Thursday, April 11, 2013

YouGov poll on attitudes to Mrs Thatcher shows sharp Scottish divergence

Here is the regional breakdown of the YouGov poll from a couple of days ago on public perceptions of Mrs Thatcher following her death. There won't be any great surprises here, except for those who persist with the absurd belief that the political centre of gravity isn't 'really' all that different in Scotland.

Thinking back to Margaret Thatcher's period as Prime Minister, do you think she was...


A good or great Prime Minister 59%
A poor or terrible Prime Minister 23%


A good or great Prime Minister 57%
A poor or terrible Prime Minister 26%


A good or great Prime Minister 51%
A poor or terrible Prime Minister 29%


A good or great Prime Minister 49%
A poor or terrible Prime Minister 35%


A good or great Prime Minister 30%
A poor or terrible Prime Minister 44%

Thinking about her period as Prime Minister, do you think Margaret Thatcher left Britain economically better off or worse off?


Better off 62%
Worse off 27%


Better off 50%
Worse off 29%


Better off 46%
Worse off 37%


Better off 43%
Worse off 41%


Better off 33%
Worse off 46%

A full 33% of the Scottish sample go the whole hog and describe Mrs Thatcher as a "terrible" Prime Minister, which is an extraordinarily high figure at this time of mourning when people are likely to be at their most generous. Scotland is also one of only two parts of the UK where a plurality does not regard Mrs Thatcher as the greatest Prime Minister since 1945 (the other is London, oddly enough). Incidentally, Tom Harris will be aghast to hear that Scotland is also the only part of the UK where Harold Wilson is regarded as a greater Prime Minister than Tony Blair! Gordon Brown is also ranked higher than Blair here, with a full 9% of the Scottish sample regarding him as the best post-war Prime Minister. He fails to attract more than 2% in any other region.

I caught a little bit of the re-run of the Thatcher and the Scots programme last night, and apart from the usual guff about our opposition to Thatcherism being a form of sexism, the bit that leapt out at me was Michael Gove (interviewed before becoming a government minister) earnestly insisting that the notion that the poll tax was "imposed" on Scotland a year early was a myth, because it was George Younger's idea, not Margaret Thatcher's. Erm, just one thing, Michael - when did Scotland elect George Younger as Secretary of State? Was he not, in fact, handpicked by Margaret Thatcher?

Doubtless whenever the East German puppet regime called in Russian support to quell dissent, Michael Gove regarded that as "a German solution to a German problem".

We are all National Collective

I've got a very soft spot for National Collective, partly because I was a contributor to the site in its early days, but mainly because it's since developed into an all-round class act, which does ingenious things that simply aren't being done anywhere else. So I'm absolutely appalled to see the cowardly attempts to bully the site into silence, and more especially the apologism of the anti-independence 'Better Together' campaign for that bullying. Their passive-aggressive press release on the subject is eerily reminiscent of the one Argyll and Bute Council issued when they tried to ban a nine-year-old girl from publishing a photo-blog. It seems that bullying is absolutely fine just so long as the victim has been criticising the quality of your school dinners - or if you need to keep a multi-millionaire, Tory-supporting, non-Scottish-domiciled donor sweet.

Leaving aside the truth or otherwise of the serious allegations against Ian Taylor (who has in any case removed any doubt as to what an odious individual he is through his own actions over the last couple of days), it has to be said that the list of Better Together donors is a thoroughgoing embarrassment to the entire anti-independence campaign. We now know that they're largely being bankrolled by two fabulously wealthy individuals, neither of whom live in Scotland, and neither of whom have any stake in this country's future. They do, of course, have a stake in a No vote in the sense that it's the only way in which the country they now live in will continue to have access to Scottish natural resources. A cynical person might assume that's what it's all about, but who knows.

Suffice to say that the trademark whines about the residency status of prominent Yes supporters such as Brian Cox and Alan Cumming will ring even more hollow from this moment on. I can only imagine that the No campaign released the list when they did because they knew the hit was coming and wanted to get it over and done with.

Their second-biggest donor, Sussex resident C J Samson, actually wrote a novel recently in which he openly boasted about "really going to town on the SNP" - by which he meant that he portrayed a barking mad alternative history of the Second World War in which the Scottish National Party collaborates with a British Nazi government. Even if we are generous to the man and assume that he honestly believes that the SNP's brand of nationalism in the 1930s and 40s had fascist leanings (in spite of the fact that the SNP were pretty much the only party in Britain that Oswald Mosley never actually represented as an MP), it's rather hard to understand how he thinks they would have furthered the cause of a Scottish quasi-fascist state by collaborating with British fascism. One thing about far-right nationalism is that the nation in question is generally held to be indivisible. Still, I dare say a man who is capable of convincing himself that Alex Salmond is Hitler probably isn't too troubled by such logical quibbles.

Oh yes, indeed. You see, Samson finishes the novel with a propaganda chapter (how ironic) in which he explains that the purpose of the book is to convert "even one person" to the cause he espouses - which is essentially to prevent the modern SNP (you know, that moderate, centre-left, pro-immigration party) from turning Scotland into a one-party state, "perhaps forever".

Let's call a spade a spade - the anti-independence campaign is seemingly content to be financed by a nutter who reckons his donation is part of a heroic struggle against fascism. That's how Alice in Wonderland this has become.

* * *

Talking of donations, if you want to fight back against the No campaign's bully-boy tactics, the simplest way is to make a contribution (large or small) to National Collective's fundraising drive. Click HERE if you'd like to do so.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lib Dems' Moore deliberately lies in the Huffington Post - no ifs, no buts, no ambiguity

Michael Moore (aka "the man who gave us votes at 16 by opposing it") furiously spins for Blighty in the US edition of the Huffington Post -

"Scotland is facing an historic decision in 2014: whether to remain as part of the United Kingdom or to leave and go it alone."

Unionistspeak-to-English translation - Scotland is facing an historic decision in 2014: whether it wants to be an independent country...or not.

"Scotland's nationalist First Minister Alex Salmond is in America this week and will seek to persuade Americans that Scots want independence, that it is our destiny and that U.S. relations with Scotland will only improve should it happen. On all counts, I believe that this analysis is flawed."

Well, Scottish relations with the US will actually exist if independence happens, so presumably that would represent an improvement of sorts. On the other points, would it be too cynical of me to suggest that Mr Moore is attempting to set up a straw man, roughly analogous to the following -

"Nick Clegg is in Canberra this week, and will seek to persuade Australians that the people of Britain are positively gagging for majority Lib Dem rule, and that it is his own personal destiny to become President Eternal. I believe his analysis is somewhat flawed."

"As a UK Government Minister, living in Scotland, representing Scottish interests at a UK level..."

People who 'represent Scottish interests' are, as a general rule, elected to do so by the people of Scotland. Conversely, someone handpicked by David Cameron and Nick Clegg is rather more likely to be representing UK interests at a Scottish level. To give Mr Moore his due, he carries out that role diligently.

"Leaving the UK has always been the ambition of Mr Salmond and his Scottish National Party. But polls have always shown that this is not the case for most Scots. Around two-thirds of people in Scotland are always in the 'no' column when asked to express a view on breaking up Britain."

Hmmm. This is what is technically known as a "lie", Michael. No ifs, no buts, no ambiguity. There has not been a single poll on independence in the last two decades that has shown anything even close to two-thirds of people in the No column. Indeed, roughly half of polls this year have shown that fewer than 50% of the electorate support Mr Moore's desire for Scotland to remain in the UK. The highest figure for the No side has been 55% with Ipsos-Mori, and the lowest was just 46% with Panelbase.

What Mr Moore apparently thinks is perfectly OK to do is to treat a response of 'Don't Know' as if it was identical to a 'No'. If I was someone who was genuinely undecided about independence, and who was weighing up how to vote with the seriousness that such an important decision deserves, I would be hopping mad at this man's breathtaking arrogance in thinking he can declare on my behalf that I'm simply a 'slow-learning No voter'.

"With huge challenges facing the global economy, it doesn't make sense to most of us to erect market barriers with our largest market and nearest neighbours -- England, Wales and Northern Ireland."

There's a thing called the European Single Market, isn't there? Or did I just dream that?

"With a strong position in Europe, it doesn't make sense either to have to negotiate new entry terms to the European Union, casting doubt over our opt-out from the euro."

As someone brilliantly put it the other day - "if Scotland becomes independent, we'll be thrown out of the European Union and forced to join the euro!" That'll be a neat trick, even by the standards of those beastly Eurocrats.

Of course, if we really want to maintain a "strong position in Europe", it might be best not to remain as part of a country that, if current polls are anything to go by, is fairly likely to leave the EU after an in/out referendum in a few years' time. Just a thought.

"And with emerging security threats -- North Korea, Iran, Syria -- it doesn't make sense to us to split up our Armed Forces and adopt a divided stance on foreign policy."

Another UK government minister who thinks we mustn't become independent just in case North Korea decides to invade Scotland in 2043. Yes, folks, they really think we're that stupid.

"I am part of the overwhelming majority in Scotland who believe we are stronger, safer and better off together within the family of the United Kingdom."

Would that "overwhelming majority" be the same imaginary two-thirds majority you mentioned earlier? Yes, that'll be the one.

"Scots are sceptical of the SNP's assurances that, after independence, everything would either stay the same, or be better."

Would it be horrid of me to point out that Scots are even more sceptical of the unionist parties' claims that everything would be better and somehow totally different to what has gone before if we vote for the no change option in 2014?

* * *

I have a small confession to make. I was at the Glasgow 'Thatcher party' yesterday - for about thirty seconds, by complete accident. My eye was caught by the colourful communist flags and a TV van, so I wandered over to find out what was going on.

* * *

I have a new article at the International Business Times. It was written a couple of weeks ago, in case it doesn't seem entirely topical! You can read it HERE.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

TNS-BMRB poll : Decrease in opposition to independence

Doubtless the above headline will be seen as spin, but when we have Magnus Gardham and his ilk perpetually spinning in the opposite direction on behalf of the 'mainstream media', I'm not going to apologise for redressing the balance just slightly. (And the headline does have the virtue of being entirely accurate.) The latest TNS-BMRB poll on independence shows a partial reversal of the movements in the last poll by the same company, which had shown significant increases in both the Yes and the No vote, but with the Yes campaign benefiting slightly more.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 30% (-3)
No 51% (-1)

That breaks the solid pattern we have seen over recent months of all pollsters showing swings in favour of independence. However, the No lead remains four points lower than in the final TNS-BMRB poll of last year, suggesting that most of the recent pro-Yes swing has proved lasting.

According to Mr Gardham, the Yes campaign will be more disappointed than the No campaign by this poll. In the literal sense that may be true, given that the Yes vote has fallen slightly more than the No vote. On the other hand, the pronouncements of Magnus on this subject might also have just a tad more credibility if he hadn't ludicrously summarised the January TNS-BMRB poll (showing a five-point slump in the No vote and no change in the Yes vote) with the words "support for independence stalls".

You see, on Planet Gardham every poll is a "setback for the SNP".

Monday, April 8, 2013

Did Mrs Thatcher do any good things?

Above all else, today is a terribly sad day for Margaret Thatcher's family, her friends, and all those who feel a sense of loss as a result of her passing. I'm beginning to wonder if the former PM's ideological opponents ought to have restricted themselves to offering personal sympathy and condolences on that basis, because even the most generalised of tributes to her political talents and achievements have been cynically leapt upon by some on the right as 'proof' that she was correct all along.

Another potential approach at a moment like this is to single out one or two specific achievements that we do genuinely admire - for example the saving grace of John Major's premiership was the substantial progress towards peace in Northern Ireland. With Mrs Thatcher it's more challenging to do that, but after a long, hard think, here is my short list of the good things that I think she did.

The resolution of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe crisis in 1980. Many would have expected her to intervene to thwart Mugabe's ascent to power (on anti-communist grounds or whatever), but she correctly allowed the democratic process to run its course.

Standing up for the Falkland islanders' right to self-determination. Whether it was really about that for her is dubious, and the loss of life was utterly horrendous (the equivalent of half the population of the islands), but nevertheless a vitally important principle was affirmed.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement. Again, she probably did this for the wrong reasons - she was seeking security cooperation from Dublin above all else. But nevertheless it was a small signal to the nationalist population that their moderate political representatives could make progress without recourse to bombs or bullets.

Approving a rational HIV awareness campaign. With her social conservative background, many expected her to insist that the government campaign should emphasise sexual abstinence. But she didn't, and probably saved many lives in the process.

Progress towards European unity. This is the most ironic of the lot, but two of the most significant milestones on the road to European integration occurred on Mrs Thatcher's watch - the breaking of the logjam caused by the 'Luxembourg Compromise', and the Single European Act.

Can you think of any others?