by Ian Stewart
Forgive me, this is all going to get a bit Simon Heffer, but in a good way, I promise.
Sometimes it seems that the political class is intent upon the out-and-out destruction of Great Britain. Witness the lack of support for our national broadcaster, even before the Saville scandal, and its supreme lack of care at the ruthless gutting of the welfare state, let alone the NHS sell off. If you value your eardrums, never get me started on education either…
Yes, the political class – a thing that back in the fifties and sixties most of us would have thought near to death – has, by the grace of Margaret and Tony, been placed firmly back in control. I suppose that we should all be glad that we have no need to worry our little heads about the issues of the day, despite that pesky universal suffrage thingy. Let us all sit back and let assorted witless media-types, lawyers, bankers, tame academics, the odd ex-oil company exec and career politicians lull us all to sleep.
Large sections of this privileged, educated elite show supreme indifference as to the fate of the United Kingdom, whether they wield power in London or Edinburgh.
Despite leading the Conservative and Unionist party, and despite presenting themselves as inheritors of Macmillans’ one nation mantle to get elected, Cameron, Osborne, Gove et al have no love for the union. Why should they, when Scotland rejects modern Toryism by such a large degree? Yet a common cynical cause has been made with the fat, failed economist in Hollyrood. An outside observer might possibly see that however unlikely it may have seemed given the SNPs anti-Tory stance at previous elections, for nationalists, they main enemy has been Labour all along.
It goes like this – Labour lost the Scottish parliament because we deserved to. For far too long we practiced the kind of machine politics that belong to Tammany Hall rather than a modern state. Hopefully we are learning the lessons and reconnecting. However the result of the stitch-ups, the graft and the internal censorship has been plain to see.
So Alex Salmond, never one to exhibit an ounce of shame, was given an open goal. Never mind that his policies on the economy were in tatters by 2009, never mind the backing of religious reactionaries, or his blatant courting of dear Rupert, he beat us fair and square.
Yet the referendum in 2014 will disenfranchise millions on these islands, and is definitely not what the British electorate voted for in 2010. Let us ignore the guff about “team GB” that the no campaign will predictably harp on about. Just look at the electoral roll in almost any part of the UK. From the Kinnocks in South Wales, to the Macmillans, Robertsons and Mcleods in the former fishing ports and shipyards of the east coast, the Scottish diaspora are legion.
And what about Corby, the former steel town so full of us that it is known as “little Scotland”?
At a time when the French voters of London have their own seat in the National Assembly, when serious moves are being made to press for a similar accommodation in the Irish Republic, not to mention Sinn Feinn’s mooting of some kind of a say for the wider diaspora, what do we get? Oh yes, the chance to maybe need a passport to visit granny. Perhaps Mr Salmond made his attitude clear to these millions when he organised the great “Homecoming 2009” a while back – when it was clear to all that if your accent was in English rather than American, you had best not bother.
The Scots have played a huge role in the history of these islands, for good or ill (General Haig, Mick McGahey or Keir Hardie, take your pick). I am sure that in one way or another that role will be continued, yet it would be a crying shame if a small band of men in the pockets of rich absentees could once again sell Scotland short.
Ian Stewart is a Labour party member and blogs at http://clemthegem.wordpress.com/