Today, amidst the carnage of the falling £, the defenestration of Jeremy Corbyn and the sight of Boris Johnson sneaking around the Commons like a thief, one thing sustains my faith in the political process; that we are not responsible for any of it.
Not only did Scotland vote Remain, but our First Minister is one of the only politicians on this island who has emerged from the last four days enhanced.
She has been magnificent, and her conduct statesperson-like in stark contrast to the grubby machinations of others. To look at the loathsome band of reptiles who’ve crawled through the studios of the BBC and Sky over the last week is to see politics at its very, very worst.
Let’s take the man at the top, David Cameron, Prime Minister now but not for much longer, who’s already resigned and added the trauma of a Tory leadership election where the far right appear poised to snatch power to our list of Things To Worry About.
He is singlehandedly responsible for the erupting boil of puss with which we’re all going to have to deal. He caused it all, putting “party management” in front of the national interest by giving a referendum on the EU to a bunch of snakes within his own party when the population as a whole was largely indifferent to the idea. It is one of the most outrageous, un-necessary and self-absorbed acts of political risk-taking with the future of a country that this continent has seen since Hitler demanded the Sudetenland in September 1938.
Unfortunately, that dreadful gamble paid off, at least for a while.
Cameron’s did not.
We will all be living with the consequences of that for years to come.
His final act, of ring-and-run, merely adds to the impression that when historians offer their verdict on him in years to come that they will be scathing. Yet I understand, at least in part, the impulse to simply dump the whole rotten mess in the laps of those who made it.
Because they deserve no less. Alex Salmond has already reminded them of that with the old American aphorism; “if you break it, you own it.”
What a shambles they’ve got on their hands, as they try frantically to row back after months of distortions and lies, counting on the basic corruption and laziness of the media so as not to be held to account, and the comforting stupidity of voters not to notice they’ve been conned.
Labour got away with this in Scotland for years by using much the same methods. When the public woke up we know what happened. We can guess what the results will be when the English working class finally gives itself a shake into life, but that could be some ways away yet and in the meantime there’s going to be a lot of pain to deal with.
Boris Johnson has been doing this for years. His is a career made, and occasionally derailed, by lies and his propensity for telling them. He was fired by The Times for making up a quote, and a journalist who knew him in Brussels has accused him of virtually founding the Euro-sceptic movement in the Tory Party by making up nonsense about EU regulations and publishing them in this newspaper columns. He has spent years capitalising on the distortions he is responsible for, and now looks set to win the highest office in the land on their back.
Much of the media and political class knows this, and much more besides, but the Westminster bubble is a place where this kind of stuff is not only tolerated but actively encouraged. They built this guy up. He adds “colour” to politics, they say; in fact what he does is drags down the whole level of discourse and allows an atmosphere to grow where anything goes.
He is not alone. Nigel Farage is another media created monster, who now might be impossible to put back in the box. The diabolical harvest that comes from years of giving these guys unlimited airtime and publicity is now being reaped in full.
This is a loathsome bunch of people, who’ve pulled this country to brink of catastrophe for their own narrow political ends but incredibly even they have been overshadowed in recent days by the awesome selfishness and mind-bending self-absorption of a huge section of the parliamentary Labour Party, who have picked this moment of national crisis to launch a coup against their own leader, using this result as a pretext for their long-awaited move.
Over the last 36 hours a steady stream of no-marks who aren’t even household names in their own streets have rushed to release their “resignation letters” to a breathless media who couldn’t wait to give each of them their very own five minute reality show. Amidst the ugliness of it all, you can’t help remember that this wasn’t the front bench he’d have chosen in the first place. Their better known colleagues had already acted, after his election, with something approaching principle and refused to serve.
These were the rejects and second-raters, and they couldn’t wait to act like it. As the trickle became a flood, even the media got bored with it. At its height, parliamentary private secretaries – the lowest rung on the career ladder – many of whose bosses had already gone, started getting in on the act, resigning from jobs some of them no longer even had.
Some of their dispatches have read like they were written by quivering hands whose owners imagined they were crafting a latter-day Gettysburg Address. All profess that it’s a “moment of personal sacrifice and regret”, for the good of a nation which wouldn’t have otherwise known or cared who they were, and for most of them never will again.
The Lib Dems are no better.
Their leader has already promised to campaign for the next election – coming soon to a polling station near you – on a platform of simply pretending the referendum never happened at all, spotting an opportunity to grab ground even Labour and the Tories won’t go near, as if the public doesn’t already see his party as shameless and opportunistic. They are the true leeches of our political class, never making a move unless they think there are votes in it, a party comprised of no principles, values or ideals, and thus will make a perfect home for the former members of the shadow cabinet in the eventuality that Corbyn is re-elected as Labour’s leader.
Amidst this chaos stands Nicola Sturgeon, the only person amongst it all who speaks for ordinary people without hoary platitudes or patronising guff. She has handled herself wonderfully, with poise and gravitas, taking this moment seriously and treating it with the respect none of the rest of our “leaders” can seem to muster for a moment. Her position is courageous; she overwhelmingly supports the rights of immigrants and welcomes the free movement of peoples. She’s told Westminster this result will not stand, and has even threatened to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to veto parts of the coming legislations which will hurt Scots … and which will, be default, protect voters in England too.
And it dawns on me, watching this; we’re seeing Westminster at its gory, horrible worst right now as everything collapses around them. Jobs are already being lost as companies relocate their premises to where the uncertainty is not so great. The £ has crashed to the lowest level for 31 years. Hate crime is on the rise as the “send them home” brigade finds its views have suddenly become the dominant political discourse in this broken nation.
Senior Tories are calling for a “Brexit government” in which everyone on the right but for the BNP appear to be welcome. Labour wants to depose their leader and replace him with someone who’ll keep his or her mouth shut about Chilcott and move the party decisively right on immigration to secure the votes of racists whilst the real issues in the inner cities – poverty, homelessness, despair – are treated with disdain and get no more attention than the occasional soundbite.
So fixated are these gruesome specimens on their own political advantage that it must have become clear even to the most blinkered No voter in this land that these folk have abrogated any moral authority they had to govern a country like this one, from whom they are so abysmally and obviously removed. Even Allan Massie, he of “the Thames will run with blood” stories from the 2014 campaign has said the idea of living in “Boris Johnson’s Britain” fills him with so much despair he too will embrace a Scotland that stands alone.
It is shockingly apparent that even had this referendum been won by Remain, the conduct on all sides of it was deplorable, poisonous and bigoted, characterised by fear and smear, all of which paused for but a short time to mourn a very direct, and tragic, victim of its poisonous spew, the murdered MP Jo Cox, whose husband Brendan showed a compassion for other people and for tolerance which none of the politicians who elbowed their way onto the screens for the tributes could muster.
He is the only public figure but for Nicola who emerged from this disgraceful few months with even an ounce of credit. It is a tragedy to have lost his wife, who seems to have had extraordinary gifts and decency, but I think it’s equally tragic that he couldn’t be convinced to take her place and restore those very necessary and sadly missed qualities to our public life. The good man that he is, he made the understandable choice to put his family first and we should all respect that, but with regret.
On Friday morning, my sister and my mother were in casual conversation about this unfolding disaster and my sister drew her attention to the Royal coat of arms, in which our national symbol, the unicorn, wears a chain.
In the Scottish coat of arms are two unicorns and they are both similarly shackled. Those chains are the perfect statement for how we are viewed and always have been, in this uneven relationship they perversely call the union. It’s time we snapped them forever.
It has been four days since the referendum result was declared. In that time the disgrace of the campaign itself has been magnified a thousand times as Westminster’s elite turn away from the voters completely and focus on their own petty squabbles for power.
These people are simply not fit to rule anyone, but Scotland never voted for them anyway. This is not our calamity. We bear no responsibility for it at all. All we want now is to be shot of it and everyone who caused it by the quickest available means. Nicola is keeping things cool right now, but deep down I suspect she knows how much revulsion there is up here towards what’s going on in London and she understands that the trajectory is upwards and away from it all, with another referendum now certain.
The irresponsibility of these people is breath-taking.
With their conduct, more even the the result itself, their “mandate” is shot.
Their moral authority has been erased.
They’re not fit to govern Scotland. They’re not fit to govern themselves.
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