The charm of a breeze block

talent poolWhile Nicola Sturgeon demonstrated that the Scottish Government is doing is bit to help out struggling households in a cost of living crisis that is not the fault of Scotland, by introducing a rent freeze, a moratorium on evictions, and a rise in the Scottish Child Payment, the new Prime Minister, with all the charm of a breeze block, mouthed some vacuous platitudes outside Downing Street which left us none the wiser about the help her government was going to give and which utterly failed to acknowledge that much of the responsibility for the current crisis falls on Truss’s own party, which has been in power for over a decade. We wanted reassurance, we got the energy of an aunt giving a perfunctory speech at the wedding of a nephew that she can’t stand.

The BBC and Sky gave us live coverage of Truss’s plane landing at RAF Northolt in West London, then a live broadcast from a helicopter of her motorcade making its way through the London traffic until it reached Downing Street as though it was heralding the delivery of some momentous and game changing news, and not the few bland words of manager speak that we actually got. This is the unadulterated bollocks that we get from a British media which has ceased any attempt at holding power to account unless it’s a devolved power.

Shortly before the convoy arrived at Downing Street the skies opened in a torrential downpour and the Prime Ministerial podium was covered with a bin bag. Now there’s a metaphor for the state of British politics. Insert your own line about a nasty shower in Downing Street here. In the event the bin bag would probably have given a more interesting and informative speech. It certainly had more presence and charisma.

But back in Scotland there was real politics and not the performative charade that was taking place in London. Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, praised the Scottish Government for its rent freeze and moratorium on evictions, which will assure many thousands of families that even though there is a cost of living crisis and the threat of unaffordable rises in energy bills which the devolved Scottish Government lacks the powers to tackle, at least they will not have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads this winter and fret about homelessness as well as about freezing and starving.

Khan said: “This bold action from the Scottish Government will support thousands of households during this time of national crisis. I’ll continue to call on the UK Govt to grant me the power to freeze rents in our capital. Londoners are facing record rents at the worst possible time.”

Not everyone was happy about taking steps to protect thousands of families in Scotland from the threat of homelessness. Tom Gordon at the Herald still managed to frame it negatively with a report titled “Warning as Sturgeon confirms rent freeze to help with cost of living crisis.” And of course BBC Scotland gave us its usual ‘But critics say’ performance. Because the real issue here is the threat to the incomes of landlords. This, Scotland, is why we can’t have nice things. The screw the many what about the few theme was continued by the moon howling British nationalist frothers who infest the comments section of the Herald, some of whom are alarmingly extremist in their right wing views and who make that newspaper’s comments section, once entertaining and occasionally informative, completely unreadable.

One of the “don’t you dare call me a nationalist I’m British types” was sneeringly dismissive of the £5 rise in Scottish Child payment. These are the same people who howl in rage about the £20 million which the Scottish Government is spending on preparations for an independence referendum and demand that it be spent on reducing energy bills instead. There are 2.5 million households in Scotland. £20 million works out at £8 per household, which would not even touch the sides of the energy bill rises which are forecast.

With the Conservative leadership contest safely out of the way Douglas Ross has come out of the fridge he’s been hiding in and, surprise surprise is fully in support of Liz Truss. He’s the only man in politics who can execute a U-turn while coasting. He did however repeat his demand that the Scottish Government give up on bringing about the referendum which they were elected to deliver, insisting that the cost of living crisis “demands we put country over party, put politics to one side and make hard choices. Ross forgets, or more accurately hopes that the rest of us forget, that we have had nine weeks of a leadership contest during which the public panicked whilst Tory ministers ignored the looming catastrophe and Douglas Ross did his level best to stay as invisible as possible in case he was asked to make a choice between Truss or Sunak.

Ross must be relieved that it’s not up to Downing Street to pick the leader of the Scottish Tories otherwise he’d be going the same way as Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, and all the other Conservatives who had failed to show sufficient loyalty to Liz Truss. As it is all is not well in the ranks of the Scottish Tories with the resignation of Oliver Mundell from the front bench this week. Admittedly it won’t be much noticed as he’s as spineless and ineffectual as his dad. Had you even noticed that he was the Scottish Tory education spokesman? No, neither had I. The resignation comes a couple of days after the resignation of Dean Lockhart, who has left Holyrood and stood down as an MSP. As a list MSP he will be replaced by the next on the Conservative list and there will be no by-election, the usual procedure when a list MSP leaves Holyrood. Clearly there is much unhappiness amongst The Scottish Tories’ Holyrood contingent. It provides at least a tiny modicum of comfort that the Scottish Tories are as miserable as they are making the rest of us.

Ross will be worried that he will end the same way as his predecessor Jackson Carlaw, the victim of a putsch orchestrated by senior Tories.

Truss has started to announce her cabinet, drawing from the dregs of the tea mug used as an ashtray which is what passes for a talent pool amongst Westminster Tories.

As expected the new cabinet is composed of right wing ideologues with the backing of the ERG with little attempt to get other factions of the Conservatives on board. We have as expected Suella Braverman as Home Secretary – and you thought Priti Patel was terrifying – James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor, the appointment of Kwarteng was praised in some quarters for bringing diversity to a cabinet which otherwise wouldn’t have had many old Etonians in senior roles.

Therese Coffey (dear god) is Health Minister and deputy PM, Coffey was criticised on social media for her looks, her weight, and the fact that she smokes. There is no need for that, her politics are perfectly hideous without giving her the chance to play the victim of sexism. As Secretary of state at the Department of Work and Pensions Coffey was responsible for the cruel and inhumane farce that is Personal Independence Payment for people with disabilities. Coffey covered up a report detailing the outcome of an internal review of investigation processes relating to the suicides of 69 benefit claimants. A high court judge has accused Coffey of “wholly unsatisfactory” behaviour and lacking respect for the mother of a benefit claimant whose death was linked to failures by her department. Coffey repeatedly refused to express sympathy for a tragic mother who was found dead next to her crying baby. Coffey was repeatedly given the chance to show some compassion for 34-year-old Mercy Baguma – a refugee mother who died next to her malnourished baby in Glasgow – but she would not.

Suella Braverman has already promised to take an even harder line on immigration – how exactly? By sending gunboats to sink the dinghies trying to cross the Channel? Jacob Rees-Mogg is has been given the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy brief. He is responsible for getting us through the energy crisis and for all our employment rights and protections. He favours fracking over wind farms. The new lows keep coming thick and fast. And yet, it’s all downhill from here.

I am sorry but this bout of post-stroke fatigue is proving very difficult to shift. New blog posts may be rather intermittent this week and as of Thursday I will be taking a week off as my 60th birthday is coming up and we have visitors coming up from England.


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