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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Sun Sep 6, 2009, 11:57 PM
Number of posts: 5,023

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"Scottish Labour: Inside the campaign from hell"

A (Scottish) Sunday Herald article looks at some of the dysfunction within Scottish Labour's campaign (Reddit link as the Herald article's paywalled - they also didn't deliver to my local shop today, drat). I'm sure there's a lot more to come out, but much of the focus is inevitably on Jim Murphy:

One colleague, explaining Murphy's approach to the media, said: "He once told me he was not bothered about the words in newspapers, just the pictures, and how he looked on TV."

During the campaign, some of Murphy's supporters were taken aback by his obsession with how he looked in the tabloids: how big the photograph was; and whether he came across better than Nicola Sturgeon. He was said to have been driven mad by the exposure given to Sturgeon - particularly after the first leaders' debate involving Miliband and David Cameron - and was grumpy when a daft photo of him emerged in the media. One senior party figure said he didn't know if Murphy was campaigning for office, or for "the front page of Vogue". Members of Murphy's team admired his energy, but were bemused by his vanity. They were irked by his bad habit of pulling stupid faces in photo-shoots and grew weary of his incessant football references. He stopped dying his hair, but only reluctantly. The flip-flop campaign strategy was believed to be another reflection of Murphy's shallowness.


Meanwhile, McTernan appeared to revel in his status as Murphy's top dog. Under Johann Lamont, the then general secretary Ian Price had occupied the sole private office in the party's Bath Street headquarters. With Murphy in charge, McTernan got the office, while new general secretary Brian Roy used a desk in the open-plan area. McTernan was also unpopular among some colleagues at Holyrood and acquired a reputation for making bold statements that were rarely borne out by reality. It was said he claimed that Sturgeon would struggle in the first UK leaders' debate, and announced that an event by Gordon Brown in Margaret Curran's constituency would have a big effect on the campaign. In the end, Sturgeon shone in London and the Brown press conference sank without trace. One source said McTernan had two modes: nice guy or wannabe Malcolm Tucker.

As the polls refused to budge, other grievances developed. Deputy leader Kezia Dugdale was said to have been under-used, as was senior MSP James Kelly, and Murphy's shadow cabinet was deemed to be a paper-body subordinate to his well-paid helpers.


Labour also suffered from tension between candidates in the scramble for scarce election cash. In most campaigns, Scottish political parties prioritise a handful of constituencies; this time, Labour was faced with protecting all of its seats.

Roy, to his credit, produced an incentives-based plan that rewarded effort with resources. If a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) met voter contact rates, extra leaflets would follow. According to documents seen by this newspaper, the Roy plan flushed out the grafters from the slackers. In early February, East Lothian CLP had made 1,547 voter contacts. Other CLPs were in single digits. Some seats naturally fell off the radar at Labour headquarters, but in the latter stages of the campaign insiders believed favouritism trumped effort as resources were diverted to the established "sons and daughters" - code for Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran, the latter of whom was believed to be an undeserving resource-hogger.


I expect Murphy to be gone within the week. He's mainly hanging on now in the hope of negotiating a secure regional list slot in the 2016 Holyrood elections (oh Christ, another election ...).

The fight for the "real left" with Scottish Labour is something Labour has long abandoned.

Labour lost me before Blair took office (I was a CLP member), and confirmed me in my decision through its embrace of Thatcherism, its turnabout on nuclear weapons, its conduct over Iraq, and its abandonment of a commitment to social values I hold dear, among a number of other things.

The SNP moved leftward under Salmond over the years (he held the leadership twice), and Sturgeon's politics are to the left of his. She's been in leadership now approaching just 200 days. She has a wider and more enthusiastic following in Scotland than Salmond ever did (his appeal among women in the electorate was never that strong), though he's rightly regarded as a political phenomenon of his generation. The transition in power between the two couldn't have been smoother, or in retrospect, better timed.

Old loyalties die hard, and few harder than the old tribal loyalty to the Labour Party in its Scottish heartlands. But since the referendum last year, many Labour members and voters have deserted the party, not just for the SNP, but primarily so. They just took longer to jump ship than I did. Labour's membership in Scotland is now reputedly in the low thousands (I say reputedly because they refuse to make the number public), while the SNP's has swollen to 105,000 and counting. The effects of that influx have yet to be fully felt, but it's likely to see a cementing of the leftward trend. It may also see healthy intra-party conflict, and it'll be a test of the SNP leadership how well it harnesses that energy.

I've no idea what you mean by "identity politics." The whole thrust of the SNP's modern incarnation is civic nationalism, not ethnic nationalism. If you're settled in Scotland, you're as much a part of the polity as anyone else, no matter your background.

Labour took its voters for granted. For too many years, especially after the advent of New Labour, issues that Scottish constituency parties wanted prioritized in the party platform had to be sidelined because "the South East of England won't wear it." It's gotten worse as Labour's tacked right with the Tories to appease UKIP on certain issues such as immigration, and it's hard to see how they can cede any more ground on "austerity" and privatization. I'd obviously prefer to see Labour in power than the Tories, but it's not a particularly stark choice nowadays, despite Miliband being, on paper at least, more leftish than recent Labour leaders.

Scotland provided Labour with a reliable supply of lobby fodder for the best part of a century, and often got little to show for it in return. The setting up of the Scottish Assembly was intended to bring about the demise of the SNP, and its PR voting system was structured specifically to prevent one party (particularly the SNP) gaining an outright majority. This was confounded when the SNP did just that in the last Holyrood elections.

The old joke about a dog with a Labour rosette being able to win a seat in many constituencies wasn't too far from the truth when I was active in the party. This has come to bite them in the ass.

In the 2010 general election, the SNP suffered from being squeezed by a massive tactical vote by people desperate to stop the Tories taking power (I tactically voted Lib Dem for my sins, as the second-placed candidate in our constituency was a Tory - never with an inkling that would fuel an alliance with the Conservatives, of course). For too long, Labour barely had to work for votes in its heartlands, and now, with the massive swing to the SNP in the polls, it doesn't have reliable data from the previous campaign to base its canvassing on, and has so few activists left that in places it's reduced to shipping them up from England to chap on doors.

And now today we see Jim Murphy, the (Henry Jackson Society member, Blairite) leader of the Scottish Labour Party, having spent the months since his election as the "safe" right-wing candidate for that post declaring how independent Scottish Labour was from Labour in the rest of the UK, and just the other day in a leaders' debate boldly declaring that there would be no funding cuts in Scotland if Labour took power, being publicly contradicted and humiliated by Labour's Chuka Umunna in an interview with Andrew Neil, pointing out that Murphy can promise whatever he wants, but he won't be drawing up any Labour goverment's budget.

It's taken me a long time. I've voted SNP in the past - over the years since I abandoned Labour, I've voted Green, SNP, Scottish Socialist Party, and Lib Dem in various elections (one of the benefits of our Holyrood electoral system is you get two bites of the cherry - a direct candidate vote and a regional list vote, so you can mix and match depending on the appeal of an individual candidate and what representation you'd like to see in the Scottish Parliament). But this election, we've a very good SNP candidate in my constituency whom I'll have no qualms in voting for.

How it all pans out if a sizable bloc of SNP MPs hits Westminster, I've no idea. None of the other parties in contention have left me any alternative (the Greens have a way to go in our area before they're contenders, but I hope they'll do as well as can be expected under first past the post).

I've said it before, but I think it's almost impossible to gauge what's been going on politically in Scotland recently without living here. The media's portrayal is so warped that it's unbelievable (at least a few of the Guardian's columnists have recently stopped being so damn stupid about events up here, but their editorial line still stinks), and in Scotland that largely translates to being Labour mouthpieces.

In the referendum, no broadcast media and only one newspaper, The Sunday Herald, supported the Yes campaign (we've since had a new independence-supporting newspaper, The National, emerge, which has a way to go, but is a healthy antidote to the tired older media). Those allegiances have been transferred to the current election, the split being focused on Labour/SNP, with some of the right-leaning papers offering lukewarm support for the Tories up here, but generally being skewed that way in their coverage anyhow.

It's remarkable that such a political transformation has taken place with so little backing, or even honest reporting in a lot of cases, from the MSM.

Actor Michael Sheen gives powerful speech in defense of NHS and against austerity

Speaking at a "People's March for the NHS" rally in Tredegar, South Wales on St. David's Day, he invokes the memory and passion of Nye Bevan:

When people are too scared to say what they really mean, when they're too careful to speak from their hearts, when integrity is too much of a risk, it's no surprise that people feel disengaged with politics. There is never an excuse to not speak up for what you think is right. You must stand up for what you believe, but first of all, by God, believe in something.

Full transcript here: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/mar/02/full-text-of-michael-sheens-speech

Fuller video of speech here (won't embed): http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/mar/02/michael-sheen-defends-nhs-against-bland-politicians?CMP=share_btn_tw

Andrew Marr Interviews Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Marr introduced this interview on Sunday as a chance for people outside Scotland (a.k.a. "the rest of the UK" to get to know Sturgeon, whose SNP members of parliament may or may not play a pivotal role after the General Election.

Fox "Terrorism Expert" Steve Emerson Says Listening to His Own Words Is "Like Waterboarding"

Steve Emerson, Fox's "terrorism expert" who's been ridiculed mercilessly, along with Fox News, on the Twitter hashtag #FOXNEWSFACTS and by UK Prime Minister David Cameron for his claims that the UK city of Birmingham is "totally Muslim," is at it again.

He went on Sky News to apologize for his earlier remarks. It ... didn't go so well.

Steven Emerson, Fox News pundit and "terrorism expert", has likened listening back to his incorrect comments on Birmingham as "like waterboarding" in another gaffe today.

While speaking on Sky News Mr Emerson apologised for his "inexcusable error" after he described Birmingham as a city that non-Muslims "simply don't go" into, but then caused further controversy by saying "hearing it over when you played it was like waterboarding I guess".

When it was mentioned that some people may find that analogy offensive Mr Emerson replied "I didn't mean to offend anyone...I deserved to have experienced the pain of listening to it over again".

(Original article plus video here (warning: autoplay ad): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11341426/Fox-News-terror-expert-Listening-back-Birmingham-Muslim-error-like-waterboarding.html )

Video with no ad here: http://news.sky.com/story/1406714/fox-commentator-gaffe-like-waterboarding

He also claimed to have received numerous death threats. I've no idea whether that's another of those #FOXNEWSFACTS.

I always find it fascinating looking at this readout of what's happening on the UK electricity grid


It shows everything practically in real time, including the European interconnectors that shunt power back and forth as supply and demand fluctuate. Hover over the dials for detailed explanations. It particularly shows the over-reliance on coal and gas, especially with so many nukes out of service at present. I don't know whether the US system is integrated enough to have a similar site available.

It has to be said that October was a pretty shitty month with periods of very high winds. Problems arise when we have large high pressure systems stalled over the UK in cold weather, meaning there's little if any wind and the windfarms lie idle. Onshore wind needs to be a stopgap while offshore and tidal/wave power systems are developed and deployed (some significant developments already under way there), which will help to fulfill the baseload needs and overcome the still-air/cold-weather deficit. We also need to use less electricity, of course ...

Now you've found at least temporary help, I'll point out that "single-payer" isn't a panacea.

For instance, under the UK NHS, stories about having problems accessing certain drugs and treatments similar to your family's aren't unheard of, though there the gatekeepers aren't insurance companies, but local health authorities. We've been discussing this in the UK forum here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10885614

In answer to a question from steve2470 about NHS medication coverage, muriel_volestrangler replied:

For most medications, there's a standard per prescription charge of 7.85

Various groups get free prescriptions, such as children, over 60s, pregnant women, and people on benefits. If you're getting a lot of prescriptions, you can pay for a period for all of them.


The controversy comes in because some medications are not covered by the NHS. NICE,the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, evaluates treatments such as drugs, and decides if they are effective enough for a type of treatment - an evaluation which considers the price to the NHS as well as the clinical effectiveness (and can also mean a drug is approved for some circumstances, but not others - it might be accepted as effective for one type of cancer, but still thought unproven for another, and so restricted to the first).


I replied:

Related to NICE's role that m_v's mentioned, there's also the pop phrase "postcode lottery."

See Google for its prevalence.

Basically, even if NICE approves a drug or treatment, if it's new and/or expensive, there's no guarantee a patient in a particular administrative area will be able to receive it, depending on the policies and priorities of their regional health authority.

You'll maybe notice if you visit that link that the term's especially popular with the UK's RW press as a means to pick away at the foundations of the NHS, but it's a real phenomenon, and here's a brief explanation from The Guardian (over ten years old, but not too inaccurate in principle):

What is the postcode lottery?
The postcode lottery is shorthand for seemingly random countrywide variations in the provision and quality of public services - the huge gap between the best and the rest. Where you live defines the standard of services you can expect. So if you live in the "wrong" area, and, in extreme cases, on the "wrong" side of a road, you may get a poorer service than your neighbour or you may not get the service at all and have to pay for it privately. The postcode lottery is a big issue in the NHS, where the gap between the rhetoric of a comprehensive and universal "national" service and the reality is increasingly stretched.

Some problems are universal, even with single payer healthcare systems (especially when they're subject to creeping and not so subtle privatization).

Problem Solution: Windows XP, svchost.exe using 99% CPU, very slow system

We encountered this problem the other day and the solution isn't obvious without some Googling, so I'm posting it here.

Symptoms: Your computer is running very slowly and networking may also be running at a snail's pace.

Confirmation: Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del to start up Task Manager. In the Processes tab, check out the CPU activity for svchost.exe. If it's running high, possibly even peaking or consistently at 99%, then you probably have this problem.

Solution: If you're running a version of Internet Explorer earlier than 8, update it, then apply security update KB2870699. (Even if you never use Internet Explorer as a browser, it's an integral part of Windows XP.)

How to do it: Since your computer is running so slowly, you're best to do this in Safe Mode with Networking, where your computer should run fairly normally.

To do this, reboot and keep hitting F6 until you see a screen that offers a range of boot options. Select Safe Mode with Networking.

Using either Internet Explorer or your usual browser, download IE 8 and install it. You can find it here:


or more directly from


After installation, your computer will ask to reboot. Let it do so.

You'll now be back in your usual Windows configuration. If your system's still running slowly, you may need to reboot into Safe Mode with Networking again to do the following.

Download and install Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP (KB2870699) from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40119

Reboot again. By now your computer should be running more normally.

After you've done that, visit http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/ and let it identify any other updates needed by your computer and install them. If your computer's running relatively normally by now, you don't need to do this in Safe Mode with Networking.

This resolved the 99% usage problem on one of our laptops which was originally still running IE 6. It also sped up another laptop which already had IE 8 installed but not the security update, and which was running less quickly than normal and showing intermittent 40% or so svchost.exe CPU activity even when at rest.

There may be other reasons why your computer might be running slowly, so you need to confirm that svchost.exe over-activity is the problem before applying this solution.

Afterthought: svchost.exe over-activity has been a recurrent problem with Windows XP for some years, usually tied to Windows Automatic Updates or sometimes installation of proprietary software (e.g. from Hewlett Packard) that uses an updater.

One simple solution doing the rounds is to disable Windows Automatic Updates, but that can lead to its own problems over time.

Other solutions require more tinkering under Windows XP's hood. At the time of writing, this particular instance of the svchost.exe problem does seem tied to IE and its security update, which is why I've offered this solution here rather than trying to address other possible causes and solutions that may apply now or later. It uses normal Windows processes and doesn't involve any great technical knowledge, so it's unlikely to do any harm, and it's worth trying it first before doing any more instrusive troubleshooting, as at least you'll have eliminated one possible cause.

My goodness, Chuck, you're a real big fan of this "Dan from Squirrel Hill's Blog"

judging by your journal: http://www.democraticunderground.com/~Chuck%20Smythe

I checked Dan's blog out: http://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/

Quite a RW libertarian paradise there, from what I've seen.

Rifffling though his categories and some of his comments, Dan doesn't seem to like leftists at all, among probably WAY more than 169 other things that many folks on DU generally stand for--unions, Barack Obama, the ACA, gun control, environmentalism ...

Funny that.

You wouldn't happen to actually be Dan, would you, Chuck?
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