I started the Devo Files with a specific eye to be as neutral as I think I could be as an SNP member, supporter, activist and general neer-do-well, with a strict aim not to be unduly harsh or critical of any given MP. There are a number of MPs who I sympathise with, even respect, but who I cannot bring myself to support simply because I do not believe they will put the interests of the Scottish people before the interests of their party – and in Westminster, the party is king above all else.
Then there are people like Douglas Alexander.
Part of me is somewhat disappointed that some MPs are simply too cowardly to put their money where their mouths are. Gordon Brown & Alistair Darling are both standing down, and not contesting the 2015 General Election, even after they gave their personal guarantees that they would see these new powers devolved to Scotland – it’ll be difficult for them to do that if they aren’t even in parliament in the first place. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m disappointed that they chose to retire rather than be defeated, to turn off the xbox before they were about to lose, to enjoy their extracurricular thousands instead of work for their “golden goodbye.” I would have felt a lot of vindication if the Leader of Better Together and Saviour of the Union were ousted – or even prevailed, if it meant they could be held to account over all the things they said and done during the referendum.
But then, we have Douglas Alexander.
During his first and most recent parliamentary terms (1997 to 2001 and 2010 to 18th March 2015), Douglas Alexander did not vote against New Labour on a single policy. Indeed, each of his 6 rebellions (3 in the middle two terms 2001-2005 & 2005-2010) was on a single issue – that of reform of the House of Lords. Nuclear weapons? Sure! Iraq war? Go for it! Control orders? By all means! But retaining the House of Lords, there he draws the line.
Public Whip record: 46.7%
Did not vote on a second reading of the Scotland Bill
Voted for requiring Scottish ministers to order officers to start counting within four hours of polls closing
Voted against devolving regulation of air weapons
Voted against keeping insolvency powers with the Scottish parliament
Did not vote on keeping responsibility for regulating health officials with the Scottish Parliament
Did not vote on devolving tax quarrying and mining
Did not vote on code of conduct for Scottish ministers in relation to the treasury
Voted against devolving the Scottish elements of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Voted for devolving responsibility for railways that start and finish in Scotland
Did not vote on devolving elements of the Crown Estate and accountability of the Crown Estate
Did not vote on devolving timescales, time zones, and British Summer Time
Voted for devolving food content and labeling
Voted against allowing the Scottish government to tax companies’ profits
Voted for the devolving the regulation of shale gas to Scotland
So Douglas Alexander voted for devolution on 4 issues, voted against devolution on 4 issues, and did not bother to vote on 6 issues. Again, New Labour is supposed to be The Party Of Devolution.
Other Votes of Interest
For a supposed socialist, Mr Alexander seems to be perfectly happy destroying civil liberties and pursuing aggressive military agendas.
UK Air Strikes in Iraq
523 for, 42 against
He was one of 191 New Labour MPs who voted for the airstrikes, along with 271(+1) Conservatives, 8 DUP, 47(+1) Neoliberal Democrats, and 1 Alliance
This should surprise no-one, as Mr Alexander strongly supported the Iraq War and strongly opposed any investigation into it.
520 for, 23 against
He was one of 202 New Labour MPs (30 of which were Scottish) who voted for a cap on welfare spending, along with 271 Conservative, 41 Liberal Democrats, 6 DUP, 1 Alliance, and 1 Independent
Once again, this is the party that will be “tougher than the Tories,” whose Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary said they “were not the party of benefits,” who engineered the original version of the Bedroom Tax. No surprise.
Charter for Budget Responsibility
515 for, 18 against
He was one of 198 New Labour MPs (28 of which were Scottish) who voted for the Autumn Statement to be approved, along with 263 Conservatives, 49 Liberal Democrats, 5 DUP, and 2 UKIP.
Douglas Alexander has not rebelled once this term in government. Keep that in mind the next time his party signs up to more austerity while he pontificates about socialism.
In addition, here are some more Public Whip votes:
Voted against a more extensive set of conditions to be met before consent for hydraulic fracking is given
Voted moderately against making abusive tax evasion illegal
Voted strongly against greater limits on civil aviation pollution
Voted strongly against strengthening the Freedom of Information Bill 2000
Voted strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war
Voted strongly against no detentions without charge or trial
Voted strongly against unrestricted protesting near Parliament
Voted strongly against reducing the rate of Corporation Tax
Voted strongly against referendums on Alternative Vote for MP Elections
Voted strongly against referendums on direct elections for city mayors
Voted strongly against a register of lobbyists
Voted strongly against free tuition
Voted strongly for the introduction of ID cards
Voted strongly for nuclear power
Voted strongly for the mass retention of communication data
Voted strongly for allowing ministers to intervene on coronor’s inquests
Voted strongly for New Labour’s modernisation of the Post Office
Voted strongly for New Labour’s anti-terrorism laws
Voted strongly for the use of UK military forces overseas
Voted very strongly for the Iraq invasion
Voted very strongly for the government to have complete control orders over suspected terrorists
Voted strongly for Trident replacement
Has never voted on the deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan
Has never voted on the right to strike
As ever, this is just to point out how expensive it is to send MPs to Westminster: the least we could ask them to do is represent us.
As an aside, there is another story involving Douglas Alexander’s expenses, though this is from 2009:
Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, spent more than £30,000 doing up his constituency home – which then suffered damage in a house fire.
Declaring that he had been “under-insured,” Mr Alexander sought permission from the fees office to kit out a new home at taxpayers’ expense. He stayed there for six months while his 120-year-old house was being repaired.
In the end, the MP repaid nearly £2,000 for items including bedding, a television, DVD player and an oven roasting tin after his insurance company agreed to reimburse him for property lost in the fire.
£2,000? Oh, well that makes it all ok then.
The story of Douglas & Wendy Alexander’s relationship has naturally been rife with speculation, but the most significant is the accusation that Mr Alexander effectively ousted his own sister from her position as Scottish leader:
Wendy had been censured by the Scottish parliament for the unlawful acceptance of just £950 as a donation. However according to McBride, Douglas used the row to ease out his sister over a disagreement over when a referendum on Scottish independence should be held.
“Anyone who blanches at the idea of Ed Miliband taking on his brother for the Labour leadership would have actually fainted if they’d heard – as I did – Douglas’ advice to Gordon,” McBride writes.
“Dispassionately, he told the prime minister that his sister had to quit in order to avoid further damage. However, Douglas warned Gordon, she’d need to make it clear that the reason was to do with the donation – and nothing to do with the referendum.
He adds: “If I was sometimes cold-blooded about how i did my job, I had nothing on Douglas that day.”
– Excerpted from Power Tripe: A Decade of Politics, Plot & Spin, Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s former advisor
As with Margaret Curran’s alleged role in the downfall of Johann Lamont, one must consider the source, and the full facts are not public knowledge. I would actually be relieved if this wasn’t true. The history of politics is rife with betrayal, but there’s something especially repulsive about the idea of stabbing your own family in the back. If it is true – if Douglas Alexander did plea to the Prime Minister to force his own sister out of her hard-fought position… then how on earth could anyone vote for such a person?Once again, I’d be happier if this isn’t true. It could be that Damian McBride is spinning a yarn yet again – it should be noted Douglas Alexander openly petitioned to have Mr McBride sacked, after all – and that the truth is more complex. But it’s hard to see anyone coming out good from these allegations.
The above is a leaflet from Douglas Alexander (or Anas Sarwar) delivered to his constituents in Paisley and Renfrewshire South (or Glasgow Central). He talks about how he (or his mum) worked in the health service. Then he talks about how Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital (or Glasgow Royal Infirmary) is so ill-served by the SNP government. He believes that the people of Renfrewshire (or Glasgow) deserve better.
The man is clearly a fool (or a dunderheid.)
The Jeroboam of Champagne Socialism
If I could find a single example of why Douglas Alexander is so particularly infuriating, it would be this piece in that socialist bastion, The Scotsman.
I’m trying my best. I really am. But as I said somewhere else, this hypocritical lying about how the Scots are selfish and “abandoning” the rest of the UK is far and away the most despicable thing about certain elements of New Labour. I try hard, so hard, not to hate people. I don’t think I even hate the likes of Darling. But there’s something particularly hateful about supposedly left-wing individuals who would sacrifice the wellbeing of millions in the name of “solidarity.”
The ideal and the practice of solidarity is what most challenges the Nationalist notion that somehow Scotland needs independence because Scots are better at being fairer than the English, or at least, would be without the English around.
This is nothing to do with the English. This is nothing to do with divorcing ourselves from the English people who are suffering just as much as we are. This is everything to do with refusing to enable the people in charge at Westminster. Shame on you for daring to perpetuate the dangerous and damaging strawman that seeking national responsibility and independence is because of some petty grievance with the English people.
In Alexander’s attempts to exploit and manipulate solidarity between the Scots and English – which already exists, as evidenced by the fact that so many Scots and English folk get along famously – he is effectively enabling the Tories. Perhaps I don’t hate Alexander, but I sure as blazes hates what he’s saying, what he’s doing, and everything that he stands for in this twisted caricature of “solidarity.” It isn’t anything of the sort.
He makes me sick to the core.
“I believe deeply that change is needed on both sides of the Border – and beyond our borders. Right across the UK, Tory economic policy and welfare cuts make many fearful and force choices between heating and eating for still more.”
Now wait a damn minute, weren’t you one of the 10 Scottish MPs who didn’t bother to turn up to vote on the Bedroom Tax – you know, one of those horrible Tory policies which you criticize?
So not only is he daring to lecture Scots on the importance of “solidarity,” but when it comes to acting on that very solidarity he speaks of by acting to axe the hateful Bedroom Tax, he doesn’t even bother to show up. A man who couldn’t even be bothered to show up and do the job we pay them for and make a stand for the very poor people who he claims to think so much about, you dare to lecture us on our “selfishness” in wanting self-determination?
So what was Mr Alexander’s excuse? He was away.
Douglas Alexander joined the delegation as Shadow Foreign Secretary to help highlight the present risk of a return of anti-Semitism, as fears grow about the rise of extreme nationalist right wing nationalist parties in Europe, such as Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary.
So Mr Alexander has gone to a delegation to discuss the rise of “extreme nationalist right wing nationalist parties” in Europe (presumably as part of the Department of Redundancy Department). And it just so happens that he was on this delegation at the same time that one of the most profoundly unequal laws which targets the most vulnerable people in a society was being challenged, and if he and his party members bothered, they could’ve stopped it.
What do you think is more important, challenging an iniquitous tax that is indirectly killing people in your country right now or paying lip service to an atrocity in the name of “never forgetting” and combating anti-Semitism. Sorry, but you don’t get to “balance” this out by doing something good in exchange for something essential. That’s like a UK minister not bothering to vote on Syrian intervention because they were at a WW2 memorial celebration: blind to irony.
The stuff that’s happening in Europe is important. The rise of extreme movements in Greece and elsewhere IS worrying. Anti-Semitism IS an issue that needs to be dealt with. But you have every other day in the year to deal with that. You had one day to vote for this motion. You decided not to.
By arrangement, the delegation included two Labour MPs, one Conservative MP and one Liberal Democrat MP and as a consequence did not affect the outcome of yesterday’s Opposition Day Motion on the Bedroom Tax.
And then there’s this “pairing” business. Are we expected to believe that in matters which affect the lives of millions of UK citizens, this preposterous idea of promising not to go if someone else can’t is supposed to fly? People are dying. The idea that people are going to starve, become homeless, destitute, or even die because politicians have honour among thieves is beyond repugnant to me. To hell with “pairing.” To hell with “fairness.” To hell with “honour.” People’s lives are at stake here. You think it’s “fair” and “honourable” to let people die in the name of pairing? You get in and you vote, and to hell with anyone who dares complain about “fairness.” Some things are just too important for this sort of idiocy.
Eventually, Mr Alexander found his spine and voted against the Bedroom Tax the next year – even though if he and a few more New Labour MPs turned up, they could have abolished the Bedroom Tax in November 2013. I suppose better late than never… unless you were one of the hundreds that died as a result of the Coalition’s punitive reforms.
Well actually we’re in a distinctive position, in the sense we’re a historic nation but we’re part of a multicultural, multinational, multi-ethnic country…
The implication, of course, is that Scotland would not be a “multicultural, multinational, multi-ethnic country” if it wasn’t part of the UK.
Because certainly Scots literature & art was not influenced by French, Italian or Flemish creatives. Nor did we adopt anything in our cuisine or music or law from the Romans or Greeks. Nor is there any trace of Irish, Norse, Welsh or other such influences in our art. Nor did we have any major religious or social reformations, before 1707 opened us up to the Big Wide World.
Certainly we did not have an Auld Alliance with France which was the longest-lasting alliance in Europe, one which granted dual nationality to all Scots with France, which lasted until the 20th century. And we most assuredly didn’t have any dealings with other countries: no expeditions to South America, no settlements in Canada, no migrants to Poland or Russia, before 1707 showed us there’s land beyond the sea. Certainly the very people of our country was not built upon successive migrations from Ireland, Norway, Wales, England and France, contributing to the Scots ethnoi before the nation was even created. Nor did Scotland see any migration from, say, the Low Countries, Northern Europe, or beyond, before 1707.
Apparently we didn’t have any of that prior to 1707, and when that’s gone, we will continue not to have anything to do with the rest of the world.
Well, look at the study that was undertaken that your own package quoted from Edinburgh University, where overwhelmingly, young people made clear that they wanted to be part of something bigger, as well as feeling great pride in what they’re part of here in Scotland, as part of their Scottish identity. So actually, for me, there isn’t a choice between being comfortable in that expansiveness, you can support, Rangers, Celtic, St Mirren, you can support Manchester United, Barcelona. That’s this young generation – they feel that they can have it all.
– Mr Alexander’s “answer” to Gary Robertson’s question over which country has narrowed its outlook following independence
“They have grown up in a world of instant connection and communication where the old polarities of the politicians just seem dated. I believe that’s good news for Scotland’s future. We have heard and will hear a lot about the “historic choice” Scotland faces on September 18. What these young people remind us is that what’s at stake is not our history but our future – and how Scotland succeeds in this changing world. It’s the Network Generation showing us the way. Their outlook matters because how we engage with difference is one of the most vital questions our nation and our world faces. In today and tomorrow’s connected, crowded and interconnected world, we can’t escape each other. So we need to learn better ways to live together.”
– Mr Alexander is convinced that 16- and 17-year-olds will vote No. Ah, the benefit of hindsight…
“There’s a basic truth – the party with the largest number of MPs gets to form the government.”
– Douglas Alexander in February 2015
“It is perfectly reasonable, indeed it is constitutional, that these discussions are now taking place because we need to get to a position where somebody is able to command a majority in the House of Commons.”
– Douglas Alexander in May 2010 about New Labour working with other parties to command a majority… when the Tories had the largest number of MPs
Douglas Alexander says he spent Christmas watching “a very large quantity of bad films” – but he’s convinced 2015 won’t be a horror movie for Labour. Far from being a bloodbath, he reckons Scottish Labour could even pick up seats at the May general election. Newly installed leader of the Scottish party Jim Murphy has said he wants Labour to hold all their Scottish seats. But Alexander, in charge of the party’s general election strategy, says they could do even better. He said: “Frankly if you look at seats like Edinburgh West or East Dunbartonshire or Argyll then there are other opportunities for Labour.”
– Douglas Alexander makes a bold prediction
Mr Alexander has his own ideas for why the New Labour Party in Scotland are doing so poorly in polls: conspiracy theories!
“We are used to a politics where we share facts, but diverge on opinion. We are confronting increasingly, because of the rise of social media, a politics where people’s social media feeds can be an echo chamber for, at best, their own opinions and, at worst, their own prejudices. And that’s a tough challenge for all democratic politicians in every party of the UK, and more broadly.”
Would these “facts” be “the biggest party forms the government” kind of facts, or “we need someone to command a majority to stop the biggest party forming the government” kind of facts? Are they “the NHS is safe with a No vote” facts, or “the NHS can’t survive 5 more years of the Tories” facts? “We are completely for disarmament” or “let’s spend another £100 billion” facts?
See, here’s the problem, Mr Alexander: the “facts” of your politics are, far too often, not facts at all.
“To illustrate his point, he recalled a conversation with “an intelligent woman” in a supermarket in his constituency. She told him that she did not believe the results of the independence referendum, and that she thought there has been a conspiracy. She also thought the oil companies were involved in a global conspiracy to keep oil prices low, he said. I said: ‘Do you mind if I ask where you get your news?’ And she said, ‘I get if off Facebook every night’. How do we engage in a very rapidly changing media landscape in which facts are not common, actually people have their own facts?””
See, the problem with politicians denying conspiracy theories is that it’s very, very easy to use it as a way of dismissing or ridiculing genuine concerns. Now, I’ve already said I don’t see sufficient evidence for full-scale vote rigging affecting the outcome of the referendum (mostly because the rigging had already been done), and I’m not going to comment on some of the wilder theories out there. But you have to consider: the referendum took place a year after a vote rigging scandal actually happened in Falkirk. The referendum already involved the police when Ruth Davidson’s involvement in early postal counting was noticed. There actually was a cover-up involving the UK government and Scottish oil. And – guess what – there are global forces working together to keep oil prices low.
When people were arguing for an inquiry into the Iraq War, Tony Blair called them conspiracy theorists. When people were campaigning for inquests into historic abuse linked to the government, David Cameron called them conspiracy theorists. When people were suggesting the Ministry of Defense blocked an oil boom in the Clyde due to possible interference with nuclear submarines, Katy Clark called them conspiracy theorists. So is it any wonder that Douglas Alexander would try to discredit social media, given he thinks it’s done such damage to his party?
Just a shame his “Network Generation” didn’t seem to be going the way he wanted, eh?
Can It Be Done?
Mhairi Black has already caused quite a bit of a stir with her statements at the Hope Over Fear rally:
I was actually at the count in Renfrewshire with my dad and as the vote was coming in, the way the hall was laid out we had to walk past all these fat cat Labour councillors goading us, clapping sarcastically, saying ‘better luck next time’ or ‘hard lines’. It took everything, every fibre in my being, not to put the nut in one of them.
The hysterical reaction to those comments from the Daily Record and New Labour spokespeople seems rather hollow given the continued employment of Ian Davidson after he used aggressive and threatening language directly towards Eilidh Whiteford. Yes, it’s rather unparliamentary language and could be taken the wrong way, but the comments were made before Ms Black was selected as candidate. In addition, without putting undue attention on her age, there is a world of difference between a 20-year-old woman’s passionate enthusiasm for which she has since apologised, and a then-61-year-old’s intimidating outburst for which he only provided a token acknowledgement.
Paisley and Renfrewshire South is historically a Labour area, as was its predecessor Paisley South (1983-2005) and Paisley from 1945 onwards: prior to that, it was a Liberal chiefdom, and bore the distinction of never returning a single Conservative MP throughout its history.
|General Election 2005: Paisley and Renfrewshire South|
|Liberal Democrats||Eileen McCartin||6,672||17.6||+8.0|
|Scottish Socialist||Iain Hogg||789||2.1||-0.7|
|Pride in Paisley Party||Gordon Matthew||381||1.0||+1.0|
|Socialist Labour||Howard Broadbent||107||0.3||+0.3|
|General Election 2010: Paisley and Renfrewshire South|
|Liberal Democrats||Ashay Ghai||3,812||9.5||–8.1|
|Scottish Socialist||Jimmy Kerr||375||0.9||–1.1|
Also contesting the seat are the Conservatives’ Fraser Galloway, the Neoliberal Democrats’ Eileen McCartin, and the Scottish Socialists’ Sandra Webster. It’s three unionist UK parties against two independent Scottish ones, but while the SSP have never broken past 1,000, the Tories and NeoLibs tend to hover around the 3-6,000 mark.
As with Katy Clark, Douglas Alexander’s vote share has grown from 19,904 (52.6%) to 23,842 (59.6%, +7) – but unlike Ms Clark, Mr Alexander’s majority grew as well, from 13,232 (34.9%) to 16,614 (41.54%). Nonetheless, the SNP also continued to grow. In 2005, Andrew Doig came only 19 votes behind the NeoLib’s Eileen McCartin at 6,653 (17.6%); in 2010, that improved to 7,228 (18.1%, +0.5), while the NeoLibs’ vote plummeted into fourth place behind the Conservatives.
Ms Black is currently projected to be one of the winning seats in several polls, and far from being a barrier, I think her youth is a distinct advantage. Young people have been galvanised to vote more than ever before, and the SNP are extremely popular in the younger age groups as a result – it is only natural that a young person like Ms Black would put herself forward. Douglas Alexander has been an MP for almost 20 years, and was elected at the age of 30, but even that may not be enough considering the fortunes of New Labour in Scotland, and one wonders if Mr Alexander is up to the challenge.
Mhairi Black’s political career could start with a bang.