It’s true, I don’t. A good politician can stand up and tell you a number of contradictory things – or things that fail the common sense test – and have you believing them. I prefer to read transcripts because that allows me to consider the words apart from any emotion caused by the speaker. With that in mind, I was careful not to actually listen to Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the House of Commons, but read the transcript (here).
The speech, in many ways, sums up what is wrong with the SNP.
Commenters have been making a fuss about Mhairi Black being the youngest (at 20!) MP in the House of Commons. I am forced to confess that it does not give me confidence in her. A twenty-year-old simply cannot have the life experience of a person twice her age. When I was 20, I was in university – and, while I was developing my political ideas at the time, I wasn’t anything like responsible or experienced enough to stand as an MP. Youth is not a sin, to borrow a line from Heinlein, but youthful ideals rarely work out in practice.
I don’t know if the SNP leadership vetted the speech beforehand. (If I were in their shoes, I’d definitely insist on knowing what my MPs were going to say first.) However, it showcases the problems with the SNP.
Once we get past the tribute to her predecessor – and the somewhat tongue-in-cheek association with William Wallace – Mhairi Black tells us that historical Scottish communities, including her hometown of Paisley, have suffered from a considerable decline. This is true. They have also been blighted by the actions of Job Centres across Scotland (she claims that Paisley has the third-highest rate of sanctions in Scotland), a shortage of affordable housing and general bureaucratic indifference.
And she blames this on Labour. In fact, she calls Labour out quite sharply. I don’t fault her for wanting to explain what she feels are the cause of Scotland’s problems. However, as little as I like and respect Tony Blair, many of the problems in Scotland were caused or tolerated, directly or indirectly, by the SNP.
The core problem of a bureaucracy is what Jerry Pournelle summed up as the ‘iron law of bureaucracy.’ In any organisation, there are those who are devoted to the goals of the organisation and those who are devoted to the organisation itself. The second group will eventually, pretty much inevitably, take control of the organisation and control promotions within the organisation. What this means, when you look at Job Centres, is that the people at the top are more interested in staunching the outflow of money than considering the actual goals of the system – getting as many people as possible into work. A junior drone at the Job Centre will not be thanked for granting claimants benefits, as that will cost the system money. This is completely heartless – and completely unsurprising. Bureaucracies have no hearts.
This is only a symptom of a wider problem – big government. The government is completely incapable of providing every service it’s population might demand; indeed, as I have noted before, the more you ask your government to do the less it is actually capable of doing. And, because governments are bureaucracies, the iron law will come into effect and the bureaucracies will grow more interested in keeping themselves in being than trying to solve the problems. People interested in doing the latter will not be promoted into positions of power.
Fixing these problems requires a honest admission that big government is itself the problem. The SNP has not made that admission, nor do I expect it to do so. Nor, for that matter, has it gone out onto the streets and tried to actually help people on a micro scale. Instead, we are treated to political grandstanding over the English-only issue of foxhunting (which will only alienate England from Scotland, as it is an English issue) and a slow inch towards another referendum on independence.
If I were offering advice, I suppose I would offer the following.
-Accept that the referendum was lost and act accordingly. The Scottish people did not want to be either free of England or ‘independent in Europe’. Trying to suggest otherwise shows an alarming lack of respect for democracy.
-Stay out of English affairs. Yes, there is political mileage to be gained from making a fuss over foxhunting, but the long-term price may be disastrous.
-Reduce bureaucratic regulations as much as possible, particularly for new businesses. In fact, state that there are no pro-active regulations for any businesses hiring less than five workers. Reactive regulations can handle any problems caused by careless businessmen.
-Decentralise decision-making in schools, job centres and suchlike as much as possible. Put power in the hands of the people on the ground.
I don’t expect the SNP to do any of these in a hurry.
The problem with revolutions – and the SNP is a revolutionary party – is that they go round and round. (Sir Terry was a very astute observer of human behaviour.) The SNP believes, if it gets its way, that it will immediately open the pathway to a land of milk and honey. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Instead of trying to understand and fix the system, the SNP wants to carp, criticize and ultimately smash it …
… Because, like all revolutionaries, they are more interested in power than anything else.