Monday 22 February 2010

Where's my candyfloss?

So Labour's latest slogan is "A Future Fair for All". The first few splutters on Facebook were about this future fair, and whether we could expect candy floss and bumper cars. Another friend suggested that re-electing Labour could be a fête worse than death (sorry!!!).

I don't get Labour at all. They've had thirteen years to make a fair future a reality, and to suggest they need more time smacks of desperation.

Children starting primary school in 1997 are now of voting and working age - do they see a world which is fair? And are they even likely to vote in this, a real election, rather than the X Factor or Strictly?

Yes, it takes time for policies to work through, and the early actions of a government might not be seen for several years. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's study from last year on Poverty, Inequality and Policy since 1997 examined the details and found a mixed picture. While some progress has been made towards a more equal society, there is still a long way to go and, more worryingly, from around 2003, the momentum seemed to peter out.

"Notable success stories include reductions in child and pensioner poverty, improved education outcomes for the poorest children and schools, and narrowing economic and other divides between deprived and other areas.

But health inequalities continued to widen, gaps in incomes between the very top and very bottom grew, and poverty increased for working-age people without children. In several policy areas there was a marked contrast between the first half of the New Labour period and the second half, when progress has slowed or even stalled."

It seems to me to be difficult to argue that the Labour rollercoaster will pick up speed again. I am really not keen on a Conservative Government in Westminster, but I feel just as strongly that Labour don't deserve another term in office.

I see independence as a genuine alternative to this punch and judy show - a chance for Scotland to try to make our own impact on the inequalities which scar our society. The report notes that devolution hasn't made a great deal of impact, and really that should be obvious. We have no control over the levers which would tackle inequality - taxation, benefits, employment - these remain reserved to Westminster. The Scottish Government can take many actions to help alleviate a few of the symptoms of poverty and inequality, but only independence allows us the chance of finding our own cure.

I was out on the doorsteps on Saturday working for Patrick Grady, our candidate for Glasgow North. It's always interesting speaking to voters, and I enjoy the questions and debate you get faced with. I think though, in terms of strategy, there's a lot to be done to give people a reason to vote. I don't mean to vote SNP, but to vote generally.

An SNP vote in the Westminster elections can't change an unequal society overnight - but neither will a vote for any other party. What it will do is put Scottish issues high on the agenda, and allow our Government to have greater leverage. Sending a bunch of Labour MPs - an increasingly inexperienced and unknown bunch too, given the number standing down - to Westminster will not do this. They will end up as anonymous backbenchers in a Labour opposition, biding their time. We send our MPs to get the very best deal for Scotland at every opportunity; to settle up, not settle down. Who else can say the same?

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