What about England, Eh?
What happens to the SNP's favourite excuse when Scotland's performance falls below that of the Auld Enemy? Plus reflections from the doorstep.
For a Scottish nationalist, he doesn’t like talking about Scotland.
In every area of policy failure, we are invited to imagine we are English by Humza Yousaf.
Having to pay for your own operation because of NHS waiting lists? It could be worse, you could be English. A victim of crime because of falling police numbers? Be glad the crime didn’t take place in England. Is your house burning to the ground? Be glad it isn’t being consumed by English flames. Swimming in sewage? Be grateful those jobbies aren’t English.
The ambition of this Scottish Government ambition has never been to do better. It is simply to be not quite as bad as England.
In their shiftless worldview, it doesn’t matter if the Scottish line is on a downward trajectory, just as long as it stays above the English line.
That is why the PISA figures on education are so damaging for them politically. PISA did what the SNP always ask us to do on public services: they compared our schools to England and found us behind them in reading, maths and science.
Our lines have crossed. We have fallen below the English numbers. The SNP have failed their own miserable test.
Ann excoriating Guardian column by Sonia Sodha is worth a read:
“The drop in standards is the equivalent of today’s teenagers missing around 16 months of maths teaching compared with those in 2012, 18 months of science, and eight months of reading.”
Labour’s Michael Marra’s anger as a nationalist MSP offered nothing but sympathy to teachers as if the SNP were concerned bystanders is also worth a watch:
In response to this catastrophe, Yousaf can’t point to better outcomes in Scotland, so he offers that spending on education is higher in Scotland. It’s a remarkable defence: yes I’m a failure, but at least I’m an expensive failure.
Education was, let’s remember, the supposed central priority of the previous First Minister who had seven years to achieve her “personal defining mission”.
They had the money - by Yousaf’s own admission. They have had the time - no child who was in school when the SNP came to power in 2007 is still a pupil today. They have utterly failed our children.
On this issue alone, the issue which ultimately undermines all other hopes of national progress, they deserve to be thrown out of office.
Reflections from the Doorstep
One of the good things about working for myself is that I can spend whole days talking to voters in East Renfrewshire where I’m standing for Labour.
Something strange happens when you go from activist to candidate. It immediately changes the nature of the interaction on the doorstep. Suddenly the unsolicited, even unwanted conversation becomes an opportunity for the voter to unburden frustrations about their lives, their communities and the country. You learn an enormous amount.
When I worked on election campaigns we would eagerly await tracking polls which would tell us what issues had ‘cut through’. What stories had people out there in the real world noticed? After working so hard on some campaign moment you would be gutted to learn that only a tiny slither of the electorate had noticed your efforts.
That is the nature of elections. The battle to determine what the election is really about, the contest between the different parties’ narratives, is far more a war of attrition than of manoeuvre. Opinion is formed over months and years of effort. That is why discipline is so prized and division so dangerous.
Most frustrating is that it is the unplanned moments that really cut through. Occasionally these are moments of character. The spontaneous “turnip days” that Joe Klien yearned for amid all the market-tested political caution. More often though they are moments of chaos. Prescott punching the mullet. Brown forgetting to remove his microphone. The woman in the red dress being twirled around in lockdown. A peely-wally Scot streaming the football by the pool in Morocco.
If my conversations today were anything to go by, two moments of chaos have cut through in the last few days.
The Rwanda row has left voters baffled and has confirmed a sense they already had that the current UK government is governing itself, not the country. “They’ve been fighting themselves for years now.”
Meanwhile, the story about the expensive Jaguar bought then sold by Nicola Sturgeon’s husband has reignited interest in that affair. “How many motors did they have, for God’s sake?!”
Of course, more conversations were about the state of the roads of the state of the high street, but for two governing political machines all their efforts to control the media agenda are thrown off by these more colourful, more dramatic, and ultimately more authentic moments.
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