Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Alba Party needs a bit less authoritarianism and a bit more transparency

I noticed yesterday that Alba Dundee's Twitter account had been suspended, which seemed a strange coincidence given the controversy that was swirling over Alba Dundee's go-it-alone decision to back a spoilt ballot campaign at the general election. The allegation today is that Alba HQ reported the Alba Dundee account as an "impostor" and got it suspended and replaced with an HQ-run account.  Allan Petrie, who was an elected member of the Alba NEC until a few short weeks ago, has reacted in fury and left the party.  This follows several other high-profile departures due to the fall-out from the internal elections in October and December.

Now, to be clear, I think Alba Dundee's spoilt ballot campaign decision was extremely unwise, because it would have harmed the cause of independence, and it was probably also unsustainable, because it wasn't really reconcilable with Alba's national strategy of standing candidates in at least twelve constituencies.  But that meant a mature conversation needed to be had between the national party and the Dundee LACU.  And yes, the national party's position had to take precedence if agreement couldn't be reached, but draconian action should have been a last resort.  It sounds as if it was more like a first resort.

There's been a bit of a trend of high-handedness recently, most obviously in the reaction to some of the questions that were raised about the voiding of the national office bearer elections and the cancellation of the NEC elections in October, and the subsequent decision to keep the results of the rescheduled NEC elections secret in December (other than the names of those elected).  Specifically, a question was asked about an alleged discrepancy between the number of people registered for conference in October and the number who were actually able to vote in December.  The General Secretary responded on the Alba website, as was entirely proper, but he ended his response by attacking those who had raised concerns and accusing them of being out to harm Alba.  That was more than a little unfair given that some of those people were very senior party members and even former NEC members.  But subsequently there seemed to be a concerted effort on social media to get them shouted down as enemies of the party.

This is all a bit silly, because the reality is that it is highly unusual to suddenly void elections when everyone is sitting in the conference hall waiting to hear the results.  It's highly unusual to suddenly cancel an election that everyone is sitting there waiting to vote in.  And it's highly unusual to keep an election result secret.  In such genuinely strange circumstances, you can quite rightly expect to be asked questions about what the hell is going on, and the best thing to do is just chill out and answer those questions as transparently as you can, rather than getting all passive-aggressive about being challenged.

There are all sorts of claims and counter-claims flying around about the conduct of the elections, and it's very difficult to know who to believe.  But there are two points in particular that still trouble me.  Firstly, did anyone know what the results of the original office bearer elections were before they were voided?  If so, there's a theoretical danger that the decision to void may have been influenced by the identities of the winners.  (I have no personal axe to grind there, because I would guess I almost certainly did better in the re-run version of the Membership Support Convener election in December than I did in the original in October.) And secondly, if it's true that the NEC results had to be kept secret for data protection reasons, why was the same not the case in the previous two years, when the results were published without any difficulty?  There may well be perfectly simple and reasonable answers to these questions, but to the best of my knowledge we haven't heard any yet.

To avoid continuing alienating members in the way that's been happening, Alba need a bit less authoritarianism and a bit more transparency.  To be fair, the same could be said for most political parties, but it's been very much Alba's turn to struggle with these issues in recent months.  As regular readers will know, I was recently elected to a working group that is reviewing the Alba constitution.  For confidentiality reasons I can't give a running commentary on the progress of that, but let's hope that in a year or two we have a reformed party which is more comfortable in its own skin, and where everyone feels their voice is heard and valued.  We should expect nothing less from an exciting new party which ought to be blazing a trail for internal democracy and transparency, rather than slipping straight back into the bad habits of the much older party its members broke away from three years ago.

Friday, February 23, 2024

WINGS-WATCH: No, "Victory to Palestine" does not imply the destruction of Israel

It's been a long time since I last did a 'Wings-Watch' fact-checking post, and I can't deny I'm surprised to find myself doing one about a Wings post full of pro-Israeli government talking points in the midst of the ongoing genocide, but then Mr Campbell is often the champion of unpopular causes (most notably the Conservative party, the anti-Gaelic lobby and the people who think Liverpool fans were to blame for the Hillsborough disaster).

Basically what he's trying to claim this time is that Ross Greer is an antisemite who seeks the total destruction of Israel because he used the words "Victory to Palestine".  This requires several stages of convoluted logical gymnastics, and some of them are rooted in outright factual inaccuracies.

Campbell claims that Greer's support for Palestine must mean that he's siding with Hamas, because "Palestine has no traditional armed forces, and in so far as it has a government, that government is also Hamas".  Not true.  If he was referring only to Gaza he'd have a point, but Gaza is only one part of the Palestinian territories.  The other part is the West Bank, which is slightly bigger in population terms and much bigger geographically.  The autonomous parts of the West Bank are governed by Fatah, not Hamas.

Campbell goes on to make a variant of the same false claim when he says: "What else could “Victory to Palestine” possibly entail? The closest thing it has to a legitimate government is Hamas". Rubbish.  The most obvious way in which 'legitimacy' is conferred is by international recognition, and Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah is universally recognised as the President of the Palestinian National Authority.  Around two-thirds of the world's countries also recognise him as President of the sovereign State of Palestine.  If Campbell is talking about democratic legitimacy, it's a score draw between Fatah and Hamas, because Fatah won the last presidential election and Hamas won the last parliamentary election.  But both of those elections were an eternity ago, and the terms of office have long since expired.  So neither government can really claim to be 'elected' as of right now.

Having tried and completely failed to establish that Greer's support for Palestine must mean support for Hamas, Campbell ploughs on regardless by claiming that the supposed support for Hamas must also mean that Greer wants the destruction of Israel, because "Hamas’ policy is unambiguous and unequivocal: the only acceptable resolution to the conflict is the complete obliteration of Israel".  Curiously, though, the screenshot Campbell offers in support of this claim doesn't explicitly say any such thing, and if you read Wikipedia's article about Hamas, you'll find that there is scholarly disagreement over whether they still want to destroy Israel or whether their goal is now a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 boundaries.

Campbell further claims (and I think this is probably getting to the point where his words may be 'actionable') that Greer must regard the Jewish people of Israel as "sub-human", with a strong implication that he does so in a similar way that the Nazis looked upon the Jewish peoples within Europe.  The justification here is that Greer said a victory for Palestine would be a "victory to humanity", which Campbell claims must be placing Israelis outside the concept of humanity, because he cannot conceive of any victory for Palestine that doesn't entail Israel's annihilation.  But as I've demonstrated, one and possibly both of Palestine's governments support the continued existence of Israel within a two-state framework, so "victory to Palestine" could very well just mean the ending of the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, thus leaving plenty of room for Israelis within the concept of humanity.

Campbell's blogpost really is a dire and wretched thing, and I suspect some of his regular readers are going to be dismayed and bewildered that he seems to be calling into question the appropriateness of referring to Israel's actions as "genocide", even after the International Court of Justice ruled that genocide may plausibly be happening.  They will also be disturbed that Campbell shares the Netanyahu view that it is impossible to support Palestine without supporting Hamas, and that expressing support for Palestine should therefore be illegal (he specifically calls for Greer to be prosecuted).  I suspect there might be a touch of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" in all of this, but when your disdain for the unimportant Green MSP Ross Greer (which I share, incidentally) leads you to offer a degree of support for the worldview of the genocidal Netanyahu regime, it's just possible you may have lost a touch of perspective somewhere along the way.

The autumn of the wrong side of history

Probably a betting person would say Lindsay Hoyle is still likely to cling on to his job, but from a historical perspective he's now become one of the very few Speakers who does/did not enjoy more or less universal support and respect among MPs.  I suspect it will bother him greatly that several dozen MPs have openly called for him to go.  In his quieter moments he must wonder if he would be on firmer ground today if he hadn't made the bizarre decision to visit Israel in November with the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, described in her Wikipedia biography as a "far right diplomat".

But there are any number of people who would be on stronger ground now if they hadn't said and done some very strange things back in the autumn.  I've gone back and taken a look at an article put out by the Spectator on 15th October entitled 'Ireland's disgusting response to the Israel attack'.  What was so disgusting about Ireland's response?  Basically a number of tweets by random people (which of course the Irish government had no control over) and Leo Varadkar urging the Israelis to act responsibly.  The bastard.  What you're about to read are genuine quotes from the Spectator.  They are not a parody.

"Rather than offering unequivocal support and succour to the Israeli people, he began scolding them and stood up in the Dail to warn that any response ‘must be proportionate’...What does that even mean? More than a thousand Israelis have been slaughtered. Young women were raped over the bodies of their dead friends. Holocaust survivors have been kidnapped and brought to Gaza as human shields (or worse) and 260 children who were attending a rave in the desert were brutally slaughtered and defiled. And Varadkar is worried about a disproportionate response?...To make matters worse, Varadkar warned the Israelis that they would quickly lose international solidarity if they went ‘too far’...Varadkar then slammed Israel for cutting off water and electricity to the Gaza Strip, saying: ‘To me, it amounts to collective punishment. Cutting off power, cutting off fuel supplies and water supplies, that’s not the way a respectable democratic state should conduct itself.’...The sickening scenes in the Dail continued throughout the week. Mary Lou McDonald, head of Sinn Fein, ludicrously called for an immediate cease fire."

Can anyone doubt in retrospect that Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald had it completely right and the Spectator had it completely wrong?  You'd be forgiven for thinking from the text above that the scale of the 7th October attack by Hamas somehow made it arithmetically impossible for any Israeli response to be disproportionate, and yet here we are, only a few months on, and at least 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel - around thirty times the number of Israelis killed by Hamas in October.  At least 12,000 Palestinian children have been killed, around thirty-three times the number of Israelis killed at the music festival.

And it's not as if Varadkar needed any special foresight to know that Israel was likely to go much too far unless it was pre-emptively reined in by the international community.  Time and again over decades we've seen that Israeli responses to attacks have been crazily disproportionate and have ended up causing ten, twenty, thirty times as many civilian deaths as the original attacks.  It was entirely rational in October to be largely preoccupied with the unspeakable horrors the innocent Palestinian civilian population was about to face - unless of course you're a Spectator columnist who thinks one Israeli life is worth as much as one hundred Palestinian lives, as in fairness most Spectator columnists probably do.

With the benefit of hindsight, the few western leaders who got the tone spot-on by extending huge sympathy to Israel but warning that there could be no blank cheque for revenge attacks do not look like the "disgusting" ones.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Stephen Flynn comes of age by standing up to a corrupt Commons Speaker - so will the next SNP leadership contest boil down to Forbes v Flynn?

One thing that's been fascinating on political Twitter over recent hours is how Stephen Flynn has almost overnight become a hate figure for right-wing English Labour activists.  They suddenly can't bear the sight of him or the sound of his voice, and they're trying to convince themselves that the public are viewing him in the same way.  Of course the reason English Labour people hate him is exactly the same reason he's shot up in the estimation of Scottish independence supporters.  The raw anger he displayed at the corruption of the Speaker and the disregarding of the rights of Scotland's elected representatives, and his courage in telling Lindsay Hoyle to his face that it's time to go, is exactly the sort of thing many Yessers have been crying out for from the SNP at Westminster for years.

Until the events of yesterday, Flynn was at best on the fringes of contention for the next SNP leadership election.  But by turning himself into something of a folk hero, I wonder if he might now have given himself a genuine chance - if he actually decides to throw his hat in the ring, of course, which is far from certain given the awkwardness of running for leader as a non-MSP.  If he does have a crack at it, he'll presumably have to nominate someone else to be a temporary First Minister for however long it takes him to get a Holyrood seat, which is far from ideal and would doubtless be used by his opponents as an argument against voting for him.

Personally, I'm not sure he's the right person to be leader, because from the second-hand information we've heard from journalists about the strategic differences between himself and Yousaf, I actually think he's even further away from being right than Yousaf is.  He seems even keener than Yousaf on de-emphasising independence, which is not the way to win elections for the SNP and is self-evidently not going to help bring independence any closer.  

In a strange way, though, I might welcome it if the next leadership contest boils down to a straight choice between Flynn and Kate Forbes, because that might mean that the Sturgeon Faction's fight to retain total control of the party will be lost before the votes are even counted.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression of Flynn is that he wouldn't be an out-and-out change candidate like Ms Forbes, but neither would he be a Continuity Sturgeon candidate like Yousaf or Mairi McAllan or Angus Robertson - he'd be ambiguously somewhere in between those two concepts.  So even if he defeats Forbes (and I suspect she'd be more likely to defeat him), there'd be a much-needed break with the Sturgeon era and a move towards something new.

Rule Britannia, Britannia waives the rules - in the light of yesterday's events, here are some thoughts on the question of abstentionism

We all know the rules are rigged against Scotland within "Our Pwecious Union" and the Palace of Westminster, but at least those long-standing rules are normally adhered to when we're being shafted.  That's what made yesterday so unusual - even the rigged rules weren't enough for our imperial masters in the Labour party, so Keir Starmer told Lindsay Hoyle to change the rules just for him, Hoyle said "yeah OK", and there was nothing the SNP or anyone else could do about it.  We might as well have been living in East Germany.

Understandably, many independence supporters have reacted to yesterday's events by saying "if that's how the SNP are going to be treated at Westminster, what's the point of them even being there", which raises the issue of abstentionism - ie. that pro-independence parties should follow the example of Sinn Féin by standing for election to Westminster but not taking up their seats if elected.  I'll just reiterate what I've said in the past, which is that withdrawal from Westminster may at some point have a part to play in winning independence, but that differs from abstentionism because it's a card you play once and only in specific circumstances.

I don't think blanket abstentionism would work in the Scottish context, simply because it would prevent pro-independence MPs from being elected in the first place.  Unionist parties would ask the killer question "if they're not going to bother to do the work and represent you as their constituents, why would you vote for them?" And Labour would also be able to point out that voting for an abstentionist party makes a Tory government more likely.  "Only Labour will protect Scotland from Tory rule" would become a more accurate slogan than it is now.

By contrast, withdrawal from Westminster could be an effective tactic, but only after an outright mandate for independence has been secured, perhaps by means of using the 2026 Holyrood election as a de facto referendum.  At that point it would be much easier to justify to voters, because there would be a specific reason for it.  If the UK government refuse to acknowledge the independence mandate, withdrawing Scottish MPs could provide the leverage necessary to bring London to the negotiating table.  Scotland going unrepresented in the UK Parliament would be regarded as a constitutional crisis that would have to be resolved one way or another.  However, that card can only be played when the time comes if pro-independence MPs make up a clear majority of Scottish seats at Westminster, as they do now and as they have done since 2015, but as they may no longer do after this year's general election.  That's one of the reasons why I'm so concerned about pro-independence parties standing against each other and splitting the Yes vote, and about Yes supporters threatening to spoil their ballot.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

What is worse: that Labour blackmailed the Commons Speaker into breaking the rules, that the Speaker proved so easily susceptible to blackmail, or that Labour then openly boasted to journalists about having successfully blackmailed him?

This is what I don't understand about the Labour Party.  They apparently today successfully blackmailed the Speaker of the House of Commons into ripping up decades of precedent by selecting a Labour amendment on the SNP ceasefire motion.  The success of their bully-boy tactics should have been against the odds, because most Speakers down the years would have been resistant to blackmail, but we all know exactly who and what Lindsay Hoyle is - he's a weak man who overcompensates by shouting hysterically, with small-minded preoccupations mostly concerning his own career, and with not a shred of integrity.  But the whole point of Labour going to these extraordinary lengths was to save face, and to be able to turn the tables on the SNP (as the likes of Michael Shanks tried to do) by saying "ah, your reaction to the Labour amendment being selected shows that this was always about politics for you and about putting Labour in an awkward spot".

Those advantages of getting the Speaker to do their bidding have been completely blown out of the water simply because they apparently walked up to Nicholas Watt and boasted that they had threatened Hoyle and he had buckled.  Watt then naturally immediately told the world what had happened.  How does this make any sense?  You go to extraordinary lengths to improve the optics of a difficult situation and then just voluntarily show yourselves up as thugs.  Ironically, it's reminiscent of the IDF's own behaviour - although it makes no sense to be sharing footage of themselves torturing civilians or selfies of themselves riding the children's bikes they've looted, they can't seem to help themselves, because they're actually proud of how skilled they are as bullies, and want to show off that skill.  It's who they are, it's what they do.  Ditto for Labour.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Peston was wrong: Labour MPs will yet again be whipped to abstain if the SNP's ceasefire motion goes to a vote

So the premise of my previous post turned out to be wrong, although in fairness to myself that was only because Robert Peston's sources proved to be wrong.  Keir Starmer and Labour will in fact not support the SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire, and will instead once again abstain unless their own amendment is passed, which would remove the call for Israel to stop the collective punishment of Palestinians, and would render the call for an immediate ceasefire rather hollow by adding an absurd line about Israel having the right to carry on with the violence if Hamas don't stop.  There's also a statement about Israel having the right to be free of any threat of a repeat of 7th October, but notably not a trace of any balancing language about the Palestinians having the right to be free of any repeat of the events since 7th October, or about Palestinians having the right to carry on with the violence if Israel don't stop attacking them.  I trust the SNP will not be remotely tempted to "compromise" on such an outrageous basis.

Much will now depend on whether the amendment passes, because if it does, there will be no proper vote on the actual text of the SNP motion, merely on the motion as amended.  That would be a very frustrating outcome, although from my vague recollection of Commons procedure, there may be a chance the Labour amendment won't even be selected by the Speaker - sometimes one amendment is selected and that's a government amendment, so the Tories may determine what happens.  If the Labour amendment does pass, it's really important that the SNP win the battle of competing narratives and make it abundantly clear that Labour weaseled out of a meaningful call for an unconditional stop to the violence.

Luke Akehurst of "Labour for Likud" will still be fuming regardless of what happens, though, because even the Labour amendment uses antisemitic language like "ceasefire" and "immediate".

*  *  *

On this blog and on pretty much any blog where opinion polling is discussed, the subject of the famous Yes Minister scene about polling will inevitably come up from time to time, because it's such a compelling demonstration of how poll results can be manipulated.  Sir Humphrey uses Bernard as "the perfect balanced sample" to show how the same respondents will both support and oppose the reintroduction of National Service, depending on how they've just been primed by four preceding leading questions.  As a bit of fun, Ipsos have just polled two Britain-wide samples using Sir Humphrey's exact questions to see if he was right, and what's fascinating is that they very nearly proved him wrong.  It would have been a bit irritating if they had done, because the beloved scene would have seemed somewhat tarnished as a result! 

By a narrow margin of 45% to 38%, Britons support National Service after being led along the positive question sequence, and oppose National Service by 48% to 34% after being led along the negative question sequence.  So Sir Humphrey was right, but only just, and it turns out that impressively high numbers of respondents are resistant to leading question wording.  They must have a stronger sense of self than Bernard Woolley.

SNP's Gaza motion opens up fascinating rift between Keir Starmer and "Likud's man on the Labour NEC" Luke Akehurst

As I said the other day, although the SNP under Humza Yousaf's leadership have made any number of missteps and will probably continue to do so, we have to give them credit where it's due, and their stance on Gaza has been correct from both a moral and strategic perspective.  By tabling the Commons motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, they have practically put themselves in a win/win situation.  If Starmer once again orders his MPs to abstain on the motion, the SNP will expose his moral bankruptcy and potentially cost Labour votes among left-wing parts of the electorate, while also sowing further division and discontent within Labour's own ranks.  But if Starmer accepts the SNP motion, it will be a solid step towards increasing international pressure on Israel to stop the killings, and the SNP will be seen to have taken the lead on that.

If Robert Peston is correct, it looks like the latter is the more probable outcome at the moment, although it's important to stress that the text of the motion offers Starmer no alibi at all.  Although it calls for Hamas to immediately release the hostages, as any decent person would want them to do, it makes clear that this is a "further call" - ie. it's not tied to the motion's central call for an immediate ceasefire and is thus not some sort of proviso or caveat that would get Israel off the hook and imply that no-one expects them to stop murdering Palestinians until the hostages are free.  That's important, because to state the bleedin' obvious, Palestinian civilians have no control over whether Hamas release the hostages or not, and they will need to be protected from Israel regardless of whether the hostages are released or not.

By backing the motion, Starmer would also be explicitly endorsing a call for Israel to end the collective punishment of Palestinians, and by extension accepting the premise that collective punishment has been occurring.  That's going to be a very difficult pill to swallow for Israel's apologists within Labour, even those who think Keir Starmer is simply fabulous.  We've already seen an expression of pain from Luke Akehurst, a Robespierre-like hardcore Starmerite who has been spearheading executions and punishment beatings (figuratively speaking) as shameless acts of revenge for the Corbyn years.  He's also known as "Likud's man on the Labour NEC", although it would be naive to think Likud only have one de facto representative on that body.

If Akehurst can't even cope with Labour backing a ceasefire of any sort, let alone an immediate and unconditional one, he may lose the plot completely if Labour support an end to Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians.  A rift between Starmer and Akehurst would be a fascinating and positive by-product of the SNP's decision to force this vote.

Monday, February 19, 2024

What is genocide?

Like many of you, I've occasionally had exchanges on social media over the last few months with Israeli sympathisers who innocently claim to be bewildered and deeply offended by any suggestion that Israel is perpetrating a genocide in Gaza.  But these people, whether they realise it or not, rarely agree with each other on the exact reason they offer for what is happening not being a genocide, which may be a clue that they're not on the firmest of ground.  By far the weakest argument I've encountered is that a genocide is the destruction of a whole people, and because Israel isn't doing that, it can't possibly be committing a genocide. But in fact the UN's definition of genocide is much broader than that - 

"a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part"

Which is why the ICJ had no difficulty in stating that there were plausible grounds for believing genocide was taking place.  Even Hitler didn't kill the entirety of Europe's Jewish population - he killed just under two-thirds.  The current claimed death toll of Palestinians in Gaza since October is just under 30,000, which is almost certainly a massive underestimate.  The population of Gaza is around 2.4 million, and the population of the wider Palestinian territories is around 4.8 million (excluding residents of the illegal Israeli settlements).  That means if the target population for genocide is considered to be Palestinians as a whole, a minimum of 0.6% have been killed so far, and if the target population is considered to be Palestinians specifically in Gaza, a minimum of 1.2% have already been killed.  There comes a point where that can be considered a non-trivial "part" of the overall ethnic group, especially when no end to the killings is in sight and the numbers can only vastly increase, especially due to man-made (ie. Israeli-made) starvation.

But if the governor of New York had her way, Israel would already have taken the genocide much, much further.  Kathy Hochul said this - 

"If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I'm sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day"

On that analogy, she thinks Israel should have totally annihilated all 2.4 million people in Gaza, and possibly all 4.8 million people in the State of Palestine, on 8th October.  Presumably this would have had to be done with nuclear weapons, because there is no other realistic way of destroying an entire ethnic group of millions in a single day.  To make the analogy more exact, of course, she would have to assume that Canada's attack on Buffalo was in retaliation for decades of US military occupation of Canada, which would mean under international law that the Canadians have a right to self-defence against the US, but the US do not have a right to self-defence against the occupied peoples.  That does not imply what Hamas did on 7th October was a legitimate form of self-defence, but it does mean that Israel haven't got a leg to stand on in suggesting that mass killings and mass destruction of infrastructure are a legal self-defence response to the events of 7th October, because they quite simply have no legal right to self-defence in Gaza at all.

Ms Hochul is, grotesquely, not a gun-toting Republican nutjob, but an elected Democratic Party governor in one of America's supposedly most liberal states.  And yet she not only cheerleads for genocide but thinks it hasn't gone anything like far enough yet. As long-term readers of this blog may remember, I have a vote in US presidential elections, and it's been an almighty struggle to find a Democratic primary candidate who has even a vaguely human stance on the Gaza conflict.  There was a Congressman who I agreed with on almost every policy, but when I got to his view on Israel/Palestine, I discovered that he thinks it's all the fault of the dastardly Arabs and everything would be as right as rain if they would just leave poor old Israel alone (ahem).  To my relief, I did eventually find a candidate who is standing on an explicit pitch of stopping the war and ending arms supplies to Israel.

As there are suggestions that Keir Starmer would like the SNP to change their pro-ceasefire Commons motion so he can allow Labour to vote for it, could I urge the SNP to stand firm and refuse any request to remove the words "immediate ceasefire" or to put any conditions at all on the immediacy.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

SNP motion on a Gaza ceasefire will flush out Starmer - and possibly expose Scottish Labour's sham autonomy

Credit where credit is due to the SNP under the Yousaf leadership - I don't know how much influence Fiona Robertson and her ilk still have within the party, but it at least appears to have its limits.  Back during the Grouse Beater and Neale Hanvey controversies, which both took place when Robertson was strutting around as if being Equalities Convener meant she owned the place, she sent out the absolutist/absurdist stricture that any minority group gets to define entirely for itself what constitutes bigotry towards it.  If that was still the SNP's approach as far as the question of antisemitism is concerned, they would currently be tying themselves up in knots in exactly the manner Starmer and co are, and refusing to condemn a far-right Israeli government for mass-killing Palestinian civilians on the grounds that all meaningful criticisms of Israel are a form of antisemitism.

Instead, they're taking the correct stance on Gaza from both a moral and strategic perspective.  By forcing a Commons vote on a ceasefire in November, they caused carnage within Labour due to a number of frontbenchers defying Starmer's instruction to abstain, and then inevitably resigning or being sacked.  By forcing another vote now, the SNP will flush Starmer out - have the horrors of recent weeks really made no difference to his refusal to unconditionally back an immediate ceasefire?

And if the answer to that question turns out to be "yes", the SNP will probably also be able to expose the sham autonomy of the Scottish Labour party.  The two Scottish Labour MPs, Ian Murray and Michael Shanks, both slavishly followed the London Labour whip in November and did not vote for a ceasefire.  If they do the same thing this time, the political consequences will be more severe, because they will not only be defying public opinion in Scotland, but also the express will of the Scottish Labour conference, which has just voted in favour of an immediate ceasefire.  There could hardly be a more vivid demonstration that Scottish Labour MPs will always be Starmer's men and women in Scotland, rather than Scotland's voices (or even Scottish Labour's voices for that matter) within a Labour government.