Home > Opinion > On Being Beholden, the True Nature of British Democracy
On Being Beholden, the True Nature of British Democracy
By Mike Small
I have to to join the swarm of disinterest about today’s ‘historic’ announcements on the Smith Commission. If this is Home Rule, or ‘as close to Federalism as you’ll get’ I’m a donkey.
30% of tax and 15% of welfare is a meek and helpless form of self-governance, and independence campaigners involved in implementing it should stop and think what they are doing with their time and energy.
STUC were quoted on the Smith Commission Bill saying:
“The Scottish Trades Union Conference (STUC) said the final draft proposals were “a further watering down” of the promise that was made to referendum voters in Scotland.
A spokesman said: “The UK government will present today’s publication as significant progress, but the truth is that we are not even at the end of the beginning of progress to meaningful additional devolution.
“It’s now vital that the fullest possible public consultation is conducted, including a citizen-led process.”
But meanwhile as David Cameron rides north again, it is polling not posturing that takes centre-stage. As politicians and the commentariat stumble over themselves to make sense of the new landscape and the latest polling, mass confusion reigns.
Scottish Labour, under the magnificent triumvirate of Susan Dalgety, John McTernan and Jim Murphy, look to have reverted to their default position of assumption of ‘right to rule’, but the reality beyond the bunker looks far bleaker with Murphy’s strident new leadership apparently stillborn. Today’s Ipsos Mori polling would leave them with just four seats in Scotland; Glasgow North East, Glasgow South West, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill.
Support for the SNP remains at 52% since October’s survey, giving them a projected 55 seats at Westminster.
This new prospect will only encourage Dalgety, McTernan and Murphy who are likely to see this more than as a goad to the Blairite Truth rather than a warning about the public mood,which will just make it all the more funny. If the polls hold then Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Alistair Carmichael and Danny Alexander would be among the sad losses to British public life, as would the Conservative’s sole parliamentary representative.
In this scenario the EVEL Dead would meet the Feeble Fifty in whatever parliamentary afterlife exists – Andrew Neil’s sofa-tv perhaps or Andrew Marr feeding soft questions to affronted Labour has-beens in mutual befuddlement.
That the Smith Commission is a con and a constitutional cul de sac, confirmed by Osborne’s pronouncement that restrictions on the voting powers of Scottish MPs would “have to apply on areas connected with the Budget” after a portion of income tax is devolved to Scotland. An idea flatly contradicting the impotent and ineffectual cross-party Smith Commission on devolution.
If you want any further proof of where power lies in the British State you need none other than the reality that proposals for “English votes for English laws” would be published before the general election but the Chilcot Report will not. One is a fictional invention of tired Tory nationalists, the other is a report on a ‘war’ that The Lancet estimates cost 600,000 civilians their lives.
Such is the nature of British democracy. It’s manifested also in the bitter and scared response to their changing world. London-based journalists seem particularly behind the curve.
‘Scottish nationalists are not Irish Republicans’ the Guardian editorial starts observantly before descending into a cascade of self-deception. Poor Michael White joins the fray in frothy confusion: “For those Britons who value the union and would feel diminished if the Scots left it – as well as fearful on their behalf in a harsh world – this is dangerous territory. Sturgeon is a nimble political heir to Alex Salmond (does backseat Alex still pull the strings? I don’t know) who is seeking to reassure disaffected Labour voters in Scotland that defecting to the SNP on 7 May will not be helping the Tories get re-elected at Ed Miliband’s expense.”
A quick thought to Michael: Labours vote has already gone, it’s not to be ‘defect’ in the future tense. Thanks for the concern (‘ fearful on their behalf in a harsh world’) but we’re here now, so everything from Trident 2 to foodbanks is on you. And, we do love the ongoing post-referendum fantasy of the SNP as some duplicitous behind the scenes operation, rather than, say, the outcome of a democratic vote.
“Sensible people” the Guardian’s assistant editor continues: “should not overreact to Sturgeon’s mischievous provocation.”
Having begged pleaded and threatened Scotland to stay within Britain for two years it now seems the nature of that democracy has changed. Osborne today bleats:
“I think that would not be fair for the rest of the UK and I think those who aspire to hold this office should make it very clear before the election that they would not be beholden on Scottish Nationalist votes.”
Imagine one country within the union having control over another? That would be an affront to democracy wouldn’t it? Unthinkable.
But as the new realities loom into sharper focus today, we should remember that the General Election is simply a cleansing process of clearing out the dead and the useless from our political life. According to the Undertake and Midwife theory the real fun would start in 2016 when the Scottish elections kick-in. By that time the Labour Party in Scotland would be a busted flush with a new leader in place and the space would open up for a genuinely broad, diverse, exciting new politics.