The Constitutional Merry-Go-Round

The press reports with a sort of sweet innocence that is disgusting in the circumstances that Boris Johnson has defended the government’s plans to cut universal credit while refusing to say whether he could live on the basic payment it provides of £118 a week. Apparently he was questioned by reporters during his trip to the US this week, but the prime minister declined three times to answer whether he could survive on the Universal Credit payment. Asked if he could live on £118 a week, and whether the cut, coming into force on 6 October, risked becoming a political problem, Johnson said: “I have every sympathy for people who are finding it tough, I really, really do.”

I mean, it was a cute line of questioning but, really? Asking the Bullingdon Club PM who upgraded his personal flat with gold wallpaper at £840 a roll – using the help of interior designer Lulu Lytle to the tune of £200k – if he could get by on £188 a week was more gaslighting than journalism. Anyone who uses the phrase “leveling up” in all seriousness in the context of the British government’s current messaging is engaging in propaganda, no more no less.

Even Gordon Brown, who, given that he wrote the cheques for the Iraq War knows a thing or two about the ‘indefensible’ has called “The £20 benefit cut the most morally indefensible thing I’ve seen in politics.”

The former Prime Minister has called out the cuts, which even now Tory Ministers are trying to side-away from, trying desperately to disassociate themselves from their own colleagues social malice. He noted: “Already almost 50% of families with three or more children are below the poverty line. The £20 cut to universal credit will push 500,000 more people into poverty. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, there will be 300,000 more children pushed into poverty, taking the child poverty rate to one in every three children.”

I’m not sure if this one in three kids can see the glint of Carrie’s gold wallpaper from Brexit’s Sunlit Uplands? It might be of comfort if they did.

What to do about living in such a sick society?

This week we were told in the Daily Record by Labour’s sole representative north of the border that “Scottish voters have to decide. If they wish to change the colour of the government at Westminster they have to participate in UK politics.” Ahead of the Labour conference in Brighton, Ian Murray said Scotland would be stuck in a “constitutional merry-go-round” unless his party makes an electoral break-through.

In comments that sounded like deep-level delusion as Murray added: “Our job, our half of the deal, is to give them a policy platform and a party that they can feel is a credible alternative government. Hopefully, the two sides can come together and they can vote for us.” This was unfortunate timing as Sir Keir Starmer announced he would try and abolish one person one vote within the Labour Party and produced a speech so anodyne, so conciliatory, so meaningless it left many, even of his own supporters stunned into silent disappointment.

The problem for Ian Murray’s argument is that there is no credible alternative government. Even giving Starmer the benefit of the doubt that he has suffered from not having Westminster sitting, and that a reigning government is given support by the public in a national emergency, his 14,000 essay leaked to the press was widely panned.

A New Chapter for a New Britain hovered somewhere between George Lucas and Peter Mandelson and consists almost entirely of political platitudes and clichés. What is entirely clear is that he is abandoning his campaigning pledge to “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water” and to crackdown on corporate tax avoidance, of which there was not a peep in his lengthy bromide. In Starmer’s essay, that focus has been swept away and replaced by a declaration that, “the role of government is to be a partner to private enterprise, not stifle it.”

He says clearly: “We would do things differently. In order to put contribution and community at the centre of our efforts, we would build an effective partnership of state and private sector to prioritise the things that we have seen really matter: health, living conditions, working conditions and the environment.”

It’s astonishing that, in the face of such monumental corruption and global failure by Johnson’s regime, and in the teeth of the most unprecedented social crisis of our lifetimes, Labour’s answer is a sort of re-heated version of Blairism.

It’s for this that Ian Murray pleads: “The bold message to Scots, and a very similar thing happened in Canada after the Quebec referendum, is that if Scots want rid of the Tories, they have to re-engage with UK politics. Because they could elect 59 SNP MPS and it will not change the political map of the UK, it will just keep us on this grievance agenda.”

There could be no clearer message from Murray and Starmer: Labour presents no real change and no real challenge to Johnson’s government.

It’s a dismal prospect: elect us and we’ll do nothing, or express your will as an overwhelming alternative to the Disaster Zone that is the British State and we’ll ignore you.

British Democracy, either way is pretty broken as are the wastelands of poverty it presides over.

Murray’s attitude is astonishing. It feels like a mixture of Old School False Class Consciousness mingled with a dollop of Muscular Unionism and a solid dose of Compulsory Britishness.

Even with a Merry-Go-Round you get the change to get off now and again. With Murray and Starmer’s approach – both increasingly bland yet also morally irresponsible – the Merry-Go-Round you can’t get off (“they have to participate in UK politics”) feels more like a Helter Skelter of chaos and disorder, more Manson than McCartney.

Paradox and dark irony fall over themselves in reading Scottish Labour’s messages.

Someone should remind Ian Murray that by electing MPs to Westminster the Scottish people ARE engaging with UK politics. It shouldn’t need to be spelled out. It’s called an election in what purports to be a functioning democracy. If you don’t want to accept the outcome of that election you should say so.

In this sense we now know that Labour and Conservative are two sides of the same coin (that’s the polite version). On the one side you are told: “there can be no circumstances where a referendum to decide your constitutional future can take place.” On the other side you are told: “You must take place in UK politics but if you choose a result we are not happy with we will ignore and condemn you.”

In the meantime we are told to watch the shelves empty, the heating bills rise and the order-chain collapse as the Government We Didn’t Elect presides over the “morally indefensible”.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Dougie Blackwood says:

    You really begin to wonder about those that continue to support the union. I’m one that knocked on doors when that was an acceptrable thing to do. Large numbers would say I’m Labour and a vote for SNP lets in the Tories. When you ask those people how many Tories we are likely to elect and would the SNP support them in government they are dumbstruck. All too many listen to the rubbish spouted by Murray and Starmer and swallow it whole. It’s not that people like the way things are going but they are told, in every media outlet, and believe, that “It’s all Nicola Sturgeons’s fault”. Our campaigners can push innumerable leaflets through doors but they are lifted, with the rest of the junk mail, and put in the bin.

    Long ago in the run up to the referendum in 2014 the RadicaI Independence Campaign (RIC) ran several mass canvass events in Easterhouse and Castlemilk. I went along to the one in Castlemilk and was astonished by the lack of awareness of politics in that benighted area. They had never seen a canvasser and when you spoke to them many were converted from passive Labour unionism to at least considering independence. Unfortunately we need an end to the pandemic and then get out on to the streets, not with flags and drums, but knocking doors armed with facts about the cruelty of this and every other Westminster government.

  2. Robbie says:

    Gordon Brown wrote the cheques for the Iraq war,the same man who,s message in hospital toilets was”. why use two ,when one will do” For sheets of paper to dry your Hands. So there really has been little changes in policies towards We Scum since Thatchers time by tories Or Labour. Roll on Independence.

  3. KD says:

    Can I just say that the quality of articles recently has greatly improved. Well done ! Keep up the good work.

  4. Chris Connolly* says:

    It’s worse than you think! The current rate of basic UC for a single adult (i.e. person over 25) is equivalent to £95 per week and is to reduce to £75.

    Blether about “encouraging people back into work” is nonsense. There are few or no jobs worth applying for (and I should know because I’ve not gone one, myself.) Rather than forcing people into work that’s either not worth doing or is actively harmful what’s needed is an acknowledgment that the days of full employment will never return, and a Universal Basic Income for all.

    Obviously it would also help if the working class stopped believing the accepted wisdom that people who don’t have a job are unworthy of receiving anything like a decent level of weekly income, and stopped blaming each other for their/our own relative poverty.

    1. Chris Connolly* says:

      I should explain, before anybody takes issue with the figures, that the current rate of £411.51 per month, when multiplied by 1w2 and divided by 52, equals £95. From 6 October the monthly rate of £324.84, converted in the same way, comes to £75 per week.

      Aye. That’s right. £75. For under 25s the weekly drop is from £79.38 to an utterly inhumane £59.38.

  5. Tom Ultuous says:

    Andrew Marr this morning spent 2/3rds of his Starmer interview on the subject of “women have cervix” (ditto with Ed Davey the week before) and Rayner calling Tories scum. If the Tories were exposed as a paedophile ring they’d still get in.

  6. Paula Becker says:

    A few days ago we discussed the ‘pandemic’, anti-vaxxers ,conspiracies etc. Now this; the Spartacus letter
    Warning; not for the faint hearted, contains speculation.

    1. Chris Connolly* says:

      Hi-jacking the thread in this way is pure bad manners.

      Disappointing to see that so few people have commented on the cut in Universal Credit (unless everybody is on the same side and doesn’t feel the need to say so, in which case, please ignore this contribution.) People will die as a consequence of this measure.

      1. Paula Becker says:

        Hi Chris, apologies for going off-topic. I know of someone who is claiming UC but is also working part-time in a hospital. Because she is not an NHS employee (but works for a facilities management company) she was told that she would not qualify for the £500 that Nicola Sturgeon promised to all health workers who had worked through the pandemic. But just last week she received a letter from her employer saying that she would be getting the £500 – she was overjoyed. But the following day someone told her that the amount was pro rata ie. she would get a fraction of the full amount in proportion to the hours she worked. Then someone else told her that since the money was being paid through her normal pay slip the people at UC would note the increase and then drop her UC entitlement by the same amount. So it looks likely she will actually end up with nothing!

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