Continuity and Carnage – Kissing Hands with the Queen

38176793_Home_Secretary_Theresa_May_watches_a_vidHome_Secretary_Theresa_May_watches_a_video_prio-large_trans++piVx42joSuAkZ0bE9ijUnGH28ZiNHzwg9svuZLxrn1UOnce again, a new Prime Minister neither I nor my country ever voted for is kissing hands with the Queen this morning. Once again, as of last night, the Labour Party is running a leadership contest between the unelectable and the unspeakable – between a leader who is heartily despised by one wing of the Party while being endorsed by another.

Has anything really changed?

This may sound like a peculiar question after the most extraordinarily nerve jangling political-drama nerdfest of a fortnight we`ve just been watching open-mouthed down the wrong end of a Scottish telescope. But the truth is that the biggest substantial change – The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland disentangling itself from the foreign contamination of the last forty years, as some would see it, has barely begun to have the legal, social, economic, cultural or constitutional impact that we all feel it is GOING to have but that none of us can really anticipate.

All we have is the feeling, (probably from the majority by now, despite the win for the Leave campaign), that whatever it is, it`s going to be bad. Except for those who are directly engaged with the immediate fall-out, on the currency market and University`s watching European co-sponsors and research partners take their money up and walk away to take a look elsewhere, for example, we simply don`t have any meaningful idea what happens when you attempt unpick something as intricate and all-pervasive in our lives as the EU has become by hitting it with a fucking big hammer.

Hitting delicate and complex mixes of social relationships with fucking big hammers is usually something the British Empire reserves for hot countries like Iraq. Of course, it occurs to me, as it has occurred to many people, that had we voted “yes” in 2014, we would have been looking again at a situation of hoping that everything will turn out all right in “the negotiations.”

We learn that, once again, as they did in regard to Scotland, that the British Establishment has made only the sketchiest preparations for a referendum result they didn`t want and weren`t expecting. But it is a reasonable bet that the underlying reason for the Tory`s grateful avoidance of democracy in their leadership campaign (or succession) was dire warnings from Mark Carney at the Bank of England and elsewhere that with another shock about to hit the Eurozone in the shape of a run on the Italian Banks that now was not the time to be farting around with whether or not being a Mum made you a better person. The Tory party membership is no more to be trusted than the Labour party membership these days to be guided to the “correct” decision about important things. Look what happened last time they made the mistake of consulting “the people” about something that mattered?

The grateful relief with which the media and other outliers of said Establishment have greeted the advent of St Teresa is above all predicated on the as yet only superficial intuition that she is “a safe pair of hands” to guide us through the choppy waters that lie ahead of the good ship Britannia. Her credentials as a “leader” seem consistent with a certain lineage of lower class Tory leadership that has wrested control back from the Etonians. This is not the end of her resemblances to Margaret Thatcher, who, though likewise married to a millionaire, gathered a good deal of impetus from her status as an outsider to the charmed circle of ancestral privilege which Cameron re-installed atop the Tory party.

the humiliation of the Labour Party in England promises, at this stage, to be every bit as thoroughgoing as the slow, self-destructive twitchings undergone by its Northern Branch Office, which, let us not forget, even at this late hour, is one bad-tempered phone call (between the leader and her deputy) away from splitting down the middle just as decisively as the wider party is now fracturing on regional as well as ideological fissures.

How that superficial resemblance plays out in Scotland, where the nuances of inner and outer circles that so pervade the life of the Oxbridge/Westminster bubble are opaque at best, remains to be seen. The fate of the Labour party, itself mired in what in some ways is a continuation of its own perennial internal contradiction between representing of the “movement” and doing a passable imitation of a “government in waiting” is rather more emotionally charged up here in the wilderness. The alternatively degrading and hilarious spectacle of Angela Eagle calling on journalists who were already absent doing something more important competes with Cameron humming like Winnie the Pooh off to spend more time with his Hunny Pots as the soundbite of yesterday. But the humiliation of the Labour Party in England promises, at this stage, to be every bit as thoroughgoing as the slow, self-destructive twitchings undergone by its Northern Branch Office, which, let us not forget, even at this late hour, is one bad-tempered phone call (between the leader and her deputy) away from splitting down the middle just as decisively as the wider party is now fracturing on regional as well as ideological fissures.

CnMVa59XEAEWpwbIt is surely impossible that anything resembling a unitary, British National Labour Party is going to emerge from this acrimony and embarrassment. The last possible repository of anything resembling a positive and inclusive British Populism has now surely divided into a handful of socialist saints, a gang of 172 forming the nouveau SDP and a lot of completely disenfranchised, desperate English electors just waiting for Teresa May to hoover them up with one nation Toryism. And that`s if we`re lucky enough that the Tories get them and not whatever vile successor Farage leads to replace UKIP.

(Hint – Either way, that nation doesn`t include the likes of you! Tam, Mick or Khaliq!)

I have friends in South London who feel as estranged from the North London radicals who have coalesced around Corbyn as does any Northern English middle of the road trade unionist who is now thinking despairingly of voting UKIP. If those Tories around may who can smell the blood that Labour is so conspicuously spreading all over itself can persuade Teresa May that, Brexit or no Brexit, now is the moment when they can shove Labour`s head so far down the toilet that they`ll forget what breathing was even like, and if enough Labour Turkeys can be persuaded to vote for Christmas…well, we could find ourselves in a One Party Tory State setting nostalgic sail for the glory Days before we know it, certainly before we get around to what is the central order of business for Bella Caledonia and her band of fellow travellers in a very different direction.

What about Scotland? You may well ask. We are sure as hell not top of the agenda at the moment. Even all those noises commentators were making a week or so ago about the “inevitability” of a second Independence referendum were included as more as a measure of the depth of the Brexit crisis than they were out of any real thought let alone considered familiarity with our circumstances.

Nicola Sturgeon took skilful advantage of the window of opportunity left by Tory disarray to do her very best to get what happened to us onto the wider European as well as British agenda. As is Alec Salmond this week attempting to make hay with the Chilcot report – that other epoch marking indictment of the failed experiment of high-minded globalisation that I`d just about forgotten to mention.

But in the broader contexts of Europe`s ongoing crisis, and Britain`s contradictory impulse to tear everything up and keep it exactly the same as it was, Scotland, as it did way before the Union of 1707, is having to do what small countries do – dart about between the legs of warring giants, looking for advantage.

But in the broader contexts of Europe`s ongoing crisis, and Britain`s contradictory impulse to tear everything up and keep it exactly the same as it was, Scotland, as it did way before the Union of 1707, is having to do what small countries do – dart about between the legs of warring giants, looking for advantage.

There is a pleasing simplicity about the slogan “You do what you want, we`re not going anywhere” that “we” have now adopted in regard to Europe…but we simply cannot anticipate yet what the broader context will look like by the time we could practically get round to another referendum, let alone what the political complexion of Scotland, never mind the UK or Europe will look like even 18 months from now.

But the Establishment in the shape of this morning’s feudal succession has gone for safety as it’s priority. It’s own safety that is, which is, of course, not at the same as ours. And when the winds of Brexit DO start to blow, every instinct tells me that it is towards safety, whoever looks like providing it, that the electorate here in Scotland as well as in London and Wales and Doncaster, will be looking. The snake oil salesmen have been taking a couple of weeks off as they gleefully survey the damage they have wrought. Expect some dark forces to be out on the prowl for our anxiety any time soon.

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  1. Tam Dean Burn says:

    Always much to enjoy & cogitate on with Peter but he does he really need to impersonate John McTernan quite so readily in regards to Corbyn and Labour? There is no proof whatsoever yet of unelectability and as to framing an argument on his estranged South London friends alienation of North London radicals whilst Labour membership rockets ( & yes there’s another farce developing there ) – what all this points to is a complete lack of debate about the actual politics involved. Despite Blair’s & all his ancestors best attempts, it’s not all reducible to personalities and the centre ground. The Labour Party now offers a genuine possibility of a radical programme with a mass membership party for the first time ever in Britain and that’s what scares McTernan & all. So please let’s not do their dirty work for them but writing off this incredible opportunity and challenge so readily.

    1. Euan MacPhee says:

      I quite like Corbyn and McDonnell, but they are completely unelectable. That you can’t see they are completely unelectable, beyond a by-election, is quite unbelievable. labour MPs are shameless liars, who from day one have been plotting to get rid of Corbyn and used the EU vote to break cover. They think the electorate are completely stupid?

      The combination of Corbynites and the parliamentary party ensure we witness the spectacle of the labour party cutting its own throat with a blunt knife live on tv until the end of September. And you would wish these sad comedians and useless selfish nonentities to return to rule in Scotland?

      When will the penny drop with the likes of you, your time and party has gone, gone with the dust of the Iraq desert, renewal of trident, PFIs and turning its back on the poor.

      Get real, labour is dead, Blair killed it. There is only one way to escape tory rule in Scotland, don’t delude yourself Kez and Alec will not sort it in Sxotland and Jez and John will not sort it in England.

      A labour vote in Scotland provides justification for London rule by tories!

  2. Peter Arnott says:

    Below the belt there, Thomas…But I`m afraid I don`t share your optimism about Corbyn as a project, or indeed your enthusiasm for the bloke himself…But I do hope you`re right and I`m wrong. Unlike, I suspect, Mr McT….

    1. Tam Dean Burn says:

      O Peter, below the belt to point out that you’re lining up with the forces of reaction against a radical MOVEMENT in England like we’ve never seen before and is showing itself determined to take on all those forces lining up against it? Ok you’re not convinced but I’d say you’re the one using underhand tactics by blithely writing that off, without actual evidence too. Your reductionism of the Corbyn phenomena to MSM engineered personality politics reminds me of nothing so much as the blind critique of the Yes Movement by lazy disparaging of the personality of one Alex Salmond. I appreciate the difficulty with the Labour Party per se but those of us who believe in radical transformation of society from the bottom up need to do all we can to support the movement for just that in England right now, in that very party which is very clearly not dead yet but a battleground for ideas.

      1. peterarnott says:

        I am convinced that both Corbyn and his opponents are already acting like a unitary Labour Party (which has ALWAYS been a dialectical conflict between “representing the movement” and “a government in waiting” is now irreconcilable. Labour as we know it are finsihed. Two parties will come out of ut, one of which, you’re right, will be a left wing party in the UK unlike any there has ever been before. But I DON’T believe it will be a government waiting to take over.

        What bugs me about BOTH warring wings of the party is that they BOTH know that the party is already split and are already in the process of creating two parties NEITHER of which have nay real prospect of forming a government. I think Corbyn and co are behaving with the same cynical disregard for history and the people they are supposed to represent as their enemies.

        1. Tam Dean Burn says:

          Categorical crystal ball gazing Peter whilst a real fight goes on. You may be right but then again you may well not be. But where I think you’re definitely wrong is in your pox-on-both-your-houses, as bad as each other attitude. There is a world of difference between the Labour factions, however crashingly boring you find Corbyn, and there is a Party to be fought for. As to the next General Election, whenever that comes, there’s all sorts of possibilities. Things can’t be judged by the old ways- we’re not going back to 1983 ( no matter how much fun we had at the Trav back then!) Many folk on the left have been writing off the Labour Party as dead for decades now. But sometimes reality proves folk wrong. In fact, I’d say that especially in British politics lately, everyone has been proved wrong at various stages. And many have shifted positions as situations have developed- I certainly know I have- but I’m trying to only be categorical about what is happening now, not the future. And I am more optimistic now than ever…just.

      2. Josef O Luain says:

        When May calls a general election, with the intention of finally dispensing with Labour and consolidating her power and legitimacy, the ability of, by then, Corbyn’s Labour Party to come through-the-middle to victory cannot be dismissed.

        The haemorrhaging of an unquantifiable amount of SNP support in such a scenario, on-the-back of what will needfully be a radical Leftist agenda from Labour, can, likewise, not be dismissed.

        May’s we jaunt North on Friday with her promise of full participation for Scotland at the forthcoming Brexit negotiations will influence the pencils of many of those who believed The Vow, adding further to the erosion of SNP electoral support.

        I have huge respect for the SNP and its leadership, but the days of “waiting to see” may be about to end, with a bang.

  3. Douglas says:

    I don’t get why they don’t just make it the kissing of the Queen’s arse…

  4. Wul says:

    Our Prime Minister needs to get permission from an old lady with a metal hat to form a government.

    Is it just me or….?

  5. Broadbield says:

    Yes, the only certainty is uncertainty, except for the Establishment and the billionaire and 0.1% class who’ll do just fine. Of course there’s always the just-muddle-through option – delay firing the starting gun for as long as possible, drag out negotiations as long as possible, by which time there may be a real mood for a re-run. Who knows – nothing can be ruled out in this rotten UK.

    Scotland has to play it clever, preparing the ground and, as you say, darting in and out and pouncing when the time is right.

  6. tartanfever says:

    I think it’s pretty clear what the Independence movement should be doing.

    We need opinion polls showing 60% or more to galvanise the argument for another referendum. If the polls show an initial Brexit reaction jump to 59% ‘Yes’ that then reduces over the coming months back to below 50% then it’s game over.

    Unfortunately, Bella and Wings and the National are busy rattling on about the Labour crisis, as if that really makes any difference in a country that has thoroughly rejected them (Scotland), or the Tory leadership, again, as if that really makes any difference in a country that has rejected them. You will always have a hardcore Labour and Tory vote that will never be budged, the Independence movement will never get above 60% in my opinion. It seems to me that your either wasting your time with these articles, because they don’t provide the necessary spark to change the minds of those whose minds we need to persuade. You’re preaching to the converted here.

    So where are the economic articles ? Because while we’re busy going on about Chilcot and Corbyn, the BBC and the rest of the unionist media are back on to ‘Project Fear 2: the price of Oil’ and it’s working. No matter what political clusterf**k you write about here, when it boils down to the choice between Westminster Government and the price of oil, they’re gonna win.

    I look at a few twitter accounts every day, Chris Giles of the FT, Paul Mason, Faisal Islam etc and they link a plethora of articles from the City that clearly show we are heading into difficult times. It may not be your cup of tea and against the grain of this website, but as you have an ‘economics editor’ it might be an idea to start writing some articles that deal with our financial prospects. I think this will turn more people towards Independence than the current goings on in the Labour hierarchy.

    Today for instance, the UK govt sold 10 year inflation proof bonds at a minus interest rate of return. Thats how little confidence there is in the UK economy.

    So I wish Peter’s article had been about the trouble Theresa May is stoking up with her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ tag line that will ultimately lead to either giving up the single market and a significant financial collapse or staying in the single market at the cost of no curbs on EU migration and the unrest that will cause to 17m leave voters.

    1. Broadbield says:

      Agree re economics. We have some very fine Indy sites, thoughtful, provocative, critiquing the UK polity, keeping the morale up etc but when “it’s the economy, stupid” we’ve nothing to compare with the (neoliberal cheerleader) IFS. It’s been said many times in various places: we need a Think Tank to produce well researched, carefully argued papers to put forward our case, rebut the msn and get the voting public’s attention. Crowdfunding? A rich benefactor?

  7. zicoinexile says:

    tartanfever above is correct.

    If the SNP don’t have all the financial ducks in a row then a second referendum will be still-born. Time to move away from the emotional and get to the practical. We don’t have much time.

  8. Cloggins says:

    Part of the problem of the unelectable anointing the unelected is of course the one no-one dares to mention. She’s on her way out anyway, and her replacement is not going to be too welcome. So we might as well draft a constitution with a president written into it – just in case….

    1. Graham King says:

      But why include even any titular head of state at all?

      It seems to me preferable to draft a truly radical constitution – one, say, with instead a council from among duly-elected ministers, who could be publicly further voted into Cabinet office; rather that, than naming one person as a ‘president’ or somesuch.

      The naming of any single person as pre-eminent, e.g. ‘Prime Minister’, seems to me undemocratic and highly prone to promote corruption, temptation and unwise decision-making; including drastic wrongheadedness that gets carried through despite even massive visible disapproval by the electorate. Witness Blair/Iraq war, despite millions of the public marching in opposition to that vile folly; or, further back, the long USA atrocity of the Vietnam war.

      These are risks we have opportunity to avoid, by viewing this matter of a constitution afresh.

  9. bringiton says:

    I hope Scots take note of the Tory party claim to be a unionist party having just decided to end the political union with Europe.
    The only union the Tories are interested in is one where they are in charge and will not tolerate any idea of pooling and sharing unless it is on their terms.

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