The complete write-off that is London party politics presents Scotland with an exceptional moment in history. Britain’s exit from the European Union will leave Westminster in tatters and before the axe falls Scotland should jump.
Westminster is fractured. Writing for the Guardian on Saturday Dan Roberts drew our attention to the internationalisation of the popular swell against globalisation and its withered fruits of populist politics and media driven watered down rhetoric. In the United States both Bernie Sanders and the Donald have exposed the chasm that has opened in their respective parties between the globalisers and the protest vote, and here in Britain this effect is evident right in the heart of London. Where the trend had been moving towards the political divides no longer running between the Westminster parties but through them, the constitutional question simmering over Scotland and the feverish debate over Europe has completely scattered the herds.
Nothing of this is a mere matter of differing opinion, soon mended after the storm. No, Scotland and Europe have cut right to the core of Britain’s ideological identities. Thatcherite neoliberalism has, over four decades, stretched English Conservativism to breaking point. Free market promises of wealth beyond measure have brought the Iron Lady’s whelps – Cameron, Osborne, and their ilk – to the trough, leaving the old guard of little Englander Conservatives – the Johnsons, Iain Duncan Smiths and Farages of the House – in the shade of seething discontent. This is not about who has power. Not any longer. This Tory civil war is about the nature of that power and who holds it.
On the opposing benches another internecine conflict is raging. Hungry for power, the Red Guard under Blair abandoned all pretence of socialism and with it any appetite for social justice. Tony’s single greatest failing as a leader was that he confused the acquisition of power with governance, a flaw that led to the hyper securitisation of Britain, a fetishisation for the stick rather than the old Labour carrot, and a dalliance with US foreign policy that led to deceit, murder, and war crimes. Winning the confidence of the City and the votes of soft Tories cost New Labour its soul. It left its identity at the door, a trade-off that has left many in the opposition wondering what distinguishes them from those currently in government.
Labour too, in its hurried metamorphosis, like the Thatcherites it modelled itself on, never managed to complete its own act of patricide. It too turned its back on the brooding backbenches, and now with Corbyn this incomplete revolution has come back to exact a terrible vengeance. Parliamentary Labour may loath and despise Jeremy Corbyn, but with a growing movement of a newly politicised grassroots supporters behind him the MPs have found themselves firmly on the wrong side of history.
A vote on Britain’s membership of the EU, intended to take the steam out of the far-right’s engine, has achieved only the awaking of the Conservatives’ own latent xenophobia – a call to arms that has gathered the remnants of New Labour desperate for an identity to call their own. On both side of the Commons Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall, and it is not likely that the irreconcilable differences exposed in either party will be resolved when – if – the dust finally settles.
Given that no man is an island, in the greater scheme of things, Britain’s departure from the European Union is going to leave the country out in the cold in a globalised world of trading blocs. It would be a miracle to say the least, and harmful to the interests of the EU, if London remains Europe’s financial centre. No empire, as Britain well knows, lets outsiders wash its dirty sheets. Britain deprived of European capital and divorced from the commerce of the continent will sooner rather than later drift to the other side of the Atlantic in search of a new bed. Brussels will not reopen the door for a chastised Britain to skulk home. The days of London’s active participation in European politics will be over, and Uncle Sam has only a taste for passive bedfellows.
Daily Express (@Daily_Express) June 03, 2016
More immediately, the severance of our treaties with the European Union will leave Northern Ireland out to dry, and may ultimately prove to be the undoing of Ireland’s partition. The six counties of Ulster are wholly dependent on trade with the Republic, and they were so even during the darkest years of the Troubles. In the past London and Dublin were at liberty to come to ad hoc arrangements which benefited a poor Irish Republic and kept Northern Ireland economically afloat. Two significant changes have happened in Ireland since those times; Ireland is no longer poor, and Dublin is bound to its own treaty obligations with Europe. For Northern Ireland the Brexit demands either that Britain quickly develops a taste for Irish milk or the province sinks.
Not that any of this is of concern to the warring parties of course. This may well have begun as a measure to stem the rise of UKIP, but it has deteriorated into a bitter squabble for power between the Tories and the other Tories. Neither the Euro Tories nor the Englander Tories care much for Belfast, this is a contest for English Conservative identity and the power that comes with it, and everything else is but collateral.
In Scotland this has to be viewed as a unique moment, a rare period of Westminster weakness. Scotland is the only country in the union with a strong and firmly united political force. In UK terms this is a small force, but within Scotland itself it is a full half of the nation. At Westminster the SNP holds a 90 percent share of the Scots seats – making this moment not only rare but exceptional. It will never present itself again. The Scots, the Welsh, and the Northern Irish have the most to lose from Britain’s exit from the EU, as London has never neglected to bleed its possessions in times of hardship. It’s worth putting the idea out there: England’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity.