Sunday, 30 December 2012

The ianssmart Review of the Year

And now, the end is near.

With the exception of one week in the high Summer, personally I have not had the greatest of years but at least I've survived it.

However it is traditional at this season to announce awards due, in the opinion of the writer at least, to those of conspicuous the year almost past.

So here are the traditional, inaugural, ianssmart Scottish Political Awards for 2012. All ten of them.

Most Important Sentence of the Year

Most (indeed all) of the other awards go to human beings but this, arguably the single most important award goes simply to 29 words of the English language. They are contained in the fourth paragraph of the Edinburgh Agreement and they read this:

"The date of the poll will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine and will be set out in the Referendum Bill to be introduced by the Scottish Government." (my emphasis)

Now since I am conducting a (relatively) impartial review of the year I won't pause to gloat over how these words come to appear; they mean that there will definitely be a Referendum in the Autumn of 2014. Because the date has to be in the Primary Legislation that then once passed would  require different Primary Legislation to call it off. A majority for which would be unlikely ever to be achievable even in this Scottish Parliament. To that extent one is drawn to the analogy of Marshal Zhukov on the 19th of November 1942. All that is left is to close the trap.

International Politician of the Year

Well, obviously well done to Francois Hollande although, to be honest, he seems to have been elected as the default option without many positives to commend him. And well done to Barack Obama too, although he perhaps needs to realise more that he was elected as much more than the default option.

But my award goes to the Vice-President, Joe Biden. Let's be honest, the first Presidential debate was a disaster and we suddenly panicked that despite all the arguments being on our side we might actually lose to these odd balls and lunatics. In the Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden reminded us that we had all the arguments on our side. And then went on to get out our vote. Well done Sir. If you were only ten years younger you would yourself have made a great President.

Rising Star of the Year

Back to more domestic concerns. A few contenders here. Certainly Willie Rennie, although he might better be categorised as Survivor of the Year. And a few of the new Labour Group: Jenny Marra, Kez Dugdale, Drew Smith did nothing but improve their reputations. But my winner is my very own MSP,  Jamie Hepburn, even though I most certainly did not vote for him to occupy that position.

To rise in any Party requires a bit of internal Party rebellion, without actual success, and then a willingness after the event to go out and defend the Party line against the "real" enemy. To that extent Jamie has played a faultless hand in 2012, effectively blowing away any of his internal contenders.

Post 2016, he will have a good chance of being the man charged with of picking up the pieces. Assuming, of course, that he is still an MSP at all.

Comeback of the Year

Again, my ultimate winner is a Nationalist, of sorts, but first a word for the other nominees. Brian Wilson is a propagandist of the very first rank and his return to the fray in his columns in the Scotsman has brought a proper heavy hitter back to the front line. He's not going away and the cybernats at some point are going to have to realise that he wont be persuaded to do so by unfocused abuse. Jim Sillars is also a man reborn and his constant, logical, demolition of the current case being made for what some still describe as "Independence", unless accommodated,  will ultimately serve only the interests of the other side of the argument.

But the winner is my old comrade Dennis Canavan. If we are being honest about this, he is the one member of the Yes Scotland campaign my side truly fear. And once the utterly inept Blair Jenkins has been binned (surely soon), the danger is that Dennis will become the public face of that campaign.

But we might console ourselves with the thought that the reason Dennis is so feared on our side is that he is a man of unparalleled integrity. And that, from that position, when he was asked by Isabel Fraser back in October  if he believed Alex Salmond was a man he could trust, he refused to answer. He will however, at some point, be asked again. Or maybe they'll just stick with the Yes man.

Colonist of the Year

Let's be honest, the SNP leadership would have preferred if Alasdair Gray had kept his mouth shut. Just as Nicola makes a speech (hopefully) categorising supporters into exclusively existentialist or utilitarian Nationalists, the last thing they wanted was one of their grand old men popping up to remind us of the third, anglophobic, chip on the shoulder, strand of that persuasion.

My colonist of the year however is a man who I really do not like but who shows the absurdity of the colonist categorisation.

Charles Green, I suspect, prior to eighteen months past, had spent no more than a few days of his entire life in Scotland. Today however you would think he had been born on the Copland Road and spent his formative years fostered to a family from Larkhall on condition that they enthusiastically encouraged his flute lessons.

But nobody, and I mean nobody, while readily cursing him as an orange b or or a ruthless b or even a chancing b, has ever thought for a moment to describe him as an English B. Although English he undoubtedly is. Because, outwith the world of a rather pathetic strand of nationalist opinion, that doesn't matter. Even if he does head back to Yorkshire after he has succeeded....... or failed. Just like Fergus headed back to the Bahamas.

Settler of the Year

It seems to me that one of the big, missed, stories of the year has been the renewal of the Scottish Labour Party.

Now I know there will be those who will be rolling about at this statement. We got gubbed in 2011 and, while Johann has done better than I expected, nobody seriously thinks of her as an alternative First Minister, even after the Referendum. And while we did better in the Local Government elections than expected, the best we could truly claim was a close fought score draw.

But throughout this slightly surreal period of Scottish Politics, nobody has ever disputed that in the big elections, the elections where most people actually vote. Labour remains the overwhelmingly dominant Party.

And nobody, thinking about it for a minute, doubts that if Labour wins in 2015 (and I accept that is an if) Scottish MPs are likely to be major players in any Labour Government; just as Brown, Cook, Reid, Darling and Browne were between 1997 and 2010.

And, at that level, Labour has surely renewed itself. For not only would Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy be likely to have prominent places but so also, surely, would be many of the 2010 intake: Gemma Doyle; Ian Murray;  my own MP, Greg McClymont.

But the primus inter pares, for the moment at least, is surely the MP for Rutherglen, Tom Greatrex, who happens to have been born in Kent.

On any occasion he appears with Stewart Hosie to discuss Energy Policy you sense. long before the end,  the unspoken demand fot "Haunners" on the Nationalist side but he's also more than up for the greater challenge presented by the Coalition. Definitely one to watch in 2013 and beyond.

Journalist of the year

A few contenders but one obvious winner here again. Robbie Dinwoodie remains the man most likely to be first to a major political exclusive. Isabel Fraser is surely on her way to being the new Kirsty Wark, the only fear being that, like Kirsty, she'll conclude that she's too large a fish for a small pond. All of the Scotland Tonight crew are also entitled to take a well deserved bow.

But the winner by a country mile is David Maddox, who wins for having his own newspaper apologise for a story he wrote that turned out to be true! Barroso did think that automatic EU membership for an independent Scotland was a non starter. And he had  written a letter to that effect.  Poor show on the Scotsman for temporarily backing down in the face of protestations to the contrary from people who were already established to be practised liars.

Columnist of the Year

Now, when I trailed these awards on twitter someone on "my" side suggested that this must surely be Euan McColm. And, if the category had been  "Columnist I most readily agree has expressed my own ideas more succinctly" then Euan would undoubtedly be the winner.

And for those of us who read "serious" newspapers, there remain the usual other contenders:  the imperious Angus McKay; the impertinent Alan Cochrane; McWhirter and Bell at the Herald; Severin Carrell, when he get the space, at the Guardian. Ian Jack, also of that organ, who. when he wants to, cuts through Scottish politics like a knife through butter.

But, in my opinion, whether by accident or otherwise, the most perceptive political columnist in Scotland is the guy who writes for Scotland's biggest selling newspaper, the Sun: Andy Nicoll.

Now, of course "nobody" reads him, meaning nobody among the twitterati. But actually, more people read what he has to say than probably all of the others above put together. And the single most incisive column I have read all year was one he wrote about why, in the aftermath of a no vote, devo max would be dead in the water. In half the words that would be allowed in a broadsheet.

So the accolade goes to him. He can add it to his "Scotland's most underrated novelist" award.

Scottish Politician of the Year

And so we come to the penultimate award, the biggie. And I'm afraid it goes to neither of the big Parties, Anas, even his opponents would concede, is a man on the rise; Nicola remains the single most impressive politician at Holyrood by something well beyond a country mile. Catherine Stihler can probably claim the single biggest political coup of the year.

But the winner, on any categorisation, is the man I myself admit having once denounced as a "numpty". Just shows I'm not always right.

Looking back on the year past the one politician who can truly claim he has achieved everything he set out to at it's start is the Secretary of State, Michael Moore

The "Edinburgh Agreement", more correctly the "Westminster Terms", have been forced on the Nationalists.

Thanks to his efforts, in Scotland at least, and despite the best efforts of Danny Alexander, some distinction remains visible between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.

Most importantly of all, to him at least, he is established in a position from which he could be moved only of his own consent.

And not many Scottish politicians can claim that.

Scottish Role Model of the Year

And so to my final award, which isn't a political award at all, or at least not a Party political one.

There was no more telling episode about the current insular nature of Scottish politics than the debate over the political significance of the Olympics being almost entirely acted out over what it meant for the Constitutional argument.

The real political lesson however was the visible demonstration that we are hugely privileged to live now in such a diverse country. Not only racially diverse in one way obviously visible but when it came to enthusiastic support, completely invisible; but diverse also in the failure to make any distinction in support for the Olympians and the later Paralympians, And the whole thing brought to our screens by a very posh lady who also happened to be openly gay. But amidst all this, the other outstanding feature was the success of women athletes. I hesitate to name them individually for they were so many but their real achievement was almost beyond the medals in providing such positive role models for other young women that there was no need to be trapped by stereotype or outdated social convention.

And none more so than our own Katherine Grainger, finally getting her Gold Medal at the fourth attempt.

So she gets my final award. If Scotland had a few more Katherine Graingers it would surely be a better place.

See you in 2013

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