Tuesday 16 September 2014

Politics and Independence: How Do You Feel?

Better Together has been short on emotion, and all of a sudden there's shouting and bawling all over the place. Almost. The Prime Minister has ventured north from Westminster twice to make heartfelt pleas to Scottish voters. And Gordon Brown (Gordon Brown!) has been stomping around making the passionate case for the union. Too little too late when compared with the apparent enthusiasm of the Yes campaign? We'll only know for sure come Thursday.

But I want to be indulgent for a moment. I want to pause, and reflect. Way, way back in October 2008, as ears were ringing to the cacophony of crashing stock markets and all those ten-a-penny Trotskyist forecasts of economic crisis came to fruition, I took a brief break from thinking and blogging about those events to talk about how I felt. After all, the received political and economic wisdom was vaporising faster than sub prime mortgage trades. Having one's coordinates suddenly shift was disconcerting and exhilarating, and while you could see the attacks to be unleashed on working people to pay for this crisis coming a mile off, for a brief moment it felt there was everything to play for.

The Scottish independence referendum is very similar. Everything we know about British politics is upended. Whatever happens, the union cannot be the same again (and the left should champion its remaking, especially in England). The cosy Westminster consensus has not so much been shaken but rudely shoved into a blender. And how wonderful it is not to have politics blighted by UKIP and the festering lump of decomposing Toryism. Questions of social justice are front and centre, not immigration or benefit bashing.

What about feeling? It's all a bit unreal. It's frustrating for one. I'm stuck here hurling my opinions at the thousand or so regular drop-ins when I want to be out with other WestMids comrades who've made the trip to Scotland and making the left case for no. Penning long screeds and snarking on Twitter are poor substitutes for getting face to face and patiently explaining your point of view.

There's anxiety too. If Scotland opts for independence, yes, official politics is struck a blow. But when the dust has settled I believe capital will be strengthened, and labour weakened. A lot is it stake and the wrong decision will very likely be a severe setback for socialist politics across Britain. Because it's so close, all socialists and labour movement people should feel a little angsty.

Yet there's a weird sort of excitement too. Part of me wants it to be over, but to be on the cusp of change ... well, whatever I'm experiencing must be a pale reflection of the intensity of being directly involved. The thrill of the new, for good or for ill, is very much in the mix.

Thankfully, there is one emotion missing. The tendrils of despondency have kept at bay. If the worst comes to the worst, the fluxes and shifts of politics will still afford new opportunities for the left and the labour movement, even if they're somewhat truncated. The tough job of work is to get the labour movement to seize those moments - and likely that means a return to frustration! It's a good job I'm predisposed toward optimism.

Less than 48 hours before the polls open, how do you feel?


Speedy said...

As i said - depressed. I am afraid the polls dont reflect the actuality (considering a quarter of votes have already been made) and we will wake up Friday decapitated. The UK will lose not only prestige and land and oil but the whole enriching contribution of the Scots, and the Scots will have lost the cosmopolitanism of the English. We will all be poorer and divided we will both be picked off by the forces of global capitalism. It will be the political tragedy of our time and unleash forces of intolerence and nihilism across both countries. Even a narrow no will not be much better - england will (rightly) demand a voice and i suspect our sorry leaders will muff it big time.

Chris S said...

Excited and apprehensive in equal measure.

We are all sick of the Westminster politics as usual model but I worry what will come next could potentially be even worse. I don't necessarily think the forces of labour will be weakened, although it does open new channels of attack by capital. I only hope that the engagement and passion for change invigorates the English political scene where the radical left seem to be struggling to be heard in the shadow of the "establishment anti-establishment party", UKIP.

We live in interesting times!

Speedy said...

"We live in interesting times!"

There is a reason that is a curse.

BTW, I'm doubly calling it for Yes - I fear the pollsters have underestimated the previously unregistered working class vote which is likely to be high on Alex Salmond's bullshit.

I think Yes by a length. Hope I'm wrong!

jimboo said...

What has shocked me is the ease which low level violence and sabotage was taken up by the Nationalists, belying Billy Bragg and his different forms of nationalism statement. YES have claimed a virtual monopoly of this violence. It is unwise to put up a Better Together or Labour for No poster, and it is also unwise to say you are voting no. I also find it depressing when I talked to some students that they did not even bother to do any research into the effects of independence, mention, mention anything negative and you are part of Project Fear and scare mongering. It is impossible to have a neutral conversation. I feel the country is divided and the YES campaign grossly over estimated the sense of Scottish Identity and underestimated the power of British or Dual identity. Gordon Brown has redeemed himself over the last few days, rallying the troops, and also placing himself as favourite to win the election in 2016 if its a YES. It does look like a NO vote though. How do I feel, bloody depressed.

Speedy said...

Yeah, when the shit hits the fan they will scurry to Labour to get them out of it under Brown who will cast himself as a "peace maker"... he'd better hope it's also Labour in the UK mind.

Scottish Labour are uniquely placed to take power as they will be the "told you so" party.

I can't help it but I, along with many people I suspect, will really want to sock it to the Scots if they fuck off.

Fuck them, basically - they act as if we should thank them for telling us to fuck off, the smug narcissistic bastards, but I want to see them choke on their nationalism. Let them see what it gets them - and let us build a new union.

jimboo said...

The published polls are all weighted with the unweighted results giving NO a strong lead. At least we can check how good the weighting is.

Chris said...

The No's will win, and that won't be down to the barrage of unsubstantiated bullshit spewing from speedy and those like him.

The reason will be the same reason we won't be seeing socialism on these Islands anytime soon, fear of the unknown (well sort of unknown) and the fact that, relatively, the UK is prosperous.

But the No vote will reflect a genuine discontent with the way things are. speedy can rant all he likes about crazy nationalists, all he is ranting at is genuine discontent. I personally fully sympathise with that discontent.

Speedy said...

For once chris i hope you are right. We will see.

jimboo said...

Headline figures
men Yes 54% No 46%
Women Yes 43% No 57%

jimboo said...

Polls weighted too much in favour of YES perhaps? Paranoia has set in among the YES supporters. Won't even listen to the simple fact it was a machine count. I abstained, between indi lite and devo max it seemed pointless on the day.

jimboo said...

Looking at the in depth figures and it gets confusing. Those who voted Labour voted YES and those who voted NO returned the SNP to Holyrood. Seven Glasgow Westminster Labour MP's will be voting on English matters although their constituents voted to leave the UK. The West Lothian Question must be addressed immediately. Amazing success by the SNP in their targeting of Labour Voters.