Dragons and Poodles


There seemed to be something uncannily familiar about the collapse of the unionist party line which followed the recent revelation in The Guardian about the unidentified cabinet minister who broke ranks with his Westminster ‘No’ troika. Their agreed line – now somewhat in disarray – was that if Scots are foolish enough to vote Yes on September 18, then they can say goodbye to the pound sterling, leaving them wholly dependant thereafter, let us presume, on an economic system based on a mix of dark-ages barter, indentured child slavery, and cattle reiving.

Putting aside the minor fact that many of us might prefer such a fate to endless abuse by London’s banking kleptocracy and its ‘light-fingered regulation’ Westminster chums, the merits of this picaresque (or do I mean Putinesque?) threat strategy are less than convincing. Regardless of the the apostate deep-throat insider whose anonymity is now the subject of a frenzied guessing game, the threat fails dismally to stand up to any rigorous analysis worthy of the name.

After all, the Irish were allowed to hang on to the pound sterling long after they’d thrashed the Black and Tans, so why are the Scots, who’re doing everything by the book, subjected to this bullying? In any case the pound sterling isn’t English. It’s 8.3% Scottish, pro rata by population, or, if you prefer, about 30% Scottish on the basis of land mass. Come to think of it, if we were to make common cause with the Welsh, the Cornish, and a resurgent Kingdom of Northumbria, could we not drive the Westminster Norman ascendancy out of our sterling zone? It’s a tempting thought.

That said, the other day I was struggling to work out why the swift implosion of the ‘No’ camp is a case of that old feeling of deja vu all over again, to borrow a phrase from the incomparable Yogi Berra. Initially I found myself drawing a parallel with Lord North’s disastrous 1774 Coercive Acts. That, too, was an attempt to undermine a recalcitrant nation’s economy. The closure of the port of Boston was meant to isolate the rebellious faction and concentrate the minds of the moderate majority, but it turned out to be one of history’s great own goals, as that same moderate majority flocked to join the Sons of Liberty, muskets at the ready. Lord North, it turned out, was to be the Continental Army’s best recruiting officer.

Could it be that George, Ed, and Danny are about to be routed on Scotland’s version of Lexington Green?

Then it hit me – this was rerun of the 1999 slaughter in the valleys, when a cocksure New Labour establishment in London had foolishly assumed the Welsh were a simple, biddable people who would cravenly obey the diktat of the fettucine high command in London. It turned out to be a miscalculation of epic proportions. The drama began with Ron Davies’s ‘moment of madness’ on Clapham Common, and ended with a Labour melt-down in which the party achieved a hitherto unimaginable feat – the loss of the deepest red Rhondda constituency to the Nationalists on a 30% swing.

The journey from Clapham to Caerphilly (another safe seat which was lost) had been a rough road, and none of the pollsters had got anywhere close to predicting the outcome. London had considered Labour’s local man, Rhodri Morgan, to be ‘too Welsh’ for the fettucine tendency, and had parachuted in its own chosen metropolitan candidate, Alun Michael, in anticipation of a coronation, rather than a contest.

The trouble with the Welsh is that, not unlike their Scottish Celtic cousins, they can be bloody-minded thrawn contrarians when someone messes them around – especially when that someone is comfortably perched within easy reach of such Westminster bolt holes as Annie’s Bar and the Red Lion, and doesn’t get out much. Blair had already had something of a bad press (to put it mildly) in a celebrated psycho-biography, The Man Behind the Smile; Tony Blair and the Politics of Perversion, by Welsh Labour MP, lawyer, psycho-analyst, Cardiff rabbi’s son, and unreconstructed Socialist, the late Leo Abse, of fond, if irascible, memory. Abse had already done a demolition job on Margaret Thatcher, and was no less acerbic in Blair’s case in 1996, so the seeds of suspicion in the valleys only had to be watered to bloom again.

It would be another Labour MP, Paul Flynn, who would duly do the watering in an eminently readable denunciation of the hubris and complacency which led to electoral perdition in 1999, Dragons Led by Poodles. Mr Flynn had that rare quality amongst Labour MPs during Blair’s revisionist years – a mind of his own. Like Scotland’s Dennis Canavan, Flynn was something of an anti-fettucine rebel; unlike Dennis Canavan, he remained a member of the party, causing a rumpus from the inside. He is unlikely to be ennobled any time soon (and probably wouldn’t want to be)

As military historians should study Von Clausewitz, so should those who seek an understanding of the present disintegrating state of the politics of the United Kingdom pay close attention to Flynn. I trust Professor John Curtice is thumbing through his copy of Dragons Led by Poodles as I write this, for it looks as though history is about to repeat itself.

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  1. yesvote2014 says:

    Who believes that a minister in an unguarded moment let slip to a Guardian journalist that they were really just bluffing about currency after all? And that the mainstream media then accept the story and run with it? It has the reek of pish about it.

    1. I don’t know whether this makes any sense, but I believe that the leak was quite deliberately done, and yes, by a senior Westminster Government minister. The reason I think this is so is because the definitive statements on “No currency union” issued by Osbourne, Balls and Alexander, were apparently at the insistence of Darling, if the leak from the Treasury are to be believed. They, the Treasury, are saying that they wanted to go with the agreed line that a currency union, “would be unlikely”, but were persuaded by Darling to toughen up the statement in the mistaken belief that this would force the Scottish Government to abamdon Plan A and go for alternatives. In hindsight of course this was a monumental blunder. Alex and co didn’t blink, and now the blame game has started, with Darling about to be left holding the ball. Westminster are now supposed to be holding a “leak inquiry”, but either we will never hear anything more about it, or it will be unable to identify the minister responsible. This is quite deliberate, since they, Downing St, already authorised the original leak, and know who is the minister responsible.. I think this is all about political positioning now that they are beginning to realise that a successful Yes vote in the referendum is quite likely, and they are making sure that the shambles that is the Better Together campaign are going to be held responsible when they lose, despite the fact that it’s Tory money that’s keeping it going. That’s not to say that the unionists are finished, far from it. Between now and the 18th September, they will still try every dirty trick in the book to try to stop our march towards independence, but after this latest fiasco, who is going to believe them.

      1. yesvote2014 says:

        Hopefully nobody will ever believe them again. Your account of things seems spot on.

        ‘No’ voters on the street in Grantown on Saturday seemed angry and defensive but some of them turned to YES through conversation. People still don’t believe the message that we have a strong economy and that the oil is a bonus. When they find out that even BT recognise that we can do it, the anger turns away from YES and towards Westminster and the mainstream media. People don’t like being lied to. Unfortunately, many still see this as an election. People are qute amazed when a YES campaigner tells them ‘I’m not in the SNP. This is not an election.”

        We meet Bella readers everywhere. And hardy souls who maintain the great Scottish tradition of shouting at the telly . . .

  2. daibhidhdeux says:

    Doesn’t everything associated with BT? That is, everything associated with their tub-thumping and intimidatory tactics is cloaked in a miasma of the acidic stench of pish and sulphurous excreta despite the barrow-boy public face of braggadocio. They are fcuked and are only now starting to ken it (with disastrous consequences for their nether garments and Brit state sinecures).

  3. douglas clark says:

    I am somewhat surprised that the Better Together campaign hasn’t dusted down a favourite phrase when Rhodesia, as was, was talking about UDI. We were told by the Sunday Express no less that we were abandoning our ‘kith and kin’. There were two problems with that, firstly I had no idea what ‘kith and kin’ actually was, and when I did find out I wondered why we were so keen to support imperialism. I recall the vaccine against smallpox and stuff, but I must have missed the injection for blind loyalty.

    It is that partial, in the sense of biased, reading of events that appears to distinguish the Westminster view of reality from everyone else’s.

  4. yerkitbreeks says:

    I wonder what von Clausewitz would make of the trailed MoD release the a solitary British submarine is currently in the vicinity of the search area for the lost airliner SW of Australia ? Beware the slumbering world power ?

  5. David Agnew says:

    Its obvious to see how dysfunctional the UK has become, largely in part to the disastrous “third way” politics of new labour. Mix in naked careerism and you have the toxic mess that we have today. Scottish labour has been reduced by this process, to a shambling, barely coherent mess of cognitive dissonance, hatred and pure stupidity. The party has been hollowed out of talent or purpose and replaced by idiots. Idiots who wonder where the money for an oil fund comes from. Idiots who dithered about whether to support bedroom tax or denounce it, yet at the same time hamstring their own debates about it, or lie shamelessly about voting against it, while taking the credit for mitigating it in Scotland. Their PR people have been reduced to blethering fools, who use snide asides and obfuscation to ward off hard questions. This only serves to make the party seem at once, both idiotic and dishonest with it.

    Take for example Mr Darlings initial barrage in defence of the union. He concentrates on “Scottish” banks at first. Neatly forgetting that that they are also British banks. Also forgetting the collapse of Northern rock and the sale of the Alliance & Leicester/Abbey National to Santander – because we couldn’t afford to bail them out. A lot of “British banks” suffered similar fates. But in his narrative he proposes that an independent Scotland would not have been able to bail out RBS. He is of course projecting the failure of himself as chancellor and Labours “light touch” regulation onto a hypothetical Nation. He assumes it would have made all the mistakes he an labour made. Then use tax payers money to fix it. He is clearly assuming quite a bit here and he is also using this failure as a “positive” reason for Union.

    “better together – when we fail together” doesn’t have a good ring to it does it? but essentially it was what he was saying, and its been the message for the campaign ever since.

    Of course he didn’t stop there. He then went on to imply that any success Scotland enjoyed was really Britain’s success. After all we couldn’t have achieved anything of note without the British. We won’t be able to listen to British music or appreciate British culture, if we were independent. you re-reading that sentence makes me realise that Darling must read little, watch little or even appreciate any form of culture. A child could take apart that argument. But you get my point. The have continued to dig deeper for new veins of surrealist and absurd arguments. But their trump card was George Osborne. When he came, he not only ruled currency union out. He also ruled out Scotland’s place in the union. It seemed an utterly absurd argument to make. “Vote no – to keep taking UK charity”

    its becoming clear from the growing sense of panic from MSM south of the border, that the NO campaign is not only floundering. Its losing. The reason they are losing is that their leaders, are products of a dysfunctional system. Not just labour – but the whole stinking mess. They are trying to defend a Union whose right to exist has never actually been put to the question. So this dysfunctional campaign decided that it was 1707 again and Scotland is still wrecked by Darien and needs to join the Union. At least that’s what it feels like to me. How else do you explain Darling and Osborne constantly referring to Scotland as being separate from the UK?

    They just don’t seem to know how to sell the Union to Scotland, without making Scotland appear like an unemployed man cashing in his giro every Tuesday.

    300 years of union, reduced to a welfare cheque.

  6. Johnny come lately says:

    @David Agnew
    Great post. I agree with every word.

  7. Abulhaq says:

    The unionist campaign may be in some disarray but the propaganda /information apparatus of the British State is not. Independence represents the biggest threat to the established order since the rise of Nazi Germany. Anglo-America is on the qui vive for signs any future Scottish state might be politically freethinking. Enough evidence from pro-independence commentators and bloggers indicates we shall be a quite different entity from the one we are currently a part. That is quite enough for the mechanisms of distortion and black propaganda, so well perfected in the corridors of power of the imperialist centuries, to grind into action. We know we are dealing with a ruthless self-serving system fronted by relatively compliant media. We should not be shocked or aggrieved at what that system will fabricate over the coming months. We will require a strong stomach, a cool head and nerves of steel.

    1. First class post, Abulhaq.I have often warned about this, and they, the establishment, will do and say anything to preserve what they see as their right to rule.

      1. douglas clark says:

        Abulhaq, Alex Beveridge,

        We are certainly in a ‘winner takes all’ game with Westminster. Can someone direct me to the official opinion of the USA?

        We know that Mr Hammond,


        is not beyond duplicity rather than outright tax evasion,so could this honourable man explain what he was discussing with the USA at some length, for a week, no less?

        This is ‘interesting’ from the inestimable Florida Times Union:


        Looks kinda cosy to me!

  8. florian albert says:

    ‘the Irish were allowed to hang on to the pound long after they’d thrashed the Black and Tans.’
    The Irish continued to use the pound. An independent Scotland could do the same. Or, it could use the dollar or yen.
    There was no currency union, such as the SNP is seeking. It would have been politically unacceptable in the Free State.
    Ireland could do this because they pursued extremely conservative economic policies; a programme of austerity lasting decades. This led to economic stagnation and sky high emigration for two generations.
    I doubt if that prospect would win much support in Scotland today.
    The idea that Scotland is facing a ‘Lexington Green’ moment is even more fanciful.

  9. Robert Llewellyn Tyler says:

    Interesting to see a Welsh angle.
    Many of us in Wales are fervently hoping for a YES vote. You will surely reap the whirlwind if you vote no. Just as we did post 79.
    A Voice from Wales

    1. Thanks, Robert. Hope you too become independent.

  10. Clootie says:

    The outcome of the EU debate tonight convinces me of one thing – All the Westminster parties will promise some form of referendum. The UK will be out of the EU by 2017.
    Looking at the GE 2015 polls I am also convinced Labour are going to lose badly even if UKIP steal Tory votes.

    I can think of many positive reasons to vote YES. However the thought of another Tory government and leaving Europe makes it a no brainer.

    I think the tipping point has been reached and Curtice & Co are in for one uncomfortable shock regarding their pseudo science of predictions

  11. douglas clark says:


    Opinion polls do just what they say on the tin, they trawl opinion at a moment in time. At the moment the opinion polls say two things, firstly that we are losing this fight, and secondly that we are coming back in the second round. In other words that there is movement.

    To elucidate, the gap between a ‘No’ vote and a ‘Yes’ vote has narrowed considerably.

    Personally I think it will end up a cake walk for ‘YES’ but we have to move it there.

    I hope the tipping point has been passed too. We’ll see.

    1. Clootie says:

      Opinion polls are only as good as the model. A few are dreadful due to their Westminster skew.

      The reason I use the term tipping point is that people who move from “don’t know” or “No” to YES seldom move back. My own view is that family and friends conversations are the most powerful part of this debate and I have yet to meet an enthusiastic no campaigner ( I have met plenty of dogged NO’s due to party loyalties but they don’t know why !)

      The NO vote is soft and I agree we need to push all the way to 10pm on the 18th. Of September. Why because their campaign has nothing left but to target the undecided with an increased fear campaign.

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