March 2, 2012

COLOR US DUBIOUS THAT YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN AS THE ANTI-INDEPENDENCE PARTY:

The End of Labour? (Colin Kidd, 3/08/12, London Review of Books)

The prospect before the Labour Party has changed very dramatically since the start of the year. Instead of a hard but manageable slog to overtake the Conservatives as Britain's largest party at the next general election, Labour politicians now contemplate a dismal scene of long-term exclusion from government: from the government, that is, of the rump UK, minus Scotland. The reason is that David Cameron, attempting to outflank the SNP during a midwinter silly season offensive, has managed to provoke Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, into a daring dash for independence. [...]

Clearly Labour is not in a strong position to lead the unionist case in the Scottish referendum, but no other anti-nationalist party enjoys the same breadth of support or has leaders with positive name recognition in Scotland. It seems likely that Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, will play a prominent part in the anti-independence campaign. But much more worrying for the party is its future in England. The referendum isn't likely to solve Labour's English Question: how can the party connect in a positive way with Englishness? Devolution has let daylight in on the dark arts of cross-border subsidy - Ross's nightmare - and ignited the passions of a hitherto passionless English nationalism. Devolution allowed the Scots to make their own democratic decisions about how to spend their block grant from Westminster. Now the scale and indeed the existence of the block grant itself are open to question.

Scotophobia, which last featured as a significant political force in the agitations of the 1760s against the Scottish prime minister Lord Bute, has resurfaced as a respectable element in the populist conservatism of Middle England. The likeliest beneficiaries of the new English nationalism are Ukip and the Tories. Indeed, dislike of the devolution settlement seems often to complement the Euroscepticism of the Tory right. Just as Little Englanders forget the benefits they derive from the EU but feel entitled to whine about the payments the UK makes to Brussels, so they are oblivious of the mountain of tax receipts received over several decades from North Sea oil or the lavish, but partially concealed, subsidies that find their way to London and the capital's hinterland. Labour has a further problem. If, as seems possible, the UK might be heading for a Czecho-Slovak style divorce, with the core of the union showing the door to its poorer periphery, then Labour might have a long-term English problem were it to appear too obviously the pro-Scottish party of union.

There has been no UK since 1776.
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Posted by at March 2, 2012 6:21 AM
  

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