Saturday, 16 May 2015

Personality Politics or Advice to Kez on Jim's Big Day

As a once upon a time Labour supporter,  I sincerely hope that what I'm writing right now will be fish and chip paper by tonight.  But here goes.

I suppose if Jim Murphy can use the referendum campaign as a personal pension plan, then there is no real surprise to see him scurrying round Holyrood trying to shore up his votes for the NEC meeting today.  I suppose if you and the lickspittles around you are so deluded as to have thought that the headlines gathered from the Daily Mail et al for your Irn Bru and Egg tour were the same thing as an historical endorsement for your personal charisma as the saviour of "your" party/career, then you might even think that surviving a no confidence vote after you've just lost every seat in Scotland including your own is the same thing as a mandate to drag the party of Keir Hardy into the grave after you.  That the destruction of all you pretend to hold dear in favour of your ego  is a fair enough plan for the next 12 months.  I suppose you might not have time to reflect as you begged and lied and threatened every vote you can out of the MSPs and apparatchiks yesterday that even Margaret Thatcher stepped down after narrowly WINNING a leadership vote among Tory MPs.  Even when people compare you publicly to Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense (somebody tell him he's DEAD) then you might, if you were desperate and dysfunctional enough, be sufficiently personally vain or deranged by your personality problems as to cling on.

What is actually surprising me this morning is the possibility that the Scottish Labour Party might LET you.  If this was an episode of the Sopranos, it would be time to call in the "unidentified Black males" who get the blame every time Tony needs to take somebody out to the back and cut up the body in Satriale's Pork Butchers.

Even now, as I write on Saturday morning at 8.20, one word from Kezia Dugdale, even a slight nod...and Jim is in the bag and the bag is in the river.

What did she say to him yesterday?  What will she say today as they face each other in the meeting of the NEC?  Will she quote Burt lancaster to Tony Curtis in the Sweet Smell of Success?

"You're dead, son.  Get yourself buried."

In a development that sends shivers of historic thrill and fear down my Old Labour spine, the STUC have publically slammed the Labour Party while announcing closer cooperation with the SNP government in resisting the Tories...

That's the STUC, the founders and pay source of the Labour Party...cutting them loose.  Jim may also have been too busy to notice, but the noises coming out of Holyrood this week also signify a circling of wagons in preparation of the defence against Tory Westminster's Unholy War.  On the interpretation of the Smith Commission Proposals and the defense of the European Convention on Human Rights , Tory and Liberal MSPs...and even Labour ones, are forming sotto voce and provisional but quite tangible  defensive alliances with the SNP government.

Is this the atmosphere in which the Labour party really want a myopic, egotistical, self serving electoral dead fish hanging round their necks?  Is there anyone other than John McTernan and Jim who really think that's a good idea?  That the forward march of history take a step back in favour of the career rescue of one man, no matter whether or not they voted for him for leader only six months ago (in a fit of headline led, news managed bewilderment)?

Surely not?

On a rather bigger stage of history, about this time in May 1940, Neville Chamberlain drew Lord Halifax and Winston Churchill aside and said :"the King has asked me for a name...I thought I might suggest Lord Halifax?"

Churchill was trapped.  he couldn't say "No"...and he couldn't say "Yes".  So he said nothing.  He looked out of the window in silence until Halifax cracked and ruled himself out of the running.

Now...I know it's only wee Scotland...and the entire future of civilisation is not actually at stake....But Kezia, when Jim says today, "Kez...I know I can count on your support" and he smiles that weird, crooked smile...remember, he knows that at that moment he is entirely in your power...he is entirely dependent on your say so for his political survival...and he hates you for it.  He will never forgive you.  Powerless in everything else, he will destroy you along with the Party...

Believe me.  I'm a dramatist.  I know how this scene works.

If i were you, I'd look out of the window.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Frightful Sphere

Pascal was the first serious religious thinker to attempt to cope with the new "scientific" View of the Universe that Galileo and Newton had just come up with.  Suddenly the place where he had always lived turned out to be a very different kind of neighbourhood to the one he had thought had been created with humanity in mind and God's Purpose at its heart.  Instead he found himself adrift in "a Frightful Sphere of which the Centre is Everywhere and of which the Circumference is Nowhere."

So where do we find ourselves this weekend?

It's not where I or any of the polling organisations thought we'd be.  In fact the only people I know who called this pretty much exactly in advance were my fellow playwright David Greig and the Times columnist Matthew Parris.

I think the rest of us were expecting a weekend of permutations and possibilities, plots and surprises. From the immediately dramatic point of view, the voters of the UK have delivered us something of a let down.  Instead, it feels like the electoral map has caught up with the reality that it symptomatically represents, and that the nature of the first past the post electoral system  (which rewards half the votes cast with sudden total dominion) has now told us what it feels like we've known all along.

As Dorothy once put it after the Tornado had dumped her house on a wicked witch. "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

People have already visualised the new Britain as Maggie Simpson - Yellow on top and Blue down below.  Her being wholly inarticulate and mysterious may also signify something.  Her choice of silence as a strategic response to the mayhem of the world around her also has a good deal to recommend it. However, if pressed for a headline as to "what all this means" historically, I'd maybe hazard this. :

There Is No Unionist Route to Power in Britain Anymore.

Ed Miliband's Labour Party could not only not reach Scotland anymore - it couldn't reach outside London and the exhausted and abandoned heartlands of South Wales and the North of England either.. Tony "I told you so" Blair has already described Thursday's election as a traditional Tory win over a traditional Labour Party. As usual with that gentleman, there is both some crass accuracy and mypic instrumentalism about what he's saying.  He has been proved correct in a narrow sense however in that New Labour believed that it was no longer possible for Old Labour to win in the post industrial UK, that they had to redefine themselves as the Friends of the City and hope that nobody outside the South East would notice.

Well, obviously Scotland noticed. That's why the electorate here have made the ruthless and simple decision that Labour cannot offer any defense against the Tories anymore, and that they may as well give the SNP a shot. (At least that's how it feels from my Glasgow-centric point of view.  The centre is now EVERYwhere, remember?)  What is new is that Radical London found its man in Ed Miliband.  What is not new is that provincial working class England and Wales is almost wholly politically abandoned. I'll come on to what I think about Scotland in a minute. Right now I'm thinking about London and how well, actually, Ed Miliband's New Version of Old Labour represented that wonderful, radical, diverse, maddening city, and how BADLY an intelligent, humane, ruthless North London Jewish Radical Intellectual turned out to go down in the rest of England.  The big surprise this week was not that the SNP swept the Liberal and Labour board in Scotland.  It was much more about how the Tories took all but the Labour heartlands in England, and how in those heartlands which wouldn't vote Tory in the modern era if you threatened to set fire to them, any more than Glasgow or Dundee would, UKIP came a fairly impressive second.

Friends of mine in London are in shock at the moment, and had the result been a bit closer, they'd be very cross indeed with the SNP right now...but the clarity of the result on both sides of the border takes us into very new territory indeed.  And that territory is Balkan.

London is is one centre.  It has one version of the Labour Party to represent it. It is now wholly distinct from the ex-industrial North which needs another version of the Labour party to fight for it. Wales puzzles the hell out of me, but for the moment let's say it needs yet another Labour party to represent it (in Westminster anyway).  Scotland, which I think is the ONLY one-of-many-centres with a head start on the new rules of the universe...has now got the SNP  as a replacement for the Labour Party - which I don't think is sustainable in the long term, except as a representative OF Scotland AT Westminster - and a left that needs to reinvent itself from the ground up, in which, I think and hope, the STUC and civic society have now got a crucial and exciting role to play.

The Tories have got England. Almost all of it.  The Union has got NOBODY.  Except for the Ulster Unionists and the DUP in Northern Ireland.  It turns out that the moral and intellectual vacuity of the Better Together Campaign last year was the harbinger of an empty equivalent vacuum at the heart of the Imperial Project.  The Crown is Hollow.

I repeat: There is no Unionist route to power in Britain anymore.  The Tories can win in England and England is big enough to outnumber the rest.   Labour can't ever win as a British Party again. The only future for the once upon a time British left is federal.

There will be time later for more detailed prognosis.  For now, in my view, what happened on Thursday was that the Westminster Electoral Machine caught up with the political change implied by Scottish devolution in 1999.  It took 18 years for the cultural event of the 1979 referendum to find a democratic mandate.  It has taken 18 years for the events of 1997, both Blairism and the second Devo referendum, to come home to roost politically. The future begins now.

The SNP now have the challenge not only of herding 56 mostly new, mostly untested and mostly unpredictable MPs without any terribly clear role most of the time in the Imperial Parliament, they also need to define the Independence they stand for now not against a moribund and clearly knackered Status Quo but against a reinvigorated majority English Nationalist Tory Government and a British Media Pack wholly in thrall to its interests. They will also now, I hope, find themselves with a post-British opposition in Scotland.  The radical left and the Greens are already geared up for Holyrood in 2016.  I hope that the many capable people on the centre left here too, who belong for now to the Jim Murphy photo op and sporting club, will find a new channel for their abilities and energies and good will. The EU referendum and the Holyrood Elections will be upon us sooner than it is quite comfortable to contemplate and the challenge is both for the SNP and the wider civic society that they do and don't represent to get ready for both of these events and the excitements and opportunities as well as perils they afford.

As for the individual stars of our little sideshow up here, I can understand with the busy couple of years ahead why Jim Murphy and the ScotLab hierarchy want to stress continuity.  But their members must surely to God want something better than the nihilistic oblivion that the Better Together nabobs have on offer. All Ed Miliband lost was an election, for God's sake.  Jim Murphy lost a country and seemed to entirely clueless as to which century he was occupying.  Labour either re-invent themselves as a Scottish Party or the STUC get on the blower to the water walking Nicola Sturgeon. Labour's future path here is clarified by the  paradox  that the other cultural winner in Scotland of that electoral campaign just finished, other than Ms Sturgeon, was Ruth Davidson.  The Tories have now adjusted to the end of Britain and have reinvented themselves here as a Scottish Party.  Labour have had since devolution to do the same.  Their belief that they could cling to the pre-devolution version of reality has now surely come definitively and finally unstuck. They now have the same number of MPs here as do the Tories and the Liberals after all...(even typing that sentence feels weird!) ...and even among the Three Wise Monkeys of Scottish Labour the penny has surely finally dropped.

The other paradox is that the Federalism that the Liberals (all eight of them) used to go on about (and still do occasionally in the persons of David Torrance and (once in while) Willie an idea whose time has surely come if there is anyone left standing to articulate it.

Still, I can't help feeling, like Pascal, a bit deflated. It's not so much that the universe has changed as that its nature has been clarified. There are still matters of power and morality to fight over, just like there were last week.  It's just that, like the polling organisations who got it all so wholly wrong, we're going to need a new map of the place.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

The History Trap

How has it come to this?  How can it possibly be that Scotland's voters are so impervious to reason? Have they all just gone mental, as Iain Martin suggests?  Are they just being emotional as the Insights Director at the polling organisation TNS would have it?  What has gotten into them?  Why was Labour's participation in Better Together, which from their point of view was a pragmatic and principled defence of the structures of compromise and compensation Labour had historically negotiated on our behalf, so toxic?  Are the Scottish electorate falling victim to some sinister mind control?  Has Alec Salmond got a machine underneath Edinburgh castle that sends out idiot waves to the gullible, kilted inhabitants via the aerial implanted in the Sturgeonator robot?

The answer to these questions, as I see it, lies in the fact that these are the wrong questions. This is because they are questions about Scotland.  What is happening in this election, just like what happened during the referendum campaign, is a question about Britishness. What was it?  What is it? What went wrong with it?  Can anyone fix it?

Scottishness hasn't really happened yet.  Scottish identity, despite what everyone in the British Establishment North and South seems to think, is not an issue in this election any more than it really was in the referendum campaign, except on the very fringes of the Yes movement. Questions about what we want Scotland to be remain vague and unanswered and unasked by the electorate not because the electorate is mental, stupid or misled, but because the electorate are asking other questions.  They are interrogating the idea of Britain as represented by the Labour party as the nice face and the Tories as the nasty face.  And they are saying to's the same face...This is possibly, even definitely unfair.  But hey, history is like that.  It's an unforgiving old bastard at the best of times.  And, for Britain, these are not the best of times.

In sum, though, it is the idea of Britain that is being found to be vacuous and it is the SNP who, in Scotland, are filling the gap.  And you can call them liars and opportunists and mountebanks, and you may be right.  But the essential fact is the vacuum.  You ask any physicist.

There is something fundamentally wrong with Britain then that the Scottish electorate have noticed. And they don't believe anymore that a unitary Labour government of the whole UK can fix it. All the rest is incidental.  Jim Murphy and Nicola Sturgeon are accidents of personality.  The history is what essential. History has made the Trap that is likely, if the polls are right, to squeeze the Scottish Labour party to death next week.

2. The Great Money River

It's not that voters in the rest of the UK haven't noticed what has been happening since 1945. It's not that no one in South Wales or Newcastle or Bolton or Tower Hamlets and Southwark and Newham don't see exactly how things work.  To borrow a metaphor, as is my wont, from the late and  great Kurt Vonnegut, everyone in these islands knows that somewhere through the centre of the ruins runs the Great Money River.  Now this river is not exactly geographically located and is directly accessible only if you know the code to the room where they keep the buckets.  But we all know where in the building the bucket room is.  We all know who keeps the keys.

There is no blame to be attached to anyone for the architecture.  It's quite an old building, even if some of the most ancient and venerable institutional offices turn out to be mock gothic.  Over the years, in order to keep everything the same, everything has had to change.  Empires have come and gone, markets have been opened and shut and sovereignties renegotiated from time to time. Always adapting reluctantly to changes in the weather, but muddling through in the end, the river has been kept flowing. The necessary arrangements for it's flow that were carved bloodily out of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and then the world, have become so natural, so obvious, so elemental as to unquestionable.  To think that nature might be different is deranged.

Power is where power is.  Things are what they are. The centre is the centre. To extend the "river" metaphor, complicated systems of pulleys, canals, locks and viaducts have been constructed to spread the water around.  But to question the location of the river itself is unthinkable. In constitutional terms , no matter how ramshackle, illogical and gerry built, the structures that feed allocations of money and power to the British periphery must be maintained, but to divert the river itself?  To permit the digging of a new, potentially rival river system ELSEWHERE? Are you insane?

3. The Project and The Trap

So, to focus again on the leading character in our wee drama,  the Labour Party, in order to defend the National structures they have attempted to put in place, the civic structures, the redistributive structures, have had to become defenders not just of those things that compensate for "the way things are" but of "the way things are" in themselves.

 When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown pragmatically embraced the structures of power in the 1990s, becoming relaxed about commercial borrowing for public projects, for example, and relying on the tax receipts from an unregulated financial market in the City of London they were only being pragmatic.  The rich were flattered into allowing Labour to carry their very own buckets down to the river, and they poured away happily, and relegated questions about the actual sources of wealth and the ownership rights of the river and the bucket room to their juvenile past.

Their problems really started because they couldn't quite tell anyone what they were up to. They were slightly shame faced about it.  But as long as the river kept on flowing and they kept being handed buckets, everything was fine. It didn't matter that they had accepted the de-industrialisation of the Thatcher era.  It didn't matter that they had accepted that the only part of the economy that mattered was located in one super-heated corner of it whose interests must be served if anywhere else was going to get a chance at the table scraps. It didn't matter that Trade Unions remained underfoot, that generations of under-employment were allowed to regulate the labour market, that the welfare state and the health service teetered on the edge of privatisation or collapse.  Just as long as the rich didn't take their borrowed buckets back. Devolution and regional po,icy would keep things going provided only the taps didn't get turned off.

Which is exactly what happened in 2008.  And the ramshackle public structures of compensation for the "way things are" became unsustainable.  Or at least that's what the Tories argued.  And not only did the Tories win (sort of) the election in 2010 on that basis, but the Labour party accepted the narrative, accepted the blame, accepted the logic, as a precondition for contesting the election that is happening right now.

And no doubt, in this election campaign, Hereford and Hampshire, and possibly even Hartlepool, they are doing the right thing.  Not in Hamilton they're not.

4. The British National Moment/ The Scottish National Moment

In the democratic era, the way that God or nature have arranged matters for the benefit of the river guardians has had to renegotiate itself in a democratic fashion. That is, "nationalistically" in the appalling, modern, French sense of the word.  1945 was the popular democratic British national moment, to this way of thinking, and it remains the foundation of everything the Labour party defines itself as standing for. Labour people in Hereford and Hamilton will bridle at the idea that their party of the unions and the cooperatives was in any way a nationalist phenomenon, but I beg them to think outside of their accustomed box for a moment.

Modern Britishness is a contested territory. But Britain has been the question in every election. As Billy Bragg once put it : "Theirs is a land of Hope and Glory; Mine is the green field and the factory floor" In this interpretation, which is inevitable, I think, through the prism of a pre-existing  and conscious "national" identity as British and Scottish, every UK election has been about the National question.  And the National question has always been : What kind of Britain should it Be?

The Tories and Labour have always been and remain then, British National Parties. This is not to say they are the same.  They contest the territory. But they believe in the same "Britain" and it is Britain that is in crisis. The question is whether britain will recognise the crisis in time to offer a British solution. And whether this election will provide the shock that will force Britain to do that.

If voters in Scotland are voting for anything in this UK election (as well as against an idea of Britain that has run out of steam, conviction  and invention) they are voting for the shock that most of us now agree the system needs.  There is no reason to be coherent yet about what the future of either a properly federal Britain or a fully independent Scotland look like (these being the only even medium term alternatives).  The issue for today is to kick Britain awake.  To say : a No vote hasn't made all this go away, you silly sods.

Oh and by the way, you guys in the political parties and the papers and the BBC all getting together to agree with each other that we were a bit crap hasn't gone down all that well.

You have to say the precedents aren't promising.  It is astonishing both how swiftly we became politically invisible again the moment we ceased to be a "problem" last year, and how irritated and petty the response has been to our perversely not having followed through on our "generation long promise" to shut up and go away.

I would contend now that what this election means is that the referendum was not an endorsement of the Union so much as it was a narrow decision to give it one last chance.  And that when David Cameron came out on the morning of September 19th to say it was England's turn now that all that unpleasantness was over with, and when Ed Miliband said, in effect, the other night that he rather preferred to idea of letting Cameron back into Downing Street than talk to Scottish people who haven't been hand picked by the Labour Party, you can't really blame us for not feeling the love.

But we did vote to give "Britain" one last chance to reinvent itself.  Sending all those SNP MPs does not contradict that decision as the Daily Mail inter alia indignantly alleges.  It is a condition of remaining in the UK that we represent ourselves within it differently.  Britain has been reinvented by wars, an Empire and a Welfare State.  What is happening in Scotland means that it needs to do it again. It's just that we insist on taking part in that reinvention this time, as ourselves, rather than as mendicants with a nationalist begging bowl.

What happened last year is that the Better Together campaign succeeded in making the identity of "Britain", "the Establishment" and "the Labour Party" unequivocal in Scotland.  Even with a No vote, however, paradoxically, against expectation, it equally unequivocally established that the sovereign power of decision as to what happens in Scotland was now and forever to be a matter for decision in Scotland.

We voted No.  But we voted.  That turned out to be more important than the result. Because we had been told by the united chorus of the United Kingdom knew now that if  we had dared to vote Yes, all these benevolent creatures would turn on us like wolverines in a sack. We got the message.  That's why we're sending the SNP to Westminster.  For self defense.

Still, one thing at a time.  Next week, when the votes are counted, will come another defining and possibly final British National Moment.  Whether and how it is followed, five or ten years from now, by a Scottish National Moment, is a question for all of us.  Voting SNP is just our way of letting our brothers and sisters know that.

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Last Unionists Have Left the Building.

When Ed Miliband said last night he would rather see David Cameron back in power than make any kind of post election deal with the SNP, the nice positive piece I wanted to write about my hopes for the future governance of these islands disintegrated in disbelief. Who on Earth has Ed been talking to? What nonsense are they feeding him? Why did he agree to say something quite so mind bogglingly, multifacetedly stupid?
Not only has he just told the voters of Scotland that he prefers Tory government for the whole island to a civilised conversation with the people more than half of them (according to the polls) are going to vote for, he has just insulted the intelligence of voters everywhere in the UK with a quite unnecessary concession to the baying nutjobs of the Tory Press.
Here’s one possible scenario. The Tories are the biggest party next Friday. They try to form a government in cooperation with the Liberals and the DUP. They get as far as a Queen’s speech. If the SNP and Labour combined vote against that Queen’s speech, they can bring the Tories down before they get going.
The logic of what Ed just said, which every single Tory MP and mouthpiece in the media will hold him to, is that he abstain. Because to form his own minority government, he will need the support of the SNP whether he pretends they don’t exist and he can’t see or hear them or not.
He has just crippled his own minority government in an act of craven stupidity, a last ditch attempt to put the Scottish horse back in the stable from which it has clearly bolted, and a pointless bit of pandering to the Tory consensus which will despise him all the more for it. Once again, with the SNP, Labour have decided the best thing to do is shut their eyes and wish they’d go away.
Now I kind of understand where they’re coming from. It must hurt like hell to find yourselves to be the chumps of history.
But if they do go on to form an administration now, with support from the SNP which they can deny all they want to, it will be perfectly clear for everyone to see (and point out to them daily) they will look like power hungry hypocrites. They will tacitly, but obviously, be in hock to the Scottish Satan who will no longer be in the mood for positive engagement and exposed to the daily mockery of the entire British Establishment. They’ll look stupid as well as unprincipled. It will be hideous.
Labour made the historic mistake of accepting that government overspending was responsible for the financial crisis in 2008-9. This was bollocks then and it’s bollocks now. But they decided they couldn’t fight the lie so they’d accept it. They cringingly conceded to Tory logic. They’ve just done it again with regard to Scotland and even if they do form a minority government, it will be crippled and compromised from the start.
And they can blame the Scots for voting for the wrong party all they want. Their willingness to join the Tory world view on this and every other matter, it seems, is why Scotland, which is fortunate enough to have an alternative electoral repository for hope, is about to reject them.
I had such hopes that once the Scottish Labour MPs were out of the way that we in Scotland on the one hand, and progressive forces elsewhere would accept the new reality together. That a new constitution for the islands could be worked out between us in good faith. My fear is that what Ed said in the heat of a TV programme last night has condemned us instead to a messy, bitter, recriminatory few years with Labour and the SNP continuing to scream each other puce in blaming each other for everything until Boris walks into Number 10 and we walk out of the Union in a welter of avoidable acrimony.
I had such hopes. That we could recover some of the focus on our mutual welfare that were embodied in the Labour Government of 1945. That we’d find it in ourselves to amicably re-negotiate sovereignty for the benefit of everyone who lives here. Whether we called it federalism or independence. That a bloc of SNP MPs could actually become a fixture of a UK parliament that would then redefine itself through negotiation, with a full transfer of sovereignty to…
I give up. Courage fails me. I find myself unable to hope for anything so sensible. Even with the prospect of a transformative victory next week for the SNP, I find myself in mourning for the better “Britain” that might have been.
Because we might have done this so much better. Till Ed Miliband listened to the bitter trolls of Scottish Labour. And said something stupid last night. Careless but defining. Final. Without even thinking. And this demonstrating that not only have the Tories just abandoned the Union for their own narrow stupid, greed headed advantage, not only are the Tories short sighted and stupid in regard to their precious Union, so, when it comes down to it, are the Peoples’ Party of the Britain that Was, the Britain that they used to represent as a positive inclusive sense of mutual value, and that they now, like the Tories, represent only as a tawdry, vacuous pretence, a shambolic, empty pageant of royalty and Britain’s Got Talent.
They have been trying to make the case that they remain the historical heirs of the last British National Moment that made sense. That they held dear the creations of the Labour Government of 1945-51 to which the people of Scotland still, maybe naively, cling.
Are they Hell. They’re a bunch of squeaky useless PR people who wouldn’t know a value if it punched them in the head. And if they’re better than that, they’ve just blown their chance to act like it.
At least that’s how I feel this morning. I am filled with the same cold, contemptuous anger as I was during the referendum and that they’ve been meeting on the doorsteps, bewildered that no one seems to love them any more.
You did this all to yourselves, you dumb, doomed, craven little men.
Last year, when I looked at the scummy, doomed campaign style of Better Together, I remember thinking: “Jesus, the United Kingdom, no matter what I think of it, surely deserved better than this second rate, nihilistic shit. Can’t they see the price they’re going to pay if they keep this up?” I feel that way again. There’s sadness mixed in with the determination that we may as well get it over with and get shot of the lot of them.
Postscript: All day I’ve been wondering what possessed a careful intelligent man like Ed Miliband to say something so transparently stupid and careless.  Then the answer came to me.  Nick Clegg.  Nick and Ed are doing a deal and what Ed said last night is part 0f the price. I’d bet my house and kids on it.