Killer Jo

 

From evolvepolitics.com

 

It’s fair to say I’m not enjoying the current British general election campaign, especially not with Boris Johnson’s Conservatives showing a consistent and sizeable lead in the opinion polls – a whopping 19% lead over the Labour Party according to the latest Opinium poll commissioned by the Observer newspaper.  I mean, for God’s sake.  It’s Boris Johnson.  A man with a proven record of being a liar, a racist and an idiot.  Donald Trump’s comedy English butler.  And yet a majority of the Great British public are willing to entrust him again with the keys to Number 10.  Is the country being swept by a virus that turns people’s brains to mince?

 

Still, the campaign has had one silver lining.  It’s shown Jo Swinson, who’s been Member of Parliament for Dunbartonshire East for 12 of the last 14 years and who became leader of the Liberal Democrats amid much fanfare in July this year, to be a busted flush.

 

Swinson belongs to the political tradition of former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – and by extension that of Tony Blair, David Cameron and George Osborne.  It’s the tradition of the privileged and entitled, the oily and smooth, the professional politicians and suited technocrats whose unspoken maxims are “We know best” and “Leave everything to us.”  Osborne referred to practitioners of this particular style of politics as ‘The Guild’ and it was nicely described by commentator Chris Deerin in a piece in the Sunday Post last weekend: “These guys were masters of the soundbite, of the polished promise that was in reality no such thing…  They operated to a kind of professional political code: pledge A, which voters liked, when you really intended to deliver B, which they were less keen on; spin the media; control and beguile the national debate. Calculation, misdirection, cynicism.”

 

Swinson, who graduated from the London School of Economics in 2000, who was running for parliament as early as 2001, and whose real-life (i.e. non-political) working experience was restricted to a couple of years in marketing and public relations, obviously believed her destiny wasn’t to remain among the ranks of the great unwashed but to rule over them with the same glib condescension as Blair, Cameron and co.  Predictably, there have been massive disconnections between the platitudes that have come out of her mouth and the things she’s actually done in her political career.  Yet we, the oiks, are supposed to be too dazzled by her rhetoric, too awed by her wonderfulness or just too thick to notice.

 

In the run-up to this election she’s positioned the Liberal Democrats as the great anti-Brexit party.  Indeed, she’s declared that they would cancel Article 50 and do away with Brexit altogether.  How ironic, then, that she served as Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs in the coalition government that her then-leader Nick Clegg formed with David Cameron in 2010.  Clegg, Swinson and their Liberal Democrat comrades enabled Cameron to become Prime Minister and his premiership resulted in the Brexit referendum six years later.  They also played a role in implementing Cameron’s policies of austerity that, by 2016, had left a large part of the population so disgruntled that they voted for Brexit as a way of raising a middle finger to the establishment.

 

Incidentally, back in 2008, Swinson declared in Parliament that her party “would like to have a referendum on the major issue of whether we are in or out of Europe,” which also makes a nonsense of her stance on the issue now.

 

Her record during the Cameron-Clegg coalition makes damning reading – especially for someone who spoke to the Guardian at the start of this year about how “we need to radically change things and have much more equality.”  She refused to ban zero-hour contracts and was reluctant about increasing the minimum wage.  She supported the massive increase in university tuition fees even though, famously, her party had previously vowed not to increase them.  Welfare cuts, the bedroom tax, reducing corporation tax – she backed them all.  And the enthusiasm she expressed in the Mail on Sunday last year about erecting a statue of Margaret Thatcher in Parliament Square doesn’t suggest someone with much respect for ‘equality’, either.

 

She’s yakked on about introducing green taxes and promoting energy conservation.  Yet as her Wikipedia entry notes, her environmental credentials are tarnished by the fact that between 2017 and 2018 she “received political funding from Mark Petterson, the director of Warwick Energy Ltd, which has fracking licences across England” and she “has also voted against plans to ban fracking in the UK.”

 

Mind you, I don’t think the earth’s environment can be that important to Swinson, given her recent professed keenness for launching nuclear missiles, vaporising tens of thousands of people and damning hundreds of thousands of others to lingering deaths from radiation sickness – and presumably triggering a nuclear winter that’d hardly help the planet’s wellbeing.  “Would you ever be prepared to use a nuclear weapon?” an interviewer asked her.  “Yes,” she replied without an iota of hesitation.  Swinson, of course, is eager to tilt her party towards the right in the hope she can hoover up a few votes among Brexit-opposing Conservatives.  Hence her nuclear machismo, her presenting of herself as ‘Killer Jo’.

 

Actually, should Boris Johnson and his party find themselves short of an overall majority in the next parliament, it wouldn’t surprise me if Swinson follows the example of her old master Nick Clegg and plugs the Liberal Democrats into another coalition with the Tories.  We don’t get a Bojo government then, but a Bo / Jo one.

 

A fair number of jibes have been fired at Swinson about things such as her manner (which is like that of the officious, full-of-herself prefect or head girl who used to get on your wick at school) and her accent (which is sometimes weirdly anonymous and at other times sounds like Miss Jean Brodie gargling phlegm).  This has prompted some of her supporters to complain that people only make nasty remarks about her because she’s a woman.  Well, for me, it isn’t a matter of sexism.  I dislike her almost as much as I dislike Johnson not because she’s a woman but because she’s a patronising shyster with the disreputable track record that I’ve described in the paragraphs above.  Incidentally, female politicians like Diane Abbot and Nicola Sturgeon have received industrial amounts of abuse on social media over the years but I can’t remember any of Swinson’s defenders expressing indignation about that.

 

Anyway, even though it became airborne only four months ago, the Swinson bubble seems to be bursting already.  Her party have sunk in the opinion polls and she was dreadful on the BBC’s party-leaders’ edition of Question Time last Thursday, which is ironic considering that she’d threatened legal action against ITV when they’d excluded her from their debate, and limited it to Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, a few days earlier.

 

As one wit commented on Twitter following the Swinson meltdown, “Lib-Dems now considering legal action against the BBC for allowing Jo Swinson to take part in tonight’s debate.”

 

Dave back from the grave

 

© William Collins

 

The events of the past month have hardly been a good advertisement for the education system through which the children of Britain’s rich, privileged few have traditionally passed.  I’m talking about the training offered by England’s fee-paying public schools – ‘public’ being the English term for them, though in Scotland they’re more accurately known as ‘private’ schools – such as Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse and Rugby, followed by a sojourn at Oxford or Cambridge Universities.

 

No, the recipients of such elitist training have definitely not distinguished themselves recently.

 

Firstly, of course, there’s been the less-than-glorious start to the UK premiership of Boris Johnson, former pupil of Eton and graduate of Oxford University, where he played ‘rugger’ for Balliol, served as Union President and was a member of the Bullingdon Club, which Wikipedia pithily describes as an ‘upper-class drinking society known for vandalism’.  In his first few weeks as prime minister, the hapless Johnson has lost half-a-dozen votes in the House of Commons; reduced his party’s majority in the House of Commons from +1 to -43; seen his younger brother Jo Johnson resign as a Conservative Party MP, launching a fleet of jokes about how he was the first politician in history to stand down from politics in order to spend less time with his family; and been judged by the Scottish Court of Session to be unlawful in his prorogation of parliament, which, since Johnson briefed the Queen to get her approval of this prorogation, raises the possibility that he lied to Her Majesty – the bounder.

 

Meanwhile, Johnson hasn’t exactly shown the grit, fibre and fortitude that you’d expect from someone raised amid the cold baths and cold showers and on the wintry, muddy playing fields of Eton.  When he turned up at Nicola Sturgeon’s residence in Edinburgh in July, he was so feart at the presence of a crowd of protestors going “Boo!” outside the front entrance that, later, he ignominiously sneaked away through the back entrance – earning himself in the Scottish press the icky-sounding sobriquet ‘Back-door Boris’.  And just the other day, the presence of another crowd of protestors going “Boo!”, plus the presence of the PM of that big scary country Luxembourg, caused him to chicken out of doing a press conference.  Unfortunately for Johnson, he’d preceded this latter act of cowardice by likening himself to the Incredible Hulk.  The Johnson version of the Hulk, apparently, doesn’t so much roar “Hulk smash!” as whimper “Hulk shit pants.”

 

Johnson’s antics haven’t been the only recent evidence suggesting that a public-school education, plus Oxbridge, isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  See too the behaviour of famously monocled, top-hatted retro-toff Jacob Rees-Mogg.  During a key Commons debate about a no-deal Brexit, Rees-Mogg displayed his contempt for the oiks (i.e. all of humanity who aren’t him) by reposing across a Commons bench like a languid, foppish refugee from an Evelyn Waugh novel being punted down the River Cam.  Having jumped the shark with his Commons slouching, Rees Mogg then proceeded to nuke the fridge by comparing an NHS consultant, Dr David Nicholl, who’d raised concerns about patient mortality in the event of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal (and without access to certain medicines), to the disgraced and discredited anti-vaccine campaigner Andrew Wakefield.  Rees-Mogg was later forced to issue a grovelling apology.

 

From rte.ie

 

So has the reputation of Britain’s elitist, establishment education system been damaged enough?  Not yet, apparently.  For on top of the punishment inflicted on it by Johnson and Rees-Mogg, it has still to endure the return of David Cameron, freshly risen from the political grave to remind us of how much havoc a posh-boy with a colossal sense of entitlement can wreak if placed in a position of power.

 

Unlike the bumbling Johnson and the grotesque Rees-Mogg, David Cameron, British PM from 2010 to 2016, exhibited the slickness and charm you’d expect from a product of Britain’s supposedly finest educational institutions.  He was smooth and at ease enough to be able to project himself as a regular, matey (if obviously well-heeled) bloke.  He was like a bank manager who comes across as your personable and supportive friend, even if the moment you step out of his office you realise he’s just turned down your plea for a loan and doomed your firm to going out of business.  Also, he knew how to show some affectations of social and environmental concern – witness his blather about ‘hugging a hoodie’ or his photo op with huskies in the Arctic – although I suspect he was as sincere in this as a chancer who gate-crashes a Friends of the Earth meeting in the hope of getting into some female activists’ knickers.

 

Anyway, underneath the cuddly veneer, Cameron was not a nice piece of work.  He lived up to his nickname of ‘Flashman’ (after the bully in Thomas Hughes’ 1857 novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays) and no doubt all the ruthless, materialistic, Sunday-Times-reading, Jeremy-Clarkson-type wankers in the land recognised him as one of their own.   As John Harris pointed out in a recent article in the Guardian, Cameron and his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, once installed in Number 10 and Number 11 Downing Street, set about imposing a brutal regime of cuts on the country.  They “commenced the decade of fiscal savagery that has left some of the most fundamental parts of the public realm hanging for dear life” and created a Britain where now “austerity is part of the everyday ambience, all shut-down pools and libraries, broken-down parks, and once-a-day buses.”

 

Having saved the United Kingdom in 2014 by securing a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum, Cameron then breezed into the 2016 vote on Britain remaining in or leaving the European Union assuming it would be a shoo-in for ‘remain’.  It would also, handily, sort out the anti-EU faction in his party, which had bedevilled it for years.  But of course the Brexiteers narrowly won.  And Cameron was immediately toast.

 

The years of austerity he’d presided over had turned around and bitten him on the arse.  Partly led to believe by the likes of Nigel Farage that the EU and EU-related immigration were the source of their woes, and partly just wanting to give the establishment as exemplified by Cameron a kicking, people in worse-off parts of Britain voted ‘leave’.  Yes, by voting for an economically ruinous Brexit they were bringing yet more hardship upon themselves.  Then again, you could probably bear cutting off your nose to spite David Cameron’s oleaginous face when Cameron had spent the previous half-dozen years grinding your own face into the dirt, to  the point where you hardly had a nose left.

 

Now, three years later after the Brexit vote and his political demise, Cameron has shambled zombie-like into the limelight again.  He’s currently trying to flog his autobiography For the Record, which he wrote in a £25,000 designer ‘shepherd’s hut’ with ‘a wood-burning stove, sofa bed and sheep’s wool insulation’ specially purchased for the task and installed in his garden.  That’s right, he managed to turn even the basic process of transcribing words onto a sheet of paper into an epic statement about his posh-ness.

 

Supposedly, For the Record – which recently ranked at a somewhat low 335 in the Amazon pre-order charts – has some uncomplimentary things to say about Boris Johnson, who betrayed Cameron when he threw his weight behind the ‘leave’ campaign in a move calculated to boost his support among the anti-EU brayers and frothers in the Conservative Party.  Yip, I can empathise with Cameron’s sense of betrayal.  I mean, you’d expect Cameron and Johnson, both veterans of that virtuous, upstanding society the Bullingdon Club, to exhibit more loyalty to one another.  You’d expect there to be more honour among posh thugs who smash up restaurants and allegedly stick their dicks into the mouths of dead pigs.

 

Still, it’s disingenuous to blame all of Britain’s troubles on a privileged, moneyed clique, including the likes of Cameron, Johnson and Rees-Mogg, who finished their education school with a zillion contacts and astronomical levels of self-confidence and self-importance, though not necessarily with corresponding amounts of knowledge and ability.  The 93% of the British population who weren’t privately educated, weren’t endowed with fantastic connections and weren’t trained to superbly bullshit their way through life – to talk the talk even if they hadn’t a clue about how to walk the walk – are complicit in this too.  Myself included, I should say.  I did my share of cringing and wilting in front of cut-glass accents in the past, before I came to know better.  Through a culture of deference, cap-doffing, ‘knowing your place’, crippling inferiority complexes and imposter syndrome, through the kneejerk belief that the important jobs should be left to those who sound like they know what they’re doing (though often they don’t), we’ve allowed ourselves, the majority, to become prisoners of a minority.

 

After all, the British public saw fit to vote Cameron back into power in 2015, believing his smooth, Etonian hands were a safer pair than those of poor old Ed Miliband, a man so gormlessly dorky he couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich without making it look like a Norman Wisdom slapstick routine.  And Cameron’s second term as PM ended well, didn’t it?

 

Such is the glamour that the privately educated exert over the rest of us – that’s ‘glamour’ in its old Scottish definition, meaning ‘spell’ or ‘bewitchment’ — that we’ve allowed them to fill ridiculously disproportionate swathes of our top jobs: 65% of senior judges, 52% of diplomats, 44% of newspaper columnists, 44% of ‘top actors’ and 39% of cabinet ministers.  We have, as a nation, surrendered en masse to a class-based version of Stockholm Syndrome.  The unwelcome reappearance of the discredited David Cameron is a small reminder of this.

 

© Redskyshepherdshuts.co.uk

 

Definitely the last ever 2015 election post

 

This, I promise, will be my final comment on the UK general election, which took place on Thursday.  Thereafter, normal service will be resumed on Blood and Porridge.  Yes, I will return to writing about my usual topics, which are James Bond, Father Ted, graveyards, obscure British horror movies and the sexy places I have visited.

 

During the campaign that preceded it and in the actual results it produced, this election has sucked and yet, perversely, it’s felt rather enjoyable too.  Here are five reasons why it sucked; and five more reasons why, at the same time, I enjoyed it.

 

WHY IT SUCKED

 

One: social media.

The Twitter-sphere and Internet generally are infested with abuse-screaming bampots of all political persuasions.  Vilely insulting other people who disagree with your political views, from a keyboard, at a safe and hidden distance, is abhorrent.  It’s a practice, however, that’s best dealt with by ignoring it.  Unfortunately, with Britain’s newspapers, we have a partisan traditional media that both mistrusts and misunderstands the nature of modern information technology; and treats it as an easy source of outrageous comments that can be held up and waved in your headlines as supposed proof that all your political opponents are foul-mouthed lunatics.

 

It possibly wasn’t a coincidence that the world best-loved and most fragrant lady novelist, J.K. Rowling, suddenly appeared in the Scottish – Labour Party-leaning – newspapers two days before the general election; where she talked about the online abuse she’d suffered last year at the hands, or tweets, of Scottish-independence supporters after she intervened in the independence debate and said it was a bad idea.  Yes, I think the timing of these sudden J.K. ROWLING TALKS ABOUT LAST YEAR’S TWITTER ABUSE BY SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS headlines was a wee bit suspicious – they hit the newspapers at the exactly the same moment that the Scottish Labour Party was breaking the emergency glass and pulling out her old friend, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to try to save the party’s skin in Scotland.  (It didn’t work.  Scottish Labour ended up losing 40 of its 41 seats to the Scottish National Party.)

 

Predictably, J.K. Rowling is now getting more abusive tweets from the SNP’s lunatic fringe – which makes her Twitter stream a surreal place, where messages like “J.K. Rowling, you’re a traitor to Scotland!” alternate with ones from schoolgirls in South Korea asking her what Hedwig the Owl’s favourite flavour of cheese is.

 

From screenrant.com 

 

On the Internet, you’ll find psychotic SNP supporters, and psychotic Labour supporters, and psychotic Tories, and psychotic Greens.  And psychotic Quakers, and psychotic Buddhists, and psychotic Jedi Knights, and psychotic Coldplay fans.  If you’re going to use the new media that the communications revolution has spawned in the last 20 years, you have to accept the existence of such basket-cases as a sad inevitability and ignore them.  Especially if you dare to offer anything resembling an opinion.

 

And journalists, please stop wading into this online mire searching for stories.  Go into the real world and find some real stories instead.

 

Two: Russell Brand.

I don’t hate the hirsute and ubiquitous Russell Brand, even if I think he was a stupid dick a while ago to advise young people to disdain the democratic process and avoid voting.  I don’t even think it was foolish of Labour leader – former Labour leader – Ed Miliband to talk to him shortly before this election and persuade him that voting is actually a sensible thing to do.  In fact, Ed even persuaded Russ to endorse Labour.

 

What I find irritating is that after Ed had lost the election, Russell Brand immediately declared that he’d made his pro-voting (and pro-Labour) comments in the heat of the moment and hadn’t really meant what he’d said.  Though as soon as he’d disassociated himself from poor Ed, the electoral loser, he then predicted five years of strife under the new Conservative government and urged his followers to behave with ‘compassion’.

 

Which makes it sound like Russell was not only trying to have his cake and eat it; but also to take that cake to bed, and subject it to sustained and vigorous foreplay, and grease it with lubricant and shove it up his arse.

 

(c) The Independent

 

Three: the mainstream press. 

I’ve already written that the majority of Britain’s national newspapers are owned by a half-dozen super-rich, tax-dodging, far-right-wing gits, so I won’t mention that fact again.  (Oops.  I just have.)  Correspondingly, most of these newspapers’ election coverage had to be taken with an amount of salt equivalent to the annual output of the world’s largest salt mine.

 

And as I’ve written before, the coverage of Scotland in the right-wing press before the election was depressingly shrill and xenophobic.  Nor has it stopped during the three days since the Scottish voting public gave a huge mandate to the SNP.  Bruce Anderson, for example, has raged in the Daily Telegraph about ‘half the population of Scotland’ being ‘in the grip of religious hysteria’.  Meanwhile, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote a piece responding to the Scottish results with this charming headline: VILE BIGOTS HAVE MADE ME ASHAMED TO BE SCOTTISH.

 

You may remember that following the death of gay pop star Stephen Gately in 2009, Ms Moir wrote a homophobic column about him that resulted in 25,000 complaints being made to the British Press Complaints Commission.  So funnily enough, the words Vile bigot has made me ashamed to be Scottish are precisely what appear in my head whenever I hear mention of Jan Moir.

 

Four: denial.

To return to the Scottish Labour Party…  Although I don’t support them, I have actually felt a bit sorry for them since their Thursday-night slaughter at the hands of the SNP.  Particularly piteous have been the expressions of denial made by their (now nearly entirely unemployed) politicians: “It’s not our fault!”  “The public didn’t listen to us, the fools!”  And so on.

 

Mind-boggling rather than piteous, though, has been the reaction of their boss Jim Murphy.  Despite losing his seat, and despite his party’s number of MPs going from 41 to one under his watch, Jim is still there.  He maintains that he’s still the right man for the job of Scottish Labour Party leader.  He reminds me of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who insists on continuing to fight after having his arms and legs cut off: “I’ll do you for that!  Come here!  I’m invincible!”  (King Arthur: “You’re a loony.”)

 

(c) The Daily Mail

(c) Michael White Productions

 

Mind you, J.K. Rowling did try to console poor Jim by making him an honorary member of the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.  Though I have to say that if Jim Murphy had had any authority at Hogwarts at the time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lord Voldemort would now be ruling the entire universe.

 

Five: the Tories won.

Well, obviously.  And bollocks!  They’ve just brought back Michael Gove.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/michael-gove-reshuffle-rivalry-theresa-may-cabinet-conservative

 

 

BUT…  WHY I ENJOYED IT.

 

One: social media.

Yes, the social media aspect of this general election sucked but, paradoxically, it was brilliant too.  I say that as someone who remembers how elections were in the olden days, when for your information you depended on supposedly-learned authorities penning pieces in the newspapers or pontificating on TV.  Basically, it was a case of well-to-do Oxford / Cambridge-educated political pundits telling us, the plebs, how things were and what to do about it.  And if you wanted to participate in the debate – well, you sat down and penned a letter and sent it off to a newspaper, in the dim hope that it might be published a few days later.

 

Compare that with now.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook…  And probably a hundred other innovations that are too new and trendy for someone my age to even know about, let alone understand and use.  Lord George Foulkes can say something pompous and stupid and 30 seconds later you can be in his Twitter stream taking him to task about it and calling him a tube.  If that isn’t proper, participatory democracy, what is?

 

It also, incidentally, made this election incredibly funny.  Political satire is now something the entire population can indulge in, immediately, rather than having to sit down passively and read Private Eye magazine or watch Have I Got News for You.  Some of the jokes, quips, barbs and (courtesy of Photoshop) visual gags whizzing around the Internet have been brilliant.  I particularly like the one about the sartorially eccentric George Galloway, recently deposed MP for Bradford West, now having time to start ‘his Victorian ghost-hunting psychic detective agency’.

 

(c) The Daily Star

 

Two: bloodshed!

Galloway was just one of many politicians who suffered defeats in this election.  In fact, there were more heads left rolling in the dust than there were in several seasons of Game of Thrones.  It felt like a particularly gory afternoon spent at the coliseum in Ancient Rome – lots of sadistic entertainment for the audience, though probably not much fun for the gladiators.  This is remarkable when you consider how even the election that caused the most dramatic reshaping of the electoral landscape in the last 20 years, 1998’s one when Tony Blair trounced John Major, produced just one memorable casualty: Michael Portillo.

 

This time though, we saw the demise of Dougie Alexander, Jim Murphy, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy and Ester McVey.  Plus most spectacularly of all, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls lost his seat by a few hundred seats.  Cue a million cruel Internet jokes about Labour getting its Balls cut off.

 

Three: Scottish people ignored the mainstream press.

Despite the Scottish newspapers spending the half-year prior to the election braying about how brilliant Jim Murphy was – facilitated no doubt by Murphy’s shifty but supposedly press-savvy spin doctor John McTernan – nobody in Scotland paid attention.  Result!

 

Four: failure of loonies.

The leader, sorry, ex-leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and hence Britain’s right-wing loony / fruitcake in chief Nigel Farage – he was enthusiastically backed by the Daily Express, which says it all – stood as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Thanet.  He was, however, beaten and this failure prompted his resignation as UKIP leader.  When the result was announced, the face of comedian Al Murray, who ran as a joke-candidate against Farage, was an absolute picture.

 

(c) BBC

 

Talking of loonies and fruitcakes, I was delighted that Susan-Anne White, the demented evangelical-Christian candidate in the constituency I’m originally from, West Tyrone, garnered just 166 votes on the night.  Or as the Google election-results service put it, ‘0%’ of the total.

 

Five: be careful what you wish for, Tories.

In 1992, John Major pulled off a remarkable result for the Conservative Party.  He won a narrow majority – one that nobody had expected, but a majority nonetheless.  Yet within a year, his government was a shambles.  To keep his slender majority intact, Major had to devote his entire energy to threatening, appeasing and pleading with a large contingent of far-right-wing Conservative backbenchers, whose xenophobic, Europhobic, ‘hang-’em, flog ’em’ mind-set was barely distinguishable from that of UKIP today.

 

23 years later, we find David Cameron in the same situation.  He may be looking smug at the moment, but I suspect that smugness will evaporate very shortly as right-wing / moderate-wing civil war threatens to break out in his party.  I will, of course, be here to write about it when it happens.

 

That didn’t take long

 

(c) Daily Record

 

I hadn’t expected the promises made by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to amount to the proverbial hill of beans.  I’m talking, of course, about the promises of new powers being devolved to Scotland in the event of a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish-independence referendum on September 18th; which the three Unionist party leaders made a few days before the referendum in a fit of panic when opinion polls suggested the ‘yes’ vote was nudging past the ‘no’ one.  What does surprise me is the speed with which, after the referendum returned a result of 45% in favour of independence and 55% against it, the promises of the Three Stooges, or the Three Unwise Men, or whatever you want to call them, have started to be reneged on.

 

(One reason for not believing any of this – which the Labour-supporting Scottish tabloid the Daily Record rather desperately splashed on its front page as THE VOW – was the involvement of Nick Clegg.  Anyone who, over the past few years, has followed the behaviour of the Liberal Party leader / facilitator-of-the-current-Conservative-government-in-London will know that any pledge with his signature on it is not worth the paper it’s written upon.  Check the following link for details:

 

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/sep/19/nick-clegg-apologies-tuition-fees-pledge)

 

However, barely had the last vote been counted in the referendum and it became clear that the United Kingdom was safe for a little while longer, David Cameron announced that any new powers for Scotland would have to be linked to some new powers for England: namely, an end to the anomaly whereby Scottish MPs are able to vote in the House of Commons on matters pertaining only to England, while English MPs are unable to vote on ones pertaining to Scotland – because most of those decisions are now made 400 miles north in the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.

 

Ed Miliband must’ve popped a few blood vessels when he heard Cameron come out with that.  If Labour win the 2015 general election, it may well be by only a slim majority, leaving Ed dependent on the 40-odd Labour MPs that are usually returned by Scotland to get his legislation passed in the House of Commons.  If those MPs are barred from voting on English matters, Ed could be in the embarrassing position of being a British Prime Minister who’s unable to legislate for 85% of the British population – i.e. the English.  (He won’t be able to legislate for Scotland either, because its parliament is currently in the hands of the Scottish National Party and will be at least until 2016.)

 

Now it looks like those promises are likely to disappear down a hole while the Westminster-based representatives of the Conservative and Labour Parties engage in a kerfuffle about who said what and who promised what.  It certainly wasn’t the case – as stated clearly in THE VOW on the Daily Record’s front page – that the Scottish parliament would be “strengthened with extensive new powers, on a timetable beginning September 19th.”  The 19th had come and gone and all we’ve seen is Tory-Labour squabbling.  Hardly seemly for two parties who, until a few days ago, were assuring us that we were all ‘better together’.

 

Actually, I expect the issue will finally be kicked into the long grass and forgotten about while the Westminster political and media establishments find other, more reassuringly-familiar things to obsess about, like the upcoming Clacton by-election and the possibility of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) winning its first seat in the House of Commons, and then next year’s general election.

 

By the way, I can understand English people’s annoyance at the current conundrum.  If I were English, I’d be pissed off that Scottish MPs can enjoy a say over my country’s affairs, when my own MPs have no say over theirs.  This is the old ‘West Lothian Question’, which was first raised in 1977 by the distinguished Labour Party politician Tam Dalyell and which seems more pertinent than ever today.  Old Tam is not just a rare example of a fine Labour mind, he’s also an even rarer example of a fine Scottish Labour mind.  Just yesterday, Tam told the BBC’s Kirsty Wark: “I think it would be wrong in principle for a Labour government to impose – because that’s the correct word – legislation in England using a Scottish majority, where those Scottish MPs had absolutely no say in their own place…  I think he’s (Miliband’s) got to face up to it that it is deeply wrong to try to pretend that Scottish MPs should vote decisively on English affairs.”

 

However, the fact remains that Cameron, Miliband and Clegg promised the Scots those powers at a time when there seemed a possibility of the ‘yes’ side winning narrowly.  It didn’t in the end, but it would’ve done with a six-percent swing of the vote.  Now I’m sure that among the 55% of Scottish voters who ultimately voted ‘no’, there were a lot, probably a majority, who felt British, wanted to stay in the United Kingdom, hated the concept of Scotland becoming independent, didn’t care about extra powers being handed over to Edinburgh and maybe didn’t want a parliament, even a devolved one, in Edinburgh in the first place.  But I’m also sure there were a number of folk swithering between voting ‘yes’ and voting ‘no’, who were ultimately swayed to the ‘no’ side by THE VOW.  As many as six percent?  Quite possibly.  Which makes the prevarications happening now in Westminster deeply wrong from a Scottish point of view.

 

Mind you, a lot of people voted ‘yes’ precisely because they regarded the political hacks of Westminster as a shower of corrupt, untrustworthy sleazebags whom Scotland was better off shot of.  What has happened since September 18th has probably not done anything to change that opinion.

 

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

 

From 3.bp.blogspot.com

 

Well, the day has arrived.  Today, September 18th, is when the people of Scotland go to the polls and vote on whether or not their country should become independent again.

 

Nothing would make me happier than if a majority voted ‘yes’ to independence, but I’m afraid that – habitual pessimist that I am – I’ll have to stick by the predictions I’ve made in earlier blog-posts and say that I don’t think it’s going to happen: this time.  I know that recent opinion polls have said it’ll be close and one or two have even put the ‘yes’ vote in front; but I think the lead shown by the ‘no’ campaign in most opinion polls will translate itself into a majority when the votes are counted.

 

Considering the massive number of apocalyptic threats on one hand and massive number of wild promises on the other that’ve been flung at the Scottish electorate by the British political, business and media establishments over the past two years, it’s amazing that anyone is minded to vote for independence at all – never mind a proportion that could be close to half the population.  However, I think the sheer volume of pro-UK propaganda will, ultimately, have a decisive effect on how the vote goes.

 

Ever since the polls suggested a fortnight ago that the gap between the sides was narrowing, there’s been a non-stop bombardment of it: Unionist party leaders like David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg (plus a woken-from-hibernation Gordon Brown) seemingly promising Scots the earth if they stay in the UK, without giving much detail about what’s on offer; and simultaneous tales of horror about how every business in Scotland, from RBS and Standard Life down to the wee sweetie-shop at the foot of Cockburn Street in Edinburgh, will relocate to England in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.  Why, it sounds like even Visit Scotland will have to move operations to London and rename itself Visit England if the Scots are stupid enough to vote for self-determination.

 

Also, what I think of as the ‘Gideon Mack’ factor – taken from the novel of the same name by James Robertson – may play a role in deciding the outcome.  In Gideon Mack-the-book, Gideon Mack-the-character steps into a polling booth on the day of the 1979 referendum on setting up a devolved Scottish assembly: he suddenly takes cold feet, his support for the assembly melts away and he finds himself against all his expectations putting a cross in the ‘no’ box.  The other day, hoping to inspire such last-moment jitters, David Cameron called on Scots to think carefully while they ‘stand in the stillness of the polling booth’.

 

However, I’m optimistic in the long term that Scotland will be independent.  Just as the failed devolution vote in 1979 didn’t prevent a devolved Scottish parliament being created in 1999, so I think a failed independence vote now won’t prevent it happening later.  One thing the referendum has succeeded in doing is making people aware of politics and making them listen to what politicians are saying.  And when they start seeing the promises made by the unionist leaders evaporate, and the threats about what’d happen in an independent Scotland materialize anyway in a Scotland that’s still part of the United Kingdom, opinions will change.

 

Here’s what I predict will happen if – as I strongly suspect – Scotland votes ‘no’.

 

Downing Street, September 19th, after the final result has been declared: David Cameron and George Osborne pop open the bottles of champagne while Cameron’s take-no-prisoners Australian spin-doctor Lynton Crosby starts planning his master’s campaign for the 2015 General Election.  In the 2015 campaign, the old Etonian will be proudly rebranded as ‘the Prime Minister who saved Britain’.  Already, Alistair Darling begins to look like the Tories’ useful idiot.

 

Led by the Daily Mail, the press begins a vociferous campaign to force Alex Salmond’s resignation as Scottish First Minister now that the independence cause he’s championed has been defeated.  Many London-based tabloids publish sneering pieces mocking the Scots as whining subsidy-junkies who’ve finally realized what side their bread is buttered on.  These pieces, strangely, don’t appear in the same newspapers’ Scottish editions.

 

This subsides after two or three weeks as Scotland disappears off Westminster’s radar again and the press hunkers down for the next big story – the 2015 General Election.  The Mail, Express, Telegraph and Sun re-align their artillery, away from Salmond and towards Ed Miliband, whom they spend the next months portraying as a weak, out-of-touch socialist bumbler who’ll run Britain into the ground if he gets the keys to number ten.  Labour Party politicians start complaining about ‘bias’ in the media.  This provokes great Schadenfreude from certain people north of the border.

 

2014 comes to an end and the New Year’s Honours List is announced.  Certain individuals are rewarded with knighthoods, OBEs, CBEs, MBEs, etc., for their services in keeping the United Kingdom united.  There’s a gong for Keith Skeoch, Executive Director of Standard Life, the company that threatens to leave Scotland every time there’s talk of constitutional tinkering that might give the place more autonomy.  (He’s also a member of the Board of Reform Scotland, which according to author and former ambassador Craig Murray is a ‘neo-conservative lobby group which wants to abolish the minimum wage, privatise the NHS and pensions, and further restrict trade unions’.)  Lord George Roberson of Port Ellon KT GCMG FRSA FRSE PC is awarded a further medal for his tireless struggle against the international ‘forces of darkness’, which would’ve undoubtedly been bolstered by a Scottish ‘yes’ vote.  Should this medal be the Grand Order of Britain (GOB) or should it be the Supreme Honour for Integrity, Tenacity and Excellence (SHITE)?  Perhaps he should get both – George Robertson GOB SHITE has an appropriate ring to it.

 

Elsewhere, Gordon Brown becomes Lord Brown of Shrek’s Swamp.  Alastair Darling becomes Lord Darling of Tracy Island.  And will that supposed socialist firebrand George Galloway, who’s spent the past months warning that an independent Scotland would be a hellhole of racism and sectarianism, abandon his left-wing principles and accept a peerage?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  He’s shameless enough.  He could be Lord Galloway of Nonsense-on-Stilts.

 

Scots who’d assumed they’d get substantial new powers from Westminster after a ‘no’ vote are perplexed to discover that those powers are less spectacular than promised: a bit more say over social care here, a bit more say over the railways there, a few additional tweaks, nothing else.  This is hardly surprising.  The stuff promised by Gordon Brown was promised by somebody – an opposition backbench MP – in no position to promise anything.  Meanwhile, on the day that Cameron, Miliband and Clegg descended on Scotland en masse (following the shock of a sudden tightening in the opinion polls) and offered everyone the moon on a stick, William Hague – deputizing for Cameron in the House of Commons – reassured backbench Tories that these promises were merely the equivalent of electioneering promises.  There was no guarantee that they’d ever be passed into law.  At the time, oddly, Hague’s comments didn’t get much coverage in the newspapers.

 

Whichever party wins power in Westminster in 2015, Conservative or Labour, the brutal austerity measures continue.  They come hard and fast under Prime Minister Cameron, slightly less hard and slightly less fast but painfully longer under Prime Minister Miliband.  As the money-pot gets smaller, so the share of it allocated to Scotland shrivels up too.

 

The Scottish Rugby Union decides to stop playing Flower of Scotland as the Caledonian anthem before international rugby matches, because the line that goes, “…we can still rise now, and be a nation again!” is attracting too many embarrassing jeers from opposition fans.

 

Astonishingly, Alastair Darling’s prediction that North Sea oil would run out in 2017 proves to be wrong.  The black stuff, contrarily, keeps on flowing, through the 2020s and 2030s and beyond.  However, no complaints are heard coming from the UK Treasury.

 

A few years from now, the implementation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) sees the National Health Service in Britain become a lucrative new market – a veritable smorgasbord of pickings – for transnational companies whose priority is profit rather than the care of patients.  North of the border, the NHS is supposedly the Scottish NHS, a distinct and separate entity.  But when the devolved administration in Edinburgh stresses its distinctness and separateness and tries to exempt it from TTIP, which is privatising / ravaging health services elsewhere in Britain, those private companies take the administration to court.  In court, the companies win their case by arguing that Scotland and its NHS aren’t distinct or separate.  Scotland’s merely a region of a country, the UK.  After all, didn’t its population vote to confirm that regional status back in 2014?

 

London keeps on expanding, sucking investment and talent out of the other parts of the UK, including Scotland.

 

Sooner or later, the day arrives when Nigel Farage’s greatest and wettest dream is fulfilled: a UK-wide referendum on continued membership of the European Union is held and it results in a UKIP / Tory majority in southern England voting to leave the EU.  A majority in Scotland vote to stay in it, but they’re outnumbered by the anti-European brigade down south.  All those old scare stories about an independent Scotland being booted out of the EU suddenly look hollow.

 

Boris Johnston, a man whose concept of British geography doesn’t extend beyond the M25, becomes British Prime Minister…  But no.  It’s time to abandon these predictions before they make me suicidal.

 

I suspect the constant refrain in a post-‘no’-vote Scotland will be the same question that Johnny Rotten – sick to the teeth of the manipulations of manager Malcolm McLaren – put to his audience at the end of the final concert by the original Sex Pistols at San Francisco Winterland in January 1978: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”  As people in Scotland realise they’ve been cheated, I think momentum will build again for independence.  I only hope that in the meantime the place doesn’t endure the sort of punishment it received, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher, between the two devolution referendums in 1979 and 1997.

 

But maybe all my pessimism will prove unfounded.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be in a state of shocked euphoria.  We shall see.

 

North Sea oiliness

 

(c) BBC

 

Apologies to regular readers who’ve tuned into this blog recently expecting to find me musing about my usual topics (James Bond, obscure British horror movies, graveyards in Edinburgh) and found me instead ranting and raving about the debate currently going on in Scotland about whether or not the country should vote for independence in the referendum being held this September.  My apologies, but some of the arguments flying around in this debate have been so stupid, and some of the personalities voicing those arguments have been so annoying, that I cannot help but rant, rave, wave my fists in the air and generally do a good impersonation of Rab C. Nesbitt.

 

Yesterday saw David Cameron gather together the UK cabinet and take them to Aberdeen.  The last time Aberdeen experienced such an event was in 1921, in the days of Lloyd George.  There Cameron insisted that the North Sea oil industry would be in much safer hands if Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom.  So let’s get this straight.  A UK Tory prime minister telling the Scots that the North Sea oil industry is best run from London?  That would be laughable if it wasn’t so – as recent history has shown – tragic.

 

Last month it was announced that a fund set up by the Norwegians at the start of their North Sea oil extraction programme had now become worth the equivalent of 100,000 pounds for every man, woman and child in Norway.  (Two days ago, meanwhile, it was announced in Scotland’s Sunday Herald newspaper that the biggest food bank in Glasgow had run out of food.)

 

What happened to Britain’s North Sea oil profits under the last Tory regime is a story of criminal waste, on an epic scale.  Whether you look at it from a Scottish or from a British point of view, the Tories squandered it during the 1980s and 1990s.  They used the money to fund their reshaping of the UK economy – the dismantling of traditional industries in the country’s hinterlands and the shifting of hundreds of thousands of former workers onto benefits.  It also went towards the creation of a brave new world of banking and financial services centred on the City of London, many of whose main players would wreck the British economy in 2008 through their corruption, greed and stupidity.  (Of course, as the bill for what happened in 2008 is being paid for, it’s the people stuck in that benefits culture that the Tories propagated a generation or two ago who are suffering under austerity measures.  When did a dodgy banker last lose all his income and have to depend on a food bank?)

 

In the early 1980s, I remember the Scottish Nationalists launching a poster campaign depicting Margaret Thatcher as a vampire but with oil, not blood, trickling down her chin and sporting the slogan, ‘No wonder she’s laughing, she’s got Scotland’s oil’.  The campaign was much criticised for being crude and nasty (which it was, to vampires at least), but it was, essentially, true.

 

From flickr.com

 

Not that the Labour party has been much better.  During the days of Jim Callaghan’s Labour government in the late 1970s, a senior cabinet minister proposed the setting up of an oil fund along the lines of what the Norwegians were doing.  But the proposal was rejected.  As the journalist Andy Beckett noted in his book When the Lights Went Out – What Really Happened to Britain in the Seventies, “(i)nstead, the great North Sea windfall would continue to be treated as an ordinary source of Whitehall revenue and swallowed up by the day-to-day needs of hungry governments.  Not for quite a time… would it be obvious that this had not been a wise strategy.  In 2008, the economist John Hawksworth of the accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated that, had Britain’s tax revenues from North Sea gas and oil been invested rather than spent, they would now be worth £450 billion, and would give the British government control of one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds.”  The minister who pitched this idea for a British oil fund was the Secretary of State for Energy, Tony Benn – a man now synonymous in the London political and media establishments with the ‘loony’ left.

 

But to return to my original point – having a British Tory prime minister lecture the Scots about how to run the North Sea oil industry is like having Hannibal Lecter give a talk to the National Union of Census Takers about how to cook liver.

 

(c) Huffington Post

From wingsoverscotland.com 

 

Yesterday, I posted comments similar to what I’ve written above on an online newspaper thread and got several angry responses.  One line of response was that the Scots could hardly belly-ache about what’d happened to North Sea oil revenues when two of their biggest banks, Halifax Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, had been instrumental through their mismanagement in necessitating the great banking bail-out of 2008.  To that I can only say that both had been tainted by the deregulated insanity that the Tories let loose in the City of London in the 1980s and 1990s.  As a long-term customer of the Bank of Scotland, I know that when it merged with England’s Halifax Building Society and became HBOS it seemed to transform overnight from being a rather stolid outfit to being a recklessly corporate one. 

 

And if the Scottish banks were responsible for a lot of the damage in 2008, I think this reflects the fact that Scottish banks have traditionally been a large part of the British banking sector – banking being a rare example of relative English-Scottish parity since the Act of Union in 1707.  Historically, banking seemed something that the Scots were particularly skilled at – it was a Scotsman, William Paterson, who helped found the Bank of England in 1694.  Mind you, thanks to Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin, that reputation for Scottish banking excellence is now well and truly dead.

 

I also had replies claiming that London’s financial sector, fashioned indirectly by North Sea oil revenues, is a legacy of 1980s / 1990s Conservative rule that Britain can still be proud of.  Despite what happened in 2008, one person claimed, it remains immensely powerful and important and outstrips anything that, say, Germany’s financial sector is capable of.  Well, overall, Germany’s economy is still bigger than Britain’s and it’s more healthily balanced.  Its traditional manufacturing industries were allowed to evolve too over the past 30 years, rather than being knocked on the head.  (I remember walking along a street in Berlin a few years ago and seeing a huge queue of excited Germans standing outside a car showroom.  They were queuing to have their photos taken, proudly, beside the latest model to have been unveiled by BMW.) 

 

I have no doubt, though, that London will continue to grow and become even more of a shining financial citadel than it is now – certainly with the likes of Boris Johnson around to defend it against allegations of impropriety and wheeling-dealing.  Mind you, I suspect the growing disparity between it and the rest of the country will eventually inflict more disunity on the United Kingdom than any amount of campaigning by Scotland’s pro-independence movement.  People in the North East of England, for example, were no doubt miffed at the release of figures about transport spending in Britain in 2011.  According to these, £5 was spent on the average North-Easterner – compared with £2731 spent per head of population in London (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-16235349).

 

Finally, a pertinent link: 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/13/north-sea-oil-money-uk-norwegians-fund

 

What happened to the love?

 

(c) BBC

From bullyscomic.blogspot.com

 

A week, it’s commonly said, is a long time in politics.  This has felt especially true with recent events in the build-up to the referendum on Scottish independence, which is being held this September.  Last week, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in London and did his best to impersonate Hugh Grant, who played the cuddly fictional prime minister in the Richard Curtis movie Love, Actually.  Cameron assured Scots that everybody in England, and Wales, and Northern Ireland loved them and begged them not to vote for independence and break up the big happy family that is the UK.  Please don’t go, he practically sang, we love you so.  He even told people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to text or email relatives and friends in Scotland, to urge them not to betray the great British love-in by voting ‘yes’.  (By the way, everyone I know who lives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – I’m still waiting to hear from you.)

 

But this week – ironically one day before St Valentine’s Day – Cameron’s chancellor George Osborne gave a speech in Edinburgh and suddenly love was no longer in the air.  Instead, stark, blunt threats were the order of the day.  Osborne warned that if Scots voted for independence, there’d be no prospect of the remainder of the UK agreeing to a currency union with Scotland.  Having a currency union, whereby an independent Scotland would continue to use the British pound even if it meant the new country ceded a degree of fiscal control to London, was the Scottish National Party’s preferred policy.  It was also the policy recommended for an independent Scotland by Alistair Darling, who was chancellor in the last Labour government and is coincidentally the head of the anti-independence Better Together campaign.  Although having separate currencies on the island of Britain would damage the remaining UK as much as it would an independent Scotland – the cost to the UK balance of payments could be billions of pounds – Osborne made it plain that he was willing to cut off his nose to spite his face (or cut off his Union Jack-painted face to spite his wayward tartan nose) in order to stall an independent Scotland’s economy.

 

So within a couple of days the attitude of the Conservative government at Westminster towards its Scottish subjects has veered from being lovey-dovey to being shrill, wide-eyed and threatening.  Such extreme mood-swings are not characteristic of Hugh Grant in Love, Actually at all.  They’re more like the behaviour of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.  No wonder some people in Scotland want to vote for independence.  Who’d want to stay in a union with a government of bunny-boilers?

 

(c) The Spectator

From myhungergames.com

 

The currency issue has dominated the mainstream Scottish media this week.  That was predictable since none of the owners of the daily Scottish newspapers are actually based in Scotland and any sympathy for the SNP or for the cause of independence that appears in their pages is fleeting, to say the least.  So Osborne’s refusal to entertain the idea of a currency union became A GREAT BIG SCARY STORY INDEED.  None of the newspapers forecast that people in an independent Scotland would be reduced to using pebbles, seashells and coloured beads as currency, though I’m sure a couple of them (the Scottish Daily Mail, the Scottish Daily Express) came close.

 

I’ve worked and travelled in many countries and, from my experiences, the currency issue is not the be-all-and-end-all as Osborne and his admirers in the Scottish press would have us believe.  Currency is a tool that enables people to keep the wheels of commerce turning and get on with their lives and it’s amazing how adaptable they can be.  I spent two years, for example, living in a country a very long way from Europe where the euro was everyday currency.  Also, folk in the Republic of Ireland used their Irish version of the pound, the punt, for decades – and during my childhood in 1970s Northern Ireland, I remember southern Irish money being used north of the border alongside our official ‘British’ pounds and pence.  Frankly, an independent Scotland could use whatever currency it wanted and plenty of studies, conducted by bodies on both the right and the left of the political spectrum, have concluded that there’s no reason why the place shouldn’t thrive anyway.  But with Osborne expressing his willingness to stick up currency barriers between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK, he’s made administrative hassle in the movement of business, wealth, goods and people around these islands a real possibility.

 

What annoys me most about Osborne’s speech, though, is how Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, immediately gave it his full backing.  If Labour were in power in Westminster, he said, they’d refuse a currency union with an independent Scotland too.  George Osborne, who is a millionaire thanks to his inherited wealth, is a prominent member of a regime that has necessitated the return of food-banks to Britain as a measure to save families from going hungry, and allowed utility companies to turn their customers into virtual serfs, and threatened half the public libraries in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with closure, and  introduced the Bedroom Tax – a tax that even the ultra-cautious wee middle-class Edinburgh rag The Scotsman has described as ‘Dickensian’.  And so on, and so forth.  Yet Ed Balls is more than happy to hold Osborne’s posh Tory coat for him while he bludgeons the Scots with threats about what might happen if they dare to exercise their democratic rights and vote for more autonomy.

 

(The Liberal Democrats have also given Osborne’s speech their backing, though what they think is irrelevant.  They cut their own throats by entering a coalition government with the Tories back in 2010 and will probably be extinct after the next general election.)

 

For the record, I doubt that the Scots will vote for independence later this year.  (That’s despite recent opinion polls showing an increase in support for the ‘yes’ option – something that no doubt prompted Osborne to issue his threat this week.)  To make a rash generalisation, the Scots are a careful, slightly pessimistic and not terribly confident lot and the anti-independence campaign, via the newspapers, has exploited these insecurities by banging on relentlessly about all the terrible things that might happen if they were stupid enough to vote for political autonomy – companies would relocate to England, prices would soar, pension plans would collapse, they’d be kicked out the European Union, they’d be threatened by terrorists, television in an independent Scotland would be rubbish because Scottish creativity is rubbish.  (That last argument was articulated both by the former Labour MP Brian Wilson and by the former Liberal Party leader David Steel, who nowadays calls himself Lord Steel of Aikwood.)  The currency scare has been the latest in a long line of scare stories designed to convince people that, unless they want their children to grow up in a Caledonian equivalent of Albania, circa 1970, they should vote ‘no’.  Sadly, it’s an approach that I think will work this time.

 

I say ‘this time’ because my opinion is that in the long run Scotland will become independent, perhaps one or two generations from now.  I think it will parallel what happened with the creation of a devolved Scottish parliament in the 20th century – a referendum on Scottish devolution in 1979 was a failure (although a narrow majority of Scots did vote for devolution, they didn’t get it thanks to the insertion of a sneaky last-minute qualification in the voting rules), but the Scots voted for it emphatically and overwhelmingly in 1997.  Scottish independence will eventually come, I suspect, because a couple of decades from now the United Kingdom will be an even less attractive place to be than it is now.  It wouldn’t surprise me if 2030 or 2040 sees the UK outside the European Union and outside the EU’s rules about minimum pay, working conditions and human rights, operating as a sort of giant, deregulated, offshore sweatshop-cum-McDonald’s branch that Rupert Murdoch, Nigel Farrage and the Daily Mail would have wet dreams about.  Also, thanks to the rise of the Internet and the decline of traditional newspapers, the flow of information will be less controlled than it is at the moment.  There will certainly be fewer old-style newspapers in Scotland to put a Unionist spin on things.  (The Scotsman, for instance, is on its last legs at the moment.)

 

What worries me, though, is that following the 2014 referendum Scotland will be a demoralised and dissatisfied place for a long time.  People who voted ‘yes’ will be angry at how the debate was distorted by the political, business and media establishments – indeed, I suspect that this week’s events, with the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats aligning themselves to deny any prospect of a currency union happening, will become as notorious as the backroom politicking that cheated the Scots out of getting devolution in 1979 even though they’d voted for it.  Meanwhile, those people who voted ‘no’, and who consider themselves to be both ‘British’ and ‘Scottish’ simultaneously, are unlikely to feel brilliant, either.  By then the ‘Scottish’ part of their identity will have been subjected to two years of drip-drip-drip claims by unionist politicians and newspapers about how rubbish they are.  Even if you don’t particularly want to be independent, it can’t do much for your self-esteem to be continually told you’re incapable of being independent.

 

Furthermore, if – as I expect – a majority of Scots vote ‘no’ and the threat of Scottish independence recedes, Scotland will disappear off Westminster’s radar again, with unhappy consequences.  After all, following the devolution fiasco of 1979, Margaret Thatcher assumed that the Scots didn’t have the bottle to stand up to London and her incoming Tory government could do whatever they wanted with the place.  And we all know what happened to Scotland then.