Scottish independence

Nicola Sturgeon’s call for INDYREF 2 has been rejected again as was probably to be predicted. What is now important, though, is not the rhetoric from the First Minister which is impressive as ever, but what Westminster will do to convince Edinburgh that the Union is robust and worthwhile. If Scotland feels unloved, then it is up to Boris to demonstrate clearly that that is not the case.

It is worth noting how much the Uk has depended on Scottish statesmen and women and on Scottish businesses over the last 250 years. In Westminster, I think there have been at least 10 Scottish prime ministers (12 if we count David Cameron as Scottish and bother to note that Gordon Brown’s tenure took place * see below). For our economy, we can go back to Adam Smith and William Paterson, endless advances in medicine as well as the first country to educate women as doctors (though they never actually got their degrees)- think Sir James Y Simpson, Alexander Fleming, James Braid, even Arthur Conan Doyle; for transport, we look to Thomas Telford, but even when it comes to basic transport, it was the Scot, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, who invented the bicycle and meanwhile it was the Scottish law in 1772 which dictated that we all drive routinely on the left, some 60 years before it became a law in England. Alexander Bell! Oh for goodness’ sake! Even when I was looking at the development of radar in Daventry a few years’ ago, it was still a Scot, Robert Watson-Watt, who did it!

nicola sturgeon by TIM.jpg

“Tories are terrified of Scotland’s right to choose – because they know that when given the choice we’ll choose independence.

“Tories have no positive case for the union – so all they can do is attempt to deny democracy. It will not stand.

“The problem for the Tories is the longer they try to block democracy, the more they show the Westminster union is not one of equals and fuel support for independence. This response [is] predictable – but also unsustainable and self defeating. Scotland will have the right to choose.

“Scottish government will set out our response and next steps before the end of this month – when we will also again ask Scottish Parliament to back Scotland’s right to choose our own future.”

*list of scottish prime ministers in UK

John Stuart 1762

George Hamilton Gordon 1852

William Gladstone 1864, 1880, 1886, 1892

Lord Rosebery 1894

Arthur Balfour 1902

Henry Bannerman 1906

Andrew Bonar Law 1922

James Ramsey MacDonald 1924, 1929

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home 1963

Tony Blair 1997

Gordon Brown 2007

David Cameron 2010

 

 

 

 

David Davis

I despair of the way politicians believe they must make binding statements about things! Today, not that surprisingly, David Davis has weighed in against the admirable Nicola Sturgeon to rule out her proposition that it might be possible for Scotland to remain in some form within the EU while yet also remaining within the UK. I had been saying the same thing actually since the referendum result so of course I think the First Minister’s idea is both sound and clever.

Mr Davis loves to be negative. I think what he says does not quite do the the man justice, because I know he has shown a lot of personal kindness to gay MPs in difficulties with the media while yet maintaining a defiance about the repeal of Section 28 and also voting against the gay marriage act. I think, in that strange gurgling voice that must be an imitation of the great, late Daniel Massey, he likes to sound decisive. (he even goes on record supporting the death penalty)

davis

I think, however, that politics is about being ready to change our opinions. If this were not the case, then there would be no point debating stuff in the Commons. We might as well just read out speeches from some grand podium instead. Our British democratic tradition is based on our capacity to adapt to realities. The reality now is that the BREXIT decision has been made in England, though the same is far from certainly the case in Scotland, Gibraltar and Northern Ireland where an overwhelming majority voted to Remain. A clever politician recognises this tension and moves forward. Theresa May did just that (she is a unionist) in her first speech and then, more directly, (she would listen to any options) when she went up to Edinburgh. I was optimistic – until Davis started to pontificate.

Because Davis feels he still needs to win the referendum debate. To quote the great Healey, “What a silly billy” he is being! He has been dealt an Ace and he is still fiddling around with his Knaves. We have heard his points before. They were all made in the Referendum debate- which he won! We now want to hear something else. We do not expect a Minister to be a trained parrot and certainly not one peddled by Farage pet supplies.

This spurred the First Minister to declare that a second referendum could be as early as Next year. Especially if at the point of triggering Article 50, the first Minister is not “on board”:

“I will have an independence referendum if I come to conclusion that is in the best interests of Scotland. I’ve always said that. It would be up to Scottish people ultimately to decide if that is right way to go.”

She told Andrew Marr,

“I think the positive outcome of the meeting I had with the prime minister on Friday was that she said she was prepared to listen to options that the Scottish government would bring forward to give effect to how Scotland voted and we will certainly bring forward options. Let’s see what progress we can make.” Don’t you love this woman!

I hope to God that the wise women here win this discussion, because the testosterone-driven declarations of Davis do no one any good.

Cameron gets his place in history

cameron.jpgNot a triumphal end to Cameron’s tenure sadly, but there are many things we can be proud of- not least the fastest growing Western Economy and his social vision which saw Gay marriage pushed through despite the whinging of many backbench MPs in the party who saw fit to misquote scripture (see my previous blog on this!). Against the odds, Cameron won the last election and secured Scotland in the UK. Triumphal! It now falls to someone else, maybe, and I hope, Boris, to patch up the problems left behind. A great man who has achieved great things leaves behind a problem that is perhaps even bigger than any of his successes.

bag

I am inclined to think that, despite the serious wobble with the pound as Brexit hit the headlines, we can still work with Brexit. And, moreover, I think there is a future outside the EU. The debate certainly puts issues firmly on the table, and now I hope Europe will also take these same issues seriously, because if the EU fails to reform under this pressure, then we have made an even bigger miscalculation and we have given even more backbone to the monster growing on our doorstep or at least across the channel! Let’s be frank, the EU has had and has ignored warnings in the past- Greece should have been a wake-up call, but the response from Merkel and her cronies was arrogant and wrong. Brexit is altogether a bigger thing and cannot or should not be so lightly tossed off. Barking orders at Britain, as she barked at Greece, will simply not do. (And we thank God we do not have Varoufakis to make a case to Merkel, the man who might have a charismatic presence but who thought Game theory should ever be taken seriously).

yiannis

The negative legacy that Cameron leaves behind is the one, however, that will probably enter the history books, particularly if Nicola Sturgeon follows through- Cameron will be the man who fractured the EU and who broke up the United Kingdom. The double whammy in union-break-ups! Going back a bit to the infamous “purring” story, there is a hint of hubris in this story that must be evident to a man like Boris steeped in the classics. I hope that was partly in his mind when he was paying tribute to the PM yesterday. Nobility will emerge! And I wonder whether there is room to consider a salvage operation that leaves Scotland and Northern Ireland in the EU? As nothing is clear, nothing can be ruled out!

The EU debate had been going on even before Cameron entered politics as an advisor, but he witnessed the damage it did at first-hand to the tail-end of the Thatcher Government and throughout the Major administration. Blair had a better ride but some close calls from Europe too, especially in 2006 when other EU countries acted fast enough to spare Blair his own Referendum chaos; Blair was lucky in power in a way that the last two Conservative Prime Ministers have not been but I hope, and I presume, nevertheless, that Cameron, like Sir John Major, and in contrast to Blair, will mature into a Statesman of stature once he leaves office. To this end, Cameron sent a letter round today with the following, which I think makes it clear he already has his eye on the bigger picture:

The British people have made a choice. That not only needs to be respected, but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.

Farage the right hand man

It is certainly not the first time that Nigel Farage has over-egged his omelette, and certainly not the first time he has courted controversy with ill-judged mis-information. Indeed, had he been in a kitchen, he would have long-since eclipsed Gordon Ramsey who as far as I know was only foul-mouthed, never deceitful. As Mr Kipling might have said of the UKIP man, “he bakes exceedingly good cakes,” and what almighty whoppers they are.

Last year, Farage claimed that the NHS was overrun with migrant patients claiming treatment for HIV at a cost of £25,000 each. (he said that 60% of the 7000 HIV sufferers in the UK were not British:

You can come into Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the [anti-]retroviral drugs, that cost up to £25,000 a year per patient.

I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world, but what we need to do is put the National Health Service there for British people and families who in many cases have paid into this system for decades.

Utter tosh of course- he was immediately branded “ill-informed and discriminatory” and migrant doctors and nurses do a great deal to help the NHS. More than that, at least 6o% of people newly-infected with HIV were born in the UK. It is incidentally, quite true that we had once held a payment scheme for non EU HIV patients but since 2012, Norman Fowler has ensured that HIV infection has been classed like any other infectious disease (meningitis, tuberculosis, cholera, food poisoning, and malaria). When the legislation was introduced to bring treatment in line with the treatment of other infectious diseases, this is what was said,

“This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment in to line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others.” Treatment and early diagnosis helps us all:

“Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96 per cent. This change is in line with the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Expert Advisory Group’s advice, and offering NHS treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefore ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population.”

Farage was sent a letter by ACT UP, Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and Natilie Bennett, asking him to “to apologise for his factually inaccurate, and stigmatising, comments”. Farage tends not to answer such letters.

Farage tends to dismiss criticism as exaggeration or nonsense so he is not likely to be bothered now that fellow Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom  questioned his claims- “obviously it is an outrageous thing to say”, she said.

What Farage threatens this time is further attacks in Britain like that of Cologne at New Year if we remain in the UK. Women will no longer be safe because British and migrants have “very big cultural” differences. That may be partially true but it is certainly not true that all migrants are abusers and potential rapists. That is absurd and racist.

The two claims, about HIV and the potential danger to women posed by migrants, however tell us something more about Farage the man. Not only is he prepared to peddle fear in horror-film format, but he is also clearly obsessed with sex. This, from someone who hopes to be Boris Johnson’s right hand man come a successful result at the referendum. This is what Farage said of Boris and how he envisaged his role as right hand man, on May 14th:

“I love Boris, respect him, admire him; I’m a Boris fan. Could I work for him? Yes. Could I see a scenario if he was PM and he asked me to do something? I wouldn’t rule it out.

Poor Boris! I shudder to think what weird favours Farage intends to provide, but as he says, “I wouldn’t rule it out”

Thank God for Chris Heaton Harris who leads the Leave campaign with the qualification that he will not discuss the immigration stuff nor score points off immigration. I wish others would wake up to the reality that immigration is a quite different question to whether we remain in or out of Europe, and the Turkey-basting is simply embarrassing.

However this story moves forward, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Heaton Harris, our two local MPs come out of it very well. There are some prices we cannot pay, and we can never condone the sort of racist demagogy championed by Farage. Surely after this election, he will retire for more than a few weeks… we live in hope.

Here are a few pictures to put all this into context.

Andrew Marr

AndrewMarr.jpg

 

I was horrified by the story that Andrew Marr had been abused in the Daily Mail. Quentin Letts should have known better and it should not have been down to Roy Greenslade to get him to apologise, but that is the world we are living in. We are back to the same discussion we have had before (Jonathan Ross, for instance)- when is a joke no longer funny?

There have been many times when I have drawn something I later decided was too direct or simply did not work. Trying to be topical and humorous can often get us all into trouble, but there are some lines we should never cross. Racism is of course an absolute, but I think also we have to salute those people who are brave enough to stand up in public – Marr is particularly brave, to come back to prime time TV after suffering a stroke. He shows that this is possible. But that wider thought about public life is what makes me pause to admire even those public figures with whom I disagree- I am delighted Sadiq Khan, for example is now the first Muslim Mayor of London: it sends out a tremendous message, though I disapprove of many things Khan and his supporters have said and done (as I hope is clear from previous blogs). Nigel Farage might espouse views I dislike and behave in an appalling way (he still owes me a letter incidentally) but he must be saluted as one of the three great orators in the UK today (the other two are Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson).

Here is the best Farage speech: brilliant, cruel, and probably not something I would say (I balk at the reference to Belgium, for instance) but certainly not poking fun at someone with a disability:

Jeremy Corbyn may not be a man who leads from the front, but I recall on the Andrew Marr show, what a convincing and positive performance he gave. I salute that too, while at the same time bemoaning his inability to control his own cabinet and form a decisive and genuinely loyal opposition. In the absence of real political leadership, we in the conservative party have begun to form our own loyal opposition on our own backbenches! Not good for the Conservatives, not good for Labour and certainly not good for our wider parliamentary democracy.

But praise where praise is due, and frankly, I cannot find a word to say against Andrew Marr. It is fairly shameful that the Daily Mail peddles this sort of filth.

Mr Corbyn criticised

There are many reasons to criticise Mr Corbyn but the manufactured row about his modest bow at the Cenotaph is really not one of them. It is quite true that, with its limp and unspoken reference to a former Labour leader who destroyed his own reputation as one of the greatest parliamentary rhetoricians of the modern era with a silly wardrobe miscalculation, it makes a much better headline than Corbyn’s attack on General Sir Nicholas Houghton.

Mrs Thatcher, whatever opinion might prevail today in the disturbed bowels of the V&A, never made a wardrobe gaff in her political career. That alone is reason to rejoice and I think we should be given a chance to celebrate her choice. I remember a wonderful interview with the Lady where she explained how she matched and mixed her outfits and adjusted the hems to suit the prevailing fashion. She believed in costume change, and a fresh look, but she also knew how important it was to project the right image. Another Politician who understands this is the current first Minister in Scotland who has the personality, in addition, to carry off bold colours with aplomb! I wish that Mrs Merkel and Mrs Clinton, whose understanding of wardrobe is fairly dire, would take more notice of the way others have taken advice and who recognise the power of a public image.

As Mr Foot found out and Mr Corbyn is discovering, if a politician fails to offer an appropriate photo opportunity, one will be provided for them. In today’s world, it is not the soud-bite but the photo opportunity rather than what is said, that is of importance. We have become a very visual world. It is arrogance to assume that what is said is of greater importance than what we look like, or how, and where we spoke. The great politicians of the 20th Century already knew this- Churchill, John Paul II, Kennedy, Reagan, Wilson and Blair were masters of the image, and because they got the image right, their words were remembered. No one remembers today what Mr Heath or Mr Callaghan ever said. It’s an effort, indeed, to remember what they looked like. But I bet we remember the bushy eyebrows of Denis Healey, enough to make the butler in Downton look fairly manicured.

As for the Donkey Jacket- well, Mr Foot actually looked uncomfortable in that as well. Mrs Thatcher could have worn the Donkey jacket and got away with it. Mr Foot could not, and nor can Mr Corbyn. They lack the theatrical or televisual vocabulary that is the key to communication today and they belong to an earlier era.

Here is a picture in the meantime-

the modest bow

Nicola Sturgeon and Mary Poppins

nicola sturgeon

Here she is sailing into a barnyard inhabited by pig-headed animals and sheep

I think the video below is a copy of the Milt Kahl animation but there is still charm to it and it is interesting to see.

The combination of Nicola and the barnyard scene from Mary Poppins is impossible to ignore.

The original scene in the film was sketched by Don Da Gradi and animated mostly by John Lounsbery and Eric Larson. The pigs in the farmyard are really large sausages with legs. They are absurdly simple and deeply charming.

The design may be simple but the animation is probably the best ever done in the Disney studios, I think. It is fluid, even on 12s and the scenes which suggest beauty with the sun coming through the trees and the butterflies and deer are astonishing. Without this scene, frankly, and the technical advances in process photography/ what we now call “greenscreen”, there would be no “star wars”.

Here is a link to drawings from the fox hunt scene (mostly Milt Kahl):

http://livlily.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/mary-poppins-1964.html

here is a much older page spread from my moleskin. Not the farmyard scene, I know but you can see where I drew inspiration for Nicola’s pose above. Incidentally, it was Julie Andrews who insisted on the turned out feet. Apparently, this was the position in the book illustrations.

julie andrews