26 August 2007

Brian Ashcroft has been sleeping on the couch

Professor Brian Ashcroft is Wendy Alexander's husband. He might well have caused some rather interesting discussions chez Wendy.

The row will be over independence, surprisingly: Ashcroft appears to favour it over fiscal autonomy. And according to the Times, the lines he used could come straight out of an Alex Salmond speech. The Times reports: "Addressing a private seminar in May, Ashcroft said an independent Scotland would join an 'arc of prosperity', comprising other affluent small European states."

One of McConnell's last acts as Labour Leader was to sign a joint letter with Annabel Goldie and Nicol Stephen opposing independence but supporting a discussion on extra powers for Holyrood, particularly fiscal autonomy. Alexander has so far been happy to continue down that route: it marks a significant shift for Labour, who went into the election as the only "status quo" party on the Constitution. However, after a week, Des Browne, Secretary of State for Scotland, effectively flattened the matter by stating that Holyrood doesn't need any more powers. You might say this undermines Alexander, but it's hard to undermine her as she isn't Des Browne's leader. She is only "Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament", which is not the same as "Leader of Scottish Labour": she only has authority over her MSPs, and so by extension, will have difficulty speaking for the Party on a reserved issue like the Constitution as she has absolutely no formal connection with Scottish Labour MPs, who are not just hostile to further powers, but in some cases, actually want to see powers taken away!

But to have your husband speaking out against full fiscal autonomy in favour of independence is a bit embarrassing. Especially when he says, "Against that option, full-blown independence might be better, because... you can do many more things. If you’re being forced to balance your books, then I think the logic is ‘be independent’, don’t do it within the Union. So you heard it here first - the argument for independence."

And Labour say it was a throw-away remark. Pat Kane, who filmed this, said it was on a PowerPoint presentation. Some throw-away remark!

However, Ashcroft has 'clarified' his position (suggesting that Alexander does at least wield a good deal of authority in her house if not in Scottish Labour). The Times again: "Yesterday Ashcroft said his preferred option was for 'fiscal federalism' where some, but not all, tax powers were devolved to Holyrood."

So his preferences are: 1. A handful of financial powers, 2. Every power on every issue, 3. All financial powers. And a tenner says two and three will switch places soon, lest Brian Ashcroft's dinner should end up in the dog.

P.S. Have I mentioned that Wendy Alexander's election agent didn't actually vote on 3 May?


Mountjoy said...

Brian Ashcroft is never Wendy Alexander's husband? I do believe you, but that took me by surprise, I can tell you (I know of him professionally and have read his many of his papers).

would you believe an politician over an economist is the question?

Great article, Will, and I've added you to my Blogroll as your Blog is essential reading - this article proves it.

One of the rules of political activism is that you always vote because the Marked Register never lies!

Will said...

Hmmm... given that every politician seems to be able to find an economist to back them up (hence the Election campaign's "My economist is bigger than your economist" theme), I'm always wary of both! :D

Thanks, by the way, you're going in mine on my next update.

Mountjoy said...

Thanks. I know people who have studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics and they are an interesting combination! Most end up working in the civil service, though, rather than in politics or economics!

Mountjoy said...

Forgot to mention I've changed my screen name (from wilted rose) and avatar !