I was away last week, so I’ve been busy over the last few days with catching up. I saw on-line that the Observer had run a piece by Will Hutton which was headlined “We have 10 days to find a settlement to keep us together”. Intriguing, I thought: at last the penny is dropping for the metropolitan clique; wonder what the solution proposed might be.
In the article, Hutton lambasts the creation within the UK of “predator capitalism, massive inequality and a society organised to benefit the top 1%”. He goes on to argue that Salmond’s current agenda for Scotland won’t actually do anything in terms of correcting that position. Instead, there needs to be full-blown federalism, along with concomitant devolution of fiscal powers to local areas throughout the UK, right down to the level of the cities and towns. He is generous enough to suggest that thanks are due to Scotland for creating a climate whereby such reforms might have a realistic chance of being delivered.
So far, so interesting.
In the event, though, that is not the most interesting aspect of Hutton’s article. When I say “interesting” I mean startling as well. Here’s what he also had to say:
“If Britain can’t find a way of sticking together, it is the death of the liberal enlightenment before the atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity – a dark omen for the 21st century.”.
Pardon me, Will. Once again, a metropolitan appears not to have bothered to check the fact of the matter, but has only presumed to know what must be happening. (Think you’re confusing us with Ukraine. Understandable, I suppose – both are a long way from the City superstate.)
When has ethnicity EVER been raised in this campaign in Scotland, by either side? The complete absence of an ethnic, linguistic or territorial dimension has been truly heartwarming, and may even be unique in terms of such struggles.
Compare this approach with Paul Mason’s earlier Guardian piece, in which he finds that, having taken the time to come north to see for himself, “something incredible is happening in Scotland”. And so it is. Read the full article at this link.
A publication I came across when away was The Spectator. Not my usual read, but I’ll give anything a go. In one recent issue, Philip Mansel ended his review of a biography of the last Kaiser of Germany as follows:
“This great biography shows how a dynamic modern country can be ruined by nationalism and militarisation. . . . ‘phobic hyper-nationalism’ is on the rise from Moscow to Glasgow.”.
Again, pardon me. Moscow may be busy laying claim to parts of other countries in pursuit of an ethnic irredentism/solidarity (choose as befits your prejudice in the matter), but there’s none of that here. Berwick and Corby are safe from us, please be assured.
It’s not so much that it’s an outrageous claim to make, but rather that it’s a downright lazy one. Mansel does not know what he is talking about, but has simply guessed, based on what he sees elsewhere.
What really sticks in the craw, though, is that the stark truth of the matter is that the only “phobic hyper-nationalism” I can see at the moment is in fact located in the English heartlands, in the form of the rise of UKIP. Claims are being made that there will be defections to it of more MPs, and not just Tory ones. If it does happen that a Labour MP moves across to UKIP, I really will have lost all of my remaining faith in the UK political system.
Cameron has been forced into promising to hold an in-out referendum on Europe. All of the language that’s now routinely trotted out when describing the EU is nakedly xenophobic.
Yesterday, a new low was marked when Nick Griffin of the BNP gave us the benefit of his in-depth analysis of the referendum campaigning by tweeting this:
“Disappointing that no British Nationalist websites have run calls to save the Union. Much of ‘Scots’ Yes pressure comes from Marxist Fenians.”
Now, that reference to “Fenians” was intended as an ethnic slur. Will Messrs Hutton and Mansel be commenting on that? Note the use of inverted commas around the word Scots – that’s us put in our place, then. Should we even be allowed to vote, given we’re not the real thing?
Karl Marx did comment on the Fenian movement and Fredrich Engels had a bidey-in who had Fenian connections. No doubt, dear old Nick was making some erudite allusion in that regard . . . or maybe not. It’s not that I want to give the clown the oxygen of publicity, but let’s be clear about who it is around here that has the phobia.
Let me say that of course I acknowledge that Griffin cannot reasonably be connected with the official No campaign. I am completely confident that Jim Murphy and George Galloway would immediately distance themselves from his comment, not least because those two politicians are as qualified as anyone to be described as MFs themselves. Yes, Nick, the truth is that they’re on both sides of this debate. In fact, MFs are everywhere.
(Oops. I’ve read on some websites for years that Scotland is dominated by a cabal of MFs. I may just have given the game away here. Wonder if Nick’s noticed the prominence to boot of Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar. #ScotlandForAll)
An earlier edition of The Spectator, dating from the first week of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, had this advice to give us:
“We trust that Scottish voters will see through Alex Salmond’s narrow interpretation of patriotism . . . ”.
What I’ve never understood, from the time of the 1975 referendum on Europe right up till today, is why it seems to be that British nationalism is deemed acceptable but no other kind is. I prefer to take the view that all forms of nationalism are to be treated as suspect.
The issues in this debate are nothing to do with nationalism, phobic or otherwise. They’re about the kind of society we want for the future and whether we think we’re more likely to get that in moving to an independent Scotland than in staying within the existing UK. As Paul Mason put it:
“. . . a significant number of Scottish people have a dream: where statehood, social justice and cultural self-confidence fit together into a clear and popular project.”.
In any event, all labels are context-dependent: one man’s nationalist is simply another man’s patriot; the terrorist to you will be the freedom fighter to his own folk.
Menachim Begin, once a Prime Minister of Israel, is a good case in point. In 1978, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the 1940s he led an armed group which blew up a hotel in Jerusalem and kidnapped and then hanged two British soldiers. (I’m not commenting here on either of those matters, but simply pointing out that both statements are true.) Martin McGuinness is Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. An acknowledged former member of the Provisional IRA, he was convicted in the Irish Republic for terrorism-related activities. (Again, I make no comment as such here.) The man with the big hat on a white horse, so revered by many in sashes and bowler hats, was the same monarch who signed the order to massacre the MacDonalds of Glencoe. And so on, spinning endlessly.
I am not a nationalist and the mere act of voting Yes won’t make me one. Generally, I don’t like being labelled at all when it comes to it. For now, though, I quite like Marxist Fenian. Has a ring to it. #TimsForYes
1. Wonder if Cameron will try to fudge things by having a third option of staying in Europe but bloodying its nose so his electorate can be persuaded that honour was served. Much as Thatcher did with her much vaunted rebate “victory”.
Three questions for you bad; three options for us good.