Monday, May 28, 2007

How not to win

ntr recently noticed these YouTube vids from fellow Govanite baronsarwarofgovan (well, I assume he/she is from Govan, but equally it could be some kind of elaborate ruse - with hilarious consequences or something).

Big Mags Curran showing her gentle side

Who said Pauline McNeill was a bamstick?

It's like an episode of GBH, but less well-acted. Alan Bleasdale obviously foresaw the rise of Mohammed Sarwar's election agent and wrote his script accordingly. Michael Palin should watch his back in the immediate future.

Comrade Ricki Fulton

It's been a sort of running joke over the years that it wasn't just its starring role in Gorky Park that lends Glasgow City Chambers to easy comparison with the Kremlin. Having complete control of the council for decades with no real opposition to speak of, does tend to conjure up the ol' bastard Quintin Hogg's soundbite about an "elective dictatorship". But now of course we've entered the world of 'new politics', where we're all minorities now, consensus building is the name of the game and Bambi's maw skips merrily over the forest glade.

It's just a shame no-one told Glasgow City Labour party. As the minutes from the new council meeting show [.pdf file], the oligarchs of George Square are as determined as ever to brook no dissent from their Five Minute Plan. Take a look at the make-up of Local Community Planning Partnerships (LCPPs). No, stop yawning, these things are pretty important. Basically the in-thing at the mo is 'community engagement'. In theory this means actually asking folk what they want done to their area. In practice it tends to be a fig-leaf for unpopular decisions taken by cooncillors - "But the LCPP okayed, so it must be great!" kinda thing. So they do have a fair bit of clout, should they choose to exercise their power.

Cllr Purcellski: "By converting this ancient, run-down area into overpriced rabbit hutch flats, we are building the Glasgow of the future. Can you smell petrol?"

Page 9 of the council minutes gives the breakdown of councillors on each LCPP. But look at the conveners of each. Can you guess which party they all come from? And which party has an inbuilt 3 - 1 political majority on each, regardless of voting patterns for the area? Stop yawning, I said! There are 15 other 'non-political' members of each LCPP, but the conveners will be (literally) setting the agenda, and giving the line to the main planning committee back at the City Chambers. Anybody thinking the opposition will be able to stop the familiar pattern of buildings 'going on fire', with plans for replacement executive apartments nodded through remarkable quickly, is in for a disappointment. They will get the odd victory as the sozzled booze-hounds and jakeys within the Labour group miss a few meetings, but overall it's business as usual for the builders, architects, developers, planning officials and big business who've reaped many a reward from the Council's insane 'Dash for Flats'.

More fascinating bits from the Cooncil tomorrow. You can't wait!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nothing to see here

ntr has disappeared for the last week or so, not due to some overwhelming series of events preventing posting, nor the beginnings of the NewLabour crackdown on samzidat writing, but merely because there wasn't much to be writing about, and frankly I couldn't be arsed. Just like John Pilger and Carl Bernstein in fact.

Despite all the pieces in the public prints, not a lot is really happening politically at the mo. A fair bit of setting out stalls and drawing lines in the sand etc etc. Today's non-story in NorthBritain on Sunday is a perfect example of political posturing. Michael Connarty and Anne Moffat calling for transfers of power back down to Westminster is really just a way of working their keep regarding the quarter-million quid the nuclear industry pumps into their "all-party" group. No-one outside the more Brit-paranoid parts of the Labour party is gonna want to support a highly symbolic and politically suicidal re-centralisation of power back to Westminster.

The phoney war will gradually fade, replaced by the real battle that the FM & Co. will face on a number of fronts - media, political and economic. Which is when, obviously, life will get very, very interesting. A good time to be alive in Scotland, I feel.

ntr has also been reading The Digger, and quotes this story from the 'Crime Stocks' section completely unedited:
"James McCallum, 45, from Collina Street in Maryhill, has been charged with assaulting Charles Dolan and Rebecca Benson on Dumbarton Road last July. He is also charged with resisting arrest and with assaulting PC Tracy Munro by licking her arm on the same date."

Worth the 50p cover price by itself.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

SDP lite lite lite lite lite lite lite lite

Dingbat Glasgow FibDem cooncillor Chris Mason is in today's Herald, defending Nicol "Captain Dynamo" Stephen's 'Nae Deal or Nae Deal' approach to government.

One interesting part of his letter caught ntr's eye: "I can imagine circumstances in which I would vote for independence, if there were a broad consensus across Scottish politics that this was necessary for good government in Scotland."

I am pro-Independence. It is a part of my political ideology and viewpoint. It would take a lot of persuasion and a frankly unlikely series of events for me to not believe that Scotland's destiny as a prosperous, outward-looking nation, requires full self-government Scotland. Nevertheless, there is a perfectly reasonable argument to make for the opposite cause; that Scotland's best interests lie within the Union, regardless of internal UK political constitutional arrangements. It is an argument I vehemently disagree with, and would argue against, but it is a point of view that deserves respect and debate. It is a belief that lies within many people's political ideology and viewpoint.

Chris Mason's FibDem viewpoint seems to be "What way is the wind blowing?". It is not based on any deep-seated view, examination of facts, debate, personal experience, history, or vision. It's just a case of "well, if everyone else is doing it, we better do it too!", testing the bath water with your elbow and waiting till it's tepid. Like most things related to FibDemmery, it's all things to all men, and none to nobody. Riding on the coat-tails of those of whatever political persuasion, letting the ideologues and believers to do the hard work, then stepping up as the twee voice of moderation and nicey-nicey-ness.

This is why all political parties and activists of whatever hue agree on one thing - the LibDems are a shower of shitebag
fucking charlatans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

DVD in all good shops

Just had these two YouTube clips of Salmond's FM election drop in me inbox:

The brief flashes of glum-faced Labour backbenchers would crack a smile on a statue.

Jam doughnuts and our new First Minister

Some years ago, as on overly-earnest, politically interested teenager, I went along to the SNP Annual Conference in Perth. This would've been 1995 I think. I had joined up a few months previously, looking forward to the passionate, ideological debates that would ensue at my local branch. Ah, the naivety of youth. As any activist in any party will attest, the most passionate local party branch meetings actually get is when deciding what colour paper to print the local election leaflets on. So going to Conference was manna from heaven for me. All these stalls, MPs, cooncillors, elections, booklets, badges, fringe meetings and all the rest of the circus that accompanies party Conferences.

I was a rather shy and quiet lad, and didn't know anyone other than my fellow delegates from the branch - about 4 out of 700 attendees. So I spent a fair bit of time pottering about on my own, no doubt appearing a rather sad figure (though inwardly I was grinning madly a lot of the time - look! A Catalan Nationalist badge! A YSN t-shirt!).

One afternoon, I was sitting on my jack jones in the cafeteria, mulling over a horrible cup of coffee and a rock solid jam doughnut, feeling a bit sorry for myself at my lack of company over the last few days. I had my head down and was hunched over the jam-filled savoury rapidly hardening in front of me, so only noticed a shape plonk their way down onto the chair across the table from me. I lifted my head...

...and there was Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP. To a 16-year-old political anorak SNP member, this was the equivalent of a Friends fan sitting in Burger King only for the Aniston to plonk her arse down at a chair. I gulped in a comedy action film kinda way, but in real life, and managed to whisper "eh, hullo". Even now, if I see the word 'awestruck' somewhere, I just need to think back to that moment to know exactly how it feels.

And you know what? He was really nice. He sat and blethered for about ten minutes about lowering the voting age, how boring some meetings were, House of Commons whisky, the debates that were going on at Conference, Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle's fortunes that coming season and other bits and bobs. Then he shook me by the hand and went off, no doubt off to discuss some vitally important policy detail (or maybe just have a shit).

Why have I written all this? I dunno really. Other than to expose me for the sadsack political groupie I am, I just wanted to tell a wee story about the guy who became Scotland's First Minister this morning. He didn't have to sit with wee lonesome speccy 16-year-old me and indulge me with stories of Select Committee meetings; I'm sure every single person in that room and hall were higher up the party hierarchy than me, and therefore more politically valuable. But he did. And ever since then, I've believed, maybe rather naively or maybe not, that Alex Salmond, despite the accusations of smugness, too smart for his own good, control freakery etc - despite all the shit that people throw at him, he has a fundamental core of human decency within him.

I believe we shall see that core time and again over the coming months and years.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Time to move to Sweden

There is nothing like the righteous anger of lentil-wearing Grauniad readers like myself at the gradual dismantling of the paper's soft left, hard politics stance. It was never perfect, taking the SDP claret drinking approach to politics and centering itself on the money pit that is London, but consistently delivered some of the best writing and journalism (not necessarily the same thing) in the world.

Sadly, what's left now is a lot of desperate 'down-with-ver-kids' type stuff about how cardigans are trendy again, page after page of dreadful whimsical tosh from the the likes of Zoe Williams, the worst TV critic in the world in the shape of Sam Wollaston, and dreary Blair defending from the likes of Polly Toynbee and Michael White.

Thankfully there are still a few gems in the rough; Charlie Brooker usually delivers to goods (when reviewing telly anyway), Timothy Garton-Ash frequently makes you step back and look at things from another angle, Richard Norton-Taylor makes good use of Freedom of Information requests.

The reason I mention all this is due to an surprisingly good piece in yesterday's paper by the economics editor, Larry Elliott. It essentially boils the economic disaster Brown and Blair have created down into easily readable form. Pretty devastating stuff:

"...Britain under Blair has become Fantasy Island, where for a decade government and people have convinced themselves that what would once have been seen as weaknesses are in fact strengths, and that hard choices can be margarined away by adherence to an illusory middle way.
"When the Attlee government committed British troops to Korea in 1950, the defence budget was around 6% of GDP...Britain now spends only around 2% of GDP on defence, yet the government maintains the fantasy that this is adequate to maintain the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"Ever higher levels of borrowing have been justified by ever higher levels of house prices. Rather than save up for a new car or a holiday, consumers have been able to re-mortgage their properties and withdraw the equity. Labour used to have quite strict, even moralistic views, about the perils of personal indebtedness, but it has been the willingness of consumers to live on the never-never that has made possible the uninterrupted growth."

Basically it boils down to this: our economy for the past decade has been based on a combination of Daily Mail headlines about house prices, cheap consumer credit, and a massive trade deficit. When the shit hits the fan, it will do so big time.

So much for the 'Iron Chancellor' and the late, lamented Prudence.

R Dawkins has a fit

ntr passes the following information on without comment:

Of the 129 MSPs, 75 asked for God's help to "be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her heirs and successors" when getting sworn in last week

54 did "solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm" to keep the faith in Queen Betty without any further assistance from a supreme being.

If you would like to play 'Presiding Officers and MSPs' with your child, you can see the script here.

Political anorak's week of dreams

Being a rather sad sort, ntr is looking forward to Wednesday and Thursday immensely. Unfortunately, we are not being bought a pony (we are not involved in planning decisions), but instead will be keeping an eye on two different executives.

On Wednesday, barring an unholy Unionist alliance that would win the 2007 award for "Really Fucking Mental Decision That Will Destroy Credibility Instantly", Alex Salmond will be elected First Minister. ntr is happy to admit voting SNP the other week, and is even happier admitting that seeing Wee Jack's face tripping him on Weds as he realises he has to swop seats with the Gnats will be a sight to see. A worst-case scenario for Salmond over the next year is defeat after defeat on parliamentary motions and bills, especially ones requiring more/less government expenditure. A best-case scenario see Wendy Alexander take over as Labour leader and Nicol Stephen cling determinedly to power, the SNP then winning 75+ seats at the 2011 elections. Somewhere between the two extremes is the more likely outcome.

Closer to ntr's patch on Thursday, the City Council has its first meeting since the election [.pdf file]. Rather a culture shock for the Labour Cllrs - from a majority of 59, they're down to 11. A quick look at last Friday's Evening Times prediction on who'll get the top jobs, demonstrates the paucity of talent at Steven "Downy Hair" Purcell's disposal. ntr's own local Labour man in the chambers, Archie Graham (aka Mr Johann Lamont), gets the Culture & Sport gig - despite the obvious catch that Labour rush-privatised Culture & Sport prior to the election. Maybe he just has a few games of Scrabble or something.

Archie Graham: Leading the bid for the European Ludo Championships 2009

The real issue for Labour is getting the less, ahem, 'active' of their cooncillors into the Chambers when duty calls. In the past, the massive Labour majority has meant the only real incentive for the comrades to turn up was the free lunch in the Members' Restaurant, or flicking through the latest issue of Razzle in the Members' Library. The new set-up means Labour need only lose 2 or 3 Cllrs attendance at a committee, and the opposition start winning votes. It may the most important people in the new Chambers won't be the Provosts or Leader - it could be the Chief Whips.

Monday, May 14, 2007

An object lesson in careerism

Keiza Dugdale may be a half-familiar name to some bloggers. She "is a hardworking and prominent Scottish Labour Party activist in central Edinburgh where she lives and works." She is also a prime example of how the Labour hack gravy train shuffle operates. Let me be clear and say ntr is not attacking Ms Dugdale personally; she certainly seems more on the ball than some of her comrades in the party (the fact these three are from Renfrewshire Labour Party is not coincidental). At least she seems to have more than two brain cells to rub together.

But just look at the career path - up the greasy pole in NUS Scotland at Aberdeen and Edinburgh Yoonis, then a job with Edinburgh Students Association, then a nice wee number working for NUS Scotland as 'Public Affairs Officer', and now as bag-carrier to whiskyed-up bawbag Baron Foulkes of Cumnock.

Fair play to her - Parly jobs are reasonably well-paid, you get your subsidised canteen and all the perks that come from having a pass for Holyrood. But it just shows, in a small way, how the 'establishment' that encompasses Scottish public life self-perpetuates itself - and how the Labour party, till now at least, has benefited most from this.

Wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time

So at last a jaiket-hauder has been selected. Another privately schooled oik following the Boy (sic) David (George Watson's), George Reid (Dollar Academy) and now Alex Fergusson (Eton). Plebs like myself secretly long for the day when the heid parly honcho's alma mater is somewhere like Rosshall Academy. In the meantime, we shouldn't get ideas above our station; those bogs won't clean themselves.

Meanwhile, moves continue to avoid a proper, judicial inquiry into the Labour hackery that led to 'X's liberally distributed across ballot papers like a Littlewoods pools coupon (Scottish Liberal Democrats - no score draw). One of the numpty mobs responsible for the farce have reeled in a fellow bureaucrat, who no doubt knows a number of the players in the fiasco through drinks parties and junkets, to investigate our bureaucrats. Independent and impartial my arse.

I nominate John McClane to oversee the inquiry, if only for the prospect of him yelling "Yippee ki-yay, mother fucker" at David Cairns whilst setting alight a trail of jet fuel in a pyrotechnic extravaganza. Let's see Lord Fraser of Carmyllie do that

Detective McClane warned the Scotland Secretary he would only ask the question once more

Sunday, May 13, 2007

When they're down, keep kicking

Having salvaged this ol' blog from a temporary death lasting 2 years, this time it's being devoted to slagging every bugger off but myself. Expect ill-informed and scary screeds about the council, parliament, the government, the state of political culture, and anything else vaguely 'political'

Ten days ago we elected a new group of individuals to run the show. But the old ones haven't gone away yet. Purcell and his ilk still poke their heids out of the chambers and divvy out the perks. McConnell and his ilk still hang around like a bad smell. And our Gazza-supporting chancellor has got the top job by default.

Hopefully I can provide my 'unique' take on things, and try not to be too tedious on the way.

Of course these fine words may come to nothing. I hope not.