I have a confession to make. I didn’t watch one single minute of the Scotland debate in the Commons this afternoon.
I’d like to tell you it’s because I wasn’t able to see it because I’d been awesomely busy.
I have been, as it happens, but the truth is, I had The West Wing on in the background, and I could have easily been tuned to the Parliamentary Channel instead.
The truth is I wasn’t even remotely interested in what that squabbling band of self-interested charlatans were discussing today.
Whatever deal is finally cobbled together by whichever of them limps over the line next year will be a despicable scam regardless, and as we all know this and as we spent months telling this to people before the referendum, and as we’ve been telling people ever since, I can’t bring myself to give it any more attention than I’d normally spend on watching paint dry.
I felt this way about Westminster politics in the run up to the referendum vote, and that feeling has never completely left me. It seems suddenly to hold little relevance, and I know that part of it is the knowledge that nothing of consequence will happen there in what little remains of this particular parliament, but that’s clearly not the only thing.
I just think the whole arena has become loathsome.
It is populated almost entirely – with a very few honorable exceptions – by greedy, self-serving, privately educated white men who’ve never stepped out of the “bubble” in their lives. The campaign to make them irrelevant – and to put a great many of them out of work forever – grew out of a public understanding of the unbridgeable chasm that exists between the world we live in and the world they inhabit.
Despite not having watched a single moment of it, I have been unable to avoid the name Gordon Brown being bandied about online. He has, or so I am led to believe, made a speech in which, according to Pete Wishart of the SNP, he has as good as accused David Cameron and the Tories of “duping him” on the promise of powers for Scotland.
I’m going to tell you … the notion of Gordon Brown being “duped” makes me want to throw up. Either that or punch something really, really hard.
Pete is playing a little politics with that comment, but I am sure that deep down he views the idea with the same contempt as me.
I am offended by the idea that Brown is the one who was duped. The Scottish public are the ones who were duped. The No voters who made their decision based on the “vow” he cobbled together in five minutes with the help of The Daily Record were duped.
That front page was a fraud. The pledge they sold us was like a used car with newspaper shoved into holes in the body work, and then painted over. It was a con-job, and he was its front man, the snake oil salesman who toured the country punting his wares.
Gordon Brown is a man of enormous intelligence.
He was elected rector of Edinburgh University when he was still a student there. Not long afterwards, he was helping to author the original Red Paper on Scotland and then he worked in the media and was eventually elected an MP.
He was appointed to the front bench in short order, was understudy to John Smith and his heir apparent. When Smith died he gave up the leadership of Labour to allow Tony Blair to slither into position. When Labour was elected in 1997, he was instantly the most powerful chancellor this country has ever had.
Blair agreed to this because, as he put it, there was “no-one in the party to match his intellect.” Brown later ousted him in a coup and became Prime Minister.
In short, we have a man here who’s as shrewd and canny a political operator as this country has ever seen, and he has been for the better part of his life.
The notion that Cameron “duped” him would be difficult to accept if it had involved a plan of diabolical, Machiavellian brilliance … but the truth is, there is barely a blogger or member of the Twitterati on the side of the 45% who didn’t see this coming a mile away, wrote that up well in advance and has followed developments since with a grim, resigned kind of despair born of not liking having seen their worst fears confirmed.
If Brown was duped, he’s the stupidest man ever to hold high office, and I will not say that of one of the great intellects of British political life.
I expect that, at some point in the next few days, the outpourings of sympathy will start. We’ll be told that Brown is a victim here, that he can’t be held accountable … and by extension, his party can’t be held accountable either.
You could write this stuff for them. It’s so transparent.
Scotland has been sold down the river. That would be bad enough without these people trying to force upon us the notion that Brown has too.
Let’s be honest for a moment about Brown, and what’s really happened here.
This is a man who was a terrible Prime Minister and leader of his party. Not only was his administration a shambles, but his personal behavior fell far below that which we would reasonably expect from a human being, far less a public figure of such alleged stature.
Whatever human touch he once possessed had evaporated by the time he assumed that office, and what the nation got instead was a scheming automaton, concerned only with opinion poll numbers and how he was perceived by the press.
Brown left office with his reputation in shreds. His legacy was bitter memories of a man who overthrew his party leader to take a job he failed at lamentably. He was defeated and seemed broken. Certainly he had been reduced to a person of no consequence at all.
When Better Together wheeled him out of the closet, most of us sniggered. We could not imagine how this desperate figure might do anything more than repulse voters further.
Yet we underestimated him, and the sway he still held in some circles, and I think we really ought to have been prepared for what happened, because when I look at Brown and the way he behaved, I don’t see man who was duped at all.
I see a shrewd political chancer who saw an opportunity to redeem himself, and craft a legacy out of the rubble of his reputation, and seized it.
I see a guy who made a calculation based on his relationship with the media and the Westminster parties’ desperate need to come up with a game-changer, and who was willing to sacrifice the betterment of his country in order to have one last day in the sun.
If we’re being charitable, the best we can say of him is that Brown allowed himself to be conned. That he willfully, and purposefully, closed his ears and his eyes to everything except the goal; his own personal rehabilitation.
Deep down he must have known Cameron was leading him on, as Ed Miliband must have known the same thing … the whole English Votes For English Laws issue was such an elephant trap they couldn’t have missed it.
But Brown wanted redemption and Miliband needed Scotland, and so there was never any question of them seeking cast iron assurances sealed with a blood oath to make sure Cameron kept his part of the bargain. The clock was ticking too loudly for that.
What they wanted for themselves came first and they weren’t interested in what happened on 19 September … only on what happened on the 18th.
They got what they wanted, and now the scramble for power begins.
When it comes down to it, I didn’t watch today because I could not stomach seeing the fate of my country wielded like a battle axe by folk on either side of the aisle who have no interest in what’s best for the millions of people who live here, but are clawing desperately to keep their own political careers.
I didn’t watch today because I knew Brown would be up there playing the victim card, because even he knows that when this blows up his reputation is going to reek like it never did. He knows that he has more to worry about now than his legacy being abusing old ladies and throwing secretaries out of their chairs.
Gordon Brown’s anger is rooted in his much-too-late realisation that we are not as stupid as he and the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party thought.
He assumed that people would go straight back to sleep the day after the referendum. We didn’t. We are still wide awake, and watching him intently.
Brown has always been a keen student of politics, and he is obsessed by polls and public opinion, and so he knowns that his last gasp grab for rehabilitation is set to end in tears, with him known not as the Father of the Nation, the man who saved us from ourselves, but as the man who sold Scotland out, and that is his epitaph.
He lied to us, and if he didn’t know that then his political career ends with him branded an eternal joke. If he did know it – and of course he did – then it damns him.
God forgive him for it. The people of Scotland never will.
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