Lexit and the ongoing failure of the English left

One of the things about the fact the BBC’s Question Time had the same former UKIP candidate on for at least a fourth time to repeat pretty much the same speech he’s clearly reeled off millions of times in newspaper comments sections wasn’t the fact that Question Time is a big fat fix, but the reaction of some of the English left. To be precise the more Corbynist you were the more likely you were to see an ally in the rantings of an Orangeman. For example;

Which is clear nonsense for anyone actually paying attention to Scottish politics. No such claims have been made and the very idea of independence breaks the status quo clean in half; a fact Bastani ignores because it doesn’t fit his narrative or the idea that’s popped into his head.

And by narrative, I mean this;

There’s an idea among the English left that we in Scotland just need to pay heed to Jeremy Corbyn, fall into line with them and vote Labour yet polls show the Corbyn bounce Labour enjoyed in the 2017 general election is well and truly gone with Labour now firmly third in the polls and slipping. That’s not just down to the simply appalling leadership of Richard Leonard, a right hand man of Corbyn’s and someone who doesn’t even know what is or isn’t devolved. The fact is Labour are tanking partly because of Leonard & the fact the party can’t come up with one workable idea, but also because they’re a party of Brexit, or Lexit, the left wing version if you believe such a thing possible.Labour in effect have put themselves in the position of supporting removing our rights as Europeans, but also thanks to them aping Tory immigration policy, they’ve shown little opposition to the increasing deportations which are happening. This is all because of Lexit and the idea Corbyn is playing ‘a long game’.

Lexit is the idea that it’s possible to have a left wing Brexit. In effect from the ashes of leaving the EU, a new socialist utopia can be built which relies upon one major point; that things for people become so intolerable that they feel the only way out is voting Labour at an election, but polls clearly show Labour lagging, or such such a small lead that it falls within statistical error. So for people to be pushed to Labour they have to essentially suffer and for me, that’s the exact opposite of socialism and I find those advocating such a policy tend to be well off and able to survive when right now, people are losing jobs, or being hurt by Tory policies, or being pushed to take their own lives because they can’t take it anymore. Then of course there’s the fact Lexit throws EU27 migrants under the bus, and it risks the Good Friday Agreement.

So for me, if you support Lexit you’re in the same bracket as Brexiters who don’t care about the effects of what’s happening now, let alone what will happen come April, let alone what is to come longer term when all those folk let down by both main Westminster parties look to further extremes (with sections of both parties endorsing the worst of conspiracy theory led bigotry) out there for answers. With Nigel Farage rearing his ugly head, and talk of a ‘centrist’ party with Tony Blair’s cold, bloody hands at the helm, both Labour and the Tories look ready to tear themselves apart now that the contradictions of what are loose coalitions are being torn apart.

In effect we have the left, like the right, having an aspect who are rushing headlong into the destruction of people, their lives and relationships because they feel their version of political purity is worth a try. For people like myself whose life relies upon just in time distribution the idea that my life hangs on a thread because I’m threatened by zealots from the right, and the left, is deeply depressing. We are insulated in Scotland to a degree, but Brexit will rip that insulation aside, and without the protections of the EU and our European allies, we’ll be left to the whims of people who think in conspiracy theory, idiocy and xenophobia.

Basically we’re fucked. Like the Iraq War though, there will be Brexiter and Lexiter in a few short months desperately recanting as the people who have been ignored throughout all of this kick back and take their anger out on the cheerleaders of what is the single more insane act a nation has done to itself in peacetime.

Good luck to us. We’re going to need it.

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Happy Burns Night

Today is Burns Night where fellow Scots, new Scots and anyone inclined, celebrates the writings and life of Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet. Many a haggis will be cruelly ripped from their mountain homes and slaughtered for our delight but it is for the man Burns that we do this.

Tonight raise a dram and insert a form of steaming haggis and tatties in your mouth in celebration of the man himself and enjoy one of his best works!

The genius of Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly is a Scottish institution and has been since those early days in the 70s when he was making a name for himself playing the clubs of Scotland, and in particular, Glasgow. His recent BBC documentary was a thing of glory and painful too as he’s clearly ill, hence why he’s preparing himself for the end which has to come for us all.

But this is a man who made us all laugh. He broke the mould for comedians in the UK in the 70s by not telling racist gags or tired old mother in law jokes but instead making his humour centred round Glasgow in tightly observed routines and sprawling gags that would lead off into many glorious diversions. For me growing up the one Billy Connolly routine which would make me hurt because I would laugh so much was the Crucifixion. If you’re unfamiliar with Glasgow, or the ins and outs of a city then don’t worry, you’ll pick up the main jist of it, and Connolly’s telling of the story is glorious.

At some point I fear I’ll be writing an obituary for this man,but for me this one routine shaped how I’d always think of Connolly, and it never, ever fails to make me laugh.

So enjoy…

What I thought of ‘Outlaw King’

The first thing to get over in David MacKenzie’s Outlaw King is that it’s a de facto Braveheart sequel. It’ll never admit to being so officially and while director and cast alike do refer to Mel Gibson’s film there’s nothing official to say it is, except for the fact that you need to have the knowledge of the story of William Wallace before entering this film.

What the film does do is tell the story of Robert the Bruce who fought the invading English army in the First War of Scottish Independence and in particular the story of the Bruce. Indeed for the first half hour or so it strives for historical accuracy as much as possible, barring a obviously telegraphed Chekov’s gun (well, more of a swordfight) in the first reel that pays off in the end. The first half hour is also tediously slow and dull with some of the only fun being when Chris Pine’s accent (which on the whole is fine) slips into his own, or some hybrid accent with a tough of William Shatner thrown in.

Then about half an hour in, Outlaw King kicks into gear, forgets about being a historical drama and decides to become a gore-soaked exploitation film as Pine’s Bruce starts his bloody war against the English, who also become less nuanced and more like the slaughtering, raping baddies the story needs them to be because we don’t want nuance, just leering baddies who we cheer being sliced graphically in half by a sword. In fact the best way Outlaw King works are the scenes where Robert’s forces are fighting superior numbers and winning because the film isn’t about history, but telling the myth.

Outlaw King also looks astonishing on a reasonably big telly, so it’ll look even better on a cinema screen. It uses the landscape of Scotland so well that it becomes it’s own character as it supports Robert on his struggle which ends here not at Bannockburn as those aware of their history may expect, but at the battle of Louden Hill (I assume just in case there’s enough demand for a sequel) is presented here as a muddy, bloody swamp of death and the aforementioned Chekov’s Sword is brought into play.

Overall Outlaw King isn’t the film it couldn’t have been. It tries hard not to do a Braveheart, but dips liberally from that film, and when it tries to be political (at several times it’s quite clearly speaking to the audience in a 21st century post 2014 context) it doesn’t have that clarity of vision Gibson’s film did which may have been simplistic, but was also effective. What the legacy of Outlaw King may be I don’t know as it’s too early, but as an effective action/adventure/exploitation film flying the Netflix banner it’s a flawed, sometimes dreary bit of entertainment that doesn’t fly til it shrugs loose it’s chains and then it repays your faith in the film in steel and blood.

Glasgow’s striking women and the Labour Party

Today has seen the first of a two-day strike by women employed by Glasgow City council (GCC) in regards a very long dispute going back to 2006. Back then, the Labour run council implemented the Workforce Pay and Benefit Review (WPBR), though it quickly became apparent women (and in the vast majority of cases it was women, men in similar roles had no issues) were being paid up to £3 p/h less than their male counterparts. What then follows is a story of low-paid workers, mainly female, being advised horribly by unions and attacked by the then Labour run GCC. Fairly recently it became clear just how badly the women suffered and just how the Labour run GCC spent over £2.5 million fighting the women’s case.

In this time the GMB were advising the women, well, badly, but one heard not a peep from other unions or the Labour Party, both pre and post Jeremy Corbyn til May 2017. Two things happened; one is that Labour lost control of GCC for the first time in half a century and secondly before the women won their long fought court case and the incoming SNP run administration promised to settle the case. Negotiations started but earlier this year the GMB promised to strike so we’re here today.

The more astute of you may think ”hang on, why didn’t the GMB go on strike in the 11 years when Labour ran Glasgow?” and that is indeed a reasonable question and can be explained by the symbiotic relationship of both. In fact current Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was a GMB official during part of this time, and the self-appointed leader of the strike, Rhea Wolfson, is a Labour candidate in the next election. Once you ask that question and discover other councils in Scotland have similar issues, but as they’re Labour run, there’s no threat of striking, then one has to conclude this is a political act that doesn’t have the women’s concerns at the heart of it.

Here for example is a Tweet from Carol Fox, who has been a lawyer representing the women.

Here’s an example of the ‘staggering hypocrisy’ in full gaslighting flow.

Now it is true the SNP led council need to up their game. Their handling of the aftermath of the Mack fire has been, on the whole, fucking dreadful (I live not far from the area affected and can testify as to how bad an aftermath it has been first hand) and their general level of communication is terrible but as this nicely balanced Scotsman article by Dani Garavelli makes clear that for all the faults of the current GCC administration, we can’t forget that a male dominated GMB and the Labour Party got us into this mess in the first place so some humility, and even an apology is forthcoming.

Today has seen Labour indulge in a campaign of stunning political hypocrisy mixed with opportunism as figures who stood against the women now Tweet furiously in favour, and some MP’s wade into the debate in the most cack-handed, tone deaf way.

You read the above Tweet right but in the midst of all this gaslighting there comes honesty from at least one person in Labour.

Realistically, this is probably what will happen as the estimated bill to settle is between £500 million and a billion. GCC can’t afford this without bankrupting Glasgow, and the Scottish Government would have to step in to mitigate this which means because the SG works on a restricted budget, other services in Scotland would be cut which means Labour run with the ‘SNP austerity line’ they’ve decided is their only real contribution to Scottish politics in the age of Brexit.

In effect, what could have been a day where the women’s 12 year old fight (and remember, some of the original women have passed on now) could have finally hit a point where all sides worked together for resolution. The current council could have been more open, and Labour rather than gaslight, lie and bullshit could have been contrite, even apologising and offering sensible solutions. Union leaders on 6-figure salaries who ensured men were paid more because that’s how it always has been could have apologised and we could try to come to a sensible outcome where the women get their backpay (the current council have binned the old pay scheme and employees are all now equally paid) but no, we’ve seen an extraordinary day where the divide has been ripped open.

What can we draw from the day? We should show solidarity with the women. There’s no doubt with that after the contempt these working class women were shown by the then Labour run council.. We should however question the GMB as to what exactly their motives are now after over a decade of, at the very least, not advising the women correctly, and for Labour they need to answer why they fought the women so hard for 11 years and also, what happened to people’s council tax because we’ve got buildings declared unsafe in what seems now like a policy to let some of Glasgow’s buildings fall into ruin.

I’d personally like an inquiry into just exactly went on in the City Chambers for decades and why women are forced to take less than their male counterparts and large parts of the city are left to rot and now we’re having to clean up this mess. That however would uncover some dirty little secrets that some of those gloating today would not like aired in public but realistically this isn’t going to be over til those responsible are contrite and that includes the Labour Party as a whole.

A word about the People’s Vote March

As I write this the People’s Vote march is snaking its very crowded way round London’s streets.

On the whole I support the march and with massive bloody caveats, support the aim of a second vote but here in Scotland I feel we’re being ignored, or at least patronised by a big chunk of the People’s Vote. This is something I’ve said before, and nothing has changed my mind that for a chunk on the ‘progressive’ left in England, Scotland is only useful for votes because deep down they know that realistically England will vote to leave the EU again in a second vote.

The problems are many. Kev McKenna goes through some of them in this article at The Herald, this paragraph being especially damning.

Yet, like their manufactured concerns for the future of Ireland I’ve rarely heard any of the metropolitan elites previously profess to be overly-vexed by the challenges faced by working-class communities in England’s north-west or north-east. Where were they when the fishing fleets on Humberside disappeared, sacrificed to enable the US to spy on Soviet submarines from the Icelandic coast? And beyond some hand-wringing and anti-Thatcher sloganising what did they actually do when the mines all shut and the car factories fell silent? Each time I see Gordon Brown wade into Brexit on his white charger I can still hear him say: “British jobs for British workers”. You also contributed to this, big man.

I rarely heard any concern for Northern Ireland prior to June 2016, and as McKenna says, while traditional working class jobs and communities were being ripped apart many of these folk sat on their hands, and yeah, Gordon Brown massively contributed to where we are today.

But the problem is that there were aspects of the English left that did raise their hands in protest, but today they’re as likely to be supportive of Brexit for vague, outdated ideology which is why there’s no Jeremy Corbyn or any of the Labour leadership near the march today. From here it looks as if the left and right have a common cause (and both rely on some level on nostalgia tinged with xenophobia about ‘foreigners’) to win the Brexit fight so they can install their rose-tinted vision of Albion.

Meanwhile in Scotland although you’ll find plenty like me who support today’s march and would appreciate some reciprocal support  for a second independence referendum, with the caveat that any second EU vote would need all countries of the UK to support it, or if the result mirrors last time  then that triggers a second Scottish referendum and a border poll in Ireland.

It is hard however not to see the march as anything but positive when it shows the weight of support against the what should be now, clearly obvious far-right coup of the UK. When you’ve got various Brexiters, right and left, talking up a ‘civil war’ and wanking on boringly about taking the fight to the streets, they should remember the tens of thousands who are out on the streets now so even though I don’t think it’ll change anything politically it does help in reminding the elites fighting tooth and nail for Brexit there’s a large number of people who will oppose it.

‘The Art of Coorie’ is insulting bullshit

There’s a book called The Art of Coorie by Gabriella Bennett in which the writer tells you how to ‘live life the Scottish way’, and that ‘coorie’ is some long, lost way of life we Scots keep jealously guarded to ourselves. Thanks now to this book and articles like this from the Daily Mail discussing ‘the Scottish wellness trend’ as if it’s an actual real grown-up thing as opposed to taking elements of Scottish life and trying to monertise them to wealthy middle class Southerners who don’t know better but have heavy bank accounts.

In reality there’s no meaning of coorie that has anything to do with ‘wellness’ and the shortbread tin version of Scotland that Bennett, the Mail and all those online who are falling for are actual indulging in a very modern version of colonialism.

Look at this map of Scotland.

The first thing that’s obvious is that there’s not a lot above the central belt, and to the north and east of the country. This never used to be the case til the clearances where vast swathes of Scotland were cleared of people, re-engineered socially and environmentally for the purpose of turning large chunks of these lands into playgrounds for the wealthy elites of the British state then and now in the 21st century.

Today it’s a political issue and one that deeply affects inequality in Scotland as the Green MSP Andy Wrightman makes clear on his blog and it’s Wrightman who has pushed for reform after decades of Labour playing along with the system followed by the SNP’s glacial moves in this regard. Scotland’s most remote areas have hard enough times as it is without the population essentially being priced out by the hordes of middle class sweeping up from London in droves to live a mythical lifestyle.

Indeed, things are bad enough as it is, as it is in parts of the South West in England who have suffered this 21st century version of financial and social cleansing. Bullshit like ‘Coorie’ isn’t going to help, and frankly I don’t want to see my country’s history and country infantilsed for the benefit of the few who can afford to live in once thriving communities now stripped bare.So, land reform is needed and fast before the Highlands are full of Mail and Guardian readers braying loudly at each other about ‘wellness’…