Time's up Tony

The post-Thatcher reconstruction that never
happened under Labour is the real challenge facing Sco

Not only will Blue Labour be swept out of office by the SNP and allied forces (the new coalition of the willing) it will be cleansed from 1000s of local council seats where it has festered for far too long.

Like the MMR that breeds in its privatised hospitals, Labour's grip on local authorities has acted as an incubus for backhanding and the sort of corrupting comfortability of eternal rule.

'Why oh why' cries a perplexed Unionist media as editors gradually wake up to the potential of constitutional change.

Constantly being daubed 'subsidy-junkies' while funding the London Olympics is a minor irritant and Blair's Wars a real motivation but most people are looking forward.

Why should Scotland host Trident 2 - a moral absurdity and a strategic nonsense? The sums don't add up and everywhere Labour's credibility is in tatters.

Relentless privatisation rubs against the grain of the wider mainstream of Scottish political culture.

The emblematic deluge of shite cascading from the PFI water treatment plant into the Firth of
Forth by Edinburgh was perhaps the perfect symbol for the fag-end days of the Blair Project in Scotland. The owner of this consortium? Thames Water.

So what happened after this major public health disaster affecting communities and wildlife for miles up the river estuary? Who was called to account? The head of SEPA perhaps, one of Labours countless useless
quangos? The manager of Thames Water maybe?

Nothing. Nobody was held to account let alone fired. Whatever happened to "rights and responsibilities".

Where's your ASBO culture - your blanket solution to a lost generation - when it comes to chums and croneys running what should be public utilities?

The incident was a shocking indictment of the failed Lib-Lab administration.

So who will govern Scotland in their place? Not Labour. But will the Lib Dems retain their ministerial Mondeos under the leadership of the awesomely uncharismatic Nicol Stephen?

Lets hope not for the grey men of the Lib Dems combine apparently green credentials (they want more
renewables - but who doesn't?) with an audacious road-building programme and plans for airport extensions.

Stephen was the man who gave the go-ahead for the hated M74 after a multi-million pound public inquiry deemed it a terrible idea. Not very liberal and not very democratic you might think.

More promising could be a renewed Green presence - any advance on their current eight MSPs would be a boon and could have the affect of offering a little noticed alternative partner for the SNP if they can offer enough concession to bring in the Greens Swedish-modelled idea of 'confidence and supply' through which they don't enter a formal coalition but support the main planks of a minority govt in return for
some 'red line issues' In this case, no new nuclear, no Trident and a massive increase in renewables.

All of which would be a real victory and a shock to the British State pre actual independence.

Other room for manoeuvre beyond a dispiriting and dissipating coalition with the Lib-Dems could be based on the oddballs, rebels and misfits that could be elected via the STV system, including Tommy Sheridan,
Margo MacDonald and a host of independents. Could this unlikely band of troubadors help the SNP move beyond the slick slogan 'It's Time' and answer the question, yeah but time for what?

There's a desperate need to lift the nationalist vision beyond sycophancy to business leaders and start sorting out the massive social problems Scotland faces. The post-Thatcher reconstruction that never
happened under Labour is the real challenge facing Scotland.

It's almost certain that a large part of the support for the SNP is strategic but that is not the same as saying its an anti-Labour vote.

For decades the polls showed that support for independence outstripped support for the SNP and at some level that is still true. Whatever the result Labour have nobody to blame but themselves.

Only yesterday Blair was asked about his party's poll flop and his answer was revealing. Smiling his inane smile and gripping his faithful coffee mug he "When you're mid-term its always tough". Somebody should
have briefed him ('You're in Scotland Tony, its not mid-term its end of term, the parliament's been dissolved').

It's not Jack McConnell's fault, it's not Gordon 'Two Flags' Brown's fault either. But ten years is a long time in politics. Blair destroyed everything that Labour was based on, so he can hardly be surprised when
its natural supporters reject him. Time's up Tony.

Gus Abraham is the editor of 1820
Photo: Getty Images
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What's to be done about racial inequality?

David Cameron's words on equal opportunities are to be welcomed - now for some action, says Sunder Katwala.

David Cameron made the strongest, clearest and most high profile statement about ethnic inequalities and the need to tackle discrimination ever yet offered by a British Prime Minister in his leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
“Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname. Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names? … That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful. We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally”, said Cameron.
While the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, this was a powerfully argued Prime Ministerial intervention – and a particularly well-timed one, for three reasons.

Firstly, the Prime Minister was able to root his case in an all-but-universally accepted appeal for equal opportunities. It will always prove more difficult in practice to put political energy and resources behind efforts to remedy discrimination against a minority of the population unless a convincing fairness case is made that values cherished across our whole society are at stake. Cameron’s argument, that any party which tells itself that it is the party of the ‘fair chance’ and ‘the equal shot’ must have a response when there is such clear evidence of discrimination, should prove persuasive to a Conservative Party that has not seen race inequalities as its natural territory. Cameron argued that the same principles should animate responses to discrimination when it comes to race, gender and social class. Put like that, wanting job interviews to be fair – by eradicating conscious and unconscious patterns of bias wherever possible – would strike most Britons as offering as clear a case of the values of fair play as wanting the best baker to win the Great British Bake-Off on television.
Secondly, Cameron’s intervention comes at a potential "tipping point" moment for fair opportunities across ethnic groups. Traditionally, ethnic discrimination has been discussed primarily through the lens of its impact on the most marginalised. Certainly, persistent gaps in the criminal justice system, mental health provision and unemployment rates remain stark for some minority groups. What has been less noticed is the emergence of a much more complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage – not least as a consequence of significant ethnic minority progress.

Most strikingly of all, in educational outcomes, historic attainment gaps between ethnic minorities and their white British peers have disappeared over the last decade. In the aggregate, ethnic minorities get better GCSE results on average. Ethnic minority Britons are more likely, not less likely, to be university graduates than their fellow citizens. 

As a result of that progress, Cameron’s intervention comes at a moment of significant potential – but significant risk too. Britain’s ethnic minorities are the youngest and fastest-growing sections of British society. If that educational progress translates into economic success, it will make a significant contribution to the "Great British Take-Off" that the Prime Minister envisions. But if that does not happen, with educational convergence combined with current ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment and income persisting, then that potential could well curdle into frustration that the British promise of equal opportunities is not being kept.  Cameron also mirrored his own language in committing himself to both a ‘fight against extremism’ and a ‘fight against discrimination’: while those are distinct challenges and causes, actively pursuing both tracks simultaneously has the potential, at least, depolarise some debates about responses to extremism  - and so to help deepen the broad social coalitions we need for a more cohesive society too.

Thirdly, Cameron’s challenge could mark an important deepening in the political competition between the major parties on race issues. Many have been struck by the increase in political attention on the centre-right to race issues over the last five to ten years. The focus has been on the politics of representation. By increasing the number of non-white Conservative MPs from two to seventeen since 2005, Cameron has sent a powerful signal that Labour’s traditional claim to be ‘the party of ethnic minorities’ would now be contested. Cameron was again able to celebrate in Manchester several ways in which his Cabinet and Parliamentary benches demonstrate many successful journeys of migrant and minority integration in British society. That might perhaps help to ease the fears, about integration being impossible in an era of higher immigration, which the Home Secretary had articulated the previous day.

So symbolism can matter. But facial diversity is not enough. The politics of ethnic minority opportunity needs to be about more than visits to gurdwaras, diversity nights at the party conference fringes and unveiling statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader did include one brief celebratory reference to Britain’s ethnic diversity – “as I travelled the country during the leadership campaign it was wonderful to see the diversity of all the people in our country” – and to Labour bringing in more black, Asian and ethnic minority members - but it did not include any substantial content on discrimination. Tim Farron acknowledged during his leadership campaign that the Liberal Democrats have struggled to get to the starting-line on race and diversity at all. The opposition parties too will no doubt now be challenged to match not just the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitment to challenging inequalities but also to propose how it could be done in practice.

Non-white Britons expect substance, not just symbolism from all of the parties on race inequalites.  Survation’s large survey of ethnic minority voters for British Future showed the Conservatives winning more ethnic minority support than ever before – but just 29 per cent of non-white respondents were confident that the Conservatives are committed to treating people of every ethnic background equally, while 54 per cent said this of Labour. Respondents were twice as likely to say that the Conservatives needto do more to reach out – and the Prime Minister would seem to be committed to showing that he has got that message.  Moreover, there is evidence that ethnic inclusion could be important in broadening a party’s appeal to other younger, urban and more liberal white voters too – which is why it made sense for this issue to form part of a broader attempt by David Cameron to colonise the broad centre of British politics in his Manchester speech.

But the case for caution is that there has been limited policy attention to ethnic inequalities under the last two governments. Restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab decided to give up his role chairing an ethnic minority taskforce for successive governments, unconvinced there was a political commitment to do much more than convene a talking shop. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone did push the CV discrimination issue – but many Conservatives were sceptical. Cameron’s new commitment may face similar challenges from those whose instinct is to worry that more attention to discrimination or bias in the jobs market will mean more red tape for business.

Labour had a separate race inequalities manifesto in 2015, outside of its main election manifesto, while the Conservative manifesto did not contain significant commitments to racial inequality. The mid-campaign launch in Croydon of a series of race equality pledges showed an increasing awareness of the growing importance of ethnic minority votes - though the fact that they all involved aiming for increases of 20 per cent by 2020 gave them a slightly back-of-the-envelope feel. 

Prime Ministerial commitments have an important agenda-setting function. A generation ago the Stephen Lawrence case opened the eyes of middle England to racist violence and police failures, particularly through the Daily Mail’s persistent challenging of those injustices. A Conservative Prime Minister’s words could similarly make a big difference in the mainstreaming of the issue of inequalities of opportunity. What action should follow words? Between now and next year’s party conference season, that must will now be the test for this Conservative government – and for their political opponents too. 

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.