As Halloween approaches and Johnson’s ditch digging bulldozer is nowhere in sight, nor is his Brexit, it seems that the joke is still on us all the same. It looks like the Brexit debacle will run and run. It has been extensively analysed, but with the permutations and possibilities that could lead to a selection of GE results, movable NI borders, hard Brexit, or even the break-up of the UK, the cauldron is deep, unfathomable, and very slimy.
Amidst the general confusion it befalls me to mix my metaphors, and the Stealers Wheel song line “Clowns to the left of Me, Jokers to Right. Here I am stuck in the middle with you” has lodged itself as an ominous ear-worm. And therein lies the issue. Once you’ve been called a Liberal, or a Neo-liberal, capitalist, EU loving champagne socialist (I conflate a little) a few times, and yet you really don’t feel like the enemy of the people, you start to get all confused about where the solution is to all of this. Welcome to the UK “Left”
If the Remainer left equates to “The Centre” for some, how do we deal with the confused actuality that elements of the far left are supporting the far-right Brexit? How do we deal with the actual far right? And really, what are we going to do about Jeremy? Let’s move to Scotland. Oh wait, I’m here, and we voted for independence and lost.
The 2014 Scottish Independence campaign saw people pick themselves up from various states of ossified labour supporting dead-eyed doldrum, to empowerment. We did not all actively engage in Yes stalls and Community meetings, though many of us did. Lots of us sat at our desks and listened to colleagues, or stood at bus-stops and latched onto conversations, or asked ourselves what our Grandchildren’s future should look like. I was proud to belong to a team of workers where all 14 members voted Yes. A couple of years of peaceful lunchtime chats achieved that.
The 2014 campaign and case for independence looks like a walk in the park, a nice thing to do, in comparison with the urgency of the case for a solution to the entrenched Tory cul-de-sac that we find ourselves in at the moment.
We only had one ballot paper in 2016, with a choice between Remain and Leave. Nevertheless ideology and dogma dominate a process that can only have the same outcome, whether you voted from and Anti-Migrant, or from a Lexit position. What they have in common is the visceral hatred of anything that remotely looks like centre ground. That would include the SNP.
The Brexit position has been sold largely as a creature of the uneducated working-class English Northerner, taking back control from “the elite”. While that demographic does contribute to the headaches for the confused UK Labour leadership, look more closely at the bottom-heavy Tory-dense south of England, and see where the real power base lies. This is not people power. This is an asset stripping power struggle for global wealth between elites, not against them.
But I digress from the issue of Scottish independence. Despite her best efforts, Nicola cannot save the UK from its own Brit-Nattery, nor even less from dark English Nationalism, as it has developed, and deepens every day. While Westminster consolidates its 2 finger salute to Holyrood on a regular basis, Joanna Cherry and the Scottish Judges who ruled against the prorogation of parliament only served to create active revulsion at the prospect of Scotland holding sway in any issues, and in any seat of power.
Sadly, in spite of the wide-spread belief amongst supporters of Scottish independence that you should never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake, I don’t believe that Nicola can lead us in an orderly line out of the UK any time soon. The Unionist press and establishment figures like Tony Blair still warn regularly of the break-up of the UK. They fear it. They expect it. Why do I not see it approaching on the horizon? I will return to the issue of people power instead.
As the active Yes movement scattered for cover and comfort into the arms of the SNP, and to a lesser extent, the Greens, after the defeat in 2014, an element of tribalism took a bucket of water to the smouldering remains of the raw passion of the Yes movement. It was not extinguished, but has been glowing less brightly. Much of that power was handed to the 56 SNP MPs in 2015, with a lovingly hand- written note; “Do your best for us”. Some of it was squandered in the “Both votes SNP” campaign.
In the main, the struggle lies with the people yet again. The grassroots, whether from the bottom up campaigns of the SNP membership, or from outside of the fold, like Common Weal.
The SNP is a vehicle. It has been described as a huge juggernaut, and I can’t improve on that. I’ll leave it to them and their staunch supporters to list the benefits of living under an SNP administration for 12 years. I’ll leave it to their detractors to do the challenging. Me, I’m ambivalent. Somewhere in the contemptuously held middle, but not the centre ground politically.
I feel admiration and pride for the commitment, sacrifice and passion of some of the Westminster MPs, and for the diplomacy and eloquence of the FM on the National and International stage. For her easy and affable way with ordinary voters.
I feel revulsion for the Growth Commission and the general timidity and lost opportunity of the vision for real and meaningful land reform. For the failure to commit to real changes that will jolt the post 2014 “Undecided” into a clamour for independence and for detachment from the darkness and the fiercely bubbling, stomach churning cauldron of destruction at the heart of Westminster politics. For others, a release from the tyranny of the yellow foam fingers and “Nicola is Oan it” of the early post 2014 days is required. We need a well signposted route to Equality, justice, republicanism, banishment of nuclear weapons. Socialism.
We can’t and, in my opinion, should not throw out the baby with the bathwater at this late and urgent stage. We need the leadership, and we need all the content of the best that we can throw at an active, attractive and positive campaign. We need to highlight the negativity too. People can slumber away the demons until they land on their doorstep. We can’t let that happen. We need to keep on doing more of what many of us are doing already. The campaign is there, and the energy is on the ground. Shame that we have to feel the crushing weight of the Top Down SNP administration. Use any metaphor you care to, but it’s holding back the energy.
So what ARE we going to do about Jeremy? Perhaps controversially, I’m going to ignore him. I won’t be lending a vote to a real inhabitant of the centre ground via Scottish labour, in any forthcoming GE. Not when I have a perfectly well functioning SNP MP to lend my vote to. Not when the real electoral battle will take place in England, as always.
When Scottish Labour give the green light for their supporters of independence to come out of the shadows, and when the Scottish and National Labour leadership can agree positions on the major constitutional issues of our day, and ditch the anti-democratic “No 2nd Independence referendum” stance, they may turn heads again one day.
That’s the thing, the one thing that proponents of “After Independence” often fail to mention. After independence, the people will remember that, yet again it was essentially their hard work and energy that made the difference. They may ditch the politics of the centre and of the right. It’s happened before. People essentially want change, and they want democracy, and they use themselves as role models.
It’s also the thing that the many on the disenchanted and burnt out left fail to remember. We are not selling our soul to The Centre. We are lending our votes to the vehicles for change while, simultaneously setting our shoulders to the wheel of people power.
I won’t be wearing a “Dead Boris” costume this Halloween. He’ll probably be flattered by all of those tributes. I’ll be holding my breath for the next onslaught. Who knows where we’ll be. That’s a whole week away as I write! If we get a 2nd EU vote somehow, sure, I’ll vote, if that’s what you want. I already did though, and Scotland voted to Remain. Overwhelmingly. Now it’s time to dodge the zombies and get out of this Hellish Union.