The next UK General Election will be in the autumn of 2016

Perhaps a bold prediction but I fear that the herd instinct of political commentators is heading for another cliff. If only I had a pound for every article that talked about the 2020 election as though it was written in stone. It seems that, in spite of the catastrophic performance of the LibDems in the 2015 General Election, Nick Clegg still weaves some spell over the political commentariat, and indeed the Labour Party. His magic wand is understood to have guaranteed 5 years to the current Tory government and nobody has engaged their brain to think through what are the likely consequences of an EU referendum on the electoral timetable. [Read more…]

Little risk of political accountability for the incompetence of perfidious Albion

Seumas Milne writing in The Guardian today had an excellent piece on “how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq.” It followed the collapse of a trial at the Old Bailey when it emerged that the individual accused of terrorist activities in Syria had been working with a group armed and supported by UK intelligence agencies. Milne also highlights the role of the gulf states and points out that the, “western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them, goes back at least to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which fostered the original al-Qaida under CIA tutelage.” [Read more…]

Scottish LibDems need to rebuild trust

It seems like everyone has a cure for the Labour Party. It is a sign of the times for the LibDems that neither the mainstream media, nor social media, are much interested in what happens next for them. The encouraging signs of a post-election membership mini-surge have even been drowned out by Carmichaelgate. But although the LibDem collapse provides welcome opportunities for the growth of the Greens, there is still a need for a strong liberal voice on human rights and Europe. The difficulty is whether the LibDems are in any state to provide it. [Read more…]

Imagine if the Scottish LibDems backed Home Rule

How did it come to this? Five years on from an election where the Scottish LibDems won a modern record of 11 seats in Scotland on 19% of the vote, they have been left with Alistair Carmichael, 7.5% of the vote, 47 lost deposits and struggling to be taken seriously. Getting into bed with the Tories was always going to be disproportionately difficult for the party in Scotland. And of course as David Steel has pointed out they played the coalition game catastrophically badly. [Read more…]

The lies and smears of Project Fear are coming home to roost

Apparently we are all mad, or have joined a gnostic cult. No votes have yet been counted, but polls predicting 50% plus for the SNP have almost become banal. There is a risk that the SNP winning a majority of Scottish Westminster seats will seem an anti-climax. Whatever the final result, all pundits seem to agree that something extraordinary is happening in Scotland. And yet few on any side seem to have a clear idea of why. [Read more…]

A reasonable Irish view on Scotland?

I suppose Mark Hennessy didn’t have much luck with timing in publishing his article. “Reasoned debate is the first casualty in post-referendum Scotland,” the morning after Nicola Sturgeon won the UK leaders debate largely because of her reasonableness. As someone who lives in Edinburgh and works in Dublin I didn’t recognise his portrayal of division and rancour in Scotland. It is true that Alex Salmond received several death threats during the referendum campaign, but the worst actual violence involved one egg. Mark might look at the water protests in his own glass house before he starts chucking stones. [Read more…]

Winter is coming

The Conservatives are on course to form the most extreme right wing government of the modern era. It has been fun to speculate whether Miliband will refuse to govern with SNP support, or whether he can get away with pretending Scots votes don’t count. But if any of our political journalists could break away from the drip-feed of opinion polls and coalition chatter they might notice that the omens are all pointing to a Conservative election win. And this is not a caring Conservative Party. [Read more…]

Who will be the next Secretary of State for Scotland?

It is great fun to watch various unionists in turmoil about the prospects of Scottish votes, through SNP MPs, playing a key role in who forms the next UK government and how they govern. The Deputy Chair of the Conservatives apparently thinks it will be undemocratic for Scottish votes to be counted. Miliband seems to have conceded that Scotland is lost to Labour, but proclaims that he will ignore the result. [Read more…]

The dangerous lure of what is possible

The BBC was busy again last week promoting the line of the UK security services that they need even more extensive powers to be able to read and track all our email messages and online interactions. This might just be a double bluff given that the Snowden revelations show that GCHQ is hoovering up huge amounts of data illegally. However, it is more worrying if the spooks actually believe that this is something they should prioritise. [Read more…]