As one who likes to keep in touch with events beyond the fastnesses of Watford and Slough (with a particular link to things north and south of the both Borders), Malcolm keeps an occasional eye on the likes of The Scotsman. To be honest, on this occasion, he was directed there by Alex Massie on the Spectator blog.
Massie’s piece is entitled: The Most Useless Political Party in Europe. Malcolm’s initial and unkind expectation from that headline was mistaken.
Massie is glossing, with cross-reference, a news item and comment in Scotland on Sunday (yokels note: that’s the Sunday manifestation of the aforesaid Scotsman): under the by-line of Hamish Macdonell:
THE Scottish Conservative Party was plunged into a fresh crisis last night after it emerged that, effectively, it has been cut loose by its parent party in London. Scotland on Sunday has learned that, since the general election, senior figures in the UK Conservative Party no longer consult or communicate with their Scottish colleagues.
As a result, Scottish party leaders have been virtually shut out of all decision-making roles and they are no longer invited to top-level strategy and policy meetings.
Indeed, the isolation of the Scottish party has reached such a pitch that Scottish leader Annabel Goldie has not spoken to David Cameron since the election, while SNP First Minister Alex Salmond has held five conversations with the Prime Minister since he took office.
One party insider said the Scottish leadership had been “cast adrift” by Westminster, which had ceded political control of the country to its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.
If the London-Edinburgh contact is broken, Malcolm wonders what is happening to the Great UCUNF Project.
Which by a fairly-neat piece of triangulation brings us to Brian Walker on Slugger O’Toole. Malcolm read Walker’s quickie, three neat paragraphs which would thereby meet the essay-formula strictly enforced by Mrs Self of Class Six at Wells County Primary, circa 1953. Walker bore no direct relation to Macdonell, but he was addressing a similar topic: a disconnect with the new UK political realities. As here:
Have I missed something over here in London or am I the only one to be struck by the absence of the smack of firm leadership in the DUP? There’s been plenty of noise from the engine room but precious little sense of direction from the bridge at time of tension over rejectionist republican activity, the post-Saville agenda, waiting for the spending axe to fall, and the publication of the FMDFM Cohesion strategy. Since when, silence. And no clear, driving line on unionist unity. While I speculate that Peter has been concentrating on personal recovery over the summer, there’s been no sense of anybody temporarily in charge in these days of the 24/7 media.
Walker hits the bulls-eye with one observation: whatever the complexion of Northern Ireland then, now or in a decade’s time:
over the impact of spending cuts and Westminster reform, [there is] nothing uniquely regional.
Which brings Malcolm to his only conclusion, which is nothing like as perceptive as the others here.
The two components of the ConDem coalition claim, separately and together, to favour devolving power to local communities. That, of course, is not the same as respecting or observing the existing devolved and local governments. The consequence is that more power accretes to the centre, to government ministers, to Whitehall. When Michael Gove solus determines the status of “free” schools and academies, he is taking more authority to himself. When the NHS abolishes tiers of local control, the arbiter becomes the central administration. When the transport budget is sliced, any goodies that remain are provided in the Home Counties heartland, where all those Tory marginals are going to be: it is the periphery which becomes a lower priority. When the Chancellor demands 25% or 40% cuts, Whitehall tends to look after its own, and the far-flung tentacles are surrendered. And so on.
There is one true gem in that Scotland on Sunday omments page which should not be missed. Fifi la Bonbon reported at 23:50:11 on Miss Annabel Goldie’s dealings with Downing Street (Malcolm envisages this enunciated in uniquely-refined Renfrewshire):
Miss Goldie said: “I am in the position where I can communicate with him in his office any time I want, and Sandra, the telephonist, is always very good about taking my messages and always explains why he can’t pick up the phone as he has just stepped out of the room. Also, he’s got a new baby. There’s no problem, no problem at all. Me and Sandra get on very well indeed. She’s just had the sitting room done, apparently, and their girl did well in her A levels.”
Malcolm wishes he had any similar spark of wit at ten-to-midnight on a Saturday night. Even more so last night, after a five-hour stint at the Twickenham double-header: London Irish versus Saracens and Wasps versus Harlequins. Greene King IPA at £4 a plastic pint