The title of this article comes from an episode of what was, at times, a storming television program, the 15th one in the rather disappointing Season 3.
“Forcing The End” was about a religious cult who had studied ancient prophesies and believed Christ could not return to Earth until the Third Temple was built in Jerusalem, an action that would push the Middle East into war. The cult didn’t mind this. They believed that it, too, was a pre-requisite to Christ’s return, and they were determined to force events in that direction.
In short, the episode is about fanaticism. It’s about the extremes some people will go to for their beliefs, and I think anyone who looks at the current direction of politics in Britain can see, clearly, that there are any number of people in its upper ranks who are thus inclined.
The Conservative Party conference was terrifying in this regard.
It’s clear that Cameron, who once believed in “modernising the brand” has abandoned that project. It’s as if he’s walked off the set half-way through the show and given control to someone who looks like him, and sounds like him, but is actually utterly mad.
The Tories have reverted to type. The Nasty Party is back, more ferocious than its ever been, and more unhinged.
Scotland is watching events with grave concern. Those of us who voted Yes can look in the mirror, and sleep at night with clean consciences, but that’s not going to protect us when the hammer comes down after this mob are elected with a majority.
Fanaticism now runs riot on the Tory benches. Such is the extremism on display that you cannot help but think they’ve stopped looking beyond 2020.
I’ve always argued that this is the measure of a truly transformational government; they don’t care about re-election. They have a series of objectives to meet, and if they can do that there’s no need to worry about being in government for the next dozen or so years.
If a Tory majority government can pull Britain out of Europe, strip the state past the foundations to the hole in the ground, if they can get “English votes for English issues” on the statute book then it’s ideological job done and they can sit back and watch Labour scramble to explain why they can’t reverse any of it.
Yet, look more closely. The Truth Is Out There, as Chris Carter’s other famous show said.
The Tory fanatics might just have stumbled on to a strategy to destroy Labour as a political force for a generation or more.
Scotland will, on the surface of it, be protected from much of the damage a Cameron majority government could do, though not all.
In fact, we could argue that the very worst of it will hit us hard.
Yet I don’t think the Tory Party’s more renegade elements would want it any other way. You see, I think there’s a growing number of them who would, gladly, have cut us loose, and they’d still like to.
I think some of them are determined to push Scotland towards the door. I think there are a lot of Tories who are intent on “forcing the end.” The end of the United Kingdom.
There’s a political upside to it, a way to turn it to their advantage.
I’ve thought long and hard about how we’d go about getting a second referendum. At first, I wasn’t optimistic.
Then I was in Dunfermline recently, and on the way there I was depressed when I saw the number of Yes pictures and posters and signs still lingering about. Part of me wished people would just put them away, but it dawned on me that some of them – especially those painted on walls and other places – are going to be around for years.
“The whole country is haunted,” I thought … and then something hit me.
I’m 37, born in 1976. In my lifetime Scotland has voted on its own future three times … once per decade, in a sense. When we were cheated out of the devolution settlement we were due in 1979 we only had to wait for a change of government to put the issue back on the table. So we lost a referendum on a parliament, but as soon as we were able we revisited the issue. It took eighteen long, terrible years.
It only took 15 years from the birth of the Scottish Parliament to get us to the recent referendum. We lost it, but no-one really believes we’ve seen the issue put to bed.
If this country is haunted, the chances are good that we’ll get to hold an exorcism within the next decade. Those signs might not need removing, simply tidied up again when our second chance comes around.
The Tory Party could radically cut short the wait, and I think some of them even want to, but first things first. We have to make sure we’re in the best possible position to capitalise on any opportunity that arises.
The importance of sending as many SNP members as possible to Westminster is now acute, because the greater the representation we can assure down there for those with Scotland’s interests at heart the better off we will be when we things start to get ugly.
If the Tories pass English Votes for English Laws who, on this side of the border, will be able to argue, with any conviction, that Westminster is anything but a parliament for England, where our representatives are riding in the second class cars?
If that Parliament then legislates to pull us out of the European Charter on Human Rights that would give the SNP MP’s a clear-cut reason to go back to their constituencies and prepare them for a fresh outbreak of hostilities.
How could they stand back and allow a government which Scotland had rejected to withdraw basic rights for 5 million of its citizens?
The same would apply to an in-out referendum on the EU. No party that had been comprehensively rejected in Scotland could realistically claim to have legitimacy in forcing the result of that vote on us. If the SNP were the largest of the Scottish parties they would be fully justified in their refusal to accept that, on behalf of the same 5 million.
I cannot believe that the rank and file of the Tory Party does not recognise that English Votes for English Laws would be a gift to the SNP and their claims that the Westminster parliament does not speak for the people of Scotland.
I cannot believe they don’t see, clearly, that their withdrawal from the ECHR would be the greatest gift the SNP has been handed in its history.
They certainly know that withdrawing from the EU would trigger another vote on our constitutional future.
They just don’t care. They want us gone, the easier to complete the destruction of the Labour Party as a political force.
For Labour, in supporting the union but needing to offer a sop to Scotland, has walked into the bear trap the Tories laid out when they agreed to the referendum in the first place.
Labour has played right into their hands on the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula. Miliband’s refusal to support English Votes for English Laws casts him as the man who cares more about the core vote than about building mass appeal, and will be a decisive factor in his losing the election.
The Tories have thus been able to frame the debate not only on their own terms, but they’ve pitched their tents in the Daily Mail’s back yard. This is a catastrophic misjudgement on Labour’s part. It makes a Tory majority a near certainty.
So, first English Votes for English Laws. Then the rejection of the ECHR. Finally, in 2017, the inevitable in-out referendum on EU membership.
Any combination of two of these would give the SNP all the reason it needed to put the issue of a referendum back on the table. All three would make the demand for one impossible to ignore, and the cumulative effect would make the momentum towards a Yes unstoppable, especially if Labour were also virtually destroyed as a political force, which would render any No campaign a waste of time by stripping away any realistic hope it had of victory.
The more cerebral, and strategically minded, Tories realise this. They really could reduce the Labour Party to national irrelevance by cutting loose Scotland and painting them as the party that sold out England. Then not only re-election, but something like political hegemony, might be within their grasp.
At the very least, they would have moved the centre of political gravity far, far to the right.
Alex Salmond has already said he considers the issue of a referendum settled for a generation. As First Minister of Scotland I would have expected nothing less.
Yet I couldn’t help but watch him on the day he resigned and think on how much respect he has for that office. He knows that he could not stand behind that rostrum, with that title on it, and go back on his word. We would be hamstrung right out of the starting gate, and he will not give our opponents that weapon.
His stepping down makes perfect sense for a man who has certainly looked further than most of us would have dared and seen more clearly than most of us would be able.
He and Nicola will have discussed this fully, and they will both have a clear idea about under which circumstances they would be able to revisit this issue. Indeed, if we take Salmond’s words literally, he knows that a country so scandalously disenfranchised as those events would make us would have every right to declare its independence regardless of any referendum being called.
But only if the SNP were the largest party speaking for Scotland in both Parliaments.
It is very clear that there is a lot of work to be done here, and we’ve not got a lot of time to do it. Yet for those who wonder if there’s any point, who still want to retreat under the blankets, or draw the blinds …
Well I would direct their attention towards recent events in London, at a Tory Party which is out of control and apparently veering towards the fringes of sanity. They are now aping UKIP at every turn and they have proved, again, that no-one wages class warfare quite like the right.
Yet there is clearly method in their madness.
Some of its members clearly want Scotland to go. I have no problem giving them what they want. All pretence has gone in the last few weeks. They are Forcing The End, and whether Cameron approves or not, or understands it or not, a lot of the members of his party are laying the groundwork for us, assuring another referendum not in our lifetime but within the next few years.
We need to start getting ready for that right now ….
This time we leave nothing to chance.
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