Blukip and the Black Hole
As the full horror of Nigel Farage emerges into the daylight, the prospect of keeping the Tories out appears alongside the very real need to keep UKIP out too. The gin-swilling bigot was emboldened by his new cash injection courtesy of Dirty Des at the Express and again trotted out his disgraceful homophobic line about HIV patients from abroad before shouting about the audience being ‘left-wing’. He may be flush with cash but he’s politically spent. Last night he just looked like a grubby little racist, red in the face and barking at the moon.
As the SNP surge continues last night was an extraordinary moment as three strong articulate women put forward a progressive alternative to the Austerity Union. It reminds you to what extent the broadcast news is routinely framed. Here was, by mistake, an alternative voice being given proper air time. Just think how Question Time is regularly stuffed with UKIP and the right, or filled by conservative cultural voices. This was refreshingly different and Sturgeon, Bennett and Wood shone.
But if the Plaid, Green, SNP alliance develops there are other changes afoot in a fast-changing political landscape.It is not, as some have suggested just a repeat of the referendum. This is not just Project Fear 2.
This is becoming evident today as we have the Labour manifesto launch, as Murphy tries desperately to find traction.
As Ewan Crawford said last week: “The Gordon Brown idea of the Union as a partnership where resources are “pooled and shared” has been ditched in favour of a different conception of the UK, where Scotland is depicted, falsely, as a dependent. In Labour’s new formulation, growth and wealth are to be reserved to one part of the UK – the south-east of England – with Scotland, and other areas presumably, as grateful recipients. Mr Murphy has been making a great deal of the largesse that will apparently come up the A1 once Labour gets its hands on the tax system. At times, the former Scottish secretary gives the impression that it is only by taxing the mansion dwelling non-dom millionaire class of London that the imminent collapse of not only the Scottish health service, but our school system and much of the fabric of public life as we know it, can be avoided.”
We are beggars, and lazy beggars at that, or so John McTernan thinks. Last year he wrote:
“Scotland is doing very well, thank you. When it comes to public spending, it is a mendicant nation, always looking for more…”
Under this logic, it’s not just that we couldn’t survive as an independent nation, we can barely survive as a dependent one. This is what the Labour Party thinks of us. Or rather that’s what the last remaining people in the bunker think.
Last week they tried desperately to focus on the apparent ‘black hole’ of Full Fiscal Autonomy. It made no sense. As Crawford pointed out: “In 2009-10, when Alistair Darling was chancellor, Labour ran up a deficit of £159 billion, which by Mr Murphy’s new logic would have demanded instant spending cuts of the same magnitude the following year.”
They may be economically illiterate but they are politically expedient. They are clinging to the wreckage of the Smith Commission as if it’s a lifeline to political salvation.
It doesn’t make any sense. As Paul Kavanagh wrote in the National: “Earlier this week the Tory manifesto included a provision to strip Scottish MPs of the right to vote on income tax bands in the Commons. It’s a betrayal of the Smith Commission, yelled Jim, glad of a distraction technique. Jim knows a lot about betraying the Smith Commission as he and his party spent most of the negotiations gutting any proposals for the meaningful devolution of extra powers and doing their utmost to reduce it to the absolute minimum that they could get away with.
Power over the minimum wage? You can’t have that. Power over abortion? That’s not going to happen. Control of broadcasting? Not even the testcard. For Labour, the Smith Commission was an exercise in extracting party political advantage and not about responding to what Scotland wants, and now they’re complaining the Tories are doing exactly the same thing.”
Murphy is a dead man walking. To be fair some of this isn’t his fault. He isn’t at Holyrood, and he doesn’t appear at the leaders debates. Instead he has to create an endless stream of ridiculous media moments with an empty prospectus. He’s powerless and exposed. He now appears in some limbo land, detached from Westminster and, increasingly, reality.
The only people staring down any black hole today are the Scottish Labour Party.
There are however tensions and challenges for the SNP.
As Leanne Wood said last night: “An opposition that promises more of the same is no opposition at all.”
The problem Nicola Sturgeon faces is, what if she’s right? What if Miliband really is as useless as she thinks? What if we end up in the scenario where Labour are propped-up (indirectly) by a legion of 40-50 SNP MPs? What if they don’t want to do anything? What is the SNP’s strategy here?
It’s uncharted territory but the SNP need to avoid being associated with a Labour government foisting more of the same. They don’t want to become the Lib Dems.
“Labour has allowed the Conservatives to frame its politics. Frames are the mental structures through which we perceive the world. The dominant Tory frame, constructed and polished across seven years by its skilled cabinet makers, is that the all-important issue is the deficit. The financial crisis, it claims, was caused not by the banks but by irresponsible government spending, for which the only cure is austerity. It’s a con; an excuse for redrafting the social contract on behalf of the elite. But Labour has meekly acquiesced to this agenda, disputing only the extent of its application. By accepting your opponents’ frame, you reinforce their power, allowing them to pull the entire polity into their own arena. No Labour capitulation has been as extreme and catastrophic as the one with which it begins this year’s manifesto. Its promise to cut the deficit every year commits it indefinitely to the Conservative programme, with differences of degree rather than direction. This means cuts. Balancing the books, the manifesto says “will need common sense spending reductions”.
Whilst the alternative bloc of Plaid, Greens and SNP should enjoy the moment they, we, also need to think to the future and have a strategy for asserting political power or they will be crushed under the combined forces of Blukip or the tragic incompetence of Labour.
The reality is that the Greens and Plaid may do well in this election but will still not muster electoral clout in anything like the media power they wielded last night.
Sturgeon’s team – and Miliband’s need to be quickly thinking of common ground to make common cause or they will be swept away. But it is possible. An alternative could be popular. It’s not just Scotland that is hungry for change.