Friday, 23 March 2012
Throw in the Towel
I am getting seriously worried about the standard of debate in the Scottish Parliament - at least as far as First Minister's Questions (FMQs) is concerned.
I listened yesterday to FMQs as the Labour leader - Johann Lamont - droned on and on about and alleged shortage of blankets and/or towels - at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.
Now if the First Minister of Scotland is personally responsible for such shortcomings - then why does the NHS spend so much money on staff, especially senior staff?
Some of whom are paid well over £200,000 a year - top rate taxpayers of course.
Yet this nonsense appears to be getting fast-tracked to FMQs in the Scottish Parliament on a regular basis - instead of being raised with the appropriate hospital authorities - which is what any sensible person would expect.
But at yesterday's FMQs - we reached a new low point.
Because the Labour leader arranged for two 'victims' to be in the parliament's public gallery for FMQs - handily pointing them out to the media - before inviting the First Minister to meet with them in the Labour leader's immediately afterwards to discuss their concerns.
Johann also added that Unison members had been in touch with Scottish Labour - to say that these claims were indeed all true.
But which claims she was referring to and who was making them remains a mystery - to me at least - although the underlying message was clear: Scotland's NHS is going to hell in a handcart because of spending cuts and the SNP.
Now I don't know about anyone else - but I can't imagine this kind of nonsense taking up any time at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the Westminster Parliament.
Ed Miliband wouldn't be daft enough to demand that the Prime Minister account at PMQs for every NHS blanket and towel used - or not used - south of the border.
No, not for a moment - and I can well imagine Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or David Cameron thinking that the opposition had lost its marbles - if the opposition leader suddenly started behaving this way.
Because making a party and partisan issue out of an individual's care isn't about resolving a problem - it's about exploiting the person for political gain.
But that is precisely what Johann Lamont did yesterday and - to be perfectly honest - her performance at FMQs is getting worse and worse.
I'm glad that the First Minister agreed to meet Helen Macbeth (92) and Jack Barr (65) after FMQs - to hear their stories first hand.
Alex Salmond is too good a politician - and I imagine to gracious a person - to let the two pensioners leave the Scottish Parliament without sitting them down and hearing what they had to say.
Meantime Scottish Labour appears to be embracing a strategy where ridiculous political stunts - replace serious political argument.
To my mind it's toe curlingly embarrassing - it makes Holyrood look like a 2012 version of Billy Connolly's 'pretendy parliament'.
But I'll tell you one thing - the next time my recycling bins aren't emptied - I'm going to demand a personal meeting with the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council.
That is if we still have a Labour leader of Glasgow City Council - after the local council elections in May.