Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brian Taylor gets it wrong - Willie Rennie was comparatively polite today #sp4

I watched the ministerial appointments debate which took place today in Holyrood. Several things amused me. First was the fact that Iain Gray, now he's going, seems to have found his sense of humour. Mind you, his speech was probably more suited to late night satire than a parliamentary debate, but it made me smile.

Then there was the division bell going off as new Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie got up to speak. He burst out laughing, but managed to get on with it. The Presiding Officer said she was sorry but "it wisnae me."

Willie's speech was measured, but robust. He's clearly keen to make sure that the SNP, now that it's the establishment, doesn't get too big for its boots, that Alex Salmond delivers on his promises to govern like a minority. It would be very tempting for him not to bother with trying to find consensus and be inclusive and to let power corrupt him.

This is what Willie said, from the Official Report. 

I, too, congratulate the ministerial team on its appointment. This is an exciting moment and an exciting time ahead for the new ministers, particularly those entering Government for the first time. I wish them well.
Majority government is a huge responsibility. As the size of the ministerial team increases, so do our expectations of what it can achieve. I am sure that members of the new team will not take that responsibility lightly. They are answerable to the people of Scotland for the promises made during the election. Unlike last time, as a majority Government, the SNP will find that it has nowhere to hide. The SNP will be judged on how it uses its majority—and how it does not. As we have heard this morning, the Opposition parties in this place will work with the SNP on its positive promises to make sure that they are kept.
I hope that ministers will agree to engage with us so that, where possible, we can agree a joint approach on the many areas in which disagreement might be over detail rather than ambition. My fear, however, is that the First Minister will not choose to use his enlarged team  wisely; that instead of the focus on jobs, on growing the economy and on excellence in education and public services there will be a focus on breaking up Britain; and that what we see before us this morning is Alex Salmond’s new independence army.
 However, the First Minister’s loyal foot soldiers have a choice: services over separation; picking up the economy, not picking fights with Westminster; and putting the needs of Scotland before their party-political agenda. During the election, we heard from the Scottish National Party many welcome promises on health, education, justice and more; last week in the First Minister’s speech, we heard not one single mention of them. I hope that his new team will not make the same mistake.

Brian Taylor, who is one of my favourite journalists and who is usually pretty fair, rebuked Willie slightly for being too outspoken and not matching the gentle mood of the occasion which is now a Holyrood tradition.

However, I took a look back to 1999, the first time Parliament had to approve ministers. The Official Report for that is here.  What a total bunfight that was. You don't associate David McLetchie with silly games, but there he was suggesting Jim Wallace and Ross Finnie weren't fit to be ministers because they'd been elected on false pretences. I'd actually forgotten the extent to which the SNP were such a pain in the backside during their years of opposition. I think Government has matured them quite a lot. So, this isn't traditionally quite such a gentle occasion after all.

In that context, Willie's comments today, which were pretty polite anyway, were all sweetness and light.


DougtheDug said...

Nowhere to hide? What on earth is Mr. Rennie talking about. Where did the SNP hide last time? There seems to be a collective delusion among the unionist members of parliament that majority government for the SNP in this parliament is going to be more difficult than dealing with the fractious and obstructive majority opposition in the last parliament.

"...there will be a focus on breaking up Britain; and that what we see before us this morning is Alex Salmond’s new independence army."

The whole point of the SNP is to create an independent Scotland. Independence even has its own chapter in the SNP manifesto and the electorate know that with the SNP what's written on the label is what you get in the tin. The electorate knew the score and voted in the SNP with a majority. That last time the majority opposition in the Scottish Parliament said that an independence referendum bill in the Scottish parliament had no chance they then turned on the SNP and said that that it was a, "broken promise". So what does Mr. Rennie want? The SNP to keep their promise to the electorate for an independence referendum or to do a Lib-Dem and forget a large part of their manifesto promises at the sniff of power?

cynicalHighlander said...

I would suggest that you make an official complaint as what is written down is not a word for word transcript of what Willie said as changing words changes tone.

1.5 claps not 3 as I thought earlier oh and you might not like the FM's response about 25.20 mins.

Scottish Parliament

Munguin said...

Willie seems to forget that he is not in Westminster anymore, and his references to “this place” and holding the SNP majority to account. That kind of adversarial politics is what landed the Scottish Lib Dems and Scottish Labour in the mess they are now in. How would better serve “muscular liberalism” by minimising his party’s minority and not spewing a load of twaddle more suited to England’s green benches.

Where does he get off anyway? A jonnie-come-lately from England with a very flimsy mandate seeing as the people of Fife told him to sling his hook as an MP in 2010. Fortunately for the Scottish Lib Dems they have been able to use the list system as a sort of Scottish House of Lords for all the old trash that the voters did not want. And so Willie has been able to get himself a billet without bothering to face the electorate again. That should make his lectures go down all the better.

GHmltn said...

I note Willie seems to have stirred up some abuse from the MacBlogosphere.

I read his words before I saw anyone else's comments and thought they were reasonable.

I saw a clip and heard mutterings in the background.

As you say The LibDems got heavy flak for working with Labour in 1999.

King Alex is feisty and likes a bit of Punch and Judy more than anyone.

I note Tavish got criticism form the MacBlogosphere for not supporting the Nats - and this was described as negative and unconstructive.

I wonder.

Is opposition to and debate with the Nats not allowed?

Caron said...

It seems not, Gavin. And a pity, because I thought they'd grown up a lot during their period of minority government. They might have had a bit more sympathy for the position Mike Moore is in.

Munguin, really. A jonny come lately from England? He's from Fife, for goodness sake.

Don't you approve of list MSPs then?

Munguin said...

Caron: did you deliberately miss the point?

Jonnie-come-lately from the English parliament, now here in the Scottish one, or “this place”, as he so demandingly calls it. Did you forget that prior to 2010 when his fellow Fifers decided to not vote for him anymore, he was a member of the English parliament?

No I have no problem with the list at all. Except where it is used, as here, to parachute in some Westminster failure who was given his marching orders by the people of Fife. Add insult to insult why don’t you? And anoint that failure as the failure in chief of the failed party and leader of the failed.

Caron said...

So, Munguin, is Annabelle Ewing, having been rejected by the voters in her Westminster constituency, now SNP list MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, been parachuted in as a Westminster failure?

If you are saying Willie has no legitimate claim to be in a Parliament he's very proud to be in, then the same must surely be true for Annabelle.

Anonymous said...

Aye well I think we'd be better off without Annabelle too. That's one living off someone else's reputation in my opinion.

As for Willie, who I like a lot as an individual, I think he has seriously misjudged his entrance.

Of all the new leaders, he is the one with all the time in the world yet he in his rush to make a big splash he has just made himself look daft.

On this form, you should be thanking your lucky stars his contribution at FMQs is going to severely constrained.

Munguin said...

Caron I hardly think that is the same by any stretch of the imagination. Annabelle was not a sitting MP in 2010 when she failed to take Ochil and South Perthshire from Labour. However she did increase the SNP vote by 4%. Hardly a rejection along the lines of being booted out by the voters of Fife al la Willie Rennie, especially when Willie thought he had been so good he would have hung on to the seat. So she is not a failed MP in the same class as your illustrious leader who is an MP one minute and an MSP the next. How many Fife constituencies did you take again? Oh none, so that puts failed MP Rennie number one on your list. Whereas Annabelle was third on the SNPs coming after John Swinney, Bruce Crawford and Roseanna Cunningham (they all won a constituency you see). If the SNP had wanted to parachute her into Holyrood no matter what do you not think that they would have done what the Lib Dems did and put her at the top of the list? Really is that the best you can do?

Caron said...

Munguin, Willie got an 8% swing from Labour on a night when the whole of Scotland was clinging to them like they were some sort of security blanket. That's a testament to his hard work over 4 years during which he helped over 9000 people. It was one of the highest swings, if not the highest, in the UK from Labour.

I don't think you understand how Lib Dem selection processes work. Every member has a vote, and Willie spent all of last Summer visiting and talking to members in the region. He had to work for his selection, and, given the night we had, his eventual election was down to the fact that his former constituents wanted him back.

Maybe it would do you more credit to talk about the issues rather than personally attack individuals.

Even Willie's enemies appreciate his energy and character, even if they don't like what he says.

Munguin said...

But Caron like Annabelle he didn’t win. So that is a rejection by the people of Fife....yes? Even you must acknowledge that!

Lib Dem members deciding that Willie should go at the top of a list is hardly an endorsement from the electorate at large now is it? How many Lib Dem members are there in Fife these days? It is nice to know that Willie canvassed all those party members so vociferously to propel his name to the top of the list instead of deciding to stand in a constituency and let the actual real voters decide.

Maybe it would do you more credit to acknowledge that Willie is a failed Westminster wannabe whose second choice of gravy train was Holyrood!

Munguin said...

I shall take silence as a gracious acknowledgement that what I say is essentially correct. Thank you!

Caron said...

Or, alternatively, I might just have been busy.

Everyone knows that Willie was elected fairly and squarely to Parliament. If you want to debate actual proper issues, fair enough, but I'm not going to get engaged in a conversation which will never stop. Essentially, all you want to do is fling personal insults around about someone who has proven themselves to be a hard working, effective parliamentarian.

Talk about policy, and keep personalities out of it.

Munguin said...

Not too busy to do a whole pile more blogging and answering of comments. I just think that good manners cost nothing but hey if you want to lapse into that favourite tactic of Lib Dem bloggers, silence with the excuse of being busy then that’s your business. As indeed is your wafer thin attempt to claim the moral high ground.

Everyone clearly doesn’t know, as I think I can be fairly included in the bracket of “everyone”. What you mean is every Lib Dem thinks they know. And if you really want everyone to know then it might be a good idea to start to try to convince people. Because, like it or not, politics is about personalities as much as its about policy and running away from Willies personality flaws and the obvious sophistry that he used to get himself a billet in the his parliament of second choice will, I have every confidence, combine with Willie’s disastrous policy of embracing the English coalition of depriving the Lib Dems of their five remaining MSPs!


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