2007 - 2021

Reporting on the Union Policy Implementation Committee

Looking at the big splash of the Sunday Times four-nation polling from yesterday (“Union in crisis as polls reveal voters want referendum on Scottish independence and united Ireland”) many of us (mea culpa) focused on the numbers. But the surrounding analysis about the response to these ‘revelations’ was ignored. The analysis from Tim Shipman, John Boothman, Jason Allardyce and David Smith (Economics Editor) is extraordinary.

First, of course the polling is seen as a ‘bombshell’ and a ‘revelation’. It’s as if a whole editorial team has woken up from a deep slumber and suddenly realised that everything has changed. Where have they all been? Was their assumption really that Brexit could just be imposed and everything would be just fine? It reveals a pattern of hubris and entitlement that they are entirely unconscious of. Second, of course the default setting is that this is all terrible – the response is ‘what can we do to stop all of this?’ – ‘how can we shut everything down?’ Anything – even/especially profoundly anti-democratic measures are just assumed to be fine because the overall objective – stopping any change – is essential. Third the assumptions behind much of their analysis is breathtaking. David Smith writes “England’s great river of cash keeps nations afloat”.  The notion of England as benefactor to the mendicant Celtic fringe is taken as read. As always no-one is to question why such ‘rivers of cash’ are required within such a successful Union. Fourth, they are obsessed with identity. The assumption is that this is all about identity and nothing to do with values and hard politics. They are blind to the political failures of the British state over decades. Finally they seem completely unaware how Gordon Brown is perceived. He is exhumed as a Saviour, as is ‘Devo-Max’ which is understood unthinkingly as a clever ruse, the ultimate spoiler. Again, they appear entirely blind to how any of this is understood.

The actual responses to these polls is reported with excited glee (‘Send for Sonic’).  But the Conservative and Unionist responses are both pitiful and desperate.

 

  1. “The first step will be to properly contest the election” Shipman, Allardyce and Boothman report, which, er, seems like a good idea. “The high-end argument advanced by ministers  and unionists is designed to engender more warmth towards the Union by overturning the “woke-left view” that it is somehow a residue of Empire” they write, apparently in all seriousness.
    *
  2. They continue: “Expect ministers to hail the London government – with two of the top four jobs in the hands of non-white ministers – as more multicultural than France or Germany.” What? After Brexit they think that Britain can be re-packaged as an outward-looking progressive entity? They’re going to sell us Priti Patel as a symbol of progressive multi-culturalism?
    *
  3. Next they argue: “More practically, the case will be made that the roll-out of the vaccine in Scotland using members of the British armed forces, and the UK Treasury’s support for jobs as evidence of valuable co-operation.” The underlying message is: “We vaccinated you! You ungrateful *******!”   They think this will win people over.
    *
  4. They think the power-grab of the Internal Market Bill is a winner: “London has kept control of money that used to go into EU structural funds to pay for better roads in the Highlands, rather than let the Scottish government get the money and the credit” they write, again, apparently in all seriousness.  There was no analysis or seeming understanding that undermining devolution through Brexit might not go down well. Instead it is framed as clever London stopping the Scottish government getting money. It seems to have been written in blissful ignorance.
    *
  5. If it’s not ignorant its vague: “officials are looking at reforms to the way government is done in Britain, encompassing councils, mayors and the way the evolved administrations interact, which could involve greater devolution” we’re told. I’ve re-read this a couple of times and I’m none the wiser. The funny thing is the sort of state of abject panic and fear in much of the reporting, followed by writing that assumes these vague mumbled nothing responses are somehow credible and adequate.
    *
  6. Next up, here comes Gordon. “Gove has been in talks with the former prime minister Gordon Brown, among others, on how to save the Union” we’re told in hushed tones. “Brown is leading a constitutional review for Labour expected within 18 months (lols – Ed) to recommend a federal system, with sweeping powers for Holyrood. A devo-max model would devolve most functions, except defence and foreign affairs” they explain. Apart from the fact that Gordon Brown isn’t in office and there are elections in May, this all sounds rather lovely. It’s like a Brownhog Day of repeating the same weird constitutional slogans and expecting to summons some magical solution. This is politics as incantation. That it s reported solemnly by very senior journalists is mind-blowing. Everything is regressive. The purpose of everything proposed is just to stop independence. It has no other higher goal. The function or reason for federalism is never explained, nor is where the political energy for such a massive change will come from.
    *
  7. Lastly, and gloriously, Shipman, Allardyce and Boothman write: “If pressure did lead to a referendum London still has some cards. Alex Salmond was taken aback by how accommodating David Cameron was … letting 16 year-olds vote and agreeing to hold it around the 700th Anniversary of Bannockburn. If there is a next time, Johnson and Gove would be less so. Ministers would explore giving the vote to Scots living elsewhere in the UK.” Sighs. I mean this is all just puerile and desperate. But what’s interesting is the continuity. There’s no real case being made for the Union, apart from “we let you have the vaccine”, which was nice of them and all but it doesn’t really draw you into the warm glow of a brilliant future together, does it?Anyway, as these chaps should know, the franchise of the referendum is not in the power of the PM to give.
    *
    If they really want to know about 16 year olds they should read their colleague Alex Massie who writes in the same spread: “The United Kingdom is, in a quite literal sense, dying.”  … “As Angus Robertson, former deputy leader of the SNP recently put it: each year ‘roughly 55,000 predominantly Yes-supporting 16 year-olds’ are added to  the electoral roll while ‘55,000 predominantly no-supporting older voters’ shuffle off the register.”

 

 

It’s confusing why they think Gordon Brown has such appeal. Much of the media commentariat hated him when he was in office – a time where he endured open anti-Scottish bigotry – and his time in No 10 was short-lived and not particularly successful. Why do they think he’ll be so wildly influential now? Presumably because they think he’s more Scottish than Michael Gove and less-loathed because he’s not a Tory. Everything about their analysis is so petty and one-dimensional. This stems from the fact that this is what they think is driving independence: personalities, identity, bigotry.

None of this really seems serious or credible at all, neither the political offerings by the Orwellian-sounding ‘Union Policy Implementation Committee’ nor the pliant and dosy analysis put out by the Sunday Times lead writers and their Political Editor. The disconnect between the panic and fear and sense of crisis (‘UK faces becoming a ‘failed state’ without nationwide reforms’) and the sort of abject banality of the response is really quite encouraging. They really don’t know what to do.

Comments (40)

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  1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

    Given the political shenanigans inside the SNP and the Independence movement generally, and their most recent casualty in the person of Robin McAlpine, crowing over ‘our disunited Kingdom’ might seem a bit pot-and-kettle.

    Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory seems to be something for which we Scots have a particular genius. Wha’s like us, eh? We even have a dirge for our ‘unofficial’ national anthem.

    1. More incredulous than crowing Foghorn but point taken. As I’ve said elsewhere the forces that can prevent SI are almost all within our own ranks (or purport to be).

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        Yep!

      2. John O'Dowd says:

        As I’ve said elsewhere the forces that can prevent SI are almost all within our own ranks (or purport to be).

        Indeed so. These seem now to include the leadership of the SNP – given the vacuous 11-point ‘plan’ for independence – and the more disturbing information coming out about the “Salmond” affair (or should that be the “Sturgeon” affair?).

        Section 30 is a dead-letter. May needs to be a plebiscite election.

    2. BSA says:

      Spare us the ‘jaws of victory’ rubbish. It’s a cliched product of ‘British” history which portrayed Scotland as a failure, unable to get it together until it was rescued by the Union. ‘We Scots have a particular genius’ my arse. You sound like the after dinner bore at some Caledonian Society dinner in Surrey.

      1. Blair says:

        “‘We Scots have a particular genius’ my arse.”

        Scotland has had many geniuses who have changed the the world:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Scottish_scientists.

        Foghorn, your arse might sound like this:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foghorn

        but it probably won’t save the day.

        Sorry.

        -CVB.

      2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        Actually, the cliché is a product of US, not British, history; Abe Lincoln is reputed to have coined the phrase in criticism of the Unionist general, Ambrose Burnside, following his defeat at the Battle of the Crater during the Peninsula Campaign of the Civil War.

        However, I agree that the idea that the Scots have a particular genius, though once popular, is nowadays risible. We’re no different from anyone else. That we have a peculiar, distinctive, or identifying character or spirit – ‘Scottishness’ – is an auld-farrant Tory nationalist myth, first made popular by the likes of Sir Walter Scott a couple o hunder years ago and still maintained, no doubt, among Surrey’s tartan army.

        But to return to the point: don’t you think that the Independence movement runs the risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with all its internecine rivalries?

        1. BSA says:

          I think it’s perfectly possible that internecine strife might screw Scotland up but I don’t think that is any more likely here than in any other country and I certainly don’t think that ‘We Scots have a particular genius’ for screwing up which was your original comment. I also don’t need Wikipedia to tell me that snatching ‘defeat from the jaws of victory’ can be just as cliched a sentiment in Scotland as in its country of origin. Ending the Union is about confidence and getting rid these lazy defeatist stereotypes which some Scots are still recycling, playing to the stereotypes to accommodate and entertain their neighbour and role model.

          1. Blair says:

            Anything is possible, however democracy has its roots in history and the root of English National Security. Scotland’s independence threatens England’s security.

            https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-an-introduction

            Scotland’s people do not have the same fear, but they do fear the propaganda England uses that they cannot make it alone. Scots never the less will need to weigh up whether they trust the devil they know or be prepared form a union with another like the EU.

            Scotland has the potential to lead the world.

            Scotland’s political elite should be capable of changing the narrative and renegotiate our contract with rUK. We don’t want Scotland becoming over crowded, and England could serve us well in the future, much better than the past 400 years.

            Worth mulling it over.

            -CVB.
            Live

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Well, you see, that’s where we part company. I don’t think internecine strife might screw Scotland. I think rather than it might screw the Independence movement. The two are not the same (except when you want to exclusively identify the former with the latter, which IS a recipe for internecine strife).

            I also disagree that ending the Union is about identity or genius or about being in some quasi-religious sense ‘born again’. It’s rather about making the Scottish government independent of the UK government in its decision-making, that’s all.

          3. Blair says:

            The Good versus the Bad, Digital Planet:

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz997

            Online manipulation on a global scale!

            Bella’s readers can tune in.

            -CVB
            RI SENT.

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    Are there any establishment anti-Union figures? That can form a Union Policy Dis-implementation Committee….

    I’ve been to Scotland, ooooh, at least 4 times where I stayed more than a few days. Which is probably more than most Tory cabinet ministers have. Can the franchise be extended to me in NW England so I can vote for Scottish independence too?

    Priti Patel – the most racist black woman in British political history? Is it only Tories that can find these kind of people?

    “They really don’t know what to do.”
    Sums up government policy on everything, as they were only elected to “get Brexit done”. And even then, they wanted to work as little as possible.

    Now government departments are advising UK businesses to set up in the EU to avoid the onerous border paperwork:
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/23/brexit-hit-firms-advised-government-officials-set-up-shop-in-eu

    You could make it easier for those businesses by offering an independent Scotland as as a better alternative haven – something tangible that would make a real difference to Scotland, give their independence some valid meaning to none-Scots (especially businesses), and hoist the Tory government by their own petard.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      I like the idea of Indy Scotland being a haven for English businesses. I am not sure how well it will go down with Scottosh Xenophobes.

    2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      ‘Are there any establishment anti-Union figures?’

      Nicola Sturgeon, Mike Russell, John Swinney, Patrick Harvie…

      The Establishment is a term used to describe a dominant group or élite that controls a polity or other organisation. It may comprise a closed group that selects its own members, or entrenched élite structures in specific institutions.

      Political parties, in general, comprise establishments, whatever their ideological leanings.

  3. Jacob Bonnari says:

    It does seem that there’s a flap, but it doesn’t move anything forward.

    I’d refer back to what George Osborne wrote in his Evening Standard leader last week. Boris Johnson will not want to be the last PM of the UK and he has a history of not making decisions until no option remains. Therefore it seems most likely that he will say “No” to any referendum, and as we see this morning the Scottish Tories will advocate a Unionist boycott.

    Commonweal’s Craig Dalzell’s analysis of what is needed to force BJ into a decision is better than anything put forward by the SNP.

    Marco Biagi’s appointment opens up the possibility of some reasoned analysis and a strategy. My suspicion is that the announcement at the weekend has much more to do with distracting people’s attention from the Police Scotland statement into the Holyrood inquiry into how serial harassment complaints were handled by the Scottish Govt, than it does getting us closer to independence. I hope I am wrong.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      ” Boris Johnson will not want to be the last PM of the UK”

      If Johnson resigns it is a fair bet he thinks Scotland is about to go independent and nobody can stop it.

      In which case someone even more incompetent will become PM, maybe even the traditional stalking horse, to carry the can and then be deposed by in internal revolt.

  4. Florence Sinclair says:

    Stay we’re better together leave and we’ll ruin you is England’s attitude

  5. Tom Ultuous says:

    The “Better Together” mob would be better replaced by a recording that calls out “The 2014 referendum was a once in a generation event. To hold a divisive independence referendum during a pandemic is irresponsible”.

    Galloway on Sky News was their latest mouthpiece. The first 4 words of that last sentence says it all. I’m surprised they didn’t take a leaf out of Andrew Neil’s book and have Tommy Sheridan replying for the independence camp.

  6. Blair says:

    Mike,

    The Times Political Editor ought to know more about the Westminster Village than most. At Indyref1 Scots were told that they weren’t clever enough to make political decisions, independence was just within their grasp. Today the Tories are rolling out Gordon Brown as being uniquely skilled to sideline the SNP’s dreams of resurrecting a repeat run.

    The Suffolk Gazette reports on a BREXIT boom:
    https://www.suffolkgazette.com/news/brexit -village-idiots/

    Since Gordon Brown left the village, his role as Village Idiot has been left vacant for someone to fill his shoes. The Tories have their man, Boris in training, The government has spent a fortune on hiring special advisors including one Domonic Cummings who really did show off his ingenious skills!

    Now Boris is running the great rudderless Tory Ship, with all its broken levers he has no way of knowing where the BREXIT winds will take him. Yet he holds on to Scotland, like true captain holds on to his liferaft before brewing storms.

    The Times Political Editor might not know about the improvements that have been developed for our broken government machine and the rudderless Tory Ship since the Days of that Description provided to the nation by Maggie Thatcher.

    Today’s ship could have been moved by thrusters with full dynamic positioning and DGPS, run via computer technology outwith an MP sight. Even the liferafts have the ability to control everything remotely and autonomously as and when the needs require.

    Products of The Knowledge Economy, little understood. Products of investment in education unrealised. Neural Processing Systems for 21st Century going unused. The Chinese may now be market leaders but the race is no longer important.
    Protecting our home world, through peaceful means is priority. With lessons learned from our past we can reinforce Natures Natural Conservative ways to ensure our future in God’s Kingdom.

    -CVB.

  7. Alba woman says:

    We have been forced out of Europe against our democratic will and rational thought . This is a deep political wound to many Scots.
    Brexit is a very real logistical mess. Business people are rendered powerless by the bureaucracy and the total lack of support and advice….Many Scots know this ….never ever trust the Tories on anything is part of these Scots rational considerations.

    At a peasant level, attempts to send one suitcase of pre- loved clothes to relatives in Ireland have been stymied by the need to get export numbers for each of the contents of said suitcase. The cost of sending said suitcase has risen from £14 pre Brexit to £24 post Brexit.

    Enquiries to HMRC have so far elicited no response. The song ‘Send in the clowns …don’t bother they’re here , plays in my head as I type.

  8. Graham Muir says:

    Excellent synopsis Mike.

  9. Richard Easson says:

    Why does everyone suppose that it will be the end of the UK if Scotland leave the Union. As tories and other unionists define the Union it will consist of Northern Ireland, Wales and England and good luck to them.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      It’s because ‘the UK’ is short for ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ and the Kingdom of Great Britain will no longer exist when Scotland leaves the Union.

      (Presumably, both England and Scotland will go back – initially, at least – to being two separate kingdoms, united only in the person of the Monarch, with her/his government in Scotland and her/his government in England being once again completely independent of one another, as they were prior to 1707.)

      ‘The UK’ might well be superseded by a new ‘UK’; only, it would then be an acronym for ‘the United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland’, which would be another beast entirely.

      1. Julian Smith says:

        It will be Former United Kingdom (FUK).

        1. Craig P says:

          I prefer EWaNI – rolls off the tongue – until Irish unification, anyway.

    2. Blair says:

      Richard,

      “Why does everyone suppose that it will be the end of the UK if Scotland leave the Union.”

      Everybody has been conditioned by a variety of means to accept that this is true. Why do you think the way you do?

      -CVB.
      RI Live.

      1. Richard Easson says:

        Everyone has been conditioned to be conditioned ad infinitum, but the art of repeating any mantra until it bores one stiff is wearing rather thin these days, maybe a few are still, or beginning to, think for themselves.
        Could you explain the letters at the end of your post , if I don’t know what they mean I can’t be conditioned, not even subliminally.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          I’m not sure, Richard, but I think CVB-RI might refer to something like catheter-related infection rates.

        2. Blair says:

          Richard,

          It’s channel ID and format data.

          You may have witnessed similar on Television. e. g. BBC Live.

          <3 is translated by someone receiving as a red coloured heart. Represents love in text world on compatible systems.

          <3 -CVB
          BSOD! MP2TT.

    3. Interpolar says:

      How about the United Kingdom of Southern Britain and Northern Ireland?

      And when Northern Ireland and Wales leave, they can still call it the Kingdom of Southern and Eastern Britain, if they want.

  10. Jessie Allaway says:

    What puzzles me is why there is this constant discussion by Brown, Gov, Johnson, etc., around how we can defeat “them”, meaning the SNP, and the total disregard of the fact that according to the past 20 or so polls the “them” they are referring to are actually over half of the ordinary voting population of Scotland who would apparently vote for independence. In other words, “them” are the Scots who have to be defeated! Don’t they get that? Do they think that the independence supporters from the ranks of SNP and other indy groups are not ordinary Scots but some strange species who arrived from outer space – from the planet Them maybe!

  11. John Monro says:

    The comment that the Union is literally dying (the power of demographics – that young yes voters will be replacing old no voters) is superficially appealing but it ignores the fact, or at least the tendency, for young people to become more conservative (small “c”) as they age and incorporate themselves with their work and family responsibilities into the status quo. A youthful enthusiasm for a bright unknown becomes a mature fear of a disruptive unknown. Scots should know this from what happened in the last referendum.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      This ignores the possibility, however, that ‘the status quo’, in respect of the bread-and-butter problems that preoccupy us as we grow older, will remain intact in a post-Independence Scotland. It’s an awfully big assumption that Independence will lead to much in the way of radical social change. In an independent Scotland, the young of Middle Scotland will still acquire mortgages and other debts, while those who cannot escape the underclass will still be enthralled to the state through welfare dependency. Such precariousness makes conservatives of us all.

      1. Sure. But the figures – if you drill down – are overwhelming. This is a generational demographic shift.

        Have you gone more right wing in your life?

        I think we are in danger of placing a template from previous times that dont really exist. The idea of perpetual progress is kind of utter nonsense in times of collapsonomics. Young people growing up in the 21C just dont buy this shit any more.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          I’m just saying that young people, as they grow older and more risk-averse, may just as easily become more conservative (aka less amenable to change) in an independent Scotland as they seemingly do elsewhere, my point being that the fact (if it is such) that young people tend to lose much of their ‘youthful enthusiasm for a bright unknown’ is irrelevant to whether the Union is dying or not. All that’s relevant is how the ‘young’ demographic votes in the next referendum, before they lose that youthful enthusiasm.

          And notwithstanding all the names I’ve been called down through the years, I’ve not gone more ‘right-wing’ in my life, though I have become increasingly more conservative in my Marxism. Indeed, I find I’m now quite the fundamentalist.

          1. They may well do, but the shifting reality that I’ve tried to outline over a few pieces is that the idea of ‘Britain’ being the safe and ‘conservative’ option with ‘Scotland’ being the wild and dangerous leap into the unkown is eroded by the experience of life under Conservative rule

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Oh, yes! The Conservative regime since 1979 has been anything but conservative. At times, in terms of adapting British society to the material conditions of postmodernity, it’s been positively radical and ‘progressive’, from a certain point of view, and in directions the more conservative ‘nostalgic’ Left has found deplorable.

            But do you really think that an independent Scotland appeals as ‘the safe and ‘conservative’ option’ that Britain has lang syne ceased to be? I was kind of hoping for ‘a great upwelling of the incalculable’, an awfully big adventure, a bit like Brexit.

          3. So was I – but not much like Brexit.

            I just meant that fear factor has been removed. That combined with declining self-hatred means the Union is doomed.

          4. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Well, we’ll see, come the referendum, how people will vote.

            A further wee thought: maybe it would better serve the cause for the next referendum to be framed as a plebiscite on the Union rather than on Independence – on the known rather than on the unknown, as it were. Perhaps, for reasons of social psychology and knowing what we now know, the question would better be the canny Scexit question ‘Should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?’ than the flag-waving Braveheart question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ Knowing what we know now, ‘independence’ is only one reason we should (arguably) leave the UK. There are lots of more pragmatic reasons also.

            I thought the latter was the wrong question back in 2014 because, then, it was asking us to buy a pig in a poke. It would be even more wrong now.

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