Tuesday, 24 January 2017

MAY'S LOSS ON SUPREME COURT RULING IS LESS THAN NICOLA STURGEON'S

Today’s ruling by the UK Supreme Court that the Government must seek Parliaments consent before signing Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin Britain's formal exit from the EU comes amid dramatically different political circumstances from those in early December when the case was heard.

Then the judgement threatened to throw Theresa May’s ‘Brexit’ plans into chaos. There was speculation that a Parliament stacked with a huge majority of MP's who had voted to Remain might thwart Brexit. And there was a bitter and unseemly intra-establishment row between ‘Remainers’ paying for a last gasp legal attempt to overthrow the wishes of the electorate and ‘Brexiteers’ accusing the courts of interfering with equally anti-democratic monarchical powers to plough on regardless of Parliament's wishes. Now however Theresa May’s hand appears immensely stronger. Her aim to sign Article 50 by the end of March is back on track.
What caused the turnaround? The answer is that the die-hard ‘Remainers’ looked over the cliff edge and decided they did not have the stomach for defying voters after all. 

May’s ‘Article 50’ Bill with its ‘Hard Brexit’ plan to halt the free movement of labour, stop payments to the EU and extricate Britain from the European Courts of Justice will be given the green light within weeks. All Tory MP’s will vote for it and so will two thirds of Labour’s. Which leaves only right-wing Labour ‘rebels’, 6 Lib Dems and the SNP huddled together in the ‘No’ Lobby.

Where does this leave the case for Scottish Independence? The short answer is not in a good place. The SNP have spent 7 months grandstanding and using Independence as some EU bargaining chip. Their bluff has been called time and time again. In June Nicola Sturgeon promised to ignore the UK vote and somehow keep Scotland inside the EU. She jetted round European capitals ‘sooking up’ to as many EU leaders as would meet her seeking help to thwart ‘Scexit’. As widely anticipated she got nowhere with either gambit. Next she insisted she would get Scotland a seat on the UK negotiating team. Having failed to deliver that too she finally warned she was ‘not bluffing’ over INDYREF2 and there must not be a ‘Hard Brexit’. If Scotland did not get to remain in the Single Market she would ‘almost, almost, almost inevitably’ call a [legally unenforceable] second Referendum. She did nothing of the kind of course. And today her ludicrous plan to use the ‘powers’ in the Sewell Convention have been utterly dismissed by eleven Supreme Court Justices.  

And the reason for not delivering a single one of her threats? Her impotence. Even the dogs in the street know she is bluffing over INDYREF2. Neither Nicola Sturgeon nor anyone else in the YES side is going to hold a second referendum while the polls are this bad. Support for Independence is not only in the minority it has been falling since June!

The same conservative SNP who infer Nicola will gamble on ‘one last throw of the dice’ know she has not made the case for Independence for two years now.

As the Scottish Socialist Party and others have been pointing out for months the EU is not the issue upon which to win INDYREF2. The EU is an anti-democratic bosses club in the grip of the same neo-liberal capitalism that was rejected in Britain in June [and the US in November]. It is no friend of working people. The SSP called for a ‘Remain’ vote in June as the ‘lesser of two evils’. Now that the verdict has been delivered we must all respect it and leave.

Nicola Sturgeon has ignored all else in her ‘in tray’ these past 7 months in order to highlight the ‘democratic deficit’ inherent in the June 23rd vote. But she has ‘over egged the pudding’. For that particular ‘democratic deficit’ is not the only one Scots have suffered in recent years. And neither it is the most egregious. The war in Iraq and the Poll tax were even more offensive. Neither are such ‘democratic deficits’ all there is to the case for Independence. We will only win the vote for Independence when we can prove to Scotland’s working class majority they will be economically, socially and politically better off that way. Threatening INDYREF2 is not the same as making the case for Independence. That case has not been made and that is why we lag in the polls. Moreover increasingly frequent warnings from the SNP Deputy Leader and others that working class Scots will be worse off for the first 5 years of Independence at least is only going to prolong our minority status.

The psephologists Professor John Curtice and Dr Craig Dalyell have both shown the immensely more difficult challenges facing the YES campaign second time round. Some 13% of YES voters have moved to NO because of fears about the state of the Scottish economy. And the full impact of that journey is only now being revealed as it has been masked by the 14% of No voters who had moved in the other direction because they wanted to keep Scotland inside the EU. As that is clearly not going to happen they may drift back.

Rather than making an opportunist and undeliverable case for keeping Scotland in the anti-democratic neo-liberal EU as the SNP leadership has done the wider Independence movement needs to concentrate on making the fundamental - economic, social and political - case for self-determination. We have wasted 2 years waiting on the SNP to do it.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

BRITISH 'DEMOCRACY' UNDER THE MICROSCOPE AS SUPREME COURT RULES ON ARTICLE 50

 
Britain’s decision to leave the EU is being scrutinised by the highest constitutional court in the land. And in doing so the case has put UK ‘democracy’ under the microscope. Eleven unelected Supreme Court ‘Justices’ will rule on whether the UK Government has the legal right to use autocratic, monarchical ‘Crown Powers’ to override our elected Parliament’s right to ‘interpret’ the wishes of the British people as expressed in a democratic referendum.
It all sounds like an episode of ‘Yes Minister’ or ‘In the Thick of it’.
The Judges insist they are above politics and always reach their decisions based only on matters of law – matters passed into law by Parliament and therefore political by their very nature. 
Ostensibly the case in front of the UK Supreme Court turns on whether the Government has the right to sign Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty triggering Britain’s formal departure from the European Union, without going back to Parliament for permission and uses the archaic ‘Crown Powers’ vested in the office of the Prime Minister Theresa May by the Queen instead.
The High Court judgement in October ruled that the power to sign Article 50 fell under the jurisdiction of the European Communities Act 1972 passed by Westminster, as such was a matter ‘domestic UK law’ and therefore required the assent of Parliament. The Government on the other hand claims Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty falls under Britain’s International Treaty obligations and therefore does not require Parliamentary permission as such decisions are routinely dealt with under ‘The Crown Powers in Parliament’. Those who claim the British monarchy is powerless and largely confined to a figurehead role might like to pay close attention here as their view appears to be again exposed by the facts of this case. 
Obscured beneath all this legal finery is the naked politics. The High Court injunction was brought by two wealthy ‘Remain’ campaigners, investment fund manager Gina Miller and society hairdresser Dier Dos Santos who admit their objective was to overturn or at least slow the entire Brexit process. Moreover the three Judges involved earlier were outspoken ‘advocates’ of a Remain vote. They are of course ‘horrified’ at the suggestion their verdict was influenced by their political convictions insisting they are both obliged to, and capable of, putting aside their own political opinions in such circumstances and backgrounds. Of course!  
Meanwhile the UK Government is privately resigned to losing their Supreme Court Appeal and has tabled a one line Short Bill for Parliament seeking Westminster’s assent to invoke Article 50 formally in March.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

US ELECTION:THE ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT CANDIDATE WON


Donald Trump’s election as the next President of the United States of America came as no surprise to those who saw in his support the same rejection of neo-liberal capitalism seen in the Brexit result in June, in the election [and re-election] of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, in the unprecedented support for Bernie Sanders and in the growing support for Marine LePen’s ‘Front National’ in France today.

Trumps victory is part of this bigger phenomenon. For all his incipient racism and sexism Trump’s win represents above all the rejection of a ruthless economic and political orthodoxy that is inherent in the five million jobs Barack Obama has celebrated in the past 4 years all casual, low paid, insecure and demeaning.

Trump was the anti-establishment candidate. That is the great irony of his election. Even being abandoned by his own Republican Party leadership helped his cause. But he won because he reached beyond the Republican base in the South and Mid-West into the formerly Democratic ‘blue collar rust belt’ strongholds of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Hilary Clinton on the other hand was a truly dreadful candidate. Her popularity ratings were the worst in history after Trumps. She however represents neo-liberal capitalism to the soles of her feet. And the ‘political strategists’ who tried to present her as the candidate of change failed miserably.

Trump alienated millions of Americans but he won because he easily portrayed her as the utterly cynical and crooked Washington insider. She is not a good role model for women anywhere. She would have done nothing for working class women in America and never has. Voters looking for equality and progressive advance for women and African Americans and Latinos in America deserved better. Anti-establishment figures like Bernie Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was the Left Democrat’s preferred option, would have won. The Democratic Party’s polls all showed Sanders had a far better chance of beating Trump than Clinton. But the ‘Super Delegates’ were all in her pocket.



THE POLLSTERS AND THE POLITICAL PUNDITS GOT IT WRONG AGAIN

The only people to challenge Hilary Clinton for the title of ‘biggest loser’ in this election were the pollsters and pundits. They all got this result badly wrong. I followed this election closely and the British media establishment’s coverage was dire. The BBC and Sky were particularly hopeless. I should have known from their woeful performance in the Scottish Independence Referendum and the BREXIT vote. But they exhibited bias against Trump when their job was to be objective. They made no effort to explain his attraction to millions of Americans and sneeringly dismissed ‘non-college educated, blue collar, working class, white, American men’. Lacking any empathy with the concerns of this crucial ‘constituency’ who work three low paid, insecure and soul destroying jobs they over played the importance of ‘identity politics’.

Now, to cover their appalling ignorance they talk, after the event, about how ‘shy Trump voters’ foxed them. Or could it be that the BBC stuffed as it is with middle class public school boys/girls dressed up as political experts are incapable of understanding working class people anywhere or getting them to talk to them openly?

WHAT KIND OF PRESIDENT WILL TRUMP BE?

The short answer is just like all the others. He is not a fascist, he is a mere right-wing populist. Having veered to the right to win the Republican nomination he moved back to the centre to win the ‘General Election’. He will face the same US establishment he sought to challenge and he will change little. The same military industrial complex, the same Wall Street, the same ‘Washington’, the same Congress and the same vested interests he rallied against will remain in control. He is not about to challenge the US political or business elite. And he will certainly not deliver the promises he made about good jobs, prosperity and security to those Americans who voted for him.

The task of changing America for the better, providing the jobs, security, prosperity, health and pursuit of happiness the ordinary people all seek awaits the Left in the USA today. And whilst Bernie Sanders’ campaign gave us hope as this election overall has again demonstrated the Left in the USA is very weak and has an awful long way to go.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Edinburgh People's Festival hosts 2nd BURNS Night ON THE BEACH

‘BURNS ON THE BEACH’


Sunday 22nd January – Portobello beach @ 7pm



Yes we know no one else has a ‘Burns Supper’ on the beach! But the People’s Festival likes to ‘break the mould’. Others follow our lead.

In 2015 our ‘Tram o’ Shanter’ flashmob on Edinburgh’s new transport system regaled unsuspecting travellers with musical renditions of ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ and ‘A man’s a man for a’ that’. Last year we hosted the world’s first ‘BURNS ON THE BEACH’ night. And it was such a huge success we immediately resolved to do it again.



‘You’re welcome Willie Stewart’ is our tribute to Robert Burns and his enduring message. To those building a new life here in Scotland we offer a ‘guid welcome’ with a seat by our camp fire, warm food, hot drinks, singing, laughing and dancing – to celebrate the inimitable legacy Burns left us all.



BURNS ON THE BEACH 2 takes place Sunday 22nd January on Portobello beach [Bath Street] 7pm-9pm. Come along and enjoy fabulous entertainment [including a piper], warm food & hot drinks all gathered round a roaring fire amid stories, songs and dancing to cheer ‘the world’s poet.’



‘BURNS ON THE BEACH 2’

Sunday 22nd January 2017 : 7pm-9pm

Portobello beach [at Bath Street].

FREE ENTRY [Donations welcome]



Monday, 24 October 2016

SNP'S ADVOCACY OF NEO-LIBERALISM IMPEDES SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENCE

This article is published in the latest edition of the Scottish Socialist Voice 

‘I can confirm today that the Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week’ announced Nicola Sturgeon to a standing ovation from her Party Conference in Glasgow.

But wait! Isn’t this the same ‘Draft’ Bill she unveiled last month in her ‘legislative programme’ for Holyrood? And isn’t it the Bill that is to be discussed for a year containing no specified date for a second referendum? And isn’t that referendum merely ‘consultative’ lacking the legal validity of the 2014 vote? And if passed isn’t the Bill to be stuck in her handbag and used only if a majority for Independence magically materialises?

What, many will ask, is the SNP doing to advocate the case for Independence now and to effectively counter Unionist arguments. For it has not done so for two years. Rather it puts its own party interests ahead of the independence cause.

Despite the nationalists winning two consecutive General Elections in Scotland support for Independence has not grown. Indeed the latest poll by BMG for The Herald [13/10/16] has it falling. In the aftermath of the EU Referendum in June 59% said they’d back Independence. Now it is down to 45%.

‘Indyref2 before 2019 to keep Scotland in the EU’ ran the newspaper headlines on her speech. But the BMG poll also found 47% are against holding another Referendum with only 38% in favour. Three quarters of those against the vote said BREXIT makes no difference. BMG research director Dr Michael Turner concluded ‘The poll shows the EU is no game changer’ confirming the SSP’s view that to win ‘INDYREF2’ the YES campaign must convince on the issues affecting the day to day lives of Scotland’s working class majority.

The SNP has confused public anger over ‘the democratic deficit’ on June 23rd with a misplaced affection for the anti-democratic neo-liberal EU in Brussels. More worryingly for a First Minister with an outsized passion for the EU the evidence shows most Scots will not vote for Independence simply to remain inside that bureaucracy! The passion Nicola Sturgeon displays for the EU reveals above all her loyalty to Scotland’s big business interests not ‘its people’.

More and more voters are asking when they see the SNP’s motto in primus ‘Standing up for Scotland’, what ‘Scotland’ do they mean? For, as the recently published figures for multiple deprivation show, they are not ‘standing up’ for Scotland’s working class communities.

Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession with the EU signifies first her party’s economic neo-liberal orthodoxy. And second reveals the SNP’s Right-wing is far stronger than it’s Left-wing. She would do well to heed the warnings from observers like Martin Jacques [‘The Observer’ 18/09/16] that the economic and political dominance of neo-liberalism may be coming to an end. The huge support for Sanders, Corbyn, Syriza and Podemos on the left and Trump, Le Pen and Brexit on the right represent a popular backlash against neo-liberalism and a desire for profound improvement in people’s living standards. Such ‘inchoate expressions of resentment’ as Jacques puts it, are railed against the very economic orthodoxy the SNP supports. Their economic policies widen inequalities, push down real incomes for the masses, proscribes public ownership and compels the ‘marketization’ of public services with taxes on business and the rich discouraged.  

The election of Angus Robertson MP as SNP Deputy Leader came as no surprise. His victory will have cheered party chiefs at Jackson’s Close for it endorses their orthodox neo-liberal economics. Known as ‘Mr NATO’ by his critics and firmly on the Right of the party, Robertson saw off two left wing challengers with ease in the ballot of 125,000 members. The result tells us a great deal about the political balance of forces inside the nationalist party.

It is ironic that having won mass popular support for not being Labour, for not being the party most closely associated with neo-liberalism, the SNP is in the same ideological camp. They won Parliamentary seats on the promise of ‘standing up’ to the excesses of neo-liberalism. But they have not done so. They advocate rather than ‘attack’ this hegemonic doctrine of corporate capitalism and in doing so they jeopardise the prospects of Independence.

Only by delivering the message of change working class voters need can the SNP secure the second Independence vote. But their passion for the neo-liberal EU and the outlandish claims they have made on its nature, on their place in the BREXIT negotiations and on stopping Scotland’s departure from it, exposes their real agenda. ‘Scotland’s business community’ has the SNP in its pocket and, as Kenny McAskill has recently admitted, produced ‘timid and managerial’ ambitions from the First Minister after two years in office. Such criticism is entirely valid even if it comes from a former Minister who did little to confront this ‘managerialism’ himself over the past 10 years. Nonetheless he is right to conclude a majority cannot be won for Independence on such a neo-liberal prospectus.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

GROUNDHOG DAY FOR LABOUR AS CORBYN WINS VOTE AGAIN AND MP'S IGNORE IT AGAIN

It is hard to see what difference Jeremy Corbyn's re-election as Labour leader makes to the crisis his party is in.
As expected he saw off the challenge of Owen Smith with ease. And as expected 200 of his MP's have told him they will ignore the result just as they did last year. Adding insult to injury for Corbyn his opponent Smith won 58% of the vote in Scotland.
So the bloody stand-off continues.
And yet for all the melodrama the $64m question remains unanswered, what does Labour actually stand for? Does it still believe we should keep Trident nuclear weapons? Does it still believe in neo-liberal economic orthodoxy when its time appears to be up even for the capitalists who employ it? Does it still oppose Scottish Independence? Does it still believe in austerity and support 80% of George Osborne's cuts? Does it still believe in military interventions in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan? Does it still support the monarchy and the House of Lords? Does it still support the privatisation of the NHS and other public services? Does it still oppose higher taxes on the rich?
This confusion means Labour remain an utterly ineffective opposition at Westminster, Holyrood and everywhere else.
It is clear Corbyn cannot heal the splits in his party. The differences are so politically profound and the bitterness now so personal. He may be a principled socialist but 80% of his MP's are not.
So for all warm words of conciliation in the days that follow such results it will be back to 'business as usual' for the Labour MP's out to oust him within the week. Although they do not have the stomach to leave Labour as their forefathers in the SDP did in the early 1980's they will nonetheless continue to undermine him every chance they get. They will neither bury the hatchet nor buckle down to defend the interests of the working people who elected them. The Labour stasis will continue for some time yet.