With the ‘Better Together’ campaign belatedly realising that emotional rhetoric can and may trump rational sensibilities the ruling elite once again have committed the English to an uncertain future relationship with Scotland without any consideration of how the significantly larger English majority might feel. A left field proposal has been offered involving devolvement of more power and perhaps money to Scottish politicians yet none of this has the approval of the English electorate. With breathtaking arrogance the universe has been promised in this last minute bribe with the assumption that the English will simply accept whatever they finally detail in the, yet to be specified, proposals and that they do not have the wherewithal or the desire to prevent it.
We have been witness to a spectacular irony of the last prime minister, a figure the Labour Party couldn’t get far enough away from, (there seems to be a pattern developing here) in the aftermath of the 2010 general election, speaking for a group of politicians who may or may not hold the balance of power after the 2015 general election. The assumption by the self absorbed elite imperially running these parties is, of course, that it will be business as usual in that it will either be a Labour dominated government or a Conservative one simply because the recent past has delivered one followed by the other in a kind of “gentleman’s excuse me”. This will be much to the dismay of ordinary MPs, as they rest upon this perceived ‘truth’ that nothing can possibly change.
By far the largest group in this 300 year political association with Scotland are the English. Despite the constitutional significance of the proposals the English were not consulted when the terms of the referendum were determined and are now steadfastly being denied any opinion in whatever it was that Gordon Brown actually meant when this blast from the past suddenly stepped up with, perhaps, a very enticing carrot indeed. We can be sure that negotiations from such weakness can only end in a worse deal for the English than might otherwise have been the case had this whole affair been conducted more competently. I will explain.
Having engaged panic mode even before the result of the vote is known and thrown caution to the wind, those who will be charged with getting a fair and equitable deal for the English will have been left in an unenviable negotiating position. Effectively the message was (to the Scottish people) you can have everything you want. This will be perceived by the SNP as ‘we can have anything we like’. Any deviation from their ideal position will be met with cries of foul, a media campaign accusing the English of total betrayal and the insistence upon another referendum with this added bit of spice just to ensure that the Scottish people know that the English cannot be trusted. The SNP campaign has often been quite negative about the English nation in general and the Tory party in particular so I do not expect any future deviation from that strategy. Desperately wanting to avoid an outcome such as this the English negotiating team will come under intense pressure to give in on every disputed issue. Most people understand that it is far better to negotiate from a position of strength but that option has been manifestly removed by the events of the last week.
If I were to be Mr Salmond this is exactly how I would play it. He is a smooth operator and it is unlikely that he is unaware of the size and depth of the hole that the ‘Better Together’ team have just dug.
However, there remains the possible inconvenience of the 2015 General Election. UKIP, a supporter of independent governance when it makes sense, may also benefit from the catastrophic incompetence of the unity side of the argument. Like most people the English do not like being taken for granted. Support is already flooding to UKIP partly because the existing elite refuse to countenance a referendum on the EU or offer what many believe to be an empty promise. More constitutional change is now to be foisted upon England, whatever the result of the Scottish referendum, with no consultation of its people and negotiated from a position of extreme weakness. Will this be yet another UKIP recruitment tool? It certainly looks like it because it personifies the true objectives of our parliamentary elite, whether they are Labour, or Conservative, and that is to do anything simply to get/stay in power. The people, it seems, come last.
The really neat thing about democracy is that anything can happen, even the unexpected. Assuming that tomorrow will be exactly the same as today simply because last week was the same as this week is foolhardy and to continue to take the English nation for supplicant subjects to be ruled by whim may well turn out to be a huge mistake.
As far as the vote is concerned the die has already been cast. The English ‘Better Together’ team have been ineffective partly because of the personnel employed and its decidedly negative messages but principally because it was entered into without suitable preparation for a ‘Yes’ vote. Without acknowledging that the Scottish nation may really want to go it alone even if that means economic hardship. In any negotiation one has to be prepared to lose, or to walk away. Operating on the premise that losing is unthinkable has culminated in the worst of all results which is a woefully weakened position from which to negotiate either the legislation for separation or the, as yet unspecified, additional devolved powers.
UKIP must maintain the message that our political parties aren’t for the people but for themselves. Do we want to give Scotland an even greater share of the national cake? Are people content to be taken for granted? Should the English people not have a say in this future relationship with Scotland however it might turn out?
A vote for Labour or Conservative will change nothing a vote for UKIP most certainly can.