Tories are airing dirty laundry on the stairheid for everyone to see

One of the advantages to adopting the stairheid rammy as our national mode of conversation is that we are no longer obliged to listen to one another. Debate can at last flow freely, uninterrupted by the burdensome details of what our opponents actually say and believe. Cool heads are the first casualties of culture war….

Jeremy Corbyn and decency fatigue

One of the Left’s least attractive features is its boundless capacity for moral self-righteousness. There is a near religious conviction that to be Left-wing is to be good and ethical and therefore everything a Left-winger does must be honourable. This superstition has been one of the biggest contributors to Jeremy Corbyn’s endurance as Labour leader….

The MP who launched an accidental coup

A minority government daily teetering on the brink of collapse. A radical opposition leader poised for power. A political establishment at loggerheads in the wake of a divisive referendum. The atmosphere is febrile. The air carries a whiff of hysteria. No one is quite sure who is running the country or whether the country is…

Some replies to a tweet about Margaret Hodge

On Tuesday evening, I tweeted about a HuffPo story on Dame Margaret Hodge and Jeremy Corbyn. The site reported that the Labour MP had confronted the party leader and called him ‘a fucking antisemite and a racist’. (Dame Margaret quibbles only with the word ‘fucking’.) Pretty soon, I had to mute my notifications. Below is…

A wake-up call for Scottish Labour

Holyrood may be on summer recess but politics never takes a break. Fresh polling released on Friday had MSPs leaving the latest John le Carré behind on the sun lounger and heading off in search of a WiFi hotspot. Sunshine is one thing but nothing beats the restorative power of political gossip. The research from…

The brave boys of Tham Luang give us hope in a world of despair

Television screens across the world, in every country and every language, are beaming the same images today. They show the rescue of children who have been trapped in a cave in the northernmost tip of Thailand. The twelve boys and their coach from the Wild Boars youth football team went on an outing to Tham…

Brexit tests that must apply to secure the Union

The SNP hysteria over imaginary power-grabs is galvanising the party faithful. But a bad deal as we leave the EU will allow Nationalists to ramp up the rhetoric – and encourage their fresh attempts to tear Scotland out of the UK, Stephen Daisley writes in the Scottish Daily Mail. ***** Will Britain survive Brexit? Nestled…

It’s time for May to play her joker and reshuffle her troublesome pack

Nothing holds you back in politics quite like the millstone of received opinion. Leaders take soundings, study the polls and apply the lessons of history but they are not captive to them, servants of circumstance praying the Fates will turn benevolent soon. Leaders draw on instinct and principle to change their lot; they make their own…

Ministerial musical chairs for a government tired of governing

Reshuffles are usually dramatic – yesterday’s in Holyrood was like a bloodbath. But often they fall victim to the law of unintended consequences. In 1962, Harold Macmillan abruptly sacked his Chancellor Selwyn Lloyd and six senior ministers in a ruthless shake-up. Nicola Sturgeon upturned her ministry for similar reasons – like Macmillan’s Tories, the SNP…

Public trust lies abandoned in a dark corner of the corridors of power

The breathless horror of the political class at the rise of rabble-rousing populism is matched only by a stubborn refusal to learn lessons from it. The past week has seen much wailing and gnashing of liberal teeth over Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal border crossings into the United States. Italy’s far Right…

SNP will find picking a fight with David Mundell is a mistake

It was a modern-day David versus Goliath. Scottish Secretary David Mundell spent last week facing down the massed ranks of intemperate nationalism – and he did it almost single-handedly. Some say the SNP’s Commons walkout was a masterstroke. I am not so sure. How many voters saw Joanna Cherry – the phrase ‘Don’t you know…

Did Nicola know another word for a hummingbird’s beak? Err, no…

‘Can the First Minister give us another word for a hummingbird’s beak?’ ‘Not immediately, no.’ What was this? Had the Presiding Officer finally taken up my idea of turning First Ministers’ Questions into a general knowledge quiz? It’s unfair expecting Nicola Sturgeon to commit facts and figures about the NHS to memory. Maybe she’d have…

Sturgeon girns, spins and splurges for the faithful

They couldn’t agree a slogan for the SNP’s Aberdeen conference and so there were three. The branding read ‘Stronger for Scotland’. Nicola Sturgeon kept telling us she was ‘moving Scotland forward’. The garish-yellow lanyards were emblazoned ‘We can’ in a scratchy font that looked like it had been scribbled in biro at the last minute,…

The year my uncle was murdered I learned that true evil existed

The summer my uncle was murdered was the summer I grew up. It was 2001 and reality had not yet crashed into the breezy Nineties delusion of world peace through the World Wide Web but a family in Coatbridge was about to lose its innocence.  Robert Hawker, known universally as ‘Rab’, was a devoted partner,…

Mission that will test even an ex-Marine

Keith Brown belongs to the estimable ranks of politicians to have served Queen and country in uniform. The Second World War flooded Parliament with veterans and gave us Labour hawks like Denis Healey and the retired Tory colonels so beloved of parliamentary sketch-writers. Mr Brown hails from a later wave but one no less courageous….

Striking the wrong tone on murder

Nicola Sturgeon reminded me of someone and it took a while to put my finger on it. The First Minister was taking questions from Ruth Davidson on something more sombre than the usual petty point-scoring. The Scottish Tory leader was demanding justice for Craig McClelland, a father of three stabbed to death in a Paisley…

The failures that will cost the SNP dearly

Scottish politics is so highly strung about trivial things that it seems perverse to complain about an under-reaction. Yet there is no other way to describe the response to the Scottish Fiscal Commission report, published last week and subject of little more than tepid retreads of old soundbites at Holyrood. Admittedly, fiscal forecasts are not…

Headmistress Grahame has Holyrood on its best behaviour

Christine Grahame doesn’t stand, she ascends. The veteran Nationalist is far from grand but comports herself with a headmistressly air that forewarns ministers not to test her patience. Grahame has no time for your nonsense and, as deputy presiding officer, dispenses with the easygoing style of Ken Macintosh in favour of the martinet. Late-coming frontbenchers…

Minister who has let down patients must go

One in two of us will get cancer. It doesn’t bear thinking about but we cannot avoid it because it is a fact happening all around us — happening to us.  We have another reminder of this grim reality in the revelation that two-thirds are waiting longer than they should for bowel cancer tests. According to…

Spitting lentils, even Patrick Harvie turned on Sturgeon

The First Minister was reeling. Under a raging barrage of questions, she ducked, twisted and side-stepped with all the grace of a gazelle at a beginners’ jazzercise class. Try as she might to placate her interrogator, Sturgeon spun herself into a tizz and collapsed into her seat defeated. Dearie me, that Ruth Davidson can be…

Sturgeon under siege

Decider or Separatist Spoiler? Social Media Chauvinist or Reluctant Reformer? In this essay for the Scottish Daily Mail, Stephen Daisley explores the tribes that make up Scotland’s New Establishment — and why they could spell doom for Nicola Sturgeon’s political future.  ***** This is how it ends, not with a bang but a bust-up. Angry and…

The SNP’s Voldemort… She Who Must Not Be Questioned

How to describe Nicola Sturgeon’s performance at First Minister’s Questions? Dismal? Too generous. Hopeless? Closer. Dunderheided? Yes… that’s about right. (Besides, using a Scots word probably entitles us to a grant now.) The First Minister dundered and blundered and chuntered her way through 45 minutes of the greatest hits of SNP failure. Education, health and…

Fast food and hard drugs… it’s all in a week’s work for MSPs

Richard Leonard had another good week. Embarrassed Nicola Sturgeon on childcare. Even quoted one of her old speeches back at her. He’s getting good at this.  But you don’t want to hear about that, not when there’s fast food and hard drugs on offer. Scholarly Tory MSP Adam Tomkins enquired: ‘What is the First Minister’s…

Money for nothing

It’s a radical idea with supporters on the Left and Right: Pay every citizen a basic income regardless of their earnings. As the SNP rolls out a pilot scheme, could this be the way to defeat the poverty trap – or just a ruinously expensive utopian fantasy? — Why has Finland taken £6,000 away from…

DI Davidson was pressing charges over force cuts

The debating chamber was a-bustle all around her but to Nicola Sturgeon it felt like an interrogation room. One of those pokey, smoke-fugged jobs, lit only by a bare bulb swinging from the Artex. Something straight out of The Sweeney. Ruth Davidson turned up for First Minister’s Questions doing her best impression of a no-nonsense…

Staring ahead, not in defiance but in defeat

John Donne said no man was an island. He didn’t live to see the past few weeks of Shona Robison’s career, which are starting to look like the last few weeks of her career. The Health Secretary was a pale sketch of doleful isolation at First Minister’s Questions yesterday. As foe upon foe rose to…

Ruth’s long journey to transform the Tories starts with small steps here

Back in the old, pre-referendum Scotland, with its old, pre-referendum certainties, three things in life were unavoidable: Death, taxes, and think pieces about the future of the Scottish Conservatives. No commentator ever went hungry who could knock out 1,000 words on ‘whither the Scottish Tories’ by teatime. How had ‘the only party ever to win…

What I know about football

I was very sorry to hear of the resignation of *checks hand* Arsène Wenger from *squints* Arsenal Football Club, a popular London soccer ensemble chaired by Mr Chips ever since his retirement from Brookfield. As I had, um, temporarily forgotten who Mr Wenger was, I decided to record everything I know about the moderately attractive game. As…

Whisper it, but could Scotland live without Holyrood?

Fed up with Holyrood? Frustrated with a First Minister who jets around the globe like a head of state? Had your fill of mediocre MSPs, freedom-snatching laws and endless posturing about independence? Ukip reckons it has the answer and thinks its solution will win your vote next time round. The populist party is set to…

A smoking gun? More like a leaky water pistol, Nicola!

It was around 10 o’clock yesterday morning when a strange orb of light appeared over the summit of Arthur’s Seat. The mercury simmered to a balmy 18 degrees, Scottish Parliament catering staff wheeled a barbecue out to the garden, and sweltering MSPs cleared a freezerful of ice cream. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay sought the cooler…

Without injection of fresh initiative, prognosis for NHS looks very poor

The Sturgeon economy is taking its toll on the rest of us but there’s one job she seems committed to saving. Health Secretary Shona Robison, personal friend and political ally of the First Minister, is resisting calls to resign over an NHS cash row. Robison replaced NHS Tayside’s management team after it emerged that charity…

Why face the bitter truth when you can just blame Brexit, Nicola?

What do NHS understaffing, low growth and imitation whisky have in common? It’s something they share with a weakening of environmental protection rules, lack of teachers in our classrooms and threats to agricultural support. So too business anxiety, rising import prices and fears of mass job losses. Getting warmer? Ask yourself what unites rising inflation,…

Too few answers in this too-long question session

The 1980s was a mixed bag as decades go. There was Depeche Mode, shoulder pads, and glorious cat fights on Dynasty. Alas, there was also Phil Collins, Swatch watches, and Hi-de-Hi! But the most egregious sin of the Eighties — worse even than mullets or Arthur Scargill — was management-speak, that soulless jargon of boardroom…

Shades of Maggie as Nicola loses control of classroom

She walked into the parly like she was walking onto a yacht. A cerulean streak of polyester cut a businesslike stride to the First Minister’s seat. There enthroned she exuded the easy confidence of a star arrived on the lot, ready for her close-up, and keen to remind these B-listers why she was still top…

Russia Today, Britain tomorrow

The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal was not the work of the Russian state. It was ‘a complete set-up’; Theresa May had ‘found this one issue that can boost her’. The attempted murder in a Salisbury restaurant was ‘a provocation intended to worsen relations even further between Russia and the West’. Whoever was responsible…

Putin the boot in to Comrade Alexei and his telly show

The SNP is a bit like a Russian doll. Every time you strip away a layer, you find another (usually more sinister) one underneath it. At First Minister’s Questions, Ruth Davidson tried to test the Nationalists’ unity on the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a Russian spy who defected and who Theresa May says was targeted…

Want to restore faith in Holyrood? Give voters a right of recall

MSPs will be back at Holyrood tomorrow for the start of another parliamentary week. This time all 129 of them will be there because, for the first time in almost four months, Mark McDonald will turn up too. The former childcare minister hasn’t been seen in parliament since he was suspended from the SNP amid…

That’s another fine mess Jeremy & Co have got themselves into

Dundee is the City of Discovery and Labour is learning all sorts during its conference weekend there. Early on, they announced the winners of the Keir Hardie Awards, given in honour of the party’s founder and enduring hero. Only this year they had been renamed, according to the legend beamed onto the conference backdrop, the…

Of shortbread and chauvinism

Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, was a red-baiter of such ferocity he made Joe McCarthy look like Julius Rosenberg. There was almost no one in 1950s America Welch did not accuse of allegiance to the Soviet Union. His crusade reached its apogee as only it could with a 1958 tract naming President Dwight Eisenhower…