The Westminster Government was sent into complete panic mode in July with the BfS Panelbase poll revealing 54% for independence. Then again when their own leaked private poll found 56%, this came just after our second poll of the summer found 55% Yes and thus reversed the 2014 referendum result. In the last few weeks, a rare telephone poll (which may be more accurate) hit 58% and then another poll (using the panel based methodology) found 56% thus confirming that the writing is on the wall for the union.
This gives Boris Johnson more of a headache than you might think. When he became PM in a fit of hubris and pomposity he entitled himself Minister for the Union. Possibly because, back then, he thought the union could be saved and didn’t risk Gove to getting the credit?
Now the polls have pointed to increasing majorities for Scottish independence for a sustained period he must regret putting his head on that particular political chopping block.
A few weeks ago we had that ridiculous war game memo leak, which included the crazy belief that Westminster could encourage the EU to make it clear that Scotland wouldn’t be welcome. Such a lack of awareness of their own power in relationships with the EU and in the world at large post-Brexit is embarrassing.
The language of that memo (wargaming) is as out of touch as its conclusions. I have written quite a few such reports in my time, we call them scenario analysis. “War Gaming” reminds me of the childish terminology of the public schoolboy strategy consultants I worked with in London in the 1990s; they seemed to all drive Porsche 911s, wear the uniform red braces and talk in military terminology (none had served) about “battle plans”, “first strikes” and “let’s run that idea up the flag pole and see who salutes it”. They always wanted a “win/win outcome” and arranged speed-meetings called “Check Point Charlies” (there were no chairs) and none of them had a single idea of what the real world was thinking or doing. I wonder if it’s some of the same guys advising the Conservatives still.
The Westminster Government has already ruled out just saying No to a referendum, a move that sounded as good on paper as “There is no appetite for a second referendum” did before the polls made it political suicide to say so.
The UK’s last Prime Minister
So Boris Johnson looks like being the last UK PM. The Westminster Government has no real understanding of Scotland’s political direction and Labour is even more detached from that reality.
However, Boris Johnson is a political opportunist and his team has a dogmatic goal of creating a right-wing, ultra neo-capitalist state without the business constraints of pesky things like workers and human rights, safety standards and any form of state ownership. A plan that surely unravels if he loses Scotland – so why would they risk it?
If those War Gaming consultants were any good they would have presented Johnson with the only possible win/win outcome, one that saves their right wing England nirvana, Johnson’s career and avoids losing or even having to fight a referendum. That game plan is called English independence.
If I were advising Johnson I would tell him his legacy could be as the father of an independent England. I would point out he is facing almost certain defeat in any future Scottish independence referendum and the more he says no to one after May’s elections the more likely the Scottish people would be to accept a plan B route to independence – and that would be the worst possible outcome for him. The momentum for Scottish independence, in particular, is so strong that it’s now a question of how to make it work for England rather than how to stop it.
I would also tell him he can get rid of 50+ opposition MPs from Scotland, 18+ from Wales and guarantee another majority win in the next General Election.
On top of that, the real bonus would be that he can be the Minister for a new and workable union, just not one of the parliaments. He just needs to say that England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and even Ireland are the closest friends and we should form a new Commonwealth of the British Isles Nations where each nation is independent.
The new Commonwealth could have a trade deal, an agreed common travel area and have as open borders as possible, given England won’t be in the EU. An economic stability pact for the period of transition and our separate defence forces would agree on a joint defence strategy in the unlikely event of anyone attacking us. In other words, absolutely nothing that reduces each nation’s national sovereignty and something we would seek to agree after a referendum anyway.
Would it work?
What if Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t want to be independent? Well, they would because England would never reject its own independence in the way Scotland did in 2014. English independence sits at 49% but framed as a new workable friendship between our great nations, the first English poll would come back at 75% Yes or more. That would make it impossible to campaign for the union if it was clear that England wanted out. We would renegotiate the terms and, as in the Scandinavian examples, maybe have a confirmation referendum that would deliver a 90% Yes in all the nations. England gets to create its ultra-capitalist isolated society and the rest of us protect our economies and citizens from that madness with a new enlightened wellbeing approach to society and economy, made possible through the powers of independence.
Boris Johnson, Father of the new English nation – his ego wouldn’t let him deny that option – he is just not smart enough to realise it’s the only way to save his career and political legacy; his Scottish MPs and MSPs didn’t think of it as they are too embarrassed to admit the game is up, and his War Gaming consultants didn’t suggest it as they are so wrapped up in English exceptionalism and the idea that Britain is Greater England that they can’t see the win/win that’s staring them in the face.
Let’s call that scenario Plan C; now I’ve run it up the flagpole, let’s see if bumbling Boris Johnson salutes it!