Thursday, 10 January 2008

Closer to home

I said I'd blog on politics here for a wee bit. I watched the first FMQs of the new session today and I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the line of attack coming from the opposition parties. I'll get to that in a minute, but first I want to make the point that I've always thought FMQs was a complete waste of time - a grandstanding theatre at no higher level than a wrestling bout aimed at viewers of roughly the same intellectual level. So when the Presiding Officer today had to shout repeatedly for order and quiet, culminating in his having to interrupt the First Minister because he couldn't actually hear what he was saying, I wondered why he'd bothered. It doesn't really matter what is said, all that matters is how it looks - or, rather, how it is portrayed in the media.

I should qualify that. Every week I watch FMQs (I'm not that sad - I do work there so I need to know what is going on). And every week I think the same. A. Salmond, generally does alright, never scores a knockout but - staying with the boxing metaphor - is usually well ahead on points. W. Alexander dances around on several issues, jabbing away but is unable to connect on anything given her own precarious position. A. Goldie is usually the best, consistently hitting hard on traditional Conservative issues and giving the FM a gentle needle in the direction she wants him to go. And N. Stephen - well, the less said the better. He delivers what are generally decent points (apart from the Trump attack) in such a wet and robotic way that no one is really awake when he's finished.

And so to today. Well, it was the usual score. Give it to the FM on points, mainly because the opposition parties didn't hit the target. And the reason? The line of attack. Wendy went on ring-fencing... for like the 12th week in a row, complaining that her choice group of the week might not get the same funding they did prior to the SNP's announcement that the Council Tax Freeze was agreed by scrapping ring-fencing and allowing Council's to distribute their funds the way they see fit.

And that's good. It's democracy being taken out of the hands of politicians who are a bit removed from the ground level and allowing those on the scene to decide on what needs to be funded. The principle of subsidiarity. But I suppose it comes down to trusting the local authorities with the cash, something that the Labour party seems unwilling to do. Which is ironic, given that they run more local authorities in Scotland than any other party and that the Leader of COSLA - a Labour Councillor himself - thinks the deal is good.

So that's the chat today. Get rid of FMQs. And we'll maybe start to do some work instead of political point scoring.

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