Readers, we are being taken for a ride. The local council elections were more than two weeks ago. The outcome was clear, well, as clear as the proportional voting system will allow. Yet, as I write – and for the foreseeable future – our councillors have not been able to form a ruling administration, so that the job of running our local services gets done.
Predictably, in comparison to the last council election four years ago, the SNP did better, although not as well as it had hoped.
Also predictably, the Labour Party did very badly and took a beating. Most surprising was the size of the gains made by the local Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrats had a reasonable recovery after a disastrous result in 2012 and Green voters seemed to have moved flats to live in different parts of the city.
No one party had a majority, indeed no two parties together – other than the unlikely combination of the SNP and Conservatives – can form an administration.
There are really only two possible outcomes – a faux-socialist coalition or a pan-unionist coalition. The choice is entirely Labour’s (yes, I know, the party that lost the heaviest gets to decide who is in power – and will itself be in power – but that’s proportional representation for you).
A coalition agreement is therefore necessary if stable and predictable local government is to be obtained.
Everyone standing for election knew this before the votes were cast; it is not a shock. They all should have had plans ready for every scenario, every possible outcome.
What we now have is a Mexican stand-off. Everyone is staring at each other and, after negotiations that have been akin to a stair-heid rammy, the SNP and Labour have said they have a deal agreed but the Labour Party’s local members have voted it down, while the Labour’s Scottish Executive has refused to sign it off. Even then, the deal would need councillors from another party to make it stick.
Meanwhile, as the second largest group on the council (one fewer than the SNP), the Conservatives had, from the get-go, already made their overtures to Labour to form an administration. If agreement could be reached they would then approach the Liberal Democrats to form a pan-Unionist coalition. Labour rejected the offer, although my sources tell me it had not been fully circulated and was dismissed without a proper hearing, making some Labour councillors unhappy.
The reason the Labour Party does not want to make a final decision is that it fears a highly negative reaction from the Edinburgh public if it gets into bed with the SNP.
What the party bosses want to do is hold off from making a decision until after the general election on June 8 – when they will be free to do what they want without the retribution of the Edinburgh public. The grounds for this are clear – if you look at the first preference votes in the council elections then the Conservatives could win the Edinburgh South constituency from Labour (and Edinburgh South West from the SNP) while the Liberal Democrats could win Edinburgh West – Labour would struggle to win anything.
To mask this dilemma, the Labour Party has constructed a rule that no local deal can be agreed without national approval – and must fight so-called Tory austerity. Local council services are, however, funded by Holyrood – and while the Scottish Government had its budget increased, it made a cut of £200 million to local council services. The ‘austerity’ that ouncillors will face dealing with is solely the responsibility of the SNP – who Edinburgh’s Labour Group want to get into bed with.
Edinburgh is being ill-served by this charade. There is no reason the Labour Group cannot make a decision now, it simply wants to wait until it thinks we are not looking and cannot fight back. Labour has a choice – it either chooses SNP austerity and a drive towards Scottish independence or it backs a broad coalition that focuses on sound management of our local services.
Whether you agree with that analysis or not, we all deserve to know Labour’s decision before the general election.
It was a gross miscalculation to quit imperial
It all started with decimalisation.
When we used imperial measures with pounds, shillings and pence; stones, pounds and ounces; and yards, feet and inches we were accustomed to using units of 20, 16, 14, 12 and 3 and the combinations or divisions of these meant we all had to be mentally dexterous. We could multiply and divide, add and subtract quite complicated figures at will. Some could do it quicker than a calculator.
Since we moved to only using units of ten our children’s minds have become lazier and the result is poor numeracy. I know it sounds odd but trying to make life easier does not always make it thus.
Manifesto sums don’t add up
It has been the week of the manifesto launches – and there are so many bad policies out there it shall have to wait a week before I can fillet them and give my verdict.
How we all laughed when a country the size of the United States with more than 250 million people could only come up with a contest between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Well, looking at the manifestos thus far, all I can say is, how can so many politicians in Scotland and the UK inhabit a universe so detached from reality and expect us to believe them? The joke is now on us. Uncosted commitments? Higher taxes that only reduce revenues? It is not only Diane Abbott, pictured, that cannot count.