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Cameron is locked into body-swerve mode on Scottish independence

union flag melts away from scotland with David CameronBack 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, 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 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 nor 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?

3 Comments

  1. Graham Day says:

    Firstly, while there were a couple of polls around the new year that showed a narrowing of the No lead, the last three have shown the return of an 18-20 point advantage. So talk of “momentum” being with “Yes” seems misplaced.

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/scottish-independence-referendum

    Secondly, while there’s some truth that the Yes campaign is acting as “a catch-all for every hope and dream,” the fact is that those hopes are ill-founded. The evidence of the white paper is that an independent Scotland will be entirely in thrall to neoliberal economic orthodoxy (the talk of the importance of maintaining the confidence of the financial markets is the tell). You might as well believe that independence will deliver a unicorn surplus as believe that it will deliver socialist advance.

    As for the suggestion that people will vote for change, regardless of substance, in preference to the status quo, I refer you to the recent referendum on the alternative vote.

  2. 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.

  3. Chools says:

    Why should we want to stay in the union? Over recent years the great majority of Scots have voted for one party at general elections only to be ruled by another. The current government is no different, we have but one Tory MP in Scotland, it doesn’t exactly feel very democratic.
    There are many more issues where we are out of sync with the UK. Our health service is devolved so we’re not privatising it and don’t want it to be.
    Money has been found to pay for folk who’ve been hit by bedroom tax, another government issue we don’t want here
    A majority of us don’t want Trident, the list goes on and on
    Frankly the plea to make us stay in the union seems not to one of made up Cameron love for us, but because we’re worth money to the UK as a whole. Ignoring oil we pay more taxes that we get back
    Our list of gurns with the union goes on and hasn’t been addressed. In September of this year we’re being offered the chance to have our freedom from Tory rule and that is very attractive for the majority of Scots. In reality that is being a little glib for we have PR in our parliament and there is every chance that in our new Scotland the Scottish Tories might do well. Like every Westminster political party they will have the chance to really address Scottish matters without looking over their shoulders to Westminster, politically this could be an exiting times
    I can understand David Cameron not wishing to step in the ring with Alex Salmond or anyone else for that matter. He’s not good at debates and probably knows that his unpopularity with Scots would only worsen if he took too much of the spotlight
    There are a lot of questions we don’t know the answer to with regard our future with independence, but we sure know what the past was like and I can’t say I liked it very much. I’m looking forward to change not fearing it as the Better Together campaign would have us believe. Scots need the Yes vote

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