>I just don’t get the Labour Party.
They have moved heaven and earth to get some horrendously illiberal legislation through – remember ID cards, control orders and 42 days’ detention, anyone? They were stubborn, intransigent and draconian. The Government believed passionately (and I think wrongly, obviously) that these measures were necessary and that passion propelled them to keep trying to do what they believed in rather than give up.
Now, whether you think of the report of the Calman Commission goes far enough or not, if Labour were to implement the measures Jim Murphy announced today, there is enough of a consensus for them to get through all their Parliamentary stages and into law in the 70 days before they have to dissolve Parliament for the General Election.
Why in the name of goodness don’t they just get on with it? Can’t they cope with an open door or something?
It makes me wonder if they’re really serious about further devolution. As we’ve seen before, if they want to do something, they will get on with it, even if the idea is completely bonkers. Their nature is to grasp everything and drag it kicking and screaming to the centre and in some ways setting up the Scottish Parliament went against the grain. Giving away more powers from Westminster to Scotland must be a hard thing for them.
I might be reading too much into this, but today’s effort by Jim Murphy seems to be quite a cynical exercise. It takes a lot for me to feel sympathy with the SNP, but I found the way he tried to suggest that Nationalists weren’t patriots quite unnecessary. It’s almost like Labour have been taking lessons from the Republicans in the US. I don’t doubt for a second that the Holyrood administration puts the interests of the SNP above everything else, but I felt that Murphy’s language was unhelpful, aggressive and off-putting. I’m not above having a good go at the SNP myself from time to time but there are limits.
If you really believed in something, and thought it was important enough, wouldn’t you implement it while you had the chance? There’s no guarantee that Labour will be in power this time next year, and while a Lib Dem government would implement the proposals, the Tories are clearly trying to distance themselves as much as possible from Calman. Having helped to establish the Commission, they are now going back on its recommendations and are just going to make something else up themselves at some unspecified point in the future. It took them a good while to accept the idea of a Holyrood Parliament so it’s hardly surprising that they’re dragging their feet on this. How could we ever have thought it would be any different?
The Lib Dems are the only party with a clean slate on Calman – enthusiastic about it from start to end. The SNP had to be pretty much dragged into engaging with the process, refusing to recognise that there are valid alternatives to independence which as we’ve seen this week only a very small minority of people want.
I’m going to give the last word on this to the Lib Dem Shadow Scottish Secretary, the ever wise Alistair Carmichael, who said:
“What does the government’s white paper really add to the process, apart from further delay in the implementation, where there is a consensus, and giving the Conservatives an opportunity for the sort of backsliding we have seen today.”.
I was proud of the performance of the Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs today – they made a positive and constructive contribution to the proceedings, more so than anybody else. I’m reminded of a phrase that we used in a previous election campaign – while Labour and the SNP fight amongst themselves, the Lib Dems fight for the people of Scotland. It certainly looked like that in the Commons today.