Yesterday Theresa May did a lot of people a big favour with her long-awaited speech on Brexit. In a single afternoon she swept aside the cobwebs of political inertia and the veils of delusion in which some have draped themselves for too long.
She gave it to them – and to the rest of us – as straightforwardly as she was able.
Like Alexander approaching the Gordian Knot, she looked at the intractable problem in front of her, pulled out her sword and with a stroke said “Fuck it.”
Hard Brexit it is then. Tory Party unity comes first and let the national interest be damned.
Labour played right into her hands too, of course, with Corbyn’s announcement that the Labour Party is not wedded to the idea of free movement. For a day he’s held the tide of UKIP back in the heartlands, but the long term damage to him and the rest of the country will be measured in blood and treasure by the JCB bucket-load. This is politics in Britain now; the dog whistle of the far-right is the happy tune to which the two main parties dance.
Scotland is stuck in this deadly waltz, but surely not for much longer.
May, and indeed Corbyn, have made the choice in front of us a relatively simple one, and at last we can have the full and frank public debate this moment requires, one which will surely end in a second independence referendum where the Yes campaign holds all the cards. Because yesterday reflected more than just the direction we now know May’s government intends to take the country in the aftermath of negotiations to leave the European Union; it reflects the yawning chasm which now exists between what Scotland wants and what the rest of this island does and the full measure of what it will mean for us if we stay tethered to Westminster.
Socially, politically and economically, the Act of the Union is now a suicide pact.
That much is now readily apparent, when one looks at the political situation in London.
Political views which were once the province of only the far right are now labelled as centrist and are the positions around which the whole system now orbits.
Plain bullshit – such as Corbyn’s assertion that the result was a clear vote against freedom of movement, and which went unchallenged by his MP’s and the media – dominates the discourse.
Political figures in all the main parties who know the Leave campaign was run, and won, by lying bastards and who are fully aware that Brexit of any kind, far less the one May announced yesterday, promises to unleash disaster on multiple fronts are, nevertheless, telling the 48% of us who voted Remain that we need to accept a result we know was as bent as a Donald Trump corporation.
Which is all to say that, unfortunately, there will be no outbreak of sanity here, no change in the mood of Parliament or a re-evaluation of this lunatic course we’re on; this is going to happen. The UK is leaving the European Union, imperiling the whole project and dealing ourselves an unparalleled amount of damage in the process. It’s a fact. Nothing is going to stop this and before the 48% can even start thinking about the future that fact needs to be faced.
In truth it’s probably for the best, because when you step back from a sweaty contemplation of the consequences and analyse the bigger picture you can see clearly why. The North of Ireland and Scotland both voted to remain, and by large margins.
An equally large margin in England and Wales voted to leave.
The political situation in these four unequal parts of this lop-sided union is equally clear; Labour rules in Wales, the SNP in Scotland, a mish-mash of Unionist and Nationalist politicians shares power in Stormont and a hard-right Tory Party rules England.
Britain is as clearly polarised as it’s possible for it to be. Anyone who still clings to the idea that there is a “British identity” is having a laugh and anyone who thinks that this can all be held together in the long term is kidding his or herself on. Never in the history of this island has it looked less like one nation and more like a collection of countries stapled together. If these four countries were independent you could not, if the survival of the species depended on it, get them to amalgamate and come together like this, and time will not make it better.
The union is finished. That sound you hear is sometimes called Cheyne Stoking; it’s the change in the timbre of breathing before someone dies.
The prevailing political mood in England was that this should happen. The voters there have chosen to withdraw from co-operation with our friends and partners in Europe and erect walls which Trump himself would have proudly lauded over.
They’ve retreated into an ideal about the country which they prefer to this one. Whether that version of “England’s green and pleasant land” can be made real again – if indeed it ever was – isn’t our concern and we should no more stand in the way of it than we should allow ourselves to be shackled to it.
Scotland wanted something else.
Our political reality is that no-one gives a shit what Scotland wants. We’re now, and forever, going to have to abide by the will of our neighbour whilst we are part of the status quo.
The path we see for our own country is impossible to realise in these circumstances and there can’t be a single Scot who is left in the slightest doubt about that today, whether they voted Yes or No or to Leave or Remain. May gave us no thought whatsoever yesterday. She took Nicola’s offer of earlier this month, to act in good faith and for the common good of everyone on the island, and tossed it aside as casually as you might see someone throw away an empty beer can.
We’re an afterthought, if they think about us at all.
A lot of us used to resent that. Now we accept it, like someone in a loveless marriage who stays for the sake of the kids.
Be warned though; a loveless marriage is one thing, but when the Little Englanders have kicked out the EU nationals they don’t want, sent immigrants from the rest of the world back home and built those big walls high it’s a matter of time before this relationship becomes an abusive one.
When there’s no-one else left to blame, you watch what happens. Scotland The Leech will become the mood of the moment and political discourse here will take yet another ugly turn, and down that dark alley we’ll all go together, hand in hand.
On top of that, no-one should be under any illusions that Labour is going to save us from this fate.
Apart from the Tory gerrymandering of constituencies and the continuing, embarrassing and occasionally shameful travails of Scottish Labour, the party’s long civil war is just getting started and no matter who wins – a process that will take years and which writes off the next two elections and maybe more – the idea of conceding anything more to Holyrood is already political asbestos south of the border.
The hasty way in which they’ve ruled out “deals” with “other parties” – far in advance of an election with their poll numbers already cratering – is symptomatic of how scared shitless Labour’s MP’s are at the very idea of being seen as “soft on Scotland.”
If the heat is on them to squeeze us they will do it, and what does it matter whether a guy knifes you because he wants to or because he thinks he has to? You’re just as dead. How long before the Holyrood Parliament itself is under threat? Established by an Act of Parliament in London, it can be closed down or reduced by the same. If we continue down the road we are on it is not a case of if it happens but when.
With the certainty of continued Tory dominance, and the full weight of a catastrophic exit from the EU now established as part of our future, almost beyond any doubt, things are, as a I said at the start, now about as crystal clear as they could be, and for that a lot of people owe Theresa May a good deal of thanks for what she said yesterday.
The road ahead will be difficult and we can’t kid ourselves on about that either.
It now looks virtually certain that we’ll need to exit Europe as part of the UK before we can get back in as an independent country, and that we’ll have to adapt ourselves to joining the Euro. We’ll have to live with a “hard” border and with a lot of uncertainty in other areas besides.
If the SNP denies those dark possibilities and pretends they don’t exist any campaign is handicapped before it starts because the people of this country will put up with a lot but a bunch of bullshit from our political class won’t wash.
Labour found that out to its cost, and it’ll still be counting that cost for many years to come.
The people need to be confronted with reality in all its scary forms and posed a simple question about what path we want as a nation. I am a socialist and an internationalist, so for me the choice is a straightforward and simple one. Others will take convincing.
But the illusions can be dispensed with, at last. Nobody, today, is clinging to the fantasy of a soft landing or, better yet, to a collective political encounter with sobriety and sense. Brexit is coming, it’s going to be “hard” and that means it is going to hurt.
Yet Nicola and the Scottish Government are now unencumbered, free of all obligations and even doubts about the rightness of the road ahead and free to start the wheels turning. The offer they made to hold off should May’s government put the people first has been thrown back in their faces, and Scotland owes these people nothing now.
None of us wanted it this way, but I told you Nicola was the smartest person in the room, didn’t I?
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