Rules of engagement

The latest hostage situation leaves many wondering how best to approach already complicated relation

The diplomatic stand off that began on March 23 between the Iranian and British governments finally came to an end on April 4, to the delight of everyone involved. Sunny Hundal had a view shared by many who did not believe the increasingly strong publicity rallying behind the British government. He said, “This is not to say Iran’s actions were justified or right but any call for war was just idiotic posturing that the Foreign Office was never going to take seriously.”

It remains to be seen whether or not we will ever find out the true version of events which led to this hostage crisis. Iain Dale said he had “conflicting emotions while watching the conversations between the Navy personnel and the Iranian President after his press conference. I’m sure many of us could say the same. Craig Murray said it was evidence that a "softly, softly" approach could prove effective with Iran.

It is nearly election time again for local councils in England, for the Welsh Assembly and for the Scottish Parliament. Mike Tansey pointed out how there are 16 independent candidates for the Sunderland local election who had submitted their nomination papers by the time nominations closed on Wednesday. And for anyone who missed the drunken antics of a young Lib-Dem candidate in Scotland, the Ridiculous Politics blog has the details.

The Spy blog questions the Government’s latest plans to introduce ‘shouting’ CCTV cameras. This blog hits the nail right on the head. It asks, “The immediate question which springs to mind is why the existing CCTV
surveillance cameras, linked as they must be to a live camera operator in a control room, they have not already eliminated such behaviour? That is the false promise on which hundreds of millions of pounds of Central Government and Local Government funds have been spent on such systems.”

And Ellee Seymour highlighted details of a woman who won an industrial tribunal this week against her employer which sacked her for blogging while at work. Under the pseudonym of La Petite Anglaise, Catherine Sanderson won a year’s salary, plus costs, after the tribunal agreed there was no evidence to prove she had brought disrepute to the company. She had often blogged from work at Dixon Wilson, where she worked as a secretary. She has also won a lucrative book deal in which she tells her story in full.

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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