Blood Money and Boondoggles
By Mike Small
Last night we witnessed Jeremy Paxman, who we’re told was a possible prospective Conservative candidate for Kensington, interview Ed Miliband and, sort of, David Cameron.
A sneering Jeremy Paxman told Miliband “We got the wrong brother” before muttering “Are you alright Ed?” at the end of his dark interview marked by petty vindictiveness and personal jibes. In the second section Paxman rolled Cameron soft questions and at one point referred to Alex Salmond bringing ‘Blood Money’ threats to Miliband. We’re told repeatedly that people love Paxman’s trademark aggressive style but it forgoes policy detail for an empty macho alpha-male posturing. On twitter someone wrote: “I think tonight’s puerile exchange exposed the vacuousness at the heart of Westminster political debate.”
The interviews are awaited with fevered anticipation, but the quality of debate is so low, not just because of this bias, but the vacuous nature of Westminster policy exchange. It comes at the end of a week where the media has been awash with angry and ignorant obsessiveness about Scotland and the SNP.
Nigel Dodds writing in the New Statesman is getting all hot and bothered:
“The Scottish people spoke loudly and clearly to the SNP less than a year ago. It’s long past time unionists from all parties and none reminded Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond to listen to what they said. Scotland’s not foreign, the UK’s not broken and we really do remain better together.”
It seems Nigel’s not really being paying attention, but Simon Jenkins has: “British politics is paying the price for centuries of English contempt for the political aspirations of the Irish, Scots and Welsh. Throughout the 19th century Tory (and some Liberal) opposition to even moderate home rule for the “other British empire” ensured a more drastic separatism would eventually triumph. Ireland was first.”
Unfortunately Jenkins analysis goes awry, following the now well-worn path of deriding the other countries of the ‘United Kingdom’ as paupers and beggars living the high life at England’s expense. He writes:
“In Scotland’s case the 1999 settlement was the worst of all worlds. It meant increased control over public services, but over-representation at Westminster continued, as did Treasury subsidies to what became “benefits street” economies. Scotland, Wales and Ulster were the Greece of the British union, without the austerity. The idea that showering power and money on Scotland would somehow assuage separatist sentiment was naive: it encouraged it. Devolution became a boondoggle at England’s expense.”
This is no more sophisticated than Skintland.
The economic illiteracy is matched only by a now open cultural hostility. Commentators just pretend Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t exist, either out of residual sexism or political ignorance isn’t clear. Maybe it’s just slackness. Why talk about a sophisticated complex leader who fails to satisfy all of your lazy stereotypes when you can just lay-in to Salmond instead?
Last night was a weird media construct. Even the hashtag
#BattleForNumber10 is aggressive. Two leaders in the same building but unable to face each other. Our democracy is carved up by backroom deals by media companies and presented by thuggish anchormen, that’s why a warm glow washed through viewers when Miliband said: “You’re important, Jeremy, you’re not that important”.
Miliband remains unelectable and Cameron undesirable. This much we know, but the process of the General Election looks to be one low in quality and devoid of vision. Scotland, when it’s mentioned, its through the single filter of Alex Salmond, a figure we need an ‘antidote’ to, and one who carries an implicit threat, offering nothing but blood money.
It’s the sort of language and framing which will only guarantee only one result. Why would you want to be part of a political union that talks in this language? Why would you want to be part of a culture that refers to you as a “benefits street” economy?
Remember though: ” Scotland’s not foreign, the UK’s not broken and we really do remain better together.”