Saturday, 31 December 2011

Van the Man

My favourite singer/songwriter of all time - by a short head - is Van Morrison.

Now Van Morrision's work has spanned several decades - as many people know.

But Van the Man's unique and curious style hasn't just survived - his work has grown and thrived over the years - winning the Belfast musician many new admirers down the generations.

I love the opening words to Celtic New Year - 'If I don't see you through the week, see you through the window' - an everyday tongue-in-cheek, banter-between-friends saying - which he casually weaves into the words of his song.

The fact that some regimes around the world try to ban 'western' music is a real giveaway.

Because it tells you that all you need to know about the repressive nature of the people running the show - they want things to stay exactly as they are - unquestioning and unchallenging - what they want are societies that are simply monuments to the past.

So it's in the spirit of the constantly changing and evolving world that we live in - or most of us anyway - that I share with readers a You Tube link to a wonderful Van Morrison song.

'Celtic New Year' - which is both topical and beautiful - especially on 31 December 2011.

May all your dreams come true in 2012!

Gaelic New Year

A regular reader has been in touch to say a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New year in Gaelic - so here goes for all the Gaelic speakers out there:

Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr!

All the very best - to you and yours - for 2012!

Memorable Quotes

As 2011 draws to a close I thought I would share with readers - some memorable quotes from the writer Christopher Hitchens - who died earlier this year.

'I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn't ever have to rely on the press for my information.' 


"The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics." 

New Yorker magazine, 2006

"[George W Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things."

Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC, 2000

"'Bombing Afghanistan back into the Stone Age' was quite a favourite headline for some wobbly liberals. The slogan does all the work. But an instant's thought shows that Afghanistan is being, if anything, bombed OUT of the Stone Age."

Daily Mirror, November 2001

"The noble title of 'dissident' must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement …"

"Do bear in mind that the cynics have a point, of a sort, when they speak of the 'professional naysayer'." "To be in opposition is not to be a nihilist. And there is no decent or charted way of making a living at it. It is something you are, and not something you do."

Letters to a Young Contrarian, 2001

"[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."

Slate, October 2003

"The search for nirvana, like the search for utopia or the end of history or the classless society, is ultimately a futile and dangerous one. It involves, if it does not necessitate, the sleep of reason. There is no escape from anxiety and struggle."

Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, 2004

"Those who had alleged that a million civilians were dying from sanctions were willing, nay eager, to keep those same murderous sanctions if it meant preserving Saddam!"

The Weekly Standard, May 2005.

"The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals."

God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007

"My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either."

God Is Not Great

"The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more."

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, 2007

"What is your idea of earthly happiness? To be vindicated in my own lifetime."


"Cheap booze is a false economy."


Parent Power

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) did the nation a favour the other day - by turning the spotlight on poor teaching in Scotland's schools.

The SPTC ruffled a few feathers by promoting the view that 'bad teachers and bad teaching' are largely responsible for poor academic attainment amongst Scottish pupils - not bad parents.

In support of their argument the SPTC highlighted a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

A report which revealed that the biggest differences in attainment in Scottish schools are within schools - not between schools.

Now this chimes with my own personal experience.

Not that long ago one of my children was put into a particular class - and reported back to me that the  teacher was very poor - compared to others in the school.

And sure enough after a few phone calls to teachers at the school I could speak to candidly - it became clear that this teacher was more than a bit of a dud.

In short he was not particularly interested in his job, unable to motivate his students and had a big drink problem. 

So there followed a huge palaver to tackle the problem - without the school getting to grips with the real issue - the 'hopeless teacher' and his poor standard of work.

The teaching trade unions have responded to the SPTC in predictable fashion - claiming that education is a partnership between teachers and parents - and that the real reason for poor educational attainment is poverty and multiple deprivation.

Now to be kind to the teaching unions - I agree with both those points - in general terms at least - but that is not the point being raised by the SPTC.

The SPTC is saying - loud and clear - that attainment results within schools make the biggest difference and that - with respect - is the key point which many people including the unions are desperately trying to ignore.

The lack of parental involvement is an issue for some schools and some students - so too is the issue of poverty and deprivation - but these two factors will be relatively constant within schools - and so cannot answer the point about poor attainment being highlighted by the OECD and SPTC.

I wish the reaction of the teaching unions on occasions like this was less defensive and reactionary.

Because an attack on poor teachers and poor teaching - is not an attack on the whole  teaching profession.

Yet the union response says otherwise - it's a case of muddying the waters to keep the spotlight off bad teachers - so the lack of parental involvement is wheeled out along with the issue of poverty and deprivation.

Both arguments have become a code language for - 'it's not our fault, it's a much wider problem, solve poverty and deprivation - then everyone will get the standard of teaching they deserve'.

To my mind that's a cop-out - because a young person from a poorer background has lots of challenges to overcome before they can succeed - but saddle them with a bad teacher in school and they are bound to fail.

So I hope the SPTC keeps up the good work - because far too much of the debate around teaching and education - is dominated by the teaching profession and their trade unions.

Whereas the voice and views of parents should come to the fore - much more often.

Sacre bleu!

I like the French - as a general rule - even if sometimes they are unbearably rude, particularly the jumped-up denizens you sometimes come across in parts of Paris.

So I was disappointed to read that a prestigious online French magazine - Terrafemina - has voted for the wife of Dominic Strauuss-Khan - Anne Sinclair - as their 'woman of the year'.

Apparently a majority of Terrafemina's readers chose DSK's wife - over other possible candidates.

Because of the "tenacity and unwavering support" and the "loyalty and courage" - Anne Sinclair showed towards her husband.

The magazine said that Anne Sinclair was - "both a heroine and a kind of anti-heroine for women in France. Women look at the problems they face in their own lives and seem to identify with her."

Pass the sick bag was my first reaction - because this intelligent, wealthy woman has put up with her husband's sexual shenanigans and bad behaviour for years.

So why she should be admired by other seemingly intelligent French women is incredible - to me anyway.

You would have thought that a feminist magazine - which portrays itself as a magazine for thinking French women - would have celebrated the achievements of someone like Christine Lagarde.

Who succeeded the old hound-dog - DSK - as the first woman to act as Head of the International Monetary Fund - building on her success on becoming the world first female finance minister in 2007.

But no they chose Anne Sinclair instead - which is so terribly bourgeois, depressing and  - to coin another old French phrase - simply gauche.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Imitation and Flattery

The news that Westminster's coalition government is likely to follow Scotland's lead - by introducing a minimum price for alcohol is to be welcomed.

Alex Salmond must be chuckling to himself because the three opposition parties in Scotland - Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems - all ganged up to resist this measure in the last Scottish Parliament.

Now two of them are on board it seems - as far as the rest of the UK is concerned anyway.

So it will be interesting to see what happens now in Scotland.

Will Labour follow suit and admit that its knee-jerk opposition to a mimimum price on alcohol - was a really big mistake?

If so, that would be welcome too - a sign that Labour in Scotland is finally turning its back on 'opposition for opposition's sake'.

Punch and Judy politics has done immense damage to Labour in Scotland - its reputation and standing have plummeted in recent years - because the party's perceived interests have come first.

Not the interests of the people that Labour claims to represent.

Labour has been on the wrong side of the argument over equal pay - for example - way behind the curve as they say.

By looking the other way for many years - by refusing to make equal pay a priority - by not tackling the vested interests of the Labour-run councils - and vested interests of the Labour-supporting trade unions.

So maybe Labour will start doing the right thing - on the things that really matter to ordinary people - and pay less attention to what party activists think.

Because there is a big disconnnect between the two - as far as I can see the views of Labour and trade unions activists - are badly out of step with large numbers of the people they claim to represent.

But for things to change someone needs to stand up, speak out and capture the public's imagination - which requires courage, taking a few risks and showing real  leadership.  

Legal Mumbo Jumbo

I've been following the new coverage of the Stephen Lawrence murder trial - at the Old Bailey in London.

As many people will know Stephen Lawrence - a young black man was fatally stabbed at a bus stop - in an unprovoked attack by a group of white youths in 1993.

But what I don't follow or agree with is the logic of the judge's summing up - because it seems to me that the state of the law is terribly flawed - when it comes to the issue of 'intent'.

The trial judge told the jury that the two accused could be found guilty if they were party to Mr Lawrence's killing - even if they did not strike the fatal blow.

The judge went on to say that 'manslaughter' should only be considered - if the jury found the pair not guilty of murder.

but first of all the jury had to consider whether the two defendants were present at the time of the attack - and participated in the attack on Stephen Lawrence.

Fair enough - because if they weren't there at the scene, then clearly they could not have been guilty of any crime. 

The judge also advised the jury that if at least one member of the group intended to kill or cause serious harm to Mr Lawrence - then the attackers would be guilty of murder.

But on the other hand if they intended to cause injury falling short of serious bodily harm - then the group would be guilty of only the much lesser charge of 'manslaughter'.

Now given that the deceased can't testify - and that the accused will always say that they didn't mean to kill their victim.

How does the average jury decide that the killer really just meant to injure the person - perhaps seriously perhaps not - as opposed to committing murder and taking their life?

Someone who wields a knife against another human being is clearly behaving very dangerously and recklessly - so to my mind the the question of intent becomes blurred.

So it seems to me that unless there are very particular and unusual circumstances - such as a knife fight between two people - that the person doing the attacking should normally be guilty of murder.

Especially if the person being attacked is unarmed and otherwise completely innocent - as was the case with Stephen Lawrence - and many other victims of this kind of knife crime.

To most sensible people a few years in jail for 'manslaughter' is a ridiculous punishment - for recklessly taking an innocent person's life.

'I didn't mean to kill anyone' is a pathetic defence - but one that seems to prevail far too often - as in the recent case of Reamonn Gormley.

And there are so many examples of this happening on a routine basis - that there must be a strong argument for the law on 'manslaughter' to be reviewed.

Take Me To Your Leader

I enjoyed this article by Dan Hodges - a Labour party member who is apparently unafraid to speak out about the performance of his party leader - Ed Miliband.

Now I've never met or even spoken to Dan Hodges - but reportedly he has worked for the Labour Party and the GMB trade union in the past - and managed numerous independent political campaigns.

Dan's billing is that he writes about Labour with tribal loyalty - and without reservation - clearly he's a very passionate fellow.

But what I like even more is that Dan has an eye for the ridiculous - and a keen sense of humour.

Ed Miliband's New Year message: has he been kidnapped by aliens who wiped 2011 from his memory?

There's something familiar about those eyes... 

I’ve got to be honest. When I first read Ed Miliband’s New Year’s message to the nation I was a little underwhelmed. To put it mildly. “Did somebody actually write this crap?” was my initial, uncharitable response.

At first glance it looks as if a series of entirely random statements were jotted down, jumbled together and then pasted in no particular order back onto the page. “We rebuild on the basis of our ideals. I believe this country needs profound change, not small change”; “a lost generation of young people, Britain struggling to compete in the world, and greater inequality”.

But then I had another look. And a fresh though occurred to me. This is in fact a statement of political genius.

Think of it for a second. You’re leader of the Labour party. You told everyone this would be the year you started to win the hearts of the electorate. And you ended it more unpopular than Nick Clegg, himself ending the year in a marginally worse political position than Kim Jong-il. George Osborne has announced the economic recovery will be taking an unavoidable detour via hell in a hand cart, Andrew Lansley that the NHS is going to be turned into a McDonald’s franchise, and David Cameron has declared war on every country that doesn’t have Her Majesty’s head on its currency. And yet people are still telling the pollsters, “Yes, things are bad. But really? Ed Miliband?”

So what do you do when 2011 has been such a God awful year? You do what Ed has done. You pretend it never happened.

Literally wipe 2011 from the history books. And in the case of your New Year’s message, don’t write a new one, something that has to address the calamitous, diabolical disappointments of the past 12 months. Just reissue your message from 2010.

In 2010 Ed told us he’d been out and about talking to, “people in different areas worried about their services and those wondering where the new jobs to replace those lost are going to come from”. Today he recounted how, “What I have heard, going round the country in the last year, are the same concerns everywhere: young people struggling to find work, families feeling their living standards squeezed.”

In 2010 Ed told us sombrely that “many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities”. Today it was his concern that “many people feel politics cannot answer their problems. Some believe things would be the same whoever was in charge.”

In 2010 his mission was to “show that these are changes born of political choice by those in power not necessity”, and to “offer a better, more optimistic future for Britain”. In 2011? Yep, you guessed it. “My party's mission in 2012 is to show politics can make a difference. To demonstrate that optimism can defeat despair”.

Brilliant. 2011. The year that never was.

But then I had a second, more troubling thought. What if it isn’t part of a strategy? What if 2011 has been so terrible, so soul destroying, so traumatic Ed just couldn’t cope with it?

Perhaps he has become like one of those people you read about who are found wondering along dual carriageways at two in the morning on New Year’s day. Or who awake in hospital beds with only the clothes on the back and the nickname they’ve been given by the nurses – John or Fred.

Fred has no idea of who he is or why he’s here. And he retains only a hazy, selective recollection of the immediate past. That would explain why Labour’s leader, seeking to highlight the “fairness” and “responsibility” of the British people chose to talk about “the riots “ and “those who came out to clean up”. That whole nasty looting and burning and beating thing has been entirely erased from his consciousness.

Then I had another, even more chilling thought. What if Ed’s amnesia isn’t self inflicted? What if it’s been deliberately induced?

Perhaps Ed Miliband isn’t one of those people found wandering along dual carriageways. Instead, perhaps he’s like one of those haunted characters who pop up on the Discovery Channel, with weird markings on their arms, a tale of bright flashing lights and an ability to do strange things to Geiger counters.

I’ve no concrete evidence the leader of the opposition has been kidnapped by aliens. But let’s examine the facts. That occasional strange, vacant stare at PMQs. The unusual markings on his hair. And the oblique reference today to “others” who “fear the Government is in the grip of forces so powerful that nothing can be done”.

Of course I may be way off beam. Ed Miliband’s New Year’s message may not be an attempt to erase history, nor proof of post traumatic stress disorder or extra terrestrial abduction. It could be a serious and sober attempt to address the doubts surrounding his leadership, confront the mounting political problems facing his party, and reassure the British people he is heir apparent to the highest office in the land.

Actually, scrub that. Now I’m just being silly.

Time Travellers

Every time there's a proposal to push Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) forward an hour - to bring us into line with the rest of western Europe - there's a mad rush of 'shouty' people who swear that this will surely bring civilisation to an end .

At least civilisation as we know and love it - in the UK.

Despite the many advantages - including safer travel for school children and more business friendly hours for our trading with Europe - some of us, including many Scots, are against the idea tooth and nail.

Some folks seem prepared to die in a ditch - just to keep things as they are.

But after yesterday's news that the good people of Samoa are about to jump forwards in time by a whole day - I have to think that we Scots are a real namby pamby lot.

At the moment Samoa - which sits on the international date line halfway between Australia and Hawaii - is 21 hours behind Australia.

And according to the Samoan government this is not good for business between Samoa and its nearest trading partners - Australia and New Zealand.

So as from today - Samoa is to jump back across the international date line to join its Aussie  and Kiwi neighbours - which means that when they go to bed tonight (Friday) they'll actually wake up on Sunday morning (New Year's Day).

A feat Doctor Who would be proud of no doubt - and the whole country is going along with the idea it appears.

And that's not the only big change Samoans have accepted recently.

A couple of years ago they switched to driving on the left hand side of the road - to discourage the import of expensive American left-hand drive cars.

Now if you suggested changes like that in Scotland - I suspect there'd be riots in the streets.

So the Samoans must be an easy going lot.

Either that or they're just terrific 'champions of change' - eternal warriors against the forces of reaction and conservatism.

If I were Ed Miliband - or Johann Lamont for that matter - I'd recruit a few Samoans to work for the Labour party.

Because their get up and go attitude is exactly what's needed - to shake things up.

Chocolate Teapot

News finally came yesterday - that all of Scotland's 32 councils have agreed to accept the Scottish Government's proposals for a further one-year freeze on the council tax.

Earlier this year some of the big Labour-run councils in the central belt - around Glasgow and Lanarkshire - raged against the government's proposals, but their campaign has finally ended with a whimper - not a big bang.

Which just goes to show that local government in Scotland is not taken very seriously any longer - so what's the point of an organisation like COSLA you might ask?

And I did just that back in April 2011 - during the Scottish Parliament elections.

Seems to me that the world has moved on from the 1980s and 90s - when local councils in Scotland were seen as vital and relevant - as a defence against out-of-touch Tory ministers in Westminster.

In those days people could see what local councils were doing - working and campaigning in support of their local communities.

But now we have a Scottish Parliament which the public seems to trust to defend their interests - certainly much more than they trust local councils and COSLA.

So COSLA has got its work cut out in 2012 - if it is not to become even more of an irrelevance than it is today - no one is listening any longer to the 'voice' of Scottish local government.

Here's hoping they bring in some new blood - maybe some new ways of thinking and doing things - instead of the dreary types who have been running the show for years.

Because at the moment COSLA is going backwards - it has nothing relevant to say - in fact it's about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

COSLA isn't working anymore (April 16th 2011)

One thing that's becoming clear during this course of this Scottish election campaign - is that no one holds local government in very high esteem anymore.

The main parties are all committed to a council tax freeze - some for longer that others - but the $64,000 question is - 'If councils don't set their own council tax rate, then what are they really for?'.

So by extension what's the point in an expensive - publicly funded - 'talking shop' like COSLA - which nobody appears to be listening to anyway.

SNP and Labour are both committed to a single national police force - and Labour is committed to a new 'national' care service which would dilute the role of local councils in this area.

Support is also growing for removing education and teaching services from council control - with schools having a more direct relationship with the Scottish government - perhaps by creating new, strategic education authorities.

The main public sector unions - Unison, Unite and GMB - have traditionally placed great emphasis on 'local democracy' and local decision-making.

But they appear to have been muzzled during the election campaign - as often happens - behind the scenes the Labour high command tells union bosses not to rock the boat.

And as they are all loyal Labour supporters - that's exactly what they do - instead of speaking up for what they believe is right.

So local government is being squeezed and the present leadership seems unable to articulate a coherent case - about the benefits of local decision-making.

Maybe that's because so many of them have been there for so long - they have become part of the establishment - and simply lack credibility these days.

Maybe it's because so many of them are Labour hacks and jobsworths - that they can't build a strong cross-party alliance - capable of connecting with the wider public.

Or maybe it's because the voters have switched off - in the absence of big political figures who can stand up for their local communities.

Who knows, but one thing's for sure - 'COSLA isn't working anymore'.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

'Aslef of Arabia'

A number of readers have been in touch to ask where the 'We the Women'  picture came from - to accompany the post about women drivers - dated 27 December 2011.

Well  it comes from people campaigning in Saudi Arabia - against the ban on women driving cars and other motor vehicles - public or private.

According to the Saudi authorities it's against Islamic teaching that women should drive cars - never mind trains - it's against the law of the land.

Any women caught doing so - by the religious police - are liable to be severely punished.

But all hope is not lost - because people are fighting back - with courage, wit and humour.

By arguing that it's ridiculous and even anti-Islamic - to suggest that God somehow proclaimed that women can't drive.

'We the Women' is their campaign slogan.

And the campaigners think of all kinds of ways to illustrate how crazy it is - to ordain that women can use washing machines or mobile phone or computers - but not cars (or trains for that matter).

Some women have taken to dressing up in male clothes and wearing false moustaches - to ridicule the authorities - but as the law stand women still need a man to drive them around.

Apparently a father, brother, son - or just about any old male relative will do - which seems bizarre. 

Now to look at the statistics on the number of women train drivers in this country - or the number of women members in Aslef - you'd be forgiven for thinking that God had made a similar proclamation in the UK.

But thankfully no one believes that kind of nonsense in this country.

So maybe 'We the Women' will catch on in the UK - maybe even deep in the bowels of the still male dominated parts of the UK trade union movement. 

I for one hope so - anyway.

Desperate Politics

The run up to New Year is supposed to be a time of thoughtful reflection - for looking forwards and looking back - at what things went well or not so well - how to do better and achieve your goals in 2012.

So I was disappointed to read today another negative attack from Labour leader - Ed Miliband - who seems to believe that simply calling the Prime Minister and the coalition government nasty names - will impress the voters.

In his 2011 New Year's message the Labour leader predicted that his party's 'fightback' - would begin at the Scottish elections in May 2011 - yet the SNP were returned with an overall and unprecedented majority in the Holyrood Parliament.

So it seems to me that Ed Miliband has much to be modest about - as we approach the end of 2011.

And in that spirit I thought I'd share with readers this comment piece by Michael Settle - The Herald's UK political editor.

The hidden message in the Ed Miliband interview

You know a politician is in trouble when he gives an interview to try to make him look like an ordinary human being.

So now we know Ed Miliband likes Desperate Housewives, is a Leeds United fan, loves cheesy 1980s pop music and can do a Rubik’s cube in 90 seconds.

The interview was not with a women’s magazine or a rightwing paper to try to broaden his political appeal but with the staunchly Labour-supporting Daily Mirror.

The underlying message appears to be that the Labour leader still has work to do to convince his own natural constituency that he is a bloke.

One has to ask if this is not a form of Labour HQ pressing the panic button.

At the weekend, Lord Mandelson, the former sultan of spin, effectively placed a dagger between Mr Miliband’s shoulder blades by damning him with faint praise and suggesting he should come up with more policies and fewer jokes.

Now, it is clear that the former architect of New Labour is less than happy by Mr Miliband abandoning the New Labour project and taking the party towards more traditional left of centre ground.

Yet the unease about the Labour leader - now well over a year in post - is growing among his party’s MPs at Westminster; of course, in the electoral college election Mr Miliband won, he did not get majority support from his parliamentary colleagues, who opted for his brother David instead.

Given all the political and economic circumstances - a fractious coalition, an economic crisis, the Government’s policy of balancing the books by 2015 now unrealisable, rising unemployment, real terms pay cuts, the spectre of Europe haunting the Tories once more and the little matter of the eurozone teetering on the brink of collapse - one might have thought Mr Miliband would be surging ahead. But he is not.

One poll last week actually put the Conservatives in front of Labour and on the key economic indicator the Tories remain ahead of the Opposition.

One problem, which Labour has never recovered from, is that their long drawn-out leadership election meant that they lost the chance to set the context of the economic argument.

The Tories were able to, in part at least, blame Gordon Brown’s government for the unfolding financial crisis and the public bought it.

Hence, when it is asked which economic policy is the right one - slash the deficit or invest and take a bit longer to bring down the deficit - they opt for the former.

The great launchpad to Mr Miliband’s leadership, that was Scotland and the May elections, turned out to be an elephant trap. The big worry for the Labour leader - and also the new Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont - is that the hole the party is in gets deeper with a poor performace in the local elections in May.

Meantime, the Tories cannot believe their luck nor, indeed, the opinion polls.

During a particularly bullish PMQs this week, Mr Cameron up-ended his Labour opponent by referring, yet again, to David Miliband.

Expecting an attack from the Labour leader over the Lib-Con fallout to the Brussels bust-up, the PM delivered a deeply cutting remark, saying with a smiling Nick Clegg sitting beside him: “It’s not that bad. It’s not like we’re brothers or anything.”

Mr Miliband in his interview declared that such remarks were “water off a duck’s back”. Yet judging by the expression on the Labour leader’s face when Mr Cameron made the remark, the PM knows it needles him.

He will go on mentioning Miliband senior because private Tory polling reveals that the one thing people know about the Labour leader is that he turned over his brother for a job.

The Daily Mirror interview is clearly meant to make the Labour leader more three dimensional.

Later last Wednesday a triumphant Mr Cameron told his backbenchers: “Don’t worry. I won’t try and finish him off.” Him, of course, being Mr Miliband.

At some point over the next year or so, Labour MPs will have to decide whether or not to stick or twist with their leader so that any successor has enough time before the next General Election to set out their stall.

If Scottish Labour does badly in May, do not only expect tongues to be just wagging about Ms Lamont’s false start but also Mr Miliband’s possible end.