Swinney comes out swinging in stand-in FMQs joust

John Swinney was one of the best leaders of the SNP in decades. Nothing will dissuade me from this view. Not the party’s mediocre electoral performance during his tenure (down one MP and eight MSPs). Not his failure to unite the gradualist and fundamentalist wings. Not even his role in the departure from the partyContinue reading “Swinney comes out swinging in stand-in FMQs joust”

Charles Kennedy embodied a decency all too rare in politics

You will be hearing the word ‘decent’ a lot today. That is to be expected. How else to describe a man so essentially good. A politician who stood on principle and reminded a cynical public that politicians still could. Charles Kennedy, who has died aged 55, led the Liberal Democrats for just over six yearsContinue reading “Charles Kennedy embodied a decency all too rare in politics”

Presiding Officer can take pride in a legacy of reform

The current term at Holyrood will be the last for one of the parliament’s most prominent and respected members. Tricia Marwick, the presiding officer, has announced that she will stand down as an MSP at next May’s elections. The Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP was one of the original 129 members of the reconvened Scottish ParliamentContinue reading “Presiding Officer can take pride in a legacy of reform”

Queen’s Speech sets out Tories’ new blue-collar conservatism

When Napoleon described the English as “a nation of shopkeepers” some among their number took the barb to heart. For the aristocracy and the radicals, commerce was long a common enemy, at once vulgar and elitist. It is why the upper classes and the liberal intelligentsia despised Margaret Thatcher, the social-climbing daughter of a grocerContinue reading “Queen’s Speech sets out Tories’ new blue-collar conservatism”

Jim Murphy’s departure alone will not save Scottish Labour

It’s been a right mad few months in Scotland, hasn’t it? The SNP, a mere 80 years into its existence, brought the 300-year-old Union between Scotland and England to the brink of destruction. Then the most successful Scottish politician in a generation, Alex Salmond, managed to lose the referendum to the massed forces of JohannContinue reading “Jim Murphy’s departure alone will not save Scottish Labour”

The SNP’s Mhairi Black talks about her first few days at Westminster

Amid the 56 SNP MPs descending on Westminster this week, one is standing out from the crowd. Mhairi Black sent shockwaves through the political establishment last Thursday when she ousted shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. In doing so, she turned a 17,000 Labour majority into a 6000 edge for the Nationalists in Paisley and RenfrewshireContinue reading “The SNP’s Mhairi Black talks about her first few days at Westminster”

The British political class returns to business as usual

That the Union is living through perilous days is all but undetectable here in Westminster. Not a week since the air was thick with talk of coalitions, the only coalition in town is the one between David Cameron and his backbenchers. The SNP MPs sent down to “hold Westminster’s feet to the fire” are busyContinue reading “The British political class returns to business as usual”

Victories for the true believers but what about the dreamers?

“This is a victory for the true believers.” Paul Keating so described his Labor government’s improbable triumph in the 1993 Australian election, which had been trailed by commentators and pollsters as “unloseable” for the centre-right Coalition. Calculating pragmatism brought Keating success over an ideologically lazy opposition whose leader spoke to his grassroots but could notContinue reading “Victories for the true believers but what about the dreamers?”

The woman who melted Jamie Ross’s heart

It was a tragic quest that could only really end in futility and failure. Ahab had his whale, Don Quixote his windmills, Fox Mulder his vast conspiracy between the CIA, alien shape-shifters, and that black oil they never really explained. For Jamie Ross, it was Solero Woman. Back during the 1999 Scottish Parliament election campaign,Continue reading “The woman who melted Jamie Ross’s heart”

If Jim Murphy fails it will be because Labour is beyond saving

Jim Murphy couldn’t win his joust with Bernard Ponsonby on Wednesday night, whatever winning means in a Scotland unmoored from so many political certainties. If he had tried, he would have risked looking desperate. Pathetically straining for a game-changer in the dying days of the election campaign. No, the only thing for it was toContinue reading “If Jim Murphy fails it will be because Labour is beyond saving”