Soy what? Why is soy so important in USA-EU agreement?

In a joint statement with President Donald Trump, the European Commission yesterday announced the two unions would be working hard to “reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans.”

The announcement came after the president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, met with Trump in Washington DC to discuss the future trading relationship between their respective entities.

Donald Trump tweeted a photo of Juncker giving him an affectionate embrace and a peck on the cheek in the Oval Office.

What, though, is the big deal with soybeans? One of the big tweets to come out yesterday was Trump’s announcement that “European Union representatives told me that they would start buying soybeans from our great farmers immediately. Also, they will be buying vast amounts of LNG!”

What are soybeans?

As you may be aware, soybeans are a legume (a bean), used in soy based products such as soy milk, tofu, and other Japanese-style foodstuffs such as natto and tempeh.

Originating in east Asia, soybeans have an extensive history in the region, with one study suggesting the use of soybeans dates back to around 8000 cal BP in China and 7000 cal BP in Japan (calculated before present, used in archaeology). That is old!

Crucially, though, large amounts of soy are used in animal feed. This is one of the problems activists see with keeping livestock: the vast amounts of agricultural land given and deforestation made to produce enough soy to feed them.

Why soy serious?

It is likely the import of US soy to the EU will happen very soon, due to a trading spat between the US and China. China slapped a 25% tariff on US soy imports, causing Brazil to become the likely favoured importer of soy to China.

  • Soy is one of the highest agricultural markets in the US, with $21.6bn worth of soy bean exports in 2017
  • Trump threatened to place tariffs on the $506bn worth of Chinese imports to the US
  • China responded by placing tariffs on the $130bn worth of US imports to China

All of this is taking place while Trump announced $12bn of stimulus for the US agriculture sector. His announcement was met with criticism, with some seeing the investment as merely one patch for a ship with a thousand leaks.

Now what?

Well, now the tariff spat between the two blocs is settling, perhaps the farming industry will let out a sigh of relief. However, it isn’t fully in the clear just yet. We await the official deal, with the Commission statement largely giving a notification the two will be “working” towards reducing the tariffs.

Furthermore, little has been said on the infamous steel and aluminium tariffs, but the Commission statement does suggest these issues will be addressed soon.

British cycling is stuck between a Froome and a hard Yates


Froome takes his chance on the Finestre’s gravel roads. Credit: GETTY

The Giro d’Italia today was the scene of some incredible drama, in a day some pundits are saying will go down as one of the most historic stages of Grand Tour racing.

The scene was set; stage 19 would take the riders over the highest point of the Giro, the Colle delle Finestre, at over 2100m. Normally that would be enough to end a stage, but not today. The actors were kept onstage for a further 75km and another two climbs; one up to 2035m on the Sestrière and the second up the Monte Jafferau, a 7.5km climb with an average gradient of 7.9%.

However, it was certainly a different cast who were leading the pack by the first few kilometres into the CdF. Team Sky saw the climb as their window of opportunity. The main protagonist, Simon Yates, had cracked, and we saw a familiar sight at the front of the peloton as Henao, Elissonde, Poels and Froome start to eat into his lead.

Froome flew off past a grimacing Elissonde with 80km to go to fly to victory on the hardest stage of the Giro in recent memory, meanwhile taking to the podium to claim the maglia rosa before its former wearer had even crossed the finish line.


It was not long before the sunshine dimmed and the clouds rolled in. Across social media, the usual calls of ‘doping’, ‘cheat’, ‘unfair’, ‘salbutamol’ and others cropped up. Click on any article from Velonews, Cycling Weekly, Cyclingnews on Facebook and the likes of

“Let’s give Landis, Armstrong, and Contador their titles back, shall we? Let’s apologize to Ricardo Ricco. Doped racing is the most entertaining racing! Legalize it all . . . for everyone!”

“A doping team helping a doped rider…I understand Dave, I understand…”

“Froome does not have any credibility. He shound not be riding this Giro in the first place. And his Salbutamol issue casts lots of doubts of any victory he gets until proven he did not commit any wrongdoing.”

Not much has been said of Froome’s salbutamol case during the Giro. In one of the Cycling Podcast’s earlier Giro issues released after stage five, there was word the case could be days away, but nothing has since materialised.

In an article in The Times yesterday, David Lappartient, president of the UCI, said there was a “50/50 chance” of Froome’s case being concluded before the Tour de France starts on July 7.

That article was titled ‘I believe Simon Yates is clean, says cycling chief’. Immediately I let out a rasp of exasperation that this has had to be established as headline-leading news. I am not naive, we should expect this, but has British small-c and big-c cycling been completely tarnished due to the revelations of the past few years?

Team Sky has been the team in the spotlight, with both Wiggins and Froome coming under the microscope for misuse or overdosing on therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs). By association, British Cycling has also been scrutinised for their links to Sky and to accusations of packages of testosterone being delivered to headquarters.

Now attention has been drawn to Yates. Unfortunately for the former white jersey winner and twin brother of Adam Yates (another former white jersey winner), Simon has a bit of a black spot against his name already thanks to an accidental doping ban of four months last year.

The reason? Failure to register a TUE for – you guessed it – asthma medication.

Because of the attention now being drawn to phrases like ‘TUE’ and ‘salbutamol’, and the fact these have cropped up against the names of three British riders in the past couple of years, people are instantly making leaps towards the doping drum and beating it loudly in everyone’s ears. “All of them have asthma, it seems!”, a friend said to me.

Yesterday, after reading that article in The Times, we heard there was blood in the water as chinks showed in Yates’s armour. However, today that chink turned into a total hole punched into his chances of keeping the maglia rosa into Rome this weekend.


Wiggins came under scrutiny for allegations of doping. Credit: GETTY

Who took his place? None other than Froome, aforementioned “doping rider” for a “doping team”. This puts British cycling as a sport between a rock and a hard place, despite this amazing success of two British riders having lead the tour.

The narrative around doping in cycling is a long one, and one which people reach to simply because the idea of riding around 100-plus miles a day for 21 days seems frankly impossible without the use of drugs.

In an interview with Brig Newspaper, renowned expert on sport doping, Paul Dimeo, said: “Again, we can talk about categories of dopers. Clearly we have those people who have a long-term record of participating in organised systematic cheating, and they may well get a four-year ban or they may get a lifetime ban, but in my personal opinion that should almost be enough to have a lifetime of stigma and not be allowed to participate in the sports industry.

“Lance Armstrong is a good example, but previous to that, people like Ben Johnson were just never allowed to have a career. So, I think that’s questionable, from an ethical and moral point of view.

“Another category of dopers are those who have done it accidentally or not done it that badly, but that, even relatively innocuous cases, can still hang over athletes for a long time. A famous case in Scotland is that of Alain Baxter, who used an American version of a Vicks inhaler, lost his bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, and that is what he is most well-known for, so his reputation has never really recovered from what was essentially an accidental case of doping.”

Another example, Froome’s “adverse analytical finding” and Yates’s “accidental doping charges” cannot be put in the same category as Armstrong.

We need to be careful as viewers, journalists and participants in cycling to make the distinctions between the good and the evil in the sport. However, if Armstrong managed to hide it for so long, perhaps Froome has.

Yates and Froome have both undergone far more frequent and scientific tests than before, but there are also much more cunning methods of evading detection than before.

Greg Haff of Edith Cowan University writes: “One way athletes appear to be circumventing the biological passports model is by small, frequent use of EPO. In 2011, Australian researchers found frequent micro-dosing allows athletes to use rhEPO without abnormal changes in the blood variables that are currently monitored by the athlete blood passport.

“As the fight against doping continues, athletes appear to be continually searching for ways to elevate their performance and evade detection. The biological passport offers a great tool for limiting the practice of doping, but it seems that many athletes have already found ways to circumvent it.”

This all comes at a time when more people are cycling than ever in the UK, but also when more tensions are appearing between drivers and cyclists.

There appears to be a tipping point approaching in cycling in Britain, both professionally and recreationally, and as methods of doping (such as gene-editing) become a looming possibility, more must be done to restore the trust in the sport to continue to grow a healthy recreational cycling community in the UK and so improve relations with other road users.

Donald Trump, a dictator rising


Credit: Martin Schoeller/ TIME

“He shouted out really, really simple political ideas. I thought he wasn’t quite normal.”

“I myself had the feeling that here was a man who did not think about himself and his own advantage, but solely about the good of the people.”

“A glance, a gesture, was enough to send the crowd into raptures. People used to become oblivious of everything but their idol and would shout with tremendous enthusiasm.”

Those were the words said of two 1930s dictators, who defined the charismatic and “inspiring” leadership. It is not the leadership of today, but the hallmarks of dictatorial style seen in Hitler and Mussolini are all to easy to see in Donald Trump.

Before Trump became President Trump – moving from his position as the head of US television show The Apprentice – we laughed at just how ridiculous he was. Now, we seem to have fallen into quiet disbelief as this – and I will say it plainly – baboon prances his way through the halls of the White House.

But we should not underestimate this intriguing case study for the rise of dictator-like politics that has the potential to emerge from the early decades of the 21st century. As Marx said, history repeats itself “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”.

Hitler and Trump

When Adolf Hitler rose to power, it was on the back of a wave of anger and feeling of being outcast by the establishment born out of Germany’s punishment for the First World War.

Contrary to popular belief, Germany wasn’t in dire straits for the entirety of the period between WW1 and WW2; the mid-to-late 1920s saw a time of general prosperity for Germany, but it existed concurrently with inconceivably high levels of government spending in infrastructure.

In 1913, spending per head was at 20.5 marks; by 1925 that figure had risen to 60 marks. The crash which followed coincided with the Wall Street crash of 1929, and it saw Germany’s situation dramatically deteriorate.

Those at the bottom, forgotten by the establishment, were left hungry, and turned to someone with an obvious and grand solution to the problem for help. That man, Hitler.

He pointed to the Jews as the source of the problem, just as Trump has turned to the people of Mexico to denounce them for “bringing crime, they’re bringing drugs, they’re rapists”.

One man, Jorge Ramos – a Mexican immigrant, who has lived in the US for 30 years – decided to challenge Trump. He wrote him a letter with his phone number, asking for an interview.

Trump posted his number online. Ramos then confronted Trump in person and the result of that was, well, you can see for yourself in the video below.

The presenter calls this a “remarkable confrontation”; this is not a “remarkable confrontation”. This is a suppression of the freedom of the press to hold those in power to account. The bouncers proceeded to tell Ramos to go back to his own country, despite the fact he is an American citizen.

The posting of Ramos’s number online also acted as a warning to any other would-be investigators: Mess with me, and I will mess with you.

I highly recommend watching Jorge Ramos’s TED Talk on the matter, it is quite inspiring, but equally depressing.

What do Trump and Hitler have in common? Their ability to manipulate the national consciousness. Trump speaks in simple political terms, just as Hitler did. He also pins the problems of a nation on ridiculously simplistic bodies, such as the Mexicans/Muslims/anyone who isn’t an American.

Trump has created this notion of a pure American: He stands up for the true American man and woman; he will protect the American people from those non-Americans coming to the US and taking advantage of you all.

Not only that, but Trump’s flamboyant and outrageous rallies are reminiscent of a bygone era, in which speaking directly to an enraptured audience was the method by which Mussolini and Hitler rose so easily to power – and with such power.

As Dennis says in Monty Python: The Holy Grail: “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses”.

And, indeed, it is from the crowd that Trump has taken his legitimacy.

Mussolini and Trump

Mussolini was one of the first great leaders of the modern era to realise the potential of the moving image in the controlling of the people. Indeed, it creates a kind of imagined community, a sense of loyalty to an idea of a community in which the sovereign is the natural leader.

That man was Mussolini, and he captured the imagination of Italy. Television and cinema has been around for a long time now, but the media is the oxygen to the flame that is Donald Trump’s existence.

Outrageous actions, sackings left right and centre which inspire genuine laughs from the press galleries, grandiose ideas (I am talking about walls here), misogyny, and so forth – all of these stoke a flame that is symptomatic of a millennium governed by the media.

When I say “governed by the media”, I do not mean in it in a Trumpian, clear-the-swamp sense; rather, how we absorb our information today is mostly through the media and not rallies, and we can now interact with our leaders through the media.

Announcing policy before consulting his staff has become the order of the day for Mr Trump, and he will not shy away from insulting an entire demographic should the occasion arise.

Mussolini also promised Italy empty, ludicrous promises. Just as “Il Dulce” promised to reclaim Gibraltar from Britain, Trump promises to build a wall at the border with Mexico, and have a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”.

Empty promises are another identifiable aspect of dictatorships, as was mentioned in a recent special edition of Timewatch on the very matter of dictators.

Order, loyalty, respect

If there is one very concerning thing about the rhetoric emerging from the White House in just the last month or so, it is that of order, loyalty and respect.

Just after being sacked as the head of the FBI, James Comey revealed Donald Trump expected loyalty from him.

He went further:  “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

“I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.”

Retired general John Kelly was recently appointed chief of staff to replace Reince Priebus – who was caught up in the Scaramucci fiasco – in order to bring discipline and order to the White House.

Just last week, upon the announcement of not allowing transgender persons to fill army roles, Trump said it was to ensure the military was “focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” which would be jeopardised by the “disruption” caused by transgender personnel.

If I was to be rather crass about all of this, I would say the Republican Party are doing a great job of pussyfooting around up until now.

Now, there are some making a stand, with the likes of John McCain emerging as a potential headache for Trump in the months and years to come.

The Trump administration is taking each day as it comes, with no ability to plan or preempt what the next day will bring. Is that stability? Is that order? What it might require is a strong hand, and goodness knows will that be a black day for America.

Originally posted for Brig Newspaper at

We have to talk about rich people



The Scottish Government is announcing a change to Air Passenger duty, which will become Air Departure Tax, and will be half of the current charge added to those who choose to fly’s ticket price.

The plan is to ultimately phase out the tax altogether, something the Scottish Government has been talking about for some time, but became a key point in the Scottish National Party’s manifesto in 2016.

It said: “Air Passenger Duty (APD) is one of the most expensive taxes of its kind in the world and hampers Scotland’s ability to secure new direct international routes and maintain existing ones.

“Indeed, the level of taxation on the tourism sector, taking account of both VAT and APD, is amongst the highest in the world. This relatively high burden of taxation restricts the potential of the sector to grow to attract many more visitors to Scotland.”

The plan is to abolish the tax completely by the end of this parliament, which will be in 2021.

In an interesting turn – although, unsurprising given the nature of the policy, but you still find it interesting when this happens – the Scottish Conservatives have said they support the plan and agree with the SNP.

That makes two policies just this month the SNP and Tories have agreed on: APD and the docking of puppies’ tails. Not sure if those are related in any way, but an interesting side note, nonetheless.

In a similarly unsurprising but rather inconvenient development – given their reliance on one another in parliament – the Scottish Greens have opposed the plan, saying it was “predominantly a tax giveaway for Scotland’s wealthiest households and corporations”.

Of course, those wealthier fliers who use planes more often for personal and commercial reasons will benefit more than the average Scot making their way to Corsica for a summer holiday once every few years.

However, the rhetoric that is becoming ever more present in Scottish (and, indeed, British) politics, is an attack on the wealthy individuals of our society, and – if not observed carefully – this can be extremely damaging.

According to Full Fact, the top 1% of earners contribute 27% of all income tax in the UK. Not only is income tax of interest, but the top 10% of earners contribute between 25-27% of all tax receipts.

That latter figure means the top 10% of households paid around £38,000 in taxes, whilst the bottom 10% of households paid £5000 in 2014/15.

Proportionally, one might argue, this does not say anything; the richer still have more left over than the poorer in society, and that is true. Even though both the top 10% and those on lower incomes contribute 33-35% of their incomes to the taxman, numerically it leaves the top 10% with more cash to spend.the-uk-as-a-100-taxpayers

However, the bottom 10% buck that similarity, sending 47% of their income to the taxman. That is across all taxes, say Full Fact, which includes tobacco duties – something those in lower pay brackets tend to spend more on.

Relieving tax pressures on those in the poorest households has progressed in the past decade, with the raising of the tax threshold for one. However, this can have contradictory effects.

An example used on the GOV.UK website has a woman on the minimum wage working 170 hours a month. This checks out at about 40 hours a week. If the minimum wage is £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, she earns over £14,000 a year – well above the current tax allowance threshold of £11,500 in 2017/18.

Of course, Jeba – the example woman – will keep more of her earnings before tax, but it is ironic those earning a minimum wage are still pushed into paying tax.

Meanwhile, as the threshold for paying tax rises, those at the top are being targeted by several left-of-centre parties looking to increase their contribution to the tax pot. If high earners already pay over a quarter into HMRC, is it right to increase the tax they pay?

In some ways, yes, they should. It is only natural that those who can should, and those who cannot should be given relief. At the end of the day, even the highest earners enjoy the personal tax allowance threshold rise.

However, this argument is not about numbers per se, it is about rhetoric. The rhetoric in public discourse today is of the evil wealthy 1% or 10%, or however large you want to make that category (Interesting side note, the average top 10% household would amass £110,000 in 2014/15 in income and benefits, which – in the grand scheme of things – is not a sickening amount of money).

When many of us consider the wealthy woman or man in 2017, we think of Branson, of Rupert Murdoch, of Piers Morgan, of Jeff Bezos, and other ‘fat cats’ and bankers.

Often we see these men (and, sadly, it is largely men) as stooges, crooks, swindlers and dealers. And, in some cases, you could be right, but there is a story in that; stories of success, innovation, technological advancement and investment.

Also, the jobs created for you and I, and an economy which actually moves forward. We may not agree with a lot of the practices of some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, but, in many cases, it isn’t their fault they ended up there.

Take Bill Gates, for instance. “Yes, but Bill Gates gives loads of money to charity, so hardly a fair example,” you say. You are correct, but Gates made his wealth through an idea; an idea which saw him make billions, and one which many of us have the liberty to enjoy today.

Or John Shepherd-Barron, a British inventor who attended Edinburgh University and recently died in Inverness, who invented the ATM – a machine we all use on a daily basis.

This hostile rhetoric to the wealthiest of society does harm to the good of that top 10%. There are many who abuse that position, but there is much we have to celebrate in their success.

So, take care when outwardly abusing people for having good ideas that people liked; or for having the intelligence to see the business plan you didn’t come up with; or the people who worked countless hours in the early days of their businesses eating out of tin cans with a determination neither you or I could muster.

Success should be celebrated, and we should tread lightly where our rhetoric leads us. In the end, they have the money to head elsewhere, and although we should not be held to ransom by the wealthy, every one of us is human, and nobody likes to be hated.

Four years as a Stringer, and five votes – it has been a rollercoaster

“Well, at twenty minutes to five, we can now say the decision taken in 1975 by this country to join the common market has been reversed by this referendum to leave the EU.”
“I’ve also encountered this evening, something many people have encountered before tonight and I suspect many people will encounter after tonight which is, in politics, that you live by the sword and you die by the sword.”
“Scotland is looking more and more like it will reject independence.”

In 2013, when I came to university, I was given the incredible opportunity by my lecturer Eddy Borges-Rey to become a Stringer for BBC Scotland’s general election team.

A stringer is basically a freelance reporter, who relays stories, videos, pictures and final results to the HQ either in Pacific Quay or London.

When I took up the job, I knew the independence referendum was on its way, and soon after the UK general election, but as I come to the end of my four years at university, I have somehow managed to complete five votes.

That’s two referendums, two general elections and one Scottish election, each – and I say this with as much emphasis as is possible – has thrown a complete spanner into the works of politics as we know it.

The Scottish referendum for its uniqueness (“its once in a generation”-ness); the general election, which saw David Cameron scrape through a majority government after five years of coalition, a Labour party in turmoil, and a landslide SNP victory; the Scottish election, and its surprising lack of a majority for the SNP; the Brexit referendum – which needs no justification as to its importance and this election, and that is another kettle of fish entirely.

Each time I have worked with the BBC has ended in a drive home with BBC Radio Scotland on, and mostly me yelling, “Holy sh*t! What the hell is going on? Oh my God.”

Working with the BBC has been an absolute privilege. I have been incredibly lucky to have this opportunity, but I do not doubt that maintaining an active political/news-oriented blog present helped with my being made aware of the opportunity by my lecturer.

This general election was one of the best stringer shifts I have done. Perhaps it was because I was far more active in getting interviews (pushing in on a conversation between a lady and none other than Michael Matheson, Scottish Justice Secretary), or maybe the result was so extraordinary.

Even so, each year has had its own theme, and its own incredible opportunities. You never know, it might not be long before the next opportunity.

It wasn’t the Tory decimation you think, but the worst is yet to come


Credit: PA

Many a bleary-eyed journalist will today be poring over their copy from the day before to learn what sleep-deprived sentences they typed into this morning’s papers.

Was it really a Tory demise?

In six weeks, Theresa May saw her double-digit lead over her “unelectable” opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, whittle away to just a handful of percentage points, and her reputation as the “safe pair of hands” fall to the ground like the rain that fell on Friday morning.

Despite her slim majority being slashed, it is the first time in modern UK political history that either of the leading political parties have seen their vote share increase and their seat takings decrease.

In that sense, it wasn’t the Tory destruction and Labour ascension some of the papers have reported. Labour increased its share of the vote jump by 9.5%, and the Tories grew by 5.5%. The story in the numbers is we have returned to a strong two-party political game.

The last time Labour and the Conservatives both had over 40% of the vote was in the Heath-Wilson election of 1970. Despite the papers saying the extraordinary (and it was extraordinary) turnout by young people “thwarting” May’s victory, this was still a growth for the Tories.

That should not be cause to dampen the spirits of the now-active youth vote in this country. As a new generation of voters comes to the fore, it is with welcoming arms we should accept them into the new era of politics, for a new era it will be.

It is hard to remember a time when both domestic and international politics was so turbulent, and the world needs active, young and innovative minds to turn politics into a system to fit the new world in which we live.

The DUP pact

Despite my fellow young voters’ best efforts, though, it looks to be a backwards step with this new government set-up. Theresa May has done the unthinkable in going into an informal coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

Remember 2015? I mean, I know yesterday morning feels like years ago, but 2015 was only two years ago. Remember the Tories deploring the idea of Miliband going into coalition with the SNP? How on earth could the Scottish National Party govern the UK?

It seems the DUP can do a better job of it, because May has now relying on the anti-abortion, climate change-denying, LGBT rights-denying party that caused so much hurt in Northern Ireland, and still has high-profile MPs in the Orange Order.

Edwin Poots MLA, DUP politician, also once said of the big bang theory: “You’re telling me that cosmic balls of dust gathered and there was an explosion. We’ve had lots of explosions in Northern Ireland and I’ve never seen anything come out of that that was good,” he told the Radio Times.

The only positive thing in the DUP partnership is their softer approach to Brexit, and their unwilligness to have a hard border with the rest of Ireland.

This is not a partnership that will stand the test of time. Already, political pundits are expecting another general election in 12 to 18 months time, and it might not be Theresa May leading the Conservative Party in that election.


Meanwhile, in Scotland, there was a significant shift away from the SNP. The move should not be jumped on too much, though. Bear in mind, the election of 56 MPs from the SNP came after a political “tsunami” that was taking place at the time.

I interviewed Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson on Thursday on that point and he admitted “it is going to be very difficult to hold onto the title of 56 out of 59 MPs”.

Even though the SNP lost far more MPs than they would have liked, they still salvaged 59% of Scottish seats, more than any other party combined.

At the same time, despite their good performance in Scotland, the Tories now face a crisis whereby the more moderate Scottish Conservatives strongly disapprove of the DUP arrangements.

Ruth Davidson retweeted several tweets yesterday, calling on the safeguarding of LGBT rights. Apparently, she has received assurances from the PM those rights are guaranteed.

The north-east

The biggest loss for the SNP was the north-east, with political heavyweights like Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson losing their seats of Gordan and Moray. This highlights a significant disconnect between Holyrood and the top right of the country.

According to the ONS, the higher median wage areas in Scotland tended to vote Conservative. In the north-east, places like Gordon, Aberdeen South, and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (areas with media wages £20-25K and Aberdeen South with £25-30K).


Credit: ONS

All areas voted Conservative. Stirling, another high-profile switch, also clocks a £20-25K median earning. Meanwhile, in East Renfrewshire (the only Tory seat in the Glasgow area, has one of the highest median salaries in Scotland.

Of course, these are heuristic methods of analysis, for there were many areas in which the Tories were successful with below £20K median salaries, and places where Labour and the SNP won with high median salaries.

The national issues

Certainly, independence and personality had an effect in Scotland. Resistance to another independence referendum – which, unlike in 2011’s Scottish election or the 2016 election, was framed as being dependent on this election – was a factor this time around.

Support for #indyref2 has had a turbulent few months: search “Support for independence in Scotland” into Google, and you have a BBC report in March on independence support being at “highest ever level”, and a Telegraph article immediately below it with support slumping to 40% by April.

Whether that is down to methodologies from the pollsters is up for debate, but it is lower than the 45% in 2014, but certainly higher than what it was in 2011.

It could also be the case this was a vote against Nicola Sturgeon. Her popularity slumped since September, according to Ipsos Mori. Then again, so had most of the Scottish leaders’ approval ratings.

Nevertheless, Sturgeon has always had very divided approval, being the most approved of and, at times, most disapproved figure in Scottish politics. She has become the face of Scottish politics, and it would not be surprising to have seen that backfire on her.

Where to from here?

In the end, it is impossible to imagine a long-term relationship between the Tories and DUP going forward. It is unlikely such a partnership would be allowed to last, and that can really only mean another general election, or a minrotiy government.

Trouble is, would that create a majority government? It is almost unlikely. Like a bus, you do not get a coalition government for decades, and then two come along in less than ten years.

And we have barely talked about Brexit this past 24 hours.

Why we should all be concerned about May’s snap election


Photo: GETTY

Theresa May has, after much humming and hawing, goading and guffawing during PMQs, and denying any idea of a general election…has called a general election for June 8.

There had been murmurings of a snap election circling some podcasts and around the Internet over the past couple of weeks, but nothing outstanding amongst the other political pundits who mused over the idea of having more votes to talk about.

As Brenda said to Jon Kay when he asked about the election: “You’re joking. Not another one!” Yes, Brenda, it is true. We are truly sorry.

Theresa May said her decision was to unite parliament, citing divisions amongst the parties of Westminster while the country was united – apparently.

This division, May said, was “political game playing”, arguing it would damage the negotiations with the European Union. “Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country”.

It means Theresa May is looking for “strong and stable leadership”, and do away with the opposition who want to prevent “me from getting the job done”.

It isn’t all rammed through yet, though. The vote requires a two-thirds majority in the Commons for the election to be held.

In some ways, May’s decision appears sound: To get a deal on Brexit, she should allay concerns people have over her legitimacy. Maybe it was that walking holiday that gave her such clarity of thought.

Or perhaps not. There is a sinister undertone to May’s decision. The Conservatives currently lead the polls by 21 points. Predictions suggest she will get the Conservatives up to 400 seats, with Labour crushed down to just 162.

And when I say “crushed”, I mean crushed. May’s aim is to literally crush the opposition to the Tory government. Jeremy Corbyn has already shown the country exhibits a poor show for an opposition anyway, but this election will obliterate it completely.

Maybe Mrs Not-So-Maybe-Anymore has been taking leafs out of President Erdogan’s book, because her actions make her look as if she is intending to annihilate those who hold the government to account on behalf of the 48% who voted Remain.

That brings me to a second point: Is May acting in a ‘presidential’ manner? Despite talking much of seats and majorities, May also hit home the need for “strong leadership”, that it is her negotiations with the EU, that she will get the job done.

Although the position of the prime minister is a crucial one, she is the leader of a government, not a president. It would be foolish to assume this election is not intended to be a validation of her ability to lead the country.

Despite her also talking about the economy post-Article 50 not being as bad as we all thought – Brexit has not happened yet. The ramifications of Brexit will be hard to measure until we leave the EU; and if the reaction of the economy after May’s announcement is anything to go by, we might be in for a rollercoaster ride.

Where does this leave some of the other parties then? Aside from Labour, what of the SNP, Lib Dems and Ukip?

The SNP would be right to assume they will lose seats this time around, even if it is a handful. Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives are performing well: She is popular, they opposed Brexit, and are polling better than Labour in many councils.

The buzz after the independence referendum has died a little, and much consternation exists over what appears to be a phantom indyref2 – almost like Brown’s phantom general election of 2007.

The Liberal Democrats might seek to improve their lowly position of the past two years, with Farron arguing they are performing well in local polling and council by-elections. It is unlikely they will worsen their position at the very least.

Ukip, on the other hand, are in a tight spot. Carsewell is gone, Reckless is gone, but Farage is (somehow) clinging on in some way. Still, whether Farage runs to become an MP or not, Ukip will either be tossed by the wayside or seen as the Big Brother over Brexit negotiations.

Will May hold her word? Some hardliners may fear it, and fear the power she will hold with 400 seats.

Even the Labour landslide of 1997 garnered them just 18 seats more than what some believe Theresa May will scoop.

Margaret Thatcher’s highest seat takings rose to 397 – 400 would be an incredible feat.

The upcoming council elections will act as a perfect barometer for May’s election endeavours, but only if she clears the legislative hurdles ahead of her in the next few days.

It is becoming clear Trump’s attention is like a passing breeze

Image: Donald Trump, Mike Pence

Photo: AP

The furore which has erupted in the last day or so revolves around Donald Trump’s latest accusation, this time hurled at his predecessor Barack Obama.

He claims, over Twitter, Barack Obama had his phones tapped in a “Nixon/Watergate” style conspiracy. I mean, what a “Bad (or sick) guy!”.

The US media had a field trip with their online headlines: The New York Times lead with “Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones”; the Chicago Tribune with “Trump cites no evidence in wiretapping claim; Obama spokesman calls it ‘simply false'”; and the Washington Post with “Trump, citing no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower”.

Call me Inspector Gadget or not, but I get the feeling there is a common theme running through each of these headlines – that, or someone is telling everyone what to write (but then I sound like Donald Trump).

After the fires died down a little, it was alleged Donald Trump got his information, not from one of his aides, but from Breitbart News, a far-right global news organisation.

A few weeks ago a video emerged from The David Pakman Show, positing the notion Donald Trump might not be able to read, but also this from Tony Schwartz:

That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source – information comes in easily digestible sound bites. I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his entire adult life.

It is thus possible to conclude Donald Trump’s attention span is a passing fancy, perhaps blown out of his cotton candy hair by a passing breeze. We can narrow this reasoning down to a few factors:

  1. The above quote and belief which attests Donald Trump finds it difficult to read and concentrate for any length of time, to the point he gets his security briefings bullet-pointed for him;
  2. His apparent over-reliance on backwater news websites and TV programmes;
  3. His exploitation of Twitter, both for consumption and use.

During press conferences it has become increasingly apparent Trump is often very easily drawn from subject to subject, barely able to fully flesh out ideas or listen to the end of questions before flying off in a completely different direction.

And this recent allegation of his use of Breitbart News does not stop there, with a number of political pundits theorising Trump gets a lot of his information from similar websites, such as Fox News’ online presence or Gateway Pundit.

Indeed, most of the crowd left after the mass media exodus/banishment from his press conferences were from such right-wing news outlets. To say Donald Trump likes to make sure his message goes to “his people” would be laughably obvious.

And, finally, as John Sopel said on Andrew Marr on Sunday: “It’s hard to describe what it’s like living in the US at the moment, where you wake up and you think, ‘I wonder what he’s said now'”.

Donald Trump’s access to his mobile phone must be the biggest head ache to his aides. Sean Spicer, where previously no one would know the name of the White House Press Secretary, is now front and centre of the Trump administration, often sweeping up the mess left behind the president’s latest Twitter debacles.

His overuse and reliance on the 140 characters of Twitter yet again reinforces this idea he is unable to stay focused on any one thing at a time. Between his barrage of tweets to Barack Obama, Trump paused for breath to actually tweet about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s departure from the US  The Apprentice.

Schwarzenegger retorted, citing he had voluntarily stepped aside because of the “baggage” attached to the show – id est Donald.

It isn’t the first time Trump has levelled conspiracies against people, as he seems to be pulled in any direction by the things he hears first.

These are all highly problematic for a president. Inability to even stay on topic for anything more than 30 seconds is proving to be challenging for Donald Trump, and to be leader of the free world with that kind of mentality is concerning.

Even down to his inability to use any other negative word than “bad” just blows the mind: Obama is a “bad” guy; nuclear energy and uranium is “bad”; Schwarzenegger is “bad”; there are lots of “bad” people.

Trouble is, this is all quite straightforward talking, meaning – just as Trump consumes items in easily understandable and condensed chunks – he regurgitates them likewise, and it appears a lot of his supporters like that.


If independence is a problem, why is SLAB doing so badly?


It has long been said independence put Scottish voters at loggerheads, and rightly so. For a nation to sit idly by whilst the question of its sovereignty is decided is a crime too great to conceive.

A nation is what binds us together, and although, in the words of Benedict Anderson, “the fellow members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them…in the minds of each lives the image of the communion…Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity or genuineness, but in the style in which they are imagined.”

Whether the nation you feel most strongly attached to is Scotland, the United Kingdom, Britain – we all have an attachment to that place we feel is worth defending.

Scottish Labour has decided it will not support independence in the run-up to the council elections this May, a move which some have described as a shooting-in-the-foot by the party.

And yet, there isn’t a problem with having an anti-independence stance in an election. Heck, the Conservative Party is as unionist as they come, but somehow it is sitting 12 points ahead of the party which once dominated Scotland. Plus, we know independence is still a thorny issue, and being against it cannot be a total kicker for your election hopes, can it?


There is an interesting dynamic at play here. Looking at polls now compared with the last council elections in 2012, the SNP’s vote has bounced by 15 points, an extraordinary amount.

However, it should be noted, as said by John Curtice (the omniscient voice of prophecy), the 2012 council elections were surprisingly poor for the SNP, who had gained a clear majority just one year previously in the national elections.

The Tories are maintaining their surge in the polls, up 13 points on the last election. Meanwhile, Labour are down a whopping 17 points. Seventeen. Are Labour’s indy supporting voters going to the SNP, and unionist voters going to the Tories? If not, where?

A huge problem for SLAB (Scottish Labour) is it is not doing a lot of shouting about supporting a federalist arrangement for Scotland. Federalism is often termed as “devo max”, and would see full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. You didn’t hear about that? Man, where you been living? In fact, I cannot blame you.

Support for devo max has always ran higher than independence. Back in 2011, TNS-BMRB found 33% of Scots supported this settlement, ahead of no change at 29%, and independence at 28%. Three years later, devo max still came ahead of independence by a long way.

It isn’t hard to find Kezia Dugdale’s announcement she would be supporting a federal state. If you read what she said, it does sound quite interesting, and (dare I say it?) radical, which is nice for a Labour party who don’t tend to do that kind of thing any more.

Dugdale is not a wet sock in FMQs either; instead she sounds passionate and speaks strongly about the causes she cares about. The problem: No one is listening.

The fervent Scottish political junkie will have heard of her support, but to the average folks at home, most haven’t a clue what their line of argument is.

If Dugdale and the rest of her SLAB party were serious in their convictions over federalism, promoting it as widely as possible – as if it is an independence movement – will catch people’s eyes, and maybe, just maybe, be able to hold back their complete destruction.

That, and maybe a new UK Labour Party leader, but that’s old news. Everyone knows that – right?