The Ship of Theseus
With the Labour party ruling out a “coalition” with the SNP, but not a “loose arrangement”, which makes it more likely we will see a supply and demand agreement after the next election, one thing occurs to me – those of us who desire independence as the ultimate goal should bear in mind the Ship of Theseus.
The Ship of Theseus is a paradoxical object – imagine a ship that, over time, has all its parts replaced – planks, sails, ballast etc. Once everything has been replaced, the question arises – is it still the same ship?
Many snoots have been cocked recently over the SNP’s virulent rise in membership, what is it now, five times where it began? And many of these new members are folk who once supported other parties, in particular, the Scottish Labour party. Now, those that remain in that Labour party, despite how thickly they might appear to apply the clown make-up, are not stupid. They can see that the old ship is fast disappearing below the surface, with only its once proud fo’c’s’le sticking out of the sea, where Mr Murphy and Mr Miliband teeter on a giant ball like a couple of starving seals, waving desperately for help. Will they do the gallant thing and go down with the party? It seems unlikely, given they have the survival propensity of the common cold virus, so what else can they do in such a situation? Jump to the nearest ship, perhaps?
And so we have this doublespeak from the Labour party, on the one hand trying to appeal to the Tory heartlands by ruling out a coalition, while on the other, a tentative toe of conciliation, this oily olive branch of potential discussions, barely concealing the real intentions of these “adults acting responsibly”. They know that many of their former crew are on this other ship, and that the ultimate outcome of that must be the Ship of Theseus.
Imagine that over a parliament or two, this new ship called “Supply and Demand” thunders into Westminster, bringing a cargo of democracy, social responsibility, fairness, all of the things that once adorned the shoulders of the Labour party. Imagine, just for one second, that this turns out to be successful. That we witness a sea change in British politics as a result, and we watch Westminster undergo a transformation into a modern democratic mother ship of which we can all be proud. And meantime, this Ship of Theseus, undergoes its own transformation, as it must, into a new SNP that is closer to the old Scottish Labour Party than the current party of independence.
The temptation to remain with that system, especially for those whose roots lie with the old Labour party, will be immense, like the song of the siren, calling us to shipwreck and our ultimate demise.