Britain, gordon brown, Politics, Scotland

missing links

I had missed this further twist in the Scottish independence referendum saga (hatip: Scottish Sketch). So Wendy stole Gordon’s idea, then. Thereby compromising the idea – and their relationship – alltogether. At a different time, the whole story would have also compromised their reputation and credibility, but it’s far too late for that now.

Politics, Scotland

intentional wrongdoing

If you are a philosopher of action, it is not everyday that your research interests are at the core of current affairs, talked about in the news as if it were knife-crime. So I must admit to be quite amazed by the whole of Scotland talking about ‘intentional wrongdoing’. Wendy Alexander has chosen it as her catch-frase to justify remaining in office notwithstanding her admission of having broken the law.

I have broken the law, Alexander admits. But I have not done so intentionally. What does that mean? It means that Wendy admits to having taken an illegal donation; and she admits to having taken the donation intentionally; but she denies that she intentionally took an illegal donation.

Alexander, philosophers of action would say, has only done one thing, ‘accepting Green’s 950 quid’. That was her action, and she concedes as much. But Wendy’s action can be described in more than one way: it can be described as ‘taking a donation’. Under that description, Wendy admits to her action being intentional. But it can also be described as ‘taking an illegal donation’. Under this description, Wendy says that she did not act intentionally.

But how can the same action be both intentional and unintentional? Suppose that you are waiting for the bus #29; suppose you board the bus #37 thinking that it is the #29. You have intentionally boarded the bus; but you have unintentionally boarded the #37 – your intention was to board the #29.

Similarly, Alexander claims to have taken the illegal donation unintentionally – her intention was to take a legal donation. Had she known that the donation were illegal – she is implying – she would not have taken it (and here her position gets difficult, given that she wrote to Green at his Jersey address, and given that she must have known – or, at least, ought to have known – that only registered voters can make donations).

Why is Alexander stressing that she did not brake the law intentionally? That won’t help her much in the courts because, as people say, ignorance is no excuse. She is doing so to defend her personal and political integrity. She might be the sort of person and the sort of politician who brakes the law, but she is not the sort of person and politician who does so deliberately. She is, in short, asking the public to judge her by her intentions rather than her actions; given that she is not disputing her having acted illegally, only her having intended to do so.

Indeed, politicians’ intentions matter. Consider a politician who sets out to rip us off by selling our personal data – say national insurance number and bank details – to fraudsters. Consider, on the other hand, a politician who simply loses such data (they might be called Alasdair, for example). The outcome might be the same; still, our opinion of the corrupt politician might be lower than our opinion of the merely incompetent one.

Does that mean that we can live with Wendy Alexander’s incompetence, just because her intentions are good (assuming that they are)? No, it does not.

Alex Salmond, Britain, donorgate, england, Politics, Scotland, wendy alexander

Saturday afternoon, Scotland

The politician who is in the most trouble because of Donorgate is, by a long distance, Wendy Alexander. She has done what others have done down south, taking an illegal donation. But Wendy Alexander was also stupid enough to say, in Parliament, that she knew nothing about the source of the donation. It turns out she had signed a thank-you note to the donor. If she doesn’t go, then we can be sure that no one in London will either.

But when the pressure on Alexander had become unbearable, here comes Alex Salmond himself to her rescue, by drawing attention away from the donations scandal with a pretty childish insult to Blair and his family. The Yucca has too much respect for Salmond’s political skills to think that calling Blair’s family ‘revolting’ in the middle of such a difficult week for Labour north and south of the border was not deliberate. Salmond has come to Brown’s rescue – he’ll want something back, be sure.

And while talking of Salmond’s political skills, the Yucca appreciates his bashing of anti-english sentiment in Scotland as “pathetic, inward-looking, provincial, narrow-minded and silly”. Not only do Salmond’s words ring true, they also reveal his strategy: the enemy has been identified as Britain, not England. England, indeed, is a potential ally in the struggle for more devolution/independence. So much so that while anti-scottish sentiment in England is good news for Salmond, anti-english sentiment in Scotland is an embarrassment and an obstacle. Well played, Alex: just be careful not to alienate that substantial part of the SNP’s electorate which did vote for you on anti-english grounds. You know the way Americans call Britain ‘England’? Well, when Scots say they want rid of Britain, what they mean, too, is that they want rid of England.