A vote for the Tories is a vote for their cruel policies

That’s the simple fact in the elections coming up, both local and UK wide. Vote Tory, and you vote for their policies. You may think Ruth Davidson is all jolly hockey sticks and not like other Tories, or that Theresa May is a ‘strong’ leader.or if you want to ‘send a message’ about a second independence referendum, or block a second EU referendum so voting Tory becomes an option then remember what you’re voting for.

You’re voting for the party of food banks. You’re voting for the party that cuts PIP payments. You’re voting for the party of the bedroom tax. For the party of austerity.For the party that’s driving people to kill themselves rather than live in a country where the government makes their lives hell.

That’s what you’re voting for. You’re voting for a party with no sense of human decency. Consider that in the local elections in May and in the general election. Do you really want to give Theresa May the mandate to run riot with worker’s and human rights?

So, a simple choice. Vote for a party who’ll beat a Tory candidate or for a Tory who’ll back people’s lives being made intolerable. Make your choice.

Does the SNP and the Independence movement’s ”Scottishness” frighten people in the rest of the UK?

I was following a Twitter conversation the other day and it hit an interesting point.

I’ll explain what I mean but it does involve a bit of a read to get there so be warned…

Barring Labour supporters outside of Scotland angry they’ll never ‘win Scotland back’, there’s a chunk of people in England (and much of this is anecdotal on my part but it supports what others have found) who do look at the SNP (and Plaid Cymru in Wales) as something alien.

I spent 28 years living in England. Until the advent of the internet I could only pick up what was going on in Scotland via visits or more normally, though second, third, fourth, etc hand reports. Upon visiting Scotland in 1999 I was amazed there was any serious support for the SNP as although by this time my eyes were opened to the shitshow that was Tony Blair’s Labour, I’d shuffled over to nominally voting for the Lib Dems. The SNP for me, were ‘Tartan Tories’. Independence was a joke and barring the odd shining star like Margo McDonald the SNP were as much a threat as the Tories or Labour.

At this point I was a nominal supporter for the Union. True, I wanted full devolution, even a form of federalism, but independence seemed divisive as I truly felt the people of the UK worked better together. I had seen the slow destruction of Scotland continue on visits home (the sight of seeing the blue towers of Ravenscraig gone still shock me) but I was seeing the Tory destruction of parts of London, the Midlands and the South West. I thought the only way to fight the Tories was finding a UK alternative to them yet I never really included the SNP as part of that because I saw them as a ”Other’. They didn’t want solidarity, and the idea that cultural identity was as important as beating the Tories meant that had I lived in Scotland at the time, I’d be against the SNP.

For years I’d lived in England and never (bar one time in Staines with a drunken arsehole) had any xenophobic abuse. Yeah, there was banter with mates, but that was what mates do when they’re having a drunken session and it was both ways, not to mention it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t real, actual, xenophobic abuse. Around 2009 I had UKIP supporters in Bristol speak of Scots as a second-class race essentially. Then their bottom-feeders, the English Democrats, produced an election broadcast which was so xenophobic towards Scots that I complained to Ofcom. Everything changed & I blame a lot of that on UKIP. I no longer felt there was a level of equality in the UK, and my eyes were opened that for a section of people in England they clung onto a form of imperialism where Scotland was the property of an Empire. What I found equally extraordinary is that this wasn’t now coming from the right, but friends of mine who I knew were lefties were pushing a similar line.

Then the Scottish independence referendum campaign happened and the concept of even a Scottish identity in the UK was challenged. You didn’t accept a version of the UK where you plead fealty to the UK and suppress any lingering cultural identity of your own. For some on the left in England especially, multiculturalism didn’t extend to people from the UK as your identity as a Scot threatened the UK identity. That was the default as after all, as I’ve said, if you live in England you’re not exposed to the daily routine of Scottish politics and life. Sure, the advent of the internet meant it was easier to catch up with what was going on but you never experienced it first hand.

Last November I returned to Scotland to mainly recuperate from a stroke and deal with cancer. I saw the day-to-day life of Scotland. I saw ‘Scotishness’ first hand and some reactions were initially that some of it felt parochial however this was a relic of my thinking that the default situation for these islands is the UK. The SNP’s inability to conform to the default position and thinking of many in England antagonises people, in the same way some people are antagonised by Muslims wearing veils or speaking Polish in the street. It’s a failure to accept there’s other cultures in the UK and a reluctance to accept that Unionism (because this is what I’m really talking about) naturally involves crushing other cultures to be assimilated like some red, white and blue Borg.

So the SNP could be a right wing party that supported independence and promoted a Scottish identity separate from a Unionist one. They’d be equally despised by some. It’s the independence that rankles them because it challenges their own default identity. Their centre-left platform isn’t that much different from Tony Blair’s early days when he dabbled with social democracy but because they propose that there’s alternatives in these islands to Unionism (and everything that comes with it) they rile people up to the point of blind hatred. I’ve come to see independence as a political solution and a natural state for all countries to have, so although I won’t vote SNP (except in the general election as I think they’re the only way we’ll fight off the Tories in a Westminster election) I don’t see them as scary bogeymen any more.

And that’s where we are in this election campaign. Identity and culture will play a massive part of this election not just in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but across the UK as a whole because this is where we are thanks to Brexit. Corbyn’s Labour haven’t realised this, but Theresa May has hence why she’s called this election when a default position for many is a form of uber-Unionism that sees the UK as the centre of the world.That position may not be popular when the realities of Brexit kick in, so in Scotland I think we get what’s at stake here. Back in England any attempt to fight this solely on policies without dealing with Brexit (and everything that comes with it) hands the Tories an advantage. In this election identity is all, and it’s a straight fight between a hard/far right Unionist one and one Yes supporters offer. Make your choice.

A word about the snap General Election

After writing this I thought things couldn’t get weirder or more scary. Then Theresa May calls a snap general election on the 8th of June and the arse falls out of any idea we might be hitting a phase of relative sanity.

Using the line The country is coming together but Westminster is not May obviously sees a chance based upon current polls to have the sort of majority that we’ve not seen since the Tony Blair years. May is essentially going to have to scrap the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act to hold this snap election which may well provide some more interesting snippets as although the Tories are putting on a united front, there’s a lot of Tories out there (Hi David Mundell!!) sitting on paper-thin majorities in areas that thanks to Brexit may well be facing unemployment in June.The Act was designed to stop PM’s doing just what May is doing which is hold an election when the polls are favourable.

Problem is polls can be read wrong. Take the Scottish independence referendum. David Cameron happily let the Scottish Government hold a referendum in 2014 the polls showed only around 20% support for independence. That changed over the campaign as more people became informed of the issues, so May’s taking a risk but this is a risk which if it pays off means she personally has an eye-watering majority (if the polls are accurate around 100) not to mention she intends to change the makeup of the Lords, while Brexit hands her the sort of power no Prime Minister should have.

So this is about Theresa May grabbing power. See all that bumf about ‘division’? That’s about creating a state where the opposition is muted and ineffective where it needs to be in Westminster. There’s also the matter of the Tory election fraud scandal which menaces the Tories and taints their 2015 victory, though as Michael Crick points out, this means the hard decisions are now in the hands of the CPS.

The question you have to ask yourself is what sort of future you want for yourself and for others? This is a general election where the future of the UK itself is up for grabs. If you want a future where Tory Prime Ministers have the sort of power where they can sail through whatever they want unopposed though Westminster then look to see where your vote belongs.In Scotland that means voting for the SNP, a party I reluctantly will give my vote to in June (I find their economic policies to be far too conservative) because their social policies are good and they’ll beat not just the Tories, but a hopeless broken Labour Party who’ve run up the white flag on Brexit.

Elsewhere in the UK its down to you to make the choice. I hope Corbyn’s smart and takes the offer of a progressive alliance Ed Milliband refused in 2015 but I fear the Labour Ultras won’t do that. I hope I’m proven wrong. Whatever you do make the right choice because we have a choice and if that choice is Tory (or UKIP) then we’re heading down the same path as Turkey, America, Russia and possibly France in having a hard authoritarian leader who stamps over human rights. Do we really want to be on the dark side in the years ahead?

Do the middle class hate the poor?

Being signed off work recovering from a stroke and cancer means long periods of staring at the internet for some enlightenment to pass the hours of unrelentless tedium. The other day I came across an article on Cracked which in amongst the clickbait often prints some superb stuff. This one was entitled ”5 reasons why the middle class doesn’t understand poverty”. It used to be called ‘5 ways the middle class are taught to despise the poor” which was a tad harsh, but then again truth often is.

It’s a fascinating read as this is an American perspective yet it is as much relevant to the UK as it is across the Atlantic so take point 5;

We’re Constantly Told That “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”

If you’re poor you’re told that money isn’t the cure for all your problems. It isn’t, but if you’re sitting on a tenner for a fortnight it’ll certainly make a lot of your problems go away, and then you’ll be happier. As we live in a capitalist society this is what we have to do, and if you’re middle class you maybe aspire to climb the social ladder but you really don’t want to be poor. There’s a sense of entitlement in being middle class for some, and if you end up poor you may well end up saying it wasn’t meant to be like that.

Yet if you’re middle class you get to define what poverty is to you.You get called ‘‘JAMS’‘ by political party leaders You’re still listened to. If you’re poor, I mean, really poor, you won’t be heard and most politicians couldn’t care less about you. Sure, Nigel Farage says he cares for the common man but this is someone who at first opportunity took his chance to sit in front of Donald Trump in a golden throne and weld himself to his anal sphincter. After all people like Farage didn’t get where he is today by doing ”menial” work!

Which brings me to the next point…

We’re Taught To Associate Low-Paying Jobs With Failure

Look how many times you hear people sneer about ‘shelf stackers”? I’ve done it. You’ve done it. I looked up a job at Tesco’s here in Glasgow and looked at the hours. They suck. You do a job like this, you lose control. Your life is in the hands of the company you work for. No cheap last minute holidays in Paris or New York. No sneaky weekends in the country. You have to work, and anyhow, you won’t be able to afford to do anything anymore glamorous than a bottle or seven of WKD at your local neon clad bar.

If you’re in a job that doesn’t pay well and just about keeps food in your stomach and a roof over your head you’re struggling. But you’re in a ‘menial’ job. You stack shelves!! You pack lorries!! Can’t you do something productive like being a ‘content provider’?

Fact is we need supermarket shelves stacked. We need lorries to be packed. These aren’t ‘menial’ jobs but vitally important and in fact, there’s a very good argument that jobs like ‘content providers’ are in themselves, not just needless, but actually menial but if your family has bought you an education you take things for granted.

There Are Always Certain Things We Take For Granted

I once worked with a girl who had never paid for her own bills in her life. Her dad paid for everything. She took everything for granted and never worried about say, deciding whether to eat or pay that bill sitting on the bed that needed to be paid a month ago.

Then again the problem is that in 2017 communities are no longer as mixed as they once were. Or as Cracked says.

We Don’t Witness Poverty, So We Don’t Understand It

I recently moved back to Glasgow from Bristol to recuperate from illness. I went to a part of the city for physio back in January and was shocked by the level of poverty I saw. I’d been so long away from this level of poverty that I’d forgotten that it existed, and in fact, my own personal definition of poverty was redefined.

See the class structure used to be like this.

Now it’s more like this.

Unless you see the bottom end of the chain you’ve no idea what it’s like. You want to be near the top and you don’t want to take too much shit as after all, that’s for further down the line to do.

It’s harsh but unless we understand poverty we can’t fight it. It becomes then an abstract concept that can be shifted depending upon whoever’s single definition of poverty is. It’s why government redefine the meaning of poverty as after all, if people are born near the bottom it’s in the interests of the traditional left (Labour) to keep them there (with maybe some tinkering at the edges to make it look as if they care) in order to keep promising the world. If you’re the traditional right (Tory) then you don’t give a fuck.

So we have the sight of politicians arguing whether people are poor because they’re ”just about managing” while millions aren’t managing but for many of us we’re the victims which brings me to Cracked’s last point.

We’re Taught To See Ourselves As The Victims

We all do this. Empathy is hard. Understanding is hard. It takes time, energy and selflessness to understand and empathise with people. Remember the EU referendum last year? Remember all those people with pretty decent lives moaning about how the ‘EU was crushing them’ who are now probably moaning about not getting as much for their Sterling when they go for their overseas holiday? Yup, they thought themselves as victims because it’s easy.  If you’re brought up with a sense of entitlement and in effect, your own echo chamber within your own class you can imagine going up but down? Nah. You’re the one being penalised because you’ve got two cars, or having to cut holidays per year to two is terrible and politicians see that, sense votes and swim in for the kill.

Do the middle class as a mass hate the poor? No, they don’t. Many can empathise and many do understand, but a large section do and worse, people who have climbed up the centipede have pulled things up behind them so they hate what they’ve left behind. With Brexit coming up many people may well find themselves slipping down the chain as things implode, but the fact is in the days, weeks and months ahead people are going to have to do some serious soul searching to work out what to do and that will mean attitudes will have to change. If they don’t then most of us will be at the end of a human centipede being fed the shit from those wealthy enough to ride out what’s coming.

Hope lies in the proles

crowdThe Northern Ireland elections are normally something people in the wider UK totally ignore as after all, there’s no spectacular shots of violence for editors to run, but this one this year has been of special interest in the wake of Brexit. Unionist parties have taken a kicking while other parties have been united in their opposition of Brexit which has paid dividends at the ballot box. Effectively people from the various communities put old divisions behind them for a united cause.

In the meantime Theresa May comes to Glasgow for the Scottish Tory Party conference talking of ‘our precious Union’ after last week where Labour came to Scotland to call former voters ‘racists’. So we’re not in an official Independence referendum campaign but we’re certainly in the warm-up phase where lines are being drawn though this time Northern Ireland is lurking offstage to the left waving and throwing paper planes at the back of Theresa May’s head.

At the heart of this there’s a fear from the Unionist side that perhaps the ordinary people (the same they pretend to speak for) are turning from the old myths of a United Kingdom that works for all and instead, are looking at alternatives. In the case of the Northern Irish election and the prospect of a second referendum it’s about people tired of an outdated Unionist ideology trying to make a better future that isn’t steeped in myths of British unity that really, is about a British state that serves a few and makes serfs of many.

For Northern Ireland to move forward to whatever future lies ahead and for Scotland to have a second referendum that’s won it will be people from all backgrounds, race, religions and nationalities that will give birth to hopefully a better future. In the midst of all of what’s going on we’re seeing little glimmers of a better possible world forming that stands aside from the hate and bile of blood and soil nationalists like Theresa May.

How does the Supreme Court Brexit ruling affect the campaign for Scottish Independence?

Today the  UK Supreme Court ruled that the UK parliament has to vote to approve Article 50 (the legislation which triggers the UK’s two year long divorce from the EU) which effectively means the government has to put forward a bill and MP’s vote on it. So will unelected peers in the House of Lords but the UK’s creaking constitution allows this. There’s also the trifling matter that the devolved countries of the UK (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) saw their court cases that Article 50 can’t be invoked without votes approving it in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh thrown out.

At this point it’s best to read this splendid Iain McWhirter piece which explains this in detail but contains such information of importance I’m quoting a big chunk of it…

LEGISLATIVE consent may sound like another of those tiresome lawyer’s phrases; it’s anything but. Lack of it could stall Brexit, trigger an independence referendum or even break up the Union.

Legislative consent is what used to be called the Sewel Convention, under which the Scottish Parliament has a right to vote on actions of Westminster that impinge on its powers. Today, the UK Supreme Court will address whether or not Holyrood has a right of consent on Article 50, triggering Brexit.

The UK Government is adamant that it should not, and that the Scottish Parliament has no right to interfere. Anyway, the constitution is reserved to Westminster. Advocates of legislative consent, including the Scottish Government, argue that Holyrood certainly should have a say because Brexit will massively affect Holyrood’s powers. Under the Scotland Act 1998, Scottish legislation has to be in accordance with EU law, and this will end when the European Communities Act is repealed.

Moreover, in the Scotland Act 2016, the Sewel Convention was supposedly put on a “statutory basis”, as part of the post referendum “vow” on entrenching Holyrood’s powers. Most people believed this meant that there was now a legal obligation for Holyrood to give its assent to changes to its powers. But no.

The UK Government had inserted a weasel word into the Act. It says that “Westminster will not NORMALLY legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament” Since Brexit is not “normal” then legislative consent doesn’t apply

Effectively this means this: The centre of political power in the UK is Westminster. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are essentially regions with glorified councils calling themselves ‘parliaments’ and ‘assemblies’. These can be swept aside because as McWhirter points out;

Under the Scotland Act 1998, Scottish legislation has to be in accordance with EU law, and this will end when the European Communities Act is repealed.

The Great Repeal Bill the Tories talk about will bring all EU legislation into UK law to be then kept or dumped depending upon whatever Westminster says. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the devolved countries could find their own powers being taken back, or indeed, scrapped for central rule, and yes, the Northern Powerhouse plans to devolve power to big northern English areas is window dressing. Legal political power in the UK is at the discretion of Westminster who are not obliged to do anything the devolved governments (though really, they’re not governments) say which means all those solemn vows of 2014 meant nothing, or as McWhirter puts it;

Moreover, in the Scotland Act 2016, the Sewel Convention was supposedly put on a “statutory basis”, as part of the post referendum “vow” on entrenching Holyrood’s powers. Most people believed this meant that there was now a legal obligation for Holyrood to give its assent to changes to its powers. But no.

The UK Government had inserted a weasel word into the Act. It says that “Westminster will not NORMALLY legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament” Since Brexit is not “normal” then legislative consent doesn’t apply. Ha, ha – Scots should have read the act more carefully.

Scotland had the chance to make it’s own successes and failures. It had the chance to make a future of its own. It didn’t, choosing instead to stay in the Union, yet that Union which promised ‘Scotland’s voice will be heard louder than ever before’ lied. It sold you a stinky kipper when you were expecting fresh salmon.

Essentially we’re at this stage…

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So what do we do about it? Well, some MPs are going to vote against invoking Article 50 but there won’t be enough thanks to the sheer lunacy of Jeremy Corbyn telling his MP’s to vote it through which hands the Tories a massive advantage because anyone who thinks they’ll be able to influence the Tories once Article 50 is invoked is a fool, or is someone who wants to leave the EU themselves. Forget that leaving will drive those people Labour say they speak for into virtual serfdom as the Brexiters vision of a tax haven emerges from the wreckage of Brexit. Outdated ideology is Corbyn’s mantra it seems which brings us to this point…

picard-double-facepalm-o

There’s not a lot of options on the table now. The ball is in Westminster’s court as to whether they take into account the Scottish Government’s Brexit proposals (hint: they won’t) but with elections in Northern Ireland looming the United Kingdom is under threat.

See, the thing is in 2014 there was a culmination of years of debate and argument which was won partly based upon Scotland’s EU membership with articles like this ensuring enough scares were given to coax people to vote for the safer, more secure option as after all, Westminster wouldn’t lie or disregard Scotland would they?

Guess where we are now?

alonefacepalm

I asked the question what the Supreme Court ruling means for Scottish independence and for me, it’s very simple; it makes it essential. The ruling makes federalism impossible as after all, if federalism is to happen not only would England need broken up to deal with the inequalities in size (won’t happen) then Westminster would need to permanently give powers away so they can never be seized back and that isn’t going to happen. Essentially devolution is a scam. It’s like going on Poundland’s website and realising everything isn’t a pound.

A second referendum is essential not just for the democracy of Scotland, but for all the four countries of the UK. Forget the angry independence supporters talking of UDI or worse, as we win independence peacefully and legally or we forget it. We have to convince both people that voted no and people on the fence that Scotland as a country needs to make it’s own democratic decisions. My hope is if/when Scotland achieves independence it pulls the last block out of the entire broken British state which comes down crumbling like a giant game of Jenga. When it does, then something new and better can be created for the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, assuming of course we’ve not seen Irish unification by then.

Scotland is at a crossroads now. Patience is needed. There are diehard Unionists spitting flecks of rage and anger online as they know today is a turning point. They know that promises are meaningless as after all, the Supreme Court has shown this, so here’s the thing. Take today not as a day to get angry, but channel that anger into something useful. Do you know someone who voted No in 2014? Great, now talk to them rationally and ask them what they think of the ruling? Ask them if they’re happy their kids, or the generations after them, will be growing up with social justice and equality as things they read about in books? Know someone not sure what to do or showing no understanding of the connotations of today? Great, sit them down and go through it with them. Point out the issues. Ask them what they think.

Because if independence supporters don’t sell independence to no voters or those undecided (there will be those 25% or so who’ll never,ever vote for independence and they can be ignored or avoided) this is going to happen to the next generation, and the next and the next and the next. You get the idea.

There will never be a greater weapon in the armoury for independence than today. We can use it wisely. I suggest we do because we’re going to need it when a second referendum does happen, and it will. For now though, be patient and be calm. This is a long game and if it’s lost next time, it’s lost for generations.

What I thought of LONDON CALLING: BBC bias during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum

G. A. Posonby’s book London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum is a fine account of media bias during the Scottish independence referendum. The focus of the book, and now, documentary, though was the BBC which when put under any sort of objective scrutiny, clearly lost any sort of objectivity during the referendum campaign to the point where outright propaganda was the norm, rather than standing out like a sore thumb.

The problems with the documentary though are more than niggling. Building a case against the BBC means using examples is fine and as it should be, but then to use Russia Today clips (and indeed, RT mouthpieces like Max Keiser) without mentioning the fact that RT is a massive propaganda exercise is creating an open goal for critics. Same goes for when the documentary slips into the realm of conspiracy theory, which to be fair, is easily done, but the often menacing music and direction distracts from telling the facts here and there’s a large reliance on talking heads rather than outline the actual examples, or include those examples for added impact.

However, the film does work. There’s a clear narrative of how the BBC, with the aid of the then Tory/Lib Dem coalition government with the aid of their proxies in Scotland, the Labour Party as well as ”grassroots’ groups supporting the Union helped manipulate opinion. After all there’s still a number of people who don’t get their news from the internet, or the root sources, and will rely upon the BBC for all their information and when the BBC decides to work on behalf of the establishment, or even push an agenda to help shape opinion, they’ll do so. The example of Nick Robinson skewing reality to make it look like Alex Salmond didn’t answer a question during the campaign is by far the most famous example of BBC bias, and when the documentary deals with things like this it tends to be superb.

On the whole, London Calling is a fine documentary that deals with not just establishment propaganda, but post-truth politics which with Brexit and Donald Trump’s election is something we should be aware of as the simple act of telling the truth and letting the public decide is gone.What we have now are narratives, and it’s whether we trust those narratives or not which for democracy is dangerous as it means those with the ability to control those narratives controls how democracy is shaped. In 2014, the people who shaped the narrative were the UK establishment and this film is a brutal reminder of how we need to fight to ensure democracy isn’t crushed.