Saturday, March 2, 2024

Would it be a good thing or a bad thing if the Commonwealth Games fold?

I was at the Emirates in Glasgow this morning to get a taste of the World Athletics Indoor Championships, and as you can see from the photos below I had a good spot to cheer on Jemma Reekie as she won her semi-final.  I felt a bit sorry for the chap in the Morocco shirt, though - I'm not sure if he was a very passionate coach or a family member (probably the latter), but he was on the floor with his head in his hands for a good five minutes after the Moroccan runner went from being in the lead in one of the men's 800m semis, to being caught on the line by several athletes, and missed out on qualification altogether.

Having been to several Davis Cup matches in the same venue over the years, I was fully braced for the now-familiar incongruity of a Union Jack Fest across the road from Celtic Park, but actually it wasn't too bad.  It was a very international audience, and to the extent that there were 'home' flags, there were as many saltires as Butcher's Aprons.

I was remembering that the first time I was at the Emirates was for the badminton during the Commonwealth Games ten years ago, which prompted me to check whether there has been any resolution to the crisis over the hosting of the next Commonwealth Games in 2026.  It seems there hasn't been, and the likelihood is that the event will either be postponed for a year or cancelled altogether.  If the latter happens, there must be a question mark over whether the Commonwealth Games will ever be held again.

I'm not quite sure how I would feel about that.  On the one hand, the demise of the event would be seen as accelerating the increased irrelevance of the monarchy, which would obviously be thoroughly welcome.  Queen Elizabeth was obsessed with the Commonwealth, because it was the only sense in which she had held together her supposed birthright of Empire.  Without the Commonwealth Games, is there really a Commonwealth?  It's the only thing that gives the institution any real meaning for most people.

But on the other hand, the Commonwealth Games is the one and only opportunity for Scotland to compete as a nation in its own right in a number of high-profile sports, most notably track-and-field and swimming.  It's also an opportunity for Scotland to win medals in sports that are popular here but are clearly never going to make the Olympic programme, with the obvious example being lawn bowls.  

So maybe on the whole the pros outweigh the cons and we should hope that the Commonwealth Games survive in some form.

Friday, March 1, 2024

More heartbreak for Starmer as SNP stretch their lead in Scotland

Scottish voting intentions for next UK general election (Survation / Quantum Communications, 14th-20th February 2024):

SNP 38% (+2)
Labour 33% (-1)
Conservatives 15% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): SNP 37 (-11), Labour 14 (+13), Liberal Democrats 4 (-), Conservatives 2 (-4)

Although this is moderately good news for the SNP and bad news for Labour, the big caveat is that Survation have tended to be one of the more favourable pollsters for the SNP since Humza Yousaf was elected leader, so there's no guarantee that another firm polling at the same time would even put the SNP ahead, let alone as much as five points ahead.  Nevertheless, this is the biggest SNP lead in any Survation poll for around ten months, so it's not impossible that it's picking up a genuine - if modest - recovery.

Among Remain voters from the EU referendum, the SNP lead Labour by 46% to 32%.  Why isn't that gap bigger?  I still think the SNP are missing a trick by not hammering home to voters that Labour have fully embraced Brexit.  They mention it now and again, but the messaging is nowhere near strong enough.

As you'd expect, the number of voters that Labour have taken from the SNP is lower than in certain other polls.  16% of SNP voters from 2019, and 18% of Yes voters from the 2014 independence referendum, are currently in the Labour column.

There's no sign of any Holyrood voting intention numbers in this poll, or any indyref voting intention numbers, unless they're being held back for another day.

Keir Starmer learns there *is* a price to pay for genocide-apologism: utter humiliation for Labour in Rochdale as they slip to FOURTH

In his now infamous dual letters to Muslim and non-Muslim voters, George Galloway said that victory for him in Rochdale could lead to Keir Starmer being displaced as Labour leader, and that it would "Make Rochdale Great Again".  I wouldn't have thought the second promise is any more likely to be kept than the first, but on the whole I'm glad that Galloway won, because it finally demonstrates that weaponising antisemitism against the Left is not a cost-free exercise forever, especially when it leads a Labour leader to tack so close to Israel that he even suggests that Netanyahu has the right to commit the genocidal act of cutting off food, water and electricity to the civilian population of Gaza.

Rochdale by-election result (29th February 2024):

Workers Party of Britain: 39.7% (n/a)
Independent - Tully: 21.3% (n/a)
Conservatives: 12.0% (-19.2)
Labour: 7.7% (-43.9)
Liberal Democrats: 7.0% (n/a)
Reform UK: 6.3% (-1.9)
Independent - W Howarth: 1.7% (n/a)
Independent - Coleman: 1.5% (n/a)
Greens: 1.4% (-0.7)
Independent - M Howarth: 0.8% (n/a)
Official Monster Raving Loony: 0.7% (n/a)

There's always a frisson of excitement when a new party wins a parliamentary seat for the first time, so I turned to Wikipedia in the hope of discovering what manner of party we were getting, but I ended up more confused than when I started.  The Workers' Party of Britain ideology is described as (among other things) "far-left" and "communist", which if taken literally would mean a communist party now has representation in the UK Parliament for the first time since Willie Gallacher lost his seat in 1950.  But curiously, Wikipedia's only source for this claim is a webpage in which communists denounce the Workers Party of Britain for "transforming itself into a left-social-democratic vehicle for bourgeois parliamentarism and anticommunism"!

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Ian Dunt admits he wanted Israel to cease to exist, until the Corbynites made him cross by being antisemitic

The absurdity of the title says it all, really, but I was staggered by something I saw on Twitter earlier.  Owen Jones challenged centrist dad hack Ian Dunt on why he regularly calls out Russia for its war crimes in Ukraine but rarely does the same to Israel for its even worse crimes in Gaza.  As far as I know, Dunt himself didn't reply, but someone else dug out the most recent thing Dunt had written on the subject of Israel.  Extraordinarily, it stated that he used to find the very idea of Israel "disturbing" and that he regarded the country's existence as the root cause of the Middle East conflict, and that the only reason he changed his mind about that was the "antisemitism" of the Corbyn years!

I mean, where to start?  Anyone who has looked at the matter seriously knows that instances of antisemitism under Corbyn, to the extent that they actually existed, were blown out of all proportion into a Hollywood production cynically intended to discredit Corbyn and bring about Labour regime change.  The whole enterprise was surprisingly successful given that the pro-Israel lobby in the UK is traditionally weaker than in the US, but it was, nevertheless, an obvious confidence trick. To purport to be so overwhelmed by the seriousness of the confected "Corbyn antisemitism crisis" that it totally changed your view on a question as fundamental as whether Israel should exist or not is practically centrist-dad-gone-parody.  It's also astoundingly parochial to claim that any internal matter within a British political party could possibly have had that effect.

But the real elephant in the room here is that Dunt's pre-2017 position as he has set it out can only be described as "anti-Zionist" - that's the catch-all term for hostility to Israel's existence as a Jewish state.  Probably most of Israel's critics don't go anything like that far and never have done.  I dare say if I'd been around in the 1940s I would have supported Palestine's right to self-determination without any imposed partition on the basis of ethnicity or religion, and I certainly wouldn't have said a self-declared Israeli state had any right to drive Palestinians from their homes and land in order to create or buttress an artificial Jewish majority in the state.  But you can't really wind the clock back after several decades of Israel's existence, and nor should you want to when Palestine's own leaders accept it.  Paradoxically, the greatest threat to Israel as a Jewish state is Israel's own attempt to render a Palestinian state non-viable, which could eventually leave a one-state solution - with all Palestinians granted citizenship and voting rights in Israel - as the only game in town.

Dunt was, then, well outside the mainstream in his anti-Zionist views, and if he'd been a Corbynista, an expression of those views would have been more than enough to qualify him as an antisemite as far as the likes of Margaret Hodge and Luke Akehurst were concerned. So the alleged antisemitism that shocked Dunt into dropping his anti-Zionist stance was simply other people espousing exactly the same stance as his own, or in some cases a much less radical stance.  The circularity of it is almost painful.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Yes, I'm giving constitutional advice to George Foulkes, and I'm doing it *deliberately*

His Eminence Baron Sir Lord Georgie Foulkes on Twitter yesterday - 

Now I'm certainly not claiming to be a constitutional expert, but I don't really need to be because this is a remarkably simple question.  The date of the next Holyrood election is set by law as 7th May 2026.  That date can only be changed in certain narrow circumstances that are also specified by law:

1) If the First Minister resigns, and no successor is selected by the Scottish Parliament within 28 days, an early election is triggered.

2) If two-thirds of MSPs vote for dissolution, an early election is triggered.

3) There is small discretion for the Presiding Officer (or technically the King acting on the Presiding Officer's advice) to change the date of the election by up to a month in either direction.

You'll note that unelected Westminster legislators like George have absolutely no part to play in any of these possibilities, and in any case it's far from clear why he thinks the outcome of a Westminster election should make an early Holyrood election any more or less likely.

So the only constitutional option open to him and his colleagues is to change the law, ie. rewrite the Scotland Act to give themselves the power to arbitrarily force an early Holyrood election on their own whim.  In theory there's nothing to stop them doing that - but if key parts of the Scotland Act can be torn up so easily and casually, good luck trying to persuade voters that The Vow, and specifically the part about the Scottish Parliament's permanence, has been upheld or even meant anything in the first place.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

What Westminster needs now is a big round of applause

When a corrupt Speaker is in place, when that Speaker is in the pocket of the leader of one particular party, and when there aren't currently the numbers to dislodge that Speaker, there's a limit to what the SNP can do to fight back against their rights being trampled on.  But that doesn't mean they can do nothing.  Opposition parties have run campaigns of constructive parliamentary non-cooperation in the past, sometimes quite effectively.  I recall Labour did it for a few months under John Smith in around 1993 or 1994.

You'd need to have better knowledge of the arcane list of Westminster rules and conventions than I have to know what is possible and where the vulnerabilities of the system lie, but to give one trivial example, the SNP should refuse to use "Hear, hear" as the indication of agreement with what another member is saying, and just use clapping instead.  They clearly did that the other day as an intentional form of low-grade resistance to Hoyle (ie. to wind him up) but they should make it a universal practice from now on.  Hoyle will go nuts every time it happens, and that would be the whole aim of the exercise.  There's nothing realistically he can do about it - he can't suspend the entire SNP parliamentary party on a daily basis.  In a sense he'd be doing the SNP's work for them by constantly causing his own parliamentary disruption with pointless, pompous lectures on the subject.  And I'm not sure the SNP would get the blame for it, because the public would just be bemused that the Speaker is so obsessed with forcing MPs to use weird grunting noises rather than clapping like normal people do.

Monday, February 26, 2024

An embarrassingly corrupt Commons Speaker who now feels safe to revert to double-dealing in plain sight