A Union of Poverty

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A man with a high IQ dangling and clutching at cheap flags

In the first of our series exploring responses to the White Paper, Mike Small summarises the mood.

The week when we saw the launch of a historic vision of the future of our country, the Better Together’s response was muted. A line of commentators asked No aficionado’s, apologists and Unionist mouthpieces a simple question: “You may criticise this, but what are you offering in its place?”

There was a stoney silence.

Jenny Marra told us on Radio Scotland we’d have to wait till Spring 2014 to hear the individual parties policy ideas.

The nation is on tenterhooks.

The reality is that, despite protestations they have a shared vision, but they really don’t want you to hear it. As Kevin McKenna described it:

There are many reasons why Better Together would never dare to produce its own white paper entitled “Britain’s Future”. For how could any Scottish Labour supporter subscribe to a document that would talk of penalising the poor; cutting the taxes of the rich; allowing our defence and intelligence policies to resemble those of Texas and re-introducing a light touch for bankers? Not to mention leaving Europe and telling immigrants to go home.

But if multiple representatives seem a bit coy – their allies and colleagues at Westminster are a bit more self-assured. Want a glimpse at Britain after No? Here’s some.

In highly provocative remarks, Boris Johnson mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130. Britain under a (very) possible PM would be a celebration of Thatcherism, greed and inequality.

In an outrageous speech Johnson celebrated greed as a great driver in our society, reading it you are left wondering if it is perhaps some absurdist prank. But it’s not, this is actually the worldview on open display. It’s impossible to imagine a senior Scottish politician descending into such 19th C politics with almost supreme media latitude. But despite media ineptitude and complacency, Boris has fresh honesty and we should thank him.

You can take all of this as typical jaundiced opinion. But facts suggest otherwise. Whilst the The People of No criticised free pre-school child care as ‘impractical’ or derided the overturning the Bedroom Tax as ‘a gimmick’, here’s 5 shocking changes to the benefit system that are happening NOW.

This is an uncontested reality.

No scribes like Brian Wilson (UKOK) said bitterly: “The document, which was supposed to answer all of the questions, in fact answers none. It ranges from hoary grievance through dubious assertion to fanciful solutions” – and Alistair Darling chipped in describing it as ‘a work of fiction, thick with false promises and meaningless assertions’. Alistair Carmichael managed: ‘Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little.’

Having whined for substance and answers they reverted when such was delivered to pre-recorded utterances. The tangible hostility in the room (you can see loyal hacks shaking their heads in disbelief here at the idea that some non-approved journo should get a voice – at 51 minutes in):

The actual alternative to democracy that the No campaign is ashamed of voicing is leaching out. It’s about a contempt for the weak and a barely contained racism that bridges all parties. It’s led to some unexpected allies. Here’s Mary Dejevsky, the Independents Chief Editor, who writes:

If I needed any further convincing that Scotland not only can, but should, go it alone, it came from the grudging and simplistic attacks on the day from Alistair Darling. Superficially, Darling is an inspired choice to front the “No” – or “Better Together” – campaign…when you look at Darling now, though, and you listen to what he says about Scotland, and you hear him saying petulantly, as he did on Monday, that he was “angry, very angry” about what he insisted was the loose way of the Salmond team with its economic figures, did you believe him? Or did you think, as I instinctively did, that Darling, with his clipped phrases, his mock scorn and his negativity, were the past, and the future was somewhere and someone else?

The reality is that we’re being asked to take lessons in democracy from the people repressing Catalonian self-determination (good luck with that project) and we’re being asked to believe that the vision being presented by Big Boris (“Rich people are rich because they are better, cleverer, more ambitious. We should worship them for paying taxes”) isn’t an alternate future?

Boris is a clear and present danger. But no more so than others, it’s just he speaks his mind openly.

The biggest and baddest arguments of the No campaign are threadbare. Despote a heap of bluff and fear mongering propagated through the usual channels, real politik would ensure a Sterling Zone and EU membership, to the chagrin of both the Scottish Left and the English Right. The fact is there’s no precedent for throwing out a country that wants to be part of Europe, and already is. As John Palmer, former European editor of the Guardian explains:

The most important question that the no campaigners in Edinburgh or London cannot answer is: what provision exists in EU law to withhold citizens’ rights from a people seeking continued EU membership and about whose country there is no question of any violation of fundamental European values? They cannot because there is none.

That sort of demolishes the No response, so we’re left waiting for some input.

Anything will do.

If they want to wait till Spring 2014 to respond, that’s fine. In that vacuum the reality of the Coalition will paint a clear picture of what a No vote will really mean.

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Comments (17)

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  1. Marian says:

    Absolutely excellent article that encapsulates the searing hypocrisy of Project Fear and our late lamented media in a nutshell!

  2. Stuart Black says:

    Excellent piece Mike, thanks for this. Let’s hope the small signs of a grudging change in attitude in the MSM are amplified in the coming months.

  3. Hmm. We should vote yes because we are different from Boris? Or that currently, there is growing political disparity between Scotland and the south of England?

    If this is the case, McBoris should be constitutionally impossible, along with the ridiculous Picti equivalent of anti-foreigner discourse down the road.

    It shouldn’t be just a vote winner, but a cultural dogma, written in permanent ink.

    Much to the disaffection of democracy. Every morning my lurcher pup lunges at my other dogs dinner before he finished his own. Do I let him?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      No you should vote Yes because Boris represents only the unmuzzled version of the wider consensus. The City of London is a powerbase for capital that infects and distorts the political landscape. Only by breaking the British State can we we re-align our politics. It has nothing to do with any ‘innate’ qualities of Scots or Scotland nor is it a permanent solution. It’s the beginning not the end of the struggle to rebuild and transform society based on a value set other than greed and based on a sustainable ecology, a liveable society and a resilient economy.

  4. 400,000 plus Scots voted Tory in the 2010 general election. Over a million voted Labour which had already by then identified itself as pretty right wing.

    Boris is the epitome of a conservative conscience, not just the honest face of greed.

    The deceit is that which is found in the Scottish ballot box. We should question our own complicity first.

    1. A million voted Labour because they’d always voted Labour – and to keep out the Tories. Meanwhile, those 400,000 Scots who did vote Tory (i.e. less than 1/10th of the population) were so raggedly dispersed they managed to return just the one MP. None of this is to say that it isn’t true, as if often put, that large parts of Scotland is conservative with a small “c”. However, that doesn’t mean they’re happy to through their hats in the ring for right-wing ideologues.

      1. large parts of Scotland is conservative with a small “c”.

        Yes, and where’s the tsunami sized back lash to Boris’ Herrenvolk?

    2. muttley79 says:

      I am not sure how important it is that around 400,000 Scots voted for the Tories in the 2010 general election. It was the 2011 Holyrood elections that were by far the more significant. The mainstream media will not point this out a lot because they are mostly Unionists. They think Westminster elections are the most important.

      However, the 2011 elections have changed Scottish politics for ever. This applies even if there is a No vote next year. Without the 2011 elections there would be no Yes campaign, Edinburgh Agreement, the outpouring of books on Scottish politics, the White Paper, independence rallies, RIC conferences, the growing pro-independence alternative media, and the actual referendum vote itself. All these things give an idea of the extent of the change that will have occurred in Scottish politics over what will be just 3 years, culminating in Septemebr 2014. The 2007 Holyrood elections began this process.

      You have to remember as well that the SNP put in a deliberately low key effort in the 2010 general election campaign. They were saving their funds and their energy for the 2011 elections. The SNP have been completely vindicated on this decision.

  5. bellacaledonia says:

    Atypical – there’s no doubt there’s Tories in Scotland but as a political force they are spent. ‘ We should question our own complicity first’ – true, always. But you’d have to also question the complicity of deference for putting up with someone else’s government …

    1. the complicity of deference

      It seems agreed that around 70% of the Scottish electorate accept that Holyrood is the preferable surgery to prescribe our politics (Devo-max).

      Apparently, 40% currently are sure they’ll vote for independence.

      We are mostly agreed that independence is (to coin a wonderful term I read recently) ‘utilitarian’ in purpose, to which I am in total agreement – to achieve the goal of Devo-max in all but name.

      A 70% YES would win the referendum and leave no question regarding the matter. But somehow, this majority has been lost, in that actual independence is somehow understood as massively different from Devo-max.

      What is it that is so different? How can the majority consider Holyrood as there preference for political power in a union, but near 50% of the same percentile change their mind when the same is offered from independence, especially when the (main) protagonists for independence are for retaining currency union?

      I have, until reading those four words I highlighted from your reply, considered Scotland’s deference as complacency. But now, it seems more likely that it is in fact complicity. Complicity by the 40% + that are voting NO next year. This is the point I was making about Boris earlier. You could beat him with a stick – as he rightly deserves – for that speech, but as you point out, he’s simply the un-muzzled mouthpiece of the city, but he also speaks for some of Scotland, and even more of Scotland are disconcerted by his words.

      Truly mind opening. Imagine a close win/victory in the referendum after the acceptance by many of Boris’ call-to-arms to defend the-great-and-the-greedy, and his’ IQ bilge that sets them apart like some modern distortion of Ariosophy?

      We will be living in country of almost impassible differences. We must address this if we are to gain meaningful consensus post referendum, if not before.

  6. Wul says:

    All these demands for “answers” about what an Independent Scotland would be like are just so much misdirection anyway.
    None of us is able to predict our future. It will be created by those of us who have the power to influence it.

    We will be asked a very, very simple question: “Do you want more control over how your country is run?”
    Yes or flipping “No?

    If you vote for less power and control over your own life, and then you get it, how will you feel?

  7. muttley79 says:

    Mike, what time frame are you on that You-Tube video of the launch of the White Paper?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      51 minutes in

  8. theycan'tbeserious says:

    You will always have those with the “I’m alright jack” view. The ones that are scared that change will prick their comfortable bubble. These people have no regard for their fellow man, and will always vote to protect the status quo, even if the alternative may offer them a more fruitful life. The risk is too great!

    However, the majority of us because of our culture and innate belief in the common weal, don’t see the risk but the potential. The belief that we can do, and deserve better. This belief in the greater good, a quality of life and a standard of living that should be enjoyed by all and not just the few. This shouldn’t be viewed as a fanciful dream but a “right”, a fundamental in life as sure as the sun rises, so do we deserve a quality of life. Anything less is a failure of government. Worth paying a little extra for?

    This is why the majority will vote Yes!

  9. Abulhaq says:

    We vote Yes in 2014, rUk has general election in 2015, IQ Boris is elected makes bid for premiership on gung-ho anglo-nationalist ticket, then EU referendum to follow….we are on the brink of interesting “loin-girding” times.

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