Category: Scotland


The English National Socialists’ Scottish National Socialism problem

After the Scottish Tories survived an election in 1992 that all proper-thinking Scots ‘knew’ would annihilate them north of the border, Scottish Labour decided to go large on a strategy they’d always liked: pour some nationalism into your socialism. Have all your media friends preach that it was unScottish to be Tory. It worked. Labour’s vote in Scotland, always efficient, both grew and delivered a lot of Westminster seats for its size. Greedily, Labour decided to gerrymander this productive vote: Scots would have two parliaments, so they could both vote for Labour to rule Scotland from the Scottish one in Edinburgh and vote for Labour to rule England from the British one in Westminster. And to keep the ball rolling, they kept pouring nationalism into their list of reasons for Scots to vote Labour.

The party of the future can never foresee it. The Scots parliament proved the perfect incubator for a Scottish National Party that could outdo Labour in nationalism and rival it in socialism. As soon as Labour lost power in Westminster, the nationalist end of their vote had no reason to stay with them. And precisely because Scotland’s political geography made Scottish Labour’s Westminster vote very efficient, losing enough of it to the SNP crossed a threshold and made it very inefficient (for Labour – very efficient for the SNP). All of which surprised Labour a lot as they went from 41 Scottish seats to 1 in five years.

South of the border, no-one could accuse Labour of English or British nationalism. (A different prejudice, pandering to a different set of voters, is what brings the word ‘national’ to mind when one thinks of Labour’s socialism down south.) But the SNP’s “blame the English for our failures” style of nationalism still gives Labour a problem. Before the SNP ate Labour’s lunch in Scotland, an English voter could vote Labour and get a Labour government that included Labour MPs from Scotland. Now, Labour can only hope for a Westminster government in alliance with SNP MPs owing no loyalty to Labour – the tail that will wag the dog. Some English voters will say they’d be better off without those Scottish SNP MPs giving Labour a chance. But the more they mean it, the less they’ll vote Labour – so the less they’ll cause it. The tail would try and cut itself off the dog – but would likely fail and would take years, so why would anyone south of the border vote for five years of Labour to attempt that?

So Labour have a difficult circle to square. Unless they can replace the SNP in Scotland, everyone can see that their hope of being a government in Westminster depends on allying with them. But until they look like they could be a government in Westminster without the SNP, they lack arguments why those Scots they ‘nationalised’ should vote for them instead of the SNP. And while they have the SNP-alliance albatross on their backs, they have a deservedly hard time persuading English voters.

“We are the first societies in human history where the old outnumber the young”

How Boris Johnson’s Brexit Won

In the link above Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker interviews Professor David Runciman of Cambridge. I must confess that I only have to see the New Yorker‘s distinctive Irvin typeface to see the famous “View of the World from 9th Avenue” cover. I need to get over myself. It is a good and wide ranging interview, with a focus of the parallels or lack of them between the UK and the US. Stick with it, the best parts are at the end.

Wise in their own sight (but not so wise in ours)

It doubtless seemed clever to challenge prorogation in Scotland; Scots law differs much from English and their chance of victory was higher. However I can think of two audiences in Scotland who may be unimpressed.

(South of the border there is a huge third audience whom I expect to be very unimpressed, but that is another matter.)

Firstly, a Scot does not need to be unusually honest or unusually lacking in nationalism to wonder how exactly to defend the Scottish supreme court’s ruling on the United Kingdom’s parliament. Every Scot can defend Scotland’s supreme court bullying the MSP’s who sit in the 11-times-over-budget building at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, but I’m not the only Scot who “couldna juist charge his memory” over why the propriety of a Westminster-affecting act is being ruled on by a provincial court. (There will be some justification, of course – but, in the words of “1066 and all that”, it will not be memorable.)

Secondly, her majesty is in Scotland for the summer, as usual. Also as usual, she has prorogued parliament. It is something she’s accustomed to doing every year at roughly this time for roughly this length of time – but which May did not advise her to do last year during a session whose length was unprecedented in three centuries.

Many a PM has noted how their meetings with the Queen, unlike their meetings with their loyal cabinet colleagues, do not leak. I have no idea whether, after Boris performed his constitutional duty to inform and advise her majesty of prorogation, she chose her constitutional duty of ‘warn’ instead of her constitutional duty of ‘advise’ – but it seems at first glance unlikely she ‘warned’ against something whose unprecedented feature was how long it had been since she’d last done it.

I therefore conjecture that her majesty may think the Scottish supreme court’s action ill-advised rather than her own.

As this ruling is mere PR skirmishing before the UK’s supreme court rules (IIUC, it has no actual effect in itself), it seems to me that the remoaners are again paying a high PR price for a stunt that will play well with themselves but with not so many beyond. The court that travestied historical custom to rule for Gina Miller in 2016 is not the strongest oak for leavers to lean against, but it is being said the case has “no hope” in English law. I hope that’s true, but I anyway think that remoaner lawfare victories have a cost they underestimate.