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28 September 2014

Comments

Robin Carmody

I wonder why Russell Brand is so fixated on this matter? My theory is that it plays into his cultural cringe, guilt and shame at having grown up where he did (the Thames Estuary) when he did (the Thatcher years), something I've often felt myself even though my parents were Labour throughout and I wasn't part of that culture at all, more a Blue Peter / Jackanory / Young Ornithologists' Club 1970s throwback.

Stuart Campbell lives in Bath, doesn't he?

Reading the "How Yes turned to No" piece on the Scotland Stay with Us blog which you linked to before the referendum (but which I only read this weekend), I was pleased to see that part of his reasoning for becoming a No after years as an uncritical Yes was his realisation that there are working-class socialists in Kent and the south-western counties (i.e. the only places I've lived in my remembered life) who he didn't want to abandon and leave to the mercies of UKIP and the Tory right. Obviously many socialists who considered voting Yes but ended up voting No did so in part because they didn't want to abandon Liverpool or Newcastle to the mercies of Surrey or Essex, and have made that clear in their writings on the matter, but on a personal level I was pleased to see the (rarer) recognition that there are left-leaning, European-minded people in non-metropolitan southern England as well, something those paradoxical twins Salmond & Farridge both ignore for their own reasons.

By those criteria, I saw the No vote as a statement of solidarity with me personally, and would have seen a Yes vote as telling me off for being something I'm not, have never been and, barring an extraordinary personal change, never will be. I would have interpreted a Yes vote as a message to me effectively that I didn't, and couldn't, exist. With the level and growth of UKIP, I might *really* need that solidarity.

I think Salmond's control-freakery (way beyond anything Gordon Brown - the actual Gordon Brown, as opposed to the Sun/Mail version of him - ever actually did as PM) is excused by much of the Scottish Left because it never developed the strong libertarian, anti-state streak that the English Left did post-1968, but then we've been through that before.

Robin Carmody

I also think the English question might be insoluble - even beyond the sclerotic nature of the Westminster state itself - because in southern England there is generally far more support for an English Parliament than for regional government because regional identities are relatively weak (even Dorset is now little more than a succession of global suburbs, so you can imagine what the south-east, where all these Tory resignations and defections are coming from, would be like in this sense) but in northern England (at least outside rural areas), and especially in north-east England, there is overwhelming wariness of the concept of an English Parliament and a general sense that they would be less represented within it, and have less of a voice and a feeling of belonging, not only than they do at Westminster but even than they do, by default, within the Scottish Parliament.

How do you reconcile a demand for greater regional autonomy - politically and socially aligned with Scotland - and a wariness of "England" as a political concept in one part of England, with an affinity to that concept and a near-total lack of regional identity in another? And that's before you consider what it would do to people like me. It strikes me that these are utterly irreconcilable forces.

RosieBell

I think a lot of Yessers would find it absolutely in order that Salmond would control the message since they are now busy boycotting the BBC for not being on their side.

RosieBell

I do wish there would be a kind of quasi regional bloc developing within the English branch of Westminster ie MPs from the north east of all stripes banding together to get investment for the north east. However as you say the system is sclerotic. However with more coalition government the party system may become less rigid.

I do think that this referendum might have given a good kick up the arse of Westminster. Historically the British establishment has gone on its complacent way until being given a good kick up the arse. It then reforms itself a little. It was typical of it that it dismissed the Scottish question as being settled without much trouble and then fell into panic mode at the last minute.

Robin Carmody

I agree.

The only reason why I'm slightly worried about it is my fear that said kick up the arse might make things worse for me personally, and for other Leftists in the English shires. Any wariness I feel over reforms at the Westminster level is really born out of sheer selfishness.

RF_McCarthy

Considerably more ambivalent than you were on the referendum due to being a) Scottish and b) my not actually living in Scotland.

Thus for me it became a simple problem in (and with) utilitarian ethics:

If I'd lived in Scotland the greater good of the greatest number would indeed have looked very much like waking up on Friday 19th knowing that for the rest of my life I and 5 million others would never have to live under either a Tory government (or a Labour one so compromised by the need to win southern English votes that it is barely Labour at all).

But living in what would have been Rump-UK that greatest number has to be the 60 million who would have been doomed to perpetual Tory misrule.

So down here in Darkest Sussex I had no choice but to hope for a narrow no victory which would have still forced a constitutional crisis and strengthened whatever forces there are for real federalism and democratic reform.

As for a yes victory disastrous though it might have been for the long term future of the UK it would have at least created a massive constitutional crisis and possible re-alignment of the party system in Rump-UK which might just perhaps have created more room for a genuine left politics.

But by delivering a decisive no vote (and yes it was the pensioners wot won it - by the Ashcroft poll had >65s voted like <65s yes would have narrowly won and by my preliminary calculation that does mean that there will be a natural yes majority before 2025) I fear we have ended up with the worst feasible result.

And so the Tories who would have been thrown into disarray by a narrow no result and quite probably driven from office by a yes vote now can fight 2015 purely on Enoch Powell's 'great simplicities' - and if they win engineer perpetual Tory dominance without Scotland even having to leave the union - while Labour bleat wonkishly about conventions and devolution.

I also suspect that those 40 Scottish Labour MPs this was all about defending may be reduced to 25 or fewer next year - and that even if Ed somehow does manage to win by falling over the finishing line he may find himself dependant on a revivified bloc of SNP MPs at Westminster

And I am old enough to remember what that was like back in the dog days of the Callaghan government.

So no I can't feel any sense of triumph or even relief from this result and would be very surprised if we don't have to face a re-run in at most 10 years time.

And surely this is just our part of a narrative of general state disintegration being played out all over the capitalist world.

I can't help but feel that we on the Revenant Left have failed this test - (although given the actual forces at play I really can't imagine what the correct answer would have been and suspect there may not actually be one...)

RF_McCarthy

Re the BBC are we not falling into a sort of Salmond derangement syndrome?

The BBC is massively biased against the left in general.

The BBC has quite deliberately obfuscated the privatisation of the NHS, ran disgraceful shows reinforcing the scrounger narrative, appointed a Tory as its chief political correspondent, replaced one Tory chair with another Tory chair etc etc etc.

Pretty much everyone on the left accepted this bias existed and was a key problem - so what has changed?

The disgrace is not that Nats demonstrated against the BBC but that there have not been mass demos against BBC bias down here.

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  • Rosie Bell

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