I still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.
What made me so sure?
It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)
On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.
For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.
I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.
While Nick Clegg prepares to run a snow job on the people who voted LibDem last time (let me know how that works for you, folks) the rain keeps falling.
This year may be the wettest since records began in 1910.
In London, the Thames Barrier was raised on Thursday morning for the first time since March 2010, to reduce the risk of flooding as water from days of downpours causes high levels further upstream. It will be raised again on Friday morning.
A storm brewing in the Atlantic could bring up to two inches (50mm) of rain and 80mph winds in some areas this weekend.
Provisional figures show that 1.8in (46mm) of rain is needed between 27 and 31 December for 2012 to be the wettest year on record for the UK.
A few years ago, when I was on holiday in Belgium, I spent hours in churches. (The friend I travelled with, who hadn’t voluntarily been in a church in decades, and who knew I am an atheist, was worried I would catch Christianity.) What I wanted to see was the paintings. The invention of oil paint meant Lowlands painters could create pictures so finely detailed it is possible to see the weave in the carpet and the stitches in the embroidered clothing: pictures from five or six hundred years ago that glow from the canvas.
And over and over again, pictures of Mary. Mary as a baby, with Anna her mother: Anna and Joachim, Mary’s father, together: Mary saying “Fiat” to the angel: Mary as a young woman, as a mother with a preposterously large infant on her knee, Mary being carried into heaven by a troop of angels on her death. Mary is supposed to have been conceived on 8th December, and on that date in 2009, The US Senate rejected by a narrow margin an amendment proposed by Senators Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that was intended to modify “Obamacare” so that any private insurance company that got federal funding for Obamacare insurance, couldn’t offer health insurance plans that included abortion.
It’s actually really hard to believe sometimes that Donald Trump is for real. I don’t follow @realDonaldTrump on Twitter, because who wants that kind of thing in your timeline? But he’s always good for a laugh when you want one. So the question is: Does he do it on purpose? This is a multi-billionaire who appears to regard running for President as a useful means of self-publicity. Is his Donald Trump persona – arrogant beyond belief, childishly certain that people admire him, blusteringly furious at people who get in his way – just assumed, a performance?
If so, is the double-combover part of it? You’d have to be the kind of person who surrounds himself with sycophants and who ignores any personal criticism whatsoever to think that growing what’s left of your hair long and folding it to cover your bald scalp looks anything but completely stupid. (Mind you, it’s impressive that whatever product his hairdresser uses, the double-combover holds – not for Trump the occasional long flowing locks and glimpse of scalp in a high breeze.)
I was disappointed when the SNP voted to join NATO if Scotland became independent on Friday. The only positive reason I have for voting Yes so far is that the SNP’s policy was to get rid of nuclear weapons if Scotland became independent. That policy would have been tough to maintain in the face of rUK opposition, since it would be impossible for rUK to build another base for its nuclear weapons at Faslane in the time planned between vote and independence, but it will be impossible if it’s attempted in a kind of “we want to join NATO but we’re getting rid of nuclear weapons: we don’t care that this means rUK loses its nuclear weapons” game.
As the Scotland on Sunday rightly notes, this is unrealistic: the movement in the SNP to reverse their anti-NATO policy is a means of reversing their no-nukes policy without officially saying so or needing a vote.
The other issue is the unrealistic basis of the entire debate, which was only about membership of Nato. This was endorsed, but without the SNP abandoning its opposition to nuclear weapons based in Scotland. As things now stand, the SNP is committed to Nato membership – but with the proviso that Nato’s nuclear weapons are not hosted on Scottish soil. To remain anti-nuclear while professing loyalty to Nato is an untenable position.
The Sunday Times poll noted that winning 50%+ support for independence is fundamentally dependent not on anything the SNP or Yes Scotland have announced they’re doing or campaigning for, but on whether Labour can win the 2015 election. There’s a hard core of support for independence, and from my own experience, the hard core are generally better at convincing themselves than anyone else. There’s a fairly definite proportion of people who are likely to vote No, and there’s about 17% who identify themselves, like me, as undecided.
I just took the Official Practice Citizenship Test and got 11 out of 24, which would in real life be a fail, another £50, and my passport taken off me til I passed. (I did better in the Guardian’s mock version of it. What that says about me….) For what it’s worth, I would probably fail Fleet Street Fox‘s citizenship test: too many sports questions, though the correct answer to (5) is actually either a, b, or c so long as you take tea seriously.
5. An American offers to make you tea. Do you -
a) explain why the water needs to be boiling, not tepid; why the bag is added first, not last; and how long your personal preferences require the tea to be stewed
b) accept and politely hope for the best
c) refuse on the grounds they haven’t a hope
Plus there’s the larger citizenship question: to dunk or not to dunk. That ought to be the thousand-words-or-less essay question instead of some nonsense about Wimbledon.
The BBC just works. We all pay our licence fee: in return we get TV without breaks for adverts: TV that pushes all the other TV companies in the UK to a higher standard.
If Scotland votes Yes in 2014 we may have cause to worry about Alex Salmond’s close relationship with the Murdochs and the plans News International may have for abolishing the BBC in an independent Scotland.
There is no reason to suppose we would have to lose the BBC. Indeed, as Jennifer Dempsie pointed out in March, the direct revenue from the licence fee to programmes made in Scotland at what I suppose we would then call the SBC, would actually go up.
Ian Smart is personally convinced that as the polls show no sign that the SNP have a hope of winning the referendum in 2014, there will be no referendum. Yesterday he added a post which he was referring to on Twitter as “Shock and Awe” about how the “Better Together” campaign will push their argument.
Well, here I propose to let them inside the briefing room. I expect the same “shocked and outraged” response from my SNP readers as some more naive Democrats expressed about Rove. But, while maybe not quite in the Axelrod and Plouffe class, the people around Eck are more street wise. They’ve already wargamed this and realise that they do not have the counter arguments. That’s why they are desperately trying to avoid having a Referendum at all. The good news is that the Tories are apparently coming round to imposing it upon them.
(For my own thinking about this, see
Yesterday the Sunday Herald ran a story about Alex Salmond which they attempted to dress up as a negative story, but which is actually pretty nice.
In quick summary: in November 2008 an oil billionaire, Sir Ian Wood, got an idea for a concrete Italian-style piazza in the centre of Aberdeen, to be achieved by transferring a public park into private ownership. He offered to spend £50M of his own money to part-pay for his stony vision. (He likes concrete and no trees: Union Terrace Gardens has lots of trees.) (Update: apparently some of the trees would have survived.)
Annie Lennox, November 2011:
If Sir Ian Wood wants to invest £50m into the centre of Aberdeen, that is fundamentally good, but I disagree with the way he’s going about it. It is not because I’m a reactionary, it is not because I’m against modernity or change. It is the way that this was done; it is short-termism, it is short-sighted.
From what I am gathering, he is not saying: “I have £50m, I want to talk to you, I want to hear what you guys want.” He’s telling the city this is what he will do with it. I think it’s very imperious. I think it is very, very important to listen to more people, the people who are living there, the citizens of the town.
This offer from Sir Ian Wood interrupted a long-term plan for developing Union Terrace Gardens. A consultation was carried out, which overall rejected Wood’s scheme, and then in November 2011 the SNP-controlled council had the Electoral Commission run a referendum across the whole City – in which Wood’s scheme won by a slight majority.