This Theatre of Dreams

Wings Over Scotland’s been getting a bit of flak on Twitter for his somewhat relentless exhibition of, well, basic facts in the case of prospective Gordon MP Braden Davy. A lot of people think it’s unfair to juxtapose the silly escapades someone got up to in their teen years with their more mature present. Normally I would agree, if this wasn’t a discussion about someone who seeks to wield enormous power over the lives and livelihoods of the people of Gordon, and by extension, Scotland and even the UK.

I feel compelled to (figuratively, gently and compassionately) slap some bloody sense into these people.

New Labour has turned me into a nationalist monster, and they have only themselves to blame. I spent most of my adult life steadfastly refusing to join any political party, even those I agree with most – I tended to flit between SNP, SSP and Greens since the foundation of the Scottish Parliament, but since it’s only usually the SNP which has stood with any significant chance of entering Westminster, that’s made me a de facto SNP voter. I hated the tribalism which poisons so much of Scottish politics. I couldn’t stand seeing my friends and family arguing about the colour of their rosettes. So I disavowed myself of it. It was only in the aftermath of the referendum where I realised that I could no longer enjoy that selfish reassurance, that I wasn’t like my friends and family, that I only voted for who I felt best represented my political interests. It was only then the penny dropped – just how much was at stake here.

I cannot comment on Braden Davy’s character, either as a human being or a politician. Nor do I intend to, because what matters as a politician is how you vote, and how your party expects you to vote. Unless you’re a significant force of personality with the mettle of a Tyrannosaurus, you are going to be whipped into voting the way your party wants you to vote – if your party wants you to vote at all.

Let’s look at the most recent votes in the House of Commons. Yesterday was the Infrastructure Bill (Lords), or the “Fracking” Bill, which was voted on twice. First was the motion for an amendment:

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

What a joy to perform once again in this theatre of dreams. What an honour to speak for the Government introducing this important Bill. What a responsibility this House has to create the future our nation needs, to build a Britain fit for generations to come and to plant trees for those born later.

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

“this House declines to give a second reading to the Infrastructure Bill because, whilst welcoming efforts to further enable necessary infrastructure projects and acknowledging that long-term strategic planning and investment for transport infrastructure is urgently needed, the Bill fails to establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to set out an evidence-based analysis of future infrastructure priorities in sectors including transport, waste and energy, and to hold governments accountable for delivery, because the Bill creates a new Strategic Highways Company, which could result in an increasingly two-tiered road system when there is no evidence that a new company is needed to deliver a road investment strategy, because the Bill fails to address the deteriorating condition of the local road network due to the cuts in spending since 2010 on local road maintenance, because the Bill does not ensure that unconventional gas extraction could only happen in the context of robust safety and environmental standards, comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement, because the Bill fails to give communities new powers so that they can build the homes they need locally in the places they want, and because the Bill fails to include Garden City principles to underpin the next generation of New Towns, fails to strike the right balance between communities and developers in the discharge of planning conditions, and fails to properly plan ahead to ensure that building standards address CO2 emissions and climate change.”

Question put, That the amendment be made.

What a joy, what an honour, what a responsibility it is for me – seriously, this is how they speak in the UK parliament – to note just how the House voted.

Conservatives: 252+1 tell voted No.
New Labour: 187+2 tell voted Aye. (73.3% turnout)
Neoliberal Democrats: 41+1 tell voted No.
SNP: 5 voted Aye. (83.3% turnout)
Plaid Cymru: 2 voted Aye. (66.7% turnout)
Greens: 1 voted Aye.
Alliance: 1 voted Aye
DUP: 1 voted Aye. (12.5% turnout)
Independent: 1 voted Aye.
SDLP: 1 voted Aye. (33.3% turnout)

There were no rebellions.

Result: Ayes 199, Noes 293. (77.4% turnout)

So even though a good chunk of New Labour MPs and just about every other party except the Coalition also voted for the amendment, it wasn’t enough to get the amendment through. The 28 absent New Labour members wouldn’t have been enough to swing it.

Still, we could always stop the bill from getting a second reading, right? It seems unlikely, but since New Labour felt strongly enough to vote for this amendment, it would seem reasonable to assume they would want to stick to their guns, right?

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 62(2)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Well…

Conservative: 236+1 voted Aye, 1 voted No. (78.5% turnout)
New Labour: N/A. (0.0% turnout)
Neoliberal Democrat: 40+1 voted Aye. (71.9% turnout)
SNP: 4+1 voted No. (83.3% turnout)
Plaid Cymru: 1+1 voted No. (66.7% turnout)
Greens: 1 voted No.
DUP: 1 voted No. (12.5% turnout)
Independent: 1 voted No.
SDLP: 1 voted No. (33.3% turnout)

There was one rebellion.

Result: 276 Ayes, 10 Nos. (45.3% turnout)

Has it sunk in yet? Has the fact that not a single one of New Labour’s 217 MPs chose to vote against a second reading – not a single one of the 189 who we know were present at parliament that day – gotten through? Has the fact that not one of Scotland’s 40 New Labour MPs sought to even try to “stop the Tories” – thus meaning that the SNP, by definition, did more to challenge the Tories on this occasion than the combined might of Scotland’s New Labour despite being outnumbered 5 to 1 – clunked on your brain yet?

It isn’t the first time New Labour abstention has made a mockery of this supposed party of socialists and workers, and the fact that even a 100% turnout wouldn’t have stopped the bill doesn’t provide much comfort when you consider it led to a 0.0% turnout.

Braden Davy seeks to represent the New Labour Party in Scotland. That means that all his promises, all the things he says he will do, all the choices he makes, are completely and utterly conditional on the New Labour whips. The biggest “rebel” in the current opposition is Vauxhall’s Kate Hoey, who since 2010 dared to vote against her party’s stance a colossal 38 times… out of 671 votes. The rest of the time – 94.3% of the time, to be precise – she votes with her party. Scotland’s greatest rebel, Jim McGovern, cannot even match half Kate’s record, with a pitiful 12 votes out of 787, meaning he’ll toe the party line 98.5% of the time.

Are we to expect Braden Davy to put every other New Labour MP to shame by voting against party policy which we know is in direct opposition to the wants and needs to the Scottish people? Would he have turned up to vote on a second reading, or the Welfare Cap, or the Bedroom Tax? You could easily argue the same for the SNP, of course, who have an even more faithful voting record to their party – but then, it boils down to the same question of which party is going to make the decisions that reflect the wishes of the people of Scotland. For all the kvetching the Scottish Greens do about the SNP refusing to openly ban fracking (and thus giving Westminster all the excuse it needs to take away the few powers to stop fracking Holyrood has just as it did with renewables, not to mention inviting Ineos and other pro-fracking companies to wreak havoc yet again by shutting down production – seriously, use your nuts, guys) here we have irrefutable proof of the SNP sticking their necks out, along with Plaid Cymru and the Greens, against environmental catastrophe in the Central Belt.

The SNP voted against a second reading of a bill which edges Scotland ever closer to natural disaster. New Labour didn’t even bother to vote.

Fracking Scotland

Just a bit of perspective.

 

Braden Davy is looking to represent the New Labour Party in Scotland.

Remember that.

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16 thoughts on “This Theatre of Dreams

  1. Excellent point rather articulately put across, those of us in Scotland that can be bothered to research, and get involved in the quagmire that is politics, have a grave responsibility to get the message and information across to our fellow countrymen and woman. I won’t be telling anyone who to vote for, all i ask is that they take some time, think why they are voting a particular way and go do their OWN research see if that backs up their original reasoning for voting that particular way, if it does, then at least you have made a decision based on facts and your not just following a particular party blindly. Your vote is important and it’s your responsibility alone..

  2. In the National newspaper on Mon Dec 8 in an article by Stefan Schmid the Labour MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk Michael Connarty `confirmed he will be voting against next week`s Infrastructure Bill, designed to make hydraulic fracturing,or fracking,easier to carry out.
    I take it from your article that the Labour MP`s can say they voted against the `Bill` be it only in the first Reading knowing full well that they would abstain in the second Reading .
    The duplicitousness of the Labour MP is breathtaking in its arrogance.

    • alharron says:

      It’s the same trick they tried with the Bedroom Tax vote in 2013: they could honestly – and accurately – say they voted in almost every stage in the vote. It’s just they didn’t turn up to the one vote that actually mattered, and unlike this one, they actually COULD have changed the result.

      The idea that some of these people campaign day in day out against fracking, only to abstain on votes about fracking, fills me with such contempt it actually frightens me.

  3. MBC says:

    The explanation I got was that as Labour had voted on the first motion for an amendment against a second reading of the Infrastructure Bill and were defeated, (the flowery passage you include) they saw no point in voting in the second motion, which was the SNP’s motion. Petty, I know. But in all fairness they did try to stop it, and as you’ve noted, even if the absentees had turned up they would still have been defeated. Fair is fair, I’m just pointing this out.

    • haufdun says:

      Transparency, that’s all. These elected representatives are being paid a comparatively large salary to represent their respective electorates, the least they can do is actually turn up and demonstrate to the public that it’s more than a gentlemans club they’ve joined. Just get off their backsides and show face, even if they do know they’re going to lose.

    • alharron says:

      And yet the Greens, Plaid Cymru and others still turned up to the SNP’s motion despite the fact they couldn’t win. New Labour abstaining truly was emblematic of their grotesque pettiness. You could easily have argued that even that first motion was going to fail:why turn up to that, and not the second?

      This is the sort of thing that turned me into a vile cybernat.

      • MBC says:

        Agree. I didn’t find it a very satisfactory explanation. From what I can make out it was a gesture against the SNP – not to support their motion by abstaining. They think nobody is watching and were annoyed when we found out.

  4. I wonder why politicians bother turning up to hear the arguments, why not simply vote via the internet at least that way we, the tax payer, would save on expenses.

  5. MBC says:

    Again in the interests of fairness, in March this year there was a vote in the Scottish Parliament re a motion put by Green MSP Alison Johnstone, to put an exclusion zone or embargo on fracking within a certain distance of houses which was defeated by the SNP. Joan McAlpine was on that committee as well. I have no idea why Alison’s motion was not accepted.

    • alharron says:

      I appreciate you pointing this out, MBC, it keeps me right. My guess is that the SNP, rightly or wrongly, consider themselves on a real tightrope when it comes to fracking: Westminster has a lot invested in the business, there are many energy giants involved, and there’s very little they can do directly to stop it. It would be a huge gamble to outright ban fracking, no matter how much some (most?) within the SNP may want it, simply because it would mean jeopardising the little leverage we have.

      It’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. I just pray I’m right.

      • MBC says:

        Here is the latest planning document, dated June this year. Scottish Planning Policy.
        http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00453827.pdf

        There are two paragraphs, 245-246, under the section dealing with Responsible Use of Resources, or something like that. (Can never recollect the exact titles of these nondescript phrases, sorry).

        You will see that SPF doesn’t appear to rule out fracking. You will also see that Alison Johnstone’s motion in March this year on the Environment and Tourism Committee on which she served, to put a 2km radius ban on fracking near to houses, coheres with this. It was a competent motion. It failed 5:4. Jean Urquhart, John Finnie and Patrick Harvie supported her. The other five didn’t.

        I am for indy and usually vote SNP. I just feel that we have to put pressure on them as well. I’m from the Grangemouth area originally, still have relations there, and I can tell you this is a big issue with the voters there. The SNP are not going to make inroads in the Falkirk area unless they take a stronger stance on fracking.

        What the June 2014 SPF requires is that fracking developers undertake a ‘risk assessment’ before their planning application can be processed. This will be done by SEPA, apparently. I.e., at public expense – unless SEPA manages to charge them for it, I suppose.

        The SNP have therefore to some extent beefed up planning requirements but stopped short of putting a spanner in the whole works.

        To me this is mealy-mouthed and they must be far bolder.

  6. Reblogged this on Wake Up Before It's Too Late and commented:
    Proof that Labour are merely playing lip service in order to win votes for GE2015 – actions tell the true story…

  7. MBC says:

    I don’t understand this area either. Planning and Environment are supposedly ‘fully’ devolved to Scotland. Energy policy isn’t. So there’s a conflict there. The UK government passed the 1998 Petroleum act awarding itself the right to issue PEDLs (petroleum exploration and development licences) for which it charges developers money which goes straight to the Treasury. So the Treasury is looting money for the sale of licences for most of Central Scotland, without as much as a by-your-leave from either the Scottish Government or the Scottish people.

    The document I just posted also mentions ‘NPF’ which I think means National Planning Framework. I.e., UK. It also states on the first page that the Scottish Planning Policy is ‘non-statutory’ and cites the primary legislation, which is the latest 1997 (Scotland) version of the original 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.

    In political theory, a distinction is made between ‘imperium’ or ‘fullness of power’ and a lesser level of power, ‘gubernitus’, which literally means, ‘the hand on the tiller’. It’s essentially the power that managers and governors have to steer, to shape a secondary level of policy, it’s administrative and executive authority. But it’s not sovereignty. Medieval monarchs sought ‘imperium’ but usually found that in practice they had to share power with nobles and lesser beings whom they had to consult in order to raise taxes.

    I don’t think Scotland has the legislative power, the ‘imperium’, to entirely re-draft the primary legislation, only to interpret it within a wider policy framework. So when Labour say that in terms of the Scotland Act planning is ‘fully devolved’ I don’t think it is in the way that most people would imagine that phrase meant.

    So under current powers, the Scottish Government could frame SPP so as to gum up the works, make developers go through extra hoops, but I’m not sure it has the power to ban fracking in built-up areas altogether. Yet Alison’s motion was apparently judged perfectly competent. So I’m a bit confused.

  8. MBC says:

    Typo: Sorry, I meant ‘SPP’ (Scottish Planning Policy) not SPF, above.

  9. […] – SNP devolution proposals thwarted by a mixture of massive Conservative opposition and New Labour abstention. It cannot be spun as anything other than the contemptuous defenestration of the democratic will of […]

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