Leaders: Labour changes may be too little too late

It’s just not going Labour’s way, especially here in Scotland. Here they already face a Herculean task which frankly they have now made harder for themselves. On the day of their manifesto launch when they might expect some lifting of the spirits, some confidence that this was their time, instead there is more gloom.

Ed Milibands launch speech was well received. Picture: Getty

The most recent polls say that in Scotland the SNP has almost doubled its lead over Labour with 52 per cent of adults who are certain to vote saying they would vote SNP, against 24 per cent backing Labour – nearly twice last month’s figure, when the parties scored 46 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, giving a clear indication of the direction of travel.

And the most recent ICM poll for the UK has the Tories six points ahead of Labour. That is a big jump and not really in keeping with other polls but, again, most would agree that Labour’s lead is being narrowed.

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Mr Miliband’s launch speech was well received, certainly better than his TV debate appearance, but the truth is that there was little new in it, and there were instant questions. It seems clear that it is all becoming about the economy and money and trust. Yesterday saw a change in emphasis in Mr Miliband’s speech where the impassioned pleas to follow him to improved social justice played a very much secondary role to a move to tackle his biggest problem: convincing voters Labour can be trusted with the economy.

So he launched with a guarantee all policies would require no extra borrowing. But make no mistake, there is a lot of spending being planned. And of course there are cuts in public spending to come from Labour, in the areas they have deemed as unprotected, but exactly where these cuts would fall is not known, and borrowing for Labour means something a little different because Ed Balls treats investment spending differently from day-to-day spending. Labour are of course also planning to take longer to pay down the deficit than the current Tory plans.

And in Scotland the issue of cuts again had Labour on the defensive. Ed Balls spelled out that a Labour government would have to make cuts in “non-protected” areas which would apply in England and Scotland. The Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has said during the campaign that the party would not need to make “further cuts to achieve our spending rules” in the next parliament.

Of course that was seized on by opponents and again raised the fundamental issue of the economy and trust.

So the change in emphasis from Labour would lead to the view that they now have come to the position that the economy is the pivotal issue. And it would seem unlikely that given today’s manifesto launch and the squabble about cuts in Scotland they have done anything to reverse the way the polls are moving.

A modern-day Indiana Jones

ORGANISED crime is a pernicious evil with tentacles that stretch in to many countries in today’s shrinking globe. It is involved in terrible trades that can plague Scottish families, like drugs, child pornography, people trafficking and internet fraud to name but a few.

Unfortunately their involvement in these “trades” brings criminals vast sums of money, but that ironically also gives them a problem as to how, in a world that contains forensic accountants and determined law-enforcement agencies with access to electronic data, they can hide that money and how they can turn it into money they can keep.

So artworks and antiquities are useful things to steal and sell, because there are many people willing to pay for the rare and the beautiful even if they are the only ones that can see it; because those objects often gain in value so are a useful long-term investment; and because very often provenance is hard to prove and undocumented. In many ways an ideal commodity for a criminal.

So the work of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, a research assistant at the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, who has discovered items he believes are catalogued in the confiscated archives of convicted criminals, is to be applauded.

If he is proved correct, Dr Tsirogiannis will not just have brought important antiquities back to a place where their rightful owners might have them returned, but he will also be striking a telling blow against the world of organised crime. The more avenues that can be closed off to the organised gangs then the harder it becomes for them to ply their evil trades, and anything to dissuade them has to be welcomed.

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