British politics is in crisis. The Westminster Government is run by incompetents. The UK Government of Theresa May is completely out of its depth when it comes to the economy, Brexit, international relations and even the UK constitution. The solutions they spin are unworkable on the Irish border, unbelievable on their hopes for the Brexit agreement, unrealistic on post-Brexit trade deals, and undemocratic in their attempts to grab powers from the Scottish Parliament.
UK Labour are just as internally divided as the Conservatives and seem to have no better grasp of the reality of the situation with their ruling out of a Norway-style deal and Tory carbon copy plans for a unique trade and customs union agreement.
So the main Westminster political parties are riven with infighting and unable to grasp the basics of the huge problems they face. We clearly have the least competent government in living memory and the main opposition can’t even make inroads in English council elections, when traditionally unpopular mid-term governments are wiped out by a tsunami of newly elected opposition councillors. To top it all, we have a constitutional crisis as the UK Government must now ask the High Court to allow it to overrule the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament and allow Westminster to strip Scotland of not only the powers coming back from Europe but, if necessary, powers it already has.
When did it all go wrong? I am not saying that politics was ever perfect or that there wasn’t incompetence and corruption, but despite all their faults, compared to the current Unionist leaders, Tony Blair and David Cameron are starting look (retrospectively) like big beasts of politics past.
Was it the cash-for-questions scandal, the failure to reform the Lords, MPs’ flipping of houses, the expenses scandal or the 2007 crash that undermined the idea of a competent British state?
I have thought long and hard about this and for me it’s a combination of all of those moments. But the tipping point was Nick Clegg’s backing down on his “read my lips” promise on tuition fees in return for an unwinnable referendum on a watered down and unworkable version of proportional representation. From that point onwards all hope of a better Britain, the promise of reform, the seriousness and trustworthiness of Westminster politics was dead.
The failure of the political elites opened the door to extremes in British politics such as the Ukip-led protest vote that was Brexit, to more extreme versions of left and right politics within the current Unionist parties who still have no answers, and to a more radical and hopeful call for a better way that the Scottish independence movement represents.
Tuesday’s vote in the Scottish Parliament needs to be seen in that context – the failing UK state desperate for the lifeline that intercepting EU powers would give them in terms of being able to offer ultra free market trade deals, for example to the US, without fear of a Scottish parliamentary veto. They will also need to take back the power over Scotland’s NHS as America won’t agree to anything worthwhile without access to the whole of the UK NHS. Yesterday’s stand wasn’t just about Holyrood’s powers, it may also have been about protecting the NHS from privatisation.
The BBC have been spinning that the people of Scotland don’t really care about the powers of the Scottish Parliament, but maybe they would if the BBC reported intelligently enough for their viewers to fully grasp the enormity of it.
When that crisis reaches the High Court, for the first time Scottish voters will have an easy-to-understand case study that proves the UK Government is acting against the wishes of the Scottish people, to strip its parliament of powers, so that it can knowingly act in a way that will impoverish and disadvantage Scotland economically, to fulfil a referendum result that Scotland rejected democratically and wholeheartedly.
When the Brexit fog clears, the leaving arrangements are published and the UK Government is acting against Scotland in the High Court, then the battle is on for the hearts and minds of the Scottish voters. Until then the BBC’s wishful thinking is partially right – people won’t take notice. It’s a “wait till you see the whites of their eyes” sort of thing, and the SNP know this, hence no early referendum calls or high-profile independence campaigning yet.
So while we wait, let’s have a good laugh at Labour, who this week started to flog the dead horse called federalism again. The irony that the party that asked the Smith Commission for less powers for Scotland than the Tories did, now wants to make the case that Scotland needs all the powers they didn’t want us to have two years ago won’t be lost on readers of The National.
Try to imagine a Labour manifesto meeting to discuss including federalism as a policy at the next General Election. Item number one on the agenda: creating a federal legal system. “It’s obvious”, says Corbyn. “Federal law becomes the Supreme Law of the Land and UK Supreme Court prevails over all state laws”, (including those passed by the Scottish Parliament). Yup that’s right, Labour would be undoing devolution, abolishing the monarchy and the House of Lords in one step. “Brilliant!” thinks Corbyn.
Except that he just made the next UK General Election in England a referendum on abolishing the monarchy and the House of Lords. Every branch of the state, the establishment and the royalty-loving media would savage them. Labour would be painted as a load of communist revolutionaries and devolution wreckers.
Don’t get me wrong, I could do without both the royal family and the House of Lords, but when Labour try to explain how federalism will work, they will become a laughing stock.
They will even make Theresa May’s Government look credible when republican Corbyn has to admit he would enshrine the powers of the Queen and House of Lords in a new constitution to sell it to a royalist English electorate.