Monday, June 30, 2008

Scotland != Wales

You have to give the BBC credit for really knowing how to cock things up sometimes...

Now, as I remember it, the BBC Trust report on coverage of devolution said that there were significant issues and that these affected Scotland slightly and Wales extremely. And yet, is it just me, or have the Newsnight team deigned to allow Shona Robison MSP a seat on the panel table at their NHS debate, while Helen Mary Jones AM has to sit in the darkness behind the panellists alongside our own Norman Lamb?

I mean, you'd think they wanted to offend the country that only feels that it created the NHS...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Europe vs. Europe (ref: J.M. Barroso, Portugal)

As the XCIVth Brussels summit broke up with Brian Cowan looking both physically and metaphorically like the new Gordon Brown, it strikes me that the coverage missed out one little detail that's worth considering as we go forward over the next few months.

Specifically, it's worth remembering that the Treaty is the result of negotiations between twenty-seven democratically-elected governments as they existed during the intergovermental conference during the summer of 2007. And democracy has this tendency not to stand still, to the extent that, since September 2007 we have seen;

  • New governments following elections in Belgium, Cyprus and Poland
  • A new governing coalition in Italy
  • New heads of government following retirements in Ireland and Latvia
  • Election wins for governing coalitions in Denmark, Greece, Malta and Spain

Furthermore, by the time of the next summit in October (where Ireland are due to come back with proposals), we will definitely have seen elections in Slovenia and Lithuania as well.

Not that I particularly think that any of that matters. It's just worth noting that if some renegotiation is needed, the goalposts will have moved quite significantly.

Monday, June 09, 2008

No End In Site

Very few things on this blog can be considered regular. One of the few consistent elements is my award for Stupidest Political Quote Of The Year, a prize which normally does a good job of being won before the summer recess. But even that isn't especially successful, particularly as it's not the snappiest title in the world and the acronym, SPQOTY, isn't much cop either.

So I've been wondering about a suitable name for it. Eponymisation is clearly a non-starter as the going rate for something like that is one charitable foundation and a councillor's allowance doesn't quite stretch to that. First winners are normally a fairly safe bet, except in this case it was Ed Balls and that might make the inevitable future trophy somewhat difficult (or at the very least family-unfriendly). And then there's the easy way out, which is to call it the Scunner Broon Award and have done with it; after all, he's said enough stupid things this year to win it ten times over.

That however has its own problems. For starters, there's the question of whether the rules should allow for the SPQOTY for 2008 to be something said in 2007. I mean, for all that;

“We could have fought an election on the issue of competence”

Was flaming daft last October, it's positively ten feet over Neptune now; rarely has a political epitaph been so comprehensively and rapidly produced.

More importantly, however, I have to ask myself whether it actually meets the criteria for the award; insanely stupid though it was, the present Government's competence (or more accurately their utter lack thereof) is no laughing matter for millions of people.

For all the calamity, however, I've rarely believed for a second that any of it might lead to the Supreme Leader's departure from Downing Street. As they proved with the Blair debacle, the Labour Party just isn't psychologically cut out for the idea that a member of the Party could perform badly enough to overcome the bonds of collective loyalty; heck, in a party so deluded that some members of its student wing believe that Alan Johnson (yes, the same Alan Johnson who pushed through top-up fees) is the saviour of the Party's left-wing ideals, anything is possible.

I mention all this because, despite all this, I'm starting to wonder whether Gordon can actually beat the odds and get himself kicked out. Discounting all the standard extreme possibilities (generally the ones that feature animals and/or bondage equipment), there are things he could do that even a Labour backbencher's self-interest would struggle to avoid.

The largest category of these is probably the “Don't Vote For Us If...”s. Perhaps understandably, elected politicians can throw away thousands of votes without worrying each other, so long as those votes are statistical; it's only when the discarded votes are directly identifiable that things go wrong.

Which is why I was surprised that Gordon chose this juncture to announce that he favours the use of new sites for the construction of nuclear power stations. The government's new-found commitment to new nuclear build has as yet posed little threat to anything, largely because no-one in Whitehall seems to have grasped that in order for it to happen they have to reach beyond the warm words and actually, you know... do something about it. But at least until now the “threat” has been to existing power station sites, where local opposition will be limited thanks to community experience of the existing facilities.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with the policy; if we want to move from looking for a low-carbon economy to a zero-carbon economy, we will need more nuclear than we have at the moment and that will mean exploring new sites. Nevertheless, as a piece of politics it's a calamitous announcement; without any qualification as to specific sites that are or aren't being considered... well, put simply, “Nowhere Is Safe From Gordon's Nuclear Nightmare”.

Is Brown's departure likely? Not especially. But if he continues to show a propensity to employ shovels while already well below ground level, particularly when the material being removed is great clumps of voters, he may have one last shot at being a history-making Prime Minister, if not necessarily in the way he might desire...