Sunday, April 26, 2015

SNP Trap

Ed Miliband today denied that he would even consider a 'confidence and supply' deal with the SNP in a post-election scenario. 

He doesn't need to consider it. 

If we accept the most likely outcome of the election is that no one party will gain a majority, but that Ed is the leader most likely to be able to negotiate a majority in the Commons, then he could essentially dare the SNP to support any motion of no confidence and face the consequences. 

The SNP's big projected gains in Scotland are largely based on their attacks on Labour for working with the Tories over the independence referendum. I would suggest that many of the Labour/SNP switchers are soft SNP - not all, but probably enough to reverse a significant number of those expected SNP gains in a subsequent election, should the SNP contribute to the downfall of a Labour government (as they did in 1979).

Even sitting on their hands and abstaining would still be painted as support for the Tories and in the general election to follow, a full frontal attack by Labour on the SNP could in fact lead to a Labour majority nationally. What would be worse is that the parliamentary election could even coincide with the 2016 Holyrood elections, endangering even the SNP's position in the Scottish Parliament. 

The SNP might even struggle to maintain their grip on those voters in the face of their exclusion from the government - escaping blame for any errors, but also excluded from claiming credit for any policies that prove to be a hit with voters in Scotland. An effective Labour-led government could start clawing back those voters. 

The SNP promising not to back the Tories is essentially holding themselves to ransom. They've unavoidably backed themselves into this corner, but they may find it quite restrictive. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Clarkson is no victim

It was very disturbing to see people line up yesterday to claim either that Jeremy Clarkson was a victim of the BBC lefties or that the Beeb had overreacted by sacking him. The latter claim was from Paul Staines, whose tea boy rode an armoured vehicle to Broadcasting House last week to deliver an almost-million signature petition in support of Clarkson. Louise Mensch said that we were too soft in the UK and Adam Boulton was similarly dismissive. 

Neither claim is true. 

Jeremy Clarkson was entirely the architect of his own downfall. 

The BBC seems to have been beyond reasonable in how they dealt with some of his gaffes, no doubt influenced by the £50 million annual income from the global brand that is Top Gear. The events at the start of March were of a different order and, once the investigation was completed, the dismissal was a certainty. 

Many employment contracts will specifically mention violence or the threat of violence as examples of gross misconduct that will quite possibly lead to dismissal. I can't possibly imagine any employer - with one eye on the need to ensure a safe workplace free of bullying - not heading down exactly the same path as the BBC. The employee would be suspended - suspension is a neutral act to allow things to cool down and to allow time to investigate matters, but in cases that may lead to dismissal, it is an essential precursor. The case is then investigated, those involved are interviewed and a report presented to a senior manager for a hearing and decision. 

Having heard some of the details in the investigation, I would have dismissed the employee. Aside from the personal issues and the work that has clearly stressed Clarkson, there is some mitigation - he reported the matter himself and has co-operated with the BBC, but the facts are still sufficiently serious that I could see no alternative to sacking him. There was sustained verbal abuse, which continued after the assault; the assault was sufficient for the victim to go to hospital; the victim was clearly distressed by the attack and there was not even a hint of provocation, let alone anything extreme enough to justify force. 

The BBC also have the Savile problem. While this is of a massively lower order of magnitude, the principle must be that no star can get unlimited protection from the effects of their own behaviour. Given that this occurred in full view and hearing of members of the public and that one of them intervened to stop the assault, the chance of sweeping it under the carpet was low from the outset. 

The BBC corporate may have hated Clarkson's image and attitude, they may even have wanted to shoot the golden goose that he nurtured, but the simple truth is that Jeremy Clarkson manufactured the bullets, loaded the gun and put it in the hands of BBC management. 

He isn't a victim. He gave them no choice. 

The producer, who has spent ten years working on Top Gear, was abused, assaulted and has since had to deal with death threats from the social media mob, is. He deserves the sympathy and support. 

Ask yourself this question - in your workplace, if someone came up, hurled invective at you, threatened your job and then punched you in the face, would you want them sacked?

This has now become another stick with which to beat the BBC, the real target for Mensch, Boulton, Staines and his minions. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thin blue, red and green line...

On Saturday morning, Damian Green, former Home Office minister, came out with a mindblowingly dumb proposal. I've read some of the output of the DCLG, so I know dumb when I hear it. Defending the massive cuts to policing, he said that an opportunity to save money was being missed by the blue light services. Rather than sending a number of expensive vehicles to a motorway collision, they should just send one. 

Maybe this was just an attempt to distract from five years of Tory/Lib Dem slashing of police budgets or maybe Damian actually believes that this is a remotely workable idea. 

You don't even need to be an expert to dismantle his argument. 

Damian's idea suggests that one vehicle could be designed and purchased that would carry a crew of trained firefighters, two or three paramedics and a number of traffic officers to secure the scene, as well as the range of kit required to manage the scene, extract the injured and stabilise them. @martinwoods  suggested this.... (HT also to @SgtTCS )

There's a reason that this hasn't happened. It is that there are different vehicles because they all have different jobs and equipment, as well as fulfilling other roles independently. The fire service will respond to a house fire that will not require police attendance, the overstretched roads policing units will be out and about tackling crime involving vehicles and enforcing on traffic offences while the ambulance service will spend their time waiting around hospitals for the emergency department to take their patients before they head off to the next job. They cannot spend their time waiting around for an incident that requires all their specialist skills. 

They will have different times and jobs at the scene - the fire service will attend to extricate the injured and make the scene safe, but can then leave. The paramedics will respond, stabilise the patients and then leave to take them to hospital, while the police can be at the scene for hours, securing it for evidence purposes and investigating the cause. 

The reason that it hasn't happened, Damian. They gave different, specialist vehicles because they are different specialists. Even for a former Tory minister, that was a spectacularly stupid idea. But when has that ever stopped it becoming policy?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Trident not a deal breaker for Scot Nat's

On BBC Radio 4's Any Questions, Alex Salmond was challenged over whether Trident was something that his party would accept. 

His comment was taken as indicating that it is a red line issue for the SNP and could prevent them entering coalition. What he actually said was that SNP MPs would not vote for it - not the same thing. The key is that as part of the answer to the previous question, Salmond had said that he thought a coalition unlikely. I agree. 

The lesson of many coalitions around the world is that the minority partner suffers the backlash. That has certainly been the experience of the LibDems. For that reason, I doubt that any potential post-election deal would include the SNP in a formal coalition with ministerial office and a shared programme - that would bring Trident into play as a red line issue. 

There is also the issue about a ScotNat minister controlling an English Department, given their understandable interest in Scotland. 

My bet is that any deal with the SNP would be formally on the basis of 'confidence and supply' only. Thus the SNP would promise to support finance bills or other confidence matters, but would not have a shared programme and other votes would be taken as they came. 

This would allow the SNP to vote against Trident. Any minority Labour government could rely on votes from the Tories or even the LibDems to see any Trident vote over the line, should they decide to continue with the project. 

Budget issues - even those specifically for England, actually have an impact on funding for the devolved nations as they affect the calculation of the Barnett formula. 

In short, Trident is not a dealbreaker for any post election Labour deal with the SNP.