Friday 19 September 2014

The UK's Would-Be Assassins

I take no pleasure in seeing an enthusiastic mass movement thwarted when it came down to it, but there is a consolation for disappointed Yes people as they woke up this morning. The Scottish referendum has changed politics forever. In order to save the union, they almost had to kill it. The new constitutional settlement for Scotland has to be followed by more powers for Wales, Northern Ireland and, yes, England too. It goes without saying that local government should get more clout and that the centralised farce of the jerry-rigged UK be replaced by a federal state befitting a family of nations.

For years the 55/45 outcome of the Scottish referendum will be debated. Was the early triumphalism of Yes Salmond's "Sheffield moment"? Did the Project Fear of no have the desired effect? And can Gordon Brown add 'saving Better Together's bacon' to his CV? I want to get away from the proximate causes of the result and take a step back. I want to point fingers. As far as I'm concerned there are three political villains of the piece mainly responsible for almost breaking this island in two. These are more responsible than anyone else for fuelling independence.

Our first villain is Margaret Thatcher. Heralded as one of Britain's greatest peace time prime ministers by Westminster pygmydom, perception of her legacy depends very much on whether you won or lost during the 1980s. Our class didn't win. We might have emerged from the decade with the right to buy our council housing and enjoy cheap consumer durables, but the price paid was the smashing of our communities, the evisceration of our industries, and the brutal beating of our movement. The Scottish working class experienced this along with dozens of English and Welsh cities and towns. But to rub it in, Thatcher experimented with the Poll Tax in Scotland a full year before its introduction in the rest of Britain. If that wasn't bad enough, tax receipts from Scottish oil wealth went down south to subsidise the obscenely rich. Well done that woman for giving Scottish nationalism legs. Well done for thinking that it would have no consequences.

Our second villain is Tony Blair. This isn't because his government delivered the Scottish parliament as part of a package of measures aiming to modernise the British state which, in typical Labour fashion, didn't go far enough. His neoliberalism with a smiley face didn't repair the damage done to Scotland, but even that by itself was less significant than the third facet of his premiership: Iraq. Let me clarify. Scotland was no more opposed to invading Iraq as anywhere else. On the day a couple of million people marched in London, 100,000 or so took to the streets of Edinburgh. Yet this huge movement wasn't enough to derail the war locomotive. Blair blithely ignored public opinion and went ahead. The result wasn't popular revolt, but a collapse into despondency. If masses of people can be safely ignored, then what's the point in conventional politics? What Blair did was do the spadework for cynicism, powerlessness, and anti-politics. His premiership more than any other cut Westminster adrift and set it against the electorate, it's them vs us. This is fecund soil for populism, which Scottish nationalism has since proven adept tapping into.

The final wrong 'un is David Cameron - who else? Asked why he wanted to be Prime Minister, he reportedly replied "I thought I'd be rather good at it". What pish. Dave will go down in political history as the worst leader ever to grace Number 10, and this time his incompetence almost split this island in two. To keep devo max off the paper in defiance of SNP wishes and then, in blind panic, conceding no effectively means devo max beggars belief. Yet Dave's villainy lies not in his incompetence but his complacency. As soon as the Tories and their LibDem bag carriers got their feet under the table the same old Thatcherite crap returned. Unlike Thatcher, Dave has made no bones about his government being the most sectional, most backward administration to have blighted these lands in modern times. As he has shovelled gold into the maws of his base, he has pinched pennies from the poorest and most vulnerable. Every time an opportunity has come to shore up the narrow interests of his class, he's used it. If an occasion has passed to kick working class people, he has done it. Small wonder a million and a half Scots jumped at the chance of kicking against this nonsense. And the price almost exacted for the obscene transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich was the country his party professes to love. If he had any decency, rather than oversee his 'English votes for English laws' wheeze, he should resign.


asquith said...

donnie said...

good "what pish"

Steveh said...

Yes i don't feel like celebrating either. The union is preserved, that leaves me cold, not bothered one way or the other. This issue has reduced me to a cyborg.

What now needs to happen is a genuine pr system and an end to first past the post. And while the space allows, time to dust off the workers parliament argument?

The no leftists claim they were fighting nationalism and for working class unity, so why the call for an English parliament and not a workers one?

Phil said...

I believe in looking at the balance of forces and striking out for a position that can realistically be achieved on that basis.

Steveh said...

"I believe in looking at the balance of forces and striking out for a position that can realistically be achieved on that basis."

LOL! (But crying inside)

Jackart said...

"Our class didn't win". Bollocks. The working class were the main beneficiaries of Thatcherism. Thanks to the destruction of the Union closed shop and so forth, the working classes were no longer trapped in dull, unionised factory work. They became middle class homeowners, not wage-slave trades unionists.

Chris said...

"They became middle class homeowners"

They still have to work, right? And what do the Tories promise us today, that we can rent homes off the rich! Some legacy!

Trade unions of course didn't just fight to raise workers standard of living they ensured that criminal bosses who exposed their workers to dangerous toxins were brought to book and resulted in improvements to people lives. We are now seeing the effects of lack of trade unions, workers real wages getting lowered all the time, public services being dismantled and the only housing on offer, shit holes that we have to rent from spivs. Yes, behold Thatcherism everybody!