'Flashman' reveals himself
The Prime Minister has been getting pelters for his “bunch of migrants” comments. Even Tories took a sharp intake of breath.
It’s really not a great idea to describe fellow human beings in clear distress in such dismissive terms. What made this latest outburst even worse is that it was pretty obviously not a careless off-the-cuff remark but a pre-prepared line amid a diatribe directed at Jeremy Corbyn.
It is, of course, second time round for Cameron. He has form. The last time he talked about a “swarm” of migrants.
To find the clue to the plot behind these sad Tory tactics then just look closely at where the remarks were presented in the exchanges at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
First, Cameron made a totally irrelevant mention of Corbyn’s right-hand man, John McDonnell. This was to allow him to accuse both the Labour leader and his Shadow Chancellor of meeting the unions and endorsing flying pickets, meeting the Argentinians to give back the Falklands and meeting a “bunch of migrants” in Calais to let them “all come to Britain”.
This three-pronged attack was where Cameron wanted to get to, and having laid the ground he duly delivered his pre-prepared script. The offensive remark was what is known in politics as a “dead cat” tactic – a term borrowed from the wild west world of Australian politics.
It means that if you are losing an argument then the solution is to fling the political equivalent of a dead cat on the kitchen table. That way everyone starts talking about the gruesome “dead cat” as opposed to the subject which was previously under discussion.
The Tory backroom plan was to make Cameron appear tough on immigration in order to strengthen his defences against the Tory Euro sceptics. The subject to be avoided was the Google tax scam. The “dead cat” was the “bunch of migrants” remark.
As it happens I was at the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last week. An Italian MP came up to me to boast that his government had extracted proportionately more money from Google than the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. It’s little wonder that the Prime Minister was anxious not to talk about Google.
This low-blow “dead cat” tactic carries the fingerprints of Cameron’s Aussie adviser, the newly beknighted street fighter Lynton Crosby. It’s worthy of note that by some definitions Crosby himself is an economic migrant or at least an economic vagabond since he earns large sums in many countries.
I do wonder if the Prime Minister fully understands how unpleasant people find this “Flashman” side of his personality. His comments also carry a huge irony. At the very moment he was demonising immigrants, all of England was cheering on their bright new tennis hope, the richly talented Johanna Konta.
The Konta family are in fact double migrants, first from Hungary to Australia and then to England when Johanna was 16 and studying at the Sanchez Casal academy in Spain.
She switched sporting allegiance from Australia to Britain only when she became a British citizen in May 2012.
Now let me be clear. I am glad that Johanna has come to these shores. If she had chosen Scotland, like the late Elena Baltacha, I would have been even more delighted, but I am pleased that England now has a decent tennis player to cheer on. However, Johanna’s family are economic migrants.
They are not fleeing persecution or civil war but have come to find a better life just like the millions of Scots who through history migrated overseas to find better opportunities, in addition to the countless thousands who were cruelly cleared from their land. All contributed amazing things to the countries they made their home and that extraordinary Scottish impact is recognised the world over.
The same is true of the 40,000 Ugandan Asians that Prime Minister Heath allowed entry into Britain in 1972 after they were expelled by Idi Amin. They and their children have soared to the top of many and various professions and were once described by a Tory minister as “Britain’s secret formula for success”.
Among the tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in the 20th Century were some of the greatest thinkers in world history such as Sigmund Freud (to Britain) and Albert Einstein (to America).
Of course no country can have an open door immigration policy and nor should we, and I dare say that many in Calais are economic migrants. But equally, I have no doubt that many more are refugees fleeing terror and persecution.
However, you really have to wonder if it has even entered Cameron’s head that among this “bunch” huddled together in appalling conditions in Calais there just might be some refugees of the brilliance of an Albert Einstein or migrants with the talent of a Konta?
Either way, each and every life is worth saving.
I also bumped into a rather well-known constituent of mine in Scottish swimming star Hannah Miley at Aberdeen airport. She had returned from a training camp in Andorra, and I'm sure she'll be enjoying a wee rest at home before getting back into the pool and continuing to build on her already illustrious career.
David Cameron yet again displayed his arrogance in calling for a six week clearance between the elections of the devolved powers in the United Kingdom and the European Referendum.
Let me be clear, six weeks is necessary but by no means is it a sufficient allocation. It is, in short, disrespectful to the Scottish, the Welsh, the Northern Irish and the people of London; all of whom will be fresh from deciding their own respective parliamentary and mayoral elections.
On top of this is the fact that the Scottish school holidays fall on June 24th, a day after the Euro votes will have been cast. Why should Scots have such a decision thrust upon them at a time where many will be preparing to spend quality time with their families?
The proposed date fails to address the situation with the consummate respect that it, and the people the decision will impact upon, deserves.
It was also an honour and a pleasure to release Amestsa Ezin Da Sekula Hil, the Basque version of my book The Dream Shall Never Die. Here's a picture taken at the launch on Monday with President of the Sabino Arana Foundation, Juan Mari Atutxa (left) and President of the EAJ, Andoni Ortuzar.
Today, Finance Secretary John Swinney announced his draft budget in the Scottish Parliament. I discussed the budget, Europe and more on my LBC show from Holyrood.
I was in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament once again for FMQs, and wore my Cancer Research Unity Band in recognition of World Cancer Day. You can watch all the action from the chamber below.
It was great to see Jack and his family at Kool Kids Playcentre in Insch, where Dennis Robertson MSP held a meeting as he prepares for his parliamentary campaign. It was great to see faces both familiar and new, including Vicky Corbett and wee baby Miller.
The Six Nations got underway with Italy and France providing an exciting precursor to the Calcutta Cup clash between Scotland and England. In the end, we dropped the ball when we could have snatched the game, and the Auld Enemy escaped Edinburgh with a worthy win. Here's hoping the boys in blue can pick it up for the next game versus Wales.
Highlands and Islands List Candidate Maree Todd was our special guest at today's CA meeting, and gave a fine speech on the unique character and landscape of the North and how we can best utilise what it offers for the communities who live there. Maree even brought some home-made tablet along, which went down a treat.