made only to the services of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish. In the face of dwindling tax receipts from all parts of the UK, including Scotland, Salmond wants to take more and more for Scotland and leave less and less for the rest of our countrymen.

This for me is the tragic flaw of Salmond's populist brand of nationalism. By reducing his message down to "fighting for Scotland" he ends up being no more than a greedy beggar. And he paints us in Scotland all as greedy beggars too.

Scots voted overwhelmingly last week to reject Salmond's message, and his failed Scottish Government, and placed their trust in a Labour party which has principles, not self-interest, at its heart. One of the reasons we saw such big swings towards Labour in Scotland is that people know that when times get tough it's far more important to be fair and equitable than to be greedy and isolationist.

Next year we'll have the chance to kick them out of power altogether, and I have no doubt we'll take it. Scotland is not taken in by nationalist protectionism. Scotland has demonstrated that it believes in fairness. With apologies for compounding the sins against grammar: "Less Nats, Thank Goodness".