Of bullies, apologies, slogans, and paranoia

It’s a pleasure to do the round-up again, and this time they’ve let me loose on some of the political stuff. I feared that I might have to feign interest in the interminable shadow election campaign, which has largely been a policy free zone – as politicians of all sides maintain a high level of vacuous platitudes seemingly determined to bore most voters rigid prior to the vote. Luckily, though, I got a boring week. Aside from the Gordon Brown bullying allegations, the launch of another Scottish referendum consultation, Nicola Sturgeon’s apology (and the absurd over-reaction from some quarters of the Parliament), the launch of the Conservative party campaign slogan, some football club complaining about officiating, bank bonuses, and bank losses nothing’s happened. So, on with the round-up:

You can’t beat a bit of bully

The week began with The Observer serialisation of Andrew Rawnsley’s book on what has happened within the Labour government since his last book. The allegations that civil servants cowered in fear as the Prime Minister punched seats of cars prompted a wonderful Grand Theft Auto style reconstruction but prompted little comment from the Scottish blogosphere (although Jeff suggested that it might not be a negative factor come election day) until the intervention of Mrs Pratt – head of the National bullying helpline – who suggested that her confidential helpline had had calls from Downing Street including one person who had been signed off with stress, while suggesting that through not naming these individuals anonymity was preserved. Big Rab pointed out that Mrs Pratt had previously been a litigant in a case where she had been alleged to have “thrust her face into his and screamed “Communicate!” very loudly and directly into his ear. Mr Roberts found this very painful and was profoundly shocked by her conduct.” Caron and Mr Eugenides found themselves bemused by Mrs Pratt’s conduct (while Stephen maintained a running commentary on the slow death of the helpline as patron after patron resigned). Duncan’s perceptive post on Mrs Pratt’s entwining with the Prime Minister suggests that personal criticism of Gordon Brown may serve only to strengthen him – by appearing like bullying.

When it comes to Rauf justice sorry doesn’t seem to be the hardest word

Deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, disarmed critics in the media and Holyrood by making an apology for her conduct. The apology was welcomed by bloggers from various quarters including Angus Nicolson, and Caron – although some (including Angus Nicolson and Jeff) noted that the wording of the apology – where the Deputy first minister indicated that she did not have a “duty” to act in the way she had may have left Alex Salmond somewhat exposed. Noteworthy though was the reaction from the Labour party. The Gallus Glaswegian, for example, suggesting that the one week recess between the original story and the apology worked to Nicola Sturgeon’s advantage. Joan McAlpine noted the adversarial personal tone of aspects of the Labour party parliamentary  response (notably from Iain Gray and Johann Lamont) and Will wonders if the memory of the Wendy Alexander resignation influenced Labour party behaviour.

Consultation paper and National Conversation leads to… new consultation paper

For the second time in two and a half years a draft referendum bill has been published for consultation by the Scottish public. This unprecedented level of pre-legislative consultation (which has nothing to do with parliamentary arithmetic or the imminent general election with the consultation period closing during the campaign – if we are heading for a May election) sees one big variant from the first paper, with two questions proposed on greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, and negotiations on independence. The approach is supported by Subrosa who notes the lack of response to the consultation from opposition leaders within First Minister’s Questions this week. While Braveheart suggests that this approach is designed to encourage confusion in the electorate.

Spare some change, mister?

I would be better disposed towards political slogans if they were better written. After Labour appeared to promised funfairs for all the other week, the Conservatives launched their slogan “Vote for change” – without specifying exactly how much change or what denomination of change we’ll get.  Jeff  suggests that it is a vacuous slogan to come up with at a time when polls suggest that more than 1/3 of the electorate don’t know what the Conservative party stands for. And Tom Harris MP has his own fun with the slogan.

Political blogging headline of the week

This comes from James, whose “Long-time lurker, first-time Parliamentary candidate” confirms his selection as PPC for the Scottish Greens in East Lothian.

What would Richard Dawkins do?

The Secretary of State for Scotland delivered a speech this week on faith and politics – appearing to suggest that people of faith would find their natural home in the labour party. This prompted a riposte from the National secular society, as well as various religious and political figures. As well as a lengthy post from Richard Thomson generally critical of Murphy Richard notes that religion and politics can mix because

” The experiences which people have and the beliefs that they hold will always inform how they respond to the issues of the day and will always shape their views on how the world should be. While it’s plainly wrong to pretend that religious belief can lead only to one single ‘correct’ viewpoint or that someone’s faith should lend their views any additional weight, it would be equally wrong to pretend that our public debate would be anything other than greatly diminished were no religious perspectives to be found.”

Yousuf takes a similar view (in a piece praising Murphy for his engagement with faith in politics). On such issues I turn to my “What would Richard Dawkins do” wristband – and, as he no doubt does, watch a story from season 17 of Doctor Who.

Football news

The following story came as something of a shock to me – and no doubt readers will have their flabbers well and truly gasted. Apparently, some people in Scotland will not be cheering on those parragons of virtue, John Terry, Steven Gerard et al during the forthcoming World Cup. Indeed, in a bid to cash in on this sentiment a company has produced casual wear bearing the slogan “anyone but England”. Michael Greenwell has a post justifying this view.

Also this week news broke that Celtic had contacted the SFA to complain about the quality of refereeing in Scotland due to decisions sometimes going against Celtic. A blog known as Celtic Paranoia has its own analysis. From my own perspective may I suggest to Celtic fans and board that if they want to see bad decisions they really need to come to the Third Division.

Mark Devereaux

The case of Mark Devereaux, the HIV infected man convicted of reckless and culpable conduct after he had sex with four partners, has prompted two passionate posts from opposite sides of the argument. Efrafandays argues that Devereaux 10 year sentence was correct. Lallands Peat Worrier’s post contains the sentencing statement and expresses some concern about prosecution and sentencing of HiV sufferers.


Ellen Arnison has an interesting post on news values and the impact of social media on the development of news stories.

Little Mummy comments on some of the Winter Olympics commentary where in certain sports female competitors are reduced to their status as “pin-ups”. And Skip Cottage Curling offers a summary of the disappointing British performance in the curling within the Games – while having rather warmer words for Steve Cram’s commentary than were used in my house.

Andy at Road Maps for the Soul has a post on the parliamentary report on homeopathy – which contrary to the “science of homeopathy” maintains its potency despite exhibiting no dilution of view, arguing that

“My own view is that a fraction of that £4 million would be better spent informing the public that “alternative” medicines are only so named because they are the alternative to the sort that makes you better.”

Of course, if the parliamentary report is followed and the budget for homeopathic treatment is diluted this will serve to make the funding of homeopathy even stronger.

Also nominated this week was the A Place to Stand post challenging the idea that there is (or was) scientific consensus on climate change.

The Absolvitor law blog reassures readers that the prosecution has been dropped in the case of Michael Mancini who had been charged with not being in control of a motor vehicle when he blew his nose while behind the wheel (and digs up the wonderful piece of information that the officer who charged Mr Mancini apparently issued an on the spot fine of £50 to a man who dropped a £10 note last year).

One blog that looks like it will be worth keeping an eye on as the year goes on is the Fraoch Wood site which is building up a diary examining an area of privately owned woodland in the Cairngorms with some photos of the area and the wildlife.

Iain MacWhirter

And like Ian Hamilton QC, Subrosa, and others I’d like to wish sometime blogger (and journalist) Iain MacWhirter a speedy recovery from his heart by-pass surgery. His excellent post on his imminent surgery gives a good indication why we need him back writing on Scottish politics and life in general as soon as he is able.

Keep the nominations coming in via the widget or by e-mail to the usual address or via the twitter feed. Next week you’ll be in the hands of Kenny MacLaren.

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