Regular visitors to A Burdz Eye View – there are a few, and I thank ye – will have noticed it’s all been a bit blogging lite this week. Several reasons for this: tiredness for one, a heavy-duty real life workload for another. But truth be told, I haven’t felt particularly inspired to say anything much about anything at all. One wise soul who has been a good mentor to the burdz blogging efforts advises regularly only to blog when I have something to say. And frankly, there has been little I have wanted to say in the past week that isn’t being articulated more effectively by others.
I should have, could have blogged about the UK Labour conference and Ed Miliband but it was all a bit meh. A great big fat disappointment, more eloquently expressed by Iain Bell and Duncan Hamilton in their respective columns today. But a couple of passing remarks. The burdz wholly unscientific rule of thumb for Labour conferences is that if the delegates inside the hall love it and the audience outside is indifferent or worse, hostile, the party is in trouble. This I think is what happened, particularly with Ed Miliband’s leader ‘s address.
Secondly, the only potential “next leader” contender to enhance her chances was Yvette Cooper, with a decent speech which grabbed and held attention. Apparently, her Ed has already conceded that in a future contest, he would defer to her. At last, he knows his place. Ed Balls’s speech was definitely a low light: he managed to make an ambitious five point plan for growth sound like the weekly messages’ line. It was a real waste, for the plan has some proposals worthy of wider debate and consideration.
As for the Tories, trailed populist measures aside, they seem to be on the backfoot. Eddie Barnes sums it up nicely by suggesting today, that Osborne is “fighting a 2011 crisis still in 2010 mode”. It will be interesting to see what Osborne comes up with in his conference speech: it bloody better not contain a 50p tax rate cut.
It was dispiriting to see so much attention paid to the idea of raising the motorway speed limit to 80 mph. It’s the kind of measure that is manna for radio phone-ins and even warranted top billing on this week’s Question Time. A classic deflection policy, drawing energy and focus away from the big issues of the day. Like the Eurozone crisis, whispers that the US is about to head back into recession, the vote in the German Bundestag for the latest bail-out package and of course, the continuing drift of the UK economy, bumping along the bottom of the growth curve, with daily swells of bad news on employment, output, markets and performance.
In a further effort to deflect attention from not having a clue how to kickstart the economy, the Conservatives prefer to criticise the Scottish Government’s economic plans. McPlan B is rubbish they cry: at least, we’ve got one I retort. It may or may not work but at least our government is trying, within the confines of the powers it has. I’ve already praised the general thrust of the Spending Review, and had a pop at the predictability of sectoral protests, but there is more to blog on here, in terms of teasing out the detail. But it needs spread out, if only to save all our brain cells from big figure frazzle and too much homespun analysis.
Elsewhere, in Scottish politics, everyone appears to be obsessed by the constitution to the exclusion of all else. Check out the recent guest posts at Better Nation, and the slew of comments. See too, the Scottish Conservative and Labour leadership contests: like so many deluded Icaruses, they all think that the closer they fly to the SNP’s independence sun, the more successful they will be. The same tired arguments are being trotted out: even Twitter has depressed me this week, with crack cyber troops on both sides of the constitutional divide failing to generate any light or shade for a sensible discourse, much less any common ground. The only really interesting contribution to Scottish Labour’s future came from Douglas Alexander MP who trailed some new thinking from a lecture he is due to give next month.
And if a political junkie like me is feeling drained by all the huffing and puffing this far out from a referendum, pity the poor ordinary punter, who casts sideways glances and wonders when any of our politicians might get round to discussing the big issues that impact on their day-to-day lives.
Thankfully, change is in the air, for this week, Holyrood debates fuel poverty and the UK Government’s welfare reform bill. At last, the Scottish Parliament is preparing to roll its tanks over primarily reserved matters, and ones which really do matter. For there is scarcely a household in Scotland that will not be affected – to its detriment – by both these issues in the coming months.
Eye-watering, inflation-busting price hikes by the big energy companies mean that more and more Scots are being pushed into fuel poverty, spending at least 10% of their available income on heating, cooking and lighting. Older people, families with a disabled adult or child and low-income families with children will be particularly hard hit. While there is much that the Scottish Government can and does do within current powers – incentivising energy-saving and penalising waste would make for an excellent business rates’ measure – but regulating energy companies’ behaviour rests with Westminster. And of course, it can always use its own powers more effectively.
The scale of change heading down the tracks from the ConDems’ systematic dismantling of the welfare state is almost overwhelming. Yet, so consumed have we been by our constitutional future, that the bill has barely merited a passing mention by the Scottish media. Hopefully, Wednesday’s debate will remove the scales from their and everyone’s eyes. I’ll be blogging on why it all matters on Tuesday – particularly of interest is the Liberal Democrats’ acquiescence in it all.
And do you know, having started this post feeling dispirited, I reckon I might just have rediscovered my blogging mojo….