Despite my best efforts,I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I simply cannot get excited about the European Union or the in/out referendum. Let me be very clear from the outset, that is not to say that I dislike the EU, or am indifferent as to the outcome of the referendum. It just does not ignite the same passion within me the way that Scotland does, or the 2014 Independence Referendum did.
Now, the EU, like Westminster, which I freely admit I dislike, in fact loathe, is a bureaucratic behemoth sorely in need of root and branch reform. I would argue, that there is a significant difference, between the EU and Westminster, as regards their respective attitudes to reform. On the one hand, there are many within the EU, including at the top, who recognise the need for increased accountability and further democratisation.
One the other hand, and in sharp contrast to the EU, the entrenched establishment at Westminster, believe that their's is the best, the most exalted, the finest, unsurpassed democratic institution in the world. And they resent and resist any attempts to reform or improve it with every fibre of their being. That the Westminster system of government, with its archaic monarchy, grotesquely unrepresentative first past the post electoral method, and the pantomime House of Lords passes for democracy is risible.
Clearly, I fully understand the historical conditions that laid the foundations of what has become the European Union have today. It is undoubtadely imperative, that the countries of Europe are bound together, economically and politically, to act as a bulwark against a repeat of the horrors of the dark past. Sadly, the disaster zone that is the Middle East, and the ensuing refugee crisis, has brought the need for a strong, permanently, unified Europe sharply into focus.
Whilst I do not pretend that I am in anyway an expert in economics, I believe the wider financial benefits of remaining a member of the EU probably outweigh those of Brexit. If the United Kingdom is a net contributor to the EU, then that is only as it should be, given that the UK boasts the second largest economy in Europe and is ranked fifth in the world. Britain's economy is reliant, indeed thrives on our fellow EU citizens, who come to live and work here. Those are the facts, despite what the racists and xenophobes say to the contrary. I also rather like having the option to go off and work in another EU country, if I chose to do so.
Though it it may be without any great enthusiasm, I shall be voting to remain in the EU (I've no excuse, as I have a postal ballot), because on balance I believe that is what is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK. We can but hope, that the reforms that the EU is crying out for, will come to see the light of day. Now that I could get enthusiastic about.
The spectacular collapse of Scottish Labour has been utterly fascinating to behold. All the more so, that this was no steady decline, rather a fairly swift transition from the preeminent force in Scottish politics to a relative fringe party.
There are, and will continue to be countless analyses. attempting to account for and explain the position in which Scottish Labour now finds itself. I would argue that two factors played a significant role here.
The first was displeasure with Tony Blair and his ill advised forays into the quagmires of Afghanistan an Iraq. I would also suggest, that whilst Blair succeeded in making Labour electable again by loosening the Party's links with the Unions and shifting the Labour firmly to the centre ground, there was a price to be paid.
The price of success for New Labour, was alienating many working class Labour voters, especially in the Scotland. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it was a tactical blunder for the Labour Party,to stand shoulder to shoulder, with the toxic Tories in the 'Better Together' campaign. Granted it succeeded, but at what price?
Loosing power at Holyrood in 2007 and 2011 can probably, in simplistic terms at least, be attributed to the Blair-Brown effect. The routs of the 2015 General Election and the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Election, could well be voters punishing Labour for the part they played in project fear, coupled with the fact that voters have found it increasingly difficult to understand what it is Labour actually stands for.
What is certain, is that there was an definite perception that Labour had abandoned the working class. In 2015 it was utterly excruciating, to hear Jim Murphy repeatedly, relentlessly trot out the same tired old line "a vote for the SNP is a vote for the Tories". He would also over-employ the phrase "If people wanted a Labour government, the only way to is to vote Labour".
No one, it seems, was listening. As it turned out, a vote for the SNP wasn't a vote for the Tories at all. It was the English that ultimately kept Labour in opposition in 2015.
Sadly, Kezia Dugdale's efforts, in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Election proved to be equally as ineffective as that of 2015. I suspect there was a coming together of voters punishing Labour for the part it played in 'Project Fear' and simply not understanding what Labour stood for anymore, other than the perception that they'd deserted the working class.
Foisting rejected MP Anas Sarwar on the Holyrood electorate, via the back door of the regional list, was a shameful example of holding the expressed will of the electorate in contempt. The Labour campaign was muddled, lacked clarity and coherence. Scottish Labour also failed to grasp the fact that, SNP bad simply would not cut the mustard!
Does this mean that Scottish Labour is headed inexorably towards extinction? I doubt it. Whilst it is true to say that the SNP are enjoying a prolonged honeymoon period with the Scottish electorate, this will not continue indefinitely.
Nothing, as we've seen many, many times before in politics, as in life, lasts forever. The longer the SNP remain in office, the harder it will become to retain their lustre and vitality. Indeed, I would suggest, that even with a change of leader, there has been a palpable loss of freshness to the SNP image.
For me, the SNP government has proven somewhat over cautious, and if voters fail to see sufficient, tangible improvements to services, disaffection will quickly take root. Of course, how much of a problem that actually becomes for the SNP depends on whether or not the opposition parties can get their acts together.
Firstly Labour needs to ditch SNP bad, it hasn't, doesn't and will not work in the short or medium term. Secondly, they need to return firmly to the left of centre. To firmly reject the centre-right Blair's NewLabour came to occupy.
Moreover, the party needs to reconnect with Scottish voters, who I believe by and large have a slightly different national mindset to the English. It might be that the best way to achieve this, is to break away altogether from 'London Labour' with consideration given to a name change to enhance the sense of a new begining.
The main flaw with this course of action, is that it might lock Labour out of office at Westminster permanently. There's an obvious solution to that conundrum. Labour in Scotland and in London should now embrace, what they ought to have done when they took office in 1997 and moved to a fully Federal United Kingdom with proportion representation rather than the piecemeal, half baked set of arrangements we have now.
The EU in/out referendum, has thus far left me in a state of total exasperation. How on earth, are the electorate to make an informed, measured and principled choice when they are fed a constant stream of increasingly hysterical, nonsensical, puerile drivel? Politicians seem determinded to out do one an other, on who can make the most outlandish claims on a daily basis.
As far as I can tell, we’ve yet to hear any grown up, serious, substantive debate on an issue that has profound implications for the future of the United Kingdom. Granted, there have been numerous cogent arguments put forward in, shall we say, the more serious newspapers and politic journals. Alas however, you're average punter does not read the Guardian, the Independent or the New Statesman. Sadly it is the far right press barons of the Daily Express, The Daily Mail and The Sun that set the agenda. They shamelessly trot out half truths and downright misrepresentations. Even the BBC's Question Time and Any Questions, seem unable to move the debate beyond immigration and border controls.
I simply do not view those, who come to the UK from EU countries as immigrants. They are EU citizens just as you and I are and as such have every right to be here. I'm currently in hospital undergoing tests, and I can tell you first hand that if it weren't for our fellow EU citizens, having come to the UK to do the great work that they do, then this facility would all but cease to operate.
Nor do I hear enough being said of the European ideal, of the two horrific wars that all but destroyed a continent and the crucial role the EU plays in ensuring that never happens again. Now, I don't for one minute, suggest that the UK could not survive outside the EU. However, I think in the short to medium term, it would be severely diminished at the very least.
The Brexiter fantasy, of a UK free from the shackles of the EU, returning to long gone glory days (though one might disputed just how glorious the British Empire in fact was) is just that, a fanciful pipe dream. Unless I haven't been paying enough attention, the Labour Party and the Lib-Dems seem remarkably quiet on the matter. It may just be that they are simply being drowned out, by the no holds barred Tory civil war.
Nor have I heard much here in Scotland, though that could be down to election fatigue, besides there's still time for the campaign to gather steam yet. As things stand, I am deeply concerned that there insufficient numbers of voters passionate enough about remaining in the EU. This could result in large numbers of probable remain voters, staying at home come polling day.
Meanwhile, the racists, xenophobes, post imperial delusionals will go out and vote. As will people who complain about being run by unelected bureaucrats from Brussels, whilst they are all too happy to be governed by a shower of Hooray Henry's, who scraped together little more than a third of the vote, had an unelected second chamber full of failed MP's, cronies and generous donors. We are in danger of being taken out of the EU by apathy! G