Saturday 8 February 2014

Dave and Scottish Independence

Back in the noughties, there was a Stoke-on-Trent councillor who faced a very strong challenge from the BNP for his seat. The fascists threw the kitchen sink at it, and Labour countered by ensuring they went door-to-door. It was touch-and-go but in the end the BNP did not win and the incumbent clung on. The thing is, despite staring down the barrel and with the fash snapping at his heels our councillor refused to go out and canvass for support. I bring this up because Dave's approach to the Scottish referendum is almost exactly the same. Sure the No Campaign - Better Together - have the poll lead but the momentum is increasingly with with the Yes'ers. Where is our Prime Minister? Where is the elected political leader of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as centrifugal forces tear at the 1707 Act of Union? Nowhere near Scotland, of course.

Like the rest of his male, pale, and very, very stale front bench, Dave is locked into body swerve mode on pretty much every key issue. And as issues go, they rarely get bigger than this Autumn's referendum on Scottish independence. If Dave was any kind of leader, he'd be all over the campaign. For a man who said yesterday that we have "seven months to save the most extraordinary country in history", he has been remarkably mute about this referendum.

Far be it for me to advise Dave, but the vote provides a golden opportunity. Sure, not many people in Scotland likes Tories but, from a cynical point of view, having him swashbuckle his way through the lowlands and highlands, facing down Alex Salmond in a live debate, being seen *to listen* to grievances of ordinary Scots. it could allow him to project himself as a national figure - a Prime Minister for all Britons. If he was to take such a lead and the No Campaign won, he could reap considerable political capital as the Man Who Saved the UK. That would be his legacy, not the bedroom tax. He might even get himself re-elected in 2015.

Unfortunately for those who wish Scotland to remain with the rest of us (that includes me), the biggest asset the Yeses have is David Cameron and the worthies of Official Britain who line up with him. The historical crisis of the leadership of the ruling class has landed us a Prime Minister who couldn't be less suited to bat for a voluntary union of peoples. Thatcher was a class war premier, but she was canny. She constructed a flag-draped narrative pitting 'the nation' against the 'enemy within'. It was plausible enough for the support needed to return her to government and to see off organised labour, even if it was poppycock. And it all came apart when she departed significantly from this "one nation" course with the introduction of the Poll Tax. Remind me, which part of the UK served as a laboratory for it?

Dave, however, is neither as sharp or as lucky as Thatcher was. His mob are of the school that they don't just believe what they say, they take flight from anything inconvenient rudely intruding into their field of vision. They probably really do think austerity means "we're all in it together", just don't show them a cumulative impact assessment of social security cuts. I'm sure Dave is sincere in his belief that he acts in the nation's best interest. The problem is his idea of 'the nation' coincides with the most backward, most decadent sections of British capital. Dave's government is very far from being the "committee for the common affairs of the bourgeoisie", let alone representing the interests of everyone else. And the thing is, most Scots know this. They know the Tories are not for the likes of them, which is why they return one Conservative MP out of 72 to Westminster.

That's one big problem. Here's another. What compelling reason is there for Scotland to stay? Okay, naysayers can point out what kind of independence involves keeping the Queen, the pound, and nuclear submarines. You can argue that it's a bit silly letting the Bank of England and the Treasury control your economic fates, semi-colonial-stylee. Scotland might be less able to weather the headwinds of global capital and could find the path to EU membership a tortuous one. Some business might relocate south of the border to remain in EU territory until that is sorted out. And Scotland will have to take The Krankies back. Yes, some might want to frighten Scottish voters into casting no ballots. But, sadly, that's all Better Together have got. Just look at Dave's speech - a pile of platitude topped off with guff. Quelle surprise, one of the most important speeches of his political career has absolutely nothing to say.

You could level the exact same criticism at the SNP-led campaign, of course. The difference is the Yes'ers are holding out the prospect of change. No one knows what an independent Scotland would look like, but it wouldn't be Tory. As such it can be a catch-all for every hope and dream, of a new start crammed with new ideas. Of a Scotland defining itself against the corpse blue of Tory England. No offers nothing, just more of the same. If the union is to be preserved, the No Campaign has to offer something more than Olympic Medal Tables - nothing less than a re-visioning of Britain will do, and that means commitment to deep, lasting constitutional reform. But the chances of that happening are a great deal less than Scotland voting yes.

With a choice between hope and a miserable status quo argument saddled with liabilities, who would you vote for?


David Lindsay said...

In opposing Scottish separatism, the Prime Minister talks of “something precious”. He is correct.

The Welfare State, workers’ rights, full employment, a strong Parliament, trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies, mutual building societies, and nationalised industries.

Those last, often with the word “British” in their names, were historically successful in creating communities of interest among the several parts of the United Kingdom, thus safeguarding and strengthening the Union.

The public stakes in the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland are such permanent, non-negotiable safeguards of the Union. Any profits from those stakes ought therefore to be divided equally among all households in the United Kingdom.

This is the remedy against the Balkanisation of Britain by means of devolution and the separatism that it was designed to appease, and against their weakening of trade union negotiating power.

This is the remedy against their ruinous effects on the Scottish Highlands, Islands and Borders; on North, Mid and West Wales; and on the North and West of England; all of which were accurately predicted by Labour MPs and activists from the 1970s onwards.

This is the remedy against the Welsh-speaking oligarchy based in English-speaking areas, which uses devolution to dominate Welsh affairs against the interests of Welsh workers South and North, industrial and agricultural, English-speaking and Welsh-speaking.

And this is the remedy against the fears that are rightly expressed by English, Scottish and Welsh ethnic minorities and Catholics that we no more want to go down the road of who is or is not “really” English, Scottish or Welsh than Ulster Protestants want to go down the road of who is or is not “really” Irish.

Speedy said...

But what about Ed and Scottish Independence - Scottish Labour dominate Scotland yet where is their leader?

Cameron screwed up by not offering DevoMax but Labour still have the chance to put this on the table as part of a new constitutional settlement if they are voted in in 2015 - a kind of constructive version of the EU referendum in their election manifesto.

A new federal UK - with a written constitution and English votes for English folks, as well as giving the Scots what they want. That might be enough to swing the balance, but sooner rather than later otherwise it smacks of desperation (which of course it will be).

Utter utter pygmies both Cameron and Milliband. Silent as the country quite literally faces destruction. I agree with you - with a UK led by ninnies like this, why would anyone want to stay?

Speedy said...

I'd add - you'd think Labour would fight for the union seeing as how it would deal a body blow to its chances of re-election but it seems like its given up before its even begun.

Darling appears to be increasingly discredited. Can you imagine Thatcher or Blair (God help us) or any of the politicians of the past just standing by while Scotland drifts off?

Maggie would be up there handbagging Salmond at every opportunity, poll tax or no, singing Rule Brittannia, and for all the Lefty sneering she'd win because she was one of "us", not one of "them" - the present cabal, whether they went to Eton or Westminster or their dad was a Marxist intellectual are all "them" and they know it, and that's why they are cowering and afraid.

What we need are some Socialist firebrands wrapping themselves in the flag while slamming "selfish nationalism". The fact we don't have them says much about not only why we may lose Scotland, but why we have lost socialism.

SimonB said...

I think the best arguments against devolution are, firstly, that united we stand, ie we now have the chance of seeing off the Tories for a generation if we stand together. Secondly, Alex Salmond epitomises the populist charlatan but has shown to be as inadequate as any similar politician and, when pressed by Donald Trump, showed his true colours and caved in to big money. I'd be inclined to beg the scots to stay and see off the posh boys while attacking Salmond on his shortcomings.

I doubt Cameron has even been paying that much attention to the DEVO debate. He knows that Scotland leaving would hand him England on a platter and that his chums in big business would quickly get everything they want from Salmond's government.

Ken said...

What strikes me is that the attitudes expressed from down South might well permanently sour the post-referendum period. Just as the misogyny exposed by the suffragettes was a shock to the women of the period, some of the anti-independence opinions smack of colonial arrogance. The outlier here was the document originating in the Ministry of Defence/War which thought that Faslane could simply be designated as belonging to the Crown like Akrotiri in Cyprus which is British and not Cypriot. Even if the SNP loses, this would not be forgotten in a hurry, especially if the result is close. What kind of mindset produces a plan for an English Guantanamo on the Clyde?

Vinyl Miner said...

1. Re Westminster - results show that Labour winning without without Scotland IS THE NORM, remember Scotland was Tory until the 50's.
2. One poll, Panelbase, is skewing the results towards the YES campaign. This is an SNP funded poll.
Remove the Panelbase poll from the equation it is easy to see why the No campaign feel at ease.
3. Alasdair darling is doing well enough running the No campaign.