MOVIE buffs will say that there are exceptions to the rule, but generally a sequel is never as good as the original.
Sometimes technology, acting and direction can all be better but it still misses the impact of the first. The same rule applies in politics; Gordon Brown pops up every few months promising federalism or a new form of home rule and swears it will kill independence stone dead, or was that someone else? I lose track of what sequel we’re on, first there was “The Intervention”, then “The Vow”, then the badly titled, critically acclaimed but largely ignored “Please sign the petition to make Cameron implement my Vow”. Now he’s back with a call for another “new, post-Brexit home rule settlement” to stop indyref2. Let’s call this sequel intervention 4 or “i4: The politician that cried wolf”.
For having helped stem the momentum of the Yes vote in 2014 with promises that he wasn’t in a position to deliver on, he’s is back shouting: “No, no, this time I mean it.” And he still has no authority to offer or deliver one iota of change. Unlike the boy who cried wolf, however, half the country still seems to want to believe that Brown will somehow convince the completely dominant Westminster Conservative party to offer Scotland all the powers they have been fighting against for years.
He said he wants “a constitutional breakthrough that transcends the sterile stand-off between a non-change conservative Unionism and an unreconstructed nationalism”, but doesn’t he realise that conservative Unionism is unreconstructed British nationalism, and that Brexit demonstrated that large swathes of the UK electorate (though thankfully not so much in Scotland) are xenophobic conservatives with a Trump-like understanding of their nation’s place in the world?
In October 2015, Brown declared “the Vow will not be delivered unless David Cameron makes urgent changes to the Scotland Bill” – within the next two weeks amendments were tabled and in November 2015, Brown declared “the Vow now fully delivered”. The Scotland Bill was given Royal Assent in March, and now just five months later Brown declares that the recently devolved powers to Holyrood are “already out of date” and so we need a new constitutional settlement, but that under no circumstances should we consider independence, which now at least every second person in Scotland wants.
I often wonder why the press are so keen to tout Brown as credible. Have people forgotten how poor a Chancellor and Prime Minister he was? He promised us an end to boom and bust, deregulated the markets to an extent that guaranteed a bust, left us with a poisonous PFI legacy and raided pension pots, grabbing billions from retirement funds for the Treasury by scrapping dividend tax credits, deliberately damaging the income of the only people who still really vote for his party. Brown’s credibility seems a bit like Posh Spice’s posh-ness — she isn’t posh, but compared to the others in the band she was.
Brown isn’t credible but compared to Labour figures like Kezia Dugdale, Jim Murphy, Jeremy Corbyn (who will never be prime minister) and Owen Smith (no, I hadn’t heard of him either), some think Brown doesn’t look so bad. I think The Daily Mail nailed it when they described Brown as “the man who stole your old age”. I wouldn’t usually quote the Daily Mail, but Scottish Labour just hired Alan Roden, former political editor of The Daily Mail, as their communications director, so they opened the door. Roden, rumour has it, is not as right-wing as his articles might suggest, but he is very anti-SNP and highly Unionist.
This means that Kezia Dugdale seems to have decided to double down on Unionism, to carry on with un-constructive opposition to the SNP and has given up the left to the SNP so she can challenge the Conservatives’ position of champion of the Union in a bid to take back second place. She will fail. The Tories have the Union vote and the right sewn up, and Labour still don’t have an answer to the electorate’s pressing question: “What is the point of Labour in Scotland anymore?” Corbyn looks likely to win again and so Dugdale’s coat will soon be on a shoogly peg, while I wonder if Alex Rowley would have employed Roden?
It will still be months before the final picture begins to emerge, all we can truly be sure of is that Gordon Brown’s omni-intervention will keep offering new, improved offers of federalism that can’t ever happen.
Independence is a choice for the people of Scotland, federalism would need to win a UK-wide referendum and convince a majority in Westminster. Gordon Brown should realise the powers of unreconstructed conservative British nationalism will not wear it.
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