Saturday, August 28, 2010

Expenses: MPs in the right, shock.

  MPs were in the doghouse again last week - or should that be the duck house - over  their expenses.  Employees at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, who process MPs’ expenses claims, say they have been threatened, insulted and abused. Called  “ idiots” and  “monkeys” by irate MPs one of whom described their computerised system as a “ abortion”.  Mind you that’s nothing compared to the language voters used about MPs when their expense abuses became known last May. However, in this case, MPs aren't wholly to blame.  IPSA is being called to put its own house in order

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Edinburgh: how "Dodge City" really makes its money.

    Summertime and the living is easy - at least for Edinburgh’s commercial classes.   The Festivals are jumping - heading for two million ticket sales across the 'cultural olympiad'.  The warm weather is stuffing the pockets of hoteliers and those Edinburgh folk who famously decamp for the summer in order to charge inflated rents to festival goers.  Where else could you see a caravan being offered at £800 a week? 

   But it’s not just the Festival that’s putting a smile on the faces of Edinburgh’s business class.  Somehow, the financial crisis that was supposed to turn the capital city into a soup kitchen for bankers seems to have completely passed it by.    Edinburgh house prices rose 20% in the year to February 2010;  unemployment at 3.3% is way below the Scottish average.  New business start ups are up 33%, planning applications are pouring in, commercial property is recovering.  Even the tram chaos seems to be passing, to be replaced by something worse:  an endless traffic jam of new Range Rovers and BMW as Edinburgh’s new money pours into the car showrooms. If you’re looking for austerity, you won’t find it here.

   But there’s a slightly shifty quality to this prosperity - as if the benefiaries feel just a little guilty about it.  One prominent Edinburgh financial commentator has taken to calling Edinburgh “Dodge City”, such has been its ability to side-step the banking collapse, the economic recession and now the government’s austerity drive. The city that was at the centre of the financial cyclone seem to be making a fortune out of it.  But  the catch is that their good fortune is almost entirely built on other peoples’ taxes. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What goes up... Mobility isn't very social

 I’ve always been just a little suspicious of people who advocate social mobility as a cure for society’s ills, as the answer to  inequality.   It isn’t.    When Nick Clegg said last week that social mobility is “the badge of fairness in society” he is missing the point.  The very image of “social mobility” is one of those loaded metaphors like “housing ladder” which implies that we can can make it to the top if they have enough drive and are given the right opportunity.  This has always been a myth.  

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Long Live al Megrahi

    Will the Queen be sending a telegram to Abdel Basset al Megrahi when he reaches a hundred?   

       Has this man no decency?  Doesn’t he realise that by clinging on to life he is daily destroying the credibility of our own Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill.  Tony Blair - whose ‘deal in the desert’ with the Libyan dictator began the process that led to Megrahi’s release - is in the dock of American opinion. I mean, sales of Blair’s autobiography, The Journey, could seriously be affected.    If only Megrahi could see the distress he’s causing I’m sure he’d top himself. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jimmy Reid's failure

 Many and various have been the tributes to Jimmy Reid, hero of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in in 1971.  The  occupation was a success, the yards saved, but politically it was downhill all the way from then on for Scotland’s favourite communist.  I don’t mean that to sound negative or unsympathetic:  Jimmy had a great life and was much loved by friend and foe alike.  He became a national institution: successful journalist, university rector and genuine working class hero.  Latterly, like many on the Scottish left, he gravitated toward nationalism, became an influential voice in the home rule movement and ultimately joined the SNP.   So, no tears necessary, and he wouldn’t want them. He’d want us to reflect instead on the history and politics of his times.  But it’s not a comfortable history for the Left.  

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gordon is Back - thanks to Mandy

   Peter Mandelson’s memoirs may have achieved the impossible:  kick started the rehabilitation of Gordon Brown’s political reputation.  By rushing into print while the wounds of defeat are still raw, by cashing in shamelessly on his insider knowledge and displaying breath-taking disloyalty, Mandelson hasn’t just discredited himself.  He has raised fundamental questions about Tony Blair’s integrity. For a start, he reveals that Blair really did promise to step aside for Gordon and then went back on his word.