« Stephan Shakespeare: Stephen Fry & Eddie Izzard v the England Rugby Team - yes, it's Boris v Cameron | Main | Kate Maltby: Let’s not become like the Tudors under Walsingham - mad with paranoia about spies and espionage »

Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: Villiers to G8 protesters - let's see you make it to remote Fermanagh.

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist, and author of the blog Dilettante. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Escape and evasion

Despite standing tirelessly against European fascism during the war, a decade of wrangling over Home Rule wearied even Winston Churchill. He observed in 1922:

"The whole map of Europe has been changed ... but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again."

That might be an uncharitable description of what is apparently, geographically if not always politically, a lovely part of the world. Ten years of stalemate will do that to a person. Yet David Cameron appears to have taken it to heart, at least when it comes to putting off troublemakers.

According to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, whilst taking the opportunity to show Northern Ireland off to the world the PM elected to hold the G8 summit in Fermanagh in part because of its remoteness from anywhere that the largely urban protesting sort might be willing to travel to.

Villiers credits the smooth running of the summit to this cunning stratagem, so perhaps we’ll see more exercises in evasive tourism from the government in future.

Question Time is a British political programme, even in Scotland.,.

...and that irks the SNP no end.

I fell out of the habit of watching Question Time whilst in Ireland, as BBC iPlayer is not available outside the UK (although 4OD, the rival service of a largely for-profit channel, is). Tuning in on Thursday reminded me what I’d been missing.

For those you didn’t see it, it was in Edinburgh, in front of an audience composed entirely of newly (and temporarily) enfranchised 16 and 17 year-olds. The panel consisted of representatives of the Conservatives, SNP and Labour in addition to George Galloway of Respect, Nigel Farage and a pro-independence newspaper columnist, Lesley Riddoch.

There were several stand-out moments: the young nationalist who appeared to sincerely believe that whenever a Scot sets foot south of the border, they are treated to much the same sort of angry mob that Farage met in Edinburgh, perhaps. Or the immense surprise that is finding yourself nodding along as George Galloway tears into the nationalists; firing on all cylinders on what I suspect is probably our only source of common ground. Or the latest re-emergence of the surreal notion that an independent Scotland would have its pick of pan-British arrangements and its representation therein.

All in all, it was pretty good television. Yet the SNP weren’t happy with it, and have gone so far as to propose a motion criticising Question Time in Holyrood, for having the nerve to put together a panel for a British audience, rather than treating a Scotland-based episode as Scottish domestic television.

The nationalist complaint was that the panel was not divided evenly on the issue of independence, notwithstanding the fact that QT is about bringing together a panel to debate lots of issues in an episode that was not a ‘Referendum Special’. (The audience, meanwhile, was split 50/50 on the issue).

They also lambasted the failure to have the panel reflect, for want of a better term, electoral Scotland. Thus their ire fell on George Galloway, a Scot, and Nigel Farage, a public figure who recently had a politically-interesting and widely reported run-in with protesters in Scotland.

If the criteria were “relevant and interesting”, they both qualify. Yet both Angus Robertson and Lesley Riddoch, the Scotsman writer and the panel’s second separatist, were obsessed with (Scottish) vote share. UKIP and Respect don’t have elected representatives in Scotland yet, ergo they were of no interest to the Scottish people, the thinking seemed to run.

Meanwhile, since Question Time was broadcasting from Scotland it ought to have the decency to act as if it were running on BBC Scotland rather than broadcasting to the whole nation, and put together a panel targeted entirely at Scots. If I recall correctly, Robertson even suggested that in an independent Scotland, all the panel shows will have proper Scots on them, or something along those lines.

Freedom of speech is not portioned out by the voters

A little bit of rather silly political whinging is par for the course, and would warrant little more than a humorous aside had this fixation not reared its head when the subject of Nigel Farage’s mobbing came up. Neither Robertson nor Riddoch could manage to express an unqualified, wholehearted and sincere defence of freedom of speech. Instead, both focused on the fact that UKIP is at best a very marginal presence in Scottish politics.

Why does that matter? It is surely ridiculous to suggest that freedom of speech and assembly be restricted to the electorally popular and those they approve of, but that appeared to be exactly what they appeared to suggest. Thus viewers were left with the spectacle of (the wholly unelected) Riddoch and Galloway in a shouting match, with the former bellowing UKIP’s tiny vote share to justify their treatment and Galloway, matching decibel with decibel, maintaining that freedom of speech didn’t work that way.

I’m sure it’s possible to be a sincere, unabashed and generous-minded liberal and be a nationalist, somehow. Yet if the independence camp contains such people, it isn’t deploying them on Question Time. When George Galloway is facing you down from the liberal side of the field, you’ve gone badly astray.

Former Plaid Cymru leader announces retirement from the Assembly

Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Welsh Assemblyman and former MP who was from 2000 to 2012 the leader of the Welsh nationalists, has announced his retirement.

The Welsh nationalists have never been quite the threat to the UK that the SNP have managed to become, so Jones has never enjoyed anything close to the profile of Alex Salmond in the rest of the UK. Yet whilst they haven’t rocked the boat Plaid have certainly established themselves as the second or third force in Welsh politics, chasing the Conservatives and well ahead of the Liberal Democrats, and Jones can likely take much of the credit for that. It will be interesting to see whether his successor, the more strident, avowedly socialist and republican Leanne Wood, can maintain that position.

Jones’ retirement has been met with warm sentiments from all sides of the Assembly (if its consensual layout has sides at all), which Betsan Powys summarises in a profile for the BBC.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.