Today London, perhaps it’s time for another naming of parts.

No further comment, but to quote Alex Massie in obvious frustration with an elite London commentariat that seems to understand less and less of how the wider country works…

We’ve just had two years of intensive constitutional politics. Time enough, you’d think, for even London-based politicians and commentators to work out how British politics actually works. But if you think that you’d be wrong. Very wrong.

Consider out old friend the Barnett Formula. Antiquated and not entirely fit for purpose – it being a 1970s convenience that was itself an updated version of the 1880s Goschen Formula – but hardly a mystery or a terribly complicated piece of financial wizardry. And yet it seems that almost no-one in the Westminster village actually understands how Barnett works.

Yesterday, you see, Jim Murphy promised that he would use Scotland’s share of the proceeds from Labour’s so-called Mansion Tax to hire an extra 1,000 nurses north of the Border. Actually, daftly, he promised to hire 1,000 more nurses than any number of nurses hired by the SNP. If the SNP were to promise 5,000 Labour would promise 6,000 even if there was no need for that many nurses. But, hey, it’s an election so, like, whatever. We cannot afford a nurses gap.

It is also, of course, a ridiculous promise since it can only be made good if Labour forms the next government at Westminster and at Holyrood. That is, Labour must win across the UK in 2015 and in Scotland in 2016 for any of this to matter at all. Good luck with that.

Nevertheless, the reaction from politicians and pundits in London has been as unhinged as it has been ignorant. The Telegraph screams Labour will tax middle-class homeowners in England to fund NHS in Scotland while Boris Johnson whines that Labour is “mugging Londoners to win votes in Scotland”. 

Let us pause for a moment to reflect on the Telegraph’s quaint belief that owning one of the 100,000 most expensive properties in Britain places the poor beleaguered homeowner squarely in the middle-class. Let that sink in for a moment.


As for Boris, he might as well have complained that, if Labour win the elections, wealthy Londoners will be taxed to pay for the NHS in Sunderland, Wigan and Carlisle. Of course, London based objections to funding services in other parts of the UK are just the same as SNP complaints that revenue from Scotland subsidises spending in other parts of the UK. (Meanwhile the poor Welsh are routinely ignored despite, on the whole, receiving the worst deal of all.)


  • terence patrick hewett

    To the Westminster based MSM and politicians, much of England and its people are foreign countries: the rest of the Union is outer-space. They imagine that they are sophisticated and intelligent but in reality they are disturbingly parochial: just gossips around the parish pump.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think anything I’m likely to say on this, I’ve already said in several ways over on the “It’s the economy, stupid”, thread. I find it almost unbelievable that after all this time either side might expect anything different from a government parochially (yes, good description!) focused on what they see as global concerns. The punters perhaps might still expect something else, but anyone meeting with Westminster politicians in discussions or socially……..

  • barnshee

    and who in their right mind wants to know about Broughshane as for Coalisland? are you demented

  • mickfealty

    In aggregate? Anyone with a decent pretence at wanting to run the place ought at least to have a inkling…

    John, that’s going to get quoted at my next gig!!

  • barnshee

    Have a look

    The focus on London and the SE is inevitable.London alone accounts for some 20% o GDP- It essentially pays for the rest.
    The reasons for the Union ( preserving the English succession and the impact of WW I and II) are no more. England would be delighted to see the back of the hangers on in Scotland and N Ireland If- and its a big IF they go permanently and at no cost to England.
    Wales is a lost cause

  • PaulT

    OK, hands-up I’m lost! I dislike Murphy, it’s a silly headline grabber pledge, but I don’t understand the Barnett thing? the tax is for public services, Scotland will get it’s share through Barnett, Murphy makes idiotic promises on how to spend it.

    Scratch a bit deeper, he’s a unionist MP, London will spend it on the NHS (in England) so I guess he automatically thinks Scotland should too.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think it’s clear Jim Murphy is lost, this is a new situation for him:

    The Barnett thing means Jim can argue that if the Labour government raise taxes and revenue in the UK and that ensures that Scottish government gets more to spend in Hollyrod, whether that’s a Labour one or an SNP one, voting for a Labour MP can help the party do that … if it can do it from the Mansion Tax. Labour MSPs could have extra powers as a result of the Vow, and can use them to help Scotland too.

    Scratch a bit deeper, he’s a unionist MP, London will spend it on the NHS (in England) so I guess he automatically thinks Scotland should too.

    The big issue with your argument is a what if.

    What if the Labour or Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government is a minority government dependent on an SNP confidence and supply?

    Would Labour have to play the Tartan Card, and the SNP the Tudor Rose one?