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A Mile Down The Road

CaptureIf you saw the Andrew Marr show this morning you’ll have caught something pretty outrageous.

You’ll have seen a Tory minister say, on the air, with no contradiction at all, that Scotland voting for the SNP and expecting them to have a say in government is “dangerous for democracy.”

She was sitting beside Alex Salmond at the time, following an interview where he handled insulting questions with the deftness we’ve come to expect from him.

He sniggered at her, appearing to her find her comments as absurd as I did.

I actually laughed watching it.

What balls these people have. I mean, seriously … First Past the Post, the way it works here, is one of the most backward, weighted, political systems in the world, and an absolute insult to any concept of what the word democracy means.

Whenever there has been any kind of clamour to change it the two main parties have balked.

When the Lib Dems had a choice between seats around the cabinet table and forcing real voting reform they chose a shot at power.

Single member FPTP systems always have a perverse outcome, just not usually this one. They always lead to the creation of a political duopoly and they aren’t cut out for those occasions when that duopoly is shaken up.

There’s even a technical term for it; it’s known as Duverger’s Law. It has produced the current morass here in the UK and it has kept the United States torn between two equally corrupt, and useless, political organisations in the Republicans and Democrats.

By its very nature, First Past the Post erodes the democratic process.

But what are we supposed to do with that? This is the system the UK operates under, and it’s the one they wanted us to live by. The Westminster parties, backed by their praetorian guard in the media, used every lie, scare tactic and underhanded means going to keep Scotland within this union.

They succeeded. We’re still here. And this is the result.

Talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The irony is delicious, especially when you consider that their conduct is what built the SNP to where they can now muster more foot soldiers than the British Army (they have 87,000 regular soldiers to the SNP’s 100,000 plus members!).

They can’t believe this turnaround. They are squealing like pigs tonight because we’ve fashioned a full house out of a very bad opening hand and now we are going to use the very electoral system they’ve imprisoned us in to our full advantage.

To do that takes a special skillset. Thankfully, this is a party with leaders who possess the necessary know-how.

I thought Salmond was magnificent today. When asked how he and the party would react if Ed Balls simply told them to do their worst – as Jim Murphy suggested on Friday – he replied quite brilliantly, asking Marr what Labour would do if he offered a budget amendment saying the HS2 rail link would start in Edinburgh or Glasgow and run to Newcastle instead of London.

He rightly pointed out that such a proposal would have cross-party support and that the north of England MP’s in Balls own party, especially, would be broadly supportive of it. Marr was monetarily lost for words.

If I were a Labour strategist, particularly one in Scotland, and I had been watching that this morning I think I would have swallowed hard, picked up the phone, called Milbank and told my bosses that worrying about how we would poll in the election itself was not the only thing to be concerned about any longer. I would have told them “these boys up north … they ain’t playing games. They’re coming to the table with some serious intent.”

I don’t know what would have troubled me more; the idea that Salmond came up with such a monumental game-changer on the spur of the moment or that he had that idea in mind all the time.

It would make me wonder – and worry – just what else he and the SNP have considered, and how many more grenades they are bringing into the negotiations. A box-full I would think. All primed and live.

If I were in a position of authority in the SNP right now I would have teams of prospective candidates, led by more experienced figures, war-gaming scenarios for every government department. I would have them working out two separate sets of policies; one for presenting during post-election negotiations and the other for simply raising Hell if the first set is ignored.

I would have other teams working through the likely legislative programs for the main parties and trying to work out how best to mess with those, and Trident would leap off the page as the most obvious one there, of course.

I actually think that argument is winnable, especially if the opponents of renewal can rally the opinions of experts to discuss alternative weapon systems and bring in some disaffected generals and army people who see their own budgets facing major cuts to pay for it.

I suspect that there are enough Tories who are worried about our conventional forces to think the money could be better spent, and I know there is enough doubt on the Labour benches to make this uncomfortable.

Salmond hit Marr – and through him Murphy – with that sledge hammer too today, when he asked how Labour voters would react if the party forced through a policy the majority of its members disagreed with, especially hiding behind Tory votes.

It is up to Salmond and those in his party to polish up the alternatives and present them to the British public, and guarantee the full, open debate on this issue which we’ve yet been denied. I think that could turn the trick.

He’s also discussed how the SNP might call for a “triple lock” mechanism for any vote on the EU referendum – which means every constituent part of the union, Scotland, England, the north of Ireland and Wales, would have to vote No for that result to be binding – which is another piece of out-of-the-box thinking that must have the “main parties” scared stupid.

In my last article I speculated on how the SNP’s weapon of last resort might be the “unilateral declaration.” Without ruling it out – and Alex himself has proposed this in the past – he said today that this election will not, itself, deliver the mandate for independence.

He said, however, that the issue could be settled by putting the commitment to hold a second referendum in the next Scottish Parliament election manifesto … which is broadly in line with most of our expectations.

With the majority of Scottish MP’s and another win at Holyrood, it is impossible to imagine Westminster refusing to grant that to us. This has clearly been thought about for some time … and the idea probably preceeds September’s vote.

Political scientists, and those who never dared to dream, have said that politics is the art of the possible. By their thinking, to accomplish anything in the game at all requires that the practitioners know the limitations of power and tread carefully.

Greater minds than these know that history isn’t made by timid leaders who watch their every step. It was Frederick the Great who said “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!” and George Patton agreed with him, and made it his own philosophy.

Alex and Nicola know full well that you can change the world with audacity, moving forward with confidence and daring, doing what lesser individuals say can’t be done. They’ve already changed Scotland that way.

Imagination is the only thing that can impose limits on a unified political party that holds the balance of power and today we saw, clearly, that the SNP leadership don’t lack that particular quality.

I feel very contented tonight, having re-watched that interview. Alex’s resignation as First Minister was clearly not a reaction to the referendum defeat but part of a more far-reaching plan by far.

With him heading for Westminster and Nicola already in Holyrood, each backed up by a strong contingent of elected representatives, with their hands on the levers of power, you can start to see the broad outlines of a plan, and the depth of their strategic thinking … and it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing.

If the Scottish electorate hold their nerve and give them the mandate, these two will take us all the way.

It is our country’s great fortune that we have the very brightest and the best looking out for its interests at this huge historical crossroads.

These two can see a mile down the road … and increasingly, we too can glimpse the Promised Land that lies ahead.

There are 45 days to go.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

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9 comments to “A Mile Down The Road”
  1. Ironic there are 45 days to go! Do you think Murphy has conceded defeat (with 45 days to go! ) with his “dare to bring down Labour government” speech? Clearly he is also expecting large SNP contingen. He just doesn’t understand we just don’t care, they mean less than nothing to us now and red or blue Tory in Westminster makes no differenc, it’s all austerity to us. Good positive article

  2. That is exactly what I thought when Alex announced his resignation. Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are so obviously seeing moves and possibilities in the political game several moves ahead of the two dinosaurs. Nicola and Alex have actually read the rules of the game. The dinosaurs invented those rules, and have forgotten them. The dinosaurs don’t even have the brains to look two moves ahead. They think it’s a real political triumph on those rare occasions when the mists of bafflement and confusion lift and they can see one move ahead and pull a fast one in parliamentary question time on their stupid opponent dinosaur. Cameron thought he’d pulled a real blinder with his “English votes” stunt after the referendum. The Labour Party actually believed the clown Murphy could save them. They’re both only just beginning to realise the concrete they so confidently stepped into is hardening around their feet.

  3. Old gits like myself have been looking down that mile or so of road since long before either Oor Eck or Oor Nicola were born. Back then we were thought to be a bit strange in wir heids and we were muckle thin oan the grund o Scotland. That mile, too, used to look siccna lang whang tae naewhaur.

    It is a strange quirk of life that, as we grow older, the passage of time, that seemed so interminable as a child, is actually an ever increasing acceleration and whizzes past ever more quickly. That, “Mile down the road”, to independence has also shortened until we old gits can almost touch it with our outstretched wrinkled old hands.

    Let us hope the voters registering for their first vote do not have the same long wait, for we old folks cannot wait very much longer to see our country become a real country again.

    There’s only one thing left to say – if ye dinna free Scotland fir iz aa Ah’m commin back tae haunt naesayers whan Ah’m deid.

  4. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. The ace in the hole for the SNP is the use and the threat of the use of abstentions on EVEL matter to cause a bifurcation of the current constitutional settlement.

    Two parliaments, two prime ministers, one house. That’s where this bit of Labour machismo leads. The SNP should be praying that Labour enacts this idiocy of no-deal make my day vote-us-down-if-you-dare.

    The response of the SNP should be to say, uh, OK we’ll not bring your government down. We will support you in the initial confidence vote so that you can form a minority government. We will support you in the event of a no confidence vote should one be tabled at any time.

    We will support you in matters of defence and foreign affairs (unless you propose something daft, like renewing Trident). We will support you in those votes where Scotland’s vital interests are at stake.

    Other than that, in the case of English-only legislation, being mindful of the inequity perceived by other members of this House and the English electorate at large, we will continue our time-honoured practice of abstaining from voting.

    The effect of this strategy would be:

    1. To have in UK matters, Ed Miliband calling the shots, installed as British Prime Minister in the UK Parliament, propped up by the SNP,

    2. In EVEL matters, where the Tories have a majority, David Cameron, de facto Prime Minister of England in an English parliament.

    Two parliaments, two prime ministers, one house. And we all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

    My inner Yoda tells me Miliband by the short and curlies Salmond has.

  5. An excellent and heartening article but I must take you to task on one point. You say you’d have picked up the phone and said, “these boys up North…..” Has it escaped your notice that “these boys” are led by a woman whose cabinet is gender balanced? Or are we all just boys in politics?

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