Friday, 3 April 2015

Sturgeon storms the Leaders' Debate

Nicola Sturgeon emerged the clear winner from the ITV Leaders’ Debate.

Scotland’s First Minister was concise, articulate and persuasive as she presented her vision of a progressive political agenda that would deliver higher living-standards and a better quality-of-life for everyone, not just in Scotland but across the entire UK.

The SNP leader argued for an end to Tory-Lib Dem cuts (Labour has confirmed its policy agenda also would focus on continued austerity) and, instead, for investment to stimulate the economy and create jobs, which, of course, would result in increased revenue for the Treasury through tax receipts and National Insurance contributions.

This moderate left-of-centre philosophy was echoed during the television debate by Leanne Wood of Welsh Nationalists Plaid Cymru and by Natalie Bennett of the Green Party. 

There can be no doubt that the three female party leaders completely outshone the males – David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.  The men represent political parties stuck in the past: they haven’t realised that more and more people no longer accept their tired old agenda, which argues for no change – we are just supposed to continue re-electing them, even though history shows their policies have failed in the past and are not in our interests.

Tory leader David Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband spent the programme telling us how different they are, but even a cursory glance at their policies shows that either man as Prime Minister would mean continued cuts to public spending and to desperately-needed services, and ongoing privatisation of the NHS in England. 

Both men stared into the camera – that’s what their public relations teams have told them to do – as if they were speaking directly to us, the viewers sitting at home.  However, this practice comes across as creepy.  Questions in the studio were asked by either the presenter or a member of the audience, and it is common courtesy to address answers to the people who asked questions.  The Tory, Labour and Lib Dem PR-driven election strategy was to ignore questioners – because they only have one vote – and try to speak to the vast television audience – because they have millions of votes.  It is a cynical practice, but viewers aren’t daft, they know when politicians are trying to use them.

As for the other right-winger on the panel, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, the man is an idiot. Quite simply, he plays to the prejudices of the less intelligent, those who are willing to believe that every problem in the UK is caused by the European Union and foreigners.

On more than one occasion Farage shouted that politicians are all the same – apparently except him.  Politicians are not all the same.  Those on the right of the political spectrum – the men on last night’s panel – all come from very wealthy backgrounds and represent the interests of big business, the banks and financial institutions.  Farage, himself, was formerly a stockbroker in the City of London.

Nicola Sturgeon is a working class woman, raised in a council house in North Ayrshire, an area with one of the highest levels of unemployment and deprivation in the UK.  Nicola isn’t theorising when she talks about the negative impact grinding poverty has on people – she witnessed it first-hand as she grew up.  Her home town is Dreghorn, which forms part of Irvine (new town), and it wasn’t by chance that the Proclaimers included the line “Irvine no more” in their song Letter from America, which tells the story of Scotland being de-industrialised by the right-wing Tory Government led by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Nicola Sturgeon believes politicians should be putting in place legislation that builds a stronger, fairer country, where everyone is afforded hope, opportunity and dignity.  The agenda she articulates resonates with the public because people have had enough of remote and elitist, London-based politicians who tell us there is no alternative to cuts and austerity.

Have a look at social media following the ITV Leaders’ Debate: see the number of posts from people in England, bemoaning the fact they can’t vote for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

Even Sky News on Friday morning was stating as fact, “everyone knows the SNP will be hugely influential in the coming election”, a reference to opinion polls continuing to show the party on course for a landslide victory in Scotland.  A large number of SNP MPs could hold the balance of power in the UK Parliament and would mean Scotland’s voice being heard for the first time in London’s corridors of power.

That is not to say there will be a UK coalition government involving the SNP: there won’t.  The SNP has a long-standing policy that it will not facilitate the Tories gaining power...over anything. 

Nicola Sturgeon has made absolutely clear that the SNP will use its likely power in the next House of Commons to prevent David Cameron and the Tories from forming a government.  However, this has not stopped the deeply dishonest Labour Party from continuing to lie by claiming every vote in Scotland for the SNP is a vote to put David Cameron into 10 Downing Street.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

A large block of SNP MPs is likely to support – on a case by case basis – a Labour Government.  However, such SNP support would be conditional on Labour abandoning its policy of copying the Tories.  If a future Labour government needs the support of the SNP, Ed Miliband will have to move onto the more left-of-centre, progressive ground described in the Leaders’ Debate by Nicola Sturgeon.

To receive SNP support, Labour would have to abandon austerity and start investing in people: Labour would also have to end its support for spending billions-of-pounds on nuclear weapons of mass destruction while thousands of children in this country rely on foodbanks to stave-off hunger.

In short, voting SNP and returning large numbers of SNP MPs to the House of Commons is the only way of us receiving the changed agenda most of us say we want – and it will have the added bonus of dragging the Labour Party back to the moderate left-of-centre position it once held, before Tony Blair and Gordon Brown turned it into the Tory-clone New Labour.

In Scotland, we are fortunate to have a major political party articulating an agenda that puts first the interests of the people, and, in Nicola Sturgeon, we have a leader now recognised across the entire UK as being head-and-shoulders above anything the London parties have to offer.

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