Narrow Nationalism and the Missing
“One by one the pillars of support for the Union have been removed” notes Paul Kavanagh. As the very credibility of Britain slides into disrepair let’s just reflect on three of the issues driving this change.
Defence – nuclear or conventional – is a shambles. ‘Security’ was a key meme of the Better Together campaign, a central plank of the psychological warfare of Project Fear, the notion that cleaving to the British State would allow moderation, stability and the status quo to endure. Continuity away from wild speculation. Security against reckless change.
Remember: “Who moves house in a hurricane?”
As Britain descends into an international embarrassment and an economic basket case, the idea of this being an entity you would cling to in troubled times looks increasingly ridiculous.
During the referendum campaign we were told that 13 frigates were to be built on the Clyde, but only if Scotland voted to remain a part of the UK. Hurray!
Now we’re told that’s not going to happen.
Blair McDougall @blairmcdougall “Really is depressing how many nationalists simply don’t care about shipyard workers and their jobs. Independence at any price.”
But it’s not so much the lies or the contempt that matters as the sense of drift and chaos. As Theresa May shuttles from Edinburgh to Berlin the idea that anyone, anywhere has ‘taken back control’ looks unlikely. Britain’s inability to envisage economic innovation based on anything other than a reliance on a Cold War militaristic ship and sub-building programme seems increasingly retrograde, and don’t anyone ever talk about a ‘narrow nationalism’ ever again.
This is as much a failure of economic innovation as a cultural end-point. There is we’re told no other way to keep Helensburgh High Street open than to spend £250 billion on a weapons system that we don’t control.
Shutting Lidl would probably do it.
Instead, as we’re about to celebrate Pippa’s wedding plans Parody Britain just slides effortlessly into entropy.
That’ll be right. It’s certainly not what Philip (ET) Hammond, Crispin Blunt or David Davis have been saying.
As Theresa May returns from Berlin and ‘talks tough’ to Jeremy Corbyn everyone – especially the state broadcaster – seems mesmerized.
For some the vision of a ‘Strong Leader!’ and a woman sets-off some sort of frenzy that we should politely just call ‘adoration’.
But as Angela Merkel said yesterday, speaking for the vast bulk of mainland Europe bored rigid with this endless charade of false-victimhood England’s been chuntering on about for the best part if three decades: ‘What are you waiting for?’
There will be a few months shoe-shuffling about while our government pretends that its multiple wish-list is somehow compatible with reality the eventually pressure from far-right Brexit Skeptics and bored European countries will lead to Article 50.
“The May government ultimately faces a choice between trying for a Brexit that the City and the financial sector wants, and trying for a Brexit the Brexit voters want. It is a choice May cannot avoid. Yet everything May has said about domestic priorities since entering the leadership contest suggests that she intends to deliver for the latter, the Brexit voters, rather than for the former, the City.”
Out of the many things that no-one has ‘taken control of’, the timetable for this slow motion disaster movie is not of ‘our’ making either. Sure, in theory Britain can delay the 50 for a bit, but the longer they drag their feet the more pissed off the other 27 European nations are likely to get.
That’s not of no consequence.
Hinkley Point nuclear power station was initially supposed to cost just £6bn, but has more recently been estimated at £18bn. Now the Infrastructure and Projects Authority assessment published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change put the potential cost of Hinkley at £37bn. It’s just another project we don’t need and can’t afford.
I love the idea that we’re suddenly in charge of our own affairs unshackled from the Brussels Beast, yet we outsource our energy programme to the French.
Hinkley is the mirror to Scotland’s shattered renewable programme, the crystal-clear message that across most key policy areas Scotland and rUk have diametrically opposed interests. Whether it’s the Brain Family and what they represent or the idea of simply abolishing the department for climate change, we are marching to different tunes in different directions.
But the farce of UK nuclear policy, the shame of Trident or the inevitable blood oaths revealed by Chilcot are not what matters. What matters is the cumulative sense of instability. The ‘grand narrative’ of what is stable and what is risky has completely changed since 2014. The perception of which set of politicians are ‘winging it’ and which are to be relied on has completely turned around for a large section of the previously ‘indy-skeptical’.
There is no Brexit opt-out. There is no Brexit veto. These are fairy tales for children.
But if the myths of security, trust and solidarity are forever broken, importantly so too is the myth of a united kingdom engaged in some common endeavors with common respect. Such a story was perpetuated by scribes and stage-hypnotists long after it made any sense. But the impact of the last two years, accelerated and magnified by the last two months, has seen this discarded, broken even for die-hard.
There will be no more cairns. Rory will not be visiting again.
Dependence made sense when the host was kindly, understanding, or at least went through the pretense of having shared interests. Nobody’s really pretending that’s the case any more. And although Theresa May has the British media in raptures – in the real world people realise she’s not an elected premier, she has no mandate, and (quickly forgotten) she currently has 30 MPs being investigated for fraud.
But if one-by-one the pillars of support for the union are being removed – this doesn’t mean that the Yes movement doesn’t need to address its own issues and problems. The currency question is being explored, but we need to develop a sophisticated and compelling reason for change that will engage people. Already we’re hearing some rumblings that we can somehow replicate Brexit with simplistic slogan and a message that will somehow ‘carry everybody’.