Does Jeremy Corbyn have a death wish for his party? Is he living in the real world inhabited by Labour’s remaining voters who just want a better life for their families?
The most recent poll from ICM gave Theresa May’s Tories a 14-point lead – and the two recent by-elections have seen Labour lose its deposit in Richmond and come an embarrassing fourth in Sleaford.
Unable to make up its mind on the outcome of the EU referendum Labour’s Richmond candidate advocated challenging the Brexit vote (he also advocates banning toilet roll!) while Labour’s Sleaford candidate backs Brexit. Consistency has not been Labour’s strong suit of late.
Meanwhile Ukip has elected a Scouser, Paul Nuttall, as its leader and with the party being consistently well ahead of the Liberal Democrats, could begin to start eating into Labour support next year.
Here in Scotland Labour shows no sign of recovering the support it lost over the last nine years. The council elections could be another nightmare, putting more pressure on the leadership in Holyrood and Westminster.
So what does Jeremy Corbyn do? He picks a new fight with his parliamentary party by appointing a Sinn Fein staffer, Jayne Fisher, to work in his office, apparently forgetting that the SDLP is the Northern Irish party that Labour works with – to the point that they even follow the Labour Whip.
All this does is open up for debate the very close links of Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to Sinn Fein at the height of the troubles in the 80s when the republican party was without question the political voice of the provisional IRA. Labour is now moving beyond self-parody and making student politics seem sensible and moderate.
Can anyone really say what Labour’s economic policy is, does anyone know what it would do differently?
Labour is very good at being against many things – but what is it for? The Tories will play to the aspirational voters while the SNP will play to the “go independent” voters, but Labour?
That message is confused, and until it becomes clear it will continue to lose support to political parties that have a sense of purpose voters can identify with.
Don’t bet on Sheriffhall upgrade any time soon
As someone who has lived most of my life in the east side of Edinburgh, the news that the Sheriffhall Roundabout is going to have a major upgrade to tackle the ridiculous congestion that it creates is very welcome news. Anyone who has experienced the chaos caused by having six roads feeding into it will know it should never have been built that way in the first place. The excuse was that mine workings precluded an underpass and grade separated junction for the Edinburgh bypass meeting the A68 and A7, but now we are being told a flyover is possible.
Well, if it is possible now it was possible back in the past when the road was first built. Still, Sheriffhall could have been worse. Wallace Mercer wanted to put a new Hearts stadium right next to it at Millerhill – imagine it on match days! Then there was the council transport planners considering making one of the lanes of each carriageway a bus lane! Thankfully neither of those proposals came to fruition. However, they did manage to put a park and ride on the Edinburgh side of the roundabout rather than the Dalkeith side – so people have to cross Sheriffhall to get to it!
Thankfully there’s now light at the end of the tunnel, although how long it will take to get the improvement built and operational is just guesswork. There’s still the question of choosing which of the three options that have been designed is the best.
All we need now is for road engineers to find the remains of some ancient King of the Gododdin who was commuting between Trapain Law and Din Eideann – or traces of the missing Ninth Roman Legion that legend has it never got out of Scotland – and the improvements will become a myth too. I recall voting in favour of the upgrade of the dual carriageway sections of the M8 so that it was all motorway all the way between Edinburgh and Glasgow – back in 2003 – and it’s still being built now! If the Sheriffhall junction is improved before 2025 I’ll be surprised.
Swinney faces examination of his credentials
Since I wrote last week about the depressingly poor state of Scottish education more detailed figures have come to hand about how bad the situation is
Since 2007 when the SNP was elected the total number of teachers across all schools has dropped by 4113 (seven per cent) from 55,083 to 50,970 and the number of secondary school teachers has dropped by 3616 (14 per cent) from 26,573 to 22,957.
In the results for achieving numeracy targets the performance of pupils in East Dunbartonshire meeting the required levels is 98 per cent – but in Clackmannanshire it is only 58 per cent. For reading, the best performance is 93 per cent in East Renfrewshire compared to the worst of 70 per cent in the Western Isles.
Such variations across the country tell a story about an education system that seems unable to share best practice.
If John Swinney can sort this mess out it will be the biggest achievement of his political career.
It could only be in Edinburgh..
Transport embarrassments really are one of Edinburgh’s specialities. If its’ not Sheriffhall, the trams or our famous potholes then it has to be . . . the lamppost in the middle of the cycle lane.
The cycle lane is itself a marvel of botched planning – requiring pedestrians to cross it just to get to the bus stop – but leaving a lamppost in the middle of the new cycle lane is about as daft as it gets – is it April 1 already?