Alex the Great...?
What a week! While English socialists no doubt felt relieved at the realisation in the early hours of Friday morning that Scotland, a significant electoral prop to both the Labour Party and the progressive-Left of the British vote, would after all be remaining in the UK, only a matter of hours later the nation was woken by an unexpected ‘alarm call’ enunciated with breathtaking opportunism by our ever-scheming prime minister Cameron: that while new powers would be given as promised to Scotland by way of further devolution, such as spending on tax and welfare, so too should England now follow suit in tandem with and “at the same pace” as the Scots (welfare, as usual, given particular emphasis by the Eton-educated tax-dodger’s son), and that just as English MPs don’t vote on various social policies affecting the Scots, so too should MSPs no longer in future vote on English social policies.
In other words, Cameron and his Tory cronies now wish to use Scots devolution as cynical and partisan leverage to boost the power of their party in England and at Westminster: as there are by far more Scots and Welsh MPs in Labour than among the Tories, this of course means that even in the event of a Labour Government after May 2015 –and beyond, chronically– it would be extremely difficult for it to get some of the most crucial England-specific left-of-centre/progressive social policies through Parliament, due to having a continual minority, and having to rely either on Fib Dem support or simply being and potentially ever remaining politically impotent whenever it comes to proposed English legislation. So even when the Tories are in Opposition, in future, it’s highly likely they’ll always in some sense have power, almost like a Shadow Government, since they will be able to stop any progressive/distinctly Labourite policies passing into law.
But of course, if it was the Tories who counted on many Scots and Welsh MPs to make up their numbers and majorities in Parliament, you can be sure that any sudden pangs of ‘super-democratic conscience’ would never have surfaced among their ranks at all. Let us remind ourselves, after all, that we are now into the election run-up period and from hence on the Tories’ Gagging Law, arguably the most anti-democratic policy ever passed through a British Parliament, is now in force, to restrict the basic democratic freedoms of protest and anti-government campaigning up until May 2015, as well as further neutering the already decimated influence of the unions; while, funnily enough, completely ignoring the fact that around 98% of the still-unregulated British press is right-wing and inveterately pro-Conservative. So much for Tory ‘democratic principles’ eh? As with all ‘principles’, they only apply when it is to the partisan advantage of the Conservative Party, but never ever when it is against their interests.
So we have learned now from the fallout after the Scottish referendum that, in effect, whichever way the vote had gone, we’d still be looking down the political gun-barrel of a potentially chronic Tory-isation of English politics. Typical of Cameron to swoop in and hit all of us with a very nasty sting-in-the-tail after was has been –no matter which way one wanted it to go– an emotionally exhausting referendum which really has no real winners or losers when the full ramifications pan out.
Cameron has form for this sort of thing: he’s like an anti-Superman who swoops in just in the nick of time, to call time, and remind us that we’re all utterly shafted democratically speaking, whether he and his party are actually occupying Downing Street, or not. We’ll never be rid of the Tory yoke. Either way, England is sinking into a quagmire of right-wing regression –and although the Tories, UKIP and the terminally right-wing press and media which champions them are largely to blame for this parlous state of affairs, so too, we’re afraid to say, are the English people themselves.
The same English people who affectionately depict their upper-class buffoon of a London Mayor as ‘loveable Boris’; who think social intolerance towards immigration and general xenophobia is absolutely fine as long a cheery beer-swilling Nigel Farage figure represents such gutter-level views; who still believe, in spite of the proliferation of food banks, escalation in homelessness, Atos-hounded deaths, and suicides, that the welfare system is “too generous”; who think cars and property are more important than fundamental human rights; who are willing to follow right-wing ideologues out of Europe altogether and surrender our protections within the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Human Rights, simply because they can’t be bothered to read anything more demanding than a daily red-top tabloid or watch anything more demanding than Top Gear, and are happy to let billionaire media moguls and millionaire Tories do their thinking for them; and who are permanently happy to pay for the upkeep of one of the richest and most prolifically reproducing inherited families in the land through their taxes, even if they’re not allowed to set one foot inside their capacious palaces, singularly exempt from the bedroom tax pelted remorselessly on the poorest and most vulnerable citizens whose paltry benefits the English so resent contributing to.
And this is what the social-democratic Scots realise, particularly the young Scots: the true problem is, simply, the English, a race seemingly intent on perpetual self-harm and erosion of their own suffrage and basic rights as long as they can keep their monarchy and aristocracy intact, and can keep getting their opium supplies of right-wing tabloids, celebrity gossip, sport, cars and buy-to-let properties.
But for The Recusant, one of the greatest tragedies to come from the Scottish referendum is the unexpected resignation of Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond. Quite simply, we feel Salmond is/has been up to this point the most gifted and passionate British political leader of our time, whose much trumpeted ‘faults’ were as nothing to those of his venal Westminster enemies.
But in spite of his natural charisma, ferocious intelligence and rhetorical genius, fate has bequeathed the would-be modern day political Robert the Bruce has bowed out honourably as more the William Wallace of our day. Beaten in battle but by no means in terms of the longer-term conflict, not so much of national, but of ideological, borders: because the Yes or No of this referendum was as much about voting for or against Scotland remaining under the ideological bondage of Westminster anarcho-capitalism, or breaking free and making a new settlement North of the border for Scandinavian-style social democracy or, more bluntly, a new form of socialism.
What has been lost in Salmond’s resignation in inestimable, as was hinted at in his debates with ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling, whose fulminations and nostril flares at Salmond’s mere suggestion that he, as a key member of the Blair-Brown New (neoliberal) Labour era, was fiscally-speaking “in bed with the Tories” was risible to witness, especially since Darling was arguing almost entirely from the same false premises as the current Tory ‘austerity’ administration. Salmond put much emphasis on the iniquities inflicted on ordinary people by the disgraceful welfare ‘reforms’, most particularly, the deplorable bedroom tax, which the First Minister of Scotland palpably –and rightly– despised as a moral blight on the British political map.
On almost every issue, Salmond argued from a left-wing viewpoint, once again showing –as the Greens do in England– how Labour has still yet to rediscover its socialist soul. Such passionate condemnation of Tory policies broadly supported by the three main parties from a politician of such high office in Britain today is a rare thing indeed (though Rhodri Morgan, leader of Welsh Labour and First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, frequently puts Miliband et al to shame with his socialist compassion).
We have no doubt that the highly capable Nicola Sturgeon will be a strong leader in her own right –but few can deny, even his most vehement detractors, that Alex Salmond was a one-off. It is highly unlikely we will see another political leader of his political and intellectual calibre again for some time to come; certainly there are no current party leaders who can hold a candle to him. The Recusant is sad to see such a great politician stand down in such inauspicious circumstances –a vicissitude made all the more bitter by the reality that by far the least gifted but most unscrupulous and opportunistic political leader of our time, and, in our opinion, the worst prime minister this nation has ever had (bar perhaps Stanley Baldwin and Margaret Thatcher), has managed to survive to trivialise and menace our nation for another eight months up until what we sincerely hope will be his final ousting in 2015.
But as said, the trouble is, while we might get the Tories out of Downing Street next May, we will never be able to get them out of Parliament altogether, and, if they have their way with pushing through a new embargo against Scots MPs voting on English social policies, we will find that all the fundamental issues that matter the most to the future wellbeing of our nation could well be permanently blocked by a chronic Shadow Tory administration, passive-aggressively empowered on the Opposition benches through the ability to prevent any progressive Labour policies passing into law with one long intransigent No.
Nick Robinson and the British Broadcasting Conservatives (BBC)
Like a rabid terrier at Cameron’s heels, Nigel Farage popped up for a further photo op (indulged by a gushing media) posting letters to all Scottish MPs asking them to abstain from voting on specific policies only affecting the English. This was of course the UKIP ‘softly softly’ approach to the matter, though Farage looked slightly more flushed-faced than usual and it must taken all of his effort to stop his arm from thrusting upwards into the kind of salute normally reserved for domestic rows with his German wife.
As ever, the BBC was eager to gush round Farage, the gentrified English Fuhrer-in-waiting, just as the Corporation had covered the whole Scottish referendum period with effortless Trades Descriptions Act-busting bias in favour of the No campaign. Not only were our screens flooded with footage of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nigel Farage making their case for keeping the UK at the expense of any such extended exposure of Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon championing the Yes campaign; but were also insulted by the fragrant ideological bias of BBC political correspondent and frothing Tory-supporter and generally weaselling pundit, Nick Robinson, who just so happened to once be President of the Oxford University Conservative Association (in 1985, at the height of Thatcherism and the last crushing of working-class resistance during the Miners’ Strike).
So understandably vexed by Robinson’s seeming carte blanche at betraying his own private politics in his approach in particular to baiting Alex Salmond during a TV interview, the Yes campaigners began hoisting placards demanding his sacking by the BBC. Of course, the likes of Robinson will never be sacked from anywhere since they have the right contacts and handshakes to ensure they’ll remain on the gravy train muddying the waters of political correspondence for many decades to come. But we might justifiably now decrypt the acronym of the BBC to the British Broadcasting Conservatives (in addition to the British Bourgeois Corporation, and/or British Bread and Circuses).
But it arguably wasn’t only the Beeb, the Tories, UKIP and the overwhelmingly right-wing British press, with all their scaremongering, who finally swung it towards the No camp: it was also our perpetual and democratically unaccountable invisible overlords, “the markets”, generators of chronic economic uncertainty who nonetheless demand certainty from everyone and every thing else; or more particularly, the speculating parasites and the banks, most notably RBS, itself one of the key defaulters responsible for the “Great Recession” and the near-bankruptcy of our society, who promptly threatened to move their entire operations South of the border in the event of a Yes vote. So much for democracy eh!? So much for the people deciding their future without the uncompromising blackmail of a criminal bank forcing their hands at the last minute…