Thursday, 2 September 2010

A New Beginning

This post is serving two functions.  Firstly, it is a thank you to everyone who has read my ramblings over the past three years and voted for me in the Total Politics awards.  I'm not folding MitB entirely, but I am recognising that the rate of posting has withered a bit over the past few months, and in that sense, it is all but done.




However, I have a new project.  Jeff (SNP Tactical Voting), James (Two Doctors) and I have decided the time is right to embark upon a joint blog project, which we're starting today.  We've called it Better Nation and we hope it will be a collaboration of good quality work (well, each of the three of us made the Total Politics Top 10 - just!) which will also take a little bit of the pressure off of us to post as regularly.

So, if you liked our writing individually, stop past there for a read and debate our views.  Equally, we're fairly open to guest contributors (we don't want it to be a closed project) so if you are interested, get in touch.

Thanks again - and see you on the other side!

Malc

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Retiring MSPs (Updated)

I wrote a post in June listing the MSPs who had announced they would stand down in May's Scottish Parliament election, along with a list of those who may be considering it.  The list of those who had announced their retirement by that point was:

Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross - 2 June 2010)
Ian McKee (SNP, Lothians - 29 May 2010)
Bill Aitken (Con, Glasgow Region - 19 May 2010)
Robin Harper (Green, Lothians - 13 September 2009)
John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West - 2008)
Chris Harvie (SNP, Mid Scotland & Fife - 2007: one term)

Subsequently, the following MSPs have announced they will also stand down:
George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians - 18 August 2010)
Ted Brocklebank (Con, Mid Scotland & Fife - 4 August 2010)
Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire  - 4 August 2010)
Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian - 7 July 2010)
Andrew Welsh (SNP, Angus - 10 June 2010)
Jim Mather (SNP, Argyll & Bute - 5 June 2010)
Alasdair Morgan (SNP, South of Scotland - June 2010)
Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley - 17 May 2010)
Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston - May 2010?)

That, by my count, makes 15 MSPs retiring.  Of those 15, I'd suggest age to be the predominant factor in 11 of the cases, with 3 leaving to pursue politics in other places (London) and one (Rhona Brankin) hoping to do something similar.

I still think there are a few more who may be considering giving up their Holyrood salary (as I mentioned in my previous post) including:
Jack McConnell (given peerage 29 May 2010)
Nanette Milne (Con, North-East Scotland - age 68)
Mary Scanlon (Con, Highlands & Islands - age 62)
Jamie McGrigor (Con, Highlands & Islands - age 60)
Helen Eadie (Lab, Dunfermline East - age 63)
Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South - family)

And, I assume, with boundary changes, there will be some, ahem, "enforced" retirements in the sense that some MSPs will not be re-selected by their branches.  I have heard some rumours of this happening already, but no confirmation as yet.  And there will be the inevitable scramble for list places as well, a favoured bloodsport of political journalists.

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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

100 Days... and counting?

In the immediate aftermath of the coalition agreement, I wrote that I thought the Tory-Lib Dem partnership was liable to continue for some time - a period of years, not weeks or months.  I based that partly on the things that the Lib Dems had gotten out of the coalition (including practically half their parliamentary party in various government roles and some minor policy implementation) but also the weakness of the Labour party.

The latter part of that equation hasn't really changed in the last 100 days - Labour in no way look like a party of government in waiting - but the first part... well, there may be some movement.

I said at the time that the Lib Dem Cabinet appointments far outweighed what they were getting in terms of policy commitments.  I think that has borne out. Fixed term parliaments are likely to pass - something the Tories were happy about anyway, ditto ditching the "Mansion Tax" and inheritance tax - while they managed to get agreement to move the threshold for income tax up.  They've also got movement on Calman which, though I think it amounts to bugger all in the way of furthering devolved powers, it is an indication that the government recognises devolution - and more so that the Lib Dems are the ones pushing it.  

However, the pills they have had to swallow I think far outweigh what they've gotten out of it.  Being less pro-Euro, accepting a referendum for further transfer of power up to the EU, capping non-EU immigration (incredibly liberal that one) and, the biggie, accepting a referendum on AV.

Let me consider that last one for a second.  The Lib Dems condition of entering coalition was changing the electoral system to something more proportional.  What they've got is a commitment to hold a referendum on AV - an electoral system which is marginally (at best) better than FPTP in terms of making sure at least 50% of the electorate vote for a candidate.  And they'll be the only ones campaigning hard for it - especially given its apparent scheduling on the same day as devolved elections in Scotland and Wales.  The Tories are against it, as are Labour.  The "smaller" parties (at UK level) are grudgingly in support, but given they'll have the more important election to campaign for, won't spend too much time campaigning for it.

And what if, in spite of this, they actually get a Yes vote for AV?  It's a system the Lib Dems don't really like, and it isn't the STV that they wanted.  So how long before they demand another referendum on that voting system?  I think Dave saw Nick coming on that one - at least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed people of their goods and dignity.

So, what does this mean for the coalition?  Well, 100 days in, they are still too busy dealing with Labour's deficit to focus on much else.  But soon these issues will come upon us.  In nine months time, devolved elections and a split over campaigning on the AV referendum might start to reveal tensions in the coalition.  And with the Lib Dem poll figures dropping considerably since they moved into government, the rose garden is the only thing that looks rosy for Nick Clegg at the moment.  

100 days ago, in that rose garden, when David Cameron was asked about Nick Clegg being his favourite joke, Clegg himself feigned walking away.  In nine months time he may just wish that he had kept walking.

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Monday, 2 August 2010

Total Politics Blog Poll 2010


I wasn't sure that I was going to post my nominations, but since I have every other year (2008 and 2009) here are the 10 blogs I voted for in the Total Politics Blog Poll 2010:

1. SNP Tactical Voting (2008 - #1, 2009 - #1) 
For me, the undisputed king in Scotland (which he, sadly, no longer is in) Jeff's blog remains my number one for a couple of reasons - frequency and content are both high.  Where does he get the energy?  Maybe he's actually a Duracell rabbit...

2. Two Doctors (2008 - #7, 2009 - #2) 
Although the frequency dipped after his candidacy in the 2010 election, James keeps his position mainly on the back of content - it's green politics with an international flavour.  And that appeals to me.

3. J. Arthur MacNumpty (2008 - #5, 2009 - #3) 
Sensing a pattern here?  Will's detailed analysis of the week in Parliament and thoughts on electoral reform, coalitions and boundaries are a psephologist's dream.  Long may it continue.

4. Lallands Peat Worrier (2008, 2009 - unplaced)
High-brow legal analysis written in a style which is unusual and, I think, unique in the blogosphere.  Also done with a sense of humour, which I enjoy.

5. Planet Politics (2008 - unplaced, 2009 - #10)
I like Stuart's "criticise everyone" approach, which is refreshing.  Highly non-partisan, almost anti-politics, I find myself reading it more and more.

6. Eric Joyce MP (2008, 2009 - unplaced)
For me, this is the best Labour blog in Scotland.  Eric Joyce is partisan when he wants to be but fairer than some others with it.  A former minister, he gives insights which are rare in this forum, and he has a writing style which resonates with the reader.  I suspect Mr Harris will beat him out for "best MP blog"... but not by much.

7. DoctorVee (2008, 2009 - unplaced)
Duncan's blog is eclectic to say the least - he splits time between each of his interests - but I find plenty overlap between my interests and his (new media, politics and F1) which keeps by interest going.  Equally, he deserves credit for his role in establishing the Scottish Round-up, which is still going strong (though he is looking for some help in that area - any takers?!).

8. Bethan Jenkins AM (2008, 2009 - unplaced)
See - I have broadened my reading slightly.  Bethan Jenkins' blog gives me an up-to-date picture of what is going on in Wales, obviously with an overtly partisan Plaid slant.  This one is on the up - and I'm glad, because she very kindly allowed me to interview her for my PhD.

9. Caron's Musings (2008 - unplaced, 2009 - #5)
What I said about Caron's eclectic blog last year remains true today.  It does have a more political slant now I think, especially now that her party is in government.  Though I'm not convinced she's sold on the coalition yet...

I don't really know how Stephen maintains the frequency of posting, but it is fairly impressive - especially when you consider how much work he does for a certain diddly wee no-hoper junior government party.  I hope (for his sanity) he doesn't land at #11 again!

So there we go, my top 10.  Obviously by (small c) conservatism showing through, with many of my previous favourites maintaining their position in my vote.  As usual, there are many more cracking reads in Scotland to keep an eye out for - I think time constraints have really cut down my blog-reading (though Google Reader is an amazing help on that score!).

Good luck all - you'll probably find out the results in about a month.

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This blog is my own personal opinion (unless otherwise stated) and does not necessarily reflect the views of any other organisation (political or otherwise) that I am a member of or affiliated to.
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