Euan McColm: No time like the present to turn over a new leaf

Nicola Sturgeon's New Year resolution should be to focus on governing rather than on constitutional debate. Picture: Duncan McGlynn/Getty
Nicola Sturgeon's New Year resolution should be to focus on governing rather than on constitutional debate. Picture: Duncan McGlynn/Getty
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Looking back at the series of bloody car crashes that have constituted the last year in politics, the only positive I can come up with is that 2018 is very nearly over.

Whether it was the cruel dishonesty of US President Donald Trump, the ineffectual floundering of Prime Minister Theresa May, or the appalling rise of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, the past 12 months had something for every kind of masochist.

And there’s little to suggest that 2019 is going to be much better. Trump knows now that his war on immigrants and a free press plays wonderfully well with his base, May retains her position as the midwife of a Brexit she believes will damage the UK, and Corbyn – who deplores all kind of racism, apparently – shows no compulsion to properly challenge the wing-nuts and conspiracy theorists who’ve polluted Labour since he succeeded Ed Miliband as leader.

If only those who govern – and those who aspire to – would resolve to do better next year.

Trump? Well, he’s a write-off, surely? A compulsive liar and enthusiastic bully, the American president is a lost cause and we can only hope he manages to get through the coming year without beginning a war.

But to our own political leaders, I offer some words of advice, some resolutions that they might consider.

When right-wing Tory rebels tried and failed to topple the Prime Minister in the second week of December, they gave her some breathing space. Under Conservative Party rules, Theresa May cannot be challenged for another year.

How marvellous it would be if the PM fully indulged this period of political freedom. Wouldn’t you like to hear her say what she really thinks about the liars and spivs in her party who yearn for a hard, “no deal” Brexit?

Come on Prime Minister. You can speak your mind without fear of challenge so why not ditch the pointless attempts to please everyone in your party and tell it like it is?

Whenever Jacob Rees-Mogg opens his mouth, why don’t you remind us that he’s a privileged right-wing ideologue who’d see the poor grow poorer in pursuit of a fantasy land of milk and honey? Why don’t you make it abundantly clear that he knows nothing of the difficulties normal people face? Why don’t you call him out as the charlatan he is?

And while we’re on the subject of charlatans, Prime Minister, don’t you yearn to speak your mind about Boris Johnson?

Sure, there are those in your parliamentary party who would gladly see Johnson succeed you in 10 Downing Street, but you owe those people nothing so why not let rip?

When next Johnson offers up another fantastical take on how Brexit would be a roaring success if only more people “believed” in it, why not point out that the man is a liar? Why not point out that his support for the UK’s departure from the EU is not down to some sincerely held principle but, rather, is a position adopted because he believed it offered him the quickest route to the top job in British politics?

You will never satisfy the brainless Johnsonites in your party, so why not expose them for what they are – lickspittles hanging on the coat-tails of a man who has always placed personal ambition before the common good?

The Tory Party’s extreme Eurosceptic wing will do all it can to undermine you in the months ahead, Prime Minister, so why don’t you resolve to give as good as you get? You may find you speak for a broad section of the country if you start speaking truth to that shower. And wouldn’t it be rather fun, too?

I have suggestions for opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, too.

As 2019 looms, Jeremy, why don’t you resolve to check who it is you’re associating with and supporting? Of course, you’ve been really unlucky over the past few decades, often appearing in public with racists and anti-Semites, but next year you can be the change your party needs.

When you’re asked to endorse a candidate or appear on a platform with an activist, ask yourself whether your endorsement is appropriate.

If you cannot tell simply by looking whether you are about to offer your support to someone who believes Jews control the world through sinister networks, there’s a thing called Google you can use to find out more. Heaven knows, you’d have saved yourself a great deal of time and trouble in the past by carrying out the most cursory of checks on the people you associate with.

Jez, whenever it turns out that you’ve been unlucky enough to hang about with anti-Semites or take money from Iran’s Press TV – the mouthpiece of a brutal regime – you’re quick to tell us that you oppose racism in all its forms. I say 2019 should be the year that you stop opposing internet search engines in all their forms and find out a little about the people you consider fellow travellers.

But it is not just leaders at Westminster who should resolve to do things differently in the year ahead. I have some advice for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon too.

Back in 2014, you told us that the independence referendum was a once in a lifetime event. You resolved, after defeat in that vote, to bring the country back together. You’ve not really done that, have you, First Minister?

Instead, you’ve sought to turn every political twist and turn into an argument in favour of a second referendum. It doesn’t matter what the polls have told you, you’ve insisted that support for independence is growing.

So why don’t you resolve, in 2019, to stop this nonsensical game and get on with using the powers at your disposal to change Scotland for the better?

Why don’t you, First Minister, make next year the one where you began listening to the majority of Scots?

A new year with a new politics of honesty sounds pretty good to me.