1. Play it again Sam – despite all the big billing for Gordon Brown’s “re-entry” speech, the points he made were not detailed, precise or new. In a speech at the Edin Bookfest in August 2012 Gordon first said Scotland was stronger pooling resources with the rest of the UK and a week later at the festival of politics 2012 he warned of a ‘race to the bottom’, where social conditions would differ across the various parts of Britain. That’s nine months since we first/last heard all of this and no real advance. How on earth did all the press (including me) forget we’d already had Gordon’s re-entry to the indyref debate last year?? Maybe, it was so un-momentous and easy to forget? Maybe we accord far too much air time to Big Old Boys on the basis of status (whatever that actually is for a political leader with such a chequered career). Either way it’s genuinely disappointing a guy who could easily have brought big new dimensions into the indy debate didn’t bother. Instead – banging on about his Scottish credentials when no-one was questioning them – Broon sounded like an occasional visitor to Scotland drawing attention to his OWN preference for a career at Westminster not Holyrood.
2. Further devolution or not? In an interview with Bernard Ponsonby, Brown hinted of further devolution but wouldn’t specify. He talked about fiscal autonomy (which he opposes) and fiscal equalisation (or pooling resources) which he supports. But what is fiscal equalisation apart from the status quo where a devolved parliament relies on handouts from the centre instead of raising and being responsible for its own tax and spend policy? I’d love to have asked fellow Scotland Tonight guest Simon Pia for a definition of fiscal equalisation.
3. There is no #unitedwithlabour website – just a hard to find via google page on the Scottish Labour website. There’s a You tube film there with 233 views when I looked which talked a lot about Labour’s role in setting up the NHS, post war housing etc. It’s very back to the future, slightly sentimental and general. Of course this is also true of some SNP/Yes stuff. But since there is just ONE video representing the direction of this new group it needed to be stronger. Also where was Alistair Darling at the United with Labour launch? I cant be bothered with personality politics and so didn’t raise the point in the limited time we had last night. But these two guys don’t talk since Darling criticised Brown in memoirs Back from the Brink saying the former PM could be “brutal and volcanic” and had released “attack dogs” on him for daring to warn the coming recession would be the worst for 60 years. It makes you wonder why others should unite with labour if these two cabinet minister colleagues can’t bury the hatchet. What indeed is the whole rushed #unitedwithlabour project about? It’s not as if #bettertogether is so full of Tories that it actively poses a real headache for Labour members. You sometimes wonder if Alistair Darling is the only spokesperson bettertogether has. Surely one truly beefy campaign is better(together) than two?
4. Gordon talked about “equal rights for everyone no matter which community you live in” within the UK – wot about the overheated south versus the economically baltic north? According to analysts Wealth Insight – quoted by the FT last week -- London has a quarter of a million dollar millionaires – that’s 1 in 29 Londoners! Yes – that’s amazing. Development in London is going on apace (Crossrail is biggest construction job in UK tho to be fair new Forth Crossing is 2nd biggest) – so it seems like the Crucible of the financial crisis is getting the lion’s share of the economic growth. This is a deep seated flaw in the over-centralised UK economic model that damages the north of England probably more than Scotland. House prices in top London districts are rising by £27 every hour of the day and night so outsiders haven’t a hope in hell of affording to move down and cash in. Without a proper regional policy across the whole of the UK (England must be Europe’s most centralised state) how can there be “equal rights for everyone no matter which community you live in” as Gordon Brown claims?
5. This is not just to lay into Broon. 2/3s of Scots want the two governments to negotiate (fat chance) the campaign leaders debate directly with one another asap (fat chance) and TV and radio to broadcast as much lively but non-partisan opinion as possible (some chance but not fast). Any chance of that both sides or will Alex Salmond just hang out for another year to get a gig with David Cameron?
6. So that’s it – no more free passes for Broon just cos he was once a Prime Minister. No more smiling politely while he gives another repeat performance. Opinion polls suggest Scots currently back the union, so the lack of dynamism and vision from the likely “winners” in 2014 is just too depressing. Must do bettertogether