We need more Jim Murphy and less Douglas Carswell

by Jonathan Todd

On two separate occasions this year I have been surprised by intelligent Scots telling me that they are considering voting yes in the independence referendum. Why would they contemplate something that seems to me small-minded and inward-looking?

When I put this to them, they both replied with words to the effect of, “there is a better way to run Scotland.” “Can’t that be achieved within the devo-max that is inevitably coming?” “What makes it inevitable?” “Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are all committed to it.”

At this point in the conversations, one of them expressed cynicism in the capacity of these three parties to deliver. Another was more accepting that devo-max would come if Scotland remains in the UK and began to lament what would become of the rump of the UK if Scotland voted for independence.

Behind both of these responses is a belief that Scotland is a fundamentally different political universe from the rest of the UK. The first reveals a view that the leading UK parties are unable or unwilling to give Scotland the powers necessary to build the brightest possible future. The second is concerned about what will become of the presumed conservative England without the anchor of supposedly social democratic Scotland.

But at the last general election, only 3 per cent fewer people in Scotland voted Conservative than voted SNP. At the three general elections prior to this, Labour would have formed the government each time had only votes in England counted. Labour can win England. Scotland does have Tories. England and Scotland are not Mars and Venus.

Somewhat similarly, the Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly has claimed to have a lot more in common with Liverpool welders than Scottish Highlanders with agricultural backgrounds. If we accept that Scotland is not an island of social democracy in a sea of conservatism, instead sharing a spectrum of political values with the rest of the UK, and also take the leading UK political parties at their word, meaning that devo-max is a coming reality for Scotland, what remains for the yes campaign to advance their argument?

Here we enter Braveheart territory. Reason and civility are cast asunder in favour of a belligerent insistence that Scottish patriotism and support for the union are incompatible. And anyone who insists otherwise is a traitor to Scotland. Who must be destroyed by any means, fair or foul.

Jim Murphy’s speaking tour of Scotland has run into Bravehearts. “The yes campaign are now organising to create a mob atmosphere at our street meetings. It’s coordinated, it’s determined and it’s increasingly aggressive,” Murphy claims. It might be argued that Murphy should continue his tour without advertising stops to minimise the risk of mob takeover. Equally, mobs have no part to play in our politics. They are, though, perhaps likely when the only place left for the yes campaign to go is Braveheart land.

The videos of Murphy v the mob are more akin to 1930s street politics than today’s sanitised and staged politics. The passion in Murphy’s eyes and voice are as admirable as the mob is ugly. I cannot recall any other current top level politician being subjected to similar. I am also doubtful that others would have responded with as much controlled passion and grace under fire as Murphy.

Some of the reaction to Douglas Carswell’s UKIP defection has expressed admiration for a politician acting out of conviction, even if we disagree with him. Carswell speaks of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives as if conviction is alien to them all. Yet Murphy confronts the mob with immense conviction.

Carswell’s suggestion of a cosy cabal between the three leading UK parties is entirely consistent with the scepticism of the yes inclined Scot who doubts that these parties will deliver devo-max. Where the Scot doubts this promise, Carswell doubts Cameron’s on an EU referendum. But it’s hard to see how the three parties could more unambiguously commit to devo-max or Cameron to a referendum.

As James Kirkup has speculated, “if Ukip is not a merely a Conservative problem but a symptom of lost trust in the whole Westminster system, Mr Carswell’s defection will rank as a significant moment in British politics”. The propensity to doubt promises, displayed by both libertarian Carswell and the socialist Scot, speaks of a lack of trust across the political spectrum.

But can we really look into Murphy’s burning eyes and doubt him? In the face of adversity, he has displayed a gutsy sincerity that is not only what the Better Together campaign needs but what UK politics, drained of trust, would benefit from.

If voters could recover trust in the three main parties, UKIP would have as little road left to run into as the yes campaign stranded, as they now are, in Braveheart country. And then the ugly underbelly of UKIP, the English cousin of the SNP, would be all anyone would see of them.

Douglas Carswell thinks he’s doing British politics a favour. Championing a party with such an underbelly – racist, sexist – cannot be so. It is Jim Murphy who is doing politics a favour. His passion and sincerity are the antidote to both the SNP and UKIP, parties with much in common, including a tendency to benefit from the low levels of trust in British politics.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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6 Responses to “We need more Jim Murphy and less Douglas Carswell”

  1. Gordon Cobban says:

    Last para – you mean ‘antidote’, don’t you? And don’t try to blame autocorrect.

  2. WG says:

    The author of this piece totally ignores the vandalism and abuse handed out to Farage and UKIP.

    As for Jim Murphy, he was part of a front bench that rammed the anti-democratic Lisbon Treaty down our throats.

    Scottish Labour has been a disaster for England, just as Thatcher was a disaster for Scotland.

    It’s time to call it a day between us.

  3. swatantra says:

    Wrong. We need more Joan d’Arc and less Quisling.

  4. Madasafish says:

    This article could be rewritten more succintly as:

    As a Labour supporter I prefer the opinions of a Scots Labour MP to those of a former Conservative MP..

    Well what a surprise..

    I speak as an exiled Scot: I do not want to ever see again any Scottish MP as PM or a Cabinet Minister.

  5. Fred says:

    Carswell is an intellectual colossus loved by his constituents. He has a deep and real understanding of our politics. Nobody on the left dares to challenge him as they know he is an unemotional tell it as it is guy. Carswell is massively influential on the Internet, there is no equivalent on the left.

    Jim Murphy is a bloke flying a red flag that Todd supports. The same flag that brought us economic ruin, mass youth unemployment, the staffs NHS scandal, Iraq, failure to prevent rape on an industrial scale, multiculturalism, political correctness, huge squandering of cash on PFI, huge debt, cheap worthless degrees for all, more unemployment and mass immigration.

    Another useless article from the left ,with its PC Left and Labour always right attitude.

  6. Fred says:

    S’ppose the kids who were done such wrong all over the North will be thanking all those in Labour ranks who insisted on PC acceptance of Pakistani ways and effectively allowed for MASS RAPE.

    Yes this was on Labour watch, they knew about it and let it continue. They racially discriminated against those kids in favour of another racial group. To me that makes the Labour people involved accessories to the crimes and racists.

    … and here you have Jonathan Todd smearing UKIP as sexists and racists. Sir if you were standing in fornt of me I would call you a four letter expletive.

    oh and if it helps you. I’m not white.

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