Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer.
Pitfalls for the SNP as Sturgeon’s class war wages on
Fresh off her assault on the landed classes, Nicola Sturgeon has found a new way both to open a new front thereof and exacerbate unease over the constitution: refuse to allocate Scotland’s share of the income of the Crown Estate to the Queen.
Much like devolving welfare to Stormont on the condition that they always enact UK legislation, this decision seems an odd one: if it is the intent for the Crown Estate to fund the monarchy, why devolve it? After all, Scotland’s new First Minister has plenty of republican form in the recent past.
The increasingly hard-left SNP membership will doubtless be pleased. Meanwhile the SNP government has suffered some minor political embarrassments this week: the Chancellor’s stamp duty announcement leaves Scots paying double the English fee for home buying due to SNP policies.
Meanwhile the t-shirts for Sturgeon’s “rock star” national tour – which drew much awestruck commentary regarding her ability to fill stadia – turned out to have been made in Haitian sweatshops operating brutal conditions.
Perhaps more seriously, Scottish Labour’s rather impressive deputy leader Jackie Baillie used Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions to bring the Nationalists to battle on the NHS, always favourite Labour territory. In response, Sturgeon employed Labour’s tactic of equating criticism of government management of the health service with the darkest of evil intentions.
All the while, the price of oil continues to slide.
Welsh Labour turn fire on emboldened UKIP
A poster van and a quarter of a million tabloid newspapers form Labour’s opening salvo as they attempt to stem the growth of the UK Independence Party in their Welsh heartlands.
After coming less than one per cent behind Labour in Wales at the European elections – when they won several local authority areas including Labour ones like Wrexham – UKIP have further unsettled Wales’ ruling party as evidence mounts that they are starting to attract working class support.
According to Wales Online disaffected voters in the Valleys who might once have lent their vote to Plaid Cymru are now prepared to support UKIP.
Whilst their chances of capturing a Welsh constituency next year appear remote, Nigel Farage’s party seem on course to pick up regional seats from all five regions in the 2016 Welsh elections. Indeed Rebecca Evans, Labour’s Deputy Minister for Farming and Food and a list AM, is rumoured to be seeking a Parliamentary constituency in part because of fears that UKIP might capture her seat.
Some Cardiff Bay insiders fear the party’s arrival will change the dynamics of the Assembly, which has to date been rather consensual.
They will also be helping to establish themselves as the primary opposition to Labour in as many seats as possible in order to mount a more credible challenge in 2020.
The Labour assault, which emphasises Nigel Farage’s Thatcherite inclinations and accuses UKIP of being “more Tory than the Tories”, comes as the leader arrived in Port Talbot to address a one-day Welsh conference.
UKIP claim that it is “natural” to be targeting Labour heartlands, and laughed off the broadside.
McCrea claims NI21 set to continue
Basil McCrea MLA, ex-Ulster Unionist and once the great defection hope of the NI Conservatives, has resurfaced after a prolonged bout of media silence to reveal that NI21, the party he co-founded, will continue despite its meltdown earlier this year.
The party, set up by McCrea and former close associate and fellow former UUP man John McCallister, was intended to provide a radical, non-sectarian and pro-Union alternative to the parties of traditional unionism in its various guises. Launched to much press and public interest in June 2013, the party was convulsed by crisis just two days before the 2014 local elections, and was humiliated by taking only one council seat.
The crisis revolved around the party’s redesignation from ‘Unionist’ to ‘Other’ and sexual misconduct allegations levelled against McCrea by a former party employee. Since the election the party’s social media platforms have apparently been moribund whilst its website is down for “rebooting”.
McCrea has told the press that the party will have its conference in the spring, but refused to answer questions relating to the allegations against him.
Is McTernan considering a bid for Parliament?
With Alistair Darling stepping down from Parliament in May, Edinburgh South West is looking for a new Labour candidate to take on the likely not taxing task of defending a majority of over 8,000 from the Conservatives in the strongly unionist city.
According to the news earlier this week, former Labour aide John McTernan is considering a run. Since working for Labour McTernan has sold his services to left-wing parties across the world, including former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Speaking at an event organised by the Times Red Box on Monday evening, and attended by your columnist, he refuted the claim, although only regarding the specific constituency of Edinburgh South West. Certainly the rest of his eye-wateringly loyal performance suggested a man determined to stay in the Labour leadership’s good graces.
Sinn Fein ‘shopping list’ prolongs Stormont deadlock
Republican MLAs are risking the proposed devolution of Corporation Tax to the provincial government as they continue to refuse to sign off on the Northern Ireland Executive’s budget.
Readers of this column may remember Ulster’s logjam over the controversial issue of welfare policy harmonisation, with Sinn Fein refusing either to accede to it or to pass the Executive’s budget. This rather astonishing institutional failure has yet to be resolved, with SF now demanding concessions on all sorts of areas – including an Irish Language Act backed by millions in public money – in a shopping list one Democratic Unionist has vowed to treat like “toilet paper”.
The nationalists are also hoping trying to circumvent EU rules that prevent central governments subsidising devolved tax cuts – meaning a Northern Ireland cut to Corporation Tax would cost the provincial government some £300m – by having unrelated subsidies and grants increased.
Jones decries national Labour policy on cancer drugs as “inequitable”
Carwyn Jones, the Labour First Minister of Wales, has attacked the idea of a Welsh Cancer Drugs Fund – despite Labour plans to establish one for England if they win the general election in May.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb claims that UK Labour plans place their recalcitrant Welsh colleagues under “huge pressure”, and Conservatives allege that the Welsh administration is running “out of excuses” on the subject.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Jones said that he could not see why cancer should be treated as a special case, or what made those suffering from “strokes, or heart disease, or multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis” less entitled to their medicine.