Preserving the Union
Today we’re jammin’ with Michael Moore and Douglas Alexander.
What exactly is the point of even discussing the Liberal Democrats you might ask? A party that was dipping at 3% in Scotland only in 2011and who spent their limited time in Glasgow) talking to a media and an electorate in a far off land.
Two reasons: first, difficult as it is to actually believe, they form part of the government that rules this sceptic isle. Second, they need to be actually held to account for this week’s performance.
Michael Moore’s childish and ridiculous comparison between UKIP and the SNP was a low point even beyond Willie Rennie’s moaning. Is this really the remnants of the party of Joe Grimond or even David Steel?
Iain Macwhirter has pointed out the failings not just of the party that has safe-delivered tuition fees, the bedroom tax and managed to spike it’s own raison d’etre – electoral reform – and now even the parties own policy of ‘federalism’ (‘Flodden is the only history unionists want repeated’). So what of these union preservationists? What jam is promised the day after? Macwhirter points out:
Given the fact that the majority of Scots repeatedly tell opinion polls that they want an enhanced parliament with tax-raising powers, why don’t the unionists just get together and deliver devolution max?
It’s kind of a good question but it’s predicated on three really dodgy ideas. One is that everyone knows what Devo Max is, and sorry, ‘more powers’ isn’t good enough, it’s all massively vague and flabby.
Second is the idea that the ‘unionist’ parties actually want this at all. We know that at least one of the three are only very recent converts to the idea (remember Ruth’s red line?). If the Liberals and Labour actually wanted this they could have easily put this on the ballot. They didn’t.
Third Iain’s analysis is based on the notion that Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson and Johann Lamont actually have power within their wider UK parties. This doesn’t really stand up to any scrutiny as Jackie Baillie’s Bedroom Tax slapdown, Ed Miliband’s who? moment and, well, Ruth’s life experience testify to. At Westminster these Three Amigos are Branch Managers.
The reality is that further devolution isn’t a gift these leaders have to give. Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron will decide on future constitutional policy and they will be trying to sway Mittel Ingerlund not Little Scotland.
The truth is that these parties are themselves in terminal decline. Almost half of Tory members have quit the party since David Cameron became leader in 2005 and Scottish Labour membership is thought to have halfed in 10 years.
This week a survey showed that even the dreadful Clegg was considered to be ‘a more natural leader’ than Miliband was. Unfortunately that was at a ratio of 4% to 2% (‘Ed Miliband sinks below Clegg’).
It’s in this context that Douglas Alexander tonight will put forward claims that the parties that opposed a referendum, that opposed votes for 16 year-olds, and that have spent the last year deriding Scotland will – magically – become our saviours and deliver a united, coherent and effective set of new powers for Scotland.
In his speech (‘With a year to go it’s time to go deeper’) Alexander cites Barack Obama, the black civil rights movement in America, women’s suffrage in the Netherlands and the Saffron Revolutin in Burma, before arguing for decades more of business as usual under Austerity Unionism. It’s as compelling a case of constitutional Stockholm Syndrome as you’ll see anywhere.
In an extraordinary case of constitutional procrastination, Alexander is now proposing a Scottish National Convention (Jam Preservation Society) where these failed politicians will gather (again), endlessly – whilst ignoring the ACTUAL process we are in the middle of.
This is a deeply cynical politics dressed up as Christian Socialism. In the Third Way magazine last month Alexander wrote:
The referendum is a an opportunity to reaffirm the shared endeavour of sustaining a just and tolerant society and to uphold the idea of neighbourliness – being our brother and sister’s keeper.
This is a lovely bit of Kumbaya spin.
But it jars a little with The Breadline Britain Poverty and Social Exclusion report from earlier this year, the largest and most authoritative study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK suggested that levels of poverty in Scotland are worse than they have been for 30 years. It claims 29% of Scots lack three or more of the necessities for basic living.
Speaking to 2700 people in Scotland and more than 14,000 across the UK, a team including urban studies experts at Glasgow and Heriot-Watt universities, identified a list of the essentials members of the public thought everyone should be able to afford and which no-one should have to go without, such as money for a winter coat and shoes, a warm dry home, or the ability to eat an adequate diet.
This grim reality can’t really be made to sit side by side with the picture of ‘neighbourliness’ and a ‘just and tolerant society’ painted by Douglas Alexander. It just doesn’t work any more to equate Britain with justice and fairness.
Alexander’s commentary is not only wrong and deceptive, it’s wrapped in language that just doesn’t make any sense. Answers on a postcard for anyone who can de-code this line: “As a nation, the choice is ours: to be shaped by the future based on our vision of the common good, or to go back into the future bound by the continuing patterns of what has been.”
The aim is to preserve the union and the powers and privileges that these politicians have become accustomed to. With consciousness rising I don’t believe anyone is stupid enough to believe them any more.
The now widely understood failure of the union and unionist parties shared economics is probably why today according to Ipsos Mori those in the most deprived areas of Scotland are almost twice as likely as those in most affluent areas to vote Yes (42% v 22%) – see here.