Saturday 10 June 2017

Bursting the SNP bubble

A few months ago there were two main strategic challenges facing Britain. How to leave the EU successfully and how to keep our country intact? There are in addition, of course, the usual challenges facing any government. How to keep the economy growing? How to earn more than we spend? How to keep our people safe? Other unexpected challenges will arise from time to time. But these challenges are different in kind from the two main ones. Leaving the EU and keeping our country intact are existential challenges. They involve the nature of our country's existence. 

Some people thought that leaving the EU might cause the break-up of the United Kingdom. Many Remain campaigners saw this as one of the main arguments for staying in the EU. Some apparently Pro UK writers have been terribly pessimistic ever since last June. Scotland voted to Remain, Nicola Sturgeon and indeed Alex Massie were very angry, therefore Scotland would soon be independent. We were doomed. I gave up reading this sort of stuff. It was all too depressing.

The problem with most political journalism is that it is far too short term. It thinks that the day to day affairs at Westminster or Holyrood matter. They don’t. No-one much follows what happens and no-one much cares about the day to day trivia. What matters is long term strategy and getting to the essence of the issue.

Leaving the EU is keeping our country intact. The threat from Nicola Sturgeon even two or three months ago looked real and imminent. The Scottish Parliament voted to hold a second independence referendum and if it had been held I have no idea who would have won. I think it would have been very close indeed. Campaigns are very uncertain things as we have just found out. A big lead can be lost. People get caught up in the heat of the moment. We might have lost in 2014. We might have lost in 2018. But the moment passed. The moment of greatest danger is already behind us.

Whatever her faults, I will always be grateful to Theresa May for standing up to Nicola Sturgeon. If she had not done so, then I do not think we would have had the result we had yesterday. Nationalism in Scotland is probably always going to be with us. But it can be kept manageable or it can be unleashed with all its force. Now it looks to be going into a decline. Let us hope that this continues for Scottish nationalism has the power to divide not only the UK but Scotland too. I think it is this above all that the Scottish electorate sensed. The SNP are being punished for the fact that the 2014 was so unpleasant for so many of us. It was bitter and traumatic. The majority of the electorate will vote for anyone to avoid a repeat of the experience.

But more than this it was voting the EU that concentrated minds. Scottish independence fundamentally depended on the UK remaining a part of the EU. Voting to Leave was the condition for the possibility of defeating the SNP. Paradoxically not getting what Scotland wanted in the EU referendum destroyed the SNP argument. The UK outside the EU looks an awfully lot more independent than Scotland within it. This is why so many SNP supporters voted to Leave. But they too misunderstood how this fundamentally destroyed their position. Scotland is tied to the other parts of the UK in terms of history, family, and economic relations. Brexit and Scottish independence would sever those ties and put us on radically different paths. It would put a chasm between Scotland and England. It made Nicola Sturgeon and all her threats look fanatical. She does not care whether Scottish independence would damage Scotland just so long as she can grasp it in her little hand. It must have seemed so close.

We must keep fighting in Scotland to lessen support for the SNP. We must try to bring back the time when the SNP were a minor party who won a few seats here and there. This is now quite close. SNP people in the big cities will return to Labour recognising that there best chance of achieving socialism is to vote for Labour. Tartan Tories in the countryside will return to the Conservatives. The long period of Conservative decline in Scotland has ended. The ghost of Margaret Thatcher has been exorcised by Ruth Davidson and so it no longer haunts us and defines what we are. This is an historical achievement by Davidson. She has done it by being herself and by being above all a Unionist. No-one could doubt that she above all other Scottish politicians would stand by the UK. Well done indeed.

We may soon end up with a situation in Scotland like it was until the 1980s. It will be a political fight between Labour and the Conservatives with the Lib Dems winning a few seats here and there. We must disagree fellow Pro UK Scots. We must fight each other for these Scottish seats. We must talk about the constitution less and public services more. When independence is no more an issue than restoring the Stuarts, only then will our country will be safe. So for the meantime let us fight our different fights. We all are making our country safe from Scottish nationalism. Let us try to remain on friendly terms. But above all let’s try to move our country on from a sterile debate and a question that was settled once and for all in 2014.

Britain’s Northern flank for the present is secure. We must be wary and watch for nationalists trying to get around it, but we must move on to the greater strategic challenge.

The goal is to that the UK becomes an ordinary country like Australia, New Zealand, Japan or the United States. Our Parliament should be supreme. No-one should tell the UK electorate what it can or cannot vote for. We should be able to trade freely with who we want depending on their agreement, but in no way should be controlled or constrained by those we trade with. We should be able to decide how many or how few people from elsewhere come to Britain. Let our political parties argue over this. I am in favour of having reciprocal rights with European countries and perhaps even English speaking countries. But let that be a matter for debate. What we want in leaving the EU is quite ordinary. It is not nationalistic or immoral for Japan to not wish to be part of an Asian Union ruled by Beijing. But Japan trades quite successfully with China. What we seek from the EU is free trade and nothing else. We want to be an ally and a friend, but we don’t want them to tell us what to do. That’s it.

Theresa May is right in terms of strategy. She has been damaged. Who knows how long she will last? But the last thing we need is yet another Prime Minister seeking a personal mandate. Let Theresa May at least see us through Brexit. Her strategy is sound. We want free trade and we should be willing to pay a little for the privilege. But we should not be willing to pay more to trade with the EU than it would cost us if they charged us a tariff. That is the bottom line. As soon as they wish to charge us more, or if they want to constrain our newly won freedom, then we must be willing to walk away. They must know that we will do this. That is the only way they just might grant us the goal we seek.

We are in a strange world politically. We are continually surprised. Two years ago the SNP looked invincible. Now they must fear that their support is a bubble that just went pop.

The Lib Dems and UKIP look like an irrelevance. The ultra-Remainers who hoped to win 48% of the vote ended up winning 12 seats. The ultra-Leavers won none. It would be better by far if both parties ceased to exist. They can prevent another party winning, but they cannot win themselves. For the Lib Dems to get back to their 2010 level will require decades at this rate. Long term the attempt to challenge the two party system that began with the creation of the SDP in 1981 looks like ending in failure. Liberal support has returned to the level it had in the 1970s and for Lib Dem bird is more dead parrot than phoenix.

The Labour result is extraordinary. Jeremy Corbyn in affect is a communist. He is a revolutionary socialist who wanted the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to win the Cold War. He would like our country to be more like the USSR than the USA. He would very much like to turn Britain into a socialist country. It’s like New Labour never happened.

Jeremy Corbyn has proved Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock wrong. They believed after the defeat of Michael Foot in 1983 that for Labour to be relevant it had to move towards the centre. They set about reforming Old Labour and in effect ditched socialism. Tony Blair was a social democratic and his party apart from a few diehards like Mr Corbyn was social democratic. The conventional wisdom was that it was this that enabled Tony Blair to be elected three times.

Mr Corbyn’s success in winning more than 40% of the vote means that all those who challenged him since his surprise election to the leadership have been wrong. All those Labour MPs who said they had no confidence in him last summer were trying in fact to get rid of their greatest electoral asset. Some of them have already recanted and repented. “Give me that old time religion” sings buffoon in chief Owen Smith.

For the foreseeable future Labour are going to be a Far Left party with the aim of turning Britain into a socialist state. The problem is that socialism doesn’t work. The fundamentals are wrong. If you doubt this, look at the Korean peninsula. They started from the same point in 1945, but the socialist north is now one of the poorest and least free countries in the world, while the capitalist south is a wealthy western democracy.

At some point given Labour’s present level of support they are going to win an election. This no doubt is good for our democracy. The biggest trouble with socialism is that it is so attractive. If only we could create a world without poverty, where everyone was equal, we would have paradise on earth. “Imagine no possessions” sang John Lennon, but you don’t need to imagine, you just have to look at where this experiment was tried. It is above all for this reason that this song was played over the credits of the 1984 film the Killing fields. The ideology of John Lennon and Jeremy Corbyn ultimately leads to Pol Pot and Cambodia. That is what you voted for folks.

But socialism is so attractive that each generation has to learn its lesson. 2008 is rather a long time ago if you are twenty. 1979 might as well be 1789. Labour will have to try again to create its socialist paradise, because perhaps this is the nature of man always longing for the Garden of Eden that we lost. Always trying to storm the gates of heaven and create heaven on earth.

Labour will win an election at some point, but then they will fail. The Far Left will wreck the UK economy again and the electorate will realise its error and turn once more the Conservatives. This is the British electoral cycle. What Labour breaks, the Tories mend until the electorate forgets that Labour made them poorer and asks them to try again.

Strategically Labour is in a worse position than it was. Social democracy has a chance of working. It has a chance of winning three elections in a row. Socialism ultimately takes Labour back to 1983 and the need to reinvent itself again. So have a nice little celebration dear socialists. You may well win next time. But you will go into that election with a Far Left leader and a Far Left manifesto and if you win your Government will be saddled with ideas that don’t work and which are doomed to fail.

All this though is for the future, for the moment we can allow ourselves a little pause to reflect on things. One thing is going to happen in the next few years and another thing is not going to happen. We are going to leave the EU and there will not be another referendum on Scottish independence. The one will not happen because of the other. Not only this. I believe we have a great chance of gaining a free trade relation with the EU and the process of leaving will in the long run make Britain much more prosperous. It is not necessary to have political union between the vastly different peoples of Europe in order to have free trade. That is the EU’s long term strategic error. 

The SNP’s error on the other hand is that it makes no sense to split up people who are fundamentally the same. It certainly makes no sense to do so in order to make Scotland socialist.

Party fortunes rise and fall. In the end this is a matter of a few years. We have had a Labour Government before and we will have one again. They will make a mess, but we will get through it. That is democracy and it is no long term threat. The SNP were the greatest threat to our country in its more than three hundred year history. They came close to breaking up our country. But history written one hundred years from now will reflect on how they failed. Keep fighting folks, they are retreating and we can let loose our cavalry. Now is not the time to cease our attack but rather to attack with renewed vigour. That way we can turn defeat into a rout.