Posted in Scottish Politics

Unionist and Government Media Bias

I don’t want to use this piece to rehash old arguments about the Scottish media’s bias in favour of the NO campaign during Scotland’s independence referendum. Those arguments have been done to death elsewhere. I do want to share some thoughts on the subject however.

While browsing some of our old radio broadcasts I came across a piece where we were discussing the Smith Commission. In particular we noted how Inverclyde Council Leader Cllr McCabe was in the local press declaring his delight at the Smith Commission, and claiming that we now have one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. Cllr McCabe is of course rather famous in Inverclyde for his almost daily displays of political illiteracy. I think what he was displaying here is that he has no idea how many devolved parliaments there are in the world, and was effectively showing off about Scotland being more powerful than Greenland or Madeira. Not much of a boast! In fact, many of the American states actually enjoy significantly more powers than Scotland. You don’t have to be a supporter of full independence to agree that this is not good enough for Scotland and that we deserve better. But New Labour, totally consumed by their sectarian hatred of the SNP, were campaigning for less simply because the nationalists were campaigning for more. YES and NO voters together need to reject this tribal approach to politics. Scotland deserves more powers, not because the SNP says so but because that is what is in Scotland’s best interests. Cllr McCabe and the rest of New Labour need to put their deep rooted loathing of anything that reminds them of the SNP behind them and recognise this simple fact. Otherwise the people will vote to relieve ourselves of New Labour. Judging by Cllr McCabe’s obnoxious and insulting comments almost every day in the local paper, it appears he is actually enjoying New Labour’s decline and approaching political irrelevance.

Although, to get back on topic, one thing I have consistently argued for and would have liked to see included in the report is for BBC Scotland to be devolved to Holyrood. It takes a massive degree of generosity to describe the referendum campaign as “democratic”, given that the state broadcaster was totally anti-independence from the start and made no attempt to avoid bias, instead repeating lie after lie after lie to defeat the YES side and demonise any of us who thought that we could govern ourselves. A democracy can only function when we have a genuinely free press. What we have instead is a press that pushes the agenda of one side.

Many journalists and reporters have responded to this claim from the YES side by saying that they are not coerced into saying anything. We have a fair and free press, they say, because they are not told what to say by their bosses or have their words edited. This is colouring between the lines however.

They only get to say what they say because the bosses already agree with them. That’s how they got to where they are; that’s how they got their job. How many supporters of independence host politics shows on the BBC?, or report on their flagship news programs? None, because if you support independence you don’t get these jobs. These channels are wall to wall unionists because that’s what the bosses want broadcast. They don’t have to tell them what to say or edit their words because they have deliberately hired only people that already agree with them. The effect is a controlled and compliant media. A media that pushes only one agenda. And that is extremely undemocratic. To devolve responsibility for BBC Scotland to Holyrood would allow us to tackle this in built bias. In America they used to have a fairness law which ruled that the media had to give equal coverage to each side of an issue. It worked well, but was repealed at the insistence of the large media companies. We could have something similar in Scotland, but only if responsibility for the media in Scotland lies at Holyrood.

Of course what I propose would be the good kind of control, democratic control. There is another kind of control that we must resist, and that is censorship. The tactics of the BBC in only employing Unionists is a type of censorship, censorship by the back door. But there is a more direct form of censorship whereby the government actively shuts down and silences opposition opinions. On the show local SSP member John spoke at length about the ways the government, via their puppets in the main stream media, use fear to push their agenda.

One way they are doing that just now is using threats of impending financial doom to push their austerity agenda. We must resist austerity. Austerity has been a lie from the start, there is simply no need for it. The first round of austerity saw the bedroom tax. They said they needed to impose the bedroom tax to save the country money, yet the very same week the bedroom tax came into effect they gave the millionaires a tax cut that cost the country three times what the bedroom tax was supposed to save. Why did people accept it then? They accepted it because they were scared by stories of the country going bankrupt.

Now let me make this clear, this is a very wealthy country, which is richer now than it ever has been. So where is the money?, why are we being told we have to cut our public jobs and services? The money is being hoarded by a few rich people who are getting richer and richer, leaving us with less and less. We need a radical redistribution of wealth. Not the impotent policies offered by the politicians, but real change. To take the wealth of this country away from that handful of selfish people and share it out via public spending.

That is the essence of the street campaigning being conducted in Inverclyde by local Scottish Socialist Party activists. We know that austerity is a lie, an ideological attack on the working classes so that rich people can get a wee bit richer. We’re taking that message to every street in Inverclyde. We’re telling people they don’t need to accept the austerity driven cuts being inflicted on them by Cllr McCabe. Get involved, help us spread this message of resistance.

Posted in Inverclyde Politics

Inverclyde’s Unsafe Schools?

I was totally unsurprised to learn that Inverclyde Council’s corrupt leader Stephen McCabe had used the same dodgy PFI company to build Inverclyde’s schools that built the now infamous Edinburgh ones.

Remember, it was his incompetent leadership that got Inverclyde residents saddled with a massive debt to pay for these schools (clicky). A debt many times larger than if we’d simply borrowed the money straight from a bank and built the schools ourselves. So not only do we (Inverclyde public) not actually own our schools, we will still have to pay for them for a long time to come at vastly inflated cost, and we’re having austerity forced on us via Stephen McCabe’s insidious council spending cuts in order to find the money to pay for his disastrous school building projects.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the schools might actually be unsafe for our kids to be in!

It’s hard to think of anyone who has caused more damage to Inverclyde than Stephen McCabe.

The guy is a total liability.

Posted in Scottish Politics

The Youth Fetish of the Left

It’s often said that the SNP lost the referendum because they failed to convince the people of Scotland that they had a plausible vision for independence. There is certainly a lot of truth in this. Their arguments were at times perplexing and self defeating. They wanted independence but not independence from the monarchy; independence but not independence from the Bank of England; independence but not independence from NATO. This was the SNP’s undoing and something I hope, but don’t expect, they will address for any future independence referendum.

It is, however, overly simplistic to say that the SNP alone lost the referendum. There were many groups campaigning as part of Yes Scotland, and SSP and RIC activists were easily the match of their SNP counterparts in terms of commitment and input to the cause. Importantly, these groups were anti-monarchy, anti-NATO and in favour of a new Scottish currency (although perhaps in the long term rather than immediately after indy). So while the SNP’s self defeating stance would certainly have cost the YES vote considerably it can’t be the whole story. On the left we must also look at what went wrong and what we need to address for any future vote.

The reasons are of course complex and many of them have been discussed at length elsewhere. There is one problem with the left’s campaigning during the indy ref that hasn’t been discussed much, and that problem was the over-reliance on young activists. On the left we don’t enjoy large donations from millionaires from which to finance our campaigns. This is just a fact of life, and during the indy campaign as with any other it meant that we had to work with what we had; and what we had was a lot of excellent motivated and intelligent young activists. Every party in the country would love to have our activists, it’s the one thing money can’t buy. Just look at the Scottish Labour Party, funded by millionaires but during the recent election had to rely on paid staff to deliver leaflets through the doors because of a total absence of activists.

An over-saturation of young activists becomes a problem, however, when they are required to talk to older generations. Many of them just haven’t developed those skills yet. It’s a combination of a lack of life experience and that irritating habit teenagers have of thinking they are right about everything. We’re often told that the current politicians need to be replaced because they are out of touch with real life. That argument isn’t very convincing if it’s being made by a 16 year old who has never had a proper job and doesn’t intend on getting one for about another 10 years (once he gets his gap year, uni and post grad out the way).

This isn’t just an exercise in hindsight; it has become a genuine problem for the left that a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge. Within a couple of weeks, the Scottish Socialist Party, with a handful of other individuals, will officially launch a new left wing alliance for Scottish elections. As of now, the SSP are the only credible group in this alliance but we hope to attract more to it as time goes by. Indeed, we’re already talking with some other groups. There are a number of things that need to happen for this alliance to be successful, but one of those things is that we must not inherit this “youth fetish” from RIC and the left of the YES movement.

During the indy ref the strong youth element that the left brought with it certainly won the argument among the younger generations. The statistics show that young people voted for independence. On the other hand, the older generations voted overwhelmingly against and we have to accept that the reason for that is our message failed to resonate with them. It failed to do so primarily because it was being delivered mostly by teenagers and young people, who were just unable to connect with the older generations.

The challenge for the left in the future, not just for any future indy referendum but in general, is to ditch this youth fetish. On the left we have a lot more to offer than just a lot of young faces, but a belief has crept in from somewhere that all we need to do is connect with the “youth” and we’ll be victorious. The result of the indy ref should have ended this belief but for some reason it still persists. Let’s just quickly examine the demographics here: the youngest generation eligible to vote is also the smallest in terms of numbers (and therefore potential votes). Further, it is the generation whose members are the least likely to vote. So while there are undoubtedly votes to be won in that demographic, it isn’t hard to see why pinning all your hopes on the youth vote isn’t exactly a strategy for success.

I should point out that I am not anti-youth. In my younger days I was the youth organiser for my branch of the SSP, so I can totally appreciate the hard work all our young activists put in. I’m certainly not calling for an end to their activism or criticizing their commitment. We can’t, however, expect everyone to be convinced by them. In a recent debate about the EU I was told by a teenager that I just don’t “get it” because I’m too old but that if I listen to him he’ll explain it to me. Now let me get this off my chest. I’m not too old! I’m 34. Older, but not old. Am I to seriously accept that someone who believes being in your mid-thirties is akin to having zero intellect is somehow “more in touch with real life” than New Labour or Lib Dem MP’s? I can’t believe many in the electorate will be convinced. That approach (the “thinking you know best about everything just because you’re a teenager” approach) might work when speaking to other teenagers (who of course share the belief that teenagers know best about everything and that no one else’s life experience is ever relevant to political debate), but it only annoys older people. Older people who, let’s not forget, make up a much bigger proportion of the electorate than the youth.

Posted in Scottish Politics

The Problem of corrupt Labour MPs

Transcript of speech given by Bill Bonnar of the Scottish Socialist Party on 30/4/2015. A recording can be found by following the link below. Any mistakes contained in this transcript will probably be due to me rather than Bill.

“This poses a very simple question: Why is every MP in Britain rich? The average intake of the House of Commons is rich people, mostly Tories, and they then use their position as MP’s to get richer. Or they start with relatively modest backgrounds, a lot of Labour MPs, and then they become rich after they enter parliament and again use their parliamentary position to become richer and richer. Let me illustrate it with the example of a west of Scotland MP who now sits in the House of Lords, he retired as an MP at the last election. I’ll not use names because I want to use it as an example, a typical example. He entered parliament in the 1990’s. What was his social-economic status the week before he entered parliament? He was an unemployed former factory worker living in a council house. When he retired as an MP he was a millionaire. How does that work? When your only job is to be an MP, how do you turn being an MP into being a millionaire?

The way you do it, and the way every MP does it the length and breadth of Britain, is you turn being an MP into a family business; you turn it into a business. What he did was quite simple. Of course he’s got his basic salary of almost £70,000 per year, he can also claim his expenses of almost £70,000 per year because he can pay for an office and he can pay for staff and other expenses. So what does he do? And I’m using this as a typical example; he decided he needed an office manager. So he hired his wife to be his office manager. Two problems there. One; his wife, no disrespect to the woman, had no qualifications to work as an office manager. Her job prior to him becoming an MP was she worked on the checkout at Sainsbury’s. And also he didn’t have an office. He then employed his various sons to be political researchers. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a political researcher, but the standard qualification to work as a political researcher would be at least an honours degree. I’ve met some of his sons and they didn’t have two standard grades to rub together. In reality they weren’t researchers; all of that money simply went into his household. And then of course there were all the other expenses he claimed. He claimed his flat in London, his transport back and forward, his food allowance was enormous. Basically if you could claim it he claimed it. He was very good at it, so he basically doubled his income. And then of course having all this spare income he then put it to good use, he went round his constituency and he built up a property portfolio. He bought flats, he bought buildings, and he bought pubs. So that when he retired, he retired a millionaire with a nice little nest egg and now he sits in the House of Lords.

Now I used that not as an extreme example, but as atypical example. A typical example not of Tories, because if that was a description of a Tory MP I think people would just shrug and say “well they’re Tories”. I’m talking about typical West of Scotland Labour MPs who are a million times worse than the Tories. I’ll give you another example, and I will name this one because he’s dead now. Former Labour MP Jimmy Wray who died 2 or 3 years ago, came from a similar background to the first character. His wealth became public knowledge because his family started falling out about who would get the estate. His estate was worth £1.5 million. How does a Labour MP from a working class background in Glasgow end up with £1.5 million when all he’s ever been is a Labour MP?

If you look at that situation and translate it throughout Britain that is what all MPs do. They turn being MPs into businesses. And the other thing they do in particular is they use their position as MPs to go and get other bits of work, so they then become directors of companies, they become consultants. Now leaving aside an obvious point, if you look at the job description of an MP, to be honest to them, it’s immensely demanding. It’s actually two full time jobs written into one. There’s a constituency MP and a parliamentary MP: and if they happen to be junior government minister then it’s a lot more again. So how can they then have a situation where they turn this lucrative MPs job into part time work as they go chasing all the other directorships and consultancies? And that’s how they become wealthy, so that when they leave they’re well looked after. The Scottish Socialist Party has always argued that any elected representative should be elected on a worker’s wage. When we had MSPs in parliament they all took the wage of a skilled worker. Why did we argue for that position? It wasn’t that we were being noble. There are actually sound reasons why we do this. If you remember the expenses scandal two or three years ago, MPs were flipping houses all over the place, it was like a property speculation boom in London as MPs used tax payer’s money to buy and sell houses. Those few MPs who raised their heads above the parapet and tried to justify it were saying things like “well actually it highlights a problem that MPs aren’t paid enough”, “Mps don’t get enough money, that’s why they’re fiddling their expenses, if they were paid properly, a proper rate for the job, not the paltry £70,000 but real wages they wouldn’t have to fiddle the expenses and it would attract precisely the calibre of MP that we need”.

We argue the polar opposite of that, the more money you pay an MP attracts precisely the wrong type of people, because at the end of the day an MP is an elected public servant paid for by the tax payer. His or her job is to represent the public, represent the electors. If you lowered the salary of what MPs get to that of a skilled worker, and if you apply a rigorous transparent expenses system, and if you absolutely rigorously ban this idea that MPs should have paid contracts outside being an MP (which incidentally is banned in most other areas of employment) so that they have one job and there is no conflict of interests: we argue that actually that would attract precisely the kind of MP that you want, someone who is not in it for the money, someone who has got a genuine interest in public service. And get rid of all these people who seeing being an MP as a business, who see it as a way of making money, who see it as a way of building a network of rich contacts. The Tories we know do this all the time. The Labour Party are worse because the Labour Party claim to be the party of the working class, they claim to be the party of social justice, they claim to be the party that will stand up for fairness and the poor while their MPs are enriching themselves at tax payer’s expense. So we need a different type of MP, in exactly the same way we need a different type of MSP.

That proposal about wages is about reforming Westminster, alongside abolishing the House of Lords and abolishing the monarchy and bringing a whole series of reforms. But the cynic amongst us might say “they’ve been trying to do that for 100 years”. What I’ve been suggesting was first suggested at the end of the First World War. Westminster has had no serious reforms in that century, and that’s because it takes the form of a kind of private members club where they all have a commonality of interests to defend. It’s a club of vested interests. Why on earth would they reform that? But we do need to reform it, and the best contribution we can make in Scotland to reforming it is to break away from it. To end it and to build a different political system here in Scotland.

Now to be fair we do have something that is better. The Scottish parliament is better than Westminster (although frankly that wouldn’t be difficult). It is better; it’s much more transparent and much more open. But it’s got its limitations. The campaign for independence isn’t just for independence by itself; it’s a campaign for building a different better Scotland. The Scottish Socialist Party argues that means Scotland should become a republic. What do we mean by that? Do we simply mean an absence of monarchy? Well let’s end the monarchy, let’s end this nonsense of us being subjects of the crown. But that’s the easy bit, that’s straightforward, that’s common sense. It also means radically rethinking our political system in an independent Scotland to make it much more democratic, much more transparent, and much more representative. It’s about extending democracy into every aspect of life, including the workplace. It’s about having a written constitution that entrenches civil rights into that constitution, outlining the rights and responsibilities of citizens. It’s about having a parliament in Scotland that reflects the people who voted for it, reflects it in terms of the diversity, in terms of women’s representation, and in terms of income. Because you can’t have a situation where a parliament claims to reflect the people it represents when they earn two three or four times what their average electors earn. So we would argue that MSPs also need to be on a workers wage because that way they will actually reflect the realities of the people who elect them. So you have two choices, we can continue with the corrupt nest of vipers or we can actually build something which is bigger and better in Scotland in terms of a democratic system. That’s what we argue for as the Scottish Socialist Party, as do others such as SLP. It’s the alternative vision for Scotland.”

Posted in Inverclyde Politics

On Austerity, “Trickle-Up” economics and the ever lovely Cllr McCabe

Letters published in Inverclyde’s local paper often contain complaints about New Labour, and in particular about the behaviour of Council Leader Stephen McCabe. I was therefore disappointed, although not surprised, to find that Cllr McCabe was again embarrassing the people of Inverclyde through his online behaviour, this time taking to Twitter to boast about cutting local jobs and services. In common with many other people, I found out about his behaviour on Twitter from concerned locals as he has long since blocked those of us whose opinions don’t match his own, in an attempt to disguise the true extent of opposition to his decisions.

Let me just put his latest vile outburst in context. On the demands of the Tories in London, Cllr McCabe’s New Labour council had been planning to inflict almost £15 million of cuts to local jobs and services. The Inverclyde branch of the Scottish Socialist Party, in response, put in motion a “No Cuts” campaign where we demanded that the council refuse to take part in the Tory’s austerity agenda. Austerity is of course just the political term for “trickle up” economics, where money for public jobs and services is cut from the public purse and instead finds its way into the pockets of the wealthy.

The SSP campaign was well received by the people of Inverclyde. This is not surprising; every single opinion poll has shown that the public are overwhelmingly opposed to austerity. It has no place in a progressive society. Under pressure from the public, McCabe was forced to back down and only got to implement a fraction of the cuts that he was hoping to inflict on Inverclyde. The battle is not over; Cllr McCabe has made it clear that he intends to continue with the Tory austerity agenda in future budgets.

The only way to ensure he doesn’t get his wish is for all of us to make sure his party is utterly defeated, not only in May but also in the 2016 and 2017 elections as well. There is simply no place in Scotland for New Labour’s brand of Tory elitism masquerading as the party of the working class.

Certainly the polls are promising, and we appear to be at the end of a one-party state in Scotland, where New Labour has dominated for almost 50 years. In that time New Labour has become socially conservative, economically reactionary, corrupt and dishonest. In other words completely out of sync with the people of Scotland.

Their record in Inverclyde is hardly any different. In Inverclyde we have to suffer a New Labour controlled council, a New Labour MSP and a New Labour MP. They like to pretend they represent working class people, but their record in Inverclyde shows this isn’t true. Under New Labour there are at least 3,600 unemployed in Inverclyde, 20% of those who do have a job in Inverclyde earn less than £7 per hour, 10 thousand children in Inverclyde live in households that are dependent on out of work benefits or Child Tax Credits, 28% of primary school children in Inverclyde are eligible for free school meals, in Inverclyde schools there is a 16% gap in attainment levels between the poorest pupils and their classmates, 15% of the poorest young people in Inverclyde become unemployed immediately after leaving school and only 19% of Inverclyde’s poorest young people go onto university compared to a national average of 37%. Despite these appalling figures, New Labour is hell bent on cutting even more of the support and services to our working class communities.

With these appalling figures in mind it is worth asking them to explain what New Labour has done for Inverclyde, and apart from some non-specific waffle the thing every New Labour type always mentions is that they built and refurbished the local schools. There has obviously been a memo gone out about it because they have all been bringing it up (MP, MSP, councillors, spokespeople, and even party members writing to the Tele). There appears to be literally no other positive thing they can say about their record in Inverclyde.

Do they really have a right to boast about this? Certainly the schools are impressive. What is far from impressive is New Labour’s incompetence in funding these schools. Rather than pay for these in a responsible manner, New Labour instead opted to recklessly burden Inverclyde with a massive debt via PPI loans. It’s worth remembering here that Goldman Sachs, who are no friends of the anti-capitalists, have criticised these public-private schemes for costing twice as much as regular government borrowing. New Labour decided to go down this road any way, and are now cutting local jobs and services in Inverclyde in order to pay back this unnecessarily large debt. More to the point, they are paying it off at about £14 million per year, a number suspiciously close to how much Cllr McCabe is determined to cut from the local budget to balance his books! £14 million cut from the public purse each year to pay to wealthy people in the form of debt repayments and interest on that debt. Trickle up economics.

To fund their trickle up economics, they will likely in the future try to cut spending on education. I believe that schools should not just be impressive buildings to keep the youth in during the week. They should also be properly funded to ensure a suitable level of teachers and resources, and that is exactly what New Labour will be cutting to pay for their irresponsible borrowing. We can of course stop this, and it is as easy as voting New Labour out of Scotland in all upcoming elections.