Ramsay Jones: Return of politics and farewell to Kezia

Ramsay Jones

I hope you’ve had your Ready Brek.

This week, our MPs and MSPs return to the Westminster and Holyrood fray. I know how much you’ve missed the darlings.

So cue the generation of enormous quantities of heat. There might even be some light, but don’t hold your breath.

There will be rows, real and manufactured. There will be speculation, some of it sound, some plain silly. There will be news – some of it real, but much of it fake. Or at least branded as such.

In other words, it will be parliamentary politics as usual.

Here in Scotland, the SNP’s programme for government will dominate. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will be desperate to show that she has a firm hand on the tiller of the good ship Scotland. This will be the year when, at long last, talk about a second independence referendum is consigned to the back burner. Indy becomes the Brexit lifeboat rather than the primary destination.

The Scottish Government has to be seen to move on, however much that will disappoint the fundamental wing of single issue nationalism. The opposition will claim victory and demand a return to the bread and butter of life – our schools, hospitals, roads and homes. It really is time to get on with the day job….

All of the parties will face their challenges. For Scottish Labour, the small matter of finding a new leader. Again. About which more later.

For the Tories, there is the task of cementing their position as the official and effective opposition and being the next Scottish Government in waiting. And of being seen as the defenders of the UK Conservative Government with its slender and fragile majority.

And the SNP? It is at a watershed. For the first time in their history, it runs a government which will be judged solely on its record in power. Not on promises of jam tomorrow or Indy next year, but on the here and now. On what has been delivered, not on a wish list of what might be. And that will be tough. A third term administration with more powers than any devolved government has ever had, with nowhere to hide if things go wrong. So there has to be a reshuffle. The FM has to decide what her top priority is, politically, and practically. Education or Brexit or finance and the economy. And put John Swinney in charge.

The backdrop to it all will be Brexit. Everything at Westminster, and much here as well, will be viewed through that narrow but immensely complex prism.

It will be the only game in town.

It will dominate the news and divide politicians.

There will be public rows and secret deals. Cock-ups and conspiracies will abound.

It will be seemingly simple – Brexit means Brexit – but in truth it is like playing three-dimensional chess in a blindfold.

There will be acronyms. And puns. Lots of awful puns.

There will be calls for BrexitRef2, the sequel. But it won’t happen.

It will bore the pants off most of the country in a flurry of mind-numbing procedural rows.

But it matters. And it will be sorted. Because it has to be. Everyone has too much at stake to screw it up.

There will be a deal. There will be an exit fee. There will be a transition period of a couple of years. There will be a continued and mutually beneficial trading deal with the EU.

So forget hard or soft Brexit. That’s for boiled eggs.

We need the right Brexit and it is going to happen. So get ready. Ready for sound and fury, but ready for a deal. Eventually.

Ready Brexit. Now there’s a sound bite….

I warned you about the puns!

So farewell Kez.

The Scottish Labour leader has decided to call it a day and becomes the third to resign from the top job in just three years.

I like Kezia Dugdale. She is a good person. And she had the guts to step up to one of the toughest gigs in life: leading a political party.

I know how hard it is. I saw, at first hand, the strain of being an opposition leader when I worked for David McLetchie and Annabel Goldie.

I saw how lonely it is at the top when I was with David Cameron.

It is a place where few would ever dare to venture.

So when I read the criticism of some in her party that Kezia was being selfish in standing down now and creating turmoil when stability was needed, I despaired. Because, dear detractors, you are mistaking your backsides for your mouth.

Kez was doing a job you don’t have the balls to do. She decided to put herself, and her partner first. And, if the agonies of those I’ve worked with before is anything to go by, it would not have been an easy decision.

The world was, strangely, much safer when MAD stood for mutually assured destruction. When the two superpowers, the USA and Soviet Union, even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, were never likely to push the button.

But events in North Korea are deeply troubling with news of nuclear tests by a regime, led by a man who is clearly mad, bad and dangerous.

How best to respond is tricky. Threats haven’t worked. Sanctions are right – but seemingly ineffective and used as a political tool in the propaganda game.

The South Korean capital is just a few miles over the border and within striking distance of conventional weapons. So a military, non-nuclear response, is fraught with danger.

But in a reflection of changing world dominance, China is the key. They alone have leverage and influence.

And they need to bring it to bear.