Saturday, 21 April 2012

The 'Auld Firm'

I was watching 'The Mission', a great film which explores the problems of when doing what is right and moral gets in the way of political necessity and political necessity wins. I then took my ex-wife's wee dog out for a walk round the streets of the SW town I live in taking in the stars and low down in the SW the international space station. After bagging the wee dugs doings and stuffing them in the bin I then had a bit of time to think in the quiet stillness of the night and that old chestnut for folk with depression - just what's the point of anything?

I was thinking about UK politics in general and Scotland inmore detail then this wee idea popped into my head - what would happen to Celtic and Rangers if their faux religious difference were actually done away with?

The mutual dislike for one another is a marketing man's wet dream, it means that the failings of either side and their management can be glossed over with a 'sectarian bile' provoking or otherwise press release. The blogs relating to Celtic and Rangers will then go into melt down as old 'wounds' and out of date politics (PIRA / UDF) are vomited up. Celtic fans will then go into a self justfying tirade about how nobody likes them while Rangers fans, in general, just resort to clusters of swear words in a random order apparently to make their point. The Daily Record is good for at least one 'Old Firm' upset story a week on top of the standard bile which hides the reality that Ranger's are all but in liquidation and a lot of folk (within and without Celtic) see Celtic's current manager as a liability. Hatred enables an effect business model status quo between the two sides, it may not be in the best interests of Scottish football or Scotland in general but it keeps folk going through the turnstiles at Ibrox and Parkhead.

If we move to Westminster what do we see?

Labour and the Conservatives playing exactly the same marketing game of hide what is realy going on behind a screen of faux hatred. In the Westminster political machine's mind why changes a formula that has worked very well since 1945 for both sides. There is the same steriotypical view of the Westminster 'old firm' in that Labour are useless with the economy and more interested in trousering cash while the Tories are detached from the ordinary people and drop their knickers with ease and regularity. A quick read through the Mail or Telegraph (and unless you have a strong constitution I would recommend making it a quick read) or its Larsson 'Otherside' competitiors the Gruniad or Mirror you see this steriotypical view being played out on a daily basis.

This avoids political journalists having to ask themselves the difficult questions such as 'Why was British Leyland / Steel / shipbuilding a 'lame duck' while HBOS- Lloyds is worth throwing more money than British Leyland ever cost the tax payer?' Maybe the same papers could run articles on how appalingly badly built PFI hospitals are rather than blaming the doctors and nurses for the state of the place, poor moral and lack of care. There's a reason doctors and nurses are fed up - its called PFI Management Companies, their fat risk free profits, badly designed buildings, crap service and poor maintenance.

That's right you have the 'old firm' scenario between Labour and the Conservatives where pretending to knock lumps out of each other at PMQ's neatly avoids any chance of discussing policies or, heaven forefend, the needs of the UK electorate. The comparison goes further because like Celtic the Tories have a manager even his own side has doubts with even though he won the 'Westminster Quadrennial League' on goal difference and Labour (minus Unison and Unite cash) are in all reasonable accounting terms, bankrupt. All in all it meets both partys' needs not to have their actual activities closely scrutinised.

Yet something has come along and upset this 'Old Firm' style status quo in Scotland. it seemd to work quite well for the first four years Labour 'two legs' good, SNP 'four legs' bad. While Dewar played 'Batman' to Wallace's 'Robin' the Scots went along with it but it all started falling apart when the wrong person (McLeish) stepped into 'Batman's' shoes in the eyes of the West Coast Labour cabal. In usual Scottish Labour tradition there was a back stabbing and off went Henry and in came Jack McConnell - Jim Murphy's safe pair of West Coast hands. We were back to a Labour First Minster sneering at the SNP, yet with no real ideas for Scotland, no ability to think outside of 'New Labour speak' and clearly under the control of Murphy. In the meantime the SNP stopped sniping at Labour and started promoting positive ideas for Scotland, the need to progress devolution to the next stage of full fiscal autonomy or even independence. More and more often during the latter part of Jack McConnell's stay as First Minster he was left spitting bile in the traditional 'Old firm' manner and finding the SNP would not play the game. The SNP had this annoying trait of being positive about Scotland and its future. You would think after having fewer seats than the SNP in 2007, a loss in anyone's thinking, Labour and the Westminster political machine might have started to analyse their opponents style of play to understand why they were Auchenshoogle Athletic to the SNP's Barca. The answer? A resounding no! 'Bring it on' Wendy got short shrift and the Greyman was annointed leader - apparently from the East but in fact a West of Scotland apparatchik and another Murphy protege.

Was there any change of substance or style by Labour?

I am afraid not as Labour's attack dog style looked more and more out of place against an increasingly assured and effective SNP machine. So then we come to Holyrood 2011 with Labour still lining up in their outmoded five, three, two formation, and after being soundly beaten and a whining of it wisnae fair, thon Mr Electorate the ref's bent, Eck wis offside, it wis never a penalty - from them and their media supporters just like the 'Old Firm' but a lot sadder and even more embarassing.

So what now for Labour's Scottish region?

Surprise, surprise we have another Murphy protege, still sticking with Murphy's five, three, two formation still playing 'Old firm' politics, the littler of the 'stairheid rammy' duo - Johanne Lamont. Labour is still leaking support to the SNP in Holyrood and Westminster voting intention polls and the 3rd of May will give a further look at how badly Labour are in decline by how much further behind the SNP in terms of councillors they fall.

Given Jim Murphy's track record, since having Henry McLeish stabbed in the back, makes you wonder who actually sees him as Labour's Scottish Region's saviour.

The advantage the SNP have is they do not have to put political necessity first, defending the Westminster status quo, and have more opportunity to do what is needed and is right. To complete the footballing analogy Labour in Scotland have two of the same sided feet (right or left - pick your own preference).

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