A Sense of Entitlement

BlDH5w7IAAAjmrmSome of the anti-politics meme – even in the week of Maria Miller – is really disastrous. The Daily Telegraph’s expenses expose was both brilliant and terrible as it merged a godawful schadenfreude with a commercial glint in the eye. The shitstream that is Order Order is far-right libertarianism dressed up as whistle-blowing. Bloggers can get huge traffic from this approach, but it’s a click away from tabloidese and a leap away from true citizen journalism. These people have nothing to contribute to the word other than their bile. I don’t really believe that people get involved in party politics and stand as MPs or MSPs out of some sort of avaricious venal zeal.

This isn’t an argument for soft-soaping the truth about what’s going on. It’s an argument for doing that and having some strategy for responding to that reality. Otherwise it’s just a form of political nihilism with no real destination. Having said that with the tumbling exposes of Westminster culture and the Cyril Smith stories now emerging, it’s difficult not to succumb to a deep dark cynicism.

It’s all around as the lack of real alternatives in English politics is palpable. UK politics is trapped in a sense of its own helplessness. Nick Cohen this week writes: “No one who sniffs the air can fail to notice that London in the Osborne bubble has a whiff of Weimar Germany”.

And Marina Hyde focused on the Channel 4 research into the cultures of Westminster, concluding (‘Welcome to Westminster: where lecherous shysters get pissed at our expense’):

In the end, the overwhelming sense of Westminster the public now has is one of entitlement, so it’s no surprise to find that it is sexual as well as financial. If the mother of parliaments’ denizens truly wish to address that – and to be honest, you can hardly detect a meaningful appetite for change – then many MPs might consider taking a tour themselves in one of their lengthy parliamentary recesses. (I think they’re about to break up for summer.)

You can view C4’s sadly un-shocking film here in which 33% of those interviewed reported they had experienced some kind of sexual harrassment.

As Marina writes: “Like all dysfunctional institutions, from boarding schools to prisons, Westminster appears to have normalised codes of behaviour that elsewhere would mark their practitioners as weirdos.”

This is what the Americans call “disconnect”.

It’s not difficult – as our Hannah Wallace does here (‘Independent Women‘) – to make some pretty basic distinctions between Holyrood and Westminster.

The problem with the Black World of Anti-Politics is that it creates a new dysfunctional institution, that of the internet dystopian, or the clicktivist, sure about everything but unable or unwilling to DO anything.

1013565_657734297597086_4567310453517288730_nAs Will Hutton points out via an *expert* (in case you’d maybe thought it was) ‘Capitalism simply isn’t working’.

That’s helpful.

But what’s this got to do with Scotland?

We have a task of engaging in massive democratic renewal at a time of deep political skepticism. We need to use that scepticism as leverage for hope about new institutions and structures. There’s a real challenge there for indy bloggers walking a fine line.

In discussion with Mr Peat Worrier on Radio Scotland this week Severin Carrell suggested that Labour hadn’t really got started on its referendum campaign, and, they were (presumably) about to (?). This prospect seems dimmer by the second as we consider who’s on the bench, limbering up (‘Scraping the Barrell’):

The week before Robertson made his speech, it was revealed that the Better Together campaign is now asking Labour’s so-called “legends” at Westminster to lend a hand. The Unionists were responding to the latest set of opinion polls which suggest that the Nationalists require a swing of a mere handful of points to achieve independence. Thus we can expect to hear more from George Foulkes, Jack McConnell and John Reid between now and September. Once, these three and Robertson were Labour machine politicians in Scotland. Now, in the House of Lords, these ermined four are known as Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Baron Reid of Cardowan.

Cumnock and Cardowan are mining areas utterly ravaged by everything that a rabidly rightwing British state could throw at them during the miners’ strike of 1984. Is it not a little disrespectful to the memory of what these villages once were to use their names as a calling card for the establishment that killed them off? If Barons Robertson, Foulkes, McConnell and Reid are the answer, then the Better Together campaign is indeed truly struggling.

Now presumably Messrs Foulkes, McConnell and Reid (‘Team Red Lord?’) are about to swing in to action, bringing an ermine twist to 21C Blue Labour Socialism.

Maybe it will work? Maybe people are so stupefied, half-addled and done-down to believe this shit. I really don’t think so. Take our friend Ryan McGeee in the photo above from Hawick. Ignore the grim fantastically sophisticated but utterly removed Roch crowd, with such utterly beautiful infantile ideological displays of impotence (‘a prefatory note’ – Pseuds Corner?)

But maybe there’s an alternative just around the corner? Maybe Red Ed’s for real? “I see this as a watershed for the Labour party … certainly the most important moment since I [became] a member in 1970”.

As the Guardian reports, the Unite general secretary said that Miliband’s fortunes would also have a direct impact on the Scottish referendum. If Labour outlined a clear alternative to the Tories and was ahead in the polls when Scotland votes in September, the no campaign would be in a strong position, he said, adding: “If that is not the case, I think that will have a big impact in Scotland.”

This is quite true and Len McCluskey’s warning over Labour’s austerity crisis has little hope for Johann and her comrades in the Lords.

For the slightly desperate folks who’ve been running with the idea that art and politics can’t mix (“indy luvvies”) stuff we think a good portion of Dundee disagrees, as the Ibrox showed yesterday.

This energy is defeating dark cynicism over and over.



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  1. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Men who like dressing up in the ermine and silk always a bit of a worry. Try down under with the Kate/Will circus that’s flooding the airwaves. Disgraceful people all of them and the destruction them and their ilk cause to people can never be measured. Oh Scotland do it differently and free yourselves of the shackles of that imperialism please.

  2. Wullie says:

    Labour Big Shitters mair like! 🙂

  3. dennis mclaughlin says:

    for Scottish Politics to flourish post referendum surely we need a healthy opposition detached from Westminster’s apron strings?.
    from this vantage point I’m no countin ma chickens 🙁

  4. seantduffy says:

    Are you actually suggesting that Thomas Piketty is not an expert, whilst casting off his analysis as some sort of blindingly obvious inherent truth? Is this the wealth of your own analysis? And please do explain why England has less electoral alternatives than Scotland. Other than the SNP there is no tangible difference in options that people regularly elect and they are of course a product of being a smaller member of a larger whole. There would no doubt be an ENP were the population sizes switched.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi Sean, not at all suggesting that. I’m keen about people leaning on their own knowledge. I think we rely too much on experts and get knowledge ‘handed down’. It’s a plea for generalism and empowerment not meaning to do down experts or their analysis. Why does England have less electoral alternatives than Scotland? It doesnt it just has less diversity, and less sense of purpose and optimism. The reasons for that are complex but they are about history, identity, and the corporate and state power that dominates the SE and the power nexus around London.

      1. seantduffy says:

        A reasonable point, if you hadn’t simply picked out the one recent article written by an expert and constructed your argument around it. Given the dearth of intelligent debate taking place regarding the independence referendum I think it would be reasonable to say that we need more independent experts.

        Less diversity, less sense of purpose, less sense of optimisim: any evidence for this or even partial analysis? They have almost nothing to do with identity, the identity factor between Scotland and the rest of the UK (though of course it is always convenient to pick out England for those who wish to play on old rivalries) is negligible at best. The only remarkably different identifying trait (and one which as a result of a long standing democratic deficit leads me to vote yes) is Scotland’s late 20th century and early 21st century resistance towards Tory conservatism. Note Tory conservatism, as there are plenty of equally heinous and largely celebrated conservative forces in Scotland, not least within the SNP. Less sense of purpose is completely unquantifiable. Less sense of optimism almost equally so, though naturally the prospect of independence gives a large minority of the population a sense of possibility and with it optimism.

        The corporate and state power may centralise itself around the South East but its foundations are present across this entire island, not least in Scotland. Even after independence this will remain and with the cut in corporation tax it will grow in the short term. London is the commercial centre of Northern Europe and many places beyond, Scotland will not be able to bypass that simply because it has gained sovereignty.

        Seen as you so often wish to use the phantom of England as a punching bag for your unduly patriotic articles it might be welcome if you actually evidenced some of your claims rather than simply making assertion after assertion, as there are no doubt aspects of the UK (or England if you prefer it that way) which are ripe for attack. Claiming a lack of alternatives in England when Scotland, a country which boasts four parties, two of which are almost non-existent, and two Greens who are there (thankfully) on the back of a more progressive voting system is hardly cause for getting on one’s high horse.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          My high horse in the stables Sean. Its difficult to quantify a sense of purpose or confidence its true. I visit England but ingest Anglo media so maybe there is more or less of these things than I know about and true it will vary depending on where you live. But it seems difficult to deny there’s a mood of optimism about in Scotland.

          Would you deny that?

          “The corporate and state power may centralise itself around the South East but its foundations are present across this entire island, not least in Scotland.”

          True to an extent but you can physically map state power in London, the further away you are the less influence it has.

  5. JBS says:

    But will Labour be sufficiently ahead come September? Seems that UKIP is gaining support because of the sense of entitlement in the Mother of Parliaments. A real possibility now that the next UK General Election will see a Tory-UKIP Coalition in power at Westminster. Better Together should ask themselves if that’s what they want for the people of Scotland.

  6. mortalash says:

    ‘Less sense of optimism almost equally so, though naturally the prospect of independence gives a large minority of the population a sense of possibility and with it optimism.’ So no, I clearly am not denying it, simply questioning the idea that it is something inherent in Scottish politics.

    I think it is often forgotten by people in this debate how small this island is relative to the world and how economies operate across national boundaries almost unchecked, so I disagree with your last point. But my original point was not about the state.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I don’t think there’s anything ‘inherent’ in Scottish politics.

      I agree completely that we are, and will be subject to the forces of markets and the violence of state capitalism before and after independence, I don’t claim otherwise.

  7. David Agnew says:

    The opening salvo from the Red Lords, was George Robertson who ran off to the states to fire his salvo. Here he desperately tried to imply that an Independent Scotland was a threat to world peace. Not the Ukraine, Not North Korea, not Iran, or Yemen or any other benighted region in the world, facing conflict. But Scotland is a threat for conducting a referendum in a peaceful and lawful manner. he also gave this speech to a paying audience of american worthies, with no prospect of them challenging his assertions. I do suspect that many would have wanted their money back.

    1. Illy says:

      The world is at peace? Wow, that’s news to me. I thought we were still at war with umpteen “little countries” around the world that have things America wants?

      Though I guess Scotland going independant all peacfully and civilised is a threat to the current world powers, because if we can show a better way, people might start questioning their own governments.

      And that’s a threat to the troughers’ piece.

  8. Tony Philpin says:

    Sean – the Scottish Labour Party has a very strong conservative bent, and some SNP thinking too does have an underlying acceptance of neoliberalism which would be an extremely dangerous trend after independence. There are a series of small things happening in Scotland – such as the proposal that Blairgowrie buys out the Co-op farm in their firesale – which take communitarian thinking forward. The community land provisions can be expanded and we can slowly build a true social market economy instead of either state capitalism or unfettered capitalism, given time and education. We do have the capacity for ‘disruptive’ innovation, we really do. Glass half full.

  9. Dan Huil says:

    Difficult to quantify optimism in a nation. Or excitement, or anticipation.
    For what it’s worth I too sense something in the air. It might be hope; the tantalizing tingle of a people about to make history. It might be pessimism for the future should Scotland vote No and submit itself to another three hundred years of London rule.
    Perhaps the French have it right with “Frisson”?

  10. Hearing Nigel Evans MP talk this morning on the radio as to why he wants changes to Legal Aid cuts and the law in England following his personal financial loss in clearing his name is another face to the entitlement and enrichment culture at Westminster. Previously he had supported the cuts and changes to the law in England.

    It would therefore appear that an MP has to have incurred the exact personal hardship before forming a strong view on it. Empathy, human curiosity and the intelligence to link things together seem to beyond their wit.

    When you factor in the ongoing expenses scandals with the Westminster revolving career door between Advisor, MP, Minister and Non Executive Director then it really is a potent mix of personal enrichment, entitlement and preservation.

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