How amusing to see David Cameron as smug as a slug in a plug hole bathing in the glow of his new recruits opposite the House of Commons, an attempt to ape Nicola Sturgeon’s joyful ranks photographed a day earlier under the Forth Road Bridge.
Nicola gave us a memorable image, dramatic and, against the massive arches of the bridge, in perfect scale. Cameron gave us gum spattered domestic stone steps and a few over-trimmed tree stumps as a backdrop. I can hear his PR advisers. “We can’t be outdone by those Jocks, David. Get our new MPs in serried rows and tell ’em to smile!” They had the opportunity to book something fitting, symbolic of their ability and character, London’s Eye as a backdrop, the giant Ferris wheel that goes round and round getting nowhere, or Madam Tussaud’s Waxwork Museum, but he chose the banal and the commonplace for his photo opportunity, pushing in and out the group as if a penguin seeking warmth.
The archetypical party of and for Scotland faces the archetypical party of and for England. The symbolism could not be starker. The two countries could not be further apart in policies, values, outlook, international aspirations, and caring for its citizens. Fair to assert Scotland has independence now, only not yet fully formed, not signed and sealed.
Independence is a state of mind
We know what the SNP stands for, we know it aims and objectives at Westminster, but we know next to nothing of Cameron’s policies, he keeps things general. He wants to ‘renegotiate’ EU membership but never specifies what that means. That is no way to demand a meeting. For what reason? is the reply. Remove this? Modify that? He plans twelve billion cuts in Welfare payments but won’t specify what and where. The Unions are to get another bashing, but the public are not happy to see civil rights whittled down even more. He wants to ‘abolish’ Labour’s Human Rights Act without putting anything in its place, anything we could call ‘British fair play.’ The court of international opinion will come down on his head if he rips it up, but they waste their time. Inside his skull is a meringue somebody sat on.
The recent riots in London, quietly side-lined by most of the British media and press, are the latest of many. They will get bigger and more ferocious as Cameron’s Welfare cuts bite, and the English NHS drags itself onto a stretcher. Scotland knows where it is going, England is in a tizzy, a government that knows only how to cut and slash, not to build. Labour and Tory incoherent, Liberal-Democrats cast into the wilderness looking for a new name and a new cause. The political map of Britain has changed, altered irrevocably.
You pinch yourself in case you are dreaming
“SNP to head the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in Westminster”. Something to look forward too, civil war contained to an anti-room. That will be fun. First up to explain his scurrilous behaviour, acting like a punch drunk boxing promoter, the previous chairman of the committee, Ian Davidson. Next Sir Nicolas McPherson, head of the Treasury, to explain why he is not clipping tickets for pedal boats on the Serpentine after leaking an anti-SNP memorandum, an action breaking all civil servant codes of conduct.
A post-election survey produced some heartening results. (Normally I avoid percentages and surveys in preference to empirical fact and actual quotations but this one is interesting.) The most intriguing finding is that English respondents are now much more supportive of independence than they were prior to the referendum. They liked what they heard and saw, and that aligns with Nicola’s warm acceptance by many in England. Despite continued sniping from the British Establishment’s old guard, the malicious assertion that Labour all but got embalmed and buried because English voters were scared of a Labour-SNP partnership has not held up. How to insult Scots and English voters simultaneously.
Reading between the lines, almost a third of English voters feel no threat from SNP MPs in Westminster, and, now that antagonism has greatly lessened, a significant number feel independence the natural end game, both countries better off.
Scotland is winning the battle of expectations
Over half of those taking part in the survey across Britain, and three-quarters of those in Scotland, think full independence will happen within the next fifteen years. I am as convinced as I can be that if Cameron found himself with a No to EU membership Scotland would hold a second Referendum. The idea Westminster can stop us mixing and trading with Europeans is unthinkable.
A decade is too long for me. The feeling is rather like a Ryan Air flight, you are pleased the flight cost so little, but after a three-hour struggle with luggage to get to the airport, taken off coat, jacket, belt and shoes, put them on again, the airline has had you stand in a queue for over an hour without offering a consoling word. Exhausted, you are losing patience.
While we wait for our team at Westminster to spool up, we can enjoy the remnants of Labour’s Scottish branch trying hard to engender a semblance of humility. Humble does not come naturally. Everything they were told to embrace before the Referendum, and rejected, and again for the General Election, and dismissed, now they wish to consider. They still believe the Labour party is not the problem; they believe everything else in Scotland is.
And what of the chief narcissists, those who saw a last chance to hog the limelight?
Jim Murphy, that ‘powerhouse’ of ‘intellectual ability’ who was certain no Labour seat would fall and is convinced he is the man to keep the reigns of leadership – hiding; George Galloway hustled away from defeat for fear of being tarnished by it – suing for unfair dismissal; Archie Macpherson, whose ‘stomach turned’ to hear of the ‘lies and deceit’ of the SNP – probably checking for tape worms; (I slipped oor Erchie in there because the pompous speech he gave was all about himself, a display of naked vanity) Ed Miliband, the rookie Labour leader whose rallying call was vote for him or else … or else don’t vote for him at all – spending quality time with his family; Ed Balls, a man who sought safety in membership of the Tory Economics Club – banished; and Gordon Brown, the ‘colossus’ that bestrode the world’s stage called the Senior Citizen’s Knitting Society, Kirkcaldy, doors locked at 9pm – probably looking for Miliband’s monolithic standing stone to add a final clause: ‘You bastard! You blew it for all of us!’
The sadness is not in their going, but in the manner of their attempts to stay.
Michael Dugher, shadow transport secretary, makes a candid admission:
“There was a highly visible elephant trap that the SNP set for us, which is that Labour and the No campaign would be for the status quo, for Westminster, for London, for the old political establishment and elites – and Scottish Labour all joined hands and they jumped into that elephant trap. We shouldn’t have been in bed with Tories. It was a complete strategic disaster. It killed us ” (New Statesman)
They have all been sentenced to perpetual ignominy-no! Wait. That’s an impossible sentence. There’s no verb in it.
But the biggest surprise of all is to see the SNP the third largest party in Britain. No one can tell me we are not enjoying the spirit of independence now. By that standard we should conduct ourselves accordingly, and stop telling each other we have too many to convince. They are converted already.
We lost the Referendum but gained our nation’s future. Satan is Santa inside out.